Sanctuary for My Soul

Soul Work

Life is busy these days. There are seasons where I don’t have much margin in my life. I don’t know about you, but when I am pushing my margins, I have nights where I sleep in fits and starts. My mind races and builds lists of the things I need to accomplish, jumping from topic to topic or thinking through the current issues I am wrestling with. When I am in this place, I see this as a flashing warning light on my body’s dashboard telling me it’s time for some maintenance or I am going to crash and burn. It means I’m feeling stress to the max in my body as my mind creates scenarios that result in even more stress.

When I am at this point Michelle, the person I love the most in this world, usually pays the price for my condition. I tend to withdraw and go inside my head. I don’t share how I am feeling as often. I tend to think about decisions that need to be made without communicating at all when my mind is made up. I am short, sarcastic or I speak with contempt. It is an unintended consequence of me not taking time for good emotional self-care. In the moment it is difficult for me to see how important it is for me to take care of myself because the people around me ultimately pay the price of my unkindness.

One of my favorite places to go for soul repair is the Chicago Art Institute, which is in the backyard of where we currently live. It is a sanctuary for my soul. I enjoy going before it is open to the public and it is as quite as a library. I can wander and spend time in almost solace with some of the most amazing art in the world. Two of my favorite paintings are there and they are starkly different in their style. Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper is an amazing piece of work that uses light and shadow. It speaks to my soul and reminds me of my shadow, the parts of me I hide, repress, and deny. Part of my shadow is feeling all alone, a feeling that I must perform to be seen and loved. It reminds me how I must see my shadow and keep it in front of me, or I react in ways that hurt those I love with words and actions, or lack of words and actions, that I will regret. I hurt myself by living emotionally disconnected and shutdown. As I stand and take in the image, I slow my breathing down, taking long breathes, feeling my body release tension, release the stress I am holding, and experience a sense of peace.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat is a massive painting showing families relaxing, playing, and enjoying the day. It is full of brilliant dots of color and vibrance. It fills my soul with joy and delight. It communicates rest and play, both of which I crave when I am pushing my margins. I can get lost in this piece of art and lose track of time, gazing at the people living at a different pace in their lives. It creates hope in my soul for time where I can relax and play with the people I love. It’s a reminder for me that I am made for more than just getting things done and accomplishing the goals I set or the work I must complete. I am also made to just be present in the moment and enjoy life with family and friends. Slowing down and taking time for myself refuels my soul so I can be a better man for everyone in my life.

I encourage you to take time for good self-care when you are pushing the margins in your life. Where do you go to feed your soul and step away from the busyness and chaos of your world?

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