Off Duty

So, Lord, I think this new cloak of mine is going to take a lot of getting used to. I was just sitting here thinking I felt pretty good, had a decent day, because (drum roll) I got so much done! Sheesh. 

It’s not about doing versus not-doing. It is about with what attitude are you doing. How did you feel today, running your errands, doing your paperwork?

I felt fairly relaxed for the most part, except once or twice, when I looked at the clock and felt that sense of being rushed, or rather, not moving fast enough myself. I did try to think all day long about what You said yesterday. I wasn’t sure how to switch gears exactly, but now that I think back, for the most part I wasn’t revved up. I made a list so I wouldn’t forget anything, and actually did all but one thing–I would have done that too but it was raining too hard at that point for that particular errand.

So you can actually balance your life with your work and your chores. You see? You were able to reach out briefly to friends today. You did your errands. You made real progress preparing for your upcoming buying trip. And you did it all with much less anxiety. You even got a little extra sleep this morning! You tried to remember to drink more water and you took bathroom breaks. I would say, for your first day, you were a great success wearing your new cloak!

Thanks, God. I do feel good tonight. I do. I even noodled around with a new lyric, sort of, in the car. And Kaylee was more affectionate, more playful, than she has been in a while. I could almost believe she sensed the change too.

Almost? You know how sensitive animals are. If such a change makes such a difference in her behavior in just one day, imagine the benefits that await you long-term.

You know, God, at one point this morning, I caught myself slipping into those old familiar thought patterns and I literally interrupted myself to say, no, today is going to be an incredible day!

And was it?

I am sitting here right now, feeling–and I do mean that word, feeling, I can feel Quiet, I can feel Calm. Peaceful. I am feeling at peace. I am feeling at peace with myself. That’s huge. And yes, I would have to label that as pretty incredible.

And what is happening to the earth?

Ha, God, You are so funny. It is spinning, spinning on its axis, revolving around the sun, keeping its place in the Universe. And all without me having to worry about it, ha! 

I Am not making fun of you. But it is helpful for you to see for yourself how playful and joyous this life can once again be, as long as you are focused on Being, on Being your best self. Sure, go, do–but from a center of being. And what did I promise you? That you will be even more productive, accomplish even more, and operate from a position of even more energy. So how do you feel physically?

I know bedtime is coming and I think I will sleep, but I don’t feel that same overarching fatigue I have been having. AND…this is incredible…although I planned to drink coffee in the afternoon, I didn’t. Somehow I didn’t need it. I got along just fine without it.

And you are not feeling exhausted now?

No. I’m not. I am actually feeling pretty good. Guess that will go down on my gratitude list tonight. Thank You, Lord.

Yes, I guess it will. Thank you–for receiving My peace. You know, I have called you to be a peacemaker, and a peacekeeper. And that begins with days like today, days when you are at peace first with yourself.

Cloak of Responsibility

Here is the best–and worst– part about old journals, Lord–busted, I’m busted. So a few days ago I was rejoicing over the growth I saw, looking back at pages from 15 years ago. Well I read a little further and I stumbled on an entry from mid-May that could have been written yesterday. Sure, the circumstances were different then–I was finishing up a later-in-life undergrad degree, studying for exams and preparing papers, but the stress responses, the fatigue, and my desperate, articulated on the page need for some time outside was identical. So writing that down, i think I see two things: this is not a new issue, a new problem and I think it dates all the way back to my school years; and second, the outdoors has been my safe soothing place for a long, long time.

So I really want to copy down here what I wrote there and then. Because I need to talk to You about this. I wish it could be once and for all. But maybe it can at least be for now. “In one sense I have no business doing anything but run this marathon called spring quarter (substitute, get open for season) but…I have a ton of buts. But I’m so tired. But I’m said. But my head is in a vice. But…but I want a break, not a big break–but some small break, some outside, outdoors break. Change focus. I deliberately am not going to write three pages, takes too long. Instead I’m going to shower and leave and go somewhere. Sounds rebellious just to write that down. Why should a morning beach walk or the Ridge be rebellious? Because duty has tons of tasks right here. When is a break ok? When I’m breaking? I don’t know.” WHEW! Yikes. May, 2003. 

