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Welcome to Nourish, a newsletter to help you be kinder to yourself and others. I'm Erin Strybis, a writer/editor, registered yoga instructor, bookworm and steadfast believer in grace and gratitude. In this issue find resources about rest, ideas for your summer bucket list, reading recommendations and more!

Dear reader,

You do a lot of thinking underwater. Namely, it’s quiet here. Why is it so quiet? It’s so quiet I can actually hear myself think. Also, why are my thoughts so LOUD?

It’s August 2019. Sunlight shimmers across an Olympic-length outdoor pool as I glide up and down my lap lane. In a few days I’ll begin a three-month sabbatical from work, a perk I earned after six years of service. Right now, I should be resting, enjoying my exercise, but all I can think of is work. There’s much to do before I go: Plans to outline. Assignments to make. Freelance articles to file. What is Jack doing at home right now? Is he OK with his dad? We’re running low on snacks. I need to get groceries. Oh my goodness, did I remember to lock my car?

I’m not sure this is a good thing, my thoughts keeping pace with me like an unwanted lane partner. I want to turn them off and focus on my stroke.

As I swim, I consider why it’s hard for me to rest. Both of my parents worked growing up, sometimes in more than one job, and often on Sundays. After I turned 16, I worked every summer through college. Now I'm a mom juggling full-time and freelance work and caring for my family. Each day, I struggle to relax until every task on my to-do list is complete.

In fact, it wasn't until I filed a freelance piece about burnout for moms that I realized something: I was the target audience for that piece. Underneath the facade of success, my mental health was breaking down, and I struggled to be present with my family.

Tucking my head, I somersault underwater, twist my torso and press my feet against the edge of the pool, blasting off toward the other side with my arms straight ahead of me. My life has become thoroughly unbalanced, I think. This sabbatical is my chance to change that. To change myself. 

I let my body fall into a rhythm of kick, pull, sip, kick, pull, sip. Underwater, there’s no deadlines to meet, no duties to fulfill, no tasks to check off. Moving forward, I start to shed each errant worry and embrace what I know. 

Truthfully, I find a lot of my worth in my job. But I’m not just a worker bee. I’m also a wife, mom, sister and daughter. I’m a friend, neighbor, citizen and believer. As a baby, I was baptized with water and welcomed into God’s family not of my own accord but through grace. Deep down I know that true love from God and others isn't contingent on how well I behave or how much work I complete. Furthermore, my faith teaches that rest, like love, is a gift we don't have to earn. In the creation narrative, even God rested. Yet, how often have I denied the gifts of love and rest, thinking I must work to be deemed worthy?

It takes several hundred meters, but swimming finally becomes a moving meditation. I come to the end of my thoughts and release my worries. I trust in my body, my breath, these waters, this moment. In a few days, I’ll surrender my title for a season and learn to rest better in God’s love. It will be hard. It will also transform me. And when I pause to grip the pool's edge and take a breather, I'm met by a new revelation. Maybe embracing rest is actually practicing faith. 

Nourish yourself

UNPLUG: As a writer/editor, I’m often tethered to my screens, so when I first heard of “tech Shabbat,” I was fascinated by the concept. Here’s how it works: from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, you and your family disconnect from all your devices — phones, computers, tablets, television. Explained Tiffany Shlain in this podcast episode, “it’s an analog day. And it’s a day of joy and family and eating good food and doing all the things we love to do and really a lot of inward thinking.” Shlainis covers tech Shabbat in detail in her book 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week. This summer, I hope to integrate this ritual into my weeks. Try it with me?

REST WELL: I joined my friend, writer Lindsay Swoboda on season two, episode two of her Choosing Brave podcast (!) to discuss the “how” of rest. In this episode, I tell the story of my sabbatical trip to Holden Village, Lindsay shares her story of a "forced sabbatical" and we both offer learnings from those experiences. We also break down the "how" of rest, including what keeps us from rest, ideas for rest and how to claim the rest you need without guilt.

As part of our conversation, I shared: "Rest is the pause that we take when we stop pouring out for others and fill up our own cup. It is essential. Rest is waiting for you, you don’t have to earn it. You are worthy of rest right now, today, in this present moment." Listen here.

LEARN: June 1 marked the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. I’m ashamed to tell you that I didn’t learn of this devastating day in American history until last year. Survivor Viola Fletcher’s May 19 testimony before a House Judiciary Subcommittee is powerful and moving and I commend it to you if you haven't already watched it. "I am 107-years-old and I have never ... seen justice. I pray that one day I will,” she said. “I have been blessed with a long life and have seen the best and the worst of this country. I think about the terror inflicted upon Black people in this country every day." May we work together toward justice, reparations and a reality in which Black Americans (and thus, all Americans) flourish without fear.

NOSH: It’s picnic and barbecue season, and I’m already dreaming of a couple tasty treats I want to share with my crew: This fruit pizza is easy to make and delicious. Switch it up and create personal fruit pizzas by baking the dough as cookies (rather than one large crust) and decorating accordingly. I have my eye on this fresh seven-layer salad from the Pioneer Woman that pairs well with fried chicken or a veggie burger. In a hurry? I recommend this vegan taco salad kit, these delish (healthy-ish!) cookies that taste like birthday cake or carving up ripe watermelon. Try a sprinkle of salt on your slice for extra flavor!

