27 August 2005

Keeping busy

I work full-time outside my home. Over the years I've often heard women of a certain age say, "I like to keep busy." When I was much younger and foolish (as opposed to now, when I am at that age myself, and no less foolish), I used to look down on them a bit and feel sorry for them. I thought they must have had unexamined grief in their lives, or something like that, which made it uncomfortable for them to sit quietly or read or meditate or whatever - all of which I would, and do, indulge in to excess.

Today I'm in the middle of a few days of vacation. These few days have been a profound blessing to me. The purpose of the time off was to make some progress on some tasks which have been hanging over my head for years - and I have done so. All kinds of things - housecleaning, financial stuff, paperwork of various kinds. Nowhere near done, but just wading in a bit on each project, as opposed to cowering on the shore. It feels good. My mood has been better than it's been in months.

Chicken or egg? Not sure, but the Getting Up and Doing definitely helps keep the momentum of progress towards wholeness going. So much so, that I realise I have now joined the ranks of those who "like to keep busy."

Part of my problem with it before was my perception that "keeping busy" was mindless activity, compulsive cleaning, or self-exhaustion. Thanks to FlyLady, I've learned how to keep busy in a helpful, healthy way which avoids the traps of perfectionism, anger, and despair which beset me in previous attempts to live a "normal" life. I used to feel very self-conscious, sometimes despairing, about my inability to manage my surroundings. Thanks that dear woman and her team, I have slowly come to understand that I'm not alone, nor is there something "wrong" with me. It's not the only way to learn how to take care of one's life, but it worked for me where other methods had not.

Although I've not (I hope) expressed my former condescending thoughts to anyone who said that to me, I repent of entertaining them at all. There is a wound in my own life which will not heal, which God has used over and over again to protect, guide, encourage and enlighten me. Until three years ago, I steadfastly refused to admit the depth of the injury. I could not even bear to consider it. Now that I've faced up to it, healing can begin. I shall never be the same as I was before the dreadful things happened, but the secret to life is not to pretend the hurt away or stifle it with food or dreaming. It is to face it, with the support of God and those who love you.

Instead of hiding the hurt from the Physician, I finally let Him do what he needed to do: reopen, then clean the wound. Now, after so much pain, rehabilitation can begin. My life can be rebuilt, but only by me, and only in small increments of purposeful activity. Before, I could not bear the thought of a routine, organised, well-paced approach to work and life. Now, I know better. I sleep eight or nine hours a night. I exercise and eat right. I know how to work hard for fifteen minutes, then rest for a while. I'm learning how to map out my days, and keep to a schedule. For so many, this can be done without thinking. For me, it is stunning revelation. I don't know why it didn't make sense to me before. I'm just glad that it finally does.

So, I like to keep busy. I like to make progress against clutter and dust and weeds. It makes me feel good to take control of my possessions. Absurdly small stuff compared to the crying needs of the world, but it's my field of endeavour, just for now. I must build the foundation to support a greater work later on. For many reasons I could not live that sort of life before; now is the time. God is good - and patient with me.

If you are the type who lives a normal life with schedules and routines most of the time, you can be grateful for it. If your life is chaotic and stress-filled, know that, when you're ready, you can slow down and learn a different way.

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