Spiritual rhythms have always been difficult to form for me – as any type of rhythm is. I can’t keep a beat in music. I wait for others to clap first so I know I’m on the right note. I can’t keep a consistent schedule (no matter how much I would like to) and I am all over the place all of the time.
Growing up in a home that was incredibly busy, I learned early on how to schedule my day and week as full as I could with school and friends and activities…but it had no type of rhythm to it. I had a different thing to do every day, and even with the “normal stuff” (Church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, Youth Group on Sunday nights, Basketball or Football Games on Fridays, practice after school, etc), it felt chaotic. There were some patterns that emerged from the afore mentioned schedule, but nothing that had a real rhythms to it.
Into high school, through college, and now in seminary – this is how I have continued to live my life. I hope from day to day, filling in the open holes in my schedule with extra work shifts and seeing friends and babysitting simply because I have the space to do so. I play a giant game of Tetris with my schedule – always arranging and shuffling so that everything lines up and there is little space or time in between events. When my time does open up, I fill it with little things – loads of laundry, homework, cleaning the house, working on crafts, etc. – simply because I do not want the open space. I don’t know how to handle the blank space, so I write in whatever I can to make it full.
Looking back on this pattern in my life, I am realizing that I am always tired. I honestly can’t tell you the last day that I felt rested, and not exhausted or busy or stressed. There are moments of rest and self-care and sleep here and there, but there is no pattern and there is most definitely no rhythm to it. I do not have a routine that keeps me in line, and I have no guidelines of where rest and down time fall.
I am not the type of person who is quiet, and I am not the type of person who is still. My brain, however, is the type of brain that needs just that. I hold the double threat diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)…which means that my brain rarely (if ever) slows down, and that my brain causes worry and anxiety to be a part of every moment I live.
I’ve found that after a day of class and work and whatever that I’ve packed into the hours of my day, my brain needs about two hours to breathe again and to take a break. It is such a task to keep myself focused and working during the day, that by the time I get home I am emotionally exhausted, and need time to recharge. My brain is constantly moving and jumping and spinning and dancing to places that I didn’t even know existed, and I need breaks from controlling it sometimes.
Growing up, I was so ashamed of needing this break, and so embarrassed about the extra time that I needed to work and to learn. Growing up with ADHD and GAD taught me that not being able to work as hard or in the same way as others was something to be hidden, and a disadvantage for my work and my academics. In college, I would go to the library for so many hours, between the papers and the breaks and the readings and the breaks…you get the idea.
What I realize now though, as I’ve grown to know myself and grown in my faith, is that my brain’s need for breaks reflects the need for breaks that is in my heart, pushing me closer and closer to the God who made me – and made me with the crazy brain that needs breaks and can’t stay focused for long.
I can easily fall into the busyness that I was raised in, and what I’m realizing is that I use being busy as an excuse to avoid pretty much anything that I want to. One of the things that I find myself often avoiding is time sitting still and being quiet. In a conversation with a wise mentor in my life recently, I was asked what I was running from – because often, people who live at such a hectic and busy pace like I do are often running or hiding from something in their life.
I think I have finally found my answer – actually, I know I have.
I am scared of myself.
I have always been scared of myself because I often don’t understand the anxiety and the spinning thoughts that take over my head. I’m scared of my own thoughts, and the places that my mind can jump to at a moments notice, because in the past I have not been very kind to myself. There are a lot of scary and dark places that my mind jumps to, and that can take the form of nightmares or daydreams. There is a lot of self-doubt in my head, because I see the worst in myself and it grows out of contrl before I even realize what’s happening. The harshest critic that I’ve ever known lives in my head, and she is ruthless and cutting and mean. When I open the door and peer inside of my brain, it feels like a scary jungle with no way out.
I want to run away from that jungle as often as I can. It’s not easy to do when it’s your own brain – how far can you run from yourself? I haven’t found many places to hide, and so busyness is what I use to distract from what I fear the most – myself. If I am busy thinking about school or what colors I will paint my future house or the pictures that my friend just put up on Facebook or really anything else in this world, that I am not thinking about the scary monster that is lurking around the corner.
What I am beginning to realize is that even though I do not understand my own head, I can talk to the only One who does understand it. I am blessed to be able to be in a relationship with the One who made the spinning thoughts and understands the way that they dance in and out. And so, when I am scared of myself or lost in the self-doubt and the criticism and trying to run, I can run straight into the arms of Safety – safety in being understood and loved and still in the arms of the Creator. It’s not easy, and it’s not easy, but learning to face myself in the mirror each day is more than worth it.