In previous posts in this Winter Survival Guide I suggested trying to on the one hand say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, and also to know when it is best for you to say ‘no’ to things that other people ask you to do, and to have the confidence to do that where appropriate.
However, what if youwant to say yes to so many things, many or most of which might be your own suggestions for yourself? What if you actually need to say ‘no’ to you?! 🙂
Maybe you’re in tip top health, are feeling vibrant, exuberant and want to ‘do it all’ and ‘tick off’ as many suggestions on your ‘bucket list’ as possible this season. Or maybe like me you’ve previously gone through long drawn out seasons of poorer health and haven’t been able to do much at all, and you want a season of contrast to your hard times, and to ‘make the most of it’ now that you are feeling better than before and heading in the right direction.
Whatever the case may be for you in your particular circumstances, and whether the ‘invitations’ to do things are coming from yourself and / or others, it is important to take a breath and remind yourself that you can’t do it all. Now, I’m not wanting to put a dampener on the proceedings, or take the fun from your party, and I’m certainly not saying that you and I aren’t capable and shouldn’t be making the most of things. What I am saying though is that none of us were designed to be full steam ahead all of the time without a break, and if in your excitement you over-plan to do things, or over-commit to what you want to be involved with, then at some stage you are going to hit a proverbial brick wall and come to an unwanted halt.
Even the fiercest ‘go getters’ among you need to recharge every now and then, so don’t try to do it all, or if you do, give yourself space to be able to reorganise, reschedule, change your mind and allow yourself to say no to your original plans in such a way that you won’t be letting yourself or anyone else down. Basically be flexible and don’t wear yourself into the ground by trying to be ‘superman’ / ‘superwoman’.
Sometimes Less is More:
As excited as you might be to cram it all in to this wonderful season, sometimes less truly is more. By being more selective in how you use your time, you will be able to deepen the quality of your experiences and get so much more out of them in a more meaningful way. It’s the difference between seeing all the bright lights everywhere and taking time to focus on the flickering flame of a candle in a dark room – there is a different internal response and experience from both exciting and meditative experiences and we need a balance of both in our lives.
Give yourself permission to enjoy the simple things, get rid of the ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out) and enjoy the beauty of this season without overstretching yourself or trying to do it all. Don’t overfill your calendar! After all, after the excitement has passed you will want to be rested, refreshed and ready to head into a brand New Year!
I’m sure most of you will have heard of the popular acronym ‘FOMO’; if you haven’t and you worry that you haven’t heard of it, then you probably have it! 😉 For those of you who are familiar with the term, you’ll know that I’m talking about the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, or perhaps we experience it as a long standing condition! Missing out on what, though? We are often more concerned with doing rather than experiencing. We think our lives would be better (and by better, deep down we probably mean more fulfilled, exciting, happier, having more meaning, value, significance and purpose, and perhaps being more admirable in the eyes of others) if we had what that person had, or we could do what they did, or we looked the way they looked or could travel where they travelled, or had their talents, or family or friends….and the list is endless.
FOMO steals from us the precious moment that we can enjoy and live in right now. We anxiously look around us at others, or we get lost inside our own heads thinking of what we ‘ought to’ do to make the most of our time, and generally losing focus on where we are and what we are doing right now, and the value of simply experiencing it deeply.
I got to thinking about this while washing the dishes – I was enjoying the experience of slowing down, appreciating that I had dishes in the first place to wash when other people sadly go hungry, of feeling the warmth of the water through my washing up gloves and enjoying the bubbles. Experiencing the experience, finding the value in it, enjoying the little, simple things, right in front of us.
But then …then I considered the time, the fact that I am on retreat, taking a day’s unpaid leave from work, wondering whether I could get this done quicker and then go out for a walk or to a coffee shop or something more ‘retreat like’. I became more concerned with the doing rather than the experiencing and therefore allowed anxious thoughts to steal the joy of the moment from me. And maybe you sometimes think like that too. But we can come back from that…we can slow down, refocus, and be thankful…and find joy as we move slowly, quietly, peacefully and humbly through the day.
Do you think that all of those people doing all of that amazing stuff really enjoy their lives more? (I’m not talking about in comparison with people who are in situations where their basic needs aren’t being met – that’s a different situation to what I mean, and a topic for another discussion). Maybe the people who seem to have it all ‘should’ enjoy life more…and maybe in some respects they do, and that’s a good thing for them, we should think kindly of them if their enjoyment isn’t harming anyone else- but chances are the reality is that like butterflies people who seem to have it all flit from one thing to another because they need the big experiences, they need to show off their relationships, or look a certain way and be admired for it, or go to so many places because they are not experiencing and enjoying the simple things deeply and so they don’t have contentment and never truly feel like their lives are ‘enough’. Perhaps we are all like this to some extent. All of these things are beautiful aspects of life – wellbeing, healthy relationships, opportunities to connect, to travel, to go on adventures, to experience and learn new things, to grow in ourselves, to develop our skills and our talents. However, if we focus solely on doing and ticking things off our list of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ then these lovely things in life actually become hollow. We rob ourselves of the true value of experiencing our own lives if we are constantly worried or thinking of something else that we might be missing out on, and putting a ‘price tag’ or value on that experience by outward criteria alone.
