Even the best of busyness engaged in with the purest of hearts for the good of others will catch up with you eventually. Or so I've found this last few days when stress and exhaustion reared their ugly heads. I think it has something to do with this:
We cannot simply live for others. A life that is totally focused on others and shows no regard for itself will eventually disintegrate. The idea that such a life is the highest form of spirituality is a misunderstanding of the rhythm of the inner life. That rhythm recognises that we need to be nurtured, refreshed, and empowered if we are to continue to give... we need to care with a care that springs from being nurtured ourselves.
I'm still figuring out this rhythm of the inner life... or maybe I already know the rhythm, but I fail to move in time with it. I see this or that good thing I might contribute to, a person here or there whom I can help, and there I go racing from one person, task, need to the next. The last two weeks are a case in point.
This evening I soaked in a bath full of bubbles and I'm feeling more rested and balanced, less like I am disintegrating, more nurtured, refreshed and slightly more empowered to give. A good sleep should do the rest.
This busyness thing is a running theme for me. I am constantly overcommitted. I have now obtained a copy of 'In Praise of Slow' but am yet to sit down and gain inspiration and insight from its pages. I have however found a chapter in 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver that was helpful. She writes of the conundrum of time, in which we rush to 'save' a few minutes here, 'snatch' an extra moment there when in reality we have twenty four hours a day, every day, no more, no less. We cannot save time, all we can do is cram more into our allotted hours, for as Kingsolver writes:
Every minute I save will get used on something else, possibly no more sublime than staring at the newel post trying to remember what I just ran upstairs for.
The solution? Could it be accepting each twenty four hour day as it comes and making the most of each minute instead of trying to create space for the magical, ever out of reach moment when
we can indulge in something really enjoyable? Life does not consist of lounging around reading books or engaging in pleasurable hobbies. Those things are good and right, but so are cleaning the bathroom, cooking the meals and washing the dishes. The key to me seems to be cherishing the cleaning, cooking and washing up, or as Kingsolver puts it:
...attending to the task in front of me - even a quotidian chore - might make it into part of a good day, rather than just a rock in the road to someplace else.
I haven't made it to such a state of enlightened attending, but I am edging my way in that direction. My busyness last week was not a matter of saving time or cramming endless duties in for the sake of it. I wasn't grudging in my meting out of time, tapping my foot impatiently for the moment I would be free to do as I wished. I just forgot to care for myself in the middle of caring for others and it all caught up with me.
Lessons in the journey of life - maybe by the time I die I will be dancing to the tandem rhythms of ministering to others and providing space for my own nurture!
Labels: busyness, life, spirituality