Working it out in you(r body).

For the longest time I’ve been trying to like exercise. I remember a moment, almost 20 years ago, when I was out for a jog (at that pace, I don’t think it merited the term “run”), and I was struck with a joyous realisation that I was finally being someone who I wanted to be. But I was getting married later that summer, so the wedding-dress motivation was strong.

Fast-forward through a couple of half-marathons and four babies and I am still working at identifying as a person who runs. I don’t do it for the wedding dress, or any dress, any more. I do it for the sanity.

I’m learning more and more that I have to work out my feelings in my body, that I need to deal with stress in my body, and more generally that I just need to be a person in my body – and not a person with a body.

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children's library books on a shelf

Physical distancing doesn't have to mean social isolation

We all knew it was coming, but it still felt like a shock: the news that New Zealand is shutting down for the next four weeks to try and curb the spread of COVID-19. I’d been planning a little, running some scenarios through my head, but my brain was still left spinning when I understood that once I got the kids home that day, we were home for the duration. Of course, my first thought was to assess our supply of library books – only natural right? For a panicked moment I thought the library had already closed, but praise God we managed to get there before they closed, and boy did we stock up.

Because, let’s be honest, this is kind of an introvert’s dream, right?! You know, apart from the pandemic part of it.

As much as part of me would like to go to ground, hold my little ones close, and just read, garden, and bake my way through, I also know that I’m going to go crazy if that’s the only plan.

We can’t let physical isolation mean social isolation.

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couch seat with children's book

Lean into connection

Life is at a low ebb in our home right now. Mostly it’s that we’ve all been sick in turn over a few weeks now (when you’re a family of 6 it takes a while before a virus is done with you), and there are a few stressors from without that are causing turmoil within. It’s just a short season, we know that, but even in those it’s easy to lose perspective.

In the past, my response to times like this was to just knuckle down and press on through; maybe practice thankfulness like a good Christian, or maybe stuff down a bit of resentment… y’know, either/or. But it was about doing something, about pushing an attitude or an action to create a different feeling, or just sucking it up for the sake of my family until things felt better.

But more recently I’ve been drawn to a different, gentler approach: leaning into connection with my family.

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Know your red flags

I can’t think of any real-life situations where I’ve come across a red flag warning — traffic cones though, I’ve seen plenty of those. Maybe NZ prefers high-vis orange as its warning colour? But for those sea captains, sailors, and race-car drivers out there (I’m sure I have a large audience amongst those groups), you’ll be more familiar. A red flag means WATCH OUT! DANGER! SLOW DOWN! STOP!

While I don’t seen many literal red flags, metaphorically I’m seeing them all the time. They’re those familiar patterns of behaviour and those familiar phrases that either fall from your lips or reverberate around your head, and they all mean WATCH OUT! DANGER! SLOW DOWN! STOP!

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Small acts of rebellion

I am not a dog person, never have been and probably never will be. But still, I think that at some point in the future I’m going to get a dog. Not soon, mind you – so don’t anyone dare tell this to the kids. They would love one, but right now, I suspect that the responsibility of a dog added to everything else would tip me over the edge. Whenever the kids ask for a dog, I tell them we had a baby instead.

Why no dog? They’re so darn high maintenance! Now cats, you can leave town for a couple of weeks and they’ll just eat their biscuits, or whatever they catch in the field, ours at least will.

But dogs, you have to do so much work, and for all that work they’re so UNPRODUCTIVE.

Totally not a dog a person.

But down the track I think for me getting a dog could be a spiritual practice; a small act of rebellion to push back against my personal brand of neurosis that idolises productivity, control, and neatness.

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In defence of napping

Napping seems to be defensible only if you’re an infant, a cat, or a nana. But I am a big fan.

Partly it’s a pragmatic embrace of the reality that while I am good at getting up early, I’m not very good at going to bed early. Add to that the broken sleep that four children inevitably brings, and I often find myself needing a nap during the day. If I don’t take a nap, that nap is going to force itself on me when I sit back down at my desk after lunch.

Sometimes we’re physically weary, and sometimes it’s a weariness of the soul. I love how in 1 Kings 19 when the prophet Elijah has just had enough of it all God doesn’t tell him to pray, to push through; the instruction and the provision is to eat, then sleep, then eat some more. Sometimes you have to attend to the basic physical needs first of all. Quit being so “spiritual”, working yourself up over the big questions of why things feel so hard, and have a snack and a nap (and a snack again). He sure was worn out.

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