Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 28: The Importance of Taking a Walk

If you've read my first book, you may remember that I spent a chunk of time at my best friend's house in Connecticut, hiding out from a not-so-nice first husband after I ran away. That was certainly one of the tougher times in my trek toward happily ever after, but as I look at it now (with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that I did not end up as I'd feared, living in Kristen's guest room forever) I see that as a stage in life, it had much to recommend it. Sometimes, we need space to spread out the pieces we have left and see what God can do with them.

Here's the thing about those times, though: they involve a lot of waiting. They're not productive in any demonstrable way, and so when people asked me what I was up to--expecting to hear about resumes sent out or apartments scouted--I was mortified. It just seemed too ridiculous to admit that my day was structured around a long walk, a long bath, a long drive, and pasta & pesto for dinner every night around 6:00pm. So mostly, I avoided people.

I'm re-reading C.S. Lewis' A GRIEF OBSERVED right now (the epigraph from my new memoir is from this collection of chapters mourning his wife and reflecting on his marriage) and am struck by Lewis' practicality in the midst of his pain. "I do all the walking I can," he says, "for I'd be a fool to go to bed not tired." During my time in Connecticut, insomnia was my greatest fear. I was a woman alone in a big house in the woods. If I screamed, no one would hear...in many ways it seemed the perfect set up for a horror film, and never more so than at 2:00am when my imagination would run wild. So I did all the walking I could.

Now, I live in the city. Were I to scream at 2am, plenty of people would hear (and the vile bird across the street would no doubt respond by screeching in a way that would strike terror into any would-be bad guys within a 30 mile radius). But now, if I let it, my brain goes to different sorts of night terrors: about a life wasted, dreams that never come true, becoming one of those people who could have done something with her life but didn't... You know the stuff, right? We all wrestle with it sometimes (I suspect this is why Ambien prescriptions are on the rise). The key is to fend it off.

What's my point in this? Perhaps that in the larger act of waiting--or mourning, or wondering what comes next--we each need a bunch of little strategies to help us cope with the specifics of any given day. I'm not sure what those are right now, in this particular season, but it seems worth asking. Because we're always waiting for something, and often mourning the loss of something else, even while celebrating unexpected blessings. Our life is rarely in a single season...instead the seasons overlap in a way that can make your head spin if it's not firmly attached.

Today, let's ask God for the skills we need to receive His love and the joy He promises us (and doesn't that seem like an audacious promise when we're struggling? Do you ever feel like saying, "Go ahead God, TRY to make me joyful!" ? But then He does, because we've given him permission...) Whether we have a bold day filled with forward progress toward tangible goals, or a day built carefully with shaking hands around a long walk, a long bath, and a long drive, let's ask for God's encouragement in the midst of it.

Tell me: What are your strategies for beating back bad thoughts?

7 comments:

mkate said...

6 months ago, I took a job as a live-in caregiver for an 82 year old woman because I had no place to go and no other job options in front of me. I was picking up my pieces from a breakup and was terribly afraid of where my head would go living in the middle of the country with an old woman and too much time on my hands. The Lord knew exactly what I needed. Long walks have been part of my day, as have sewing classes every Monday at the little chapel down the road. I've learned how to quilt-somthing I've always wanted to do. It's been just the right outlet for my creative energy. I love it!

himmiefan said...

One strategy I have is reciting Bible verses that are directly opposite of the bad thought (usually a fearful one). I got this idea from Jesus's temptation where he recited verses to counteract Satan. Now, my worst time for troubling thoughts is right before I fall asleep (my subconscious is apparently still trying to develop its faith). So, I usually have to wake back up and recite a verse or two.

larramiefg said...

Simply staying within the moment and not allowing too much stuff in...stuff that would misuse my imagination.

KimberlyH said...

I woke up in the wee hours of this morning feeling really anxious - half dreaming and half awake. I asked God to come and take away the anxiety, the fear and... that's about as far as I got because then I drifted back off to sleep. I've also had similar situations before, especially when I'm having trouble going to sleep at night, when I've asked the Holy Spirit to come.

During daytime, when I've had bad thoughts I've asked God for help and waited for Him. Sometimes me trying to control more doesn't help. I've experienced a lot of God's power by letting go of trying to fix something (usually emotional) myself, asking for God's help. Sometimes I feel better right away, sometimes it's a few hours, sometimes a few days, but God has done some really awesome stuff beyond my expectations.

Sarakastic said...

Exactly what I needed today, doen and done

Jane said...

Talking and sharing with friends. Planning my next visit to the sea. Listening to my favorite music tracks of the moment. Reading a book about a life lived in the Holy Spirit. Cooking some fresh rhubarb and eating it with some vanilla ice cream. Connecting with a friend on Facebook that I haven't had contact with for a few years....not bad I suppose for a day of dealing loss and moving forward with life regardless!! May the Lord make us truly grateful. Amen.

ACJ said...

I have recently discovered that writing down the bad thoughts often creates just enough distance to spot the unTruth in the middle of what, up until then, has felt like The Truth. And once I see that, The Whole Truth makes itself known more often than not.

Sometimes just saying them outloud has the same effect, but there is something to the slow and concrete of writing that seems particularly effective.