Leave the Old

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One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience, and not injure his health.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

          Work From Home took effect once more last week, and by the look of things, we could be in for the long haul as Covid cases surge out of control.

          At work, back in March, we were put on a new schedule and it was very demanding. I could barely move from my seat and within a month, I felt and saw its effects. Then came April and a return to my work place. I coped better not having to stare at a screen so much – but the relief was short-lived. When a close contact at work contracted Covid, I was forced into quarantine and soon, our workplace was shut down once more. It made everything so much tougher and that new schedule sure didn’t help things.

           May was a repeat of April in some ways. After another brief time at work, Covid began to overwhelm our nation and soon, we had to shift back to WFH which began last week. After experiencing the fallout from that unforgiving schedule, I knew this time I didn’t want to repeat some mistakes. The awful schedule was going to stay – but I needed to make firm changes to how I handled the workload. I needed to deliver yet manage my health and sanity too.

          We had a short break a week into May and for the very first time, I didn’t touch a single work-related task for those few days. Although travel restrictions meant we could not even go on family drives, not even peeking at my work files and folders gave me such a deep and joyful rest. That short holiday was like a romp in a sunny flower field. There was so much fun with the family. Even the most simple joys delighted me no end. Although I still cooked and cleaned, everything was done at a calm and leisurely pace.

          Around this time, Someone began to remind me about all the little lessons I had learned about coping and living and being happy. 

If today is the best I can make it, the lifetime will take care of itself. If this hour, right now had kitty petting, dinner cooking and book reading in it, and the next had a bubble bath and a call to my mom, and the next had painting with a cup of tea, an old movie and a walk in the woods, if I put all those hours together, what a lovely Red Letter life that would make.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

          Reflecting on this deliberate layering of my day hour-by-hour, I felt led to another life-lesson:

That the time for me to be completely involved and absorbed in one specific thing for hours at a time had passed. More than 2 decades of such commitment had taken so much out of me and I was no longer able to maintain that level of work.

          But neither was this the time to completely shut down and let go. We cannot afford for me to retire early. Neither do I have the luxury of getting more help with running the home. Somehow, I have to still continue working long hours, running the home and still take care of myself.

It was now time to incorporate a bit of everything into a day, whispered a small voice within me. Time to shut out work when it has overstayed its welcome, to firmly ignore the endless beeping of the phone as my superiors text orders and instructions all hours of the day, pushing deadlines on us even at night.

To instead make my day a collage, of not just the tough things which just have to be done, but also of things which sweeten the hours and bring me peace and delight.

          When that dawned on me, it was like light suddenly pooling bright in my mind. I should not wait to live only on weekends or on holidays.

It was time to fight to really live each and every day.

          So, I returned to work after that short break, determined to take charge of my life, to take it back from that terrible schedule first. From Monday till Wednesday last week, I interspersed formal work with work around the home. I began the day very early with my laptop and files and ear plugs stuffed into my ears – but I made sure to get up and move around every few minutes and not become a slave to the laptop. I spent more time in our garden than I ever did before. Granted, it was never much to begin with in the first place. But I learned what so many others have long known – that having even a simple garden routine was a discipline that wrought a lot of good. It was good for my body and certainly good for my soul. A hidden strength and serenity always follows a good  commune with the winds and the sun, the trees and the flowers.

          Those 3 days of the work week passed and I was so pleased with myself. I felt strong and in control. My work schedule had not changed and yet, I had gotten so much done and still felt good.

          Then, came Thursday, Friday, and everything changed. Since March, those have never been good days. A ton of reports is always due on Friday so Thursday is a day to slog. I found myself struggling. On Thursday, I made a lame attempt to be in the garden. On Friday, I just couldn’t.

         It wasn’t that I had fallen off the track or gone back to my old killing ways; I could see no other better way to do things.

          I was disappointed. It was so important to me to learn to work differently and to stay on this new course. So many things were tied in to that. If I failed yet again, then there was little chance to hold on to my job, to win back my health and happiness.

          I wondered if there was something I should have done or not done in order to have lived those days better.

          Just before I fell asleep on Friday, I asked God to speak to me. If there was something that needed to be changed and could be changed, I needed God to lay it out clear and straight for me because all I saw was a hard, high wall in front of me.

          As always, God’s reply was the last thing I expected.

One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience, and not injure his health.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

          The moment I read that quote, I backed away from it.

I was not ill.

That was not the quote for me.

          But those words pursued me gently and silently, like a little friend who loves you and who knows what you need even if you could not admit it to your own self.

One who is ill…

          I am not sick and I will not pretend to be. But for years, I have pushed and battered my body in the mistaken belief that I didn’t deserve any better. While others took breaks and rested, I listened to voices I should have instead shut out, and forced myself to go on working. I worked because I loved to work hard but I also worked to make life easy for others, believing that when you suffer in life, you have to try and keep others from suffering the same. While that might be true and good in many respects, it is not an absolute. In my case, unfortunately, I ended up spoiling some people into believing that I would always be there to pick up the pieces for them. That they could drop things on a whim and yet count on me to finish their job and watch the house, so to speak, while they took time off for hobbies and holidays and rest and rejuvenation.

