People call it all sorts of things: personal time, me time, alone time, self-care. And no matter what you call it there's one constant ... we pretty much all crave it. Don't mistake me for saying it's a bad thing, either, because I'm not saying that at all.
What I am saying is that maybe there's more than one way to look at it.
I started life an introvert and then conditioned myself to become an extrovert. I taught myself so well, in fact, that I was elected homecoming queen in my public high school because I was friends with everybody. But those years took a toll on me as I tried so hard to be what I wasn't. And so as I got older, I found myself slipping back into my old introverted ways. I'm not upset about it but the realization that people drain me when I live a life quite literally drowning in people has given me plenty of cause to pause. It's taken prayerful consideration to come to a place where I see the recharge time I'm desperate for a little differently.
One morning as I was circling our pond praying, God gave me a thought that's helped me reframe things. Everything doesn't have to be about me being alone with myself, but it does need to be about me being with God, alone or not. That's what recharges us and it's what gives us the love, patience, and endurance we need. So I've been experimenting with this concept.
I decided to intentionally take God with me as I do laundry. You want to know what happened? Although my days are already full and we don't have a dryer for the clothes here, I now generally get it all done everyday whereas before I was often having to ask for help getting it hung. But then I was not only getting finishing the task, I was hanging the clothes in an organized way on the line. Things looked neater once hung but they were also easier to find when the time came to put the dry clothes away. Not long after that, I found myself organizing the clothes hangers by color, just because it made the rack of empty hangers look tidy. Seems silly and tedious but it took only seconds and the visual was so restful to me. It's interesting to note, however, that I never went to do the laundry thinking, "I'm going to be more organized about this!" I just started going about that chore with my mind on Jesus. We know He's a God of order so I suddenly found myself becoming more orderly.
But there's more.
I was struggling to get the whole house cleaned everyday. It an old-style Thai house and it's not the easiest to clean. I would find myself working in one room and then I'd get distracted by something or somebody and I'd end up off in another room and nothing was being done to completion. Until, that is, I started being mindful about what God was saying to me and how He was ordering my steps. Now, usually by 9am, I have a clean house and I'm ready to move onto other things. Again, not something I set out to improve on but it happened by default as I purposed to stay in God's presence even during my busiest days.
Then we decided to add a few things into our routines that hadn't been there before and I wasn't sure where the time would come from. I've been making sure to get up and have that quiet communion with God and then as kids begin swirling around me, I've determined to not let go of the experience. What I find happening is that I have far greater tolerance. I'm doing more but burning out less. In fact, I'm honestly not burning out at all. I'm finding myself invigorated by making myself available when I'd normally want to retreat, but only because I'm working to keep in step with God.
I'm in a season where I haven't even slept in my own bed for several weeks because of the needs of our youngest group of little girls. Abi moved into a little cottage on our property so her room is no longer right next to the girls and that means there's nobody up there for the nighttime fears and tears we're still working through. That leaves me with the job. It's been some of the worst sleep I've ever gotten for a prolonged period (I've sneaked a few naps in!) and I'm having almost no "alone" time, but I'm actually running on high instead of on empty.
He's teaching me that self-care is far more about Him than it is about me. When I'm with Him my mind is more aware of the fact that I need to drink water, get exercise, eat better, and give my brain a chance to rest. I don't have to fight for it, I just have to lean into it.
And that's making all the difference.