Today I was going about my business, checking things off the To-do list, getting things done. Most of the morning I spent on the computer, mid-day running errands in the car, and by afternoon I was outside cleaning our back deck.
I’d sprayed the cleaner onto the wood, and was waiting the allotted time before I went back to rinse it off. I had ten minutes, and we still have lots of fish in the creek, so I decided to stroll down to the water to see what was going on.
As I stood on the bank of the creek, there were two fish just a few feet away. One was female, swimming and wriggling on her side as she laid her eggs in the creek bed’s gravel. Then the male that was with her hover above where she had just been, fertilizing the eggs that were hidden in the dirt and rocks. It was a quiet moment, and somewhat brief. But with the warm sun shining down and the gurgle of the water the only sound in the otherwise quiet day, it was profound.
Right then, a wave of realization washed over me, an almost physical feeling. I wonder, if anyone had been watching, whether they might have seen me snap up straight or take a step back – I don’t know if I did either of those things but I easily could have as I became fully aware of how close I’d come to missing that moment of wonder. I was so thankful that I’d managed to slow down enough to be able to get beyond my typical way of plodding head down and headlong through each day; that today I chose to do things differently, to take the extra 10 minutes, to get outside of the house during the daytime. It sounds so simple, but I constantly miss moments like these because I am choosing to stay inside, or stare at a computer screen, or simply ponder but not take any action.
Learning to slow down, to pay attention. That’s what I believe I’m supposed to be focusing on during this particular phase of my life. For me, this includes being more mindful of what I’m doing each say, and why, and paying better attention to what is going on around me. It also includes intentional, attentive listening on my part for the “little nudges” God might be giving me as he guides me toward a the full life he created for me, and created me for.
But what I’m also learning is that I am out of practice in listening and being attentive in this way.
Over the years, I’ve let these skills get out of practice. I can’t claim that I was ever great at them, but I do know that I used to be a lot better at them than I am now. After a dozen years of training myself to be business-ADD, to expose the weak link in any written statement, and to constantly be striving toward self-defined goals has taken me a very long way from instinctively knowing how to listen in a deep and quiet way for guidance from God.
With the perspective that a few months of space provides, it seems to me that what I was practicing over the past decade was how to be a hugely distractable “multi-tasker”, and to rely only on myself or some set of corporate goals to guide my short- and long-term goals. I find now that I have trouble focusing for more than several minutes when I’m trying to work or write, very possibly due to the way I’d trained my brain to immediately respond to new emails, interruptions, or a whole host of other distractions while I was working in a large corporation. I also find that, even though I prayed for guidance and left my life open to God, I still am measuring successful activity and accomplishment by the corporate standards I’d lived by for more than a decade. That type and length of habit may be slow to unlearn, I’m finding. It’s hard to simply throw off so much that has been ingrained in my brain during a summer off.
It is difficult is to have the patience to wait for new possibilities of work and significance that God may be inviting me to. What is even more difficult is to not be nervous or to disregard those new possibilities because they might be personally uncomfortable or risky.
Today I was at risk of trading too much time on my computer, waiting for an email or a blog stat that would make me feel validated.
Today, I was fretting over the fact that the front planting beds have a ton of new, young weeds all over them, despite the fact that I put down weed inhibitor so there wouldn’t be any. There seemed to be so many, and over so much of the area, that it was too overwhelming to find a place to start. But in the midst of my fretting, I had two different visitors at the house, and each commented on how pretty and green and full of flowers the yard was. Where I could see only weeds and undone chores, they were seeing beauty and sunlight and nature. What happens to my perspective at times? How do I let it get so bent out of shape?
Today I am also holding tightly to the knowledge that I left a traditional career path because I want to live my life differently than the direction I was going, and therefore I AM going to live differently. I am not going to be embarrassed by the fact that I have time in the middle of my work day to watch a pair of salmon follow the instincts given to them by God, nor will I be when I am home on a Tuesday morning and get to see a pair of bobcats chase each other up a young maple tree. I won’t feel guilty that I took an hour to play with our dogs, giving both them and me much-needed exercise and love. I am going to try to focus on the incredible verdure of our home rather than seeing only the chores and tasks that remain undone. Instead, I will be thankful and grateful for the experiences, revel in the choices I have made and the incredibly gracious gift of life that I have to live, and relish each beautiful moment for what it is.
Today, I’m reminding myself to:
- Remember that I need time outside every day, regardless of the weather
- Choose to step away from the computer unless I am actively working on a project (which does NOT include checking email or blog stats)
- Smell the air
- See what has changed that day in the plants in our yard
- Play with the puppies for at least 20 minutes each
- Try to be at peace with the reality that it may be a slow journey to learn to slow down
- Spend a moment or so each day watching the leaves drift down from the trees to the earth
- Drink in the joy and cheer that comes from spending time with friends
- Savor the flavor and new tastes in whatever I’m cooking or eating
- Recognize, revel, and rest in each day’s beauty