Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Turn and return and turn again

Oh dear, it's got to the point where people are leaving me comments asking me to come back and I don't even see them because the most recent post is more than two weeks old.

That, in and of itself, is mildly distressing. Many apologies to any of you who might worry about me. I am well.

That I can't say I've been blogging much anywhere else is perhaps more telling. My career-related blog is getting posts even more intermittent than this one; my locked journal (which had several posts a day for many years) is all but abandoned. I'm not even really leaving long rambly comments on Nick Baines' blog (which has more than once been the cause of my not having time to blog here). My e-mails to various dear friends have become shorter and less introspective, very much more "I did this and that and the chard is still growing" than they once were. I'm not even doing pen-to-paper reflective journaling on my own (I tried for a few months early spring but it isn't good for my elbow to do that much longhand writing).

I'm not doing badly -- my physical and mental health seem to be pretty good at the moment, I'm doing lots of work, I'm mostly getting enough rest (although as always there is this battle to catch up, this temptation to be busy on days off). But given how much I have previously relied on reflection and analysis in a written format, I'm starting to wonder what's up here. Am I really just too busy, or am I avoiding something? Is this about finding a voice (I typed "void" the first time, Freudian or what?!?) for my career-related blog, or giving myself space to speak at all? Is this about being more private, more circumspect now that some of my job is so obviously tangled with my religious life, or about being honest with myself? Is this about busy-ness or about not allowing stillness? I don't want to be precious or dramatic about this, and maybe I just need to accept that it won't be perfect and I can't do everything, but I have written hundreds of words per day for several years and don't seem to be doing so now. It isn't that I can't think of what to write, as evidenced by the verbosity of this post. It's that I'm not sitting down and starting.

I think I need to work out a Rule again. I have sort-of had one of one sort or another since my last year at Academic Institution, where the Rule consisted of "practise two hours before anything else" and I built everything -- my prayer life, my social life, my work, even my love life -- around that.

I don't have anything like that focus now. I have some things that are major -- the organist job, the teaching, a chamber group -- which will always take priority over other work. I've tried to shape my days sensibly and I'm not generally spending hours and hours online talking when I should be working. But there are things that are getting neglected, including this blog. Some of the neglected things are optional; some are not, and I wonder if some of my tiredness is not from being too busy but from being a little ungrounded.

Do you have a Rule of Life, or a set of intentional habits for your daily life? How specific is it, and how flexible? How do you decide when, if ever, to make changes to it? How do you make this fit around variable working patterns?


UKViewer said...

Song, I have a rule of life, perhaps based on discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer, and fitting everything else in around that.

I do not have the pressures that you have - since retirement last year, 'work, work' has not been an issue, but study, writing essays and just taking time to reflect where I am on the journey - than write it up, takes up most of my time.

I am also heavily involved in the Church in lay ministry, treasurer and also an internet church - so there is plenty to fill any time I have left. Of course, I also have a family, especially my spouse, who is still working, to I need to keep everything in balance or I could be overwhelmed by it.

The primary thing is testing the vocation I feel to ordained ministry, and I appear to be about half-way through the selection/discernment phase. There is a long way to Go, but with a Bishop's Panel scheduled for January, I can now see where it is being taken.

One thing I have found really useful is to take about 30 minutes per day to really be quiet and just 'be', it is these times that are very helpful as I try to discern what God is saying to me - often a blank, but just sometimes I am offered a tiny glimpse of what might be.

I will pray for you finding the balance and not being overwhelmed.

it's margaret said...

Yes --I, too, have a "rule" --take time every day for reading, praying and writing.... that's all. Without that groundedness, I would perish. But that practice of groundedness hasn't always been in reading, praying and writing --it has at times been sitting and playing the piano --or walking... mostly it about taking that time to be centered....

So, maybe your choice/discipline of centeredness is in flux. That's all.

Working one's faith life/vocation and work/labor together (I forget how you worded that) can be very trying... if not exhausting. I have found it very helpful to take some time for pure worship --when I can be not in charge and responsible for the liturgy... it helps.

Blessings, dear Song.

Jan said...

I'm not good about setting up schedules, except for those put upon me from outside sources. The ONE thing that has benefited me in the last year+ is sitting in meditation/prayer twice a day (in silence). I seem to have more time because of that!

Song in my Heart said...

Thanks, all, for your comments.

I think some of my difficulty is simple overwhelm -- I would like to practise every day (at least two instruments, for at least two hours each), pray the Office, blog every day, walk an hour a day, write some music every day, listen to new music every day. Short of getting domestic help and becoming independently wealthy, I've just run out of day.

Faced with a perfectionist nature and an impossible task my tendency is to withdraw, to do tasks based on financial or other constraints rather than based on who I am and what brings vitality to my life and to those I work with. So I practice organ, almost enough, because I'm getting paid for it and it would let people down if I didn't, but other instruments are neglected; I can't blog perfectly so I don't blog at all; I try to pray the Office on my own and find that I struggle.

Then I build amazing daily schedules that can't ever work, or amazing weekly schedules that get disrupted by one doctor's appointment, or I just keep working on stuff.

Margaret, I also find it important to worship in situations where I am with others, but not always involved in leading worship. I wish we had the Office at Nearest Church, because I would so be there three times a week. As things stand it's a 45-minute walk to Long Walk Church and in all honesty I've not been managing to get up early enough. I keep telling myself I'll work out a not-getting-squished cycle route (London traffic is stupid) but that becomes just one more thing to do, when what I need is to allow myself space and time to be.

Practising can be that, prayer can be that, walking can be that, listening to and writing music can be that, even blogging can be... but trying to fit them all in or a lack of regularity both make them seem more like items on a to-do list.

I think that lack of centredness bothers me more than the notion that my discipline of centredness is in flux.

And yet... Wednesday, was it, I blogged this? and also got my act together and posted briefly on the career-related blog. More of the latter yesterday. And over the course of a few days I've been getting all sorts of ideas about my "main" instrument (not the organ) and what I might do with it, how I might develop my playing and performance in a way that is interesting and constructive. I haven't really been this excited about it for a while (not blogging it yet, but tweeting lots).

And maybe I just need to let go of control of that, let go of the idea that if I don't have these rules to follow rigidly all the time, I'll lose my grip on reality. Maybe I will be given the wherewithal and organisation and focus to keep a Rule as and when it is what I am meant to do, and maybe right now I am supposed to be in this sort of free-fall, finding out what's next. Maybe what I need to do is not worry about the amount of time I spend walking or writing or praying but instead develop structures that are far more portable, far more adaptable. I can pray anywhere, and who says I need to say the entire Office rather than the Lord's Prayer or a couple of psalms? Walking for five minutes, or stretching, or lying on the floor listening to one track, or writing two bars of music, or writing a short e-mail to a loved one and a slapdash blog post that doesn't go anywhere really, are as valuable as walking for an hour, listening to an entire album, writing an entire piece, or those blog posts that keep going unwritten because I haven't carved out the time to think them through properly. Maybe when I need a more substantial practice it will become clear again.

The paradox is, of course, that recognising things like this is exactly why I need to blog.

UKViewer said...

Ellie Finley posted this prayer on her blog:

Gracious God, when I look at the mound of papers on my desk, see the length of my to-do list, think about the state of the economy, I feel a deep malaise washing over my soul. It is as if I am being tossed about by waves of anxiety, and I can no longer find firm ground on which to stand. Come with your mighty wind and blow the wave back to sea that I may be still in the wake you leave behind. I ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.

I find some of her posts most insightful.