Monday, March 09, 2020

My Messy Magnificent Life

Leonard says I need to chill. "Be like me. Totally relaxed." 

I screwed up at church last week, on the first Sunday of Lent, and then I screwed up some more, but a little less, this past Sunday, the second Sunday of Lent.
They weren't big mistakes, just mistakes of inattention, of rushing, of doing too much.
Lent is a season of contemplation, of taking a good, hard look at ourselves to see what's out of alignment with our values, of doing some serious strolling through the "wilderness" or the "desert" areas of our life -- those uncontrollable and untamed spaces we usually avoid because there are truths there we don't want to face or deal with.

My wilderness, apparently, is falling into the trap of "juggling too much". That's how I put it when I explained to the congregation my very wrong choice of scripture last week. In my defense, doing The Alphabet of Faith is a narrative style of preaching; the topic comes first then the appropriate scriptures are chosen. I had a phrase to search for, but I don't just like to do a line or two of scripture; I think there needs to be more provided for context.
Well, hearing one of the scriptures I chose spoken out loud in church was horrifying! It was one of those passages that people use to exclude women from leadership roles, to oppress them in relationships with men, and to generally diminish them in every way. All I wanted was the line about "made in the likeness of God".
Big oops.

So I took a good, hard look at myself, and the way I'm living these days, to see how I could have made that mistake, and I realized I'm doing too much. I'm rushing my church work in order to get writing work done, in order to get back to the book, in order to get those books read for that order to...

Inhale slowly.
Exhale slowly.
Do it again.

Here's the thing: March came in like a lion for me. The first two weeks of this month are madly busy, busier than I've ever been (how is that possible for a lazy writer like me?!). It's like I stepped outside the door and said, "Wow, there's the month of March coming and there's hardly anything to do in it. I'll be able to focus on my church work and do some creative writing."
And then,
A big snowbank slid off the roof and landed on top of me. Just like in the cartoons! There I was, my big head sticking out of the top of the snowbank, buried in all the work of March.
I don't feel

Now, where were we?
First of all, I sent off my manuscript to my "early version reader" and didn't expect it to be returned until after Easter. It was back three days later. She loved it; no major problems, no rewrite needed. But now I want to get to work on it; I feel I should be working on it. Yet there is all this other work to be done -- a two-day workshop in Halifax to attend, an interview to transcribe and an article to write (I didn't even have time to post a story about getting to snuggle a day-old baby goat), weekly church work, an essay to write and submit, an Order of Nova Scotia nomination to put together (which is really important to me), a box of books to read for an awards program, and I should be substitute teaching...

Truth: You didn't expect to be working on that manuscript until the end of April, maybe even May, so forget about it for now.
Truth: You are looking forward to the workshop.
Truth: You have been waiting to write that article about your friend for seven years (!), and it was great to get to visit with her even if you had to drive 500 kilometres.
Truth: You feel out of your comfort zone with the church work but you are good at writing those messages.
Truth: You are missing your ordinary, messy, wonderful, lovely little life.

In her wonderfully-titled book, This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide to Mind, Body and Soul, Geneen Roth talks about those three a.m. worry-fests, and says once she realized she could just get out of bed and "meet up with friends", she started going outside and looking up at the night sky.
Wait, what? Why didn't I think of that? I mean, that's what I do: I look up at the stars.

This is what happens when you get "too busy" and you are "juggling too much" -- you stop doing what you normally, ordinarily do. You stop stopping. You stop looking up. You stop breathing.
"After so many years of many practices, I have only one left," Roth wrote. "Let me remember to pay attention to the ordinary, not just to the extraordinary."

So today, as I worked on the next church service, I thought of my ordinary and lovely, supportive and encouraging and forgiving congregation who take me in every week even though I'm utterly out of my comfort zone.
And this week, as I'm in Halifax for the workshop, I'm going to focus on the ordinary moments of light and breath, of listening and responding No, just listening -- I'm just going to BE present for two days and not feel the need or the want to say anything. I'm going to absorb and think, but not speak.
I'm going to sit and breathe. I'm going to stand up and breathe. I'm going to look at the water, I'm going to look at the sidewalk, I'm going to look at the sky -- even though it will be cloudy.

And after that, when I get home and get back to work, I'm going to slow down. I'm going to stop rushing. I'm going to try a practice that Geneen Roth picked up from author Eckhart Tolle: Stop complaining.
I automatically want to say "I don't complain. I'm a very positive person" but I'll bet when I become aware of what I am about to say, that a lot of what comes out of my mouth is some kind of complaint. Including, "I'm so busy."
Not complaining, just noticing.
Every ordinary thing. 

My house is messier than my life, and my life is full of magnificent love and laughter and warm hugs, and I'm fortunate and blessed by the people who uphold me, and I have this cat who flops around, absorbing all the sunshine into that hot, white, furry body of his. Every time I look at him, I think, "Gosh, if only I could learn to relax like that."
So the next time Leonard rolls over on his back and closes his eyes, I'm going to lie on the floor with him and soak up the sunshine for five minutes. for as long as I want.

I rushed right by this window and didn't even notice the icicles -- or the sky.
Mother pointed them out.

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