Category Archives: Day of Rest

Day of Rest

emergency exit doorEric and I went out to dinner last night. I wanted to celebrate earning a Superior ranking on my annual evaluation for the 7th year in a row and getting the word from the radiologist that everything looks good, Sam doesn’t need surgery and we can start physical therapy.

I am very aware of my good luck and fortune. You can also call it privilege, and you might even say there’s a bit of good karma in there too. I have a job that would be anyone else’s dream job, and it affords me the luxury of being able to take Sam to the vet, buy him supplements and pain meds and good food and a new orthopedic bed, take him to physical therapy, and spend the time away from work that I need to in order for all that to happen.

I work hard, too hard. I do my work, according to my evaluation, with a “high level of professionalism, competence, patience, and good humor.” I don’t get compensated for it like I should, and the work load keeps increasing even though it was overwhelming to begin with. I do this work under the constant shadow of anxiety that I’m not spending my time and energy the way I should.

These past few weeks, I’ve been watching the way I’ve handled Sam’s situation. Early on, it seemed pretty clear he’d need knee surgery. I did what I always do — a ton of research, consulting with anyone I knew who knew anything, made a plan for how we’d handle his rehab down to ordering an inflatable collar for him so he wouldn’t have to wear a plastic cone. I overthought and over planned, worried and was anxious, found it hard to focus on anything else, even though I absolutely had to. I made sure to practice every day so I didn’t completely lose my mind and I got extra sleep, expecting a time in the near future when I wouldn’t be.

Watching myself spin out, I thought about my habitual pattern of trying to control everything. I think if I’m prepared, careful, do my research, and am ready, I can handle whatever happens, fix whatever goes wrong. But that’s just the surface level stuff. When I dig a little deeper, it’s clearly anxiety about impermanence, which is masking the real fear — we are all going to die and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about that. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that there was something below even all that — the real anxiety, the actual fear is that all of my effort means nothing, that I try and work so hard but it amounts to a hill of beans, (nothing against beans).

What I have to offer that I don’t have the necessary time, energy, or space for is facilitating experiences that cultivate compassion, ease, and sanity. That foundation then leads to a more sane and compassionate world, cultivating the necessary ground for social justice and change. This thing I have to offer is stifled, suppressed, silenced because my current focus (my work at CSU) is an obstacle — not only to the work but to my own health and wellbeing.

When I renegotiated my position from 12 to nine months, my intention was to spend the summers on my “other” work. I thought that if I had summers off to focus on my own projects, it wouldn’t be perfect or even ideal, but it would be workable.

Turns out, it’s not. I burn myself out in those nine months and need the summer to regroup and recover. The summers we go to Oregon, that’s all that can happen — the work of planning the trip, preparing, getting there, being there, and the work that has to happen once we get back. It’s a vacation but it’s also draining — energetically and financially — and by the time we get back, the whole summer is over and it’s time to go back to CSU, start the whole cycle over. When we stay here for the summer, we spend our time doing all the things we couldn’t get done during the rest of the year — cleaning out closets and the garage, doing repairs and maintenance on the cars and house and our own bodies. Neither version of summer has turned out to have the space for teaching an online class or working on a book or hosting a workshop or running an in-person class.

Turning 50 for sure causes a shift in perception. Two futures are not only possible but likely — either I am 50 and have a good 20 to even 40 years ahead of me and in that case have time to build another career, to get good at something else; OR I don’t have that kind of time, and if so I want to spend the next 5-10 years I’ve got finally, finally, finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do, trusting my own gut about what to do next, following my own True north. Working at CSU doesn’t fit with either option.

It’s become clear to me that there will never be a time when my CSU workload and expectations are workable. It asks way too much of me, at the expense of my health and wellbeing and just about everything else I want most for myself. Not to make it seem like I’m so sure, that I don’t doubt myself or feel confused, or that I’ve decided, but when the amazing Laura Simms posted on Instagram the other day, “Your work should support your life, not compete with it,” something in me felt very very sure that I knew what I needed to do.


