The Pause

I am sitting at Scotties, a little diner in Granville that closed a few months ago and recently re-opened. The food is so-so. The coffee is mediocre, but plentiful. The people are friendly. It’s bustling, which is a good sign that they can make it.

I’ve finished my morning routine. Meditation. Prayer. A bit of writing. I took some extra time with it all this morning. I am at peace with my day.

I am also in the middle of sort of a malaise. Nothing serious. Not a full-fledged dive into depression. Just a flatness, a lack of excitement about my life.

I know where it came from, and it’s easily remedied. I’ve had a busy couple of weeks – really busy. It’s involved some travel (which I love and is very good for me.) and a lot of mornings where I just get up and hit the work early and work late, until there’s not a huge amount of emotional energy left.

I say emotional energy because I kind of pour myself into everything I do, work, family, love, church, whatever. At 61, I am finally at a place in life where I don’t have anything in my life that I don’t feel passionate about. That’s been a long time coming, and I am glad for it, but I am also aware that when everything you do takes emotional energy, you can get drained pretty quick if you don’t take time to do the things that refill you.

I’ve let that happen before in my life, to a dangerous degree and it dang near killed me, or at least dang near killed anything that was good about me. It left cracks for the worst of me to leak out. It took me years to recover. Truth be known, it’s probably been just in the past couple of years that I’ve really come back from it to anywhere near my best. I am still not where I want to be, but I like where I am so far. I like the trajectory (and I always say trajectory is more important than where we are.).

But I am also aware that if I don’t take care of myself…. it call comes tumbling down.

One of my favorite passages in literature comes from Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi”. In it, he talks about the curves of the river, and how the current of the river cuts into the land at the point of those curves. Trip after trip, up and down the river, he’d watch the erosion, watch the underpinnings get stripped away while the land atop hung in mid-air, seeming solid, yet without foundation. Until suddenly, that jutting bit of land has the last of its foundation washed away and it all falls down.

That’s how life works. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we seem fine on the outside….. until we come undone.

There is a tendency, I think, to feel like we can’t let up, that taking care of ourselves is somehow selfish, when in fact, it’s actually how we are able to keep taking care of others. For me, taking care of myself involves my morning rituals. It involves time to just be and let my emotions work their way into my mind. It’s time with the woman I love. It’s time to create. And when there has not been enough of that, I can feel the underpinnings wash away.

Maybe I am a little obsessive about watching my foundations these days. But that is because I have seen what happens in my own life, and in the life of people I loved, when they let those underpinnings wash too far underneath their feet. I’ve watched relationships come undone. I’ve watched people become overwhelmed, the best of them eroded away to the point that it never came back. I teetered in that place myself.

It’s hell.

It’s hell I think, because there is something in all our spirits that needs to be filled and fed. It may be different for all of us, but it’s there. And if we don’t feed it, we starve, We die.

We die. I am not being dramatic here. It’s what happens. We die. A body that breathes, but lacks life remains, but the thing that makes us amazing (and we all are amazing, when nourished.) dies.

I’m not dying again. One near death experience is enough for me. So I watch myself. I feel the malaise, I start to take action. I recalibrate. I pause.

Oh yes, I pause. “Be still and know I am God” reads the psalm and I believe in it’s truth. In the stillness is our time to heal, to see, to hear our hearts. It is where truth is found. Not in the noise of our busy lives, even when our life is busy with good things. It’s in the silence we find our deepest truth.

I’m kind of evangelistic about the pause. It’s a big part of what I teach when I teach classes on recovering our creativity. It’s a big part of what I do when I coach people. It’s a big part of our ministry. And it is a lesson I teach that I also take to heart myself. It’s why I take myself off so often – to diners where I can be anonymous in the crowd, to still places, to the ocean, to the quarry.

Where is your recovering place? Where do you go to heal from the slings and arrows of life? How long has it been since you spent time there? Could you use a visit?

Then take it. It’s important. It the key, I believe, to real life, not just being part of the living dead.

Off my soapbox, Have a beautiful Saturday.

Tom

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