Sweet Solitude

I can be alone without being lonely.
In fact, those times of solitude are necessary respite for a beleaguered soul,
set upon by the pressures of life.
I need to take whatever moments I can to just be still.

– Steve Goodier

Once a year I like to go away by myself. The extroverts are already confused 🙂 The introverts were on board as soon as they saw ‘by myself’.

When I do personality tests, I often come out as exactly in the middle of extroverted and introverted. I would say that the more kids I have had, the more introverted I have become. Apparently, they take a lot of my energy… who knew kids could do that? 😉

For me, a moment of quiet solitude is rare and precious. Add in a ‘giving profession’ and I find myself constantly looking after or considering others; always giving out. To ensure I don’t burn out, sometimes I have to stop and take a night or two away by myself. For me. it’s like a blissful turbo-charged refresh.

Wandering west in the wild
I pack my bags and my notebook
Heading out on my own
Write some words I can take home

To be able to pack my bags and my notebook…

It is usually what I request for my birthday; a night away. Time away. There are three things that I try to do with the moments by myself and I thought I’d share them with you.

Reflect

Lamentations 2:19a (NIV)
Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.

The full context of this verse is so powerful (check it out sometime), but what has always captivated me since age 13 is the imagery of water and communing with God; letting Him see our transparent hearts. I love the idea that it should be poured all, all of it, clear and exposed. I have always approached my relationship to God like that. There is nothing I don’t open up to Him and when I go away by myself, I am clearly not really alone as I pour about my thoughts, emotions, fears and hopes.

I do this by journalling, sifting through my thoughts and my heart; asking questions about things I have done and seen while listening for growth areas.

Realign

This one is similar to reflection, but it’s more about positioning myself for what’s to come.

Unlike my stunning sister-in-law, I am not the type of person who writes five-year plans, or even five-weeks plans. However, I still look to the future to ensure that my life’s trajectory continues to aligning with my personal values. Sometimes I will uncover dreams and desires when I take time to do this, but more often than not I am looking at core values that I want to live my life by (regardless of where I am or what I’m doing).

To those who have/love/embrace long-term plans, I take my hat off to you and cheer you on.

Refresh

Slow mornings are my favourite, because when you have small kids there is no such thing. At. All. In fact, there are rarely slow moments in the day. They do happen, but they are not always consistent (you take them when you can). So when I’m by myself I do the things I truly love whenever I want. It is a sweet, sweet luxury.

I sit by the water and write. I eat good healthy food and drink quality coffee. I listen to music, colour-in, enjoy sunshine and salty sea air. I watch the sky change, watch a beloved movie, enjoy deep sleep, maybe a massage if funds allow. It is Bliss. I leave behind the daily routine and enjoy quiet and freedom to do whatever I want.

Even setting aside Australia’s COVID shut-down, I will acknowledge that it’s been some time since I’ve been away by myself. For my family, it takes planning and budgeting, but I will prioritise this as something I want to do this year.

I wonder what you do to help you reflect, realign and refresh? Do you make deliberate plans or do you rely more on chance for it to happen? A psychologist once told me:

it’s not always what we start doing
that negatively impacts our mental health,
it can also be the things we stop doing.

If we stop doing the positive things we enjoy, that can have just as much impact on our health.

Dear reader, your ‘ultimate self-care’ might not be going away by yourself, but I’m sure there is something you have in mind. I would encourage you (and me) to not forget about it. Make some plans if you can or at least add a reminder in your diary to look into it later. In a year that has been full of global fear and turmoil, remember to look after yourself deliberately, purposefully and regularly.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – I want to acknowledge that there are millions of people in the world for whom a holiday is unreachable. For this reason, I call it a luxury. However I live in Australia, in this crazy country and in my privileged socio-economic class. I live my life in the context of my culture and the pressures that it brings… but I don’t take it for granted or forget those who are less fortunate than me. 🙂

Leaving what’s heavy: How do you process?

We all process moments in our lives differently and as I am eternally curious about the people around me, I wonder how you are processing the things that you are going through. How do you process your thoughts and feelings dear reader?

I find I am an interesting mix of both the internal and external processing styles; it often depends on the context. If this terminology is new to you, basically the internal processors turn inwards to examine their thoughts and look at them by themselves. External processors like to talk out loud with others to help organise the often-jumbled mess in their minds. I found this great article for you to read if you want to understand the styles more 🙂

I process in two ways and the first one is journaling. Not every day, but whenever I feel led. Needless to say, I am writing a lot more at the moment to keep my mind clean. My pages are full of thoughts and questions for God. There are quotes, song lyrics, conversations I’ve had and bible verses that I like or challenge me. There is little structure and no rules on how much ink should take up the page. For a mind prone to anxious thoughts, journaling is the easiest way for me to do to slow them down. Writing down my thoughts forces them to slow down to the pace at which I can write. It makes me focus on one idea at a time instead of having them splinter off into every direction. I find journaling is the best method to use for looking after my mental health and grow as a person. I’m relatively self-aware because I take time to examine what is going on inside my heart, soul and mind. In the quiet I reflect and understand how I am handling the things that are going on around me. I write down the heavy things on my heart and am continually learning how to leave them on the page.

