Did you do it?
Recently, I had a couple of days scheduled to be off work. Family was coming into town to care for my little ones and my husband and I had tentative plans to get away for the weekend as a late anniversary celebration. In a departing conversation with my director, I shared that one of the boys was sick and I was hoping that everyone else would stay well for the weekend. Her concern that my husband and I would be able to get away for the weekend landed in a tender place inside of me and I expressed my need for the time away by stating that I was planning to still go, as I knew that my soul needed rest.
My soul. I didn’t expect the depth of transparency to spill out in that moment but my word choice was the truest and it practically rolled off my tongue. Weeks of work responsibilities, meltdowns at home, illness, along with grieving at multiple levels in a variety of relationships had left me stripped down and exhausted. Although I had tried my best forms of self care, I was still depleted and needing something more.
Getting out of town was at best difficult but by late afternoon, my husband and I were driving to our destination just an hour outside of town. Not fully wanting to disconnect and if I’m honest, fully connect with my husband, I continued to look at my phone up until dinner. I remember once more, checking my phone when I consciously decided that I was done for the night. The evening with him was sweet and I went to bed with a giddy excitement, knowing that little ones would not be interrupting anything for the next 36 hours.
The time together was completely restful. Between brunch and movies, naps and the NBA finals, dinner and drinks, sleep and sex, I was feeling completely relaxed. As we checked out of the hotel, I felt an awareness rising within that although I wanted to completely embrace the relaxation and carry it into my week, it was going to be difficult to maintain. We pulled up to the house where we were greeted by two carefree little boys riding bikes in the rain and for ten minutes it was quite peaceful, until it wasn’t.
What happened? In a fraction of the time that it took to relax, I was winding up tight inside and it was beginning to spill out on those around me. Seriously?! How am I here already? I do not want to be feeling this, doing this. Why can’t I stop?
As I’ve pondered the concept of relaxing this month, I can’t help but consider the parallel concept of stretching. As a pediatric physical therapist, a significant portion of my day is spent stretching and elongating muscles in my patients. I find myself encouraging them to relax so that I can properly apply the pressure necessary to achieve the desired results. Have you ever thought about how difficult the concept of relaxation is to a child, much less a child who is being persuaded into believing that the momentary pain and discomfort that they are experiencing is for their good?
The body’s natural response to such pressure is to push back and resist however, when one can begin to relax the desired result is achieved, bringing relief and improved function. This relief is mostly temporary and once stressors are applied, the tightness increases and once again there is a need for the body to experience discomfort to begin to adapt again and improve flexibility. So, although there is temporary relief, the problem is not actually solved.
So, stretching doesn’t cure everything? It doesn’t take away all my pain? No, instead, it brings pleasure and relief to varying degrees. This is exactly what relaxation does for our souls. Some of us are able to experience it more often. Others of us are in a period of life where it is nearly impossible to experience the level of relaxation that we feel we need to continue. Sometimes, 15 minutes is all we need, other times, 15 days sounds more desirable.
Regardless of the time away of rest and relaxation for my body, mind, and soul, re-entry is necessary. Work is a necessity. There will be chaos, and fighting, and maniacal moments with my kids. Friends and loved ones will need me to help carry burdens with them. Life will continue and I am so thankful that I know the One who can carry me through it all.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.