Slowing Down

I’m not particularly good at slowing down.  As a matter of fact, I have a tendency to be a bit of a “worker bee,” feeling guilty if I sit down for too long without doing something “productive.”  I just recently completed my Master’s degree, so the past two and a half years have been busy. A lot of hard work and not a lot of down time—a situation I seem to be pretty comfortable with.

I have been part of a small group of women who meet together for encouragement, spiritual growth and fun for about seven years. To say the least, we have become close friends. A few months ago one of the women, my friend Sherry, proposed the idea of setting aside a day to get away from our individual routines to spend the day at a place called “Refresh Retreat.”  I pictured a lot of deep conversations, getting “real” with one another about areas in our lives where we are struggling, perhaps listening to a speaker talk to us about how to improve ourselves. However, Sherry was proposing a retreat of solitude and silence. Silence? Us? And how would there be solitude if we were together?

Well, the other women were all on board, everyone gave a resounding “yes!”  But I’ll be honest, I was kind of dreading it. As I said, sitting for too long tends to make me feel guilty. There is always a long to-do list which I can never quite get to the end of.  Plus, I don’t see enough of these women so to spend a day together, but not talk to each other? That didn’t sound so great to me. Reluctantly, I agreed to go.

As I said, I just finished grad school and I am in the beginning stages of building a counseling practice. Our adult children live in different cities, one in Salt Lake and the other in Dallas, and our daughter and her husband just had their first child. We spend a lot of time traveling to Salt Lake or Dallas or preparing our home for a much needed visit from our kids. As the Retreat day drew near, I began to realize how exhausted I had become and a “forced” day of rest began to sound pretty good.

When I walked into the room where the retreat was to be held, I was welcomed by the scent of lavender and a warm hug. The setting was lovely. A wall of windows looking out over a beautiful, blue swimming pool and a lake just beyond. There was a dock reaching out across the water and I could already picture myself sitting out there. The room itself was filled with comfy-looking, oversized furniture, yoga mats stretched out and a basket of blankets sat nearby. There was a spot to kick off our shoes and another basket where we were asked to leave our cell phones. Wow, these people were serious. No contact with the outside world all day??? What if one of my kids needed me??? What if the office needed to reach me for some reason?? I reluctantly turned my phone off and set it into the basket with the others. Interestingly, I immediately felt a sense of letting go.

What happened that day was nothing short of amazing. I wandered outside, sat curled up on a couch with a blanket, listened to music, read, and wrote in my journal.  I even experimented with a little artistic expression. All by myself. And I didn’t feel a bit guilty. Not even once.

I spend my days counseling others about getting in touch with what is happening inside of themselves. Last Friday I recognized my own need for rest. Am I still a bit of an over-achiever? Yes, I suppose I am. But that day I became a little more aware of how much I need down time and why I find it so difficult to allow myself to take it. I also realized how much I love journaling and playing with paints, markers and colored pencils. It not only brought out some deeply-felt emotions, but it also brought out the kid in me.  Funny how those childlike behaviors tap into emotional expression. I need to remember that.

When was the last time you got away just to rest? If you are like me, it’s probably been too long. I encourage you to give it a try. Turn off the phone, put down the work, ignore the to-do list and let go of all the other demands on your time. Sounds challenging, I know, but it will be worth it.

Call it soul care, call it quiet time or solitude.  It all comes down to giving yourself the space to let go of all the demands required when participating in life, participation I am grateful for and truly enjoy. I deeply love my family, my friends and my work, but last Friday I realized the guilt I feel when I take time for myself comes from old lies about what it means to be worthy. Last Friday I remembered anew that I am worthy because the One who created me loves me. It was His voice I heard that day and I am better for it. He called again today—“come with me to a quiet place (Mark 6:21 NIV),” and I said “yes.”  Will you? I bet you need it as much as I do. Oh, and by the way, make sure you take your colored pencils. 

~ Cathy

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