Today after writing down my scattered thoughts I had a moment of peace. I sat in my outdoor area while the kids played peacefully inside by themselves. I had my earphones in listening to my favourite songs while a gentle breeze played with my hair. The butterflies were exploring the garden and the clouds made pictures in the sky. It was an intermission moment, a moment to unload, a moment for stillness and resetting. Bliss.

Apart from writing my secret thoughts onto pages, the second way I process by talking with my nearest and dearest. When I’m struggling to put thoughts together, I like to bounce them off others. I enjoy having back and forth conversations to dig deeper into my internal contemplations (my husband and close friends know this well). As I chat transparently with my friends, they hear the rough drafts of my thoughts and ideas and witness as I shape them into something more concrete.

As you can see, in one way I process by myself and in another I dialogue with people around me to understand how I feel about a certain topic. Both are equally important for me as I navigate different seasons of life and more so right now. Facing my internal world and accepting it, even if it’s uncomfortable, gives me strength to move forward. This leads me back to you dear friend. I wonder what things you do to interpret what’s happening in the world around you and the state of your heart. When your emotions burn high, how do you acknowledge or come to peace with them in a healthy way? Do you step back and process by yourself or call a friend and pass ideas back and forth? Are you even taking the time to look at them? If not, I hope you have the courage to do so this week, because it really helps. Please know that I’m thinking of you.

Love Jess xxoo

Four Questions for Christmas

Most nights when putting our kids to bed we ask them four questions. These four questions do two things, firstly, they allow us to get a window into our kids day and secondly, it gives us an opportunity to help our littles process the things they have experienced. So, as it’s the season for long lunches and evening glasses of wine, why don’t you take some time out as you reflect on the year that’s been and ask others or yourself these four questions:

What made you smile?
What made you sad?
What did you learn about?
What are you thankful for?

Tim and I have put our answers below.

What made you smile?

Jess: New and deeper connections with people. This current season with my family and friends has been a great one, particularly seeing my family complete with the birth of our son. I have loved building new friendships and getting to know others on a deeper level.

Tim: Work Opportunities. There were many days at work this year when I would pinch myself. How did I get here? Did I do that? How amazing is God?! 18 months ago I was seconded into my organisations Project Team and things just clicked for me. It’s been a rollercoaster of amazing opportunities and challenges met and I found myself energised by this environment and the amazing people in it. At my recent work Christmas party I was presented with an individual award that recognised my achievement to help our organisation be ‘Future Ready’ (one of our five strategic goals). Yet again, I had to pinch myself.

What made you sad?

Jess: Family illness. There have been some rather significant hospital stays and health investigations this year. Some health questions have had answers, while others are still ongoing.

Tim: A lack of Wholeness for our families. In many facets of life we don’t see the wholeness that God intended; mental, physical, spiritual, financial, social. But this is something we believe and work towards.

What did you learn about?

Jess: Parenting. This year was a huge learning curve when it came to parenting. I have never felt more stretched while navigating how to parent a rather strong-willed, physically aggressive little one. My three-year-old has pushed me to learn more about child-brain development, the impacts of food on behaviour, when to hold my ground and so much more. There have been many messages sent to my ‘squad’ in frustration, many prayers uttered and moments of being far too overstimulated. It has been difficult, but I have learned a lot and continue to learn a lot.

Tim: Human services and community development. For a number of years my heart would always sway towards working and serving within community settings. Through my work (Disability and Aged Care) and other community networks I have been exposed to philosophies, frameworks and practices in Human Services and Community Development. Australia is a blessed country in these regards with a government and social services that fight for justice and equity in our communities. Recently I was offered a new job in a Community Development role and needless to say, I am thrilled to continue to learn and serve my local community.

What are you thankful for?

Jess: The little things. A message from a friend. My morning coffee made by my husband. A good book. Discovering a new yummy recipe. Henry Ward Beecher says, “The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things” and I think he was definitely onto something.

Tim: Kai! There’s not much more to say here really. When he came into this world, I cried with joy. Everyday since then, I have been totally smitten with this little guy. #whatakai

Have a wonderful time this Christmas season. Happy reflections.

Love Tim and Jess xoxo