I am in need of it despite a surfeit of greenery in the Pacific Northwest; today’s cerulean sky with clouds to redesign it; jumbles of books that should be stocks as I have invested enough in them; sounds of living that lull and inspire from dawn to dark; the arms that catch and hold me fast in affection: GodCalming.
Yes, I seek a good GodCalming every day.
Because, you see, I am so driven to get on with it and get things done that I have few skills for doing nothing. It seems nearly a waste, the inertia that is urged upon me at times. There is a blandness to it, colorless, empty. There is a lack of intrigue that stimulates me to do something. May I please read from at least magazines as I eat my meal? Can I work on lists for tomorrow as the television blares on? And excuse me, this song on the radio is so exotic and rhythmic I have to get up and dance–I can hear you, but just a minute. I’ll just dust a bit as I move about. And yesterday’s writing session: paragraphs light up in one small region of my brain and they need cutting or correcting, maybe a whole new ending. And bills to pay, those are not yet checked off. I wanted to look up something. There is stuff to be made and art supplies and all the ideas nag at me daily.
When I was still working as a mental health and addictions counselor, I admit you could count on me. I would work overtime. I would do extra research, get every bit of my documentation done before I left, volunteer for a committee, offer to train the new intern, clean up the kitchen mess. To get ahead? Please others? No, really; I was offered management opportunities but I deeply loved to work face-to-face clients. Rather, it was already my nature to stuff all I could into a ten-to-twelve hour day. I was interested in doing things, wanted to learn. Excessive engagement? Perfectionist? Hyperactive? Maybe some of all that, who is to say for certain? Sometimes it sure backfired–the more you do, the more bosses have you do. But this is America and we get used to being driven; it is the way we work.
Bu that is a perspective, not the whole picture. One of my personal fears is not having enough time to live all I want to live. Give what I have to share. Be of enough service. Embrace the love I can.
At a writing convention once, a speaker who is a better published and much younger writer told me, “Don’t worry, there is always time to publish. Just write your heart out; you’ll publish more as you’re ready and you’ll know when that time is.”
I answered, “You’re wrong. That time is here. I feel urgency every day, both to live and to write. For one thing, there is my aggressive form of heart disease but it could be anything, any time, right? For you that feels distant, or maybe you don’t think of it. But the years come and go and there really isn’t enough time to write all that wants to be written. Or do all else that is important to me, for that matter…”
I felt breathless. Her brow furrowed but she smiled as perhaps I was uninformed or a bit out of touch with real reality. I bought her book–she writes well–and walked on. Felt misunderstood and yet undaunted.
This was a scenario oft-repeated since I was a child. People not quite understanding such fervor for living, the undercurrent of urgency. From birth I felt the desire to embrace more and push forward, this life a beautiful puzzle box that contained never-ending mysteries. Let me be fully present, let me at it… it has not left me after six decades. I may be somewhat less dramatic about my choices but our essence rarely changes entirely.
GodCalming. I sought it from the start. A way through the mazes of need and desire. A key to the balance that can elude even as the weight on the scales is constantly redistributed. How to help true symmetry come forward from the free-form abundance of life, its vibrant intensity? As with invisible ink, I have held my life up to the light and sought more answers. Or perhaps only one that would work the best for me.
Sleep is a challenge. I am too busy to sleep. I am praying for everyone I can. Then in the wide-screen of my night mind arrive scenes I have visited and there is planning for places and people yet to see. Oh, no, that last line of the poem/essay/story, all wrong, must rewrite now, get pen and paper. Some times I replay things I should not–certainly could not if I had thought better of it– have said and weighing the pros and cons of being quiet more regularly. The past looms and I have to circumnavigate it. The coming years flare like an awesome firework display that then fizzles in the face of rock-hard realities. My several children float by, younger or older, marvelous, confounding. I wonder how they managed to be stitched into my crazy patchwork life but then think, naw, don’t think about all that. On to other things–I cannot wait to witness the superluna–how again does that work? The stars are out there, singing to themselves; if I listen I might hear them. I sit up, look out the window. My nearsighted, unaided eyes absorb glimmering darkness and my ears, its stillness. I am wide awake.
I lie back down, turn over and call on GodCalming.
I have many ways to root out peace and it’s a good thing. If you’re the sort of person who experiences life at high gear, unerringly attached to accomplishing goals daily, a surplus charge of energy even if sick or wounded, have a relentless curiosity about people and most any other topic–well, then, you’ll get this. Those who can just sit, be content, rest and be happily emptied of questions and concerns may not. I wish I could take that spot for a stretch and know how that is.
