New Beginnings and the Balance They Require

All through this pandemic, I’ve been hearing people say “Well, now we have more time,” or “I know you have the time!” Maybe that’s true for some or even most people, but it’s not for me! Very little has changed in my daily life, largely due to the way that my anxiety has limited me the past few years that was just on the cusp of letting up before this started. I am still a full time stay at home mama and housewife. I am still homeschooling (like, for real, not crisis schooling, or virtual schooling) my two kids. I didn’t have any outside the house activities or commitments that were suddenly cancelled and are now off my plate.  Even without outside the house commitments, my plate was very full- my energy resources have been limited by my physical and mental conditions, and the healing of those is the only way I’d be able to add consistent outside activities in, anyway. SO. I do not have more time now.

This has not stopped me from making 2020 the year of BOLDLY adding new things and purposes to my life, though. This year I have written easily upwards of 150,000 words, I have doubled the amount of time I dedicate to my kids’ schoolday to allow for more laughter and reading aloud, I have committed myself to taking better care of myself and my body from all angles, internal and external, which takes time and energy, I’ve pursued getting our first family dog and carved out time in my day to walk him when we finally get him… and then this week, I did something crazy.

I began my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. Because I have time for that. I don’t, really, but circumstances lined up that this *is* the time to do it, so I am.

All the time for these pursuits has had to come from somewhere, and 2019 Mae would have told you she didn’t have time for anything else. I have struggled since the moment baby Duck was born almost five and a half years ago to take care of my own needs because my mental health has been such a drain on my physical health. The only thing I’ve been able to be mostly consistent on is fitness and food, and even that was so hard for so long that I would just burn out and have to take a month or two off to recover. 2020 has been a gift in a lot of ways, because God has healed and grown me a lot, and continues to do so even through the uncertainty of the pandemic. Some of the best moments of my life have happened this year, and as frustrated as I am some days with how much more life I want to be living, I am full of positive expectation for what else He is going to do and give and heal. But I have to t be a good steward and partner of the time and energy He has given me, or else I’m just going to  burn out.

So how do I do this? How do any of us do this- make space for more, when we don’t feel we have the space to start with? I think it starts with a version of spring cleaning. Whenever I feel a pull to add something, I look at (and sometimes even make a visual time block schedule) of all the things I have going on, and ask myself, in this season, which things matter most, and which maybe require less attention. For example, I knew I needed to free up more time for school, in order to give both my kids ample time to enjoy the work, and keep myself from feeling like time was being “stolen” from my own needs, so I changed our school time block from 11-12, with whatever was left between 12-1 if we went over being time I could write, to 11-1 fully dedicated to school. We are only two weeks into the schoolyear, but this has been a game changer already. Does that mean I get less time to write? Maybe some days. I have carved out an hour every morning as hard, nonnegotiable writing time, so I do still get to write every day, and because my exercise routine has to adjust based on where my body is hormonally, there is at least a five day, but often closer to ten, period of time when my strength training is on hold and I can use that time to write. When I am consistent and intentional about using my time, I find other periods of “free” time when I can write pop up. Another example is committing to taking the dog (whenever we get him) for two good solid walks per day. Where am I supposed to find an hour to do that? Well, if I get up at six, and I have prepped well the night before, I can grab my breakfast, eat while we walk, and be back ready to write at about six thirty still. In the evening, the kids and I can take him out between 4:30 and 5, and I can still be back in time to make dinner and take a cycle class, and maybe he even gets an extra walk with the family some evenings.

But now, I’ve added Yoga Teacher Training, and for the next few months, that’s going to require a few hours a day of me, on average. With days that already feel full, how can I possibly make that happen? Well, it’s tricky, but doable. Right now it’s late July, the weather is just oppressively hot, and my daughter especially hates being out in it. I’m going to take advantage of feeling less obligated to spend a lot of time outdoors with the kids, and squeeze in an hour here and there off and on all day. My hormonal fluctuations give me space here, too, as even on days I don’t have the energy for an hour long ride on the bike, I can sit at the computer, watch a lecture, take notes, study, etc. My kids get to watch more educational tv during this time than usual, so they aren’t complaining. I also hope to structure my study time so I have days where I watch and take notes on a bunch of lectures, and then a day, or a few, where I can sit *away* from the computer and study and practice what I am learning, especially as the weather improves. This addition to my schedule is intense, but temporary.

It is still intense, though, and if I am going to ask all this of myself, I need to also provide myself recovery and rest. That’s the part that I tend to pay less attention to, especially when I am really excited about what I am doing-I just plow in deep and don’t even realize I’m burying myself until I’m suffocated. So, balance. I need to firmly prioritize both sleep and what I call “down time” every single day. “Down time” is time when I am not *working* on anything, when my mind and body are free to relax and recharge. This can look like a bunch of different things: taking a nap, reading a book (bonus points if this is outside!), listening to an audiobook and crocheting, watching a movie to tv show (and probably crocheting), or an number of things that is not physical or mental work. On the weekends this usually looks like physically separating myself from planning for the next week and watching a movie with Scott while the kids play upstairs.

Occasionally, when I catch myself heading down the path of not taking enough down time, I need to take a day for a self care reset, before I am too far gone and crash. Today is looking like one of these days, even though I’ve been really good about down time, because of the intersection of new stuff and hormones.

Here’s what that will look like:

  • A shower
  • Some soul care time (meditation, bible reading, a mental health check in)
  • Some intentional care for my skin and beauty
  • Possibly a nap
  • A few minutes outlining what I would like to accomplish re: YTT the rest of this week, to clear my mind.
  • Reading aloud and snuggling my kids
  • A walk with my kids (if it’s not too miserable out)
  • 30 minutes of easy yoga
  • After all that, if I feel up to it, some work on YTT. (I am really excited about this and want to get the first module/third of it done before the beach in 3.5 weeks.)

Balance is really hard, and I know I’ll never fully get it right, but I have to tell you, the more intentional I am about caring for myself, the more I am able to do and give and enjoy. I am fed up with a lot about this pandemic, but I also told everyone close to me when it began (almost five whole months ago! ) that I was going to use it as an opportunity. It is, for me, an opportunity to look at what really matters, to learn to care for myself so I can better care for others, to heal in areas that were back burnered when I was trying to save all my energy for “going out” things, and an opportunity to give time and energy to things that light me up. I feel like I’ve been living that out, and I’m not done. I really do look forward to getting back out, and to rejoining my church family and my own family in Virginia Beach, to having adventures and making memories outside our home, to concerts and parties and time with friends. But right now, where God has me is my home, and while I know I can trust Him to open doors and make me braver in time, I am going to intentionally live into this season as fully as possible, and I am so excited to see more of what He is doing!

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