Are you a whole person?
I’ve been feeling tired a lot lately. Not just I-didn’t-get-enough-sleep kind of tired. The kind of tired that sets in the moment you wake up and see another sunrise–knowing it’s another day of the hamster wheel, running as fast as you can before you drop.
It’s called burnout. This kind of tiredness dulls my mind, numbs my creativity, and makes me feel excited about nothing. It feels like growing old before my time.
Why? I’m young and healthy; I’ve got a family who loves me and some great friends. I’m doing work I’m passionate about. Furthermore, I know God loves me–I have purpose and significance in that. But I’m still tired.
A tough conversation with my ever-wise friend Audry shed some light on the matter. (She also just posted a great blog about fighting off creative distractions here.) Whether your work is knitting, writing, painting, composing, or delivering sermons, you know that being creative takes a great deal of mental energy. It’s a God-like endeavor: creating ex nihilo, allowing us to be little singers of the Song of God.
But it’s draining.
And more than that–it’s crookedly draining. Creating involves a lot of sitting around and thinking, squeezing those little gray cells to imagine things that no one has ever seen before. Sometimes to put in those long stretches of intellectual labor on our Works In Progress, we shut everything else out.
But we humans are like four-pointed compasses. Rene Descartes only had part of the picture when he said, “I think, therefore I am.” Thinking is part of our being, but we’re also more. Being human means we’re not only brains, but also feelings, bodies, and souls. And if we only exercise our brains, we start to wear down all on one side like lopsided erasers, while simultaneously feeling unfulfilled in those other parts of being.
Maybe this was why I was tired. So this week I set out to experiment with my routine. I decided to give myself permission to stretch and exert the other three points of my compass, in hopes of restoring my mental freshness and creative vitality–and enjoying my life.
There are some things you know by studying about them. And there are other things you know only by doing them. One of these things is physical exertion. No amount of doctor-talk about the health benefits of exercise can describe how flushed and vital you feel after coming home from a 30-minute traipse in sprinkling rain, your head full of ideas and your blood pumping to write. Better still–a hike in the hills, overwhelmed with the beauty of emerald grass and shifting sunlight, brilliant poppies and clouds traveling overhead.
Another such thing of such indescribable value is time with people, and with God. E-mails and Facebook simply are not a substitute for time with friends, family, and the Holy One. You’ve got to have face-to-face time, quantity time, especially if you spend much of your work time in relatively isolated conditions. I’m a schedule-bent efficiency junkie, but I’m realizing that not taking time to be with people will kill my energy and desire to meet the day–so I’m actually more productive when I spend time with people, away from work. More time than just exchanging “good mornings” in the kitchen. Likewise, hasty prayers are like IOUs with God that stack up–they don’t bring the soul-healing peace of extended times of contemplation and praise.
Trying these things this week has brought the life rushing back into me–joy, energy, creativity, and a desire to live the life I have. It’s easier to be thankful when you take time to notice what’s around you: the beauty of the world in spring, the humor and kindness of the people around you, the way your lungs fill with air and your eyelashes sparkle in the sunlight. It brings back the wholeness of being human–the way life was intended to be.
What do you do in your schedule to nurture wholeness in your life? What are your habits for fostering mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being?