Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Living Gently On Purpose

Several threads of truth are relevant here. First, I want things to be gentle for the people around me. I even used the word "gentle" in my mission statement, as it applies to social change and its effects on the very poorest people on the planet. I work hard to create gentle pathways toward success for the people I work with. I want to be gentle to animals and toward the planet.

But I am seriously tough on (mean to?) myself, and more than -or different from- the "negative self-talk" thing we all know about -although I am a master at that, too. I mean that I won't accept gentle change. I feel like I have to lean in and do everything HARD -and if I can't or won't, that's a failure.

And... somehow I have this idea that a high-adventure life is more valuable than a quiet, gentle life. To complicate matters, though, I would never agree that Emily Dickinson, with her quiet life, was less valuable than Sir Edmund Hillary trekking around on mountains. Kind of the contrary, actually. It's just that the rules are different for me, you see ;) I ought to want to be rappelling down a mountain in Belize or canoeing whitewater somewhere. So, in my twisted little mind, it's this:

Or this:

and there's not much in between.

But I have to do something different; I'm wearing myself out, thrashing around. I get it. My life was forced into a new place. There was (and is) a lot to do to get to safety, much less to a place where I could thrive. Besides, I had postponed a lot in the interest of other things -saving an unsalvageable marriage not least among them. There was some resentment there, and by God , it was my turn. So, urgency and entitlement were all mixed up. I needed some things urgently, and felt like it was my bloody turn for a little adventure on the other.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I'm mixing up indolence and calm -gentleness and sloth. I know what the words mean; we don't have to go there! It's just assigning the words to my own behavior that I'm not doing with very much sophistication or tolerance. If I sit for a minute, it's not necessarily laziness -even if there are several visibly undone tasks in my immediate vicinity.

So, given that the list of things I want to do has not gotten any shorter, how might I live gently on purpose? We're talking Gentleness 101, here. What does gentle homemaking look like? What does gentle scholarship look like? What does gently physical fitness look like (especially challenging, since it requires exertion, by definition).

Sigh.... I just don't know.


Angel said...

Maybe a schedule would give structure to the competing priorities. If you could identify how much time you want to spend on the different tasks (homemaking, scholarship, physical fitness, daily maintenance, etc) that might help you accept / enjoy the time for quiet reflection (even surrounded by unfolded laundry).
(This was one of the best pieces of advice for college that my dad gave before I went.)

All the best

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