My wife just told me I’m being really negative lately. What?! I don’t see it. At least, I hadn’t seen it until she pointed it out. All along I was just being practical, informational, helpful even, or so I thought. But, she’s right. Lately, I haven’t seen the world as a happy, hopeful place. I’ve sort of lost the ability to dream and hope and believe into the future. I’ve become “realistic”, concrete, and short-sighted — negative. It’s like I can only see two feet in front of me. The rest is a blur. So, I’ve reacted with this cautious, controlling, less hopeful approach. It’s not how I want to live.
This isn’t an excuse, but I just feel so busy. (I know, who doesn’t feel busy these days, am I right?!) I don’t feel like I have time to process. It’s weird, because I have spare minutes. I watch TV. I listen to podcasts. I sleep 7 hours each night. But, something is going on. Calling myself “busy” doesn’t really describe it. We’re all ‘busy’, but we’re not all ‘negative’. Maybe another word fits — words like Distracted. Anxious. Cluttered. Hurried. Yup.
This is deeper than just my busy calendar. My mind is cluttered. And deeper still, my heart is distracted, disengaged. My life is crammed with unfinished “to do” lists and projects, unmet goals, unsolved problems, unfulfilled expectations, unresolved relationship issues – the list seems endless. My wife feels the effect. Heck, I feel the effect. I’m missing out on important things. I’m half present. I’m half listening. I’m scattered in twenty different places. Everyone and everything gets only a piece of me.
My wife’s words were like a glass of cold water to the face. I needed it. Awareness and acknowledgement are powerful friends, if only I’m willing take the time to know them. And like any relationship, I must put time aside for them.
I should have recognized the signs sooner. In my last job, I was a computer ‘fix-it’ guy. People would come to me saying, “My computer isn’t working right! It’s running really slow. Things are crashing.” And my job was to find the answer and fix it. Most of the time the solution was actually pretty simple, and I’d ask, “When is the last time you rebooted?”
A Metaphor for Life.
Computers need to be restarted (i.e., ‘rebooted‘). Regularly. They need to power down every once in a while. The process is simple – click a button and turn off the computer. Allow it to rest. Then turn it back on. This action allows the operating system to clear the memory, erase the junk files, and fully close old programs that are running in the background. Without a reboot a computer will start running slower and slower, glitching, frustrating its user, and will eventually crash all together.
People are like this, too. We need to clear our memory, erase junk files, and start fresh. We need to ‘reboot’.
Funny thing is – at work those people who asked for my computer help couldn’t believe the simplicity of my answer. How could a reboot fix anything?! So, they tried other things and avoided rebooting at all costs. They didn’t like the delay of a reboot. It’s inconvenient. It takes time and slows them down. They were busy, “in the middle of important things“, they’d tell me. “They’ll get to it“, they just “don’t have time right now“, they’d say. Ironically, their problems were caused in the first place by the very thing they were avoiding to do. And so, instead of rebooting, they’d click the “Hibernate” button instead, just put it to sleep, but never turn it off.
After a while we begin to feel the effects of never turning ‘off’. The programs, data files and memory storage never reset – they begin to get cluttered up. Little-by-little, like hair in a bathtub drain, the neglect begins to take its toll and the computer gets slower and slower, less and less efficient, start glitching, and we lose important work or worse, experience a full crash.
This sounds just like what’s been happening to me. I’ve been avoiding a reboot. And I’m feeling the effect. I’m not the me I want to be. I’m not the me I want to offer to others.
I live much of my life like those computer users. I have a busy day and I just try to hibernate my life — put everything on hold and hope it magically gets better. I put off my busyness and problems, hoping everything will be better when I startup the next day. But, when I awake, it’s all still there. My brain picks up right where I left off the day before – every trouble and stress and task and problem is up-and-running, staring me in the face. Each day I feel slower, busier, more and more cluttered. I load more and more, which turns into partial accomplishments, I’m partially engaged in conversations, partially enjoying life. I don’t make time to think and feel. I notice I’m reacting. I’m snapping at people. I’m half-present. Distracted. I just don’t have the bandwidth for it all. I feel like a kid that’s just swallowed an ice cream cone in a single bite — missing the point. Missing the flavor. Missing the joy of it.
I’ve gone for too long without a reboot. Where are my moments of stillness? When was the last time I felt actual joy? The bible says “Taste and see that the lord is good.” Heck, when was the last time I even looked at the menu? I’ve been gambling, hoping glitches and crashes won’t occur. But they are occurring. And, I’m tired of being negative. I’m ready to find peace and joy again.
Am I alone in this? Have you felt the distraction? The pace? The weight of the clutter? Felt out-of-breath? Hungry at a soul-level?
I have to ask myself, “When was the last time I rebooted”?
When was the last time I took a few minutes to just pause? A “reboot” begins here — with a PAUSE. And that pause triggers a bunch of stuff to happen in the background. I need a moment or two of stillness. Stillness, and a simple prayer offered with my clenched hands opened to clear out all the clutter in my system.
So, that’s what I’m going to do — Pause. As a starting point for my reboot (and as a sort of personal experiment) I’m going to take 5 minutes in the AM, 5 minutes at lunch, and 5 minutes in the evening and just be still. I’m going to pull into my parking spot at work and pause. I’m going to pull into my garage when I get home and pause. I’m going to sit in the bathroom and pause. Maybe I’ll step outside and stand there. No processing. No reviewing the day. No prayers (except for maybe a simple request, “Father, I give you this sacred moment. Help me be still and know you.” **) (I like to imagine myself in a place with no distractions: In a desert, or on a raft floating in the open ocean, or sometimes I’ll sit in a dark room with only a candle burning.)
I’m going to clear my head and my heart.
UPDATE: I wrestled with this experiment. But, I had two really great moments I can share with you.
First, I pulled into my work parking lot the other day, ready to rush into another busy day like always, and my “5-minute” reboot came to mind. So, I turned off the car, and instead of rushing in, I set a timer on my phone for 5-minutes. Then, I closed my eyes and sat there. Just sat in my car. And I cleared my heart and mind. I noticed afterward (the fact I “noticed” something, by the way, was a great result all by itself), I noticed my pace as I walked toward the building — it was slower, lighter, more at peace.
Then a day or two later I had a second “reboot” moment. After a long, exhausting day at work, I just wanted to turn on the TV and hibernate my brain. I picked up the TV remote in my hand, and I heard God ask me, “Would you be willing to trust me with 15 minutes? Just 15 minutes. I’ll make it worth your while.” I admit, I hesitated. Deliberated. But, I did it. I gave him 15 minutes. And He kept his word.
He always does. If only I can remember to reboot more often.
Learning to reboot more regularly,
If this article stirred something and you want more — here’s a few other stories you might want to check out.
- No Shame in Stillness
- Space to Breathe Again
- What a Few Minutes of Quiet Can Do
- Waking Up Again To The Point Of It All
- HESITATING TO BELIEVE? MAYBE ITS TIME TO TAKE A WALK
- Something is Sucking the Awesomeness Out Of Your Life
** I like the way Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know I am God”) is stated in The Message (MSG) version…
“See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth. . . Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
How kind it is to be invited to clear out the clutter of our everyday lives and start again with renewed perspective.