Living a life of subtraction in a world of addition

One of the churches down the street from me has a special series for Advent: "Living a Life of Subtraction in a City of  Addition."  The title stuck with me.  It's a little bit cheeky, a little bit gimmicky, but it hits on something true, especially when it comes to DC culture and the holiday  season.

More is more.  Right?

We can work just a few more hours.  We can buy a few more presents for the acquaintance down the street or bake a few more cookies.  We can take on another project or activity or school event.  We can juggle better than most anyone we know.  If we are creative enough, we can fit it all in.

Uh, no.  I find at least for me, when I try to do it all, something always suffers.  I become a miserable person, I make copious mistakes, and I run myself down into the ground and end up needing even more downtime in the long run to recover.  I am appreciating more and more that my resources are finite.  Even if I have the free time, it does not mean that I have the free mental capacity or emotional energy.

This past weekend, for the Thanksgiving holiday, Dan and I drove to a cabin in the mountains in West Virginia.  I brought a few shirts and pants, the makings for our meals, a book, and that was about it.  We  planned to take many walks in the snow with our dog Gigi, cozy up by the fire, and watch back-to-back episodes of some of our favorite shows.  As it turns out, we could not receive an internet signal in our cabin, and our cell phones ran out of roaming data, so we truly were disconnected.  Even if we had wanted briefly to check our email or the news or the steps we took according to our Fitbits, we couldn't.  Our worlds were very, very small during our 48-hour stay, and when we returned to the hustle and bustle of DC, I felt recharged in a way that I had not in a long, long time.

Most of the time we cannot go between such extremes.  Sure, there are small things we can do each day to subtract, to step away, to create space for margin, freedom, peace, openness, nothingness--shutting off our cell phones at night, unplugging from email after 6pm, getting fresh air--but I know I can easily convince myself that breaking these healthy parameters is okay just this once, which of course inevitably becomes the rule not the exception.

That is why I crave and find the extreme getaways vital.  As much as there is a need to find how to incorporate rest and retreat into the everyday, sometimes we need larger chunks of space--space to breathe, space to think, space to be.  It only happens by getting away, by leaving behind the obligations that define the rhythm of our normal lives.

We all know the adage "less is more," which we seem usually to invoke when referring to decor or pieces of writing.  I'm not sure the saying is so apt in this case.  Less may simply be less--and that is okay.

Emily Rowell Brownmusings