This summer I began writing on a life-long interest, survival and resiliency, only to discover that my friend Penny Freeman was doing the same. Here are her thoughts:

I am learning about resiliency for my new life stage (sixth decade of life, fourth decade of marriage, having less energy, a weaker body, and grandchildren who expand my heart and my desire to run until I am dead).  Resiliency fascinates me because I am staring down a lifelong illusion that someday I might catch up enough to have earned REAL rest.

Let me confess: I am a recovering “fixer.” I have a tiny overreaction to life’s difficulties and changes—I spiral into angry/depressed/anxious responses and withdraw from the people I love.  I burn out at least three times a year. This reaction isn’t pretty or resilient.

There—I said it in print. I am a recovering fixer. The more I am aware of my lifelong knee-jerk reactions, the more I seek out what others do to live biblically within their God-given limitations.  Sabbath rest is a commandment I had neglected and now need to obey. I was recently challenged by NY Times bestselling author Barbara Brown Taylor, who asks, “What is saving your life currently, and what is killing your life?”

I am weary of feeling as if my soul is sunburned (her metaphor, not mine). Although I attend corporate worship most Sundays, I chose to observe a Sabbath this week by staying home to read, journal, consider these questions, and practice silence. My soul really needed solitude (which is life giving to me). However, I had to quiet my inner critic, who was telling me what I should be doing.

When I asked myself what was life killing versus life giving, the results stunned me:

First, my “life killing” list was three times longer than my “life giving” list.  It disturbs me that I am acquainted intimately with things that burn my soul, and that they seem to be habits.  Things like “keeping my house clean enough’” (whatever is enough?). Always working (in my office, on my home, or even unloading the never-empty dishwasher). Never having enough solitude to yearn for connection with people (admittedly, this is a problem for a counselor surrounded by extroverted family members).

Secondly, I put laughter on my life-giving list. I seem to laugh less despite three grandkids’ funny antics. This really concerns me.  Who wants to be two years old and under (my grandkids’s ages) and look into the face of a distraught, harried Nanny? I almost threw up in my mouth when I remembered that’s what my mom always looked like. I forgave her immediately because I now understand the slave driver she submitted to.

I realized I am often compassion fatigued. My heart wants to care about others and give my presence to each person I am with, but I daily feel the “too much sun” experience that reminds me I am recovering from soul burn. I still think if I do my Christian life correctly (pray, read the Bible and repent daily of sin) I will do all things well. I recognized I am hyper-focused on being Omni-competent.  How long have I felt as if God needs an assistant?

Finally, I began asking myself one of our principal Parakaleo questions: “What gospel tool do I need to apply to my heart today that will bring me freedom in Christ?”

Oh, that we would often practice what we teach.

What would your list look like?