I know from bitter experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands. When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greed, and too foolish, to surrender it to God. — Kathleen Norris in The Quotidian Mysteries
Right now, a bevy of sparrows, juncos, and one female bluejay are perched on the ancient apple tree outside the dining room window. A dove has just lofted itself to the walnut from its feast on the goat’s discarded hay. I expect soon a cardinal and her mate will join them to celebrate Philip’s gift of fresh seed in this frozen March beginning.
I could watch these beauties all day – their tittering, their hopping, the way the bluejay studies me through the glass. In fact, I expect that the healthiest wisest thing I could do with today would be just that – to watch.
I am in a conscious time of braking, pushing in that pedal, pulling the Jake Brake on my life, which feels far too often now that it is barreling out of control toward a cliff. My only recurring nightmare as an adult is that I will drive myself and everyone I love off a precipice into a rocky death.
I’m learning to let my yes be yes and my no be no, but I’m also learning to say no more. A lot more. In fact, I think I’m going with “no” as my default answer for the next few months. I need to flip my impulse from “bring more in” to “keep more out. Or maybe what I need to be doing is saying “yes” to myself, to the deepest calling on my life.
Ed Cyzewski’s new book Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together has landed on my Kindle at just the right moment (and by the way, you can pre-order it for $.99 right now at the link above.) Ed has reminded me of what I once knew – that I need time to pray, to think, to write. For the past months, I have given that time away far too often.
Here’s how I know I’ve made my life too full:
- I feel anxious all the time. Anxious about all I have to do. Anxious about money. Anxious about relationships. Anxious about whether Mosey will get bloat. Anxiety is a symptom of too much doing, not enough thinking in my life.
- I never feel like I have enough time. I like to do things well, to be sure they are right. But of late, I’m rushing just to get things done, not taking my time to do them well.
- I resent people when they ask me for things. Rather than simply saying, “No, I’m not available.” or looking at my calendar to schedule those requests in for later, I push my frustration onto the person asking. That’s not fair or kind.
- I am aching to sit and sew. Quite truly, I wake every morning with a desire to simply sit with thread or yarn in hand for hours. I read the posts of people in crochet groups who are finishing project after project, and I am jealous. Jealousy is a sign that I am not giving myself to the things I need in this moment.
I need to find my way back to prayer, to quiet contemplation, to the aching silence that I love so much in Thomas Merton’s work. I need that silence and space in my day for my own health, but I also need it for my writing. Writing is not something quick – or at least the writing I want to do is not. I want my writing to be steeped and rich, dug deep from the truth, hard-won in a world where noise and constant “inputs” are the norm.
I need more quiet in my life. As Kathleen Norris says, “No small part of the process of writing is the lifting up into consciousness of what has long remained in the basement, hidden, underground, as in a tomb.” For me to write the truth as I see it, for me to find what is hidden, I have to have time to walk around in the dark a bit, my fingers outstretched, searching.
Fumbling in the shadows for the truth is not quick work.
I’m not sure what this turn to the shadows of NO will mean for me. More writing. More reading. More quiet time washing eggs in the sink. Definitely. Less social media. Fewer projects. More offline time. Probably.
Here, though, I will be. With words. With myself. And with all of you beautiful people who join me in this quiet soft space.
How are you these days? Feeling good and full? Or feeling anxious and stuffed? I’d love to hear.