So, that’s ‘FOMO’ ~ a rather unpleasant state of being and comparison either with others or with our expectations for ourselves. So what on earth is ‘JOMO’? ….
Have you ever noticed a very young child whose parents may be trying to show them something that they hope will be exciting for the child, and that most other people would think would be of interest to them, but instead, they are utterly mesmerized and absorbed by a leaf or flower at their feet (and nearer their eye level anyway), or an ant or something we have learned to dismiss as not being of much interest in our experience. Children can sometimes express such joy and glee at the strangest of things. I once saw a video of a baby in joyful hysterics, laughing its little heart out, when its dad ripped up pieces of paper. It’s silly, but we can learn a lot from young children like that. They don’t care about what else they should be doing, they are just enjoying the little things fully in that moment of their life as it happens. And that in itself, especially to adults, is extraordinary.
I read a quirky little article a while back that talked about replacing ‘FOMO’ and anxiety with ‘JOMO’ – the JOY of missing out. Of not feeling we have to do the ‘big things’, but to find joy in not doing them and enjoying the little things that we love. The joy of missing out can really be translated of the joy of being here, right now, and fully experiencing the good things in your own life however insignificant on the surface they may at first seem.
When was the last time you suffered from ‘FOMO’ (you know, that 21st Century phenomenon that is the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’)?
While this anxiety, and by that I don’t mean envy, may be harnessed in a way that one might use pre-exam nerves to motivate them to take action or do better, can be harnessed to compel one to take positive steps in life, to make the most of things, it can also be used as a rod to beat one’s own back.
You see, in the path to healing, whether that is physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or all of the above, we might find ourselves in places that we really don’t want to be. The place may be physical or subjective. For example, on the pathway of healing, one might be in a hospital bed, or a mental prison. The confines can come in a variety of forms, and their impact upon us has a lot to do with how we react to our situations.
In a world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, to name a few online spaces, we often see lives that seem worlds apart from our own. When we see a constant stream of happy, healthy images, of people seemingly living life to the full, surrounded by friends, family, apparent ‘success’, and ‘ticking all the boxes’ of lives great milestones – graduations, birthdays, engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, and the happy lives of those surrounded by love, life, travel, adventure, achievement, talent, good health….the list goes on…. you fill in the blank for what you struggle with seeing…. we can be left feeling deflated. Perhaps especially if or when things aren’t quite going so smoothly for us.
Now, I can’t promise you healing. I can’t say for certain how things will work out. But I can say that I have been imprisoned by many things, and I know The One Who Has set me free, and Who continues to heal and restore me. If you know The Lord Jesus, you know He Is Real, He Is Good, He Loves you and has a place for you.
If you don’t yet know Him (and I pray that you will know His very specific love for you, some day) then you can still glean from His Wisdom.
You are important. Your journey is important. If you’re like me, you have perhaps fought hard to survive certain storms in your life, pushed on, worked hard, done everything your little self could do, to find that while you have survived, you may still feel broken. And while you have endured long and fought hard to overcome repeated challenges and obstacles, somehow you find yourself surrounded by people who know little of this road, and whose terrain has been more of meadows than of jagged mountains. They seem to breeze through life, move through all the milestones smoothly, happily and at the expected time, they don’t seem to have to go through trial after trial, and although they have ups and downs like everyone in life, they don’t seem to be particularly tough and they have had plenty of ‘cushioning’ in their early lives and a good support system so that things that come their way don’t seem to phase them. Of course, we don’t know what we might find if we were to peel back the layers of these lives, but it is fair to say that some people do have a happier time of it than others.
So, what do yo do when you find yourself in a place of ‘FOMO’, of comparison, of anxiety, doubt and fear? Your future does not seem so secure, you don’t think you’ll ever experience the blessings that come so easily. Perhaps you feel defeated, disappointed, by the hospital bed, by the medication, by the nightmares, the divorce, the physical sickness, the trauma, the depression, anxiety, stress, uncertainty, loneliness….the list goes on and on. And as you think about these contrasts, the despair and worry begin to build. What will become of you? This wasn’t how it was meant to be.
First let me say, whether you realise it or not, you are *loved*, by a God Who created you, chose you, fashioned you, and Who can bring meaning from your sufferings – indeed The One True and Living God Who suffered anguish to save you – to bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. Eternal security, and security for this life, each and every day knowing that The Good Shepherd Is walking with you every step of the way.
Like I said, even if you don’t know Him yet, even if you are angry at God, refuse to believe in Him, or are frustrated at why He seems to be so ‘unfair’ towards you, you are not alone in these feelings. In a broken world, our broken hearts struggle to believe that we are loved or cared for, or that our lives matter, because we each are special.