I have a flood of memory. Being on call for work, in an era before cell phones, so that I didn’t dare even go to the beach for more than an hour even on the weekend “in case” I was called, called in to work or to answer a question or attend some meeting. Good grief. I remember unplugging the phone for a solid weekend and my roommate and I binge watching wonderful movies, Ghandi and Biko and I can’t recall what else. Something Native American but I don’t remember the title. I remember how I felt good and bad, doing that. I remember talking to the personnel director at the time, about all the extra work I was being expected to do after hours, but because my bosses were committee volunteers, I was told there was nothing I could do about it–and stay employed. Of course I did what I do. I stayed employed! It was seven years later and it took my mom’s illness before I finally left that job. But obviously I didn’t leave the mindset.

God, Great Creator, Your own Name is I Am. Not I Do. How can You help me?

SO much in your culture, your schooling, your family, your past employment, and even the example set by your husband extols and rewards work, effort, productivity. You have been well trained, trained to perform. But life is not a circus, and you are not a trick pony. Nor are you a racehorse. Nor are you destined to plod, plod along pulling a plow. When you picture a horse, what image comes to mind first?

Running free. Running over the plains. Running by the sea. 

Freedom to Be, that is what comes first. Essence of Horse, yes? So what is Essence of Eve? That is what I want you to ask yourself, tonight and in the morning and in the days ahead. I will give you a hint–it is not what you think. It is not what first comes to mind. Your gifts, your talents, and yes your working life, these are outpourings in particular channels of an inner life. I want you to think less about the channels and more about the spring, more about the river. I want you to think more about the Essence. More about Being. Not about Being Efficient. Not about Being Organized. Not about Being Productive or Being Successful. Not even about Being Faithful, which you translate into productivity and effort, into doing and away from merely being.

Eve means Life. “Mother of all Living” — which you have chuckled over, adopting stray cats, calling yourself Mama. You have chuckled and donned a mantle of great and grave responsibility. Once before I asked you for a cloak, to give Me the cloak you were wearing. Do you remember?

Lord, how can I forget? Of course I remember. “I clutched my grief to my body like a robe/said it is all that is mine I have left/but I threw it down at Your feet and turned to go/cold, alone, bereft”

And what happened next, in your vision, in your lyric?

You led me to the beach. You wrapped a new warm something around my shoulders. You began to heal that broken place inside.

Somewhere along the way, you abandoned the cloak I gave you, and you wove for yourself a new one–this mantle of responsibility. It is neither keeping you warm nor keeping you dry. And I want you to do what I asked you to do years ago. Give Me your mantle. Give Me your sense of weighty responsibility, that feeling you have that so much depends on you and your effort, from your family’s health and safety to the health and safety of friends, to the success of your business and every artist whose work you so lovingly steward. Can you do that? Can you trust Me with your mantle, one more time?

Gosh God, there is blood and sweat and tears on this shawl. I don’t mean to be dramatic but there are a lot of years woven into these threads. Does this mean all that work, all that effort did not count?

No, little one. What it means is that you are trying to fit into a garment that was never meant for you. What I have for you to wear is a mystical, magical coat. It will grow as you grow. Its threads shimmer and gleam in moonlight and sunlight. It is soft and gentle to the touch yet the sharpest arrows of accusation cannot penetrate its weave. This is My Weaving, and I have spent all your life preparing it for you, for this moment. For the moment you are willing to let go, and begin to Be. Live into your name, live into your loves, live into your life. Give Me your heavy mantle. Slip on your new coat. Here is its first secret: see its color change as you tap deeply into the Essence of who you are, who I have made and called you to be.

One more thing. You can’t easily hide in this coat. This is not a camouflage garment. You will be both more conspicuous and more free, wearing it. You want to see how you look? Your reflection pool will be found first in the eyes of those closest to you, from animals to people you love who love you back.

Lord, what are You going to do with my old cloak, the one I just took off?

Give that cloak no more thought. I Am going to light a fire, to warm your winter and help light your way. This is not the sort of garment to hand down to anyone else, you know. And it had gotten way too heavy to wear in warmer weather, and your busier season. You would have fallen, trying to bear it.  How does your new coat feel?

It, it feels lightweight. And oh my goodness, I just moved my neck and it is moving more freely, less stiff, less pain.

