Idle and Blessed
The phrase “idle and blessed’ from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day keeps popping into my mind, perhaps because I’m living to a different rhythm these days. I’m savoring each day’s gifts: the sprinkling of goose bumps when I sense a small miracle happening, the twirl of joy when Jay comes down the walk, the pungent odor of sparring goat bucks, the curl of my granddaughter’s eyelashes, the grainy texture of a wooden broom handle and the way dirt swirls ahead of each sweep. How delicious is the grounded feel of earth under my feet, the sweet smell of hay or lavender-scented bed sheets, breathing through an achy yoga pose, laughing with God as I lay on the grass imagining looking down into the sky instead of up!
While I usually move through life more mindful than rushed, recovery from chemotherapy brought extra challenges in stillness and gratefulness. Stillness is a calm resting in Divine Love, despite outer or inner turmoil, regardless of mobility of body. Gratitude insists I treat my body as friend rather than frustration, even while forced to be physically still. While I easily savor the earth and its creatures, I sometimes forget my body is also worthy of celebration and savoring. Recovery asks for deeper listening to my body, being gentle with myself as I wait, hear, and discover what my body needs.
I have learned to be gracious toward my slower, quieter, more reflective nature, yet I can pressure myself in times of physical weakness. In those times, I’m easily discouraged by Western culture’s love of achievement, success, and independence. Growing up in a large rural family, with gardens, orchards, animals, a large household and siblings to care for, hard work was expected and encouraged. Having a strong work ethic serves me well, but when vulnerable, I can revert to an old mode of unfavorable comparisons.
In the vulnerability of recovery, of nursing two sprained ankles, trying to make sense of erratic blood sugar levels, enduring periods of mental/physical exhaustion and depression, I sometimes found myself clutching a ‘measuring up stick’ again, eyeballing my health, spirituality, recovery, body image, emotions, and especially my fear of laziness against illusions of strength, spirituality, and wholeness. When vulnerable it’s easy to confuse physical needs for lack of motivation and character weakness. When I listen to my body, and dialogue with those who support me, I can see what is: during recovery my body needs more protein, more sleep, and more gentle acceptance of the lingering effects of illness and chemo on all of me: brain, body cells, psyche, emotions, soul.
I processed my illness and treatment phase well, I thought, so after chemotherapy was finished and everyone else went back to life as usual, I expected my own life to drift towards normalcy. Turns out, I had more thinking, praying, listening, and healing left to do.
Recovery is a process. Recovery, like everything else in life, can be a mirror of my subconscious inner thoughts and beliefs. During recovery, beautiful discoveries emerge of self, love, God, cosmos and community. Unsettling things come too, such as anger, depression, impatience and disappointment; it’s so tempting to express the pleasant and repress or judge the rest as negative, especially when western culture, even Christianity, loves the victorious, the positive, the strong. All emotions and thoughts need acknowledgement in recovery. Blessed are the dear souls who companioned me in my darker moments without needing to fix, chastise or spiritualize my condition. Their loving presence helped me open to what life was presenting, so I could hear my body’s needs, choose ways to live well, and find the power to let go of comparisons and expectations.
I am blessed when I take time to be idle, in times of energy and vitality as well as illness and recovery. I give and receive love and wisdom when I slow down and listen to the Sacred within and around me. In stillness, I exist beautifully with the rhythm of the earth, skies, and creatures, the Divine stirrings within myself, my family, my community. Idle hands are not always the devil’s workshop and disciplined idle minds are a welcome break from the constant rush and pressure of society. Blessed is the mind that pauses from thought and finds quiet Stillness within. Blessed is the body that participates in a slow sunset, climbs rocks and surfs waves, hears wisdom from within, feels the beat of cicada song. Blessed is the soul that rests in God’s Heart.
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver: http://www.panhala.net/Archive/The_Summer_Day.html