Self-Care, Sanctuaries, and Playgrounds
I like to fish. Fishing combines so many things I love. I love to search for things. I love to use well designed equipment. I love being outdoors. I love a surprises, and I love fish. They fascinate me. I love them so much I find it hard to keep them. I almost always catch and release. Some of my most cherished memories of my family and friends involve fishing.
When I find myself saying “I have to get away for a while.” My preferred “get away” is almost always fishing. Fishing is where I go to just be in the moment and have a good time. Fishing is were I lose all track of time. Fishing is my playground.
We all need “playgrounds.” I have heard that some people don’t like fishing and prefer other playgrounds like baseball, or playing guitar, or scrapbooking, or reading, or even running. Yes, some people run just for fun. Nothing is chasing them. No one is making them. They just get up at 5 AM and start running. Amazing!
Playgrounds are great. Play is important for people of all ages. Sometimes, all I need is a day on the lake and some hungry fish. However, sometimes I need a different kind of “get away.” Sometimes what I really need is not a playground but a “sanctuary.”
I often think I need a playground. I think to myself “I have got to get away.” I head to the lake, but part of me is not really there. I am fishing, I am catching fish, it is beautiful, but I am not enjoying it. Today, when this happens, I understand what is going on. But the first time it happened, it confused and even frightened me.
I had taken the day off. I knew I needed to take care of myself and get away. I was ready to have some fun, but I was not having fun and I could not figure out why. Fortunately, fishing is not like eating pizza, which I also love. If I had been eating pizza, I might have thought, “Well I must need to eat more pizza and then I will be happy!” But I could not fish any harder and the fish were biting and they were good sized. So, I did the unthinkable. On a beautiful day, with fish biting, I stopped fishing. I found a quiet and secluded place on the bank and I paid attention to what I was feeling. Only then did I realize that I was sad. I was not even sure why, but I cried for a while and soon I began to understand.
At the time, I was a local church pastor. Pastors and other care givers listen to many painful stories. We walk with people through some exceptionally sad experiences. Even today, I do this willingly and I feel good that I am able to be a part of God’s work of healing in the world. I have learned, in such moments, to be emotionally present and not become overwhelmed by other’s pain. However, this does not mean I am unaffected.
My pain in caring for a grieving parent, is no way near as intense as her or his grief, but neither is it insignificant. I hurt too, and that sadness stays with me. So, I need to get away, not to avoid that pain, but to acknowledge it, to respect it, and to feel it. When I am hurting in this way, no playground will ever be helpful to me. In these times, I do not need a playground, I need a sanctuary. need a safe place and sometimes even a safe person with whom I can feel all of the feelings that need to be felt and say all of the things that need to be said. Yes, big boys and girls do cry and yes, sometimes crying does make things better. Often, after a good cry I am ready to go fishing again.
Sanctuaries are safe places to cry. They are also safe places to doubt, dream, wonder, sing, be honest, and be vulnerable in any way in which our true selves are longing to be acknowledge, welcomed, and loved. Playgrounds are safe places to relax, play, and enjoy life, others, and ourselves just for the sake of being. Sometimes these different movements of the spirit happen in the same physical space, with the same trusted people, or even in the same activity. Sometimes the feelings may even be similar, but they are also unique experiences.
So, how are you today? hat do you need so that you can take care of yourself? top. Think. Feel. Do you need a sanctuary? Does something hurt? Do you need to wrestle with some big questions? Are you seeking a vision? Or, perhaps, you just need to be still and notice yourself and the world around you?
Perhaps you need a playground? Are you tired of pondering, performing, and producing? Have you been too long in seriousness and wrestling for the answers? Is it time to trust that right now you do not need an answer to that nagging questions and the world and the people you care about will be ok without you for a while. Perhaps it is time to just have fun, to fish, or paint, or play video games, or play guitar, or read, or sing karaoke in your pajamas using an ice cream cone as a microphone?. . . Yes, that is a thing.
Your partner in hope and healing.