The lightness in your spirit will translate directly into lightness for your bones, and energy for your body and mind. And paradoxically, into more restful sleep as well. So sleep tight, little one. Snuggle into your coat. Let Me teach you about restful labor, and energizing rest.

Tumbling Down The Well

Lord, I know what is most important to You is not work. It’s relationship. So what can I do? I feel like I’m side-stepping this problem; no matter how I have tried, I can’t seem to resolve this. I have tried to address symptoms but the underlying drivenness remains. And I do see this, really, as a deficit of character, not as an asset–at least at its current level. Maybe it could be an asset in moderation. So can I, dare I, ask You to help? The only way I can think of to truly make amends is to a)work less and b)quit manifesting anxiety and I am not there, in my own strength.

You can ask Me to remove anything and everything that separates you from My best for you. Do you think this state of being is My best? Do you view this way of being as a gift from Me? Do you think I can help you get everything done? Do you think I can protect you without your having to be hyper-vigilant, like that tv show you watched a while back, about the veteran?

Lord, are You saying I have some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder? That’s ridiculous! That’s for victims of trauma, like soldiers or the abused or hurricane victims, or 9-11, right?

2011 was your personal, private, 9-11. The twin towers were Pete’s cancer and Patrick’s death–both sudden, life-never-the-same attacks from outside yourself on your normal everyday life.

God, I’m sobbing now. You say that and bang, I’m sobbing, getting my paper wet. What do I do? What do I do?

You start by being honest. You start by asking for help. You don’t try to hide it, from yourself, from Me, from others.

Lord, I’m really embarrassed. And I’m really ashamed. Shouldn’t this relationship I have with You be enough?

It is because of our connection that you are still functioning at all. You opted to stay strong and power through that time, but you are like a car that is stuck in 4th gear now. You can’t shift. You can’t down-shift, you can’t put it in neutral for more than a few minutes at a time–like here, or walking outside–and even then, your inner motor is revving, just waiting to kick into overdrive again. It’s why you can’t settle. Why you are so restless. Why you don’t make music. Why all of a sudden you struggle to write. Why you can’t remember. You’re on overdrive and on auto-pilot. You’re trying to multitask mentally, juggle all these different must-do’s and need-to’s and shoulds. You’ve gone beyond overload. You’re like a power plant that has been running too long at peak capacity and the whole thing is in danger of shutting down.

Lord, that is my fear, though, that the grid will go down, so to speak. In my life. It is the same fear family members have, I guess. They go around angry. Me, I’m just so afraid…and then this past fall, with Pete…and the other day, with Pete…I feel like I can’t let down my guard for one second. I feel like, if I take a break, take a walk, take a breather, that is the very moment he will need me, and I won’t be right there. So. That is my fear.

I know. And yet, when you stop and think, you realize you are not afraid of Me, and you do trust Me. So you feel confused, too.

Yes, that is true.

These are all symptoms. Sometimes symptoms must increase so the diagnosis can be made, so the condition can be identified and treated.

And You are saying I need professional help? Since I can’t handle this?

Eve, Eve. You did handle this. That is what you are not seeing. You did. You do. You came through like a trooper–but you are still stuck in “like a trooper” mode. That is the problem. You are waiting, 24/7, for the shoe to drop. For the next sudden attack on your life. That’s the problem.

Yes, well. Isn’t that obvious? I mean, hello, isn’t that where we are? Where he is, and where I am? Isn’t that where the whole world is, at some point?

So let Me play this back for you. You are saying the best response to aging is to move into a crisis mode with greater anxiety and less joy, just so you can be prepared for an eventual inevitable disaster? And that is the best I can offer humans for their latter years? And that is the most humans can expect of themselves, each other, and Me? Is that really what you think, or believe?

Well, when You put it that way…

No–you put it that way. You put it that way every time you make a choice to operate from a perspective that says, everything around you is falling apart and it is your responsibility to keep all the pieces together and in play. But everything around you is not falling apart, for one thing, and it is not your responsibility to hold everything together, as I have told you before. It is your responsibility to do what?

To live each day connected to You, and in love. In love with You, in love with Pete, in love with this beautiful, messy world and my beautiful, messy life.

And what part of love, of lovingkindness does the puzzle piece of your stress and anxiety, your fear and drivenness fit?

Lord, it doesn’t. It doesn’t fit the puzzle at all. It is the wrong size and the wrong shape and the wrong color. And it has rough, sharp edges. 

