Today was busy! I know for some it was a holiday but my schedule was stuffed! The day started early and it felt like a sprint to the end of it. I don’t mind busy days most of the time because it keeps the time moving and there’s no boredom to fight off.
On the other hand, my wife had a holiday. Today is Martin Luther King day and she was able to sleep in, keep her PJs on and enjoy a wonderful day of doing nothing, purposefully. She’s been incredibly busy since November of last year and a day home, without me!, and zilch on her schedule was what she needed.
There is a thin line between balancing a healthy life or action and inaction. Our chaotic world and its need for non-stop entertainment, to-do lists, places to go, things to experience, can set a pace where eventually we burn out, fall apart, or both. We need to know when to stop, take our foot off the gas and be still; not just emotionally and mentally but physically.
Knowing, sensing, its time for a break, a rest, a lazy day is an important sense to develop and put into practice.
Today has been a quiet day, save a few thunderclouds which have threatened rain. The word “Sabbath” is defined as; “a weekly religious observance by Jews and Christians. A day of abstinence from work” and since I’ve done nothing today I think I’ve met the requirement of this command.
It’s amazing how many days we work. I’m not referring to just our “normal” jobs but also the additional duties we take on, extra curricula activities we participate in, chores, responsibilities and the mundane tasks required of everyday living.
To have a day in which nothing is attempted let alone accomplished is a rare joy in our busy world. We can almost feel guilty for not breaking one of the ten commandments, for following the (religious) law. However, this is what we are supposed to do; rest, sleep, breathe, receive the blessing of the Sabbath and be thankful.
grace and peace,
Enjoyment and Loss –
A clump of faded feathers is all that’s left of a once majestic and beautiful sight.
Several months ago Beth came home from work and told me about two Peacocks she had seen a few miles up the road from us. She described them as “gorgeous” and “amazing“. I had never seen the birds so we hopped in the truck and went to the spot where they had been but there was no sign of them. Several times over the preceding months she spotted them but I was never able to catch even a glimpse.
Then a couple of weeks ago I spied something in the middle of the road. As I got closer my heart sank because I could tell by the color and size of the feathers that one of the peacocks had been hit by a vehicle. The ugliness of the sight was in stark contrast to the beautiful feathers scattered everywhere. When I arrived at the house I asked Beth if she had seen the downed bird. She hadn’t and I had to break the news to her.
We live in a world where nothing lasts. Even those things which seem permanent are slowly being worn away by time. The highest mountain will one day be laid low, the largest boulder ground into dust. Transience, change, gain, and loss; all part of the experience we call life.
Wisdom teaches us to take nothing for granted because all is vapor and smoke. This truth is not to discourage us from investing ourselves in the enjoyment of life in the present moment but to stop us from clinging to what cannot and will not last. To embrace the blessing of each moment while also letting it go is difficult and the key to acceptance and freedom.
After All this Time–
Late yesterday afternoon I was worn out from working on an outdoor project and Beth was painting a section of our porch. Sitting down in an outdoor chair I knew my working part of the day was done. Beth and I were only ten feet or so away from each other and we started talking. For almost two hours we had a conversation about important and not important topics. We listened to each other, asked questions, learned and laughed. Finally, the sun was setting and we ended our talk to get ready to go inside.
I’ve thought about our long, slow, wonderful conversation several times since yesterday. Beth and I started dating when we were freshman in college. We were together every minute we could be but still couldn’t get enough of each other. Most evenings we would say our goodbyes, give one another a little sugar and head back to our dorm rooms. Then, we would call each other and talk for hours into the night.
This year we celebrated twenty-six years being married. Lots of things have changed and those two teenagers had no idea what life would give and take away. Saturday evening was this intimate moment when the two young, naïve souls of a boy and girl intersected with the souls of a middle-aged couple still enjoying one another’s presence after all this time.
The Mask –
One of the most difficult truths about mental illnesses is knowing you have no control over when and where your’s will show itself. This morning mine decided to visit just before going to church. I felt; “edgy” and distracted thoughts swirled around in my head. When I got to church the mask of; “everything is OK, nothing to see here, pleasantries for everyone” was put on before I walked in the doors and stayed before, during and after service. Like a duck on a pond, smiles and easiness on top, churning and just trying to stay afloat beneath the surface.
Having a severe anxiety disorder and clinical, chronic depression often means wearing masks. You know what’s socially acceptable, what won’t make other people uneasy, what keeps everyone balanced. You understand that when someone asks; “How are you?” You can’t unload on the unexpecting. It’s not fair to them.
So, the mask goes on, you say; “Hi.”, shake a hand, exchange a few banal words which don’t require follow-up conversation, and move on. About 3/4 through the service I noticed my arms, legs were crossed and I was hunched over a little. I thought to myself; “You’re trying to become as small as possible to avoid being seen, judged, called on, noticed.” Not that any of these things were going to happen but your emotions in the midst of an anxiety episode can be a powerful motivator. I was this way the rest of the service and when it was over I exited, wishing for invisibility.
This isn’t an isolated incident. Severe anxiety is one of many mental illnesses people live with, some more successful than others. It’s part of our lives similar to anyone with a chronic disease. You do your best to enjoy the better days, endure the hard ones and hope the meds, therapy, hobbies and other treatments prescribed mean that one day the mask is no longer wanted or needed.
Earlier today I was standing in a shopping line waiting for an available cashier. I was lost in thought when someone said in a loud voice; “Hey baby!” Snapped back into reality I watched an elderly woman walk to another shopper ahead of me and give her a big hug. They spent a few moments catching up; sharing lots of laughs and a little bit of gossip. I smiled to see two people revel in each other’s friendship.
After being checked out I reflected on how connecting with people can brighten our days and lives. To see one who loves us, cares, genuinely wants our best makes walking life’s path easier and certainly more enjoyable.