My yoga teacher was telling us about breath. How important it is, bla bla bla. When people (cough yoga teachers cough) talk about breathing, I tend to zone out. Yes, I’ve managed to learn that skill by now, thanks.
But I’ve been learning just how important proper breathing is. Just how important it is to exhale into some poses, inhale into others. How important it is to connect with your breath, to focus on your breath, to make sure you’re breathing into certain areas of your body.
She was talking about exhaling all your air out, for your body will naturally fill itself back up. This struck me in the way that simple facts that you should already know can be completely and utterly mind blowing. I don’t like to exhale everything out, I don’t like to go that deep. I don’t like to give it all up. I feel much more in control when I keep some, just a little, tucked away for safe keeping. I’m a planner! This in my in-case-of-emergency air.
But its only when we fully release, that we fully fill back up.
There’s a natural ebb and flow to life that I love to manufacture. Breathing. Resting. Connecting. Joy. I like to schedule deep conversations, but the best ones happen organically. I like to decide who is going to be an important part of my life and who isn’t – but sometimes that choice isn’t up to us. I like to pre-determine what activities for the day are “productive” and what are going to be “restful” – but life is full of surprises.
I had a birthday bonus and a Christmas bonus sitting in my bank account. I was working a job I hated; each day I had to show up I felt my soul die a little more – I realize how dramatic that sounds, but it’s how dramatic it felt. But, sometimes jobs we hate have perks we like. Sometimes.
I was trying to figure out what to do with this extra cash. My natural inclination was to give it away – I hadn’t earned it. I hadn’t expected it. I hadn’t budgeted for it, so I wouldn’t miss it. Who could I give this to? What extravagant need could I fill in someone’s life, with little sacrifice from my own?
I was thinking and thinking about it, until I remembered to do what should always be my first plan of attack (and rarely is) – so I started praying about it. God, who needs this? God, who can I gift this to?
It felt like a joke when all I kept hearing from Him was, you.
I hate to make myself sound like some kind of saint who never spends money on herself. That isn’t true. But I have a hard time justifying extravagant purchases on my behalf. I’ve always been thrifty, so spending a lot of money in general always feels wrong. But spending money on myself – when all my basic needs are met, all my basic desires are fulfilled – can seem wasteful. I fully believe we are called to sacrifice on behalf of others, we belong to each other and we need to share the burden. So I donate money and I support causes and people I believe in and I try really hard to not be wasteful of the resources God has given me.
But what if He’s given them to me to spend on myself? What if the person who needs to experience Christ-like generosity from me is…. me?
In the most “spontaneous” moment of my life (as in I stressed about it for two weeks, spent hours researching flight paths, made a cost analysis breakdown spreadsheet) I booked a flight to Europe. Flying into Zurich; flying out of Munich 9 days later. Whaaaaaaat.
I set a budget for myself. I set aside money that, you know what? I’m allowed to spend on me. I then planned out very little and I didn’t do much research because for the first time I wanted to get on a plane and not have an itinerary waiting for me on the other side. I craved freedom and rest and the ability to decide, in the moment, what I wanted. More than that, the ability to trust myself to know what I want. To know what I need.
I spent a little less than two weeks in Europe. I spent three wonderful days catching up with a friend from college, and I spent seven glorious days completely alone. I read six books. I drank an insane amount of lattes. I walked through castles and hiked mountains and rode the train as much as possible. And I ate so. much. bread.
It was magical in all the ways people assume, but especially to me – for I was learning how to be generous with myself.
I’m learning to exhale in faith. Completely, fully, empty myself out. Sometimes on behalf of others – giving myself completely, no more holding back. Sometimes on behalf of myself – the health aspect, the necessary emptying.
I’m learning to inhale in faith. Inhaling and trusting that what I need will come. Inhaling and trusting that what I need will go where I need it to. Inhaling and trusting that whatever comes, whatever this new fresh breath will bring, it will be good. Somehow, some way, it will be good.
I’m learning to trust that when I exhale, there will be enough around me to eventually inhale. There’s enough sunshine to go around, I don’t need to be worried when someone else’s life seems a little brighter than mine. I’m learning to have faith that I will be taken care of when I’m focussed on Who is taking care of me – not clinging tightly to the mere oxygen provided.
Making time for myself feels selfish. Reserving part of my limited time, money, love just for me feels radical and strange and a little self absorbed …but also so very needed. I’m learning to see it as being generous. And if I believe I need to be generous with others, I should also believe I need to be generous with myself.
Sometimes God calls us to be generous with our time by giving it away. Sometimes God calls us to be generous with our time by keeping it to ourselves. Sometimes generosity looks like buying a friend’s meal, sending a gift card in the mail, watching a couple’s kids for the evening. And sometimes it looks like buying yourself a plane ticket to Europe.