I have to stop myself. Make detours from tasks and goals. Quell the brain’s and body’s activities. I must remind myself to take deeper breaths, eat more slowly and better (I sometimes forget altogether), close my eyes and put up my feet. Or maybe stare out the window at the wind in the leaves.
Having a balcony was a bonus when I began living in this spacious, light-filled apartment. It would be an enticement to relax. The trouble is, my place is right next to a rambling three-story house. Sitting on my chair with my cold brew coffee I can see into the driveway but also kitchen and one of the bedrooms if I so choose. And I have heard people singing off-key in the shower. Sometimes this happens even if I try to assiduously avoid paying attention. But I got to watch a small family that lived downstairs grow up. The couples that lived above have seemed to come and go. I got used to all their work schedules, the sound of their cars. Their arguments and enthusiasms. But after many years, in this historical, leafy neighborhood, it became another scenario. I can, I think, safely note–now that some residents have been long gone–that it somehow morphed into a drug house, at least in one part. I know because I sat on my second story, partly covered, wide balcony to read, write, eat, talk on my phone and care for my little potted garden. So I gradually saw it unfold. My momentary refuge outdoors became a post from which I could observe too much. This ought to be another story so suffice it to say, they knew I could see them. I even complained to them about the activities. They just shrugged. And all the while I was going to work to treat addicted and/or mentally ill clients and I had to come back home and see teenagers buying drugs. The police seemed otherwise engaged. The balcony was no longer a place to retreat. Nor was it safe. Eventually it resolved by itself, like an illness that got so bad it created its own intervention.
Our tomato plants are thriving and the flowers are still lovely. I sit and relax, sometimes. GodCalming. Believe me, I needed that during those couple of years. But I still need it daily, no matter what is going on.
Perhaps it would be helpful if I explained what GodCalming is for me. If you guessed prayer has something to do with it, that is true. And reading Scripture and various meditation books. I do these things in the morning, off and on in the day and at night. I go to church as often as I can or want to and appreciate the liturgy, the music, the fellowship. I attend a Christian women’s study group once a week that is lively and thought-provoking. But it isn’t just about engaging in traditional actions of my faith.
It might include daily walks (when I can walk well again–a broken toe forbids it for now) as I am most content outdoors unless writing. I am a seeker of forest trails, enamored of the mountain ranges that surround our valley. I am at home by water, the Pacific Ocean, the abundant rivers and even stony creeks. Yes, God resides in the elements and I hear, smell, touch, view the Presence as much as I can.
God may find me as I take out pencil and paint. Or listen to refined or funky music and sing and move to shake things up. Read or make poetry. Look for clues of spiritual wisdom woven in conversations, faces, hearts. God is present when I am with our grandchildren, extended family, trusted friends. And God is often right between a stranger and myself. In giving my hands work to do for others. There are so many ways I experience God it would take a long while to note them.
But this is my truest GodCalming: the opening of my being and flooding it with universal synchronicity. A deep reassurance that the infinite design is numinous if also ineffable, still orderly and humming. The absolute sense–of body, mind, spirit–that the meaning we need is in life itself, wherein we realize the intricacate cohesion of what has been, is, ever shall be. Suffering–there is so much–matters. So, too, compassion and mercy. GodCalming infuses me with hope with an acceptance of the duality of life and a unifying force of Love. I am not truly alone here. I am not very unique. I am a reflection of multitudinous wonders, just as are you and you. In this moment there is the essence of wholeness we are each given; we are to be it, use it, share it. We are made of stars, lest we forget.
So I am to rest within the vibrancy of God. Be unafraid. Know God calls to us to do good, walk in humility. To treasure this span of time on earth we each are given. To know there is no full stop, only a continuum. We are welcome travelers, if not always here, then truly in God’s realms.
The world is so frayed. Frantic and heartsick. How fast we all go, treading water at times to just keep our heads above it all. To make sense of chaos. To construct spiritual or actual protection, to hold in our lives peace. To bring to fruition our dearest endeavors. We do have our work to do; we also have need of calm.
And to just lie down at night and find goodness still is afoot in our thinking and doing and resting, in the tender woefulness of this world. It may seem hard to believe but try to trust a little more.
This is my GodCalming: to right now experience Divinity. To be alive with heartfelt abandon. Keep building kindness and courage. Accept the gifts. Take rest now for all to come. Expect miraculous things as they do occur, every moment, somewhere. Be faithful to my own calling, as we each have a place on earth and beyond. And no matter what, know God (in all glory) Is (with us, in this and all worlds).
Breath of God, find and fill us.
“God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble… ‘Be still, and know that I am God’…”
–excerpted from Psalm 46