Thursday, 8 December 2016

Don't Stop Now

I had a moment yesterday. You know, one of those moments when the thought crossed my mind, 'What if I just sat down here, in the middle of the fruit and vegetable aisle, and simply stopped everything? The grocery shopping, the parenting, the relationships, the caring; I'll just stop it all.' These are moments when life seems to be throwing everything it has at me. Stopping - quitting - can seem like an attractive option.

I remember when I first began running with Tim. Up until then I had always run on my own and never had to worry about keeping up with a companion. In fact, given that Tim and I had just started dating, I wasn't only worried about my pace but also about whether my laboured breathing,  sweaty brow and less-than-perky expression might completely put him off! For sure, in those early days it was a stretch for me to keep pace with him. And bearing in mind this was before the trend in run-walking, Tim was not in favour of me slowing to a plod. 'Just keep moving!' he would entreat me. 'Don't walk, let's jog slowly!' He knew that if I stopped, it would be all the more challenging to get moving again.

Of course, there are times when we need to stop; rest plays a crucial and often under-estimated role in life, as in fitness ...

... but I am learning that when life is tough, it is time to keep doing those things I learned to do when I felt strong.

When I am discouraged or lacking motivation, my habits save me from slowing to a standstill. I don't have to think about waking early to have a quiet moment of reflection, followed by a workout; I do it because it is normal for me. Whatever overindulgence may have happened the night before, I don't completely fall off the healthy-eating wagon because it is my habit to start the day with a fresh green smoothie. It might be a small thing, but my habits stop me from getting completely derailed. When motivation is low, I just do what I always do.

The last couple of weeks have been emotionally draining. My heart has been straining towards South Africa, where two close friends have been suffering horribly. One had an unusual and very serious health scare, another was violently assaulted.  A big part of me wanted to buy a plane ticket and drop everything to be by their sides. In England, a dear friend who has loved and supported us throughout our years in missions passed away suddenly. Connecting to his memorial service via Skype was better than nothing, but left me feeling far away and strangely empty. All of this has happened at a time when Tim and I are already unusually stretched, with a crisis in our region requiring considerable amounts of extra work and attention.

The emotional overload makes stopping - quitting - seem very desirable. Quite frankly, I have seriously considered burying myself under my duvet and not re-emerging until April at the earliest. I am pretty sure the kids could survive on toast for at least that long and, although they might forget to clip their toe nails, I doubt there would be any lasting damage.

At times like this, I need anchor points; lines that hold me steady until the turbulence passes. I read the Psalms. I walk in nature. I talk with friends. I hold my kids. I watch the sunrise. In my journal I list the things I am thankful for. I keep doing the things I learned to do when life was full of sunshine and ease. I keep doing them until they touch something deep inside me, until I can breathe easily again.

It takes work to create consistent habits. At the time, I think I am choosing these habits because they help me stay fit, or fight winter colds, or practice patience. I don't realise at first that when life gets tough, these habits might just save me. Hold me steady. Stop me from getting completely derailed.

What habits have become anchor points for you? To what extent has a time of turbulence made you aware of your need for good habits that hold you steady?

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