This week, I virtually lost my ‘voice’, but I also made wishes, and reminded myself why I have said YES to so many opportunities.
First of all, it’s been a while since I posted, because I have spent so much time lately writing school assignments, that my hands hurt and my throat is sore. I think I’m losing my voice … my writing voice, that is … ha-ha!
But seriously, I haven’t dared consider blogging for a several days, because I needed every productive hour to meet other obligations. Right now, sleep isn’t always on the agenda! I pulled at least one all-nighter this week and stayed awake until 5am completing a paper for a deadline, since I had two papers due on the same day. In the days leading up to that deadline, I’d also delivered a sermon, facilitated a women’s spirituality group, assisted with an ‘Amazing Race’ youth group activity and launched Jessie’s floating wish lanterns onto the dark Ipswich River as part of Ipswich Illuminated … all in the same few days.
Why didn’t I work on the papers and deadlines sooner, you might ask? Getting fresh, aren’t you? Well, I did prepare in advance. Pages of notes. Re-reading books to analyze them. Creating outlines. If I hadn’t done that much preparation, there wouldn’t have been any ideas to plump up and submit as finished works yesterday.
So in fact, I did prepare. But time just … well … there was just enough time, if I didn’t sleep. Phew.
After all, there’s keeping up with regular class assignments: weekly essays, whole books to read each week, and various other assignments including oral presentations, debates and even (yes, it’s true) occasional art projects.
Plus working freelance. Plus, as some of the activities above will have indicated, field education as a seminarian working at a church in Beverly.
And yes, during the week, I actually sit down with Chris and spend a few hours being a person who is married with a husband. Or I take a walk or sip tea with a pal, and behave like a person with friends.
It was the perfect storm of deadlines and other activities this past weekend. More than usual. And you know what? I loved every part of it, even though I was very tired last night!
What did I do, when I wasn’t writing? I laughed, being with teenagers on a scavenger hunt to learn about community service and social justice organizations all over downtown Beverly, then racing to be first back to their church for a prize. I held my breath, and then delivered a sermon at First Church with just an index card as an outline, and powerful stories alive in my head and heart, waiting to be shared. Read an autumnal Mary Oliver poem and lit candles with a community of women I’m just getting to know. Applauded after watching my husband Chris and other good friends perform in the 16 Elm Street historical play.
Each year, I stand boot-deep in cold river water, lighting hundreds of candles and nudging origami wax paper boats filled with wishes out onto the tide (thanks, Aileen Ang, for folding those boats). Again this year, they winked like nearby stars in a night sky: a constellation spilled down to earth. (Thanks to friends Miri and Sadie and other cohorts who helped again this year, assisting people as they chose candles, wrote notes and gathered up their dreams to set afloat on the river.) Jessie’s Floating Wish Lanterns are the one activity we perform specifically in her memory each year, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else on that night.
Two weeks ago, we had friends Mark and Lesley visiting in our home from England. For a few glorious days, I set aside reading assignments, classwork and deadlines. Put graduate school on hold for one long weekend, to be with friends that I only see every few years. In other words, time for important activities and relationships remains a priority.
Yes, my writing voice is a little tuckered out, from finishing all school papers yesterday. Yet the subjects lit fires in my brain, and sparked questions in my heart. Despite the pace and the tension, I am where I want to be.
And I am making time, regardless all these deadlines, to do what’s important. To be with those I love. And just to be. Be.
My Harvard professors, even the intellectual ones who pile on work, will always say … take care of yourself. Find a balance. Don’t read every assigned page. Pause. Meditate. Get something to eat. Take a walk. Catch a nap in a quiet corner. And talk to someone, if it’s all too much. Always take care of yourself.
So I remind myself, and now I remind you … when you get wound up tight by schedules, deadlines, appointments, and activities … and we all do … the question is whether these are commitments that you have agreed to do … said YES to … because you care about them. Because you are moved by their purpose or use of your time. Because you believe by doing them, you make a difference, and it rekindles a light inside you, or connects you to something bigger than yourself. Or simply because it feels good to do this activity or be with this person, and restores your own internal sense of balance.
Check in with yourself. Can you say YES to those questions? Pay attention to the answer.
Me? I’m tired. I’m run down. But right now, I can still say YES when I ask myself those questions.