Today, I read an old post from my friend, Ann’s blog, Muddling Through My Middle Age. She was reminiscing about Halloween as a child and how things changed for her over the years. Like so many of Ann’s posts, this one made me reflect on my life, specifically on what I yearn for: a slower, gentler life.
While Halloween is not part of life in my country except maybe in expatriate enclaves, what catches my heart each time Halloween comes around would be the beautiful photos of carved pumpkins adorning rural front porches as the waning orange of sunset reaches its twilight slumber. To me, those photos speak to a time of gentling. Of slowing down. Of savouring the ineffable sweetness of littleness and simplicity. A time to rest and to chuckle, to do things different to the daily dictates of regimented life.
The all too brief months of sheltering at home due to Covid gave us that gift of time to live along gentle roads for once. Although often the hours at home seemed impossibly shorter, it was only because while they were filled with stressful formal work, they were also interspersed with the happiest hours for home and family.
I miss that deeply now. We’re almost back to full work mode, and I’m not too thrilled about it. Yet, I’m also determined not to shut all those gates leading to those gently winding roads. Some aspects of that brief interlude God gifted us with must be brought into this new weave of roads beyond the gate. Since I am surrounded by people who now barely remember, much less treasure, the good of those slower days, it’s left to me to craft and fashion my present hours from the lessons I learned during sheltering. I can’t change people but I sure can cut the fabric of my now’s a little differently.
This insight didn’t come quickly, though. But God was patient with me and took me to one lake of realisation after another, where I could review and contemplate how I had lived each day since the return to full time work.
Slowly, my heart began to see things. Even more slowly but surely, I allowed myself to be released from old habits of behaviours.
I’ve always been a workaholic. Coupled with guilt and a few other burdens, my formal work has always followed me home, often forcing me to work well past midnight.
But since June, when I returned to work, I’ve noticed a loathing to bring work home beyond the few times it was absolutely necessary. It suddenly felt as if I was sullying the purity of my hours at home by doing work that could wait. This reaction isn’t exactly new; but every time I’ve tried to stop working on reports and projects before, guilt has always won me over to the wrong side.
Till now. If something from work needs to get done even at home, I do slog at it. But if it can wait, it certainly does, and I don’t quite have to fight myself to step away.
That is not willpower. That is grace.
Another emerging tint to my days is the spirit of thanksgiving and thankfulness that sits a little more securely over my heart now than it did before. Some time ago, I had an epiphany. Since we reopened, I struggled to get to work each day because it meant returning to the old, much of it detested. Before each new work day, I got myself into a twist thinking about all the sorry and sodden things waiting for me. Unfortunately, despite my penchant for imagining things, my work struggles weren’t pops out of my imagination; they were real and there was no escaping them.
But slowly, my ingratitude towards the many gifts God tucked into my days, became clearer and clearer. I realisee that no matter how hard the return to the old was, it didn’t exempt me from thanksgiving.
So, each time there was something to wince about, I tried to find something to be grateful for instead. It wasn’t always easy – not because the good and sweet were few and far between – but because I had gotten into the habit of casting about for greater and brighter jewels.
Still, I’ve kept at it, and with my angel’s guiding heart, I think I’m getting to be a more thankful person.
A long time ago, a good and holy priest had looked deep into my soul and saw well beyond what I was struggling to make sense of. He quietly told me that it was people’s jealousy that was souring so much that should have been sweet. When I asked him if there was hope of a miracle, Father had looked at me and nodded, saying, Yes, miracles will come – but slowly.
What he might have seen but didn’t explain at that time was also that those miracles would take a form different to what I envisioned.
I believe that despite the disappointment and sadness which surround us, the time of miracles has begun – but not in the manner and magnitude akin to earthquakes, fires and wild winds. These miracles are beginning to unfold just like the soft, still sound Elijah heard from the depths of his cave of sorrow and pain. Through the protecting of our time at home, sacred to those we hold dear in our hearts. Through our little acts of thanksgiving throughout the day. And many more.
All miracles are wrought by God, but their seeds begin first with us. I yearn so much for a slower, kinder, gentler life, the very one God showed me a glimpse of this year. But it is not His way to merely shake and break this earth to form a new home for us all.
For miracles to grow and live, we must first seek gentle roads for ourselves. For every storm, earthquake and fire that we encounter, we ourselves must stand firm along the quiet paths of thanksgiving, charity and holy obedience.
The world might have us believe otherwise, that a kinder world must begin with bending others into submission through force, fire and violence. But it doesn’t.
This sweetly gentle life begins first with us. As we incline our hearts more and more towards the Spirit’s leading, we will begin to build new homes along the very roads we seek, formed from the soft, still sounds of God.