“Quit hitting the snooze button on your own awakening.”
My awakening moment came last Sunday night around midnight. I had moved out to the couch, unable to sleep after a day of drinking.
This wasn’t just a casual mimosa-with-brunch Sunday Funday kind of drinking. This was St. Paddy’s Day – a holiday deemed by us Americans as a sporting event to see who can drink the most – with friends, family and a pile of stress that had been building up on my mind for weeks.
It wasn’t pretty.
As I lay there on the couch, watching the clock turn from 12 to 1 to 2am, regretting my choices from the day and wallowing in self-pity, it hit me. I needed a reset.
I felt disconnected from myself and my values. I’d been letting this stress build up and instead of taking the time to process it, I was quick to numb it with the St. Paddy’s Day excuse to drink heavily. Along with the drinking, I’d noticed judgment, jealousy and cynicism creeping into my thoughts and words. I knew if I kept going like this, things were going to get ugly.
I had gone against one of my 19 Things in 2019 to not binge drink all year (okay, St. Paddy’s Day wasn’t the first time I broke that one). But there was another of my 19 things that seemed appropriate, essential to do now.
Take a random Wednesday off work.
I had read somewhere that taking a Wednesday off was one of the most effective ways to use vacation time. You’re motivated on Monday and Tuesday because you know you get a day to yourself on Wednesday, and then you’re just as pumped on Thursday and Friday because it’s only two days before the weekend. You have less time to work with to get things done and you get a reset the in middle of the week. This was what I needed.
This “random” Wednesday that I decided I’d take off also happened to be the first day of spring.
Spring isn’t something I notice much living here in Arizona – the state’s spring seems to happen in January or February after its version of “fall” – but my body, heart and soul still seemed to be in sync with the seasonal calendar of the Midwest. It all needed the reset, refresh and renewal of spring.
I kicked off my spring reset by seeing a favorite author of mine Tuesday night, and she happened to focus her talk on resetting. How fitting, right?
Anne Lamott reminded me of using writing as a way of coming home. Yes, I remembered, this is my ultimate stress reliever. Write it all out – good, bad, meaningless.
For me, journaling every morning is key. But in the past few weeks my journaling had been just a few minutes of “should” writing – I should be writing about how I’m owning the day or I should be writing my biggest hopes and dreams, blah blah blah, should should should.
No, when times are busy, stressful and anxiety-ridden, it’s a must for me to write without abandon. Do stream-of-consciousness writing for 15-20 minutes. I’m talking “I-ate-eggs-for-breakfast-and-they-weren’t-as-tasty-as-the-Cinnamon-Toast-Crunch-I-used-to-eat-back-in-the-day-but-somehow-I-can’t-go-a-day-without-eggs-now-or-I-feel-like-an-important-part-of-me-is-missing” kind of nonsense writing that may or may not lead to “I’m-worried-and-my-mind-is-racing-because-I-have-so-much-to-do-today-and-I-feel-like-I’ll-never-get-it-done-and-all-I-really-want-to-do-is-read-a-lovely-book-and-watch-the-sunrise-but-I’m-here-writing-these-notes-and-have-to-get-going-soon….”
Which means it’s no longer bottled up inside. It’s out of my head, on the page, being experienced and processed by my notebook. I can go on a little lighter. Maybe I can even turn down a drink next weekend.
And that’s how Wednesday, my reset day, started. Stream-of-consciousness writing about eggs and stress, but I was able to time it with the sunrise.
The next part of my reset day involved hiking Piestewa Peak – getting out in nature and doing an intense workout, two things I hadn’t done in a while. I sweat out frustration, felt my heart race as a result of physical work rather than mental, and sat up at the top to renew my joy for the beauty of the city. The valley. The chains of mountains I’ve come to know. The silence that exists high above the roads of traffic and hustle and bustle of office buildings.
The rest of my reset day was a juggle of both blissful and stressful moments. After my hike, I drove from gas station to gas station across my side of town to fill our water jugs, and every water machine was out of order. Then I enjoyed an acai bowl while reading an essay by an incredible writer outside on a lovely patio. I had plenty of freelance work to do still and had to prep my lesson for Girls on the Run, then I walked downtown and called my brother for the first time in months. I effed up my bank account transfer and had to deal with that, then I started a new book that was totally enlightening while enjoying a chai latte at my favorite coffee shop in town.
It was a beautiful reset day filled with several joys and yet plenty of everyday frustration.
I went back to work Thursday and, honestly, spent the next two days completely stressing out.
My reset, I realized, might be a long process. I hadn’t done this kind of personal work in a while, and it would probably take some time.
But the reset button launched to full renewal Saturday night when Kyle and I saw Rob Bell speak in Mesa.
“An Introduction to Joy” is the name of his tour, and if it’s in a city near you, I highly recommend you go.
Bell shared several images he’d captured with his iPhone of moments where he had experienced joy – everything from his dog running full speed at a wall that had cats painted on it to a sign in LA showing “Zzyxzz Road” to his daughter falling asleep on his chest while he was running errands. The first half was a light comedy show that I would have listened to for hours.
But his speech evolved to his work as a pastor – how he could one moment be with a family going through the worst imaginative experience and the next be at dinner with his own healthy and happy family. How was he supposed to enjoy this when he knew what the other family was going through?
He refers to Ecclesiastes, a passage from the Bible speaking of how everything in life is meaningless and we’re all going to die anyway. But then, and here’s what hit me hard, that it’s an evil to be here on earth and not enjoy the things we have. In Bell’s words…
Joy is understanding the fear, anxiety and the stress and living in it.
There’s a lightness on the other side of the heavyness.
Joy is constantly reframing everything.
It’s living here now with bottomless depth.
The only interesting thing is this.
I often think about past phases of life, getting nostalgic and wishing I would have enjoyed it more or had given it more effort. I remember letting the ball drop on the last point of my last volleyball game as a senior in high school. I got a C in my journalism thesis class because I didn’t think I could possibly make a documentary, so I didn’t even try, (I’m so lucky I got a C). I trained for a marathon and didn’t let myself have one freaking cupcake during those months. I think about old jobs I used to complain about but find things that I miss, that I hadn’t let myself fully enjoy while I was there.
I don’t want to be someone who lets life go by, paralyzed by worry and stress, unable to enjoy what’s right in front of me. Not realizing what a gift I have, and then one day it’s gone. Because we’re only here for a breath of time. I have so much right now, I’d hate to look back and wish I would have enjoyed it more, given it my all.
Another point that hit home from Bell’s speech – “In a society that has so much, we experience more stress, anxiety and worry than ever before.”
Drinking, ranting, complaining – these things can’t be used to numb a feeling, because that’s not how they work. They’re not even a band-aid to the problem; they’re like poison, infecting the wound even more.
The only way past stress if to live in it, feel it and reframe it.
Be joyful for what we have, and come out on the other side feeling lighter.
This is my renewal. Joy is what I want to experience every day. To maintain it then, I’ll have to reset on a daily basis. It can’t wait for a random Wednesday.
Anne Lamott said in her speech, a reset can happen at any time. You don’t have to wait for the work-related nightmares to happen and your thumb to start twitching and a Monday hangover. Your 24 hours can reset whenever you rise to your awakening.
Don’t hit the snooze button.
Dive in, and as Rob Bell says, be a joy-monger. Feel it all, embrace it all, and be in awe of the things you have. It’s an evil to let the time pass without enjoying the gifts we have.