One who is ill…

          A couple of years back, when it became apparent that something was going very wrong inside me, I tried to get help. I thought it would pass but it didn’t. For a while, meds and herbs helped but soon it was clear that something had been started and my body was set on a path it would not turn away from. Now, I can no longer spend hours scrubbing and cleaning and polishing the house, then, find an extra pair of legs to run after the kids and later, do a good amount of cooking. I will be 49 this year but in a couple of months, I’ll know if I am in menopause. I’m not even 50 but so much has changed within me, little of the old remains. When I compare photographs of myself now and from 10 years before, the deterioration is painful to see.

One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience…

                  There’s something in the Bible about how Love pursues, and those words of St. Ignatius did just that. Wherever I turned, whatever I did, those words from the quote never left me. Soon, I stopped turning my heart away and quietened myself and lay my head upon Jesus’ lap. What do you ask of me, Lord?  

…compensate by moderation and patience…

          There is no point in getting upset over the passing of the old days when I seemed to have endless amounts of energy. I have already mourned that. It is now time to accept the inevitable and move on to learning to do things differently. While I cannot keep to the old pace, I can still do so many things – in fact, I can do a lot – just slower and differently.

          A bit of everything in a day. Work. Gardening. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching the kids. Not for long hours like before but in short spurts. Bit by bit. Or brick by brick as Linda Raha wrote in her beautiful, compelling post.

        …compensate by moderation and patience…

          My Jesus is calling me to gentle living. Even in the midst of the roaring seas that life is now in this country, He is leading the way down a different path, one whose turns and bends I am less familiar with. He wants me to learn that gentle living is not just when I’m on a break or during weekends but that He calls me to it every single day.

          Even if on some days work will not allow me this, I must somehow learn to take back some hours each day to move in God’s meadows. 

          I must learn to let my body teach me how to work. To listen to it as I seldom have before, for more than anything, the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It makes no sense to punish or mistreat this sacred vessel.

          My step will be hesitant and unsure along these new roads. There will be Thursdays and Fridays. I will trip and fall.

          But slowly, by moderation and patience, in adhering to the new discipline of keeping things simple, I will make my way to new meadows.

          And leave the old behind.

 

12 comments

  1. I have been there. A teacher once informed our class that if you couldn’t work harder, work smarter… I’ve had times when I stepped away and evaluated the work and made changes that allowed me to work smarter. If that means finding moderation so be it. I decided a long time ago that I would stop dusting places that the tallest person couldn’t see… So now I dust those spots maybe once a year. It has really cut down on the work load and I made the decision myself so I’m okay with it. It gave me peace. And that is what we are ultimately all looking for.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope the meadow becomes your new normal. I can really identify with what you write here. At work, too often, I would be picking up the slack and getting more and more resentful until I finally learned to let coworkers have the consequences of their own actions. It was a hard lesson and one I continue to struggle with as I was raised with a certain work ethic that makes me push myself to extremes at times. Generally that’s when I am feeling a bit down.

    Take care of yourself and stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, so many times I heard a tiny voice remind me that I should be over at your blog and I hope to by the end of this week. Like you, I too have a work ethic that can be detrimental to wellbeing. I now see that it wasn’t willed by God and I must learn to walk and work differently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have recently shared a few posts written by others that I found inspirational. I’m afraid I am in the midst of writer’s block atm but do check out my site where I shared the wonderful talents of others. Thanks so much!

        Yes, the work ethic I grew up with has led to many detrimental situations. Live and learn eh?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A trip into the garden is a magical thing. It need not be perfect or manicured. But, the world does not always allow us a trip to the meadow or the garden. It is then, as you have so clearly and beautifully stated, that we must be patient with ourselves…we must find ways to endure. You are so very right…love does pursue us. God is with us in every moment of every day…He loves us when we cannot seem to love ourselves. We tend to set very high standards for ourselves, but then, when we miss the mark, we are unhappy. The truth is, we have set the standard more often than not. It is our way of thinking that blinds us. Old habits die hard, but sometimes, they get us through a crunch…that is why we developed the habit in the first place. (Perhaps, in those crunch times when we cannot break away, we must gift ourselves with a promise; I will do this work that must be done, but I promise to celebrate immediately thereafter, and let some other more trivial work go until later. (You must give yourself that holiday, that excursion to a field of flowers if only for a very short time…you must keep your promises!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do not put off till tomorrow what must be done today
      We use that quote in relation to work mainly and seldom for celebrations. Yet, that truth holds true for the latter too. As I begin this new phase of life, I hope I can learn to celebrate more often. Thanks, Linda!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds to me as if you have reached a true turning point, and I’m so glad for you! Yes, there will still be days when you work harder than you want to, but now you understand the need for balance, and that just because you can work endless overtime doesn’t mean you should. Menopause is a huge change, but it can also be a gift: a reminder to slow down, to simplify, and to accept the limitations that we have. God will be with you, always, and I really believe he is speaking to you through that scripture. Let yourself slow down a bit, listen to your body, and find the balance that you need to be happy and whole!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Ann. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should is a reminder that will stay with me. I never imagined menopause to be anything good but yes, I think it’s a hidden grace for me.

      Liked by 1 person

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