slowing down

camping_1Two weekends ago, Joe & I took a Friday night camping trip. For nearly a month leading up to the trip, I’d been craving a swim–to drop under the water & have no space to think of anything but breathing. I needed to drown everything out.

We claimed a spot of grass & spent the next 18 hours reading, sitting by the fire, brushing away bugs & listening to birds we couldn’t identify. We watched a robin hop in search of worms until well after sunset.

When we zipped up the tent & turned off the small travel light, I felt nothing but fatigue &  the softly textured quiet of the woods.

The next morning, I shook up pancake batter. The fire wouldn’t start. The coffee wouldn’t percolate. The heat from the charcoal couldn’t reach the grill to cook the pancake. And all the quiet in me crumbled. I complained that we wouldn’t get back in time for the market, that I’d been looking forward to making us a good breakfast, that the batter was expanding too much & would soon be ruined.

After nearly an hour, more charcoal had warmed; pancakes were ready to be flipped. I calmed down, poured juice, got syrup form the cooler & apologized.

* * *

It is 9 a.m. For the past two hours, Joe & I have been going about the quiet morning routine that’s developed over the past month. Smoothies & peanut butter toast. Coffee & Democracy Now. My hair is drying from a shower. I’ve read & journaled; I have not yet used profanity.

For most of my life–for all of my life that I can remember–I’ve been busy. I’ve felt the need to be busy, like I wasn’t working up to my full potential if I had down time. I joke that it’s because I’m Catholic: We don’t know how to not feel guilty.

My goal for this summer was to open up a new space–in my schedule & in myself–that allows me to just be still for a portion of each day. I still frantically rush about in the 20 minutes before work. I still chastise myself for sleeping in too long, staying up too late, being too distracted. But other things are changing.

I am working to remove a sense of obligation from the activities of my day. Other than my hours at work, I am only accountable to myself. I am thinning the to-do list, even allowing myself not to write one as I work toward a more focused, deliberate way of spending my day.

I am working toward a morning when a damp fire & ruined pancakes can be brushed off. As you could guess from my last post & the now more relaxed nature of this blog, I’m starting with technology. No more blog projects, just writing. No more tumblr; only 20 minutes of social media a day. No more smart phone during conversation. No more comparing myself to others.

It is July 1st, a perfect new start to looking only at myself for confirmation. What tips do you have or actions do you take to keep your days peaceful & keep yourself motivated but not overwhelmed?

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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