At our house, there's an analogy we lean on when we're trying to make positive life changes. We ask each other: Do you want to eat apples or do you want to eat coconuts?
You see, anyone can eat apples. Apples are good! But they aren't hard to come by and it doesn't take work to enjoy them. They are a common, basic, good fruit. And it seems like sometimes, we make choices that feel a lot like eating an apple. It's good, it's what people around us are doing and it didn't take a ton of effort to obtain and enjoy it.
But a coconut! A coconut takes work. You have to climb high into the tree to enjoy it. And then you have to take time to crack it open. You have to figure out how you want to eat it. Will you drink the milk? Eat the flesh? Shred it? It takes energy and thought to enjoy a coconut, but, man, the sweetness, the exotic flavor, all of the ways you can cook with it...
Last week, we realized the way we were grinding through each week was tiring us to the core, turning our apples in to juice. We needed a change because it wasn't tasting as good any more. We wanted coconuts.
We'd fallen into a pattern of working a lot, setting too few boundaries with our schedules. We were struggling to shut our computers at night, building little fortresses around our minds with electronics, leaving little space for emotional connectivity. We were falling into patterns that allowed us to believe there was never enough time - for sleep, for work, for connection, for rest, for play. It's easy to do, I've learned, when you're trying to launch a business.
But, the truth is, we all get 24 hours each day and it's up to us to set boundaries that allow room for rest, play and connectivity.
If we don't want a relationship full of long nights on the computer, wondering if (when!) we'll ever get to watch a show or go for a walk together, we have to create a routine that allows for more room for those things. Inspired by Nancy Ray's #WorkHardSabbathHard guide, we made a plan to have a day of rest last Sunday.
I won't lie to you: it took work to prepare for it. We had to want the coconuts more than the apples.
It was pretty far outside of my emotional comfort zone, to the point that I put "plan Sabbath" on my to do list Friday, in an effort to maintain some control.
And, it put a lot of pressure on our Saturday. Everything we'd normally do to prepare for the week on Saturday and Sunday had to be taken care of in just one day. We had to hustle.
And then, we had to set major boundaries for Sunday. We decided we could do anything that allowed for connectivity, felt like play or rest and brought us joy. But, it couldn't be very productive. So, a hike outside would have been allowed if it sounded fun. But going to the gym was off limits. Restful/stretch yoga would have been OK if we'd been in the mood for it, but athletic conditioning yoga was definitely out. Journaling or creative writing would have been good, but blogging was out of the question.
Sunday was the worst weather we've had all year - 43 and cold rain, putting a dent in Georgia's extreme drought, reminding us that this particular Sunday was designed for rest. After church, we put on warm, comfy clothes and read the books we've been trying to make time for for weeks. We ate delicious egg sandwiches on the floor of the kitchen. We went for a short walk in the rain.
We dreamed up fun, but non-committal plans for a trip we are taking this winter. We went to Sprouts, but not for groceries. For dessert and ingredients for a recipe Chris has been dying to make for months. Chris cooked homemade GF chicken fingers while I watched Gilmore Girls. We ate dinner and talked. We started Stranger Things. We went to bed early.
We talked and talked. I told Chris I felt anxious being so unproductive.
Have you ever experienced muscle twitches after a hard workout, as your muscles begin to repair themselves? This is how my anxiety made me feel. It wasn't constant, but, every now and then, my brain would twitch: shouldn't we be accomplishing something? And then I'd remind myself to rest, to repair.
It took effort and discipline to keep myself from going into a more productive mode. I had to want this rest. I had to reassure myself that I was ready for the week ahead. I had to continue to remind myself that this rest was deserved, not because it was earned, but because rest is a basic human need and right.
And Monday, when I woke up early for hard yoga before a busy day, I felt rested. I felt joyful. I kept smiling at Chris and telling him how happy I felt and how much I loved him. I felt prepared to take on the day - my soul and body had recovered. I felt connected with Chris, like we were going into the week as a team.
I'm learning these days that setting boundaries is the practice of self care. Boundaries around work, rest and productivity allow us to care for ourselves and one another better. They allow us to stay centered and joyful. They allow us to enjoy the sweet fruits of our labor - the apples and the coconuts alike.