A family legend:
Not long after they were first married, my parents were debating whether or not they were ready to buy their first house.
According to my mom, my dad sat on the couch for hours during this period. When my mom asked what he was doing, he’d say, “thinking.”
This behavior baffled my mom, the consummate extrovert. I’ve heard her tell the story over the years, and every time I’ve laughed again at the thought of my dad just sitting there, thinking.
Who does that?
Well, it turns out that lately, the answer is … me.
It started back in the spring. We have four kids, so our “normal” life is pretty crazy. On top of our normal crazy, we traveled, moved, hosted houseguests, performed oodles of deferred maintenance on our old house, and played All The Sports.
I’m a maximizer by nature. I hate to have wasted moments, instead preferring to turn the empty minutes I spend driving, or running, or doing the dishes into something useful. When I’m by myself, I typically fill the empty space by listening to audiobooks or podcasts or chatting on the phone.
But this season of life has been full. Too full. I’ve had triple the usual number of balls in the air, and my usually methodical mental to-do list has turned into a tangled, knotted jumble.
Lately, when I get in the car, or lace up my running shoes, or seize a (rare) moment alone on the couch, I somehow know that I need to resist the impulse to grab my earbuds and instead let myself just be.
Just like my dad all those years ago, I need to sit and think. I need to let my thoughts run free, until the tangled jumble in my head spins itself out into something manageable again.
Elizabeth Foss pinpointed a related concern in a post this week. (I’ve loved her recent series about how her FitBit is helping her tend her soul.)
Elizabeth said that she’d finally identified a feeling she’d been wrestling with as loneliness, which didn’t make sense to her because she has a happy (large) family life and is in regular contact with dear local friends. Then she got a FitBit, and started taking long, daily walks. She writes,
Within the first week or so of walking, the loneliness dissipated. Maybe loneliness isn’t the right word for it at all. I was lonely for myself. Those ninety minutes in the morning were absolutely necessary for the care and tending of this introvert. At last, I was getting sufficient time to refuel. Time to talk to myself. And to listen to myself.
As a fellow introvert, I suspect this is part of what’s going on with me lately. It’s not just that the clutter and noise of my life are getting to me (although the clutter and noise do get to me). The lack of alone time is also getting to me. (And I don’t mean “alone time” on the phone with the furnace repair guy. That’s the opposite of restorative.)
I’d love to hear about your own experience with your own tangled, jumbled mess of thoughts, and the best ways you’ve found to give yourself the space you need to spin out.