The catalogs are arriving, and the emails are appearing. So many choices and directions. How can I possibly do everything I want to do?
This happens every fall when I feel that back to school itch. All the school supplies are piled neatly at Target, and it is hard to resist not buying new notebooks and folders, although, trust me, I have my own embarrassingly rich stash. I am not interested in shopping these days and don't find myself tempted by much, except journals and notepads and pens, but I am doing my best, instead, to shop my drawers, full of those supplies.
This Fall itch, however, is not just about opening up a new notebook. In the fall I seem to take on the behavior of squirrels, gathering winter fuel, making sure I have enough to sustain my needs. In this case, however, it is not physical needs, but instead mental and spiritual needs. In the fall I take on the behavior of the birds, preparing to migrate, but in my case it is migrating into places of learning and stimulation. In the fall I attempt to take on the behavior of the leaves, turning rich colors of red and gold in shades of new knowledge and wider experiences.
Of course, the problem, the ongoing issue, is deciding which choices to select. I hungrily devour the catalog that comes from The Loft Literary Center, knowing that if I were to take each of the writing classes that appeals to me, I would have no time to write. I pour over the material from Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality which is where I have in the past attended the Monday evening Hedgerow Initiative, an ongoing conversation about sacred wisdom, divine mysteries, and human questions. An email comes from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with dates for the year's lecture series, and I would love to attend the lecture on Van Gogh and also, one on photography and Native American identity.
Plus, living within walking distance of three colleges and universities, I know most days I could take advantage of a lecture or concert or visit to an art gallery. And how about book talks at bookstores and theatre and concert series and even classes through community recreation centers? I haven't even mentioned opportunities to volunteer and serve, and I know I want to manage my time in order to make contributions where I can.
So much appeals and like the squirrel frenetically hiding nuts in the backyard, I don't want to miss anything. I need to remember my own limits, however, and be aware of when my eyes are bigger than my stomach. Which donut should I choose at the bakery? Which delectable on the menu of a special restaurant? Or which book from my existing towers should I read next? A wealth of temptations.
Just recently, however, I decided at the last minute to not attend a Saturday morning class at The Loft. The week coming up was full of activities, and the weeks before had been highly scheduled, and I knew I needed space more than I needed the information, however worthy and helpful it was likely to be. I don't regret that decision, for immediately I felt some equilibrium return.
This summer I have spent a major part of my time working on a book I am writing. I have taken a twelve week online class that has stretched me, deepened my commitment, and exhausted me. I know I am a better writer because of this class, and I know my book benefits from all the time and effort. I could take the next part in this class, and eventually, I will, but not this fall.
I made that decision after moving into stillness and becoming a listening presence to myself. I asked myself questions about what will be most life-enhancing in the coming months. In what ways do I hope to live, give, and grow? What are my goals as a writer and as a spiritual director? How do I balance family and friend time with work time? What volunteer opportunities resonate with me and where can I be effective? What about leaving space for spontaneity and for rest, restoration, and recreation?
In some ways these questions are the same ones, with some modification, I have lived with most of my adult life. You have probably wrestled with them, too. In our earlier years these were practical, get out the calendar and figure it out questions. Negotiate with your partner, your boss, your kids. Now because I know I have fewer falls ahead of me than the ones I have lived, I view these questions as questions for discernment. At this stage of my life I am more able to push the pause button and sit with these questions, allowing the inner voice of Spirit to start a dialogue with the person who still wants to be productive and to achieve and to accomplish.
I now have a general plan for the fall, but one that is subject to change and modification and for the ways life just seems to happen. Yes, I will write. I will take a couple short term writing classes. I will volunteer at Peter's school and at church, beginning with the retreat I will help lead the end of September. I will meet with spiritual directees and open to ways I can teach. But I am leaving plenty of space for family time, for friend time, for me time.
I will pay attention to the squirrels and the birds and the changing colors of the leaves, and I will pause in the midst of potential busyness and ask my inner voice of Spirit what she thinks.
What questions of discernment are in your life now? I would love to know.
The Loft Literary Center https://www.loft.org
Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality http://www.wisdomwayscenter.org