What We Talk About…Relaxation

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

red-vintage-old-chair
What We Talk About When We Talk About Relaxation…

Lost. The Following. Downton Abbey. The Paradise (my newest obsession). House of Cards. Bloodline. Seriously, I could keep going. Really. I LOVE binge watching TV. And, yes, these are all shows I’ve watched – to completion. It’s kind of a tragedy. Or is it?

I’ve recently undergone a life change. For the last six years, I’ve been a high school English teacher. Two of those last six years have been spent being a mama to two babies – two and fourteen months currently – and being a Shakespeare-slinging, grammar Nazi. (Ok, really more of a Steinbeck-slinging, grammar Nazi since I’ve taught American Lit the last four years. I love Steinbeck. If he was alive, we’d hang out on the reg). In addition to being the average working mom, I was also driving (with my husband), making a forty-five minute commute each way to work. Man, those days were looooonnnnggg. Because, you know if you work outside the home, your job doesn’t stop once you arrive at your home sweet home; it just changes. Kids picked up, dinner made, dinner fed, dinner consumed by an exhausted mama in two minutes, kitchen cleaned, babies bathed, maybe have time and energy to play with babies, babes in bed. In my life during that time, the kiddos went to bed really early because we had to awaken them each morning at 5:45. Horrific tragedy, I tell you. So there we were: 6:30, and the kids were in bed. We had the potential-filled hours of 6:30-10 to do WHATEVER we pleased. And, let me tell you; we did good deeds for those who needed it, we baked extravagant goodies that we pinned from Pinterest so that we could keep up with the status quo, we had LOTS of sex, we cleaned the house in tip-top shape from dusting the highest shelf to the nasty grime no one likes to talk about that lurks on the bottom of the toilet. (You know it’s there). If you aren’t one-hundred percent perceptive, you’ve probably used your high-level critical thinking skills to infer that I was might have been being slightly hyperbolic – I’m a former English teacher after all; the traits die hard. I’m being brutally honest here. That time from 6:30-10 was mostly spent watching TV. Binge watching shows on either one of our drugs of choice: Netflix or Amazon. I accept the fact that you, dear reader, are probably judging me right now. There are so many other things I could’ve been doing, like the aforementioned list. But hear this; I was beyond exhausted each and every night. I truly needed these three and half hours to become a zombie, checking out of my life and checking into someone else’s. That sounds so terrible after writing it, but, oh, is it true for me!

A time existed when I felt guilty for these copious hours spent, surrendering my brain to a talking box. I should be doing something, right? Like making lunches for the next day, doing another foreboding load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, picking out my clothes for the next day, reading a book, exercising, or, the one for which I feel real conviction, reading the Bible and praying. Sidenote: I have gotten better about the last, and most important, item on the list, but that’s a post for another day. But that, with the exception of the previously mentioned sidenote, is the problem. These are all activities I could do. As we all know, the American way of life is to do, do, do. When, at the end of a frazzled day, all I wanted was to be, be, be. All day, I ran from one activity to the next; I talked, listened, organized. I was simply tired of doing; at the end of the day, I just wanted to sit. And, you know what, I think that is totally permissible. I was talking with a good friend once about this very topic, and she said something to me that basically rocked my world on this subject, altering my guilt for zoning out for three blissful hours each night. She asked, “How many hours are you awake?” I thought for a moment; ok, maybe several because I can’t do simple math. Don’t forget that I was an English teacher. My answer? “17.” Full of wisdom, she continued, “Of those seventeen hours, roughly fourteen of them are comprised of you doing something. What’s the big deal if the last three are spent doing nothing? You need to have time to rest and recharge.” I could’ve kissed her I was so happy. My guilt regarding those three hours each night started to fade. And, the more I thought about it, she’s totally right (as usual; she’s one of those friends I compare to Mother Teresa). If I am to work and think and fret and do for fourteen hours, you better believe that I need to rest for at least a couple hours in order to do it all over again day in and day out.