I want you to live “as if.” Some people counsel to live as if you are dying, as if life is shrinking and diminishing and you have to cram as much as you can into every moment. I don’t want you to do that. I don’t want you to live as though nothing matters and there is no purpose either. I want you to live a third way. I want you to live AS IF this day, every day, is the best day of your life so far. And then get up tomorrow and do that again. Just purpose in your heart, wow, this day is going to be incredible! Then let’s color in what incredible looks and feels like for you. It is different for everyone. For you, it does include both time to reflect and time to create, time to be with those you love and time to be alone, time at the Page with Me and time noticing the natural world. Incredible for you includes beauty in many forms. Words in many genres. Music. Laughter. The affection of furry critters. You’ve tumbled once again down a deep well of grief and you need to climb toward the light. Miraculously, nothing is really broken–yet. And there is a ladder leading up. So let’s climb out together, shall we?

Workmanship

Lord, I need, I want, to talk to You about work. I feel guilty when I am not working, and I feel guilty when I am working, like right now. Like sitting here at the computer since dinner, working on images for a potential special order. I was out of the house all day, working and I have been at it all evening, working. And Pete is watching TV by himself. So I want to go join him, in a few minutes–and then, I am going to feel guilty that I am not finishing this task at hand. I swear, sometimes I need to be two people. Or more.

You don’t need to swear. And you don’t need to apologize. And you don’t need to feel guilty–about either choice. The fact is, if you WERE two people, both of you would be feeling guilty! You would think, gosh I could get double the work done if only both of me were working!

Oh, Lord, You know me so well. I reckon it’s true.

Your worth is not based on your work. Your worth, your value, is based in the fact that I Who Am says, Behold, you are. Behold, you live. Behold, you love. Behold, I love you. Behold, you are worthy. The ego looks for reasons and comparisons. But the truth is, you are worthy because I Am Love and I Choose you–all of you. No one of you is more or less worthy than another.

You are My Workmanship, all of you. Do you remember what the word “workmanship” is in the Greek?

Lord, I do! I do remember. It is related to the word poetry.

Yes, you are My Poem, My lyric, My Word expressed in flesh, in personality, in gifts, in foibles. All of you, My Volume of exquisite poetry, My Workmanship. My Masterpiece, My Masterwork.

You who are artists refer to what you do in the collective as “the work.” Folks also speak of their jobs, how they earn their livelihoods as work. Labor of any kind has come to be called work, whether it pays or not. But when you switch gears and begin to think of workmanship, that is a different sort of question. What kind of life are you building? You need to build a balanced life. You need to build a life of rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, analogy, with sweeping themes and grand ideals. You need to build the kind of life that, were it read or chanted, would bring vistas of delight and bold hopes and resolve into the hearts of the hearers or readers. Don’t undervalue your complete life. Do enjoy your work–but not at the expense of the whole poem. Don’t try to force a stilted rhyme or rhythm. You know how to craft a lyric. Let the melody and harmony lead the dance and suggest the rhythm of the words–of the work, of your life.

Gosh, God, I never, not once, thought of life like poetry. Thank You. That helps me.

Expansion

A little glimmer, a little shimmer, a little puff of wind. The day stretches and yawns into itself. I am quiet. Kaylee is scratching, restless. Lord, what would You say?

People think of expansion in many different ways. Your crop could yield more seeds, that is one way. The size of your fields could increase. You could have more outlets for your crop, so you waste less and store less. You could be more efficient in both planting and harvest.

Yes?

Another way to think about expansion is to diversify. You have fields AND an orchard. And you raise sheep for wool, say. In order to diversify, where the land produces a year-round, expanded offering, you need more help—help which I will provide. You are close to the limit of what you can provide in terms of cranking out product. The next big piece is the writing piece, and the workshop/speaking/teaching piece. Each will have a different audience and a bit of a different purpose, but it is all your land, all your territory. I do want you to dream again, and dream on paper. Dream on the page.

Lord, I write that down and I lean back. I lift my pen off the page. Why? What’s up with that, what’s up with me?

You think the very idea of having dreams and expressing them is selfish, self-centered, prideful. You forget about my planting seeds in you, seeds that sprout as your gifts and talents, as your inclinations and preferences, as your longings. All of these are My planting within you. So let’s examine those seeds, shall we?

