As I have so often written in this blog, my life is hectic, busy and frantic. I can now see that I seem to be hell-bent on keeping it that way.
In recent months I have put in very long hours on wonderful projects at work and perhaps received a little dose of self-importance as a bonus.
In 2011, I was off work for six months and for a very long time after I returned, I could avoid committees and new responsibilities simply by dropping the magic words, “brain surgery” into a conversation. They carry a powerful punch and people scrambled to back off from whatever they were going to ask me to do.
But starting this fall, when I felt back to my pre-surgery self, I also found that I was more hesitant about my abilities. Do I still have all of my skills? Can I really manage a number of large projects at once? And so quickly, I began to over-compensate. At times I could picture the entertainer I saw on TV as a child, spinning a number of plates at the top of wobbly sticks all at once. It’s an image I have pictured proudly for myself all through my busy career, and it was probably with a touch of smugness that I realized I could still “do it all.”
But on Monday night I gathered with a group of women to discuss a book we are reading, and the leader began with several moments of silence, asking us to listen to what our bodies are saying to us. As I closed my eyes in the silence, almost immediately I could see words clearly coming into my head: “Slow Down.”
Suddenly I could feel the toll of my frenzied pace, the exhaustion I feel when I get home (late) every night, when my beloved husband takes care of dinner because I am so tired. I don’t have to do it all. I have nothing to prove. It’s Advent and I have begun it in my mind, but not yet in my heart.
The next morning, I was deliberately unhurried. I had a cup of coffee and asked God for help slowing down. I read the Advent readings of the day and Isaiah’s words:
Comfort, give comfort to my people.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and
proclaim to her that her service is at an end.
I drove more slowly to work, taking a new route. I tried to think of my time at stop lights as a small relaxing break instead of an obstacle keeping me from the office. I parked at the far end of the parking lot and watched the sunrise coming across the Missouri River to the east. I walked slowly.
It is never too late to enter Advent, and so I am beginning it now. I am listening to the words we are being offered, words of comfort and surrounding love. I hope to remember that while it is not that my “service is at an end,” I can be more deliberate and thoughtful and have God’s presence and love with me at all times.
Thank you, Maureen, for that beautiful reminder to slow down and look around and enjoy what is all around us through the gifts of sight and sound that God gives us every day, but particularly in this beautiful season of Advent. It is my favorite liturgical time of the year as well as my favorite season of the year.
I wish you and yours a beautiful and blessed Christmas!
Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
And bow my head
Keep my heart slow
Lyrics from the wonderful Mumford and Sons
Wonderful. I am thankful that, when God calls us to something (like “Slow Down”), we can ask Him for help to do it!
Beautiful gentle reminder to slow down the pace, during Advent,
and as an everyday thing. God is simply there listening and loving, and
Thank you, Maureen, for that magic invitation to listen to what my body is telling me. I have come to recognize that my body will not lie to me–or collude with the lies my mind is trying to foist on me. Advent is a great time to “come to our senses,” as we prepare to celebrate the embodiment of God. Listening to what our bodies are trying to tell us is a profound spiritual practice and an act of faith.
Maureen, thank you for the reminder to live intentionally – always with the intention of being present every moment of every day.