A few weeks ago I had a meltdown. Oh, I wailed, nothing is working out!
- I have a novel half way done that I haven't looked at for almost 2 years,
- My father is now in a nursing home with dementia,
- One of my best friends has a nasty cancer,
- I'm a clerk of a Monthly Meeting whose members rarely attend,
- Students don't show up for tutoring or come very late,
- I skip business-like meetings myself,
- Others attend protests while I wait to be led and I take more classes,
- I forget to do my PT exercises,
- I don't want to do all the cleaning and fixing my house needs, and
- I have two cats who don't love me--or aren't affectionate.
I determined to put down all of my worries and "just have fun."
When I asked my long-time friend and housemate to help me make a list of fun things, she laughed. That will be a short list, she said, See film. That's what she does for fun.
Besides, she continued. You'll never do it. You'll feel guilty about everything.
I considered that a challenge. Since then I have seen 4 movies, read 2 books, attended a read-a-thon and a concert. I've cut my volunteer teaching in half. I've made plans to walk where I haven't tread before. and to borrow her car for day trips to the Jersey shore. I've only felt guilty about some of it.
Giving myself permission to have fun has increased the time I spend in meditative and prayer modes. Recently, I've glanced at both, spent seconds in them, and rushed through ritual I had developed over time. It's good to slow down again, to be present to myself. To write more poetry.
An odd source of help for this change has been Session 2 of the AFSC webinar "Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves: anti-racist practice for Sanctuary, accompaniment, and resistance" ~ CSCO for short. Facilitators focused the second session on how those in sanctuary experience their would-be allies. Panelists were not all bilingual so we would hear first in Spanish and waited for the English translation. Leaders said they wanted us to experience how much slower things go when translation is involved. They also modeled for us how to decenter English as the standard communication tool. To participate, I found I not only slowed down, but became more present than impatient: I stopped anticipating what people would say or do. This meant I occupied the moment and listened more completely. I became intent. I listened intentionally, centering the speakers. I can only hint at how amazing this bilingual session was, with the very insistence of it changing me. I remember the theatre theorist, Antonin Artaud, speaking of hearing an unknown language as an important way to dive beneath the surface in "Theatre and its Double." I thought he was speaking only of rhythms, emotions and emphases ~ but I now know he was speaking of letting go of the ego entirely to be present. To be fascinated.
Further, two of the CSCO speakers offered advice: Make the relationship the priority, not the task. This is more than letting the one who needs assistance be the leader. It is where the spiritual gift resides for the ally as well as the one in conflict. Maybe less will be done, but it will be more important, more human/spirit, more helpful and more gifting for my own spirit.
Deciding to have fun is opening gates for me. Time will tell. Right now I have to practice.