I grind my teeth at night. So much so that my teeth are cracking. I had a root canal last week.
We just returned from a beach vacation. I did not grind my teeth during the trip. The burdens of the days lessened to the point that there was no need for my mind to subconsciously grate the stressors into oblivion at night. How do I bottle up this state of mind? (And save my teeth).
There are disciplines I embraced on vacation that I don't put into my everyday practice back home. Can these be captured and reproduced at home? Or, are they like taffy or boardwalk fries and only fully experienced with the backdrop of an ocean? I believe these truths brought relaxation on vacation and subsequent less teeth grinding:
Find your tribe - I enjoyed my morning run most days of vacation. I was often on the boardwalk early, with countless other runners. It was a community, all of us running off the baggage. I ran past a lot of runner's in Eagles gear and wondered when they jumped on the bandwagon or if they were lifelong followers. I was able to see them as fellow sports fans, humans running with a purpose - rather than simply stereotypical Philly fans, throwing batteries at the opposition and booing Santa Claus. My son's running coach says that we run because we can, because today we've been blessed by God to have strong legs and healthy bodies. So we run. And under the rising sun over the surf, we were a community of people running - simply because we can. Common people of purpose. I believe God's hard-wired us to be in community, with Him, with others.
Listen more - We recently listened to a talk by author John Lynch about depression. He said one of the best ways to help someone is to just listen. Not fix. Not make it about you. Just listen. I have weaknesses in listening. I have can offer a potential solution often before the issue is fully divulged. We discussed a wide array of topics during the trip. Irritable bowel syndrome? Declining church attendance? I had answers. (These are seemingly unrelated, but I also had an answer for how, in fact, they may be related after all). Need to lose a few pounds? I had an answer. And then, I stopped answering. Instead, I listened. And asked questions. I looked into the eyes of the other runners and wondered about their story. I called the waitress by name with a smile, asking her about her day. The focus shifting from self to others. I believe God listens to us - silently at times, always with great attention. And I believe we are to become more like Him.
Cheat (when it's OK to go off-script) - I agreed to join my wife on the Keto eating plan (I don't believe diets are to be called diets anymore). I'm typically not a dieter, or, eating plan changer, but she had me at, "you can eat all of the butter and bacon you'd like." I won't detail the 30-day journey here, but there were many great benefits to the plan. And, I lost 6 pounds heading into vacation. However, I selectively and increasingly cheated during vacation and gained back a chunk of the weight I had lost. And I am OK with that. Life isn't always either/or. It's a lot of both/and. I've spent many years agonizing over my career, my parenting, my marriage, my friendships, my theology, my calories, my miles, my past, my future - hoping I've chosen the right one and frantically searching for options I may have missed. Similarly, I have trouble trusting the lady inside my GPS. I tell her where I want to go. She maps my path.. Yet, I always have this underlying tension that she's wrong. That I won't get to the appropriate destination. I guess my point is that it's OK to take a wrong turn. And, perhaps even enjoy finding a new route.
Less screens, more surf - We watched more surf than screens throughout the week. I checked worked emails once a day. My iPhone battery lasted the entire week. (I can't remember that last time it lasted a full day)! We didn't just slow the screen consumption, we abandoned it for periods of time. The result? The team at work handled things. Problems were solved and new challenges arose that will be solved. The business of business continued. God continued His work as well. He didn't have to wait for me to get back online. (Who knew)? Like other addictions, screen overload numbs your senses. As I withdrew from the screens, my senses heightened. I noticed the sound of the birds waking the day and the green grass of the dunes bright against the tone of the sand. The blue of my wife's eyes and the freckles on my son's face drawn out by the sun. The flags waved by the ocean's breeze. Technology is important and good and useful - when it's under our control. I can hear God, the morning birds, the surf, and the sound of my children's heart (and consider how they're all interwoven) more clearly when it's quiet, my mind freed from a scrolling feed of emails, texts, and twitter.
Be in community with God, with others. Listen to them - really, listen. Give yourself enough grace to not be perfect all of the time. Shut off the buzz of busyness. These are the things I want to bottle up, bring home, and sip from each morning. A toast to the freedom found in the salt life.