Do you have any relatives that make you wonder about the gene pool in your family tree? Well, Uncle George was exasperating and difficult. Looking after him was stressful, taxing and thankless. Driving to the funeral of Uncle George, the young man let loose with pent-up emotion.
“Thank God,” he blurts to his wife. “I suppose I’m sorry he died, but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think I could have stood one more day with that annoying and dizzying man. I’ve had enough. And I’m telling you that the only reason I gave so much time and energy to your Uncle George was because of my love for you!”
“My Uncle George,” she says flabbergasted. “My Uncle George? I thought he was your Uncle George!”
It seems to be our diversion these days, to collect Uncle Georges. The perfect metaphor for any fret, disquiet, apprehension, anxiety or fear that is elevated to the level of urgent consternation. So, Uncle George consumes us. And we wonder why, especially given that he’s not even our uncle.
“Martha, Martha!” Jesus said (I’m guessing with empathy and concern) in Luke’s Gospel, “You worry and fuss about a lot of things.” As in, Martha, this’ll eat you alive if you’re not careful…
Which means there is a shift: I am now worrying about stuff I can do nothing about. And I give the better part of my attention, energy and time to non-essential matters.
And yet. For all our objections to the contrary, we collect worries like we collect all our stuff… there’s always room for one more. It seems to take care of something. I know I like to use Uncle George to let you know how important, or busy, or indispensable I am. It’s still about control.
The blend of worry and fuss is a pickle, because it gums up the system. Stops the flow. Worry, from an Anglo-Saxon word “to strangle” or “to choke.” As if literally cutting off the air supply that allows us to breathe emotionally and spiritually.
It’s not just the accumulation of Uncle George(s), it is that we have become untethered and susceptible. So, we feel at the mercy of—whether it be exhaustion, public opinion, the need to pacify or please, the need to impress, fear or embarrassment.
Well, here’s the deal: preoccupied with Uncle George, I am quite literally, not myself. Pulled in many directions, I am of two minds (at least). Numb, I am not really available for the people I love. Because I have no bandwidth for things that matter to the heart, gladness, desire, intention, compassion and wholehearted fire. This is not to say that we can’t engage in activities, or service, or work. However, work that is fueled by a need to be needed, or need to prove value is too consuming, leaving no time for rejuvenation, or prayer, or delight, or the quiet work of the Spirit.
So. What to do? As if we don’t feel bad enough, some opt for the willpower-on-steroids approach, “Just cut it out!!” That lasts for a half hour or so, about the same amount of time I can give up serious dark chocolate.
Others opt for techno-cure. Our paper had an article promoting “Hot gadgets to chill on vacation.” Who knew? To think I can’t replenish unless I have the proper equipment. (Although, maybe they have a devise to help me remember all the stuff I forgot to worry about.) The bottom line? With Uncle George we lose heart. When this happened to Jesus’ friends, (“because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat,” The Gospel of Mark), Jesus–mercifully–didn’t preach or lecture or lead a prayer or offer a gadget. The story says, immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he sent the crowds away. “Come with me by yourselves,” Jesus told them, “to a quiet place and get some rest.”
It’s not about creating a life absent of stress.
It’s about being present, even in the hectic.
In other words, it is in the rest, the refueling, the “be-ing,” the sanctuary to refocus on essential matters, which allows us to let go, to be present, even in the busy, the noise, the demands, the lists.
My friend tells the story about a Nativity play at his parish. Mary and Joseph show up at the inn, hoping for lodging. The little girl, playing the innkeeper, has only one line, “No room.” But she apparently isn’t beholden to the script. She opens the door (of the inn), looks at Mary and Joseph, and then looks out at the priest. She looks back at Mary and Joseph, and then looks out at her parents. She looks at Mary and Joseph and says, “Oh well, you might as well come on in for a drink.”
Now we’re talking. We need the freedom (wisdom) of that little girl… the spontaneity and joy and compassion and gladness that comes from not being beholden to worry.
Gabrielle Roth reminds us that in many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
I love that he / she didn’t ask, “When are you going to quit worrying?”
Several years ago, in a true winter blizzard, my son Zach and I needed to take the afternoon ferry from Seattle to our island. I was cold and ornery. Zach is shuffling along in the snow, past a cluster of waiting commuters huddled together for warmth. They reminded me of a waddle of penguins, huddled and somber. Zach is kicking snow, oblivious to the downside of this weather or this moment. He is repeating, over and over, “This is soooo great. This is soooo great.”
Here’s the good news. We simplify our lives (hit the reset button) not by theory, or a 7-step-program for life management. We simplify when we pause a spell.
When we pause, we SEE.
When we pause we find our own voice.
When we pause, we take the power back from Uncle George.
When we pause we can practice the sacrament of the blessed present.
Rilke once wrote of how he learned to stand “more seeingly” in front of certain paintings. And that’s what I want. To live this moment more “seeingly.”
Know this. Every one of these “more seeingly” moments is a deposit to our spiritual and emotional well-being, a deposit of joyfulness, enchantment, gladness, awe, delight, peacefulness, investment.
Vashon’s Garden Club held their annual plant sale yesterday. It’s a religious event here, replete with fervor and believers and people eager for transformation. The garden will do that to you. So I spent some time just soaking up the zest from glad hearts. And the sun didn’t hurt.
Watched the rain inundated Kentucky Derby, this year titled, “what a horse race looks like in Seattle.”
I’m on the patio tonight, talking with Fred and Ethel, the mallard pair that claim our pond every spring and summer. They don’t mention Uncle George. I like that about them.
Quote for your week…
I want to know if joy, curiosity, struggle, and compassion bubble up in a person’s life. I’m interested in being fully alive. Alan Jones
POEMS AND PRAYERS
I Meant to do My Work Today
I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?
Richard Le Gallienne
A Sunday Prayer for Our Times
May I Walk Gently Through the World…
Whenever I fail, I remember that I am as imperfect
as any other human being on earth.
Everyone has it harder than me,
and has harder battles to fight.
Every day, my soul flinches,
at the hatred, cruelty,
and rage around me.
Every day, I bow to the real miracle,
walking gently and peacefully through the world.
The world has music for those
it is a gift to dream and drink
from generosity’s well.
The moon restores me by night,
the rain washes away my anger
the wind blows compassion and empathy,
into my heart.
When I no longer succumb to hostility
and anger, and judgment,
then there is no more anger,
and there is no fear.
I come to a sweeter and gentler place,
I walk as if the earth kisses my feet.
Everyone wants what I want, everyone
dreams the same dreams.
Please help me to walk gently, talk softly,
not all wounds can be seen, help me to
walk gently in the lives of others, and on
the blessed earth.