It feels like I haven’t written a blog post in FOREVER! But, looks like it’s only been a month. That speaks volumes about how full and busy the last month has been. Given that this is the Year of “Only What’s Essential” it seems something has gone wrong… or has it?
My personal workload at the office has been at an all-time high the past couple of months. Between upgrades to my primary software programs, busy season planning (of which I do the scheduling for all the auditors), an integration of our administrative structure and processes between six locations (of which I manage 2), and other large, year-end projects that demand a lot of time, it’s been crazy. “My own personal busy season” is what I’ve dubbed it.
Several weeks ago I heard myself muttering about being “overwhelmed” regularly. My brain jumped and skipped all over the place as I took mental inventory of all that I had to do. Fortunately, the mindfulness techniques I’ve learned kicked in and I decided not to pay attention to the “I’m overwhelmed” thought and just let it pass by.
Being so busy at work actually encouraged me to be intentional with my time, and figure out ways to delegate more. Instead of getting caught up in mental loop of all the things I potentially could or should be doing, I just jumped in and started getting things done.
After running with my friend on a weekly basis for much of the year, I’d encouraged her to run her first half marathon (“Hi Leslie!”) and then made a hasty retreat when she asked if I was going to run it too. By encouraging another friend from church to run the race at a Friendsgiving event, I somehow talked myself into it too. Although I hadn’t run more than 5 miles at a time for months, this race was looming and long runs had to be done.
Since I was busy at work and wanting to thoroughly enjoy the holiday festivities with my family on the weekends, I fit running in where I could and didn’t stress about it. The week leading up to the race last Saturday was particularly hectic. Fortunately, Leslie and I had a good run on Monday morning. I then decided to rest until the race, which worked out well. Instead of feeling like I was neglecting exercise because of my office workload, it was easily reframed as rest and recovery for the upcoming race!
Going into the race, I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I’d been for races in the past, particularly in terms of recent mileage. But, I knew that I could run the distance and would just go out to enjoy the race, listen to my Christmas music (it’s the Holiday Half Marathon, after all), and not have any preconceived notions about a finishing time.
To my surprise and delight, I ran a personal best: 1:55.51. Over four minutes faster than I ran on the same course 2 years ago! Also, I felt awesome during the race! When I returned home later that morning, I got cleaned-up and into my pajamas. Teo and I cuddled on the couch watching “Holiday Baking Championship” on Food Network. Later, I wrapped most of the Christmas gifts that were stashed in the closet, while listening to more Christmas music and drinking almond milk hot chocolate. Sienna came to help and I got to teach her how to wrap presents. Sitting on the floor, I watched her carefully fold the corners and resisted the urge to “help” too much! We all got to bed early since Dennis and I had altar guild for the 8:00 a.m. service on Sunday. That meant we needed to be there by 7:00 a.m. Whew! Pastor asked our family to light the Advent wreath during the early service; so special!
Throughout the entire weekend, I felt myself breathing into the moment and remaining present. When I was running, I didn’t think too far ahead; instead, I looked around, listened to the music, and focused on the feel of running. When I wrapped presents, I did just that; I didn’t worry about work or think of all the things we needed to get done. Setting the altar for the divine service on Sunday morning always brings me in touch with the ultimate gift that Christ gives us, in himself, week after week.
I’ve found that, when I’m especially busy or feeling overwhelmed, it’s an opportunity to practice mindfulness and being present in the moment. All the activities or items on the “To Do” list, don’t add up to feeling crazed, if I’m able to stay present and do one thing at a time. Running that race didn’t leave me feeling remorseful, as if I opted to prioritize it before family/holiday time, because I purposefully didn’t schedule anything else for the day. A very busy work week didn’t leave me feeling like I was being robbed of the joyful holidays because I left work in the office on Friday afternoon and enjoyed the weekend fully with Dennis and the kids, and celebrated the Advent season with our church family. When, every now and then, the thought would occur to me: “I shouldn’t be this busy right now, it’s the holidays!” I chose not to give that thought my attention, so it didn’t hook me into feeling frustrated or angry.
Through this season of busyness, festivities, and joyous times with family and friends, there are so many opportunities to get caught up in the chaos and miss out on tender moments of connection. But, there are just as many opportunities to stop, breathe, look around, and be present in the moment where life is happening right in the here-and-now. May this Christmas season bring you hope, peace, joy, and love as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.