For me, taking space is necessary after a busy season or before one. It’s a luxury and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten to do for the last two glorious months. I whittled down my work, our homeschool and our social activities to a minimum so that I had space to be and to breathe.
Being busy keeps me distracted from what’s happening inside me. After such a nice break, I feel more settled and more at peace with my own thoughts. It feels like all of me - body, mind and soul - has taken a deep, centering breath. I feel so much better.
I’m still easing into work and our regular homeschool routine. Both of those things are a welcome source of joy and challenge in my life and, after a long break, I’m happy to be back.
In general, I live my life at a much slower pace than many people. (At least that’s what it seems like.) I see people with full lives and busy schedules and energy that comes from being on the go and I am often a little envious but that’s just not me. I like the peace that comes with slowness, I love the way I can melt into a moment because there’s nothing else for me to do but be exactly where I am. I feel tense when I’m busy and re-energized after rest and solace. Taking a break from certain things allows my soul to take a deep breath and reach a place of calm.
Of course, there are other things that inevitably fill the space that I create for myself, but I’m so glad that I have had the chance to give my attention to them because I slowed down on other things in my life. The death of a loved uncle, the birth of a precious nephew, the new life growing for our family and so many more occasions happening in the life of my family and friends are meaningful to me - these are things that I want to attend to mentally and emotionally. I couldn’t have done that if I had had a full schedule of work and school and activities.
I feel grateful for the chance to reorient myself after a busy time.
I don't like to admit this, but I have a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of my circumstances.
I noticed this about myself a few years ago when I found myself in a place of constantly dwelling on all that was going wrong rather than enjoying the moment and focusing on the good things.
I got tired of listening to my own complaints and dealing with my own bad attitude. I got tired of being grumpy or sulky. And I realized that complaining and dwelling on negativity doesn't help me or others or the situation, in fact, it often hurts.
What helps is action and being present to the moment and, most of all, gratitude. Gratitude shifts our perspective and causes us to seek out the good things in our circumstances. Gratitude is powerful. And no matter what: there is always, always, always something to be grateful for.
If you're in that place of feeling like negativity is all you see - I'm sorry and I get it. I wonder if practicing gratitude would ease some of that heaviness for you.
For me, finding something to be grateful for was a habit that changed my life for the better. I started small and slow but it's become a regular part of my life and I can see what a difference it's made in my overall outlook. It doesn't make everything okay (even though I wish it did) and it doesn't mean that there aren't super awful parts of life (cause there are) but it does help me get through the not-okay parts of life with more joy and the awful parts with hope.
This was the first morning, in a long time, that I woke up feeling rested and at ease. Overwhelm has been the major theme in my life lately. Some of this is from circumstances outside of my control, some is of my own doing. How did I finally get to a place of peace this morning?
Here are 8 things that helped me overcome overwhelm in a busy season:
1. I did what I had to do. A long to-do list can make anyone feel intimidated and the best way to feel better is to start accomplishing the things you need to get done instead of putting them off. Slowly chipping away at small tasks makes the big things more doable.
2. I allowed others to do things for me. My friends and family have been an incredible help to me. They were either doing something to help me or they simply were not asking too much of me since they saw how much I had going on. I wasn’t afraid to be honest with them or ask for help. I also enlisted the help of an assistant for my business and it has already made a huge difference in my workload and mental space. There are just too many things to be done and if I try to do them all myself then either my family or my creative work suffers
3. I pushed myself to my limits but not beyond them. Limits should not be confused with comfort level. It’s always rewarding to go out of your comfort zone but real limits that protect your physical, mental and emotional well-being need to be respected. Our family has had so much going on and I knew that if I didn’t protect my boundaries, I would become upset, irritated and unhappy. That’s not fun for me or anyone around me. There were times I had to say no to things or steal a moment to myself but it was worth it to not feel over-extended.
4. I found simple ways to fill my cup. Making an effort to do things that re-energize us when we’re feeling drained is very important. I would take a quiet moment to myself, stand in a warm shower, read a few pages of a book, stare at something beautiful, take a walk, open my sketchbook to draw or just enjoy a foamy latte. These are all simple actions that made a big difference.
5. I practiced gratitude in the midst of the chaos. This one is a life-changer. Whenever I came across a beautiful view, I took time to acknowledge it and be grateful. Whenever I was bothered, I stopped to find something to be grateful for rather than dwelling on negativity. I did this as often as I could because it kept my head above water when I felt like I was drowning. Gratitude changes your perspective.
6. I prayed. Getting quiet and being with God brings me peace. I released my struggles and offered my thanks. This time is a reminder that I am love and cared for and I am not alone.
7. I was present where I was and focused on only the person or task in front of me. With so many things going on in my mind, it was really important to me to make the most of every moment. Eliminating multitasking helped me feel less chaotic and more in control of my time. I refused to feel guilty for ignoring one area of life while I focused on another because I knew I'd be giving my undivided attention to all the people or things that needed it when the time came.
8. I looked toward the future. Everytime I thought I couldn't handle one more thing I just refocused on how nice it would be to eventually get to the peaceful, quiet mountains. Away from distractions and busyness. I reminded myself that I was almost there and it kept me going.
Now I’m sitting up in bed with my decaf coffee and I’m completely content and at peace. I feel no sense of urgency for tasks that pile endlessly. I feel no dread from being behind in every area of life. I don’t feel tired and worn down from all the packing and travelling and moving we’ve been doing. I just feel good.
