Photo: My church has this icon on display on in the side-chapel and it always makes me smile. At first, it’s because Mary and Jesus are so noticeably brown, which is a big deal in my all-white church. Second, though, is the adoration in the eyes of Jesus, his arms wrapped around his mother’s neck, ready to squeeze in for a hug. Or, even better, to put a hand on her cheek to get her attention. Mary has a look on her face that I’ve made myself. That, “I love this child; isn’t he wonderful?” look but also a “he only ever wants something when he knows I’m focused on something else,” look. Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe some are even holy.
It has been a week of… well, I know that you know. It has been a week. The first week.
And, frankly, I was rendered useless by it all. I found myself blankly staring at news sites, my Facebook feed, the text threads flying between me and my friends of all stripes. This chaos strategy (or, as in all awesome kung-fu movies, Drunken Man form), is effective. I didn’t sew this week. I barely read this week (outside of news reports). I was not my best self this week. I was distracted and fearful. I did exactly what I said I wouldn’t do: I let fear and anger be my driving emotions this week.
So when I put on my ugly, bleach-stained old yoga pants and an old grad school shirt, pulled on some lime green gloves and got a grip on my bottle of 409 this morning, I smiled. It was just me and the dirty bathroom. No noise, no banter. Just one task, one thing to focus on. I’ve never gleefully scrubbed a bathroom before. It’s my absolute least favorite chore. But, in an empty house, with no noise, not even music… it was the absolute perfect thing I needed for a stop and reset. A bit of time, some heavy signs, lots of spraying, scrubbing and rinsing all resulted in a tangibly different thing. A thing that I had done. A singular accomplishment in a week when it felt like I had so little to offer.
I know that I did more than just clean a bathroom this week. I’m surprised at how quickly it has all come and gone, yet how sore and tired I feel right now. This is not a sustainable way of living. Self-care is going to have to re-enter my life. Creation, too. I haven’t picked up my needle and embroidery floss for a week, my pretty little year of stitches hoop has been unchanged since last you saw it. Most of all, I need to recreate the silent moments that give me the chance to comprehend, to reflect, to think. This is why the chaos strategy has been so effective: no lulls, no quiet, no time for the brain to catch up.
And that is where my Quiet Thoughts are this week. Actually, my Quiet Thoughts were non-existent this week because, damn, it was a really loud week. The screens, the children, my heart pounding in my chest, the screams of my “fight-or-flight” instincts kicking up with each panicked read. And what did it all get me? All that noise? Nothing. Seven days of having lost the larger game. I can do better than this. I must do better than this. I have to reclaim essential silence, choose contemplative quiet and protect it’s regularity from day to day.
Did you have moments to think this week, Dear Reader? Did you have the chance to sit in a quiet room, distraction free, to either create or do nothing at all? If you didn’t, are you feeling the way I am this week? A little sore, a little bruised? Let us learn the lesson and grow from it, remaining engaged but also allowing ourselves to metabolize it all.
It is Friday, the last Friday of January. I simply cannot believe that the month has gone by so quickly. The wind has been active all day today, making the farmhouse windows rattle. There were moments when, if I stood very still, I could feel the house breathe as another gust of wind went howling through the yard. On this Friday, I wish you time alone. Sit and breathe for a bit of time, Dear Reader. I wish you words that of purely meant to touch your heart or tickle your brain. Poetry? A low-pressure novel? The letters of an old pen pal? Choose, sit, and then breathe in. Take your time. Let this world fall away for a little while. I wish you a held hand, a compliment from a stranger, and a noticing from a person who sees you every day. “Did you do something different with your hair?” or maybe “you always look great in that color.” It’s good to be seen, Dear Reader. To be recognized. Make sure that you are at least once this weekend. I wish you something warm and sweet, like a muffin or a cookie straight from the oven. Maybe one of these chocolate chip cookies? Don’t they look awesome? Enjoy them with some tea, yes? I wish you warmth from head to toe. Softness, too. I wish you the time you need to get your energy back after an incredible week, and I wish you that time without any guilt for taking it: you must take care of yourself. We need you at your best. So rest, rejuvenate, and then come back to us. I’ll take my own advice and do the same.
As always, I wish you the sincere words of a loving person telling you just how wonderful and appreciated you are. When someone tells you how loved you are this weekend, I hope you will listen and know it to be true: you are loved beyond measure and admired from near and far. What you do in this world matters, and what you give to this world makes a difference. Don’t be intimidated by the idea that you are the light in the darkness for someone. Own it, use it, and may you inspire others as you do so.
Until Monday, get some rest, find some silence, be brave and take care.