Many years ago, I am sitting on the bench in front of Bob’s Bakery with my son Zach (Bob’s is our island Saturday morning gathering spot). We’re having Cinnamon Twists. They are decadently yummy, and make me forget my need to be useful. The bench is made from a trunk of an old downed tree, it’s seat now worn from years of time and use.
Zach and I watch the Vashon traffic–“traffic” in a poetic license sort of way–go by.
The breeze is gentle and the sun warm on our skin. And Zach, his mouth full of half a Twist, says, “Dad, this is the life.”
Some stories we need to tell and retell, a reminder to push the reset button. Zach’s wisdom came to mind reading the Washington Post this week, “From moms to medical doctors, burnout is everywhere these days” (by Jenny Rough).
Apparently, it’s going around, and you probably know someone plagued by it. This is no surprise in our 24-hour news barrage, social media FOMO (fear of missing out) world.
“Having a good time. Wish I was here.” Postcards from the Edge
The big three symptoms? Emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective. So yes, I’ve known burnout. And I’ll be darned if we don’t work to alleviate it with more distraction. In the words of TS Elliot, we are “Distracted from distractions by distractions.”
Like a pastor’s conference I attended, on Personal Renewal. An agenda crammed to the gills (6 am to 10 pm, I do not exaggerate), and at the end of the week we sat glassy eyed and lifeless, hoping for some reprieve from this weight of good intentions.
But Terry, you’ve got to concede that there is immense gratification making a check mark on the list. Maybe if I’m on top of things, (we tell ourselves going full Marie Kondo), the stress will evaporate.
However, this isn’t about tidiness or schedule, it’s about messages with toxic stickum that we internalize. (Don’t disappoint, what will they think, perfection is the goal, achieve…) The messages take root and we become willfully blind to the way they diminish us.
And here’s the wonderful irony. With every question about managing life, or finding balance, there is a knee jerk temptation to offer solutions–which always means adding something else to the to-do-list. In the end, it’s like the book, 99 Ways to Simplify My Life… because, apparently, one way is not enough. So it’s relentless. I found another book about the “Balance diet,” (you know, getting my life in order) but after one week on the Balance diet, I start to wonder how I’m doing, as if there’s a test. And if I fail, am I required to attend a workshop on Remedial Balanced Living? And I start to wonder about the benefit of the “balanced life” if I’m always looking over my shoulder, to see who’s impressed.
Ahhhh… the holy trinity of our culture: bigger, faster and more beautiful, all shaming slow living, and all implying that we should be living a different life, and not the one we are living now.
In the end, we live divided. And a divided life is a wounded life, and the soul keeps calling us to heal the wound. If we ignore that call, we find ourselves trying to numb our pain with an anesthetic of choice, be it overwork, consumerism, mindless media noise, substance abuse, or maybe a pastor’s conference on renewal.
The cultural gauntlet has been thrown down. Success is the only goal. We admire people who have “made it.”
Mother Teresa apparently didn’t get the memo. Think of it, she could have advertised the “fastest growing leper ministry.”
I see it now. What Jesus needed was a “Spin doctor.” Someone to talk with the press, to translate what he really meant when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “What Jesus meant was…”
Don’t we all get the nudge daily? Asked, “How are you? Are you keeping busy?” Inside we flinch, because it’s another way of asking, “Are you somebody?”
An organization recently asked for my bio, which is as good a hook as any, to hang our hat of value. I’ll admit to you that it gave me pause. Which takes me back to standing in front of the “success library” in a local bookstore, asking, what is missing? This is all a very toxic and dangerous sort of stew, and can only be dispelled by looking at the way dusk settles on the garden pond and Fred and Ethel, our Mallard tenants. As the garden absorbs the light of dusk, all the other stuff that clutters my mind, recedes. And I wonder, how do I put Zach’s delight with a Cinnamon Twist on a resume?
Here’s the deal: If I can stop the noise, then the fragrance of the garden after a spring rain, the joy of my son, and the quickening of the morning air, all tell me that I am living this life. This moment. This conversation. This event. And no longer need to focus on what is down the road, with its potential for some greater payoff.
