Apart from being the title of one of my all-time favorite Buffy episodes, Restless is what I've become lately. I've gotten a great piece of advice from my internship supervisor: she told me not to fight the restlessness, but to pay it heed. To circle it and question it and look at it curiously. To examine what it's bringing up and why it might be there at all. So I shall do so.
What are you doing, here in my otherwise stable life? I have this lovely husband, a great apartment, two cats whom I love, a seminary that challenges and encourages and delights me with the prospect of learning. I know wonderful people from so many kinds of lives: Hollywood people and those of many faiths, college students and suburban urbanites. I am heading towards a life of a tenured professor's wife, entertaining students and deans and generally writing my little pieces and living in my house and maybe teaching at the church now and then.
And then you show up, and you are like an itch I cannot scratch. You are bugging me. You are keeping me awake at night. You are bringing tears to my eyes and down my cheeks when there's nothing before me that should make me sad.
You've brought a continent I've never visited and people I may never encounter into my head and onto my heart in a huge way. You keep popping up - in the movies I see, the discussions I experience, the people I talk to, the white band on my arm.
You are there always now, like a little nagging fly. Do something, you're telling me. Don't just sit there.
Why do I feel guilty? Why do I go to shame? You are simply reminding me of a part of myself - the non-intellectual part. The part that needs to get my hands dirty, that needs a practical, visible, embodied connection to the pain of the world. I need to touch the lepers. I can't just think about them.
I've always had that tendency, you know, to cry during the news or to drift into daydreams of far-off lands. I think about people in all places but where I am. No, I think about my own people too. But I think a lot more about other countries, other cultures, than most people, I think.
And I'm never happy to just visit places. I always want to live there. When I visited Edinburgh and again in Paris, I wanted to move there. I can't just look. I have to live. I have to become one with the people.
So all this restlessness, these thoughts and feelings, this awareness of this part of me, it is good. I should live in these moments and learn from them. What are you telling me? Maybe, don't rush into a PhD. Get out and live for a while. School can be done later. And maybe don't rush into children, or buying a house. Give yourself enough freedom to travel, to pick up and move someplace foreign. Make a difference somewhere else.
I must attend the people I meet, the urgings I feel. I must be aware of what they may be telling me - the secret opportunity that lurks around every corner.
I'm sitting in a room with two Buddhist monks and I think they are influencing me. I feel very entranced with the present. I wish to gain from it.
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
(Hindu prayer, "Salutation to the Dawn", attributed to Kalidasa)
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Oh boy, does this sound familiar. Until this summer I had a life which worked really well for me: loving partner, 4 cats, nice little house, advancing through the ordination process and happy at seminary. Then I went to South Africa this summer and worked with street children. My theology has been blown completely apart and my life has been turned upside-down. All I can think about is how much I want to go back and stay there for a long, long time.
I'm now working on this issue intensely with my spiritual director and holding all these things in my prayer life. The only thing I can continue to do is pray and discern God's will and direction in my future ministry. I know that I need to wait to be ordained because this is my bishop's wish (and mine, really), but I can no longer see myself out there looking for nice suburban parishes. I've lived amongst the very poor and have been consecrated by their lives, and I can never go back to the way things used to be.
So Feminarian, my restless heart will hold you and your Restlessness in my prayers that God will continue to speak to you in the still, small voice of the Spirit.
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