“Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?”
– From “What to Remember when Waking” David Whyte
It was one of those magical mid-June mornings in between the typical 4-day long rains of June and the Great Rain of 2022. A brilliant sun broke over the cloud-enshrouded mountain causing my rain-soaked lawn and leafy trees to shimmer just a bit. A few birds continued their morning song while the rest of the world rested. Including me.
I gazed at this foreign wonder before me. Unable to rush off to church or get on with the endless chores of landscape maintenance or go for my once twice weekly 17-mile long-run – I realized that in the last 6+ years my parents died, I bought my house, my marriage came and went, I completed 2+ years of theology studies and began my role as a Lay Pastor while continuing to work 40 hours a week but I have not once done this – just sit and take things in. Just rest.
And as I gazed upon this scene, I realized that I really do love my yard now that I am not a slave to the constant mowing of it (I had to hire someone for this summer as I recover) and I actually look forward to tending my garden beds rather seeing it as yet another invasion of my busy scheduled life.
And oh, how I love Ember – my now 4-year-old Brittany. He is such a light in this unsettled world. Just watching him amuse himself is a joy. Even at 4 years old he discovers everything anew with such gusto! A leaf on the grass, his chewed-up tennis ball, a piece of bark, not to mention the starlings teasing him – all were a feast of joy for his eyes and induced exuberant frolicking.
We played fetch and he brought the ball back willingly about 8 times. Remarkable! On the occasion he decided to do his own thing I laid back in the chair and dropped my hand down and closed my eyes. After a minute he walked up and dropped the ball and laid his head on my lap and looked at me with the most adoring eyes. It just about made me cry. I sadly realized I had never made time for these moments before, or at least I can’t remember the last time I savored the simple pleasures of a quiet Sunday morning. I felt an ache inside at the realization of what I have not only missed, but lost.
And why? For what reason?
For years I have been plagued by an inner restlessness that has yet to be soothed. I always have to be doing something – even if that means pacing back and forth before moving on to the next must do. I live by the principle of work before pleasure at all times and my form of pleasure was always something highly active and results oriented. I never rested. I never balanced the go with the slow.
It saddens me how much our culture encourages constant doing and striving and achieving. It is all too easy to get tangled up with everything – the demands of life, the inner must-do’s, the expectations of others, the rigidity and comfort of routine.
It seems like the right thing to do – even noble – to be constantly working on something and never take breaks. I’ve heard myself make the same excuse over and over again for not taking time off – doing so always creates so much work before and after. It’s easier to just keep plugging on and letting life slip by. Keep going – go faster. Don’t be the slow car in the fast lane and while we’re at it – blast that slow car in the fast lane!! How can anyone drive slow like that – oblivious to the world racing by??
But now I wonder how can anyone sustain a lifestyle that is all go and no slow? How did I do it for so long and how unsettling it is that it took major surgery to make me realize this!
All of this serves as a reminder that we need to pay attention to balance in our lives. Too much pleasure and free time can be as detrimental as too much work and too much structure. Constantly punishing workouts will weaken the body as much as being a couch potato. Constant striving will at long last bring us to a place where there is no meaning to our endeavors and nothing left of us to enjoy our achievements once realized.
It’s up to us to determine how to balance all of the parts and pieces, people and places that contribute to us having a healthy and satisfying life.
There is a wonderful opportunity awaiting all of us in the very next moment. Perhaps it is a brilliant sun breaking over the cloud-enshrouded mountain causing a rain-soaked lawn and leafy trees to shimmer just a bit and your heart to sigh. Maybe it is the final chord of the morning birdsong. Perhaps it is just a quiet stillness waiting for you to gaze upon its foreign wonder and rest.
Let your light so shine.