Day of Rest

I’m typing this on my phone. I just wanted to check in, let you know where I am, what’s going on. I didn’t post for Gratitude Friday this week and my Something Good list is postponed until Tuesday. My only explanation is this picture, my grandneice Lia. I had to come see her and everything else has to wait.

Day of Rest

Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

In my Wild Writing class on Friday morning, Laurie used this poem for our final prompt. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment in time. I knew I would need to find it, print it out, read it again and again, let the meaning sink in and stick. It’s an answer to a question I’ve been asking. A question I’ve asked myself, trying to connect with my own internal wisdom, and a question I’ve cast out into the universe to see what might come back.

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I am trying to save the whole world. A bodhisattva who vowed to keep being reborn, to keep coming back until there is no one left suffering. I think I was born with this promise already in my heart. Maybe I made the vow in another lifetime, or maybe it formed in my mother’s womb along with my fingers and toes. It seems to have always been there, the longing to ease suffering, in myself and in the world.

The poem seems to answer the lingering, “How?” It’s an answer to my confusion about what to do next. It is a clarification of my bewilderment that time someone said, “think about what breaks your heart and you’ll know who you are here to serve,” and I responded, “but what if everything breaks your heart?”

“Don’t try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worth of rescue.” So worth of rescue. All of us, all of it, all of me.


Day of Rest

Though you cannot
remember it now,
you have taken a vow
with the stars
as your witness,
to offer your heart
to this world.

You have agreed
to remain naked, raw,
and vulnerable forever,
to enter into
the heart of sadness
and the ocean of tenderness
if that is where love calls you.

Your only guide
is the unknown
and the only map
is found inside
the cells of your own heart.

~Matt Licata

Day of Rest

This poem is on my mind, especially the opening and closing lines.

by Mark Nepo

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

Day of Rest

Think of a plum tree. In each plum on the tree there is a pit. That pit contains the plum tree and all previous generations of plum tree. The plum pit contains an infinite number of plum trees. Inside the pit is an intelligence, a wisdom that knows how to become a plum tree, how to produce branches, leaves, flowers, and plums. It cannot do this on its own. It can do this only because it has received the experience and adaptations of so many generations of ancestors. You are the same. ~Thich Nhat Hanh*

I would add three things. One, the trauma and suffering of the trees and fruit that came before are also contained in that pit, so each plum works with that as well.

Also, it not only has the benefit of its lineage, but is helped along by the soil, the rain, the sun, the air, the bees, and the occasional kind and gentle gardener. Similarly, it can be harmed by shifts in the environment, the weather, etc.

And finally, no plum tree ever questions what it has to offer. It doesn’t say, “am I doing this right?” or “should I make apples instead?” but rather trusts that the best it has to offer is exactly what it has to give. It trusts the season and when the fruit is ripe, it lets it go, unconcerned with what happens next.

*Thanks to @thedailytourist for sharing the Thich Nhat Hanh quote.

Day of Rest

I taught a yoga class this morning. Towards the end of savasana, the song that was playing came to a crescendo just as an ambulance drove past with its siren blaring. The contrast between those two external demands, the beauty of the music asking to be noticed and the siren needing people to pay attention, was a reminder that life is both beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible, and that no matter what arises, as practitioners we work to keep our hearts open, to stay with it, to try and work with it with wisdom and compassion.

It reminded me of the quote from Pema Chödrön, the one about tigers above and tigers below.

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life. ~Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

This is a good reminder. When the chaos of life seems unmanageable, when so many are suffering and there’s so much confusion, there is also this, “delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

This absolutely doesn’t mean, “stay positive.” It doesn’t mean we deny the tigers above and below. It doesn’t mean taking no action either, because if you notice the story starts with the woman running from the tigers until she can’t run anymore. Instead, we make space for it all.

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart