It’s been quite a month. Or, months, I should say. It was beautiful and it was hell and it was everything in between, too. In three months I visited six different countries, took seventeen flights, and lived out of a suitcase that sat either on the floor of a hotel room or on the floor of my bedroom because I was too exhausted to unpack in between trips.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I should clarify that I wouldn’t trade these opportunities for a lifetime of restless sleep. No way. I’ve loved every minute of it. But traveling, albeit thrilling and wonderful and so so good for my soul, isn’t always exactly relaxing. So upon getting home after my most recent international trip to Mexico, my body, apparently as pissed off as could be, decided to protest. In under a month, I wrestled through unexplained migraines for the first time in my life, about five different random infections and illnesses (including pink eye, in both eyes, twice – I'm sorry, but how does that happen to a grown, childless woman?), and just straight up exhaustion. And some of the crummiest kinds of life pains – broken relationships, job stress, even the tragic death of a loved one – also piled on top of each other and left me physically and emotionally depleted.
Like I said, it's been quite a month.
I’m a firm believer in rest but I’m not always fantastic at it. I understand the theory of “rest” and I believe in it and am great at reminding others when they need it, but boy am I a hypocrite in this area. In between bouts of vomit-inducing migraines and visits to urgent care, I couldn’t seem to stop feeling frustrated that I wasn’t doing more. I wasn’t working harder, or traveling more, or developing more content. I wasn’t budgeting well because I was too tired to cook for myself and ordered soup to be delivered to my pathetically limp self night after night. I was too sick and too exhausted to exercise, which then just left me feeling even more lethargic and self-loathing. I wasn’t spending my time in D.C. seeing all the friends I intended to see because I was so freakin’ contagious with five hundred different airborne illnesses.
I recognize how incredibly ridiculous this sounds, trust me. I recognize that if a friend were condemning herself for not going to the gym while fighting off pink eye and bronchitis and heartache, I would gently tell her that she was infuriatingly insane. But it's hard to escape habits of relentless self-critique and instead choose self-care and grace – the kind that says "I'm doing nothing at all impressive or productive with my life right now and I am perfectly okay with that." I have certain skills and this is just not one of them.
But then it snowed.
I usually miss the first East Coast snowfall because for some reason it prefers to come the minute I leave town for Christmas. Nope, not this year. This year God’s grace came in the form of tiny, glittering, perfectly intricate flakes of ice that fell from the sky and covered the earth in a sheet of white.
Growing up in the Arizona desert, snow always had a sort of magical quality to it – something I saw in movies and briefly visited for annual ski trips, and that made my typical 70-degree winters feel like a big fat cheat. And while I’ve lived on the East Coast for seven years now, the magic still hasn’t worn off.
It’s a reminder of all things I needed this winter season: how it brings with it a calmness and stillness and simplicity to an otherwise chaotic and stressful city; how I just can’t stop obsessing over the perfect symmetrical beauty of each snowflake – a reminder of how intimately involved God is in the details of life; the playfulness, the innocence, and, of course, the glitter. Nature's most spectacular decoration, in my opinion. Boy did I need that snow.
I leave D.C. again this week for another extended period of living out of a suitcase. I can’t say the last few weeks have been entirely restful; in fact, in lots of ways they've been quite the opposite, despite how many hours I’ve spent doing absolutely nothing at all impressive or productive.
But it has reminded me that I do need rest. It’s forced me to get off my life treadmill and spend more hours than I’d like to admit on my couch watching Netflix (yes, I’m still watching, Netflix). It’s forced me to forego so much of my independence and wanderlust and instead rely on the generosity of friends and find adventure and little joys in my own backyard.
I’ve also been reminded of how much there is to explore in my own city, and how grateful I am to be able to call this place "home." In lieu of international flights and exotic vacations, I planned a cozy staycation with girlfriends at a new hotel in the city; and rather than eating bizarre foods from street carts in foreign countries, I tried new restaurants and learned new ways to cook using za’atar and curry. I played tourist in my own city and soaked in all the D.C. beauty of the U.S. Capitol, Eastern Market, Library of Congress, picture-perfect parks, and neighborhoods lined with colorful rowhouses and, now, dusted with pristinely white snow. I watched shows about travel and beautiful hotels and adventure from the comfort of my own couch, and then would walk to a neighbor’s house to decorate Christmas trees or play board games until 2:00 in the morning. I told my cat I loved him and he reciprocated by pooping in my plants and taking naps in my (still not yet unpacked) suitcase.
I love traveling. I love exploring new places and eating weird foods and going on adrenaline-pumping adventures. I love constant movement and always-changing scenery. But when my health gives me the middle finger and my life heaps more burdens on me than I’m prepared to carry, I rest . . . whether I want to or not. I rediscover the beautiful city I get to call home, reinvest in friendships, rely on community, and remind myself to speak grace over all the areas in which I feel like I’m just not doing enough.
So, cheers to this mini-season of involuntary rest and restoration; of playful rediscovery, intentional reinvesting, vulnerable reliance on others, poignant reminders, and, of course, snow.
I'm hoping for some glitter and magic in your life right now (and maybe some snow, if that's your thing), because Lord knows so many of us need it. Whether you're traveling or staying home for the holidays, consider implementing some of these "re" words in your own life this season: rest, rediscover, reinvest, rely, remember.
What kind of rest are you looking forward to this holiday season?