I took my dog Josie Belle to the vet last week. I was worried about her. She seemed lethargic and excessively sleepy. And on our daily walks, she lagged two steps behind me; I had to cajole her along, her purple leash stretched out behind me.
Turns out, I’m as much a dog-o-chondriac as I am a hypochondriac. The vet said Josie’s healthy as a horse. Heart’s good, lungs are good, just needs to lose a few pounds. We call Josie “plush” around here, which is really a euphemism for “fat.” Now that she’s off the streets, has her own bed and her own comforter, two square meals and a Pup-Peroni or two, she’s living the good life…and is carrying the extra pounds to prove it.
But. I don’t think Josie’s plushness was the only reason behind last week’s lethargy. Brad and the boys were gone all week. They went to Minnesota for spring break (Minnesota Spring Break – an oxymoron, I know), and I stayed home with Josie to crank out another book proposal (more on that another day). Josie and I lived like two monks while Brad and the boys were gone. I have monkish tendencies anyway, and when I have the house to myself for six straight days, my natural monkishness goes into overdrive. Save one evening out with my girlfriends and dinner with my neighbors, I barely spoke to another human being the entire time my people were gone. Aside from our sluggish walks, Josie and I didn’t venture farther than the mailbox and the back patio.
The day after Brad and the boys returned, we took Josie for our standard evening walk. And you know what? She had noticeably more spunk. Turns out, I think our girl was depressed. She missed her people. She missed her community.
As a natural ambivert with a tendency toward monkishness, I forget sometimes how important my community is. I don’t know about you, but spending too much time by myself tends to feed my dragons. The more time I spend alone, the more I turn inward, and the more self-involved, daresay self-obsessed, I become. Suddenly all my fears and insecurities and neuroses are magnified. I can’t get out of my own head. And believe me, my head is not a pretty place to live. It’s all Pity Party in there.
Connecting with community encourages me to turn outward and away from myself and my pesky demons. I think this is one of the many reasons God gives us community. He definitely gives us community so that we can love our neighbors and serve others and put our faith into real-life, concrete practice. But I also think God gives us community simply because he knows our inclination toward self-absorption, our tendency to live inside our own dragony heads. And honestly, I think God loves us too much to let us spend too much time inside our own heads.
I enjoyed a beautifully quiet and productive week while Brad and the boys were in Minnesota. I ate Lean Cuisines every night, and the house stayed immaculate, and I washed a total of three dishes a day and the laundry basket filled up not at all. I also wrote an entire book proposal, including a 4,000-word sample chapter, in three days flat, and yo, I’m not going to lie, that made me feel like the James Patterson of Book Proposal Writing.
Yet the whole time, something was subtly amiss. I was restless and plagued by a low-level anxiety. The house was, frankly, creepily clean. The voices in my head grew louder and louder as the week went on, and they did not speak kindly to me. Maybe that’s what happened to Josie too. Maybe her dog voices yelled, “You’re not plush; plush is cute. You’re fat, fat, fat!” I don’t know; thankfully I’m not in her head, too, because being inside my own is party enough for me.
There’s a time and a place for stillness, for contemplation and quiet. But there’s also a time and a place for connecting with community too – and the best case scenario is a healthy balance of both, if you can achieve it (a rarity for me, I admit).
All I know is that when my people came home, and we resumed our frenetic, loud, caterwaully existence, and the doormat was cluttered with discarded sneakers, and I found myself clearing empty Goldfish bowls from the coffee table, and the laundry basket was filled to the brim with clothes that smelled like Minnesota cold, all was right in the world for Josie and me. We got out of our own heads and back to loving our people, and suddenly, we both had pep in our step again.
What about you? How do you do when you are away from your community? What’s it like inside your head?