There is a lot more emptiness in my life right now than there has been in a long time. This is by necessity. Recovering from my “depressive episode” requires it. I’m liking it very much. I wonder if it is sustainable. Joan, my therapist, told me of a 4th century saint who said, “The emptiness in life is full of God’s angels singing.” This is true. You can see and hear more when there is a lot of emptiness. Some people run from it. I like it. I think I could basically live this way forever.
Alas, the children need to be registered for school. Our friends have stopped calling. Can this be a way of life, or just a healing time?
I told my women’s spiritual group that my new method for introducing calm and order and peace in my household is that I’ve stopped doing. I don’t make lists. I take a long time to return phone calls. I don’t pay attention to false obligations. I don’t roar off in the car five times a day. We do without things rather than go shopping. Lo and behold, we are still here, still functioning. We’ve lowered our expectations for ourselves considerably.
(A few of the women blinked at me. What did I mean, I stopped making lists? And when group was over, one of them asked, “What do you do when you’re doing nothing?” I said, “I hang out on the floor with my kids.”)
This makes life feel fuller. I can hear my breath. I can stop and listen. I am not rushing headlong into anything, I am not reacting all over the place, doing stand-up comic routines for laughs with my friends, smoking, swilling, rushing, running, dying to be somewhere else. I am learning to sit where I am, and let things go, and see what happens. I am learning the great power of floating.
It is hard to know, though, when or if to stop floating. I have no real desire, or necessity, to go back into noisy lawnmower-mode. Floating is a great skill they teach you in 12 step programs. It’s how you survive crises and calamities.
If you can float to survive, can you also float to thrive?
What does it mean to thrive? In babies and animals it means to grow, to be in robust health.
What would robust health look like? Could I really put robust spiritual health above other things? What would I really have to give up?
It’s like doing yoga or meditating to help heal a strained lower back and stop smoking. OK, now I’m healed, can I be done with this?
Of course, we are never done with this process of growing up, opening outward, observing the fluctuations of the mind. There’s no end. If you stop, it’s just a pause.
Pema Chodron talks about the illusion of choice. We think we have the choice to pay attention to our spiritual life or not. But really, everything we do is part of the path. If I pause now and join ten committees and start yelling at my husband again, that’s part of the path. And of course, the path will lead me to another round of breakdown and awakening.
So what do I have to give up? Let’s see…I have to give up my judgments about my husband. I have to stop forcing myself to slap a job title onto my interests. (“I like yoga! Maybe I should be a yoga teacher!”) I have to give up guilt. I have to give up controlling the world. I have to give up hating myself and wishing I were different.
Yeah, I can live without that.