The car, the front door, and even shoes, are being neglected by me.
This summer has provided me with many days where I don’t need to leave the confines of my brother’s house (where he and my sister-in-law have been kind enough to let me crash for the summer) and instead cocoon myself into its barriers. The house itself is not overly large, so a day spent inside is mostly spent between one or two rooms. I wake up at the early, but not too early, hour of 7:00 am. A shower is sometimes in order, or maybe not, and a bowl of frosted shredded wheat gives me enough fiber to support an activity level I will barely reach. I also maintain some social contact when my boyfriend, my brother, and my sister-in-law return from working hard all day. It helps to not live alone in these situations.
Though there may be downsides to not leaving the house as often, I have gained many glimpses into the interior world, this place where full-time writers, stay-at-home parents, and my fellow unemployed spend so much time.
It is both a chasm and a bridge, a trap and a doorway. Loneliness does lurk in this place, and more exercise would probably be beneficial. But the lure of time alone gives my introverted self space to simply be, something many of us neglect. We live in a culture of doing, not being, where we could all probably benefit from days where we don’t leave the house. In the wise words of April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation):
In the past I would never embrace such a seemingly lazy perspective. I have always been a worker bee, more comfortable with overloaded schedules, long to-do lists, and a scurrying demeanor.
Ironically enough, over the course of the last year I have again and again felt God pressing me and drawing me back to this message:
“BE STILL, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
To fill my time indoors I’ve been reading a lot, and although I love reading, I must admit that in the past few years I rarely allowed myself the indulgence. Why? For the same reasons I didn’t watch a lot of TV, kept my busy bee schedule, and never crafted as much as my Pinterest boards suggest: because relaxation is a treat.
If there is one thing I’m bad at, it’s relaxing. Part of my goal for this summer was to learn how to do simply that: relax. It might seem like a funny concept, the need to learn how to relax, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone and our culture doesn’t teach it well. The word itself makes my back tense instinctively, it makes me grab for my phone to check my emails and the news and the weather and other things I’ve sanctioned as “productive.”
Relaxing is connected to being in the way that it requires us to release the parts of our lives that so often define who we are. What we do is what we are, or so it seems. But the truth is that I still exist, I can still be, without doing anything. What is even more amazing, is that God loves me that way. Once I remember that, I discover that by learning how to simply be, how to exist confidently in my identity as someone who is loved no matter what, my doing will gain greater strength from my being.
Learning to be still and relax reminds me to trust that God’s love is unconditional, it doesn’t depend on how much I do or don’t do. I think that’s the significance of the verse from Psalm 46, because being still requires us to know, not just hope or guess or question, the fact that God is truly a loving God.
Plus, what we often relegate to “down time” (as if it is beneath other more productive time) is more valuable than we give it credit for. One of the books I just finished, a set of essays by Jonathan Franzen, said that “the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone.” How to be alone is related to how to just be, because when we are alone we must face our very being. The second thing reading does is illuminate what being looks like in relation to the world around us, because reading gives us compassion and empathy to understand others.
Spending a day entirely inside, exploring the corners of the house and the mind, I learn to appreciate the way the sun shines through the front window in the morning, the stubborn growth of a parched kitchen plant, and the elasticity of time itself. I might not have a long list of things I “accomplished” in concrete terms, but I can say that I pondered the world around me and considered my place of being within that world.
If it helps any of you out there still doubting the value of my staying inside all day, I also did the dishes. So there.
How do you feel when you don’t leave the house all day?
Is it hard for you to let yourself relax sometimes?