Mornings around our house are hectic. Even though I get our lunches ready before bed, have our french press clean and ready to go, and I have my things ready to head out the door, I have such difficulty divorcing myself from my bed every day that I am always leaving myself just enough time to get everything together before we get out the door. Ayron and I carpool to work three days a week. It helps me to keep regular studio hours, saves on gas, and it is really nice having that time with one another immediately before and after a workday.
If even one thing gets done out of order in my crazy morning dash, I’m prone to forget something, and I can’t turn around because Ayron has to be to work at a certain time. Sometimes it is my breakfast. Sometimes it is my whole lunch, forgotten on the counter. Yesterday it was my phone.
Five years ago if I had forgotten my phone at home, it would be an inconvenience, but you wouldn’t find me going out of my way to go back and get it. Back then it didn’t have my business on it. It didn’t have internet and Instagram and Etsy and clients I felt obligated to respond to within an hour or two. I wasn’t shackled to it then the way I feel like I am shackled to it now. There are so many things that having a tiny computer in my hand has done to make me a more efficient businessperson, to give me inspiration and information at my fingertips. I have also found inspiration and community and opportunities on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. But there are other things having that tiny computer has done to me, too, that I have been turning over and over again in my brain for the past few months.
When it comes to hours spent on my phone, I’m not generally a mindless scroller or game-player. I am more often reading and trying to learn new things. I’m filling my brain with inspiration, ideas, and new questions to answer. But it is exhausting, and because of the brain chemistry involved with phones, it is addicting. My brain literally leaks dopamine every time I even hear or see a notification. Each time I wake it up out of sleep, my brain takes a sizeable hit of dopamine – the same amount as a smoker taking that first puff of their cigarette. So it doesn’t matter that I’m “using my phone for a good reason,” my brain is still reacting to it the same way as if I were just scrolling Facebook. I still look up, having missed moments in the real world, sometimes not even knowing where I am. I still fight the urge to check it when I’m driving, and I spend energy wondering where it is if it isn’t in plain sight. I am in this weird place right now of knowing these things but not actually wanting to change my behavior. There is probably a psychological word for this place – the place where a smoker treads water, realizing that this thing they treasure could give them cancer, but “no, I don’t want to quit, I love it too much.” I love the convenience of it, the possibility of it, the feelings of power that come with it.
I have been bone tired the past couple of weeks, drained by my wonderful work and going at full speed ahead without any really intentional or fulfilling rest. Sometimes I think I have mistaken painting about God and actively working for resting in God. I don’t like to rest. Rest is scary – I might lose momentum or miss something important on my to-do list, right? Often when I set myself up for rest–to go to bed early with a great book in hand, to sit down for intentional prayer, to take a hot bath and just be–I catch myself with phone in hand an a half-hour I can’t get back, and I am no more rested.
So yesterday morning when I realized I didn’t have my phone, I got really angry. I was so mad I was going to have to waste an hour going home to get my phone. I knew I needed it for Instagram, for messaging, for my business. No, this post is not about me taking a day of intentional rest, cut off from the internet, bravely leaving my phone at home. In many was I wish that is what I could write here. It would sound so much better! Instead, I drove home to get it. But on the way, I realized I had an opportunity to break my workday up and get something done I have been wanting do to for a couple of weeks. So instead of being mad about my lost hour of driving, dashing in the door, grabbing my phone, and heading out again, I sat down at my kitchen table and planted seeds for my garden.
When my hands are in the dirt and I am gardening, I lose hours. I lose hours in thought, in asking questions about God, about who I am, about the world. I am not staring at a screen, but dreaming about possibility. I am not searching for inspiration through someone’s beautiful photos, living vicariously through their curated moments – I find myself firmly situated in the midst of a promise that God has made, in a moment he carved out for me. I find my mind drifting to James 5:7-8:
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient.
This is the verse Brahms chose for one of his sweetest moments of comfort amid the paint of reality in his requiem. I think about what it is for the farmer to wait for the right time to plant. In the waiting, he can be consumed by anxieties: what if it is two weeks later than last year? What if the early rains don’t come? What if, what if, what if? How often am I living in what ifs? And then once the early rains come (Praise God for the promotion, the opportunity, the door to walk through!) and we sow the seeds, there are the late anxieties that can plague us. What if something goes wrong? What if I screw it up? What if God doesn’t come through for me? But no, James says, be patient. The late rains will come, and the crop will flourish.
It’s amazing the kinds of things that run through our minds when we keep our hands busy and let our minds wander. He puts things in our hands and minds and folds our arms in so we can carry them into our hearts. I can rarely do that with a phone in my hand.
For me, gardening is a hobby. Gardening helps me to rest and recharge. It gives me time to think about God and his promises and my shortcomings. I am grateful I forgot my phone at home yesterday so I could put seeds in the little pellets, in the earth-lined egg cartons. They are each a mini-promise, a visual reminder of something coming out of nothing, flourishing despite us, and making its way into us to nourish us.
And my workday? I got into the studio three hours later than planned. But I finished three paintings for my upcoming show, because the time constraint helped me to focus. I was rested, inspired, and filled with ideas. I guess rest will do that.