First, I encourage you, regardless of your beliefs, if you are walking a path towards healing, to come away from those places of comparison for a while. Sometimes we want to run before we can walk. But today is important, and you matter. Focus on building up your own life and rather than wishing it was different, do something to make it so. The small things matter. Take time by yourself to rest awhile. Our bodies and minds are over run and overcharged, and we all need some ‘down time’ to recalibrate, and to get busy doing nothing. Perhaps you are limited in what you can do – perhaps you are confined indoors, but if you are not, open a window or wander outside and linger in the freshness of the air you are still blessed with to be able to breathe. Small steps are important. Can you put something healthy into your body, can you exercise even a little, just 5 minutes today, can you do something that will strengthen and nurture your soul? Can you colour, or read, or write, or journal, think, pray? Can you gaze at the clouds moving gently past, or linger over a hot cup of tea? Can you enjoy the laughter of a child? Can you pick up where you left off, and get even a little bit stronger today? Can you say something kind to yourself, and remember, whether you believe it yet or not, that you are loved?
My friend, if like me, you have come a long way, you may feel like despite all your effort you haven’t got far enough. But take time to realise how far you *have* come. It is ok to rest a while, if you can. It has taken everything to get here, and we want to run, but first we need to grow strong in our ability to walk through life…metaphorically speaking.
It is ok to take your time. It is important not to compare, unless that comparison leads to gratitude and kinder, more compassionate hearts. You are not alone on this journey. We all live in a broken, fallen world, where a lot of things seem unfair. But we have been given a Hope. We have been given strength enough for today. Reach out….reach out to Him….Jesus…The Living God, Who Loves you….and if you can’t find it in yourself to do that yet….at least reach out and do something today that will strengthen you in your onward journey of a more whole and peaceful live. xx
At least it is the morning on my side of the world! 🙂 It is a beautiful bank holiday Monday, which means I can have a relaxed start to the day, a welcome novelty from the usual ‘Manic Monday morning rush’!
Recently I decided to try something that I hadn’t done before. I realised that if I wanted to really pursue my dreams, then I would have to make a thoughtful and concerted effort to make time to do so.
Like many people, I work full time, and although I enjoy my job and make time in the evenings to relax and be creative, over time stress and the issues of other people can build up and creativity becomes a leisure activity that we indulge in ‘when we have the time’, and therefore that deep focussed immersion of ourselves into a creative ‘headspace’ as it were doesn’t truly happen amid the interruptions and myriad voices and commitments vying and calling for our attention.
So, I did it. I took a few days off work and rather than go on holiday (or ‘vacation’), I decided to create my very own ‘Staycation’ and creative retreat at home.
I can write more about the process of this and what it looked like and how it took shape and what I did, if there is interest. However, initially I had set aside the time for the purpose of a creative ‘Writing Retreat’.
Writing is a passion of mine, and I am working on a couple of novels – my first. One of which I have been working on for a good few years now, and is dear to my heart, and is an expression of my life and faith journey in an allegorical form – if you like adventure, interesting characters, deep thinking, and profound expression of life’s deepest experiences, then this is a tale that I am perhaps telling for you, as well as for myself 🙂
My second work is more lighthearted, but I’ll save that for another post.
What I found happening, for this particular time set aside at least, was that the scope of the purpose of my creative retreat both broadened and deepened.
It became a time for me to be still, to commune with God, my Creator (I am a person of faith), and to hear my own thoughts.
The solitude and freedom from the usual demands of a ‘9-5’ routine gave me a beautiful opportunity to slow down, to take time, to walk at nature’s own pace, and to dwell deeply in a creative space.
The focus was not so much on ‘producing’, but on being. Even if the creative endeavour was the feeling or thought itself and the expression of the heart in just one line, that in itself was profound – a deepening connection, and a being present and unhurried.
I found a joy in the simplicity of taking time to be, to pray, to find droplets of healing and understanding through this time. I enjoyed unhurried walks by the riverside, knowing that I did not have to ‘clock watch’ or fit myself into the boxes of the world’s schedules – at least, not for this set aside time.
I wrote, I cooked, I sang, I took photographs, I drew and coloured, and enjoyed the time, in a childlike way, simply to be. I also limited my time and engagement with technology, and I found that this was a balm and a barrier against the modern syndrome that is ‘FOMO’ (the Fear Of Missing Out), and at last I could hear myself think, and that was enough in itself.
I feel that it is an important thing to take time to listen and to be, if and when we get the chance. We live in such a fast paced and hurried world that we are often drained of the vitality to be our best selves and to truly enjoy the gift of the life we’ve been given.
Going back to work I did feel refreshed, but just as soon as I got back, I was immersed in the noise of other people’s ‘stuff’, for want of a better word. And yet, I believe that taking time to take care of ourselves helps us ultimately to be more patient and kind and compassionate to other people.
I wandered through and out of my retreat with the thread of thought that on ‘re-entry’ into the world 😉 I would continue to make small and consistent life changes to ensure that although I generally do not have vast amounts of time to take to ‘retreat’ from the daily busy-ness of the world, I can make my daily life calmer, more peaceful, more creative and meaningful.