Step Back to Lean In

I was standing in my kitchen staring at my phone. Dinner was simmering near by and my kids were watching TV. I scrolled quickly through Instagram trying to catch up on my feed. I kept thinking I was almost caught up, but as I scrolled down I only saw pictures I’d never seen before.

That’s when the whisper came, “You need to take a break from this.”

“But, that’s not me. I’m not one of those people who blames social media for their lack of time or presence. I have seen only positives from the relationships and community that I’ve developed through social media. Why would I need to take a break from it? It’s where my people are right now. My community is there. My support is there.”

“You need to take a break from it.” It wasn’t a whisper any more, it was a pull.

“I can’t do that,” I instantly replied, “I am right in the middle of the 100 day project, I just started a new yoga challenge. I just committed to those things, and really feel like I should be doing them, like they are good for me to do.”

“They are good for you to do. But, you do need to take a break from this.” My heart said.

My breathing got fast, and I could feel anxiety rise a little. I pushed away the thought, the feeling, with a simple, “Maybe later, maybe after summer.”

“I feel unfocused in my writing.” I said. “I feel scattered. Unsure where to take open projects. Unsure which projects to work on. And really… I just don’t have words right now.”

I leaned forward on the couch and pulled the bowl of cherries up on my lap. I picked one up and twirled the stem between my fingers as I continued talking, “It’s not like other times, though, you  know? I mean sometimes I can’t write because there’s just negative feelings I have to get past first. I mean you know, I always struggle to write when I’m depressed and neglect the blog and other writing projects. This isn’t like that. It’s more like there’s these big good shifts happening in my heart that I can’t fully put into words yet.”

Bryan nodded his head as he put a cherry in his mouth.

“I think I need to do something different. Like I need to get this stuff out, these shifts, this energy…this deep heart stuff in some other way, like a different creative outlet.” I paused for a minute and chewing on a cherry, twirling the seed around in my mouth. “I feel like I need to paint, or dance, or something.”

“Maybe a combination of both.” Bryan said, “Like making big abstract art with  your whole body?”

“Yes!” My face lit up, “That sounds amazing.” I spit the cherry seed into a small ramekin. “I need something like that. But, I need space. I feel like there hasn’t been enough white space to fully work out this stuff. We’ve been going from one thing to the next lately, and I just… I need some space.”

“Maybe when the kids start school.” He suggested.

“Yeah, maybe.” I said, resting my back against the couch as I popped another cherry into my mouth.

I sunk a little deeper into the hot bath water as I read the words aloud in the quiet room:

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. There is only one moon in the sky. One double-sunrise is an event; six are a succession, like a week of school days. Gradually one discards and keeps just the perfect specimen; not necessarily a rare shell, but a perfect one of its kind. One sets it apart by itself, ringed around by space - like the island.

For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms. Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant - and therefore beautiful. A tree has significance if one sees it against the empty face of sky. A note in music gains significance from the silences on either side. A candle flowers in the space of night. Even small and casual things take on significance if they are washed in space, like a few autumn grasses in one corner of an Oriental painting, the rest of the page bare.

My life in Connecticut, I begin to realize, lacks this quality of significance and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.

I stopped and realized that I had been holding my breath through much of the passage. I sighed deep and long. Closed the book for a moment and looked at the little blue cover with the small shell drawn just above the title, Gift From the Sea. Then I opened the book again and continued to read.

I leaned on my kitchen counter with my phone in my hand, trapped by the pull of the plug in the wall. It was early and I was tired, I wasn’t ready to face the day. Thaddeus came into the kitchen and asked for breakfast.

“There’s muffins on the counter,” I answered as I continued to scroll, catching up on the hours of posts I had missed while asleep. I knew if I didn’t catch up now it would just make it harder later. That’s when I saw it, “Just be here with me” scripted on a solid white card. The words stared me in the face, like something I had forgotten that I was suppose to remember.

I clicked on the link in Morgan Day Cecil’s account with more info on these 5 simple words and read her invitation.

An invitation to unplug during August…

For one day.

Or one week.

Or the whole month.

“Whatever feels good to you.”

The invitation came full of grace and I knew right away it was for me.

For a moment fear rose up in all it’s ugliness, but it was so quickly squelched by grace. By peace. By a deep clarity that this was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time.

I am not against social media. I don't feel burned out on social media. I don’t feel that I am overly absorbed in social media to the detriment of my day-to-day life.

Social media has made my life richer in many ways. I would not have my current yoga community, my current writing community, or so many dear people made dear friends without it.

However, I am feeling a longing for white space. For quiet. For prayer and processing and creating. For depth and slowness. For mindfulness and intention. For cleaning out, shedding, stripping down, limiting, and finding the center.

I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to caarry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact - to borrow from the language of the saints - to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be at one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God. - Gift from the Sea

For me, unplugging for the month of August feels like an act of obedience. Obedience to my heart, to the pull I heard way back at the beginning of the summer. I believe in following and answering the invitations that are clearly yours. And this invitation is clearly mine, it’s for me, it’s been building in me for weeks, months even.

So, for the month of August I won’t be on Instagram, or Facebook, or Pinterest, or Twitter (although I’m not on twitter much anyway!).

I will still be here on the blog… I think. Maybe. If I want to be. We will see.

And I will practice this with grace. So, much grace. Because this is the invitation I need to follow right now, but it might not be the invitation I need to follow half way through August. I just want to follow, one step at a time, one day at a time.

How about you? Where are you being asked to go? What are you being asked to do? To enter into? To give up? Are you being asked to step up or to step back? Have you spent time listening lately?

Do you want to join me in unplugging?

Do you want to meet me for a face-to-face coffee during August?

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany