The house is almost completely still. The heater has just kicked on behind me, but the kids are at school and our super cool, very old dog is fast asleep at my feet. No one is talking to me. No one is clinging to me. No one is fighting with anyone else.
And. Every. Muscle. Every. Cell. Has. Settled. Into. The. Silence.
Quiet and stillness are saving my life right now. Or at least restoring it to me before the beautiful, noisy madness descends again. My cousin helpfully pointed out the life-saving nature of quiet in a world inundated with noise; even more in the age of the iPod, the radio, the Wii.
When I was working full-time and on the path to burnout, I had one day off every week. I spent it with my youngest two children at home, mostly doing housework but also some play. It was time for which I was grateful but which was, unsurprisingly, completely absent of anything like quiet and rest.
When I went on medical leave, the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was when, unwell at home, I was all alone. And that quiet, paid for two days a week with my daughter being cared for by her babysitter, helped bring me back to life.
To this day, quiet and rest are saving my life.
What is saving your life right now?
Barbara Brown Taylor was asked that question after exiting ministry, and I find myself returning to it often these days. The unwelcome drama of US politics and my own obsession with it has stilted my recovery; I respond frantically, with more writing, some marching, phone calls to officials, and less sleeping. I am frequently tense and strained.
My husband says I should stay off of my smart phone, opting out of my habit of gorging on news and jumping into online conflict. And of course he is right. But I am also looking for things to hold onto; bits of joy or steadiness that can keep me afloat. In the deluge of bad news, it is easy to get overwhelmed and be blinded to what is present and normal and beautiful.
So what what else is saving my life these days? And what is saving yours?
My children, as usual, are saving my life. The oldest two are keenly interested in the politics that keep me up at night, but at the end of the day, the needs and interests of all four draw me into the most life-giving tasks I have: grocery shopping for their lunches and dinners; trudging with them through the snow on our way home from school; reading fairy tales to my littlest ones before putting them to bed (which still requires snuggles from Mommy before they can go to sleep); giving my full attention to my more-often-listening-than-listened-to second son and being amazed at his emotional intelligence and self-knowledge; reading a book next to my oldest son after everyone else is in bed while he, my most social of social butterflies, does his homework (he says it helps to have someone around, even if we're not talking).
My children are saving my life right now.
What is saving your life?
Books are saving my life right now, as they have before and no doubt will until I die. I read article upon article these days about this or that travesty of justice, but they leave me spinning like a top, ready to crash to the ground at any moment. Books--good-books--pull me upright when life has me bowed to the ground. My sense of perspective and purpose grows steadier when rooted in the words of the great storytellers, teachers and leaders who put them to paper.
I have multiple books that have passed in and out of my house these past months courtesy of our local public library. In between, I turn back to my favourite re-reads: at the moment it is Harry Potter, which seems appropriate given the real-time takeover of the Muggle government in my country of birth. Harry's story pulls me just enough out of my own [sudden thought: I am living my own story! YOU are living your own story!] that I can reenter less burdened by the heaviness of all that is happening around the world.
Books are saving my life right now.
What is saving your life?
Preparing for our impending trip to Israel is saving my life right now. I have taken to daily Hebrew practice and could swear I gain a few years of life every time I do. Dag, fish! Bitzah, egg! Anachnu ohevim basar, we love meat! I started studying Hebrew when I was 18 years old so it settled nicely in my then-squishy brain. I still throw it at my children and husband or the vacuum/printer when it feels appropriate: "Mah zeh?" (What's this?) "B'emet?" (Really?) Akhshav! (Now!) They tolerate it (albeit with rolled eyes) and sometimes even verbally respond. But I am excited to use the language again among people who actually speak it.
(Thinking about this cracks me up; my poor family, they put up with so much living with me.)
Practicing Hebrew is saving my life right now.
What is saving your life?
Followers of Jesus tend to think of salvation only in terms of The Big Things. And, to be sure, there are good reasons for it. But for me, right now, it is the little things that, woven together, lift up my head and set my feet more firmly on the path that is my own. As one who believes in a God-made-flesh, in eternity wrapped up in tiny mortality, receiving life and power in the small and ordinary is a perfectly logical, perfectly magnificent way to be saved.