You could graph my life in a series of waves. Doing well, not doing so well. My mind working with me for a while, then turning against me. The tightening in my gut when I'm asked a series of simple questions. "Do you have any plans today? What should we make for lunch? Can you buy some oil and potatoes?" Each question a lance, probing the fight or flight response that is so woefully out of context.
Let's say that I'm not doing so well, lately. I know enough to know I will rise on the next wave.
Here are some things that trigger fight or flight, even panic, when I'm not doing so well.
The internet. All forms of connection over the internet. Emails I need to return.
To do lists.
Making decisions of any kind.
You'll recall that I have four children, that I help to run a meditation center. That I homeschool. These triggers, therefore, cannot be avoided. Nor would I want to avoid them.
It's sad to me, sometimes, the ways that this sickness can paralyze me. I love to write to people and be written to. I love to pick the ripe tomatoes from the pile. I love to speak into the empty space of the phone and hear something in response. But these are dangerous things in a difficult time.
Can you describe what you're feeling in these moments?
A sense of failure and impending failure so complete that it cannot be moved. It makes me afraid, the sound of people's voices, the thought of opening the computer. Better to walk in circles, go to sleep, sleep myself to oblivion. All the things I did not accomplish, all that I did but didn't do well. The gust of wind that carries them swirls up inside of me. This is anxiety. Anxiety is not "being worried." It is being sat upon by a large elephant.
It is sickness.
The other night I decided to sit in the garden and clip the grass for a while. At night, yes, that's what I said. I stopped eventually because I could not see what I was cutting. But it was nice to sit there, in the dark, in the prickly/soft grass listening to the rustle of the palm trees, the whine of mosquitos. The Russian children getting settled for bed in the guest house next door. The moon was there. And the stars.
I was reaching for something helpful, something peaceful, something inspiring as I went to sleep that night. And as I was drifting off, I had a half waking thought journey, snippets of a story or poem or something. They made perfect sense to me as I traveled through them, but in the morning, all I could remember is one line. "Sky, stay sky."
Sky, stay sky?
There are other, cloudier images of what I was thinking. The young story, never realized. Something with walking under the sheen and cloud of many stars, of finding the moon in the swirl, of lying on my back and watching. Sky, stay sky. Don't change, be the same, sky. Stay.
My kids made the most amazing To Do lists the other day. I have always loved YaYa's lists, because they are so rewarding. "Wake up," her list says. "Eat breakfast." "Play." She gleefully checks off each point.
Leafy made some as well, for the first time. He listed his in illustrations, because he's not so confident with his writing yet. He had separate lists for me and for Chinua. In the morning he came to me.
"These are the things that I want to do with you today," he said.
2. Draw together.
3. Do something beautiful with flowers."
Who can argue with goals like those?
We snuggled first. That one was easy. Then I needed to sew some things, so Leafy was content to sit with me and draw while I stitched away. We were both doing creative things and sitting together while we did them, so it was enough. Leafy's lists are both wise and flexible.
Later, I needed to prepare for our weekly Devotion Circle. For our Devotion Circle we sing, someone shares a story or message, we pray, we show devotion. We always decorate in some way or another, usually with flowers. It was my turn to prepare the space. As I was heading for the rooftop, I remembered Leafy's list.
"Why don't you come and help me?" I asked him. In the end, he and YaYa and Solo all came. We sat and made a circle of flowers and candles together. They helped me, we created something beautiful, we sat and were together. It was lovely.
It's not always like that. Often I'm running. I'm buying things in the market, I'm watering the garden, I'm giving the kids a snack during homeschool so I can run out to the market to get the day's vegetables. Even now, as I write this, I'm thinking about after, when I need to run out to the vegetable stand to get today's okra and potatoes and lentils, for dinner after devotion circle tonight.
It is the unending nature of details that gets to me. Today's shopping doesn't even mean a day's respite, in my life. I will be back out tomorrow. I cleaned and decluttered two shelves in the kids' room yesterday, but they will be dusty again by the end of the week. Things break, people get sick, this is life. Is there room for thought in such a life? For creativity? For dreaming?
Sky, stay sky.
I'm learning, in my thirties, that I will not ever be the sort of consistent person who churns out posts and articles without fail. It is not my nature. I am not an unflinching woman. I set my face like flint, but then it begins to wobble and melt in the rain. I will possibly never even have the strong stem that I desire, the strong rose stem covered in thorns. Protected. Safe. I will always be bendable. A daisy. Accepting it helps.
2. Draw together
3. Make something beautiful with flowers.
It's a list that describes a pretty good day, actually. And I can do these things, well or unwell, usually. I may not be able to listen to rambling and plan the week's meals without stress, but I can snuggle at any moment. I can't keep my kids in clothes that aren't falling apart or get their bikes fixed in a timely fashion, but I can always stop to make something beautiful with flowers.
Sky, stay sky.
I am changeable and inconsistent. This is my nature, all of ours, to some extent. But God is with us, unchangable.
God, unchangeable, unshakeable, immovable, unruffled, not panicking. Jesus, never unloving, not moody, not shaking, not afraid. God moves into me and lives within me. But the distinction never changes, God is God and I am I. I don't become Him, I don't change him. So unchangeable God burns within changeable me. Whether I feel it or not, whether I remember or not, there He is, perfect and good and always the same. Never untrue.
I can rest in it. After all, I occupy my own little restless universe, but the real world, the universe with planets and systems beyond my knowledge continues on despite me.
Sky, stay sky. I'll lie on my back in the grass. Dreaming, just watching. The heavy blue, the haze. Planets glowing, stars in the distance. I'll wait for the wave to smooth itself into ripples, rest in the shallows, wait for the next wave.