 

 

 

 

On The Edge

Lord, why am I fatigued?

 

Seriously? You are asking Me why you are fatigued?

Look in the mirror. Pull back and watch your life as you would watch a movie about someone else. What would you say about the character who is you?

Driven, Lord. I’d say driven. Obsessed, even.

 My word says, Be Still and Know. Not, Be Frantic and Know. You are on the edge of a breakdown and you don’t even see it. You are right at the precipice—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Everyone around you sees it. Who are you trying to prove yourself to? The one with the most stress loses.

 So, Lord, here I am.

And Here I Am. But you have not let Me be I AM, your I Am. You have thought you needed to be I am—and especially for everyone else: I am efficient, I am calm, I am a good friend, I am faithful, I am kind, I am loving, I am creative…and you are all those things. But who, Who, is I AM for you? You ask Me for strength and for wisdom so you can continue to be “I am” for all those people. I want to be I AM for you. You ask Me, what can I do? What can I give? And I keep saying, Receive. Let’s increase the flow in your life. You are trying hard to be the riverbed and the spring. Not out of ego but out of a misplaced sense of duty and obligation, as if you had to prove both your love and your worth. For a little while, the only Believing Mirror I want you to look into is Me, not My Word, which you still interpret through older, poisoned voices, but My Eyes. Let My Eyes become your Believing Mirror. Let Me show you what I see, and what I foresee, what I envision.

First, you don’t generate the power, the electricity, the current—I do. Let Me clean off the terminals, the connections, that have become corroded. My cleansing is gentle and with you consists mostly in removing old layers of fear and guilt and shame which have no place in your life today. They are like barnacles; they slow you down. And when you try to pry them off yourself, they only make you bleed and ultimately suffer more.

 

I did not plan humanity for suffering. I planned humanity for bliss. That is why the goal of Buddhism is bliss; otherwise the goal would be increased suffering which anyone but the mentally ill can see is wrong. Buddhism has it almost all right. Life can be hard because of humanity’s choices, not by My design.

Dancing Butterflies

Lord, I knew this new puppy would be exhausting. Thank You, by the way, for the extra hours of sleep last night. I am so grateful for some rest. What I did not anticipate and I don’t know how to handle is that the schedule is making it much harder to have my time in the morning with You. The past few days it has been impossible. Right now it is nearly 6 pm and I am snatching minutes before supper to sit, and think, and talk to You, and feel.

And what do you feel?

Honestly, it wasn’t a bad day. But You said to keep connected to You, and how am I supposed to do that, when I don’t have a regular, concentrated time to journal and to listen?

What did you do this afternoon?

Ran the errands I needed to run. Took Pete to the bank, we stopped at Yellowhouse, came home, put the puppy pen together outside.

Besides all that?

I took a few minutes and photographed the monarch butterflies on my lantana bush.

You noticed them. And you took some time to watch them and then to photograph them.

Yes.

Do you remember the verse that says, whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me?

Yes, of course.

You treat yourself in your own thinking as less than the least of these. You contributed charitably, you helped your friend get his car, you finished up the long refi at the bank, you did business tasks at home before that and after that…and in the middle of all that, you gave your attention to honor these winged flights of beauty–and you felt guilty for those few minutes. Didn’t you? Isn’t that why you laid your camera down and moved on to another task? All those errands and chores you did to help anyone else, they count for something in your thinking, in your assessment of your day. But taking time to count butterflies? Not so much. Yet those few minutes were actually minutes of serenity and calm for you. And although you were not uttering prayers, you were actually praying the whole time. You were living moments in deliberate honor and gratitude and you were noticing the beauty of your world.

Lord, it was amazing! There were monarchs and painted ladies and I don’t know who all, on that one bush!

There is more than one way to set a bush ablaze. With Moses I chose fire. Today with you, I chose wings the color of flame. Drink beauty like water. That is one more way to stay connected to all that is, and to Me, as the Source and Creator of all that is. I Am glad you enjoyed the dance of the butterflies. You could not hear them, but angels were making the music they could hear and all to refresh you. Now, let me ask you one more question. How do you feel right now?

Relaxed. Refreshed. Grateful. And somehow leaning on You. And You are smiling.

Yes, yes I Am.