Several weeks ago I blogged about the deliciousness and necessity of doing nothing on our last snow day. As this next one loomed – We have a foot of snow on the ground and more to come – I had this awful thought: What will I do this Spring, Summer and Fall, when I desperately need a snow day, but Mother Nature will not comply? (Okay, global warming not-withstanding. Who knows what other weather surprises are in store.)
Brene Brown talks about the bragging of our busyness, as a measure of our worth. A clergy friend just posted an editorial from the New Yorker by Tim Kreider on what he calls “The Busy Trap.” http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opinionator/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/
He says, “(We’re) busy because of (our) own ambition or drive or anxiety, because (we’re) addicted to busyness and dread what (we) might have to face in its absence. Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.” Make no mistake – Those people barely making ends meet, working 3 jobs, or our sisters hauling potable water 3 miles a day – they are exhausted, not busy. This “busy-ness” from which we all claim proudly to suffer? It’s a first world, middle and upper middle class compulsion, (and as clergy, since our work is so intangible, we are even more susceptible. After all, don’t we only work on Sundays?) As I re-read the Little House on the Prairie books to my niece, I think of Ma and Pa: THEY were busy. But for us in the 21st century? Everyone I know? We wear our busyness like a badge of honor, as though it’s a given.
And we don’t think about how we ended up here, or whether this is a good place to stay. It doesn’t occur to us we have a choice. Our religious communities don’t necessarily help, either – Too infused with the good ol’ Protestant work guilt – O, I mean, ethic. See what good Christians we are! We’re busy! So who has time to stop and think, meditate and reflect on how we are to live this life? We’re too busy!
Almost all my life, I’ve been accused of over-achieving. My spiritual director’s invitation to live as a “C” student panics me. I have wrestled with self-imposed standards that I assumed were external expectations. I know all about this tug-of-war. One on hand, “What is wrong with me? That I can’t keep up with every-day life, let alone if anything goes wrong? I must be – and fill in the blank. Weak. Lazy. Crazy. Incompetent. Suffering from SFS (sensitive-flower-syndrome.) Regardless, there must be something wrong with me. Then I flip, and get a huge chip on my shoulder, and get angry at this culture, and it’s pressure, and everyone else’s expectations that I canNOT live up to. Then, equilibrium. What does it matter the cause – weak character or crazy culture? It’s still up to me to decide. It’s my life. I can set the pace.
And this is where mindfulness comes in. Because yes, it brings me angst to think about claiming a slower pace, a mental health day, time away from every day responsibilities – And that keeps me on the treadmill. Maybe this snow day can be a trial run. Not just a gift from a gracious God for today, but a glimpse of how calm and centered life could be, if I am willing to claim it, as my right as a precious part of creation. Maybe it’s okay to only do enough to earn a “C” in this life. Maybe, if Jesus words are to be believed, the first will be last and the last first, so that the “lazy” ones win. At the very least, maybe we could use today to practice: A different pace of life, a pace more humane and less anxiety-driven. A pace more honest; a pace that looks like we’re wasting time, but in truth, we’re living life.