Community · Encouragement · Healing · wisdom

Why Shutting Down is Sometimes Necessary

Welcome to life in Texas!

When I moved to Texas to student teach in the late nineties, I was surprised at the cultural differences I did not anticipate. Coming from Illinois, I was used to life that was undergirded by grit, a strong work ethic, and resourcefulness. Among the alarm at seeing cars on car lots with license plates–the plate does not go with the car in Illinois, so I thought dealerships were selling stolen cars–I was also disturbed to see people selling wares on the side of the road. Where was the vendor’s license I know Illinois required?

The weather was another animal I could not wrap my head around. Driving in the rain felt similar to how Midwesterners drive when there is black ice. The slow down befuddled me, but when I had a second grader come to me to announce an incoming cold front, I was dumbfounded. When I pressed her for more information [and I had never heard a child talk about the weather], she told me how the temperature would be as low as 60 degrees the next day. When she [and the others] showed up in winter coats, gloves, and ear muffs, I struggled to contain my laughter. I am confident I went out to recess when the snow was up to my knees, and it was common knowledge that recycling bread bags as a sock protectors allowed you to remain outside for longer than in socks and boots alone. Oh what a different world I found myself in.

It took me a few seasons to understand this truth about what happens to Texas in inclement weather.

The world laughs at our “snow days” and ribs us for shutting down at the mention of any possibility of freezing rain or snow flurries. I expect the jabs and even laugh along because framed by the experiences of the rest of the world, our decision to shut down doesn’t make sense. And all my friends in cold climates said…AMEN!

When and why shutting down is necessary.

Here’s what we miss when we look at situations through our experiences and fail to consider another perspective. Understanding. In Illinois, we had all the necessary equipment to deal with inclement weather. From snow plows to salt trucks to work crews, the state was ready to respond to potentially dangerous conditions. With my limited experience, I assumed every state was equipped similarly. Oh, how wrong I was!

Texas does not have the same tools because we do not have the same needs. The days where weather mandates snow plows and salt trucks are limited. To have a big fleet to meet the needs for seven or eight days a year isn’t logical. Conversely, Illinois has weeks and weeks of snow and ice during the winter months. The tools they have match the situations they experience.

Texas has to shut down because we do not have the tools to keep our people from potentially hazardous road conditions–not because we are a bunch of wimps [although my family will tell you I no longer endure the cold weather like I once did]. After the encounter with my student, I started growing in understanding that led to compassion.

Shutting down in our lives.

Maybe you’ve been shamed for seasons when you had to shut down. I don’t know, but here is what I now understand. When we do not have the tools to deal with difficult emotions or experiences, it is reasonable to shut down by way of unplugging for a bit. Like Texas making the decision to keep inexperienced drivers off the road, sometimes not entering in is about our personal safety.

Dealing with hard things in life requires strength and ability. Extending understanding toward ourselves and others might be the soul salt we desperately need. Giving space and time is a wonderful gift that understands the need to acquire the proper tools to clear out the hazards.

Texas will be shut down for the next two days, but we won’t stay this way forever. May it also be so for us. When we find ourselves shutting down to provide a layer of protection, may we not stay in that space forever. Shutting down because you don’t have the tools to get through a situation is reasonable. However, it is also fair to say that pursuing an alternate path forward should follow an abbreviated time of shutting down.

Beware of remaining trapped in the pain of the past and miss the hope of the present.

The tools we might need.

If you have been shut down for longer than you anticipated, there are things you can do today to get back on the road of living.

  1. Reach out to a trusted friend to start the reconnection process.
  2. Sit with the Lord and ask for what you need.
  3. Listen to a podcast focused on providing tools. Here is one I am saturating myself in these days.
  4. Make a list of next steps to reach your goal of reentering life.
  5. Make an appointment with a therapist. You can also check out the online resource, Better Help, to find the right therapist.
  6. Read a resource book. My book, Broken Vessels, deals with our brokenness and invites the reader to reconsider long-held beliefs, but there are so many wonderful authors offering help. You might want to check out The Best of You by Dr. Allison Cook [see link in number three].
  7. Adopt a growth mindset. Sign up for a retreat or workshop to lift your gaze to the larger story. We are offering a Sowkind One-Day retreat in April through our nonprofit, and I would love to see you there.

Let our VERY TEXAN weather response teach us the value of paying attention to the tools in our toolboxes, extending understanding, and considering the other side of any story. This is compassionate and kind in all seasons.

Stay warm, friends!

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