These days I do a lot of informal counseling and mentoring by email, phone, and even text. We all do, I’m sure. Some of these conversations reach across specific circumstances and personalities to speak to common human experience in such a way that with permission and anonymity, I thought it would be interesting to publish some brief slices, little peeks behind the curtain to see what may be relevant…
Hey brother Dave.
Watching over a baby this morning, like every other morning, and I’ve already used up most of our nap time with prayer and a little reading. Expect he’ll wake up any minute, and he has croup so I’m being very attentive. In an attempt to get grounded this morning, I read a blog post of yours focused on time and light changes at 5AM…so many of your thoughts and questions seem familiar to me…
I feel lost right now. In the summer, my purpose was to reconnect spiritually and write. I loved it. I had time, time enough to make myself available to serve others, and time enough to serve my desire to get some of my thoughts out on paper. Since I got back in my school year routine, taking care of a grandbaby I adore, time is precious and harder for me to manage.
Here’s where I’m going with this. When you came to the part in the blog when you said that your son’s sticker on your arm was, in effect, proof of life…that cut through the clutter in my head and went straight to heart. I want to believe that there’s meaning in the minutes of my days, but the clutter in my head tells me I’m doing it wrong. It draws attention to the ticking clock, my lack of productivity, lack of clarity, lack in general.
Yet this baby grounds me, to experience, to love, to connection. What’s my problem!? Rhetorical question, and if I were you I would avoid it…
Ah, sometimes I just want to hug you like no tomorrow and tell you it’s alright…it’s alright now and will be alright forever. I think I’m getting to the point that I realize there’s no way I can do all this wrong as long as I’m trying to do it right. I suppose the only wrong way to live this life is not to live it at all. To be paralyzed by fear into complete non-connection. Even if we’re misguided, if we’re trying to connect, we’re still moving toward the light—maybe just a bit slower than we otherwise could.
Mostly, the wrongness we perceive is just that: a perception laid against some expectation or standard we carry around in our minds. What is really important in life? Productivity? Creating things that will outlive us? Nothing wrong with that, and those of us who produce well are the ones we know about and recognize as having accomplished something meaningful. But the meaning is not in the thing produced. It’s in the experience of life from which the thing is produced. The meaning is real whether the thing is produced or not. Production feels good; it stokes the part of ourselves begging for attention, and all things being equal, produce as much as you can if that’s what you enjoy. But things are not always equal, and we have to give ourselves permission not to produce when that production gets in the way of the connection that gives us meaning in the first place.
Holding that baby, that proof of life, if you let it, will give you all the meaning you need right now. All the meaning there is. You won’t be holding that baby long. It will be taken from you by time and circumstance. Then there will be some other proof of life for you to hold. But it all points to the same center. I suppose the ultimate productivity is recognizing the meaning in that center and doing whatever it is that connects us to it.
All this has to do with letting go of the image we have of ourselves in relation to the rest of the world. We see others doing and producing the things we think we should be doing and producing, and it makes us restless and unsettled and no longer present to the baby in our arms. But if we can let go of all that even just for the moment we’re holding the baby, then we can find the meaning that may produce something sometime later on–a product, a thing that someone else can hold in their hands and recognize as pointing to meaning. Or not. Doesn’t really matter, because in the end, nothing survives but the connections we made with the babies we held–of whatever age or species.
It seems to me you’re exactly in the center of the right place at the right time. But when circumstances shift, you’ll be in the center of a different right place and time. It’s up to us to make the circumstances right simply by abandoning ourselves to them, immersing in what they can show us of the center of that meaning. Right now, the baby is everything. Let it be everything, and you’ll start to get that sense of how everything is alright and will always be alright, if you allow.
I have to remind myself of all this daily. Or put another way, my good days are the days when I do remind myself…