For a long time, he lived in thetoy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon everyone else; they were full of modern ideas and pretended they were real. ~The Velveteen Rabbit
First in a series.
In early spring, I wrote about my struggle with depression. It was an easy post to write and a not-so-easy post to publish. I wasn't at all sure that it was a good idea to put it all "out there." But I hold myself to a very strict honesty policy on these pages. I try not to sugar-coat things or to only put forward the polished, pretty, happy times. So I wrote it and then I pushed "publish."
I received a flood of mail. Mail I have not yet finished answering-- dear letters from dear women who ministered and shared in a genuine outpouring of kindness.I tried very hard to employ all the old tricks and to nurture myself past this bump. In early May, the books were published. I looked on that long-awaited event not with gleeful, joyful anticipation, but with foreboding and trepidation. I was already so raw that I knew I had little reserve.
And then, frankly, I hit a wall. I reached a point of spiritual, physical, and emotional exhaustion that dictated a drastic change of lifestyle. Somehow, over the last decade, I had lost the real me. The ways I was spending my time didn't authentically reflect what I thought was important. The voices I was listening to and the things I was thinking about weren't voices I genuinely valued. Everything was off-kilter--from what I ate to what I read.
I recognized that in the last few years of over-forty childbearing and mostly sedentary living, I have grow rather plump. We go to Mass on Sundays in a school gym two blocks from my house. During Lent, I noticed that I got winded just walking there. I sit in the bleachers. When we kneel, there is no pew in front of me to hold and the bleachers are unrelenting. Sadly, I don't have the core muscles to kneel upright without occasionally resting back on my heels, something that is impossible when kneeling on a bleacher seat. I find that rather horrible. I recognized that I was not eating as I should, was not sleeping as I should, and was not praying as I should. I was not spending enough time out of doors, was not spending enough time just relaxing in the presence of my children, was not spending enough time with my husband. I had developed some very bad habits.
It was time to lay down some new rails.
The first thing I did was to get up earlier. I got up early enough to put 16-20 miles on a stationary bike every day. That's 45 minutes (or more) of hills, 6 days a week, for the last eight weeks, my friends. I didn't start small. I went all-in. I wish I could tell you--some eight weeks later--that this discipline and sweat has resulted in an astonishing weight loss worthy of the cover of a woman's magazine. I wish I could tell you that the fat just melted away. It has not. Just a pound a week (give or take five pounds, depending on the day). Nothing spectacular. The reality is that I am a 44-year-old mother of nine who has had two babies in my forties. I am still nursing. I might never weigh what I did in my twenties. But I intend to be as healthy as I possibly can. I love these kids. I want to be here for them in every sense of the world. I want to be a genuine blessing to them in the next phase of our lives. A plump, lethargic, slow-moving blob will not do.
I also gave myself enough time to pray the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer first thing every morning. Words cannot convey the healing effect of this practice and I won't even attempt it. The Divine Office and exercise and then-- because I was too sweaty to do anything else-- I was straight into the shower. This had the effect of creating a clean, dressed, contacts-in Mom, ready to face the day.
If I had accomplished all of this and still the house was still quiet, as it most often was, I lit a candle by the icons in the living room and sat with a cup of tea and my Bible. Maybe it was just minute or two or maybe it was many, many more. Whatever I received in that gift of time was spiritual treasure. Morning by morning, candle lit in my living room, the Holy Spirit has been very good to me.
I need time alone. In the early morning, when my eyes were literally begging to stay closed and fighting mightily against my best efforts to open them, I was compelled from downy covers and the enticing companionship of both husband and cherub by the very thought that if I got up I could have hours--maybe two or three--in my home with no one else. I so need that time alone. This indulgence in time alone has required a ridiculously early waking hour and so fatigue still lurks, but I'm working on that angle.
Time alone in prayer became genuinely quiet time. Now, I pray the Hours, but then I just sit and listen. I try to empty myself of anything and everything and just let God pour his mercy into me.
Morning time had previously been blogging time and I thought that was "me" time. Time to write and to read on the internet. In reality, it was quiet, but it was incredibly noisy. Introverts need time of genuine quiet. Heck, I think we all need time of genuine quiet. I sacrificed my internet time, my time to hear everyone else's ideas and to contribute to the conversation, for time of genuine quiet. It was an experiment of sorts. If I would just shut up and be still, would God reveal to me the real me?
The whole series: