"Everybody I know is just flat-out overwhelmed. Me, too."
It was my 30-something niece Suzy on her speaker phone. She was driving her 2-year-old son Gus and her Dad to a couple of errands outside of Indianapolis. The day before, I had e-mailed all my family members to ask their opinions on a title for my new OASIS book. Suzy had lots to say:
It's crazy. Overwhelm is really the word. There's never time for anything and there's always something new you have to learn. At work I do data analysis. I like doing that, but there's always pressure -- a new program to learn, whatever. Even as a parent, I go on Twitter and find out I should be doing something different with my kid. I don't know what's happening, but I never have time to stop. Even to breathe...
Yeah, tell me! It's true for all of us, folks older and younger than Suzy. Randall Beach, one of my favorite Connecticut columnists, wrote a piece in last week's New Haven Register. He reviewed a new book by Mark C. Taylor, Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left. Taylor dedicates his book to his four children, now grown, and writes, "Their lives are trapped by speed." He cites examples:
The average person today sends or receives 400 texts per month, four times the total in 2007.
The average teen today processes 3,700 texts per month.
Parents pop pills to keep up during the day and to sleep at night. They give their kids "speed" to get ahead in school.
The average American fails to take 20% of his or her paid vacation. And even when they are on vacation, they are afraid to disconnect and they remain on call 24/7/365.
From The Wall Street Journal: 'As many as 80% of young New York City professionals work regularly from bed.'
The result of all this? We know from Suzy's and my and your experience - increased anxiety, depression, distraction, cardiovascular stress, poor vision, strained relationships and plain old fatigue.
So how does my hammock play into this? In late April, when spring finally reached Connecticut, I took the hammock out of the tool shed and lovingly re-hung it. I made a promise to myself to lie in the hammock at least half an hour three times a week.
Why this promise? Let me explain. My hammock is sacred to me: it is my chosen place of refuge, rest, relaxation. It was my hammock that helped me heal after my bicycle accident. For weeks, during my recuperation, I trusted my body to its embrace. My skin soaked up the sun. My eyes drank in the slow flowering of the rhododendron fifteen inches from my face. My ears delighted in the bird sounds and the dancing of the tree branches. Those hours in the hammock helped restore my injured body and wounded spirit to pulsing, vibrant health. My hammock was indeed my oasis in the overwhelm.
Even last week, when I was at a conference at Omega Institute, I lay in my hammock, mentally. When we received the invitation in a guided visualization to "Go to a place of beauty and safety... a place that gives you solace and rest...," many people went to the sea, or to a mountain lake. I went to my backyard hammock.
Back to my springtime promise. Did I keep it? Not really. Maybe a total of ten times in the 150 days since then. What happened? I was so busy writing and giving workshops about the importance of self-care that I boxed myself out of the equation. Well, as they say, we teach best what we need to learn.
Guess it's not too late. The phone conversation with Suzy shocked me into the realization that I could both make time to write this post and take time for just me. That meant I could get my physical body -- not just my mental imaginings -- into the hammock. Maybe not thirty minutes, but at least ten. Winter weather is coming soon, so I have precious few days left before I put the hammock back into the tool shed.
It's raining now, so today is a no go, but they're predicting sun for tomorrow. I have a very busy schedule tomorrow, but I promise -- to you and to myself -- that I will go out and lie in that beloved old hammock before I drive to New York. My body, my mind, my spirit need to soak up that sun while I can. Ten minutes will be a delight. I'm already savoring it...
In my next blog, I'll let you know if I kept my promise. Please send me your support -- and your suggestions. Thanks!