Creative Writing, Nonfiction, personal growth, Poetry, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Boredom

It’s two weeks into vacation and I’m finally going to say it: I’m bored.

I have a list of projects to tackle, and ample books, and a car, and, oh yeah, the Internet. But boredom is clever and can slip through the cracks. It settles thick on your chest and rattles your ribs. As I think about each of things I know I love doing, all I am meeting is a big wall of resistance. You know how Wile E. Coyote winds himself up, ready to finally catch Roadrunner, and then hits a wall? Or falls off a cliff? That’s how I’m feeling.

Each of these words feels so heavy to type. The words in my books seem foreign. I’d love to write poetry but I have less than nothing in the tank. There’s not even any sunshine to nap in! I can’t even be productively bored. But I suppose that’s the point sometimes.

“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder.” – Padraig O Tuama

Christian, learning, Nonfiction, personal growth, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Unplug. Reconnect. Repeat.

I’ve been recently reading through Genesis. The Creation stories are wonderful to revisit. Perhaps it’s because in springtime, we notice the earth and sky and water teeming with life once again, and for maybe just a moment, we can see what God sees when He created this place. What I love most about those stories is that God creates an entire day for rest. And as the world multiples, and covenants are established, and uh, floods and fire destroy towns, there is still the day of rest.

Slowing down is not a one-time deal. If you’re at all like me, and love self-help nonsense, you read constantly about the power of “unplugging”. As if you pull the plug once, and *poof*, life is better.

But we need to be consistently, regularly finding time and space for rest. And while there is value in taking a day, a full Sabbath, sometimes it’s not always possible. Our culture doesn’t really support that. That’s where I find mindfulness useful. In the middle of a busy day, I can tune into the sensations of my present moment and rest.

Here are some things I’ve been doing to make more Sabbath moments in my life.

  1. Eating breakfast at the table, sans news or podcasts. Taking at least 20 minutes to ease into the day, even when all I want to do is connect to the “Worldwide Bloodstream” as they say on Broad City.
  2. Getting farm share veggies, every week. I drive a little (ok, kind of a lot) out of our way to pick the best bok choy, select radishes with fake enthusiasm, and pretend I know which herbs are which. But I’m eating more greens, I smell air and dirt regularly, and it forces my brain to be present to, you know, the actual earth.
  3. Watching more movies! “More screen time?” you may say, skeptical that this is remotely mindful. But movies demand our time and attention: close the curtains, pop some corn, and put the phones down. For a few hours, my mind is calm and engaged on a single story: what a rarity! We’ve already completed a week of “men” movies (12 Angry, All the President’s, A Few Good), as well as Tom Cruise week. Side note: Did you know that Risky Business is just serious Ferris Bueller?
  4. Phone calls. They are making a comeback, I swear. I recommend quick 15 minute phone calls while you walk or sit on the stoop in the nice summer weather. Simultaneously gets you outside of your own head and back into your own life.

I am bad at these things. I spent the last two nights sleeping poorly because, guys, have you ever used YouTube? They have videos on everything. Not to mention I have every song ever on my phone. But it’s a work in progress. And on that note, I’ve gotta get away from the dang computer screen and go find a Sabbath moment.

Creative Nonfiction, learning, personal growth, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Slow Down

It’s officially summertime: the calendar says so, the freckles on my shoulders say so, and the thick, sticky air seems to agree. The summer can be a time when things get frantic. Being from New England, I can attest to the pressure to enjoy the good weather while it lasts. Enjoy this sunshine and warmth, dammit! But I, for one, am looking forward to trying to fight the summer frantic antics. This summer is all about slowing down.

I’m in my 2nd year of working in public education, and truth be told, I’m still adjusting. People regularly proclaim how lucky I am to have summers off. I can’t disagree; it’s an excellent benefit. But instead of thinking, “Gee, I am lucky!” I get hit with a pang of guilt. Surely I should be doing more. Most people work year-round. Most people don’t have the privilege of weeks or months off.

My response to “I’d love summers off, too!” is not eloquent or witty. No, usually I stammer about the poor pay, or the 12 months worth of work stuffed into 10 months, or the fact that well, I’m hourly, so I have to find a summer job, like I’m a 16 year old kid looking to mow lawns. Yes, I work in summer, too! No, I’m not getting defensive, why would even think that?

Our culture and its Protestant work ethic is deep-rooted and pervasive (I got stuck with its pressures and I’m not even Protestant!!). Of particular importance lately is being productive. Improving ourselves, making progress, getting better and doing more. What a wildly unsustainable way to live a life, though. To live as if the point of life is to get better and do more all the time can only lead to feelings of burnout, or feelings of failure. What if we work hard, work better, work more, but don’t improve? Don’t make enough progress? Don’t earn enough? What is ‘enough’?

At the end of winter, the weather, the election, and the stress of work all sent me to seek some help and perspective with a very kind, very funny therapist who consistently challenged me to be mindful and investigate my own assumptions. I’ve since stopped needing to see her (for now, at least) and I’m thankful for her introducing mindfulness practice into my life. The point of doing the dishes is to clean the dishes, not go somewhere faster or think about work. The point of going to work is to contribute some skill and earn money in return, not prove our worth or validate our existence. The point of living is, well, to be alive: alive to every moment of our lives, alive to every sensation and observation and moment – fast or slow, full or empty.

So this summer, instead of guilt or pressure to “do something” with my time, I am simply going to be alive to the heat, to the sun, to the freckles on my skin, and trust that it is enough of a life to fold laundry, and drink cold coffee, and read until my eyes fall closed for a nap.