by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC
“Summer time, and the livin’ is easy”– so says the famous song from Porgy and Bess. However, making the livin’ easy is not always as simple as turning the page of a calendar.
Now that we are almost halfway through the summer, I am beginning to feel the end creeping up on me, and anxiety comes in along with it.
This blog has looked at a number of kinds of compassion, but one that comes to mind as I navigate these summer days is rarely mentioned: compassion for oneself.
Compassion for oneself is, of course, not the same as self-indulgence or egocentrism. Like compassion for anyone else, it involves being very aware of the situation – in this case, one’s own – understanding it and taking appropriate actions, from a loving stance. This includes being aware of one’s strengths and abilities, and also one’s shortcomings and limits.
My own situation at present is unique in my life: I have just finished a number of years of leadership in my community and have requested some time as a “sort-of-sabbatical.”
This means I have no designated job or even regularly scheduled tasks for a while. Sounds idyllic, no?
I thought so, too. Of course, my backlog of tasks, ranging from thorough window washing to sending out work for publication (not to mention creating new work, poems in this case), sits like a poisonous toad in a long list on my desk. On the other side, there are cartons and a couple of piles of things that I toted home from my office. They need space in file cabinet and bookcases. So, some serious sorting and pitching are needed before I can maneuver around my two rooms without risking a paper avalanche, never mind working comfortably at my desk!
And then there are all those books I have been wanting to read, on hold especially during the final months of our term in office. A simple very pleasant chat with a neighbor the other night added three more fascinating titles crying out to me. And similar piles of magazines and papers, mail to be answered, etc., etc., are accumulating.
And, of course, there are people I want to visit with and write to, and check in with on Facebook. My niece’s recent wedding alone has generated over a thousand pictures on family sites, my brother tells me. Yikes!!
With my typical jump-in attitude, I began with glee, but now I am realizing that I need something even more important than accomplishing these tasks: quiet time alone, without any lists or demands, even silent ones from the waiting piles. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading seemed directed right at me: Jesus welcomed the disciples back from their first preaching and healing tours without him, and then invited them to “come away” for a little reflective quiet.
So compassion for myself: to just let the lists and piles go (or rather let them stay; they won’t go anywhere!), take time to rest and pray and read as the mood takes me, leaving my time as open as possible. I need time outdoors, just letting the green fill my eyes and soul, time to just walk in the woods and sit by Swan Lake in the Rockefeller Park Preserve and “just be” for a while, listening to the frogs and watching the turtles sunning and diving.
And, of course, I need to alert my early detection systems to hold off the guilt about leaving all the tasks aside for these more necessary things. The more I walk among the trees and sit by the water, the easier that becomes, and the stiller I can be inside.
What are the parts of you that need your compassionate attention this summer? Take a few breaks and listen.