Rest, relaxation. Why is it so difficult for us to do? By nature, I’m a doer, so it’s counterintuitive to who I am. Several years ago, when I was working for a great missional company called YouthWorks, my supervisor told me that I had issues taking breaks and resting. Since then, I’ve always known that resting is challenging for me and that I need to take more opportunities to do it. When I would, though, I’d often feel guilty, like my aforementioned guilt for binge watching TV. It’s also so difficult for us to rest because of our culture. Almost every daytime TV show or magazine constantly advertises things for us women to do: lose twenty pounds, bake this gluten-free, paleo, nut-free something (I call it a monstrosity), etc. To add to that pressure, Pinterest reminds us of all the cool food we “should” whip up and  the 101 projects we “should” make out of pallets to do for our kids. And the worst just might be Facebook. Through the comfort of our dirty shorts, stained T-shirts, and dust-ridden houses, we can peek into others’ lives – into what they’re doing. Whether that’s the type of people who post their superwoman-like to-do lists they’ve accomplished or the fun pictures of moms doing awesome things with their kids. As a culture, we think we “should” always be doing something more. However, as I constantly need reminded, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the ways of the world; our lives should be defined by a different  paradigm. I recall that after seven days of creating the world, for goodness sake, that the LORD rested. I’m also reminded of the time that Jesus fell asleep on a boat and, upon waking, promptly commanded the storm to cease. And, I think there might be something in the Bible about a Sabbath, a day of rest. (Another post for another day). Now, we might not be creating the world or telling storms to back off, but we are all doing important work everyday. God’s work. The work of loving, healing, restoring, forgiving, thanking, giving. And that, my friends, needs rest.

Earlier, I mentioned a life change I’ve undergone. I’ve recently changed career paths from a high-school teacher to a full-time teacher of my own children and of other little ones, providing day care. It’s relatively new, as in two weeks, so I’m still in the adjusting phase. However, I will say that I still do enjoy zoning out by watching some TV in the evenings after the kiddos say goodnight. Granted, that checking-out process isn’t as long as it was before, but I’m still a regular customer to binge entertainment. And do I feel guilty? Nope. No matter what phase or stage of life we are all in, we have to admit, although begrudgingly at times, that we are all human; shock, I know. We need rest. If our Lord and Savior needed rest, then, heaven help us, we surely do, too. So, if you’re tired, rest. Sleep, read a book, take a walk, binge watch hours of Pretty Little Liars (Wait. I must’ve typed in the wrong show). Rest. And, whoever said “no rest for the weary” was truly ignorant of the best four-letter word there is. REST.

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By Katie Tanner
Katie comically shares her stories in between kids, life and some needed TV time from her lovely home in Central IL.

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Meet Katie…Snooze Buttons and Zombies: Navigating the Practice of Presence

Meet Katie…Wife, Mom, Teacher, Leader of Women, Friend. My most favorite thing about Katie is that she is funny! This girl can make me bust a gut on my worst day. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

Katie

5 am. Snooze. Hit it again. Snooze for ten more. Ring at 5:10. Snooze. Ring at 5:20. Grr. I guess I’ll get up. This is how my morning goes, fighting the fight to get to the tub, trying not to trip over my zombie-like walk. I don’t really wake up for the next twenty minutes fully, not until I get the kids.

Contrast that to my two year-old son, Gowan – on a good day at least. Because when it’s a weekday, there’s hell to pay for getting that child up before 6 am. But on those rare weekend days in which he can sleep in and wake up when he wants to, I walk into his room, and he joyfully jumps on his bed, shouting,” Hi, Mommy! I’m awake!” Which is super cute, of course. But that got me to thinking…there’s a bit, or a huge difference, between his start to the morning and mine.

The problem for me, though, is that I’m not just hitting the snooze button at 5 am (and 5:10, 5:15, and 5:20). Throughout the day, I often feel like I’m still hitting that darn snooze button. On any given day, especially week days, I just run through the mundane like a drill sergeant, running from task to task. Or if I’m not feeling drill sergeant-y (I think I just invented a new word; go me!), I take on the personality of a robot, not even thinking about what I’m doing and just, you know, doing it. Just doing to do, because it has to, because it needs to.

