Last night two friends and I went to see Anne Lamott present her newest book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Lamott is one of my favorite authors. She’s funny, vulnerable, irreverent, and REAL. I love the combination of real and funny. She makes me laugh and cry at the same time, which is kind of a nice thing. Lamott understands that life is a paradox: "There is so much going on that flattens us, that is huge, scary, or simply appalling. We're doomed, stunned, exhausted and overcaffeinated. And yet, outside my window, yellow roses bloom, and little kids horse around, making a joyous racket." (Almost Everything: Notes on Hope., p. 2)
Last night, Lamott said something that resonated with me on a deep level: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
I’m forever calling my oldest son—the tech-savvy one—and saying, “why isn’t my printer (Roku, computer, phone, you-name-it) working?!"
The first question he invariably asks: Did you try unplugging it, Mom?
Everything needs to be unplugged and re-booted from time to time.
Including me. Including you.
We’re too full of too many things.
I’m going to speak as a mom of a son with autism here. If you're a dad, or your child has a different disability, your too-fullness list will be slightly different:
I’m too full of ISP’s. Too full of fear about the future. Too full of wondering how I’m going to find a new dentist who will do cleanings under anesthesia. I’m full-to-overflowing with finding new people for Joel to hang out with, and making sure his supplements are up-to-date and still needed (can we possibly lower this supplement bill?!). I’m over-flowing with anxiety about Joel's kyphosis and whether or not to look into surgery again, and whether or not he could tolerate the rehab. My unconscious fears of losing him overflow into my dream life as I sleep.
As I said, I’m sure you have your own, unique list.
What happens when we get filled-to-overflowing? Our brains stop working well. The blood flows from our brains to our extremities as our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode. We’re not as sharp. Sometimes we actually freeze, not unlike our smart phones when they’re trying to process too much data. Our adrenal glands get depleted and cortisol fills our system, making us exhausted and sick.
Unlike our phones and computers, human beings need to unplug and re-boot daily!
I have to unplug on a daily basis if I want to be my best, healthy self. When Joel was living at home, that meant an hour in bed with a novel at the end of the day, a short phone call to or visit with a good friend once a day, and time in meditation after the boys got on the bus.
Today, living in an empty nest, it’s not as hard, time-wise, to unplug. But it’s still a struggle. My schedule is full of running a retreat center, my spiritual direction practice, and writing as well as attending to the rest of my family and over-seeing Joel's care. Because it's all stuff I love, it’s easy to think I can do it on my own, through my own power cord, my own processor (as in, my measly brain).
But I can’t. Last week I ended up in bed for three days because I refused to unplug. On overload, my body shut down.
How do we unplug on a daily basis when we’re living with disability? When our time is not our own? When we’re capable people, masters of scheduling; and so unbelievably NEEDED?!
As Nike so eloquently advertised: JUST DO IT!
I schedule time on the calendar. 2 hours every Wednesday morning and 2 hours every Thursday evening forLectio Divinawith dear friends and God.
My husband I have a long-standing date for a cup of coffee (him) or tea (me) in the living room every morning, where we spend anywhere from 5-30 minutes in the Scriptures and prayer before we start our day.
Nature is a great restorer for me. A walk in the woods or next to the lake down the road does wonder to refresh my soul. On days I don’t have time for a walk, I do double duty with prayer time by opening the curtains wide and simply staring out the window at the field across the street. As I drink my tea I also drink in the beauty of the changing seasons and the changing light of the day without even leaving my chair!
There are as many ways to unplug as there are people on earth. Make your own list. How can you best unplug from the worries and anxieties and busyness of your life? Worship? Prayer? Journaling? Chasing rainbows? Birdwatching? Once you know for sure what re-boots your brain, body, and soul, put it on the calendar. Make a habit of it. We all have 24 hours per day. There are pockets of time that we can use to unplug!
One of my all-time favorite Scriptures sums it up best:
Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says, In returning and rest, you will be saved. In quietness and trust you will find strength. (Isaiah 30:15 The Voice)
Here is a wonderful song from Julie True, taken from Isaiah 30. If you're feeling overwhelmed and close to overload, this just might help you unplug and re-boot before you carry on with your day!