Sometimes you simply need to switch things up, to try something different...
Saturday evening, I went to ritual with Frankie. It was the first time I had been in a while. Honestly, I went mostly out of a desire to be out of the house and to spend time with my husband—even though I know that, when it's a ritual night, he's running around frantically like a child who's had too many Pixie Sticks. While he and the other brothers were preparing the space, I sat down in one of the comfy chairs at Mankind Project and proceeded to just read. Later, our friend Joel arrived and I settled down next to him with my head in his lap, letting him give me a scalp massage (he'd probably say I demanded it of him, and he might even be right).
This ritual, Quintessence, is all about the Explorer, the time of new beginnings. Our friend, Jim, aspected (portrayed) this particular face of the queer God. He was snarky, funny, and challenging. His words poignant, his demeanor friendly. He talked about the courage it takes to be a gay man, to have come out in some fashion, to have risked rejection by those we love. He shared the necessity for letting go of the baggage keeping one from moving forward on his path, emphasizing simultaneously the value of walking the path in community, in relationships with others who are willing to carry us during times of weakness, and who we are willing to carry when they enter into those times.
The night went on, after ritual, after potluck, after returning home, and I grew more and more tired, an oddity for me when I've not taken any form of sleeping medication. Normally, I cannot fall asleep unless I've taken something. This night, however, my eyes would barely stay open. I settled down in my pajamas on my bed with my books and rosary. With every passing word, with my movement along the weeks and the cruciforms of the knotted twine prayer beads, my eyelids heavied. I pressed on, finishing the entries in Common Prayer and Book of the Hours. Finishing, I lied down prostrate, face buried in the pillow, arms to my side, and fell asleep.
Over the past few days, I've found myself focused on the old hymn written by Katharine A. von Schlegel:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change, God faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: your God will undertake To guide the future, as in ages the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know The Christ who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on When we shall be forever with the Lord. When disappointment, grief and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.
Whether listening to the version by Selah or by the Martins, the song nearly always has the effect of calming my heart, slowing its pace down to a dull thump, a resting pulse comparable to that of a seasoned athlete (something I definitely am not). In these times some of life's deepest most profound questions surface. In these times, I realize I do not have the answers. In these times, I'm okay with the ambiguity.
In life, people come and people go. Relationships last for a moment, and they last for a lifetime. We feel pain, and we cause it. We face dilemmas, and sometimes they take a while to be solved. As the Explorer told us Saturday night, life is about balance. Sometimes it comes naturally, but more often than not, we have to work at it. Though I initially named my blog Finding the Balance on a whim, over time, I've realized the significance of its title for me personally (and apparently for many of you). Balance is hard, and we cannot find it alone.
My depression has been surfacing again lately...
partly because Chicago winters drag on forever, and partly because my courses this semester have me wrestling with some deep theological issues (the Holy Spirit, the Church/church, the future of creation, my vocation... you know, nothing that big). With days where my brain has almost no time for silence, for rest, I'm learning to cherish those moments where my mind, body, and soul urge me to rest, to be still. Sometimes this stillness is healing. Sometimes it makes way for internal pain to surface and be addressed. Sometimes, it's simply stillness. Nothing more. Nothing less.
If your life is anything like mine, it can feel hard to find time for stillness. Make time for it. Make it a priority. Whether 10 minutes, 30, or 60, don't look for the time... make it. Ask the people in your life whom you trust most to keep you accountable. Regardless of your denominational affiliation or faith tradition, make time for you to sit, to be still, to be silent. Listen to the rhythm of your life, to the voices inside your head (we all have them... it's okay). By caring for ourselves, we in turn care for those we love as well. Whatever path you're walking, wherever you are on it, know you do not journey alone.