Nourish others

SUMMER FUN: These are the days of cloudless skies and drippy popsicles, children’s laughter and bubbles in the breeze, pool parties and backyard barbecues, vacations and abundant sunshine. These long summer days are meant to be cherished. How will you spend them? With your household or friend group, make a list of the top ten things you’d like to do together this summer. Our bucket list includes traveling to visit our grandmas, regular trips to Lake Michigan's shores, a zoo outing with Jack’s cousin, backyard fun with our friends and neighbors, plenty of rest, and swim lessons for Jack.

TIPS: I so appreciated this helpful, interactive primer from The New York Times on how to gracefully navigate conversations with others who would prefer not to be vaccinated. It includes both research and empathy-based conversational prompts that you can use to expand others' viewpoints.

PRIDE MONTH: This June, take time to learn the history of and celebrate the gifts of the LGBTQIA+ community. This helpful article suggests those looking to practice allyship should “Hear, read, and watch the diverse stories of LGBTQIA+ people. Ask the queer people in your life how they’re doing and what they need.” You can also donate time and/or money to supportive organizations like GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project. Christians may appreciate this article by Pastor Emmy Kegler about affirming and including people of all sexual orientations and gender identities at church. My congregation belongs to the Reconciling in Christ network, and we continue to pray for a time in which everyone can feel safe expressing who they are and who they love. If you identify as LGBTQIA+, may you know that you were fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a blessing to us, and God loves you dearly. 

REMEMBER DADS: Father’s Day is a wonderful time to thank the fathers and father-figures in your life. However, for some, it can be as bittersweet a day as Mother’s Day. Whether your relationship with your father is fractured, you long to become a father, you’re grieving a child or father, and more, please know that it’s OK to have complicated feelings about this holiday. What’s more, if you know a loved one who struggles with this day, one of the most powerful things you can do is to offer them your undivided attention. Listen to them share their story without interrupting or offering advice — simply hold space.

Nourishing words

Recent books I read and loved:

  • Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan is both a touching portrait of young adulthood and a tribute to the unseen work mothers do. I’ll be returning to many of the scenes in this book again.

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo instantly transported me into the heroine’s world and moved me to tears. This inventive, evocative young adult novel is entirely comprised of poems!

  • Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith is a captivating story from another era that delighted me in its relatability. It's a great read for mother-writers.

This past month, I published on my blog an ekphrastic poem about artist Dale Chuhily’s stunning “Glasshouse” in Seattle. I was also honored that Coffee + Crumbs reposted a sonnet I wrote capturing my son’s continued fascination with babies, and my typical response.

I continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land. In the midst of the recent egregious violence, Naomi Shihab Nye shared an excerpt from her poem “Cross the Sea” that spoke to me. Additionally, I’m still thinking about this blog post on the conflict by fellow Exhale Creativity writer Asma Ahmad.

In other notable reads, I adored this essay about aging by Ashlee Gadd. I also related to and admired this essay about change by Mary Laura Philpott: “So much of life — creating, parenting, aging — is getting used to one phase just in time for it to end, then stumbling forward to the next one. A new stage may feel exciting at the same time it feels unsteady. Like flying, but also like falling. Like exposure. But when it’s time, it’s time. You can’t go back.

I, too, wrote about grappling with anxiety in this moment of transition. “Reentry — into social commitments, long-term plans and the wild, wide world — rattles me. Standing on my doorstep, however, I can release my need for control and receive the gifts of healing waters. I can trust in the One who makes it rain." Read the rest on Instagram.

Finally, I know it’s a weird time for some of us with body image as we come out of our COVID-19 caves and return to more active lifestyles. My body’s changed, so I wrote a note of gratitude to it that honors our complex relationship:

"Yesterday morning I took her for a walk in the neighborhood. The sun was out, and whirligigs sprinkled down from the Maple trees, twirling lazily in the sunshine, scattering across the pavement like confetti. She can twirl too, this soft, strong, aging body of mine. She still runs on occasion — mostly after her son. She is still afraid of everything and nothing. She isn't done changing. Not even close. I wonder what she'll do next?”

Finally, thank you to everyone who entered the one-year anniversary giveaway for Nourish! I’m deeply grateful to you for celebrating with and supporting me. The winner of my prize pack was reader Amy McCullough.

This month and beyond, I hope you’ll make room for rest and play. I hope you’ll nourish your soul, and in return, nourish others. I hope you’ll walk slowly, live boldly and love generously.
Until next time,


P.S., If you liked this newsletter, would you consider forwarding it to a friend? If you received it from a friend, you may subscribe here. Look for your next issue of Nourish in early July!
"Love yourself.
Then forget it.
Then, love the world."
—Mary Oliver
Copyright © 2021 Erin Strybis, All rights reserved.

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