I’ve never been what you would call a “still” person.
A go-getter, absolutely. Intense at times, yes. But “still”…if you’ve known me longer than a year or two, probably not so much.
I finished my four-year bachelor’s degree a semester early, Magna Cum Laude, while working 30-hours per week and planning/executing a wedding and starting married life. I obtained my master’s degree a few weeks after turning twenty-five: a two-year program completed in a year and a half, with a 4.0, while working a full-time job and taking care of our household. I have a slew of professional certifications that took a lot of work and time to earn. And as far as the personal life goes: our budget, our vacations, our cleaning schedule, my day-to-day tasks, my office at work, my computer files…all highly coordinated and organized. A lot of people might think it ridiculous or overkill, but that’s just how I operate. At the beginning of my diagnosis, I even wrote a blog post about how my new life and its tendency to throw my plans into chaos was driving me bonkers. Being “still” was a concept that I just didn’t do well.
Until the past few months, that is.
If you are a regular reader or part of my life outside of IBSTakesGuts, you’ll know that I completed PTSD therapy over the last few months. One of the intriguing, easy-to-say-and-difficult-to-do activities I began during that time was conscientiously slowing down.
I wrote in my journal every time my mind started to race, looking for the root cause of what made it start. (There were a lot of journal entries at first, let me tell you.) I started taking fifteen minutes, twice per day, to practice meditation. I began regular breathing exercises to slow my mind, heart rate, and bodily reactions whenever I felt anxiety beginning to form. I created “My Five Statements”, a series of “I” statements based on what I wish to be in my ideal form:
- I am calm.
- I am confident.
- I am compassionate.
- I enjoy life every day.
- I am the wheel, and the spokes don’t rule me.
I started reciting these to myself first thing in the morning, numerous times throughout the day, and before falling asleep at night, and I printed a copy to hang in my office at work so I would see them throughout every work day. I came up with a list of ways I could make myself slow down each day and made a practiced effort to do them. I even began intentionally slowing my physical activities – eating, walking, getting ready in the mornings – to prove to myself that I could make slowing down, being still, a priority.
And, man oh man, did it surprise me. You know what I learned?
I could still be a go-getter. I could still be a planner. I could still be organized. But, in addition, I need to make being still a priority.
I learned that being still and being lazy are not equivalent.
Three months into this process of being still, things have changed. My stillness has become both a practice and a priority. I’m now conscientious of being “too” busy. I catch myself getting that laser-focused, too-intense feeling, and I take a step back to breathe. I’ve learned how to actively pause and assess any situation that makes me feel anything other than my five statements. My morning and afternoon meditations have become a necessary part of my plan to be “still”; I need those moments to remind myself that I am the wheel, and the spokes – the anxiety, the diagnoses, the day-to-day stressors, the people who aren’t me – don’t control me. They are a part of my life in that moment, sure, but they cannot and will not affect my sense of peace. They can’t make me feel stressed or force me to lose control of my emotions or ruin my day – only I can do that.
I’ve also come to realize that all the planning and organization in the world won’t keep the “spokes” from doing what they will. Life will happen the way it happens. Period. I can either roll with it while embracing my calm, or I can not. It’s that simple.
It’s interesting how so much of what I wish to be, what I need to be, for my physical and mental health ties in so well with what I need to be as a Christian. I’ve always known that God has my back, but it’s become more apparent in the last fourteen months of my life than ever before.
For example, let’s talk about the fruit of the Spirit:
“For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23
When I deeply consider my five statements in relation to the fruit of the Spirit, I see so many correlations between what God tells us to be and what, for the sake of my health and well-being, I wish to be:
- I am calm – For the fruit of the Spirit is peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.
- I am confident – For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and patience.
- I am compassionate – For the fruit of the Spirit is love, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.
- I enjoy life every day – For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and patience.
- I am the wheel, and the spokes don’t rule me – For the fruit of the Spirit is peace, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Just like we now know through modern science that so many of the laws in the Old Testament were geared toward keeping the Jews healthy and safe, God provides us with a blueprint for living a content, fulfilling life…despite the crazy circumstances, busy times, and everyday struggles.
Today and in the future, I encourage you to embrace your “still”, if only for a moment. There truly is beauty in it.