If you read my previous blog, then you know that in the past year and a half I came to understand and embrace my anxiety on a deeper level. The pandemic truly reshaped me in a lot of ways. In addition to my anxiety, I began to see that there were more aspects of who I am that were being neglected and misunderstood…
While so many of my friends and family were having a hard time with the pandemic isolation in 2020, I however felt somewhat relieved. I enjoyed it. I was getting the social break that I never knew I needed. I wasn’t sad that everything was closed, holidays looked different, and we were all advised to stay distanced from others if we could. And although I love my husband and children, it even went one step further for me…
I often felt envious of people who lived alone and were therefore experiencing complete isolation.
All of this revealed to me that I need alone time—like on a consistent basis in order to survive emotionally. In my previous blog, I mentioned that my anxiety was something I wasn’t allowing myself to acknowledge for a long time. After processing all of that, it led me to this discovery…
My inability to recognize my need for alone time was causing burn out, and that undelt with burnout was causing anxiety. The reason I was able to hide and mask my anxiety, is because I had no idea what was even causing it. Depriving myself of rest and recharge is what was causing it. Not all of it, but a lot of it.
Anyone who knows me well would most likely assume that I’m an extrovert. If that is you—I am sorry to say that you are actually wrong. But that’s ok! I have been wrong for 35 years too haha. The reality is that it’s a common mistake to assume that someone is an extrovert simply because they are outgoing. But I also know from personal experience what it’s like to be constantly giving out an energy that you don’t necessarily always have.
My need to be accepted and worthy of love caused me to give away social and emotional energy without rest or boundaries. Saying no felt mean, and having alone time felt selfish.
How freeing to not believe those lies anymore.
So here we are. 2021 Olivia. An introvert. (or an “extroverted introvert” as they say haha) But now what? My entire life I lived under the assumption that being around people energized me, but now I’m trying to navigate a life where I’m realizing that although I enjoy it, social interactions actually drain me and I need alone time to recharge. It’s been a difficult reality for me to embrace.
At the beginning of 2020, I closed my home daycare that I had run for about 6 years. Therefore—Fast forward to this year, and once my kids went back to school full time I had A LOT of time to myself. Yay right? Well the problem with that however, is that I had no idea what to do with all that time beyond the ability to get things done around the house. I do love to read and write, so those were things I was able to do more of. But something was still missing. My ability to feel fully free from all the things that drain me, even just for a moment, was still non existent.
Why was I not experiencing peace and rest while alone in my house for hours?
Because I wasn’t being intentional with my time. I was allowing my brain to hop from one problem to the next all day long. If anything I felt more anxious because it gave me more time to think about all the things that weigh me down. Unproductive alone time was not the answer. My problems, my kids problems, my friends problems, my families problems—now I have 6 hours a day to think about all these things. I tried spending more time with God, but even then I couldn’t get my mind to calm down even for a minute. Until…
I went to the beach. Alone. For the first time ever.
It was one of the last few days that my kids had school, the weather was beautiful, and my friend who is a teacher and typically comes with me was still in work. To be honest, the idea of going to the beach alone seemed crazy to me. What the heck would I even do the entire time? In my mind I assumed it would be the same old same old. Me having all this alone time only to find it unproductive and unfulfilling. What was I doing wrong? I needed rest but couldn’t find it.
As I sat there on the beach looking out past my towel at the ocean, I realized in that moment I had no obligation to anyone except myself. I didn’t have my children to watch or take care of, nor did I have my husband or a friend to talk to. It was just me, my own beach chair, an empty towel, and God’s beautiful creation displayed everywhere around me.
As I was taking this all in, God reminded me that I am more than a mom…
I am also just me. Olivia.
And then it finally happened. Rest. Embracing this reality is exactly what was lacking in all of those moments.
You can have hours upon hours of time to yourself everyday and still feel overwhelmed and exhausted. You can be alone physically, but mentality and emotionally still “with people”. So sometimes you have to forget about everyone else and just think about who you are aside from all of them. It’s not selfish. I am a loved child of God and nothing else ever needs to matter more.
Embracing that, is true rest.
One time a friend of mine gave me a gift, and as she handed it to me she said “There’s a story behind this that I need to tell you before you open it.” She then went on to tell me that when walking through a store, she saw an item propped up somewhere random. It was clearly in the wrong section of the store which is why this particular thing caught her eye. Then, she felt God telling her to buy it for me! So she did! After telling me this story she says “So this is it, the thing I saw. And I have no clue why it’s supposed to be for you but maybe you will know.” I opened it up and it was a cute little rustic sign that said “Be Still“. This was several years ago, and to be honest at that point in my life I just assumed God was wanting me to spend more time with Him. However, today years later, I think God had a much deeper message for me within in. I had a lot to learn about what this phrase really meant for my life, and it would take years for me to learn it. God knew that I would be on this journey some day.
So there it is on my bedroom wall, and now I get it. Now I understand that stillness is it’s own identity. I don’t have to BE anyone else in that moment. Just still. Everything else can wait.
I know I’m not alone in any of this. In fact I will venture out and say that I bet a high percentage of Americans do not actually know how to fully rest or experience productive alone time. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “addicted to busy”. That is our society in a nutshell. If you aren’t busy then you feel lazy, because everyone around you is always busy. We have to find some peace. And sometimes finding one thing means letting go of another.
We have got to let go of our fascination with busy. It’s our only hope for peace and rest in a world that is filled with wars and chaos.
We loose our ability to truly rest when our only identity is in the things that require us to constantly be busy or engaged. Busyness isn’t just the act of BEING busy—it can also be the inability to mentally separate ourselves from all of our social, emotional, and physical obligations. This is why even my alone time felt busy.
But there I was sitting on the beach, and I finally figured it out. I don’t always have to function under who I am for everyone else, and I don’t always have to be busy. Whenever I need to, I can temporarily let it all go and just be me. Olivia.
And being that is enough.