It is March 13 and a fresh snow slows time as if to say, Let’s have some more winter before spring bursts upon us.
I could use a real time stop, to let me catch up with myself. Maybe that’s why time has been playing tricks on me. Like I was sure today is my grandson’s second birthday when it was actually yesterday. Fortunately his other grandma, back from Taiwan, was there to give him a little party. Big sister played Happy Birthday on her violin.
A while back I lost a whole week in my preparations for an upcoming Congo trip, during the height of the house transactions (see previous Pink Lady posts). I got behind on applying for my visa. Fortunately, the visa came through in record time. I was saved when the bureaucracy worked well for once, but I suffered several weeks of anxiety of varying intensity.
I told my friend and spiritual director as recently as two weeks ago that this whole moving business was still “fun.” (Did I really say that and was it really only two weeks ago? Is time playing tricks on me again?)
What I am experiencing now is a zigzag between anxiety and relief. Anxiety at all we have to do or the latest snag and relief when the snags untangle–until I remember again all we have to do and run into yet another snag, and then the cycle starts all over again.
What I’ve noticed is that the zigzag is not just a matter of circumstance but it comes from within myself. Sometimes I can handle everything with aplomb and sometimes I just can’t. I get on a short fuse with my husband or the grandkids, my “good” knee freezes up in rebellion, I am devastated by my own mistakes and inadequacies.
This is not just about piling a move on top of weekly out-of-town babysitting for a month, on top of planning a trip to Congo 10 days after the move, on top of having major responsibility for many of the logistics of the reason for that trip, the first workshop training adult literacy teachers for the Mennonite churches in Congo.
Rather, what this compression of events (who knew our house would sell so fast and we’d have to move before my Congo trip?) has revealed is how fundamental that zigzag between anxiety (fear, frustration, spite) and relief (joy, compassion, gratitude) is in human experience generally.
In a Lenten online course I’m taking with Cynthia Bourgeault she describes this zigzag as between a higher state of being and a lower one: “When you’re in a higher state of Being — spacious, grounded, present — it’s easier to stay in touch with those loftier and more generous impulses: things like compassion, trust, forgiveness. It’s easier to ponder the great questions like ‘What am I here for?’ — or even to see, beneath the fragmented surface of things, a deeper order and presence. [emphasis added] When you’re in a lower state — negative or distracted — your perception of reality tends to get co-opted by mental scenarios, projections, cynicism, self-importance, urgency: all the small-self agendas.”
The thing to do is to notice the zigzag. There will be that painful state, she points out, in which you will see you are in the lower mode but you can’t do anything about it. But with patience you will find that something, or Someone, pulls you back to higher, or firmer, ground.
I observed that this morning when I reread an email I’d sent to a friend. I began with a complaint (Our call for help with the move didn’t get in the church announcement sheet!) but by the end I’d come round to gratitude and calm (Any support we get from our friends will be wonderful!).
Yesterday (the day I forgot was my grandson’s birthday) I knew my soul couldn’t take any more box packing. Instead, I began packing a suitcase for the trip, which is still 19 days away. As I went through my African glad rags and pulled out a wardrobe for the 10 days with my Congolese friends, hemmed, pressed, and folded, I found that elevated state of being.
Today I think I have the wherewithal to pack a few more boxes.