New Year, Different Output?
It was one of those moments where everything stopped. The buzzing cars muted and the wind stopped whistling. All I could hear was my friend’s voice saying, “Life is all about the input-output ratio.”
It echoed in my brain for weeks.
For the past year, I’ve been in a continuous state of output. I hate saying I’ve been “busy” (because that’s what every other American says), but that’s precisely the truth. Yuck.
Maybe it’s because 2022 followed 2021, and 2021 followed 2020 – two years of nothingness, and then BAM! It was back to busy-ness as usual. (See what I did there?)
The juxtaposition of these pre-post pandemic realities were jarring. I couldn’t figure out why either since I like verbs: I prefer doing to “being”, yet every part of my 2022 soul clamored for less. I knew I didn’t want the kind of solitude of 2020 (please, God, not that!), but I was craving something else – a sort of post-war transcendence, if you will. A peace that existed within the hustle.
I know what you’re thinking…only God can give me that. And you’re right. Yet in order to access his peace I have to slow down long enough to receive it, right?
(Receive…what a dirty word, especially for a “doer”. It’s like the red light district I try to avoid...)
Thus I’ve prayed. I’ve also strategized and talked to others about how to find a calm within the frenzy, but nothing seemed to help…until my friend spoke.
Oddly enough she wasn’t even speaking to me. She was simply quoting a book she thought I’d find interesting. (No kidding.)
In that moment of cessation, I realized I’d been looking at all of the wrong symptoms – my job, kids’ schedules, lack of social time – when in reality I just needed more INPUT.
As an Enneagram Type 7 (The Enthusiast) introverting is hard. My energy naturally goes outward and I seek connection with people over almost anything. Most of the time I enjoy this part of my personality…until I don’t. I suppose this is why I go to “health” when I take on the best parts of an Enneagram Type 5 (The Investigator).
5s are input people. They eat, sleep, and breathe information. They have lists and categorize facts. They are usually (always?) introverted.
When I look back on my life, I've found the most balance when I prioritize interests like reading, knitting, or writing. I'm a high extrovert, though, so I only need about 20% of these input-activities to feel satiated, which is why I often overlook them, kind of like the peanuts on a sundae. (You don’t need them in order to enjoy the ice cream, but they definitely enhance the flavor. After all, who doesn’t like a good salty-sweet combo?!)
Clearly I need more peanuts. Maybe you need more ice cream. Either way, identifying the incongruence is the first step so we can then address the imbalance.
If you need more output, get around extroverts. (They’re always easy to find. 😉) Join a small group or volunteer at a local organization or school. If you need more input, go through John Mark Comer’s Sabbath guide. (This is what I’ll be doing.) Maybe even take 30 minutes in your day to go for a walk (alone) so you can absorb nature’s melodies and recharge.
I don’t know what your ratio needs to be but God does, so ask him!
In the end, the peace we seek won’t happen overnight. And it certainly won’t happen on a 7-day vacation or by getting a better planner for January 1. Real life is always around the corner flipping us the bird like an angry driver. If we can establish better ratios in real time, then we won't quit our jobs and become bee farmers. (If that's truly your life's passion, however, go for it!)
Therefore, keep learning about yourself. (Maybe take these personality tests to help you out: Enneagram and Myers Briggs.) Remember, different life stages require different input-output ratios, so you might find that what you need now is inconsistent to what you needed before.
Nevertheless, get strategic and create a plan for balance, one that will help you 365+ days a year, and not just in the month of January.