Breathing Room

I was sitting in church when the pastor started to talk about the human need for breathing room. We have a tendency, especially in this fast paced and constantly plugged in world we live in, to fill our life so full that there’s no room for air. We are literally suffocating ourselves with busyness.

It left me determined to lean in and identify what my life would look like with room to breathe. How would my relationships change? How would my stress level change? How would the people/things I need to pull back from accept my need for air? Is there some area that I need to give more attention to that brings me fresh air?

I’m in a time of transition and find myself a little unmoored as I adjust to the need to alter how I manage my time. My life has gone from a constant stream of requests for immediate, physical attention, to one spent in the carpool lane of life where it feels as if I spend more time in the driver’s seat of Mom Van than anywhere else. That and in waiting rooms.

My own kids are nearly grown, with one away at college and one headed there soon. My bonus kids are at the stage in life where they mainly need transportation. My parents are in need of transportation, the occasional post-surgical nursing care, and another set of ears in things like doctor’s appointments. It seems as if life should have gotten easier, but I’ve found, in many ways, the opposite to be true.

Between shuttling kids here and there, transporting my parents & sitting in on their appointments, spending as much time as possible with my traveling husband when he’s home, I let my To Do list grow so enormous, that I forgot to leave myself time to take care of my own needs. But every time I started to feel overwhelmed, I then felt guilty for being selfish because when I look at my list none of it seems beyond what is reasonable. After all, I have friends that have careers and kids that seem to manage just fine. What is my problem?

Thanks to a very well timed sermon, on top of a couple conversations with a few Truth Telling Friends, I came to the realization that when you constantly share your space with others, meeting even just their transportation needs, it’s very easy to let them have your oxygen as well. I realized that I had yielded all my time to others. And on the rare occasion I had time to myself, I was so exhausted that I barely had the energy to change into pajamas and lay on the couch. I was suffocating myself with busyness. And even busyness for all the right reasons, like helping others, exacts a toll.

So now what? How do I approach making the changes that I so desperately need? I have begun to slowly remove things from my To Do List. Letting go of responsibilities that belong in the hands of others. Encouraging my parents to reach out to friends and even Uber for some of their transportation needs. Prioritizing quality time with the people I am closest to. With the husband that may mean letting the dishes sit and watching an episode of Lethal Weapon or taking the dog for a walk. With the kids it means spending time doing things we like to do together, not just chores. With friends it means forgoing the “I’ll get back to you on when we can get together,” to actually adding an activity to my calendar.

For myself, it means a few different things. First and foremost I have set aside 20 minutes every morning and 10 minutes each night for a quiet time. Reading, writing, meditating, and praying through Scripture. I’ve found when I have set my spirit straight first thing in the morning, the entire day is less suffocating. Over the weeks since I’ve started this, the time I spend in this activity has begun to frequently stretch beyond what I’ve scheduled. Amazingly, instead of making me feel as if I have more to do with less time, I’ve found the opposite to be true; I often have more energy and feel less stressed. When I take the time to center myself, my time multiplies.

Often the first thing to go when I am over-scheduled, is self-care. As such, I have attempted to return to taking better care of my physical body. Making sure the fuel I ingest is optimal, setting time aside to exercise, attempting to get more sleep. A well cared for body, pays dividends and is worth the time it takes. Again, in this area, a sacrifice of time, has turned into a time and patience stretcher.

Additionally, I have taken the first, tentative steps to realizing a long held desire – one that has percolated on the back burner for most of my life. And the product of which you are reading right now. It may never go further than this blog, but at least I have taken a step in the direction of realizing a dream.

All of this change I am attempting to make hinges on one key principle. I have to give myself permission to pare down my To Do List without feeling guilty. The realization that the only person that can release me from my feelings of guilt, is me is both freeing and frightening. But it is important that I push through and do it. I have to give myself room to breathe. No one will do it for me.

So I am embracing a life full of my fair share of oxygen. It will take patience, determination, forgiveness, and a myriad other things, both on my part and on the part of those closest to me, but I will persevere. Because the reality is we all need room to breathe.

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