Empty Spaces

My old-school planner. I don’t do digital calendars. I have to write things down. I am pretty sure I was supposed to be born in another era with typewriters, leather books and feather pens with ink wells.

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
~Etty Hillesum

Patience is not my virtue. I realize this and I’ve always known it was not my strong suit (even more so since becoming a parent) but now that I am learning to live with a chronic illness, it has become something that I am forced to be – at least in some ways, believe it or not. Throughout this journey there have been so many days, months and years that I have just had to wait…for answers, for more tests, for test results, for an accurate diagnosis, for the right doctor, for treatment, for the pain to leave, for strength just to get out of bed in the morning and for the energy to accomplish anything at all. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. I deal with it and have gradually gotten used to it, but it is not something that comes naturally to me.

Before Lyme, I was a “Type A” person – probably to a fault. I never sat down. I was always go-go-go and my day planner was my best friend. I went from activity to activity and “To Do List” to the next “To Do List” as I scrawled another activity or list in the box before the week had even begun. When my parents came to visit several years ago, I remember my mom asking me many times, “Will you please just stop and sit down for one minute?” Putting my feet up was something I didn’t have time for. I had dishes to wash, laundry to fold, play-dates to get to, projects to tackle, carpets to vacuum and baby girls to bathe. Life was a constant whirl of activity. At the time, it seemed completely normal for me to fall into bed totally drained from being on my feet for 9-12 hours straight or more. I didn’t think twice about it. I was a young, stay at home mom with a lot on my plate as I tried to juggle two girls in diapers, working from home with a scrapbooking business, church commitments, MOPS commitments, etc. Not to mention taking care of a big house and yard, pets, my husband and usually last and always least – myself. Busyness was my way of life. I organized and scheduled almost every second of our lives. I thought it was what I was “supposed” to do. And since it fit my ultra organized personality, that’s just what I did. I hardly said no to anything that I got asked to do and I gladly took on as much as I could. I did enjoy most of what I was doing, I just didn’t schedule many breaks into my week. My day planner rarely had any days without an activity or responsibilities and usually the only thing that could keep me from those was if one of my girls was sick.

A couple of years ago when the first symptoms of Lyme barely started creeping up on me, I continued this lovely routine going. I knew something wasn’t right with my body but I didn’t have time to get sick. I didn’t have the patience to lie around and give my body time to even attempt to fight an infection. I wanted a quick-fix or a magic pill so that I could get on with my life but all that did was create a monster. My immune system just couldn’t handle the symptoms anymore and it shut down, so I got worse even faster.  To be honest, even after having terrible symptoms for so long – going through 15 rounds of IV treatments and countless joint and kidney injections and taking a million supplements and herbal “remedies” I am just now learning how to adapt to my slower and weaker body.

Change is hard and I have struggled with being patient with myself and my body. This year I have made sure not to schedule anything the day after an activity and I try hard not to have more than one “big thing” in a single day. For example, leading worship, singing and playing guitar is something that I feel called to do and I hate that my body physically limits me from serving. But I am learning that if I intentionally rest the week before my scheduled weekend and the Monday after that weekend, I can do it.  I know it doesn’t seem like much, but some weekends include hours of rehearsals back to back with services and then more rehearsal and services the next morning. It can total 10-12 hours that I am mostly standing (physically draining for me), concentrating (mentally tiring) and singing my heart out (spiritually fulfilling and exhausting at the same time). I have slowly been able to work some things that I love to do back into my schedule again after feeling like a hermit for quite a while. I am learning how to schedule and organize more intentionally, making sure to carve out time for rest.

It sounds pretty dramatic and I know not everyone has the luxury of doing it, but these in-between times – these “empty spaces” on my planner are the reason I am able to do any of the other important and fulfilling things written on the other days. The in-between days and/or nights help me to refresh and restore my body. It is also like a little breather for my mind and my heart. I can refocus my thoughts and get refueled spiritually as well. I don’t do much but rest and cuddle with my little one – who only has a few more months before she starts Kindergarten. (!!!)  So, I’m not ashamed that I am a home-body these days and I am realizing just how necessary it is on multiple levels – not just physically. I really wish I had been scheduling these types of days into my calendar even before I got sick. I think we all could use more “empty spaces” on our calendars.

I’d love to hear if anyone has similar experiences with “down time” or if you have had any realizations about over scheduling or just wanting more alone time for yourself and how you make that happen. What does your calendar look like for the month of May? I hope you have a few empty spaces! 🙂

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~Winnie-the-Pooh’s Little Instruction Book

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *