Monday was the first day of the school year. As much as I love hanging out with my boys – really, they become more fun to hang out with all the time – I do love the rhythm of the school year.
The bus for my 2 youngest comes just before seven, so I was out of bed at 5:30am because I had prepped from-scratch cinnamon rolls late Sunday night and had to get up early to start the oven. I spent some time on my deck trying to meditate, quiet my brain that seems full of negativity right now, and just be still for a time. And then, after we got the boys out the door, I came back from a brutal interval run to savor the first empty, quiet house I’ve experienced since my Sabbatical began.
Every year on this day, I celebrate. And, honestly, it’s not because I’m glad to get my kids out of my hair, but, rather, because I love the structure that the school year provides. I find myself more disciplined, more focused, more productive in all areas of life when I’m forced to get up in the morning, when I have a reason to put my pajamas away, when I’m driven to get kids to bed at a decent time. All of those things lead to a better version of me.
Oh, I like summer too. I like unfettered. I like sleeping in. I like staying up late and flexible bed times. But somehow in the summer I tend to put on weight, neglect my creative pursuits, forsake spiritual exercises and often slip into bad self talk.
And so, at the dawn of a new school year, here are some of the rhythms I’m working on:
Sleep – I’m a night owl by nature. Give me time off work and I’ll quickly drift into staying up late and sleeping in. But the school year forces me to get myself out of bed and moving in the morning, which leads to me being more tired at night. It’s a virtuous cycle. I’ve become more aware over the last couple years of how critical sleep is to my well being.
Work – I’ve learned that I’m most productive between about 10am and 2pm every day. So, with the kids now in school, I’m getting up, helping with the breakfast, lunch, and getting them out the door routine, getting my run out of the way, and then settling down at my computer for a couple of hours to write.
Exercise – I’m training for a half marathon which is giving me a structure for running. It’s a fairly aggressive training plan, running 5 days a week. Last week I ran just over 42 miles (and did a 42-mile bike ride also). I’ve lost about 13 pounds since I finished building the house, and I’m hoping to lose at least 13 more over the next 10 weeks. That’s a pretty big goal, but I have the time to give myself to exercise, so I’m going to give it a shot.Mental/Emotional Health – I wrote a post a couple months ago about steps I was taking towards good mental/emotional health. And while I’m on hiatus from pastoring for a couple months, a lot of the same stuff applies.
Spiritual – As I mentioned above, I’m trying to sit quietly to start my day before the rest of the house wakes up. Like I said I’m not really a “morning person,” but if I wait until nighttime, I’m woefully undisciplined and will choose to watch TV or read a novel. So, even though it’s difficult, it’s a better rhythm for me to sit out on my deck early.
Relational – I’ve said before that I’m a raging extrovert, and I know from talking to some of you that I’ve given off the impression that I always want to be at a party. But – especially as I get older – that’s not nearly as true as it used to be. I’m still a raging extrovert, but what I crave is depth and intimacy with others. Jennifer and I are most happy when we are having real conversations with people, when we feel like we’re being vulnerable and people are being vulnerable with us. And those kinds of relationships take time, energy, discipline and sacrifice.
I heard someone say recently, talking about punk bands, that when the drummer is off, you know it immediately in a way that you don’t notice as quickly or dramatically with the other instruments. I think about these rhythms in my life much the same. When I get “off” in these areas, it quickly spirals into other areas.
What about you? With the school year beginning, what are the rhythms you need to put back in place? What do you have the opportunity and structure to do now that you couldn’t do all summer? What are the things you’ve done in the past that worked and you need to do again? What new rhythms do you need to try out?