If you need a list, you can borrow from Mary Oliver. Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
In the meantime, my patio chairs are out now. Let’s spend the afternoon. Let’s crank up Van Morrison or Roy Orbison, and let the afternoon light recede into the Fir trees. As the sun reaches the horizon, we feel the earth itself breathe in relief. We are absorbed in moments of grace. We find ourselves lost in (the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel) “radical amazement.”
This brings us back to the Sacrament of the Blessed Present. And to Sabbath. That’s when we allow the dust to settle. We allow the murky water to clear. And we make space for wonder and curiosity and gentleness and tenderness and compassion and empathy and awe. And healing.
Our greetings to one another can be an invitation to “pause,” even for a moment. This week, instead of the expected, “How are you doing?” someone asked me, “Have you tasted the breeze yet today?” It still makes me smile
Every Spring solstice, my mood is upgraded. The sun beckons me. Let’s just call it medication to prevent burnout. It’s garden time, to wander and tidy and dream. And your heart knows; this is the life. Grounded. Here. Now.
Our new word for the week; Allemansrätten, the Swedish right to roam the countryside, guaranteed by their constitution. Not bad.
It’s National Book Week. This week for me, Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan and A Time to Live by Robert Raines.
Quote for your week…
Each day I am reborn. Each day I must begin again. For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner. It is not a mechanical routine but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house. But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day is something new, fantastic, unbelievable. —Pablo Casals (at age 93)
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Today’s photo credit — Borrowed from Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm Journal, Cambridge, NY… grateful for your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Join me this Spring… link for information
April 26 – 28 – Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Shrine Mont Retreat, VA
May 7 — Blooming with Boomers, Seattle, WA
May 18 – St. Brenden Church, San Francisco, CA
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Terry, I am reading through the first eCourse lesson and just finished reading the fourth question about the lens of the new phrases… and as I read the phrase “Sacrament of the present” I looked up to see the “Alpen glow” on the Continental Divide out my window. It took my breath away ! I’m in Fraser, Colorado at our home in the mountains️. So I say , Thank You!” Back to reading with a warm glow in my heart! Karen
–Thank you Terry, for this eCourse gift. It has grounded me this Lenten season and reminded me of the many ways God has gifted me through others and has allowed me to gift others. Your Sacred Necessities have been a gift for me! May your Holy Week be touched with wonder! Patti
–YOU are hitting the nail RIGHT on the head! Oh my goodness–De Chardin! Love love this posting! May the Spirit keep inspiring you! This such joy! Debbie
–Life is much better with Sabbath Moment and you, Terry! Diane
–Thank you! I got the download. Also, I am listening to a CD I purchased at the Congress and love your words of wisdom and wonderful sense of humor. May God continue to enlighten and guide the good work that you do! Grace
–Dear Terry, You life has made a difference to me and my life. I know I am only one person but I know I am one of the thousands you have touched and changed for the better. Your gift and the reminder to let our lights shine, spreads joy to places you will never know. I try to carry my light as I go through my life and lately I have experienced several moments when people I encounter thanked me for sharing my joy with them, even if it with a simple smile. These experiences bring more joy not only to those people who may share their joy with others but expands my own joy so now I have more to give. Thank for for the gift of freedom to empty my teacup to let in more joy and the power to let that joy spill over. God bless you Terry! Yvonne
–Pssst… if you’re not waking up on a Monday morning to Sabbath Moments, well… you are really missing out! Fern
–Just found my books I’ve carried with me for 24 years! Intimacy and Go Away Come Closer! Decided to look you up! These books are amazing… thank you! Brande
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars. Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands and clearings, with nature? They are gazing at God’s windows. Milan Kundera
The ground turns green. A drum begins.
Commentaries on the heart arrive in seven volumes.
The pen puts its head down.
to give a dark sweetness to the page.
Planets go wherever they want,
Venus sways near the North Star.
The moon holds on to Leo.
The host who has no self is here.
We look into each other’s eyes.
A child is still a child
even after it has learned the alphabet
Solomon lifts his morning cup to the mountains.
Sit down in his pavilion
and don’t listen to bickering.
Be silent as we absorb the spring.
Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.
In this spirit, let us pray:
For health and healing,
for labor and rest,
for the ever-renewed beauty of earth and sky,
for thoughts of truth and justice which stir us from our ease and move us to acts of goodness,
and for the contemplation of life which fills us with hope that what is good and lovely cannot perish.
The New Union Prayer Book