Be Still & Know

I am married to a TV guy. He literally works in video so his love of moving pictures comes as no shock. He even loves the news. And very large, very expensive televisions. I had to put my foot down with the 65″ hanging on our living room wall. [Sidenote: I just yelled downstairs to ask, “How big is our TV? 80″??” He responded, “No, 65. You wouldn’t let me get the 80-inch.” Exactly.]

With my husband’s interests (and the compromise that comes with marriage), we watch a fair amount of TV. Lately, we’ve taken to documentaries:

  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. Imagine taking your eyes off a dumpster fire – in that way that you just can’t. This documentary followed the planning (or lack thereof) stages of what was supposed to be the biggest, most exclusive, and most expensive social media influencer weekend of all time. And, also how it was an epic scam.
  • The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. I was fascinated watching Theranos founder and young entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes weave a story of deception so deep even she believed it. Bonus: She keeps blinking to a bare minimum – which was equally fascinating for me.
  • One Nation Under Stress. This sparked incredible conversation in our home and left me feeling that everyone should see it. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about despair deaths on the rise (suicide, drug overdose, liver cirrhosis) while comparing stress in humans and the animal kingdom. One example: zebras need stress when being chased by a predator. In that moment of fight or flight, stress will save the zebra’s life. Conversely, humans face that same stress every day (i.e., the “three months till tax time” anxiety) and it’s literally killing us.

I watched One Nation Under Stress during the height of one of our busiest work seasons. “When it rains, it pours,” my dad texted me. I always brush it off as a good problem to have, but some days it feels like I’m doing everything I can just to hold myself together.

Last Wednesday, the instructions were thick, the emails would not stop coming, my phone kept ringing, and for the next three days, it felt like someone had seized my left shoulder in a death grip.

[Cue Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure collab.]

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At the end of the day, I dragged my tired, aching body downstairs, feeling like I’d survived a war zone. My husband fired up the grill and I sat outside with him, cracking open a book. I had to laugh at the title. Perfect timing: Cultivating Calm and Stillness.

If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us. We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won’t be able to keep up. So we stay in front of the truth about how tired and scared and confused and overwhelmed we sometimes feel. Of course, the irony is that the thing that’s wearing us down is trying to stay out in front of feeling worn down. This is the self-perpetuating quality of anxiety. It feeds on itself. I often say that when they start having Twelve Step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums.
— Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

When I heard my internal voice louder than it’s ever been, my self-discovery concluded there are three things I need in order to function as Optimal Amanda – regardless of what the workplace requires:

While I fight to carve out time for these every day, creativity tends to take a backseat. Even this becomes a form of worry: “How will I fit everything in?!”

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I am reminded of my grandmother quoting Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know…” What I didn’t realize when I was younger was that the Hebrew command for ‘be still’ comes from the verb rapha which means to let go.

Imagine being in a safe, quiet space when a trusted friend tells you to let go. Even at the thought, my shoulders soften and my posture relaxes.

We live in a society that puts value on busy. It’s a trend with corporate management to cut staff budgets and load up what little employees they have left. My friends and I have a weekly conversation revolving around this. Every time, we have to remind each other that our worth is not dependent on performance.

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These busy days have prompted me to remember something my friend said when she worked in a break-neck environment for a popular condiment brand: We’re not curing cancer here. It’s just mayonnaise.

Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t there so much more to life than mayonnaise?

Let’s start to let go of the patterns of this world and concern ourselves with that.

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