And I’m assuming I know my audience here, so I probably don’t even need to expound upon the “it” I’m incessantly doing. But just to be assured that you’re in good company, here’s the “it:” get the kids fed, noses wiped, teeth brushed, coats on (is it summer yet?) diapers changed, lunches packed, diaper bag packed, eat breakfast, make sure I have work stuff in the car, drive to work, teach high school kids literature “stuff” all day, drive home from work, get dinner going, kids fed, sneak in some dinner myself, baths done, diapers changed, goodnight routines done.

Sound familiar? And after that’s done, then I can enjoy binge watching something on Netflix or Amazon, which is something I feel guilty about, but whatevs. That’s another post for another time. Because at the end of the day, I am EMPTY. I feel like I have NOTHING to give. And, you know, that’s OKAY. But I digress. Again, that’s yet another post for another time.

Back on subject here, I admit that I sometimes even rush the nighttime routines so that I can get to adult chill time sooner. But when I think about whether or not I was truly awake and alive for most of my day, especially the miniscule time I’m actually with my kids, I don’t think I was. I was asleep; I just kept hitting snooze. All day, I was the drill sergeant and the robot who just did everything, not stopping for a minute to say, “I’m awake!” Pause here: I’m not saying that it’s not ok to have days that are like this. Sometimes these days are necessary and just happen. But I am saying that I should make an intentional effort to make sure I’m truly awake for the moments in my day that I can enjoy the people with whom God graced me to spend my life.

These are the moments when my husband and I can laugh at something together, or when we can have a meaningful conversation, or when my son demonstrates his newest animal sound he can make, or when my daughter is taking her first steps (which has started recently! Prepare the mommy crazy meter). I don’t want to be so swamped in to-do lists and the demands of life that I miss these precious moments. And although I may not always miss these moments because of the crazy have-to’s of life, I don’t often stop to delight in them, to joy in them, and to realize how important, how fleeting, these are. I do often laugh at a joke with my husband, have a meaningful conversation, enjoy listening to Gowan “hee haw” like a donkey, and see Cora take those cautiously cute first steps. I am present for these, I see them, I’m there, but do I wonder in them? Am I truly awake? Am I truly alive, for that matter?

When I looked up the definition for the word “alive,” on Webster, I found this: “alert, active, animated.” Similarly, the definition for “awake,” is watchful and alert. So although I am, at least on the literal level, “awake,” I often am not alert, active, animated, and watchful, especially with the people who matter the most. And hear me, tired mamas, I’m not saying that every day, all the time, that we need to delight, to wonder, to revel in every single flipping moment of our day with husbands and children. No. Just. No. We’re not perfect; we don’t have super powers. What I am saying, though, is that we ARE children and daughters to a God who calls us to watchfulness and alertness to delight, to wonder, and to revel in certain moments of our lives that remind us of His ever-present watchfulness and alertness to his own children – you and me. Because God calls his followers to be children of light, being people who are visible to the world and people who are metaphorically awake. This is why Paul references Isaiah when he says, “Awake sleeper! Arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).

When we “arise from the dead,” or refuse to hit the snooze button, and are awake, God promises us that Christ will shine on us. And I don’t know about you, but on every day of the week, I need a lot of Christ shining on me; I need a lot more of Him and a whole lot less of me so that I can be a vessel for his perfect purposes.

So, for me, my small way toward this declaration of “I’m awake,” is to hold off on the metaphorical snooze button for at least two moments a day that I can delight in my husband and my kiddos. And I’m hoping that the longer I intentionally engage in this practice of presentness, it will happily bleed over into more of my day – time at work, time with friends, time in the car – so that I can truly be “awake” for most of my day.

It’s small, but folks, us tired mamas know the trite saying: “it has to start somewhere.” We tired mamas also need to have grace on ourselves that if two moments are the most we can revel in, then two it is.

So next time I’ve become Katie the drill sergeant or Katie the Biggest Loser coach who keeps yelling at myself to keep doing the next thing, or Katie the robot who wipes human interaction and thought from my mind, I’ll chuck the proverbial snooze button out the window, and joyously declare, like my loveable toddler, that I, world, am truly awake!