I have this vision of a cabin in the woods. It is small, but ample, with a couple of bedrooms upstairs, an open kitchen and family room, and a wide and sturdy front porch, with two worn rocking chairs that softly creak when the wind blows.
Through the woods behind the cabin is a tiny creek that leads into a cool, but clear, lake. The nearest neighbors are a half mile away, yet somehow the kids manage to meet in the middle to explore, pretend, and dream.
In the morning, I bake pies with berries that have been warmed by the sun and hang laundry outside on the line to dry. In the afternoons, I write. And come dusk, when the sun is setting down below the trees and the sky is awash in violets and pinks and oranges, we go for long walks with fireflies dancing around our heads.
This is my fantasy.
Now, if you know me, you know just how unrealistic this fantasy is. Living in a cabin in the woods with a back-to-basics lifestyle would surely only last a day or two before I would be running back to a high-speed Internet connection, bustling neighborhood, fast moving expressways, and a Target that’s only 2 miles away.
And yet, this fantasy holds true and I often find myself longing to escape, to get away from all the noise, the obligations and self-imposed anxieties, the constant comparisons and one-upmanship, and the pressures to do and achieve and obtain.
Last month, as part of my “Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone” series, I set out to institute a personal shabbos/Sabbath. At the time, I was a little uncertain about what it would specifically look like – whether it would be a full day or just a few hours, which day or time, what activities would be included, what activities would be off limits– but, in essence, I wanted to set aside time for rest, reflection, and reconnection. As I wrote:
“Shabbos, for me, will be about delegating time to look inward, rather than reaching outward. A time to focus on what I have, instead of searching for something new. A time to disconnect from work and technology in order to reconnect with family and friends, both near and far. A time to quiet the external noise so that I can hear my own powerful voice.”
So for the past several weeks, I have created a personal shabbos/Sabbath day that generally begins on Saturday night and continues until Sunday evening. In doing so, I think I just might have found a way to escape to my cabin in the woods, all without leaving the comforts of my relaxed suburban town, simply by making an intentional effort to turn off and tune in.
During this time, I DO NOT: email, text, surf the web, turn on the computer, work, shop (including grocery shopping), do chores, or watch television (though an exception was made once to watch a movie with my husband). In fact, I turn off my cell phone and hide it away during this time. Instead, my personal shabbos/Sabbath day INCLUDES: rest, music, church, time outdoors, intentional prayer or meditation, personal writing, time alone, sitting still, reading, and focused time with family.
Creating a personal shabbos/Sabbath has been one of the best – albeit difficult – changes that I’ve made in my daily life. Scheduling an escape day definitely requires preparation and commitment, along with a fair amount of willpower. Knowing that I won’t work on Sunday means that my Monday through Saturday is a little busier, chores can’t be saved for the last possible minute, and I need to communicate with my husband about my intentions so that we can coordinate our obligations.
There is a slowing of time in the stillness and the quiet and the waiting. I will admit that, as a technology and social media addict, I go through a bit of withdrawal after I turn off my cell phone. But, in some ways, disconnecting for a day feels liberating and almost rebellious. In today’s day and age of instant gratification and constant communication, it is feels strange to force myself to wait and give myself some time and space from the constant influx of information. Strange in an exhilarating kind of way.
One of the most difficult side effects of turning off is the forced time with my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. By removing distractions, sitting still, and clearing internal space, I can’t cover up a difficult situation or an uncomfortable feeling. But, I am slowly learning to become comfortable with my own discomfort in order to gain a certain depth of self-awareness and figure out how to work through, not around, problems.
As with any lifestyle change, support and accountability is crucial. By telling my husband, family, and friends about my personal shabbos/Sabbath day, they are able to support me in the activities that I do and do not wish to do that day and help me stick to my plan.
Although turning off for a full day has not been met without challenges, the benefits far outweigh the costs and it has been worth every ounce of effort. Knowing that, come weeks’ end, I will be able to mentally travel to my idyllic cabin in the woods makes the chaos of the remaining days more manageable and enjoyable.
Turning off and tuning in has opened up far more experiences and activities than it is eliminated during my brief respite. I have time to read on the back deck or a take a nap. I can have longer, more focused, conversations with my husband. I can toss around ideas for the new book I am working on. And I can marvel at a stunning sunset after a late-afternoon storm. Heck, I can even back a pie with fresh berries.
I’ll just have to make sure to buy the berries a day ahead of time.
How do you escape from the chaos? Do you celebrate the Sabbath, Shabbat, or other sacred or secular day of rest? If so, how?
The “Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone” series is now in its 4th month. Several people have expressed an interest in participating in the challenge along with me. As I said in the introductory post, this is more than just a personal project; this is a community project, as well. Stepping out of our comfort zone inherently involves a bit of discomfort (maybe even physical pain) so the support and encouragement of friends, family, and community are absolutely crucial. I am eager to hear about your experiences and am looking for anyone willing to share their thoughts either as a guest post or part of a future post. Please indicate your thoughts in the comments below or by sending me a private message. Thank you for your constant support.