It’s not that all the stressful parts of life magically disappeared but things have definitely slowed down and these practices made a big difference. I've felt burnt out before when I'm not taking care of myself and I desparately wanted to aviod that.
I hope that you find small ways to take care of yourself and recenter when life gets hectic. Maybe some of the things that worked for me will work for you.
It's the season of lavender in the village. A celebration of the flower that grows so well here. Makers of all sorts are incorporating lavender into their creations. And it's no wonder why. Lavender sparks all of our senses from it's herbaceous smell, to it's subtle purple color and it's complex floral arrangement.
I love lavender. I love to see it, smell it, use it, and draw it. If you look up close to a lavender stalk, you can see that it holds dozens of tiny florets. The detail in these miniature flowers is astonishing. As with all things I draw, I take the idea and form of what I see and translate it into something more simplistic. And that's how I got this image. It's my elemental version of lavender.
I first came up with the idea for this illustration when I was trying to capture the essence of what makes Albuquerque special. Aside from the people, it's the landscape.
The looming Sandia's, the vast desert spaces, the lush Cottonwood Bosque and the flowing Rio Grande never fail to give me a sense of wonder and awe. They make me feel insignificant in a good way. Living here, so close to these natural wonders, I get the feeling that I’m just a small part of something big.
If I could use photography or paint or some other rich art form to capture all the beauty and all the color and and all the life that exists in this place I would. But my skills don’t come close.
So, I do what makes sense to me. I zoom out, simplify and I create broad strokes from what I see. I reduce it down to it’s silhouette; jagged mountains, the flat lines of a desert, a cluster of trees for the bosque, and mellow waves of the river water.
I've oversimplified these major landforms to allow our experiences to fill in the details. I know the feeling of the rough edges of the rocks that make up the mountains. I know how it feels to walk for miles in the desert and find beauty where I thought there was nothing. I’ve ventured into the comforting shade of the bosque Cottonwoods when they're bright green and shimmery gold. I stood in the river and felt its current swell around my legs.
Maybe you know Albuquerque and you have your own images and memories to fill up the spaces in between these lines.
I hope that you can see the richness and beauty of our city in this minimalist version of it.
In the process of decluttering this weekend, we uncovered our Bocce ball set. I hadn’t seen it since we moved to Albuquerque two and a half years ago and it brought back so many good memories.
We’ve spent countless hours playing Bocce with friends and family. (You know who you are.)
When the girls were little, it was easy to be in our yard or find a nearby green patch to play and hangout. It was simple, it was fun. We didn’t have decades worth of accumulation yet. We had one lawn game.
I almost donated this set today because we’re trying to make more space in our home. The plan is to clear out all the unnecessary stuff and keep only the things that we absolutely love or need. We have lots of great things and good activities but we don’t really have the time and energy for it all.
We’ve both come to the conclusion that it’s time to start honing in on the few things we really want to do rather than letting lots of random things take up our space and time. So we filled the truck with things to pass on and we kept the Bocce ball set.
This afternoon, we went to the park and played Bocce with all three kids. We tossed and jumped and laughed and cringed and Cy narrowly missed a head injury. (Yep, he ran in front of the ball while it was being thrown by a sister.) It was cold. Dusty and I were on a team and we won most of the games but the girls did well. I remembered how bad my aim is. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’m glad we kept the game.
I took this picture when we were all standing around the pallina checking to see who was the closest. I can’t tell you how sweet it was to have us all gathered around something together. Those are my favorite times as a family.
The holidays can feel like a whirlwind. There’s a sense of excitement and eagerness. There is so much to prepare for, so much to do. We have gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, trees to decorate, traditions to be upheld, songs and books and movies to partake in. And after it’s all said and done, there is the day after Christmas and … what?
Peace. The sense of peace that you’ve made it. All your loved ones were hugged or seen or spoken to. All the gifts were given, the songs sung, the books read, the traditions continued. There are probably leftovers in the fridge so there’s no need to cook much today. The kids are all happily engaged in their new toys. There is no more to do on this day but settle into the peaceful feeling of being done.
And that’s what we’re doing today. We’re relishing in being “done” for the day.
Sure, there are tiny scraps of wrapping paper on the floor despite having gone over it multiple times. There are piles of toys and art supplies and gift cards spilling over the tabletops. And every single fuzzy blanket we own is either wrapped around a child or sitting discarded in a heap on the couch.
But the simmer pot is on and it’s giving off the deliciously satisfying aroma of Christmas spices. Many cups of coffee have been had in our beautifully crafted new mugs. Breakfast was pour and go: cereal and frozen fruit. And we’re using the heater to stay warm this morning, not the lovely but high-maintenance wood-burning fire. Easy. Comfy. Peaceful.
It’s not that I don’t have a million things running through my mind. I do. I could get lost in all the tasks I need to get back to after the holidays. I could put a hundred items on my calendar and still feel like I didn’t fit it all in. I could stress out about the laundry or the floors or the million other chores I’ve been doing the barely been doing over the last two days. But I won’t.
I’m choosing peace. I will sit in the post-Christmas mess and enjoy the time spent with my family. I will vaguely consider all the things I need to do on Monday without letting tension creep into my shoulders. I will do a couple things around the house that will make a small contribution to a large project without getting overwhelmed by it. I will pray about our future plans instead of worrying about them.
I choose the peace that is offered to me everyday by Christ. Peace in the midst of noise and mess and life.