Spiritual discipline

On being still

I'm not very apt at being still. I come by this through some combination of both nature and nurture. I remember my maternal grandmother who had six children and a farm to help run would move around doing extra jobs during mealtimes, only sitting down herself to hurriedly eat after most everyone else was finished. My mother fights with the same pattern herself when she has a houseful of her grown children visiting. And when she comes to visit me she reminds me not to do the same.

But I've had more space to just be these past weeks than I have had in years. I'm learning this being still and knowing we rarely (never?) practice in our culture. It's not valued in school, or work, or even in play once we are past toddler hood.

At first the discomfort is so strong I'm physically agitated. I feel the urge to play something with the kids, pick up a book, explore, take a picture. Check email I can't check - that urge is still plenty strong four weeks into no ability during the day to do so.

At home it would be read to the kids, fold laundry, feed someone, go somewhere, do some (paid) work, play a game, clean something, check email, do some volunteer work. Finish the next thing on my never ending list.

So I'm practicing forcing myself to leave the book, give the kids the freedom they naturally have to just be and take the photo with my eyes. Sit through the fifteen minutes that come easily and let it grow into a half hour or more. Watch the waves, or the kids or the sun shimmering over the water. Feel nature kiss my face.

And it's true what they say: the longer I do it the more I know that God is.

On being still

Sometimes you start writing not sure where you are heading

Sometimes you start writing not sure where you are heading, but you just need to put out there. That you are picking up laundry and emptying the never ending dishwasher loads and taking kids to the dentist. And how that is fine, it really is. But also how in December, when it is dark both when you wake up and when you exit the grocery store at 4:15, and when there are five totally overcast days to every one kind of sunny one, that it also isn't. It just isn't totally fine. And one of the kids is sick again, in our family where we hardly get sick, but this fall has been one sickness after another. Now I am my 87 year old grandmother because I am less than one paragraph in and writing about how sick someone is. I'm feeling tired at the thought of three more meals to be made and fed and cleaned up tomorrow and at how I will most certainly be up multiple times with someone who is sick tonight. And how it is too cold to swing outside and look at the stars with anyone who might wake up. Life in the 30's has been described by Madeleine L'Engle as 'the tired thirties' an idea which has much been explored and agreed with by following writers. To me, yes, I see it, I see the tired, I feel the tired. Us mom's with several small children, we all do I think, no matter how we balance this mothering gig with everything else we need to do. But I also feel there is something more, something lurking in these mid thirties, that could shadow slowly like octopus ink.

It can start with the daily monotony, with your own shortcomings, as another day passes with too much TV and too much bickering. Too much caffeine and too little sleep. Too much to do and too little time to do it. Too much work, too little results.

But that isn't where it really blots out the light.

It blots in the friend having a double mastectomy and chemotherapy with two little girls at home. In the news of another family who lost their own little love, gone way too soon. In the poverty and the mental health issues and in the babies who have no one who makes them their priority and in the excess. I could go on.

Because this is where the thirties trump the twenties every time. The world is wider and our worlds are more vulnerable and we just see more bad things happening.

The thirties can threaten to be a godless dark pit.

So I call my husband to say I have to do this, then I text a friend to come with me, or I don't. But either way I grab my running shoes and head to the track. Thank you sweet baby Jesus for the indoor track, because we have a lot of snow, and it gets dark early and it is very cold outside. And thank you for kindred spirits who like to run too. The talking about not much but anything you want, is one of the best kind of freedom. My feet take me around the track over and over, and I'm not a marathoner, I still can't run too far or too fast but with each step I feel lighter. So I do it again the next night. Because right now, this is what is saving me.