by Millie Grenough
“Everybody I know is just flat-out overwhelmed. Me, too.”
It was my 30-something niece Suzy on her speakerphone. She was driving her two-year-old son Gus and her dad to a couple of errands outside of Indianapolis. The day before, I had e-mailed all my family members to ask their opinions on a title for my book, “OASIS in the Overwhelm,” which was about to be published. Suzy had lots to say:
“It’s crazy. Overwhelm is really the word. There’s never time for anything and there’s always something new you have to learn. At work I do data analysis. I like doing that, but there’s always pressure — a new program to learn, whatever. Even as a parent, I go on Twitter and find out I should be doing something different with my kid. I don’t know what’s happening, but I never have time to stop. Even to breathe....”
Yeah, tell me! It’s true for all of us, folks older and younger than Suzy. In his book, “Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left,” author Mark C. Taylor cites examples of how our lives are trapped by speed.
- As of 2014, the average person today sent or received 400 texts per month, four times the total in 2007. The average teen processed 3,700 texts per month. These statistics are probably much higher today.
- Parents take pills to keep up during the day and to sleep at night. Ritalin helps their kids gain a competitive edge in school.
- The average American fails to take 20 percent of his or her paid vacation. And even when they are on vacation, they are afraid to disconnect and remain on call 24/7/365.
- And this from The Wall Street Journal: “As many as 80 percent of young New York City professionals work regularly from bed.”
The result of all this? We know from Suzy’s and my and your experience: increased anxiety, depression, distraction, cardiovascular stress, poor vision, strained relationships and plain old fatigue.
So how does my hammock play into this? In late April, when spring finally reached Connecticut, I took the hammock out of the toolshed and lovingly rehung it. I made a promise to myself to lie in the hammock at least half an hour three times a week.
Why this promise? Let me explain. My hammock is sacred to me: it is my chosen place of refuge, rest, relaxation. It was my hammock that helped me heal after a near-deadly bicycle accident. For weeks during my recuperation, I trusted my body to my hammock’s embrace. My skin soaked up the sun. My eyes drank in the slow flowering of the rhododendron 15 inches from my face. My ears delighted in the bird sounds and the dancing of the tree branches. Those hours in the hammock helped restore my injured body and wounded spirit to pulsing, vibrant health. My hammock was indeed my “oasis in the overwhelm.”
Weeks before, while at a conference at Omega Institute, I lay in my hammock, mentally. When we received the invitation in a guided visualization to “Go to a place of beauty and safety... a place that gives you solace and rest...,” many people went to the sea, or to a mountain lake. I went to my backyard hammock.
Back to my springtime promise. Did I keep it? Not really. Maybe a total of 10 times in the 150 days since then. What happened? I was so busy writing and giving workshops about the importance of self-care that I boxed myself out of the equation. Well, as they say, we teach best what we need to learn.
Guess it’s not too late. The phone conversation with Suzy shocked me into the realization that I could both make time to write this post and take time for just me. That meant I could get my physical body — not just my mental imaginings — into the hammock. Maybe not 30 minutes, but at least 10. Winter weather is coming soon, so I have precious few days left before I put the hammock back into the tool shed.
It’s raining now, so today is a no go, but they’re predicting sun for tomorrow. I have a very busy schedule tomorrow, but I promise — to you and to myself — that I will go out and lie in that beloved old hammock before I drive to New York. My body, my mind, my spirit need to soak up that sun while I can. Ten minutes will be a delight. I’m already tasting it.
How about you? What is your hammock place?
I invite you to pause. Right now. Just stop and treat yourself to a nice long exhale…let your worries sail out with the exhale…. Savor that out breath. No rush. Your body knows what to do next. The fresh inhale will come in on its own. Allow abundant space for this fresh new breath.
Now, on the wave of this freshness, choose a hammock place. Make it one you can go to today, whether it’s outside or inside.
On a piece of paper, write down the place – even better, draw a sketch of it.
Now decide exactly when you will go there. Write the time down on your piece of paper.
Keep your date with yourself. You’ll be happier. And so will the people around you.
Mille Grenough is an ex-nun turned nightclub singer, an ex-shy Kentuckian turned international presenter. Millie delights in inspiring people to do what they thought was impossible. She is a professional coach, motivational speaker, instructor in psychiatry at the Yale University, blogger for the Huffington Post and author of 10 books.
Photography by ©JoyBushPhotography.com