looking for the light

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It’s been almost three months since I last gathered up my thoughts and spilled them out in this space. I usually find peace in writing, but this exhausting and uncertain season has drained me of my words. Words used to engage with others about the political climate, the policy decisions, the ways they affect our neighbors. Words offered in an effort to seek understanding. Words shot off as snarky comments like a release valve, exhaling pressure and anxiety in quick bursts. I’m struggling for some elusive balance, an equilibrium with this new world where uncertainties are our constant companion and falsehoods, threats, and taunts are delivered to the public from our president via twitter each day.

There have been weeks where I have let myself be ruled by these concerns – spending hours watching press conferences and scavenging for the facts of the last 24 hours, giving myself over to all of the reactions and reactions to the reactions. I thought, at first, that being super informed would be the safest strategy. Nothing would get past me and I wouldn’t be taken for a fool or swept up in any #alternativefacts in my ignorance. But I can’t sustain the frantic pace of his tweeting fingers and the international fallout of his words. I am exhausted. Neglecting and intensely impatient with the kids. Overwhelmed by a world I felt increasingly hopeless about. The space between thoughtful engagement and getting caught up in the reality-tv-show of it all is impossibly small.

And in real life, we spent the last two weeks inconveniently camping on our living room floor. An enormous possum died above our bedroom, but because of some landlord politics and because we initially hoped it was just a small squirrel in a wall that would quickly decompose, we moved our bed and clothes out and the air purifiers in. It was two putrid weeks of chaos, tripping over everything, lots of petty arguments about laundry and piles and crumbs in our bed. Late nights and early mornings and too much toddler tv and a lengthy flu virus that turned the twins into miserable, needy little people. We finally called the landlord and said we just couldn’t take it anymore and things improved immensely when his critter guy found and bagged up the massive creature. At long last we moved back in last night.

As we reassembled our bedroom, put away all the piles of clothes, and swept the house clean of dust and diapers and everything else that had accumulated around our makeshift campsite, I felt a sense of calm returning. A feeling of place-ness. A grounding. I belong here. This is my space for rest. These are my books that inspire my work and capture my imagination and fuel my hope. Here is my pile of waiting-to-be-sewn christmas pajamas. There is the box of random crap we don’t have a place for. Everything as it should be. And is there anything as wonderful as the first night on clean sheets, everything tucked in and tidy?

I settled in, set my alarm, popped in my glamorous grind guard, turned off the light, and turned on a meditation. I know it speaks to the absurd pace and amount of sensory input we subject ourselves to, but this meditation is only 7 minutes long and yet it felt like a revelation of refreshment. It’s an apophatic reflection – considering notions of God and how they run up against the limitations of our language in expression and understanding.

“God is wise. God is not wise, for God is more than wise. God is not not wise.”

“God is a being. God is not a being. God is not not a being.”

It’s a relief to be able to pause and think only about these simple, challenging things – to confess my doubts and wonder at the limits of my understanding. It’s grounding to spend time at the edge of what I know. But this is not my natural impulse. Since the election, instead of looking to rest and reflection as a framework for more sustainably leaning into these bewildering realities, I have been fighting fighting fighting, trying desperately to resolve them. Last night it occurred to me that my bewilderment at the world is an invitation  to meditate on the things I cannot even find the words for, let alone resolve.

I think there is powerful resistance in resting. Considering. Contemplating. God knows there’s not enough contemplation in our government right now. Or, frankly, even in my own home.

So as the living room has been returned to the children, the puzzles and books and tiny potties back in their places, so my intentions will be returned to the things that matter. I will engage with the circus of my government and the needs of my own city in a way that is thoughtful and honors my limitations and the other callings in my life. And just as I re-set the house each evening, preparing for the new day, I will make space for a clearing of my head-space each night.

I share this because I know I’m not the only one struggling to find the balance. I see the strain in the faces around me, I hear it in the way our voices sound frayed as we strain for pleasantries, skirting around a weightier conversation we don’t have the energy for. We need to lament. To grieve the state of things. And then we need renewed courage to act. To be people on a mission of light and love.

This grounding comes in the smallest things. Reaching out to friends. Checking in on neighbors. Noticing the people and places in our communities we have gotten good at ignoring. Sharing a meal with someone we love. Making or listening to music that stirs our soul. Creating art. Bringing order to chaotic corners of our home. Playing with some silly kids. Meditating. Making garden plans. Baking bread. Reading a novel or a children’s story that captures our imagination. Being outdoors. Soaking in a hot tub. Exercising. Writing a note to a family member or friend.

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There are a million ways to reflect light into a place but we exude the bright, healing warmth when we enmesh our lives with those around us. It is not easy work. Not the lamenting or the creating or the life-sharing. But it is good. It is what we all need. More than twitter or livestreams or even protests. Before the action we need the thoughtful contemplation and grounding. Then we can spend ourselves for our neighbor, knowing that our souls are nourished and ready for good work of truth-telling and love.

Make space today for the meditation your heart craves. Bake your bread as an act of lament and resistance. Share it with those you gather at your table. Light a candle to remind you of the power a single flame possesses against even the most menacing darkness. Find joy together.

Be at peace, friends.

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If you are new to guided  meditations and unsure of where to start, here is another from The Liturgists.

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