Present Over Perfect Blog book club: Tunnels

Present Over Perfect Blog book club: Tunnels

I sat on the couch next to my husband and every word he spoke grated against my soul. It was like fingernails scratching down an old-school blackboard. Everything in me felt scraped and raw and I wanted to scream, ‘Shut up!’

I didn’t scream at him, even though I had to literally bite my tongue. He hadn’t done anything wrong. It was me. I was at the end of my rope and at the end of my patience. I craved silence. I craved solitude.

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At 4 am the next day, he flew out on a three-week trip. I dropped him at the airport and came home and put myself to bed for three days.

How had it come to this? How had I become so stressed and stretched and super-sensitive?

At the time, I had no idea.

Looking back, a series of events—two surgeries, side-effects of medication, lack of rest, caring for a relative, family changes and years of squashing down feelings—led to a big crash.

As I lay in my bed that weekend, I read Present over Perfect and realised that I needed to keep learning new ways to heal old wounds.

Like Shauna Niequist, I had learned along the way to ignore the vinegar–the hot tears banging on our eyelids, the hurt feelings, the fear. Ignore them. Stuff them. Make yourself numb. And then pray dutiful, happy prayers. But this is what I’m learning about prayer: you don’t get to the oil until you pour out the vinegar.

I began to pray, even though I didn’t feel like it. Even though I didn’t know what to pray.

In silence and solitude, I was able think and feel and just be. I found that what was inside wasn’t pretty. There was damage and fear and exhaustion all wrapped up in a life that from the outside could seem perfect.

My inner conversation went like this:

What do I have to complain about?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

So, what right do I have to complain?

To whine?

To feel bad?

I longed for peace and, at that moment, I needed quiet. I needed silence.

In the silence, I found the strength of will to tell myself that even though my life was great, it also wasn’t great.

It was time to find a new way of living.

The only way through the emptiness is stillness: staring at that deep wound unflinchingly. You can’t outrun anything. I’ve tried. All you can do is show up in the stillness.

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Over a couple of months, I put myself in a self-imposed retreat and avoided people as much as possible. I stayed quiet. I avoided stress.

I took myself off some medications (with doctor’s advice), reduced others and began to follow a naturopathic regime to soothe my depleted adrenal system.

Today I feel so much better. I’m still a little allergic to people, but finding it easier to interact.

The main change, however, is a conscious choice to live deeply grounded, living a courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service and work.

I have decided that I will lay down this frantic way of living and lower the volume just enough so my ears don’t bleed, and so that I can hear the music of my life.

 Shauna’s moment of embracing the miraculous in the tunnels of Kauai, realising she had to change, was mirrored in my three-day weekend in bed.

When you have those moments in life where you can cross from before into after, it’s important to stop, take time and make changes that will sustain you for the long-haul.

Question:

Have you ever reached the point where you know the way you’re living your life has to change?

What changes did you make that helped?

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Click this link to find all the book club posts. 

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12 Comments

  1. Sandie
    Posted February 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Wow.

    Thank you.

    This was as deeply, deeply emotion and thought provoking for me as the section of the book it relates to.

    I am pulling myself together to make the 2 hour drive into Dhaka before a meeting over dinner and a midnight departure from (surely) one of the world’s most awful airports. I can’t wait to be home. You have given me a lot to think about during the journey.

    • Posted February 8, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sandie, safe travels as you navigate your way through Dhaka. I’m heading to Dar es Salam later in the year so I may be able to relate to your journey after the experience! Thanks for responding to the post. It was difficult to share that story, but I’ve been encouraged to share as many other women are finding themselves in these situations.

      I’m learning to rest in many ways–physically, emotionally and spiritually.

      Perhaps one day we’ll get to sit down, have a coffee and have a real chat. 😄

      • amandaviviers
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Hey Sandie, I have been thinking of your travels alot. I am praying grace and peace as you walk through these days. Amanda

  2. Posted February 9, 2017 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Ah I totally know this feeling…. I love the idea of finding new ways to heal old wounds. It’s almost as though if we are not pursuing healing then the opposite is happening and we are opening ourselves up to infection.

    When I had a year like this we packed up our house and lived small at the beach. The daily reminder of ‘less’ helped me to simplify and u tangle. So far we have loved it so much that we have remained at the beach in our tiny apartment. Content. Simple. Uncluttered.

    In the inbetween as Amanda calls it, there were days and days of aimless walks on the beach to release the grief, confusion and frustration. This pattern set then helps me to cry now quickly instead of pushing the feeling down…or eating them away.

    I loved present over perfect and love the reflections. Thank you xxx

    • Posted February 9, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Thjat’s so great, Carly. I love the idea of packing up for a year and learning how to live simply. I think 2017 will be a bit like that for me this year. A year on the road with only a suitcase of stuff will be interesting. I’ll find out what’s important and what’s not! Thanks for sharing your perspective. xxx

    • amandaviviers
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Hello you!!!

      So great to see you here. I cant wait to see what comes from your year.

      • amandaviviers
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        This theme just keeps reoccuring hey? I am loving the line at the moment the seeking.

  3. Posted February 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I love that quote Elaine, ‘The only way through the emptiness is stillness: staring at that deep wound unflinchingly. You can’t outrun anything. I’ve tried. All you can do is show up in the stillness’.

    I think that is absolutely a key for me. When I discover that I want to craft a new way of living life, then I have this desire to move to the new life straight away. In some ways I use the old tools, hurry, getting things done etc. to craft a new life.

    What I am finding is that I have to sit in the mess of an old life, and sift through it carefully first, before slowly and intentionally creating the new life. That is a more lasting solution. But it is a lot harder to do.

    As you say I need to ‘make changes that will sustain me for the long-haul.’

    • Posted February 9, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jodie, patience isn’t one of my virtues, Once I’ve decided I want results now! But, I’m learning to be patient. I stuck with naturopathy for six months before seeing significant improvements and now I’m grateful I made the change to natural therapies. I guess it’s the same with other areas of life change. The long-haul is where it’s at! xxx

  4. Keryn
    Posted February 9, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    That first question is like the theme of my life…it keeps recurring so I know I’m not there yet! Every couple of years I get a big thumping message from the Spirit saying ‘Slow down!’

    The first time I was 23 and and about two years in to being a Christian, I had gone from a workaholic to a Christianaholic. I had rushed home from work and just missed beating my flatmate into the shower so I sat on the bed to wait and ended up bawling my eyes out because I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat down for even five minutes with nothing to do.

    I ended up changing my job to work Monday to Friday 7-3. I incorporated a daily walk and devotional time after work that was immovable (I didn’t commit to anything until after this time). I tried to stay home more often.

    It worked for a while but then I joined YWAM…the captial of busy…and other things over the years that kept me busier than I should have been. I feel like each time I got the slow down message I did better at it but still have a ways to go…

    • Posted February 9, 2017 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s something to revisit at different stages of life. We all get sucked back into busy and then have to recalibrate. You sound very sel😄

    • amandaviviers
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      I am loving hearing your thoughts over here Keryn, sometimes it is even acknowleging these places that help us recalibrate and slow a touch. Like a micro second which becomes everything.

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