Last night three very nice and strong young men came to my Dad's house to pick up the china cupboard we had listed on Craigslist. Sunday Marie and her husband came to see it, and she fell in love with it and clearly wanted it. However, this monster-sized one-piece stalwart of our family dining room was not going to leave the house easily. The couple examined and strategized how to manage the move, while my husband and I continued the ongoing packing and emptying of my Dad's house, readying it for a For Sale sign.
Last night they returned and I checked one more item off the list. Yes! We are moving on and moving out.
Moving On and Out as a Spiritual Path
If you have gone through this process of dealing with your parents' home and belongings, either because of their deaths or moving them into a senior living facility, you know how challenging doing this can be. Exhausting--emotionally and physically exhausting.
I know there are many ways to accomplish this process--all of them require time and lots of decisions, and none of them are without effort. Our family has chosen a more hands-on method perhaps than some of you have elected, but like being on a spiritual path, no one way is the right and only way.
Of course, this process of selling and cleaning and packing and sorting and choosing and tossing and delegating is a spiritual path, too, although sometimes it feels like a detour.
Sunday as I waited for this charming couple to make their decision, I could feel my Sunday slipping away. I wanted to return to my "real life." I want the task of getting Dad's house ready to sell to be over --and to do what I want to do, but--and here's the rub--I don't really want to do the tasks right in front of me. When I arrive at Dad's, sometimes I am almost paralyzed. My husband and sister zoom around me, but I have a hard time revving up to get the job done.
You may have heard writers sometimes say that what they love about writing is "having written," and not the doing of the writing itself. I happen to love the writing process, but when it comes to Dad's house, I want it DONE. I want to look back at what we have accomplished.
I am not present to the task OR I wonder if I am too much present to it. Either way we are in the midst of it, and it will get done, thanks to our ongoing time and efforts. We will do it--we are doing it, but I am having a hard time viewing it as anything but duty, a drain on my time and energy. I feel my own life drifting away. Where's the room for the work I feel as a call? The writing I want and need to do? The groups I would like to start and the spiritual direction practice I would like to resurrect? The reconnecting with friends and family here and staying connected with friends and family at a distance? All that seems piled away in boxes going to Goodwill.
Pausing in the Midst
This much is clear: I need to pause occasionally, to find the moments of beauty, of grace, of love, of the Divine. I stop and watch the sparrows at the bird feeder outside our dining room window and Mr and Mrs Cardinal in the bushes. I allow my heart to open like the unbroken expanse of snow in Dad's backyard. I give myself a breather when I unearth a forgotten treasure like the tiny heart-shaped frame with a sweet picture of Mom and Dad in it. We engage in some memory sharing as we work and that lightens the load as well. I am delighted when the woman who bought many pieces of wicker for her new beauty salon sends me a thank you note. How nice is that!
I know this work offers me lessons about shedding your stuff before your family has to do it for you, but I pray I can see the opportunities as well. How is this time as life-enhancing as sitting at my desk and writing?
Words of Wisdom
Thomas Moore in his new book A Religion of One's Own, A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-moore/finding-religion_b_3955997.html encourages "digging into your work as though it were the meaning of your life." The operative words for me are "as if." Maybe I need to fake it a bit, hoping that the doing will expand into greater meaning. Moore quotes the Gospel of Thomas in which Jesus says, "Split a piece of wood. I am there."
God is there as I schlepp more boxes to Goodwill, as we throw years of neglect and denial into garbage bags. God is in that house as we prepare it for another family's history and life. We have had ours there, and as we detach ourselves enough to do the work that needs to be done, we need to remember that this too is sacred ground.
From the Tao Te Ching
See simplicity in the complicated
Achieve greatness in little things.
Today is another day in which it is necessary and good to devote myself to chopping wood, to doing the tasks one little thing at a time, to focus on what is in front of me at the moment, to breathe in the sense of God's presence around and within me. Amen
What aspects of your life right now feel more like a detour than your "real life"? What are your strategies for coping and growing and finding God's presence?