“Mooooooommm!” Thaddeus yelled from the bathroom. I rushed in only to find that he was fine and just wanted to show me how he could splash water on his face. I felt frustrated that I had left the blinking curser mid-sentence to deal with something that felt so trivial. As I walked back through the family room, I caught sight of the pile of laundry that filled the tan canvas chair in the corner. “I should really fold the laundry,” I thought, but I hurried back to the computer.
As I sat down and stared at the words on the page, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something. Then it hit me, I had just done the very thing that I had been writing about wanting to change.
Two short sentences glared at me in black and white from the screen:
I segment my life. I judge my activities.
I got up and went and folded the laundry. I thought about the way I judge tasks as I made each fold and set each item of clothing in it’s place.
I deem as important the things that make me feel important in the world. I desire to pursue those things more than others. I judge my writing as more important than the laundry or dishes. I decide making a yoga video is more valuable then cuddling with my daughter. What I forget, or perhaps don't truly believe is that all of life is sacred.
When I finished the laundry I went searching for the book I had just finished reading that afternoon. Opening it quickly, I found the page I was looking for by the small fold I had made in the upper corner.
No one rushed. Each step was done with care. The women moved through the day unhurried. There was no rushing to finish so they could get on to the “important things.” For them, it was all important. … Which parts of today’s process were a chore? Which were fun? There seemed to be no separation for them. Time was full and generous. It was as if they had uncovered a way to be in time, to be a part of time, to have a harmonious relation with time. For me time was a burden. There was never enough of it. In Berkeley I ran around breathlessly rushing toward impossible goals - and to that vague “something out there.” When I explained how split I was, loving to do certain things and hating to do others, the women laughed and tried to understand. … Everything was a ritual. … No distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday. Five minutes in the early morning and five minutes in the evening were devoted to prayer. The rest of the day was spent living their beliefs. Their life was all one piece. It was all sacred - and all ordinary. - Plain and Simple by Sue Bender
I stopped and skipped over a few pages to to read another dogeared page:
They work to work. Their work time isn’t spent “in order to do something else” - to have free time on the weekends, go to a restaurant, or save for a vacation or retirement. They do not expect to find satisfaction in that vague “something out there” but in the daily mastery of whatever they are doing.
I closed the book and began to write again. I realized at last what I have been doing, what I have always been doing.
I seek the tasks that make me feel important. I avoid or begrudge the hidden tasks.
In doing so, I lose my way. I lose the truth that I am already important. I am already loved. I am sacred. All work is sacred. All those I come in contact with are sacred.
I become unhappy in the tasks I "have" to do, because they keep me from the tasks I "want" to do. But truly my desire is led by a deeper desire; the need to feel important. I label the tasks that make me feel important as the tasks I “want to do” and I label those tasks I view as unimportant as the tasks I “have to do”. I judge and divide and categorize.
If I could loose that perhaps I could loose all of the alter egos that strap themselves to my back and finally find myself, just as I am. If I could loose my need to be important, significant, unique even, perhaps then I could find joy in any given task? Perhaps this is the path to contentment in the place where I am, the position I've been given, the work that's set before me?
As it is now, I disqualify the work, saying "all I did today was clean the house" dismissing that action as a small unappreciated task. I dismiss all of my work, saying things like "I didn't do anything today, just hung out with the kids", or "only one person came to my yoga class", or "only a few people did my yoga video", or "yeah, I wrote a blog, but no one commented on it so it must not have meant much". I begin to feel worthless, because I've attached all of my significance to tasks, and largely to specific tasks.
I feel as if having a small conversation with my son, or cuddling with my daughter while she watches her favorite show, do nothing to contribute to society. Heck, sometimes I feel like tasks such as these contribute nothing of value to my family either! When I feel I have contributed nothing of value, I deem myself without value. This is a lie. On so many levels.
My value is not based on what I do. That statement is starting to sound trite to my ears, and yet I know I need it repeated over and over and over again, because I still don't believe it. My value is not based on what I do. My worth is not based on what I do. I am valued.
My actions are not worthy or worthless based on how important society deems them, or even how important I deem them. They are not even to be judged that way!
If all is sacred, if all is whole, then folding my laundry is an equal task to writing truth and sharing it. If all is sacred than the small offering given to a few is equal to the large offering consumed by many. It doesn't matter if lots of people hear my words or one person, it doesn't matter if they actually help or change people or not, it doesn't matter if I spend my day in work outside the home or only inside the home. If I plant a garden and nothing grows, the work is still holy, sacred, valued.
My actions are judged only by one rule: the rule of love. If they are driven by love, influenced by love, and result in love, then they are important, sacred, and good. If not, then they are to be confessed and changed. That's it. The tasks that make up my day are either the work of love or they are not, that is the only judgement. And if they are the work of love than they are holy and sacred work, because they are entered into in the presence of a holy and sacred God - God Emmanuel, God with us.
But how do I do that? How do I stop seeking significance, importance, and value from the tasks I do? How do I let all of my work, everything I set my hand to, be equal and valued as sacred? How do I begin to view all the work I do as the work of love, no matter the result, the outcome, or the seeming importance it might have?
I'm honesty not sure.
Perhaps I need to fist recognize and come to fully believe that I, myself, am already valuable.
I reached again for the book and opened it to an earlier page, written about the faceless dolls of the Amish.
There was no pecking oder there. None was better, none was worse than the others. They didn’t have to perform or prove anything. No voice said, “Be happy, cute, or pretty.” No voice said, “Be a star.” In my world everyone has a face, and many of us try to stand out. In their simplicity, these faceless dolls said more with less. They left more to the imagination. Maybe accepting who they are, they don’t waste their strength trying to change or compete.
Accepting who they are…
I thought back to the meditation I had been drawn to at the beginning of August. A meditation of letting go, surrendering every label and identity I wear. Setting it all aside in order to just be, as I am at my core, just be with God. Loved.
There are labels I carry that I want to shed, need to shed, and yet they stick to my skin. But, now I am beginning to wonder if I also need to shed the "good" labels, the one’s I want to hold on to, the one’s I want to live in.
Labels like “Writer” or “Yogi”.
When I strive after certain labels, I ignore other parts of the life that God has given. I begin to judge my time, I judge one activity as more valuable than another. I begin to fight against the activities I don’t deem as important and feel discontentment when I have to do them.
Rather than embracing the truth that God is enough, that what he gives and the place he has me in is enough, I strive for a “better” place. I strive to “be a star”. I strive for that “something out there”.
Lord, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to choose to believe a different truth. I want to believe that you love me, just as I am, apart from my labels, apart from my accomplishments, apart from the work that I deem important. I don’t need to perform a certain way for you. I don’t need to “succeed”. I want to begin to view every task that comes before me as sacred. I want to begin to view all my work as either the work of love, which should be entered into with joy, or not the work of love, which shouldn’t be entered into at all. I don’t want to push aside my son’s eager conversation so that I can go write. I don’t want to neglect the work of caring for my home, which is a work of love for my family, so that I can go teach yoga. I want to approach all my work with the openhanded question: “Lord, what would you have me do today, right now?” And then I want to follow. I want to believe so deeply that you already love me, and already value me, that I can enter into all work that is placed before me with contentment. Lord, would you take me into that place? Would you make me into that person? Because I’m not there yet. And I need help.
Grace and peace, Bethany