September 04, 2014

Downhill Days

When you run cross country you learn that often running downhill is more difficult than running uphill.  Running downhill you use different muscles and have to be aware of your footing.  Downhill hurts your knees.

In life, we sometimes wish for flat.  We avoid the hills and feel discouraged when our legs ache on the downhill stretches.

Interestingly, in my life, the hardest days are the downhill days.  Preparing for a weekend full of company (like we just had), vacations, first days of school, these anticipations bring adrenaline and urgency.  I do well when my list is overflowing with things inhumanly possible to do.  I like the climb and I over analyze the whole way down the hill if I'm not careful.

When company leaves, vacation suitcases sit unpacked, and the second day of school rolls around, these days are harder for me.  I feel drained and tired and discouraged.  

My husband is the opposite-- while I am full of hope prior to an event, he is Mr Pessimist.  "We can't take 8 kids to DC.  That's crazy."  On the way home, I'm so tired I want to cry wondering why on earth we tried to pack our life so full, and he is grinning from ear to ear with "That was such a great idea honey!"  It's true.  We are both bipolar-- at opposite times.  

Truthfully, I think the term bipolar has given the normal polarity of life a bad name.  The most mentally healthy people I know are those who plan well and accommodate for our natural polar shifts.  Bipolar periods of life, are normal!!!  Busy times are followed by slower times, happy days are followed by concerned days... A life of perpetual bliss is not our goal!!  Our goal is continually pressing forward with faith.  Our goal is pressing on through the dark mists-- not avoiding them altogether.

A book I listened to recently (Manage Your Day to Day) suggested that humans are designed to work in spurts, 90 minute increments.  We are designed to need nourishment to our body and spirit. Sleep and rest is a necessity for our physical bodies.  God gives us strengths and weakness-- God believes that seasons and weeds and weaknesses are GOOD for us.  That's why we're here.

We are always trying to push the limits of our productivity.  The older and wiser I've become, the more I've learned to listen to my body.  Physical and mental health is dependent on an oil change every 5,000 miles.  Both the up and the down are healthy!

Rest is not something to fight against-- it is something to embrace.  Stop using stimulants to keep your body racing faster-- we don't need caffeine to wake us up, we need time to calm ourselves.  We need to quiet our minds, so they can heal.  We can't keep our minds so strung out all the time that our thoughts are scrambled eggs.  

Sometimes we are trying too hard.  The harder we push, the less effective we are.

The more stressed and tired we get, the less time we have for marital intimacy.  Isn't that ridiculous?  We need the unity and physical release the most when we are stressed and tired.  We pull apart naturally when we need each other the most.  

I see this SO often.  I wish I could explain it better.  

It's not just the idea that we need balance to avoid tired.  It's the idea that actually, tired is a gift.  We NEED tired so that we can rest.  Because rest is more productive than productivity sometimes.

We need tired times.  We need sick times.  We need times when we feel the pinch of finances.  We need times when we are embarrassed or awkward or hurt or reprimanded.  We need to cry. Boundaries are good!  There is so much to be learned in the struggle of life.

When these days come- and they will- let's embrace them with humor and enjoy them.

Let's stop trying to avoid normal and instead learn to embrace it and even appreciate it!  Be grateful your children are difficult to put to bed!!  I have learned more as I've learned to love tired children than I learned in 20 years of school.  

Life is not supposed to be perpetual entertainment and pleasure.  Yes-- enjoy a fun weekend with family.  And then, spend a week getting things back in gentle order.  That's life!!

Where we go wrong is when we THINK life should be easy.  Where we go wrong is looking at other people thinking they have it better.  Nope.  We all struggle, we all eb and flow, we are all tired and hungry and overwhelmed sometimes.  Isn't it great?!!

The philosophies of men teach us that if we're tired or sad or stretched financially- we're doing something wrong.  The world teaches us that we're bad parents if our children cry or get hurt or want for material things or struggle.  This is not only wrong-- it is the opposite of truth.  

The truth is, these wanting, stretching, down times are part of normal, good life.  

And even when my heart breaks anytime my kids see something they don't have, I remind myself this is good!!  It's ok for kids to want, to wait, to desire, to ask, to work for things that they want-- because they appreciate what they get so much more.  

When my house is a mess, because I'm too busy, I feel the need to push myself and use some Herculean effort to clean it all up.  Nope.  Most of the time, that's the opposite of what I need to do.  When I think this way, I feel overwhelmed and I crash.  It's too hard.  

My mother in law plans in a week after company comes to get her house back in order.  There is no crash, because she doesn't set unrealistic expectation.  

We are tortoises-- we don't need to keep up with the hares.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Slow and steady is BETTER because it teaches mental and physical health.  Aren't you grateful when you see what you can do and what you can't?

The most productive, successful people I know are not just productive, they are not just super organized and amazing planners.  The healthiest people I know are really good at the down times of life.  The healthiest people I know are not the Pinterest Queens-- they are people who are content in their own skin.  They see their abilities and their limitations.  They work hard, they work consistently, but they do not over-do or burn out.  They don't apologize for their humanity or stress excessively over other people's discomfort.  

We must rest well and work well.
We can feel discomfort and welcome it.
We are rough stones rolling-- the rolling and bumping smoothes our edges.

Today, my list is long.
I'm planning to take it slow and steady.
For me-- it is harder to stop than start.  So, I'm going to work at this.
Starting now.
I'm stopping.

I'm so grateful for the opportunities we have to create a beautiful life within bounds of time and energy that God has given us.

We don't have enough time or money to do everything-- that's why it is essential for us to choose what we do with our time and money.
Today, I'm choosing to be gentle with myself and I'm choosing to teach my children to be calm.
I'm grateful my kids have to learn to share, to wait, to be grateful for less, to make do.

Children force us to plan and prioritize and be kind.  Children force us to slow down and work less.
We are all learning these lessons.

Years ago I heard a mother described as the best mom ever.  "Her kids never cry," my friend observed "she gives them everything they need before they need it."  This idea haunted me every time my own children cried for something.  

I've concluded that this might actually be a very alarming situation.  Children who never cry or want-- aren't going to be very resilient adults.

We often talk about people who have overcome great challenges with awe-- but we don't often recognize the absolutely essential role the adversity played in making them stronger.  

Helen Keller is just a spoiled brat without her illness that made her deaf and blind.  Without suffering in Gethsemane, Christ is just another man who was crucified.  
(OK, that's a bit over-simplified, but you know what I mean.  Christ's suffering MAKES Him able to succor perfectly.  Suffering was part of His plan and ours.  And, how many times did Christ leave the crowds to be alone-- A LOT!!)
Edison became nearly deaf at age 12-- he told his parents not to be sad, he liked it that way because he could concentrate better.  Maybe he needed that deafness?   

Without crying, tired, stretching times of life-- we don't ever appreciate the happy, good times of life.

Life, with it's bipolar swings and boundaries, is good.
I know it.


Debbi said...

Thanks for this post today. I loved it (and shared it).

Dana Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana Blake said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Jen! Going back to school with a baby, I feel like I need to get EVERYTHING done, but sometimes when I get overwhelmed I shut down and get nothing done. I needed to hear this today. Thank you :)

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