Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Bit of Elbow Grease

"I had almost forgotten
How lovely it is.
To be tired and leave
Things to themselves."
Lars Gustafson, translated by John Irons

Recently, my mama went to an estate sale and picked up, for me, the most soothing and delicious book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. SA is an authentic and soulful work, filled with spiritual and applicable thoughts and advice. I am, when I'm not nervous about it, excited about the paths it takes me down.

This week's topic has been money, and the daily essays are filled with both mentally enriching and practical advice for thinking of, handling and managing money. For the most part, I've absorbed it readily enough. Today however, while trying to sort out bills, I got in a good, heavy funk. Here was a situation with no immediate resolution and I fell into worry, an ineffectual heart-crushing action.

A conversation with my mom helped tremendously, enough to remind me there was a bigger and greater energy in the world than that of bills or the national economy. We hung up, and I felt a little restored, but still unsatisfied. While Dory napped, I rallied enough energy to do two things: scrub my bathtub and talk with God.

These conversations are still so new to me, something I've begun in the last few years. They start abruptly, not kneeling sweetly in front of my bed at night, but in the middle of five o' clock traffic or silently in a chaotic get-together or in a half-sleep in the middle of the night while nursing Dory. They can be anything from "I am so grateful..." to "WHAT is going on..." Today I started with some kind of chemical cleaner with bleach for the tub. In my conversation, I fretted, accused and worried out loud about two weeks from now, two days from now, two hours from now. I didn't get anywhere with either track, so I gave up both of those.

I tried a second, natural cleaner and requests for help. Help in seeing the positive, help in finding the best in the situation, help to not waste anymore of my life in worthless, wasteful worry. Anne Lamott, a particularly brilliant writer on the subject of faith, says her main prayer is "help me, help me, help me, and thank you, thank you, thank you." I stuck with help me.

I gave up on cleaners and moved on to a good solid scrub brush, with a fat handle and thick solid bristles. At some point, in asking for help, I'd grown calm enough and clear enough to ask the question: "What does my life look like, right now, through the eyes of God? What does my Authentic Self, as Breathnach calls it, know about me?" That question, finally, resonated. What does Spirit see? A woman with... great health... a gorgeous, thriving baby... a gorgeous, thriving husband. A woman with loving, thriving parents. A woman with a warm home, running water, electricity. A woman with lovable, though fairly smelly, dogs. A woman with great friends. A woman who loves knitting and fiber. A woman who enjoys walking when she makes the time. A woman with a passion for writing and literature. A woman who likes to laugh and has plenty of reasons to everyday. The grime started to streak and abate; the scuffed white tub underneath began to show through. Both the literal and metaphorical cleaning worked their magic. I threw my back and heart into it, knowing the time before Dory woke up was brief and that, once she was up, I wanted to be present with her.

What did this woman really want? Comfort. I wanted a little comfort, a little serenity and ease in my present moment. I can't know with absolute certainty what will happen in the next few weeks, next week, next day. But this worthless, wasteful worrying- agh! This felt helpless and served no purpose.

Looking at a white bathtub brought me a little comfort. Picking up Dory and cuddling her in my arms brought me more. I decided to seek comforts for the rest of the day. Fresh sheets on the bed. Putting Dory's pumpkin hat on her. Making a good friend's potato soup recipe for dinner. Chatting with Matthew about his day at work. Reading the SA essay for today again. Putting this lovely girl to bed and seeing, as always, how very, very blessed I am.

It wasn't easy and several times, actually many, many, many times I felt that old fear start to creep back up. What about- tomorrow? this person? this event? Each time, I dragged my mind back, back to the present, the here and now. I had everything I needed right now. Today. In this minute. Still my mind wandered, and still I brought it back. I wasn't blissfully, wildly, outrageously happy getting ready for bed. That would have been lovely, but a stretch. I was quiet, thoughtful and grateful.

The most important part of the day? Remembering the second part of the prayer and taking it to bed with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

1 comment:

Ann said...

I listened to Oprah's interviews with Sarah Ban Breathnach just the other week. I've been hoping to run across a used copy of Simple Abundance soon. I really liked all that they discussed in the interviews.
Thanks for letting me know about them!