I started a new journal today.
Since the beginning of 2020, I have been using a peppy, brightly colored, high energy journal with one of my favorite Mary Oliver quotes on the front,
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
This juicy question, the last line of the poem The Summer Day, is one I return to again and again. These words invite me to consider:
- What kind of life am I choosing?
- Knowing the limits of this one precious opportunity, am I cultivating a bit of wildness and adventure along the way?
At the beginning of 2020, I wrote some very specific answers to those questions in the first few pages of my sparkly new journal about the kind of wild and precious life I saw on the horizon for 2020. To get those creative juices flowing, I joined my coaching clients in a brain storming exercise, writing several pages on each of these prompts:
- In 2020, I DON’T want…
- In 2020, I DO want…
Apparently, I forgot to mention “global pandemic” on my “DON’T want” list.
To state the obvious, 2020 hasn’t been quite what I had planned. How about you?
But still, I filled those pages of my peppy, gold foil lettered, wild and precious journal, even though some days the uplifting, super positive, inspirational words on the inside of the journal kind of pissed me off. During the harder days in April, many of those pages were filled with words flung in the general direction of God because I found the only way I could stay focused enough to pray was to write down my thoughts. Now, as I prepare to put this journal back on the shelf, I read back through my prayers of frustration, anger, lament and restlessness and see the unfolding of our “quarantine experience” all over again: my worry when my husband was sick for 2 weeks, my fears for the future, my frustration over lost opportunities, and my anger at those in charge of our national pandemic response.
Today, I opened the fresh pages of my new journal. I found this edition among the many I’ve collected in my travels, replenishing my supply each time I stumble across an interesting notebook, not knowing when it might be called into action for my own use or as a timely gift to someone else. Today’s new journal seems much more appropriate to our current state of affairs: a soft pastel blue with the words “Be Still and Know that I am God” etched across the cover. These too are familiar, oft repeated words: a beloved scripture and another refrain from the songs my life sings. Today, both covers speak to me:
- Be Still AND Get to Work.
- Being AND Doing.
- Presence AND Productivity.
This is the dance, isn’t it?
Early in 2020, I thought the next few months would be all about the DOING. Five scheduled speaking events, more enneagram workshops, building my coaching business, and traveling to see far away friends and family. Instead, 2020 appears to be the opportunity for learning more about BEING. BEING school!
I saw a beautiful post on this topic on Facebook earlier today from my very smart writer friend Lauren Flake over on her page Love of Dixie. In today’s post, she listed and lamented all the things she has NOT gotten done during the quarantine, but then celebrated the ways she has been present with her people and herself. She closed with these words:
I haven’t been productive, but I have been present. And for that, I am forever grateful to the quarantine.
And I thought “YES! That is it exactly.” Isn’t all good writing about nodding your head and saying YES! ME TOO! Thanks, Lauren!
To be honest, in the first few weeks of the pandemic, productivity and presence both felt hard. I was too amped up to be still, but too restless to stick with a task for any length of time. Even my beloved refuge of reading was difficult. But as the weeks have unfolded, I find myself settling into a deepening understanding of what it means to be more present on a moment by moment basis.
- Slow down.
- Be still.
- Pay attention.
- Notice what I’m feeling.
This weekend, I spent hours on the back porch, sometimes reading, sometimes just breathing and noticing the world around me and my experience of it. The particularly vibrant green of springtime leaves, the breeze that picked up over the course of the time I was there, the feeling of the warm sun on my face, the people who popped into my mind and heart, the delightful little skink who settled into a spot near me on the warm stone. Without an agenda and with fewer options on my doing list, I find I am more willing to embrace and learn from moments like this of being.
Mindfulness is another word many of us use to describe this experience of tuning into what is happening in the present moment. Instead of getting distracted frantically worrying about the future or reliving the past, mindfulness invites us into a fuller experience of THIS moment. Mindfulness is defined as “the psychological process of focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without judgment.”
In my own personal journey of healing and wholeness, and in the work I do with my coaching clients, practicing mindfulness is key. As an Enneagram 7, I am a pro at distracting myself from feeling uncomfortable feelings.
- Just keep moving!
- Find the silver lining!
- Put another activity on the calendar!
- Numb myself with more screen time!
Yet, in these unprecedented times, we can no longer hide in the DOING. Even if our days are busier than usual with extra responsibilities from working at home, homeschooling kids or financial pressure, we can’t run from our collective suffering. One glance at the news and we come face to face with the enormity of the pain, grief and uncertainty we are experiencing as a planet. Our hearts are broken. This is real and it HURTS.
Glennon Doyle, in one of her recent morning meetings, offered us the words “praying attention” and I can’t quit mulling over these words in my mind. I can’t fix the brokenness and suffering, but I can “pray attention.” When I “pray attention,” I choose once again to
- Slow down.
- Be still.
- Pay attention.
- Notice what I’m feeling. (Even if it is hard!)
And from this place of stillness, listening closely to my own heart and the voice of Spirit who is ALWAYS present, I move into a more measured and purposeful DOING.
- I choose to care for myself and my people with gentleness and compassion.
- I choose to reach out to the person God put on my heart.
- I choose to be more creative in cultivating beauty and connection.
- I choose to help someone who is struggling with financial insecurity by finding out who is doing good work on the front lines.
- I choose to find ways to be a light in the darkness by serving my clients and community with love and intention.
“Be Still and Know”
“What is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?”
As always, I am here to support you if you are interested in going deeper. I am running specials on coaching packages right now, both regular coaching and Enneagram coaching packages. In light of the current difficulties, please use the code QUARANTINE for a 15% discount on packages. If you want to schedule a free call to learn more about how coaching might support you, use the link below: