"Let's see, I can fit you into my schedule next month." Yes, my neighbour actually said that to me. I smiled a little, since it was still early in the current month. Then I sighed inside. I used to be that person. Some seasons I still am, because friends are only in town at certain times and you make crazy work.
Summer is my losing-sanity season. I sweat at work for long summer days. I sweat on the hiking trail drinking in freshest mountain air. I sweat when I show visiting friends around town—somehow it's always sunny here when people want to amble downtown. I sweat most when someone asks me to get together—Um, no thanks. I'm physically exhausted, I can't people—is what my brain thinks. My mouth sometimes follows suit, declining as graciously as I can, or sometimes saying yes. I resent the event if I say yes and haven't had an evening or three for margin, so I try to learn the dance steps of balance.
Perhaps it is because Millennials crave experience that they1 are novice dancers of this balance. There is an intense fear of missing out on all kinds of experiences. If you don't believe me, try this: think of a time you were invited to an event you weren't too excited about attending. You decided not to go—then spent the entirety of an hour, or the evening, vacillating on whether or not you should have gone. Classic symptoms of the fear of missing out. It rears up in other forms, too. For example, always looking to what is coming next, rather than enjoying the present moment, day, or season. It is snowing? I wish it were summer. It is summer? It’s it far too hot to do anything. Too bad it's not autumn! And on it goes. Millennials or not, I think many of us wrestle with wanting something in the future, neglecting to enjoy what we have now. We're so afraid of missing what we might have that we, in essence, throw away what we do have.
After one particularly draining year and a very unbalanced summer, I began to purpose to miss out. Because Sundays were largely taken up with church and co-leading youth group, I began to make Saturdays my sabbath or solitude-day. Was it difficult to say no to events with friends on Saturdays? You bet. But, I needed a day not to have anything forcing me to be on schedule in some way. Even if I have a hike all planned out for a Saturday, alarm set for some golden hour of the morning, I am going because I want to and I know the drive and the hike will both recharge me. And if I don’t get up when the alarm sounds, it’s my own choice to sleep longer and hit the trail late. No one is going to call and ask where I am—you can’t “oversleep” if there is no timetable. I turn off my phone many Saturdays—one doesn’t always have to be available. I may write or reply to emails, not because I feel the pressure or demand to, but because I want to write. I will probably putter around my kitchen or do some housework, but I will also sit on my porch and watch the clouds sail along, turning all pink in the evening. I rest. I breathe. I perspire. I am inspired. All because I miss out.
By saying yes to a sabbath, I end up saying no to other things. However, I have learnt that missing out means having more depth and sanity in my life. Missing out often means I don't make room for shallow relationships. Staying to help a friend clean up after the party often leads to heart-to-heart conversations. Conversations that could not have happened during the ever-in-motion gathering. Missing out means hiking alone and praying—meditating on the things I haven't had enough thinking time in one stretch to ponder during the week. Missing out means some things get written that never would have, had I not purposed to be home a couple of evenings a week.
Missing out means I rarely get invited to social events anymore, so I stress less over how to say no. This is a relief, as I don't enjoy disappointing people. I no longer waver with guilt when I stay home from an event—especially if I never even knew the event was happening! I get invited to the important gatherings by the friends I know well—celebrations I want to say yes to anyway. I don't maintain too many surface friendships [acquaintanceships] when I get left off certain social lists. I have a lot of tea dates and let's-go-for-a-walk-and-talk dates with my friends. There are many small dinners in my even smaller cabin. I don't miss out on the conversations where we're laughing until we cry, and crying until someone offers a gentle look and the kleenex box.
I don't miss out too much, because I am learning to be present. Being present in the quiet evenings on my porch with a mug of tea. Present—just watching snow and silence swish down. Present in praying and looking and thinking and thanking on hiking trails, meeting friendly people and dogs as I go. Present in washing dishes with friends and in offering kleenex. Present in the laughter and the tears and the sane moments in between. Present to hear the ups and downs of the relationship all along, so that I can cry and squeal with delight when my friend calls to tell me she just got engaged. Present to the still, small voice, whispering through the pines, singing from the stars, holding out hope while I sit in the ashes, holding me up when I can't stand.
Miss out. Try it. Miss out on the surface stuff. Choose to have a solitude evening or day. Guard it—let me tell you, it is hard to guard my sabbath. Miss out sometimes on listening to music or podcasts or anything but the wind in the trees, just for an evening. Miss out on leaving one party for the next, so you can stay late to wash the dishes and talk. Miss out, so that you, too, can learn to be present.
- Though I technically fit in the Millennial bracket, the way I was raised—being born barely in the Millennial window, having much older siblings—places me in a different lifestyle than many of my peers.