The Wisdom of Story Reflection 2: Modern Crises and the Balance of Work, Rest and Play

When I started the Wisdom of Story I had no idea that the session on act 2 of the story, the part of the story where the conflict comes in and changes things around would coincide with an actual set of minor crises (predominantly around a building project at my congregation) and the stress that would be added by that to an already full schedule. So I am thankful for thinking about crisis and the practices that sustain me immediately before needing to call upon many of these practices. There is ancient wisdom in the practice of Sabbath, which is not primarily about worship but about rest. For me one of my natural reactions to stress is to work harder and to attempt to plow through the crisis and outlast it. Yet, while this is one of my defaults it also tends to be an unhealthy reaction for me because it impacts my creativity, my joy, my relationships and it cuts me off from the support I need.

As an introvert I require space and time to recharge, but beyond the space and time there are things that recharge my batteries faster than other things. These include music, stories, exercise, eating well, learning, playing, solitude or time with people I love, and working with my hands. Music has always been a source of joy for me and whether I am singing along with a CD, attending a concert, drumming on the steering wheel as I drive or jamming to the air guitar alone in the house by myself, music is one of the things I love. Unfortunately, when I overwork I tend to put myself in places where I can’t enjoy music in the same way. A lot of my work is either talking with other people or things that require more concentration and often silence is beneficial. But I need the balance of music to bring richness into my life.

I am a person who feeds off stories. Stories come in many forms, in books, in a movie, sometimes I just make them up in my head. I’ve always been able to let stories take me into their world for a moment and to get caught up with the actors or characters. I often find things in the world of the story that bring insight into situations in my own world, and then there is also simply the joy of a well told tale. Perhaps one of the other gifts of stories goes back to the gift of Sabbath, it forces me (or allows me) to have an excuse to step away from that drive to work through my struggles and instead to sit in another place at some distance from my own crises and to come back to them re-energized from being away in a distant land or time or world through the story.

I’m thankful that early in my life I learned the benefit of staying fit and eating a healthy diet. Through my time at Texas A&M and the Army physical fitness was a daily part of my work day and my enjoyment of running endured well after my time in the Army ended. Physical exertion is a great stress relief for me and my body just feels better and I am more creative when I make the time to run and workout. When I am stressed I am more likely to miss workout and I also have one less method to work through stress. Diet also affects me greatly. I enjoy cooking and I cook pretty fresh food using very little preservatives. If my diet changes through eating out frequently or even eating at church potlucks then I notice it rapidly. Caffeine also has a stronger effect on my body than it does for many people and again it is another thing that is readily available and tastes good at the moment but when I am stressed it contributes to that stress.

For a long time I didn’t give enough credence to the need to play. I was simply too busy doing ‘important’ things to give myself permission to do something as unnecessary as that. I always enjoyed playing, whether it was sports or a computer game or doing puzzles of various kinds but I never made time for it. Sometimes it goes back to my love of story (which video games often do immerse you into a story world) other times it feeds that need for physical activity but in the midst of all of it is the need to bring fun and joy into one’s life. I’m still not great at making time to play but I’ve learned it is an enjoyable part of my life and very healing.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean that I shun opportunities to be around other people, but it often doesn’t recharge my batteries. People who I love and trust can help me recharge but I also need my times of solitude. I’m not cut out to be an hermit, I need other people but social situations (like parties) take a lot more energy than they give to me.

Finally, I do enjoy working with my hands. Whether it is working in the soil in my garden or building something or just trying to be creative.  So much of what I do requires my intellectual side to be engaged but I also have the need to use the tactile side of my personality. I like being able to problem solve and being able to see something created or improved through working on it.

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