This past week I knocked over two full (plastic) cups and dropped a humongo ice cube on the floor. While picking up the ice cube I thought, “Jodi, you need to get a grip. Literally.” When my father (avah shalom) was alive and I’d mention my fumbling, he’d say, “Well it’s because you’re not paying attention.” I would allllllllllways become defensive while my subtext shouted, “WHAT’S YOUR POINT????” There’d be loud harumphing and galumphing on the inside.
Not paying attention! Ha!
All of the everything with Morty last week left me feeling raw, vulnerable, hyper-aware of when I would hear my own tone of voice start to sound cranky or impatient as well as when people around me were acting dramatic and exasperated. My friend D’vorah says, “Consciousness changes everything.” I’d been ultra-conscious about reactive behavior, especially my own. Awareness is exhausting.
In our spiritual direction work together, Jinks is always asking, “What is God saying to you in this moment?” I have been asking myself that question and trying to slow down and tune in.
I don’t mean to sound kvetchy, but this whole ‘paying attention’ and ‘being present’ thing is hard work. I can’t multi-task when I’m listening for messages from Spirit. Believe me, I’ve tried. I keep trying. Next thing I know I’m shopping online, doing a crossword puzzle, calling someone or even—gasp—cleaning.
When I am listening in, I have to close my eyes. I have to stop and be still. This annoys me from the get-go. But that’s how it works for me.
And being quiet doesn’t stop the ten thousand thoughts swirling, which lead to other thoughts, associations, images, song lyrics, scraps of poems, lists, movie dialogue. Everything reminds me of something. I am easily catapulted into various eras of my past while simultaneously future-hopping all over the place. I remember when I met my pulmonologist in Philadelphia and he asked me why I had trouble sleeping. Several minutes later when I finished answering the question, he smiled, pointed to my head and very gently said, “Ah, I see it’s busy in there.”
There is always so much traffic on the inside, a fervent clamor, even with the joyful noise.
The irony is that I am desperate to connect with God, to get out of my own way, to have a moment of respite and at the same time, I am oh-so-resistant to slowing down and being quiet. This reminds me of the ritual that I go through with Morty several times a day: I put on his collar with the leash attached and then put on my shoes. He knows what’s happening, he’s hip to the process, ready to giddyup. I ask him if he wants to go out and inevitably he runs away from the front door and into the living room.
Yesterday afternoon I was sad and considered several different things I could do, all in the name of feeling less sad. Finally, it occurred to me that this might be a good time to pray and to listen. I laid on the bed and Morty jumped up and lay down next to me, which is always helpful. He falls asleep so easily; he is able to relax and let go in seconds flat.
What came to me is that my grief is like a tablecloth upon which everything in my life is placed. I am sad and all I can do is surrender to the sadness again and again. I know there is an invisible timeline for healing, yet I can’t help wondering when my soul will stop aching so much, so often, so deeply.
Morty woke up and stood on my chest, hence the photos from this angle.
All he wants is the ball. All I want is to feel differently than I do.
I keep hearing these lines from Galway Kinnell’s poem “The Still Time”:
there is time, still time,
for one who can groan
for one who can sing to be healed.