One of the problems with blogging is that one gets self-conscious after a while, and then has to shut up. I’ve been shut up for long enough. I’ve been reading Barbara Bash’s wonderful little book, True Nature. It is her journal (drawings and words) of four retreats that she took at a cabin in upstate New York. I read it periodically, when I want to refocus my own life and can’t quite get out of town. I took it with me when I went on my own retreat on the river this summer.
That seems impossibly long ago, now. Semesters define my life, and here in the middle of the holiday season, I long for some sort of retreat. My Advent reading this morning was about peace – and about how it isn’t just the absence of conflict and upheaval, but it’s also the state of the soul that trusts God and remains balanced in the middle of conflict and upheaval.
Yep, that’s what I want. Peace that stays unfazed by schedules, end-of-term grading, dozens of emails from college students who want grace and mercy to replace personal responsibility. (Dang. I want grace and mercy to replace personal responsibility, too. The hypocrisy doesn’t escape me, believe me. )
Sometimes I get really irritated with Barbara Bash. She puts a lot of pressure on herself during her retreats, which kind-of defeats the purpose, and she’s afraid of the dark. She allows that fear to eat into the daylight hours. The world out there in the dark is the same world that is out there in the light, (except in our neighborhood, there are way more skunks in the dark). It’s a fear I don’t understand.
But then I remember the things I’m afraid of, with failure right up there on top of the list. The Christmas season always seems to hold multiple opportunities for failure, and not just the typical ones about meeting other people’s expectations or not. The real failure I’m always afraid of is that I will let the season go past and fail to really experience Advent in a deep way. That happens, too, so it’s not like I’m afraid of something that never quite materializes.
I do a lot of yoga. Inverted on my sticky mat, I think of Barbara and her way of following the breath when she is anxious or frightened. I think about my journal (untouched for most of the semester) and my blog (ditto) and feel things start to tighten up. Fail! My breath turns shallow and fast, and I start to sympathize with her unwillingness to walk out into the dark. I’m not real excited about picking up my pen, my paints, or even sitting down at a keyboard.
But it’s Advent. Good things do come to those who wait, but only to those who wait expectantly, who allow themselves to pick up their tools, take a deep breath, and create. The fear can’t win.