I do have a basis for this.
Anyone who’s had exposure to the Gospels has heard “…and Jesus went to [insert some location here] by himself to pray” multiple times. He gathered energy for his Passion by praying in the Garden of Gethsemane away from the disciples. He spent 40 days in the wilderness by himself, for goodness’ sake.
I’m a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and I’ve almost finished my fourth and final year. And something that I have felt guilty for the entire way through is how few extracurriculars I have participated in. (I have done a couple.) Just about everyone I know is in multiple activities: household, ministry, sport, work-study job—all in addition to their classes, of course. They’re always so busy, rushing about from class to a meeting to commitment to class again to Mass to study group to an educational talk, putting on different retreats and social events, doing so much good for the world and growing in holiness and helping other people grow in holiness and finding God in so many different activities and places and do you people ever sit down and breathe??
It’s wonderful that they do all these things. I know it really helps them grow, and brings them closer to Christ, and makes a difference in others’ lives and the world. And I see this, I see how they really impact others and how they grow themselves, and I think Wow, I should do that! Why aren’t I a member of a household and doing a ministry and going to talks all the time instead of chilling in my room? I could do so much good!
And yeah, I could. But I would be miserable.
And even more importantly, I wouldn’t be functional.
I know this from experience. If I don’t get enough downtime, time to myself to process and recharge, I will become more a hindrance than a help to those around me. I will wear myself down to the point where I cannot despite all my good intentions focus on the task at hand and the smallest thing will cause me to burst into tears and everything inside me is screaming for me to run far away to somewhere with no light and no noise and no people. Everyone gets to this point eventually. But mine comes a lot sooner than most, I’ve found.
And so, in the past, I’d see all these people doing all their activities, on top of their schoolwork, and feel like there’s something wrong with me because I can’t handle as much as they could, as well as they could. And I’d hate myself for it. I’d feel weak and stupid and pathetic. I still do.
But I’m coming to understand that it’s okay.
The most important people in my life don’t care that I’m really not involved in very much outside my classes. They don’t mind that I’d really rather not go to the big social event tonight and would rather stay in with a few close friends and watch cartoons. And they don’t think any less of me because I go hide under my bed after a long day of class, or that I have an emotional breakdown because I haven’t had a moment alone all day and now my car won’t start.
I’ve also come to realize that I don’t need to be a part of some (or any) official group to do my part in the world. God knew what he was doing when he designed me; he knew all my strengths and all my weaknesses, and factored that in when He devised my role in all this crazy mess. I don’t need to help organize a retreat or run a food drive. That’s not where my talents are. But I can be there for someone to talk to, or help them study, or offer them a ride to an appointment, or clean their house, or make them a card and banana bread when they’re feeling overwhelmed. I’ve discovered that it’s more rewarding for me. It’s more personal. It’s what actually makes me feel that, Yes, I’m doing something to make a difference! I don’t get that feeling so much when I’m running a blood drive; I’m feeling more like, How soon can I leave and go hide under my bed?
I’m still coming to terms with the sheer amount of “me time” that I need, and I think I always will. Some part of me will always be insisting that I should be out there involving myself more, that I should be able to handle it just as well as everyone else seems to. But I won’t be able to give my best if I’m constantly overwhelmed and exhausted, and I can answer the Christian call to love in my own way.
And if even Jesus needed to retreat off by himself to recharge, then maybe it’s okay if I make that a priority in my life, too.
The author, my friend the Book Dragon, doesn’t wanna do the work today and is seriously considering reading science fiction in her lair instead. Except in the unlikely event that the sun comes out, in which case she might go roam a deserted countryside.