I saw the season’s first fallen leaves swirling in the street this week as I dropped Lola off at her sweet friend’s house for an after school sleepover on Friday night – such a nostalgic sight! Then the birds, going berserk and soaring in no discernible formation over Southdale Mall as I pulled into the parking lot to pick up takeout for a childless dinner with Christian, and the pale yellow sunlight set into a perfectly blue sky, all signs of September and the forthcoming change in season. Talk about nostalgia — September is thick with it, and not just because it’s my birthday month and I’ll be thirty-five.
Thirty-five! Half a lifetime by current statistics, though I’m hoping by the time I’m old and grey, scientists will discover how we can all live as long as people lived in the very olden days, like as in the days of Noah. I’m pretty sure that guy lived to be almost a thousand years old (typical biblical overachiever).
At any rate, standing on the precipice of fall always brings me to a reflective state. I am mentally tenting a hand over my eyes to scan the golden distance for the harvest of everything we planted this summer, and you must know that all of this is metaphorical as I cannot grow a simple tomato, much less a field of grain. We planted seeds of faithfulness this summer and watered them with our attention: morning family devotions, nightly walks throughout the neighborhood, frequent lunch dates to disrupt the monotony of the work day, weekend movies where we talk as much as we watch, time on time on top of more time spent together building what would hopefully be a foundation to sustain us throughout all the changes of fall. Of course, we didn’t know we were doing that. We were just having fun.
And we didn’t know it would work to our advantage. This week brought all the changes I’ve been dreading right to my doorstep, or rather to five blocks away where Lola hops on her bus to attend in-person school for the first time in two years. I was choking on anxiety as I refreshed the Here Comes The Bus app (genius), but I swallowed it down as the day progressed and by the time she came home I could breathe again. And because Christian was on set from 7am to 6pm most days this week, I remembered what it was like to be alone — a foreign thing, hard at first, and I promise you I heard the household echo like when you tour a place for the first time once the lease is signed but before all your furniture is moved in. I heard the emptiness again when I closed the door after everyone left on Wednesday, and I was alone again.
But by the end of the week I can confidently say I liked it. I needed it. The closeness we experienced this summer set us up for a beautiful transition. And I’m ready for more of it!
In a purely celebratory ceremony of change, I chopped off my hair. Or rather, Tara at Sloane’s took seven inches of blond off the bottom, leaving me with a soft ombre lob (long bob). I can’t get over its sleekness. I shower, and my hair just dries. I am beginning to understand why, as women age, our love of long hair gets lost to a desire for convenience. I’ll probably grow it out again, but also maybe not?
We had a hard week health-wise as the bug Lola brought home from the open house on September 2nd spread its way through our family, first to my nephew, then to Christian, and finally to me over the course of the week. My voice sounds like a gravelly growl, and I am hacking hard, but we all took Covid tests and are negative, so this must just be a bug. Remember those? The average, actually kind of boring colds we used to muscle through, even if we had to go out in public coughing up a lung? Now every virus is a bomb we don’t know how to dismantle; we have no idea what we’re dealing with, so we figure it’s best to just stay home.
As an achiever, this week has been hard for me in that regard. I truly thought I would return to my writing this week, hammer out a lot of words for my memoir and have much progress to show for it now that the house is empty during the day. I couldn’t have known my days would be spent on the couch, answering emails as I could, but not getting any real writing done and certainly not any editing. I felt so behind the curve.
And what do I do when I feel inadequate? I try to escape. Straight into my phone. It’s my favorite way to mentally get away.
So I scrolled. That’s how I spent a lot of mornings waiting for the Dayquil to kick in so I could go about my day. And with everything going on in the world right now, you can imagine how viewing life through a social media lens on my couch made me feel. Not great!
Since I’m reflecting, I’ll elaborate: the noise level of life is at an all time high. Opinions on every issue abound, and I’ve found myself forming online arguments on topics about which I don’t even have a fully formed perspective. The internet, it seems, is addictively toxic; I know this, yet in the mornings I still found myself closing the door after Lola and immediately picking up my phone to refresh Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I even browsed on NextDoor, in case the neighborhood gossip was ripe for the picking (it wasn’t, unless you call people tossing their dog’s poop bags into their neighbor’s garbage cans hot gossip).
All of this made me feel emotionally as I felt physically: depleted.
I needed a change. But in order to do that, I needed a confession!
I started with God, who hears and sees all things. I mentioned I was tired and that I needed a reprogramming of the mind in order to accomplish what’s been set before me to do — because bottom line is, if I’m too sick for writing I have no business being on social media.
I journaled out my thoughts, prayed over them, and then God provided some clear direction on what needs to change: boundaries around screen time, boundaries around sleep habits, and – most importantly – boundaries around who I’m letting speak into my life via real life conversations or social media.
Sounds easy enough, right?
God reminded me that boundaries are like flowers growing on a fence. They denote where my property begins and where the neighbor’s ends, and they can be beautiful. I love boundaries for this reason!
But I knew I needed a physical accountability partner in this too, and that it couldn’t be Christian – because, God love him, he’s just one man, and running several businesses and a household together is PLENTY.
This was a job for my work wife, who is also a life coach specializing in boundaries, and while I employ her to handle a lot of the operations of our marketing and she’s my sidekick running GirlCreative, Steph is first and foremost one of my closest friends. And she’s in seminary school, so you know when she’s giving advice she’s also consulting God on what to say.
I told her everything – about the sickness and depleted overwhelm and how I just scroll and scroll, and how even when I’m not sick that’s what I tend to do, and how I know I need to change this part of me in order to thrive creatively (and like, work on my memoir for pete’s sake). We talked about the productivity struggle (it’s never been harder than now), and she was able to provide me with a grace-filled perspective plus a plan to move forward.
I’ve opened up in the past about my struggles with managing tech time, and digital self harm is something I wrestle with daily. But this time it’s different. And having a witness to this battle gives me so much more strength to fight it.
Do you have a friend like Steph in your life? Because if not, you need one!
When I got off the call, a verse sprang to mind:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
More harvest on the horizon.
God is doing a new thing, even for an almost 35 year old me.
Other Monday musings:
Over the weekend our country collectively mourned the 20 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. My friend Maribeth was living in NYC on 9/11/01; three weeks later she wrote a powerful essay, and this year she recorded it in her own voice to commemorate, twenty years later. Listen here.
I finished the audiobook version of Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, and WOW. A major takeaway for me was when she guided us through making our own Joy and Meaning list, different for everyone but essential to discovering what activities and habits can be built into our lives to not feel like we’re burning out all the time… something I really needed to see on paper in order to implement in my life. If you’re in leadership (over anything) and you want to listen to Dare to Lead, drop your audible email in the comments, I have extra credits and would love to send you this book.
When I was sick on the couch I did something I’ve never done – I binge watched the entirety of The LuLaRich documentary. It was FASCINATING. It’s on Amazon, watch it now! Do you know anyone who sold LuLaRoe? Followup question: are they okay now?!
And finally, as I was crawling around the house hacking into tissues this weekend, I felt guilty for not DOING more, ACHIEVING more, BEING more. And whenever I’d start to get down on myself, Christian showed me this screenshot, reminding me that a lot of those feelings are internalized capitalism:
And with that, I will no longer punish myself mentally when I am physically sick; I will accept my body’s limitations as effects of living in a broken world.
Behold, I am doing a new thing.
Let it be, God.
What new thing is God doing in your life? Need a change? Pray over Isaiah 43:19 and ask God to show you what a new thing might look like in your life, you won’t regret it.