Like Holding Sand in the Ocean…

The title of this post is my attempt to describe the way I feel when I’m overwhelmed with life. I’m not talking about being overwhelmed with a busy schedule or an influx of tasks. There are times when it is hard to find motivation to function. My coping tendency is to isolate and vegetate – not great solutions.

In recent years, I’ve recognized January/February as a typical timeframe for the appearance of this overwhelm. I could blame it on the weather or the abundance of free time I seem to have during those months, but regardless of the cause, it’s an experience I do not enjoy. Once I saw a pattern, I developed a plan to combat reoccurrence. So, this year I’m trying a few things to battle the “winter blues” and continue thriving:

  • Be intentional with free time
    • The hours between work and bedtime seem to multiply in the winter, and my mind likes to run marathons if left idle for long stretches of time. This year I am attempting to schedule tasks and errands throughout each week to make sure I have a goal to accomplish every day. For example: rather than cramming all my chores into one day, I’ll wash clothes on Monday, fold them on Tuesday, go grocery shopping on Wednesday, etc. It seems simple, but assigning tasks to specific days encourages me to avoid wallowing in a dark room with Netflix.

  • Take on a new project
    • I like to be crafty. I often knit in the winter, but this year I’m trying diamond art instead. It’s similar to paint by numbers, but you place acrylic gemstones instead of paint. When I’m finished I’ll have a nice image to frame. I work on it while I’m watching a show or listening to an audio book, and it keeps my mind from wandering.

  • Yoga
    • I’m striving for a peaceful demeanor, so I chose a fitness practice that emphasizes calm. I try to complete three sessions a week.

  • Pick small things on my “someday” list and do them
    • I love to cook, especially in the winter. I have a family recipe for tomato sauce and meatballs that I’ve wanted to attempt for a few years. It’s an all-day process so I kept saying I’d do it sometime in the future. This time I set a date and invited good friends to share a meal. I was tired by the time we sat down to eat, but the food was delicious and the company made it all worth it.

  • Make plans to see people
    • It sounds silly, but scheduling time with friends and loved ones is one of my best practices. There are plenty of spontaneous events, but putting coffee meetups or shopping trips on the calendar helps me break up my workweeks and ensures that I’ll spend time with people who care.

So far I’ve been successful with these practices, and it seems to be making the winter more pleasant. January feels forever long, but I think everyone feels that way this year? Are you trying new things to make winter fun?

When Our Cathedrals Burn

The title of this post came to me weeks before I knew what the content would be. I thought I’d be writing about Notre Dame and the collective response to it, but I was wrong. While we were all glued to the news and watching the fire, a woman I’d never met was fighting for her life. I say I’d never met her, but I feel like I did. Her writing and social media engagement made many of us feel as though we knew her. For weeks, I checked twitter several times a day for her health updates, praying for good news. She had to recover. We needed her to keep writing, to keep questioning, to keep inspiring us toward openness.

…and then suddenly she was gone.

I was helping with a youth retreat and didn’t look at my phone until late at night. When I saw the news of her death, I found myself sitting in a bunk crying and grieving for someone I’d never spoken to.

The community Rachel Held Evans fostered online and through her writing was one of my cathedrals. It was a safe space where I felt welcome to work through my questions, doubts, and misunderstandings.  It was a place where I found other people who felt the same way. Once she passed, it became evident how many thousands of people are at a loss now. It was all so sudden…and so many strangers are part of this bereft family.

Rachel went public with her questions and her journey to find a faith that addressed the very real problems in this world. She articulated things I couldn’t put into words, but had felt for years. She did not shy away from expressing her views even when she knew the critics would vehemently attack. She was not afraid to be wrong. And she was not afraid to apologize. She fought tirelessly to encourage people to keep their faith…because God was bigger than any human construct or behavior. She gave the outcasts a place to feel loved and welcome. She used her success to lift up and draw attention to other voices who needed to be heard.

When our cathedrals burn, we don’t abandon the cause. We rebuild.  

I’ve written and deleted so many posts over the years because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. No more. I’m ok being misunderstood by hundreds of people if it means one person feels known. I will be vulnerable with my thoughts and writing…and if it means I have to apologize for getting things wrong along the way, so be it. Rachel may be gone, but she influenced thousands of us who need to carry on the cause.

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for my entire life. The fact is: I am a writer. I don’t get paid for it, but I have a voice. I will use my voice to draw attention to issues that matter, to encourage people to think about new perspectives…and to build cathedrals where all are welcome.