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Returning to Pause in Restlessness
Greetings lovely one,
I've been drained. Exhausted, to be honest. Insomnia has been a struggle for me for years, and my most recent bout of it has been really burdensome. When I first moved back to the East Coast, I didn't have jet lag, and in fact, I never went to sleep upon arrival, so I could force my body to adjust quickly to the new timezone. Throughout August, I was fine, and the adrenaline of constant motion until I finally settled in my current home kept me going until it couldn't anymore. I was running on fumes, and I knew it. I had a conversation with one of my dearest and oldest friends, whom I affectionately call "Dr. Bestie," about how she does it, and she essentially said she was in the same boat. Going from one shift to another, getting about three hours of sleep became a constant for her as a medical professional.
Why do people in helps and change-making work do this to ourselves?
I have said this before, although I'm still determining if I've written it, but I never liked the concept of hustle culture. However, I do like working on things that excite me, and my issue is I'm excitable about a lot of different things…when I'm not experiencing a relapse into depression, that is. I cherish times when I don't have episodes and try to do everything all at once to make up for periods where I lack interest in anything that takes any effort beyond numbly and robotically following routine. I'm very, very much aware of that. But that's another topic for another day.
Reflecting on my conversation with Dr. Bestie and other friends constantly bogged down with life; we may feel obligated to push through. Without humble reminders, it's easy to believe that in this society. But I let the thought go. And then, my face broke out, giving me a warning sign that if I didn't get my act together, I'd experience much worse. I shut down my computer, turned off the lights, laid down my burdens (the things keeping me stressed out and overthinking), and started asking what my body needed, asking what my spirit needed in this new space, in this new environment, and since my birthday had just passed - in this new chapter of my life.
I recalled a saying that you "don't put new patches on old garments." When your life is a series of transitions - and since the pandemic, mine has been - I constantly find myself clinging to familiarities while also dipping my toe in new waters, teetering back and forth until I am finally ready to surrender - to let go and let God. My spiritual accountability partners keep me humble about that. They also remind me that our culture does its best to make us believe we are commodities, which is why rest is indeed resistance. It is a resistance we must be diligent about if we are to continue working toward transforming the world. Whatever that looks like for each of us in our change-making work.
When I let go and let God, I go about even the most mundane tasks with eyes tending toward the sacredness of the grand experience of my humanity. I live a prayerful life, but even daily prayer can become a habit that feels like another to-do on an endless list of "trying to keep up" when you lack sleep and adequate rest.
I've had multiple friends tell me about the Nap ministry, and I haven't had a chance to look much into it beyond finding catchy quotes for social media shares (just being honest). Still, I am familiar with the work of her predecessor, Audrey Lourde, on radical self-care. I'm also familiar with the works of Black feminist and womanist theologians who have written similar messages. It takes multiple spiritual Aunties to call me back to center, to recall the lessons I've already eaten up. Sometimes, we need to pause long enough to tap into that soul nourishment already within us. And that's the point:
we must pause long enough to call forth our inner strength and ancestral wisdom.
When I pause near a body of water, the healing waters of the deep - I feel even more connected to myself, to the earth, and to the Holy One.
"Without the life-sustaining warmth of the sun, the quenching power of rain, the oxygen the air provides, there would be no hope for the physical sustenance of the bodies that enflesh our spirits. The entire cosmos, then, is engaged in God's activity of providing resources for survival and wholeness." Karen Baker-Fletcher
I realize again and again that I need to be in hot pursuit of what nurtures my soul the same way God's love is in hot search of me.
"Not once in a lifetime but again and again, and every day, and perhaps many times a day, it must be encouraged to come, the restoring sacrament of pause, and it comes not easily at first without encouragement. Later, it seeks one out." Oswald W.S. McCall
Does the pause "fix" everything…like a magic elixir or easy button problems away? Nope. However, it helped me to let go of my need to escape my feelings of stress and worry by working past the time I said I would (even if on passion projects) or chowing down on junk food that I know will aggravate my GERD, or binging anime without blinking my eyes further extending my eye exhaustion. Taking pause helped me to see the need to re-establish my rule of life now that I'm no longer transient and can finally center down in my new digs. I can make space to introduce new ways of being in my unique circumstance, reintroduce my body to working out again, re-establishing bedtime rituals, and return to spiritual disciplines with communities that I was unable to interact with when I was 6 hours behind; I could also remember to appreciate the ways spiritual life is already embedded in the subtlety of everyday movements.
There is much to grieve about in this world, much to keep me up at night without distractions of my own making. Pause helps us not to bypass those things but acknowledges our creative and destructive nature in large movements such as war and in more personal actions such as working in ways that cause burnout. Where we go from that place of awareness and acknowledgment is, well, for me, it's returning to love. It's walking the way of love, which includes justice.
How about you?
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
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Community Member Kudos: Congrats to Spiritual Friend and Love Agent, Lynda Grace on her exhibit and artist talk “Narrative Tactility”. “The show emphasizes the importance placed on the ways in which the material is both an extension of and conduit for the stories being woven, cut, and assembled, producing a narrative of introspection, strength and resilience.”
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Muse of the month
“For the sake of all things good and beautiful and true in you, for the guarding of them in all your life, you must seek again that lifting instant in which you rouse your soul to repair the impaired harmony. Back to God you must call your thought, lift your conscience to God for correction, bid your heart express again its chosen loyalty to God. Your whole self must make an effort to re-set and re-establish and reconfirm itself in the life and love of God.”
-Oswald W.S. McCall
excerpt taken from The Growing Edge by Howard Thurman
*use of ‘you’ instead of gender-exclusive language*
Blerd’s the word
In my defense…this is NOT why I had a bout of Sleepless in Massachusetts
*But seriously, this song is still a bop, though…