After a final push to finish the school year, my calendar—my daily schedule—is suddenly wide open. As a teacher, it’s a gift to have the summer months off. Believe me, I’m grateful.
Last Friday, I sat in an outpatient waiting room, preparing to have surgery on my right big toe to remove some bone spurs. The procedure had been planned for months and I was more than ready to get it over with. But, I couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated. Summer had hardly begun and here I was using some of my “free time” for a surgical procedure that would limit my mobility and activity level for most of June.
In the week leading up to the surgery, I squeezed in some favorites—a trip to the beach, a walk, a bike ride, dinner with friends, a movie. I felt the clock ticking.
Thankfully, the procedure was a success. While this is great news to share, what hasn’t been as successful is my response to this time of rest and recovery. I stink at it.
Here’s what I mean.
Days 1-3: Life on the couch is fun! I have stacks of books to read, shows to watch, magazines to peruse. I feel grateful that I have the summer to recover.
Days 4-present: I’m angsty. I don’t like sitting for long stretches with my foot elevated. I don’t like limiting my activity level or being dependent on others. I don’t like the feeling of doing nothing.
I love the way I feel when I’m accomplishing tasks. It’s my own kind of high. Wow, look at how productive I am. Look at all the things I did today!
I know. I know. I know. My worth does not come from what I accomplish in a day. I am not a better person because I crossed off ten items on my list instead of five. [Or did some “extra” tasks and then retroactively added them to my list just so I can cross them off!] Or simply because I did something at all. God doesn’t love me more because I’m productive. I’m aware of this faulty thinking and behavior.
My husband Brad reminds me that I come from hardworking stock. Both sets of grandparents worked on farms or ranches at different points in their lives. They knew what hard work looked like. In my mind’s eye, I see my Grandma Smith bustling around her kitchen, preparing delicious food for her extended family well into her eighties. Later, when she could no longer live on her own and eventually became bedridden, her common refrain was, “I just want to get out of bed.”
Brad tells me this to encourage me. Part of what I’m battling is hardwired into me. I’m also prone to think I should have parts of my life figured out by now. I don’t know about you, but I think that being an adult (and middle-aged) means I don’t struggle the same way I used to. Yes, maturity and life experience provide a level of wisdom and insight, but it doesn’t remove the struggle completely. For instance, FOMO matters more to me than I care to admit.
So when it comes to resting and not doing anything, I have some growing to do. I’m asking my heavenly Father to teach me this summer. A dear friend and former colleague was fond of repeating the phrase, “find the radical middle.” I think those words apply to me and my situation. What does the radical middle look like for me in this area?
I won’t ever be the person who loves to stay in bed for vacation or who is content to sit and read for five days in a row. I also don’t think God is asking me to be that person. After all, he created me to be an individual who is good at starting and finishing tasks. My gifts are needed in this world alongside those who can discern when it’s time to stop and do nothing.
Back in February, when I scheduled my surgery for June, I read the following words from the devotional Jesus Calling: “Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.” When I read those words on February 16, I made a note in my calendar to read them again the day after my surgery. I knew I would need to read them again. And again.
What I’ve Been Reading Lately
I’ve read (and am currently reading) some good books. One standout was The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I think I liked this one even more than The Nightingale. The book is set in Alaska, on the heels of the Vietnam War. Lenny and her parents move to the wilderness to start a new life, again. I listened to this on audio and if I had a hard copy I know I would have flipped to the end and read ahead just to relieve some of the tension and suspense. (No judgment, please.) It’s a story of family relationships—both the heartbreaking and beautiful aspects of family life, survival, community, love, and self realization. This would make a great summer read.
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. I’m savoring this book and enjoying each chapter for its practical advice and wisdom. I’ve listened to Emily’s podcast, The Next Right Thing, on and off for the past year. After listening to several interviews where she talked about the book, I decided to purchase a copy. If you have a decision to make in your life, this is a helpful resource. Even if you don’t have a major decision, the principles in the book are still applicable. In my own life, when faced with a situation that feels overwhelming, reminding myself that I only need to do the next right thing is freeing. If you know a graduate in your life, this would make a great gift.
Wait: Thoughts and Practice in Waiting on God by Rebecca Brewster Stevenson. You can order a copy on Amazon, but you’ll have to wait (ha!) until July for the book. I’m not finished with this one yet, but I agreed to be on her launch team and have enjoyed reading an advanced copy. All of us have had to wait for something at some point in our lives, even if it is only for a red light to turn green. Combine waiting with a desire to grow more Christ-like and you can imagine how challenging this becomes. Rebecca weaves together biblical narrative, literature, art, as well as stories from her own life to help readers reframe their understanding of what it means to wait.
One last recommendation. I watched Chernobyl on HBO this past week. Wow! I had no idea how devastating this nuclear disaster was. I was sixteen years old when this event took place. The show is well- written and well-acted. I learned a ton about how the Soviet Union tried to cover up the mistake and saw a glimpse of what it was to be a party member at the time. Worth watching if you have HBO.
Thanks for reading, friends. May you find ways to enjoy these beautiful June days.
Oh Alicia, thank you for your post! I remember you had foot surgery after Anna was born, or an infant? I can relate to “being productive “ and struggling with having my identity whispered in my tasks accomplished. Big hug and wish I could sit with you and chat and have coffee, and help. You are loved and thank you for sharing your life lessons with us!
You have a great memory, Dar! Yes, same surgery from 20 years ago, but different toe. 🙂 Sending lots of love your way.