We have all experienced many small and large changes over the past couple months. And it has all been so disorienting.
One of the first things that happens when we are thrust into a time of disorientation is loss of language. We simply don’t have the words.
Whether we feel like we have “walked off the map” or “had the legs knocked out from under us” or perhaps “entered into a holding pattern,” whatever the character of our particular disorientation, our initial reaction is we don’t know how to talk about what we are experiencing.
This is a time for the poets. We need them. One of their great gifts is the gift of naming, providing words for those of us who don’t know what to say to the Lord, to one another, to oneself. Over the last couple months, I have found myself often in The Psalms, as well as thumbing my way through collections of prayers or poems, searching for company and language.
Monday was a particularly jarring day as I realized anew just how tired I am. Faced with a fairly full list of things to do, I ended up heading to the falls, sitting and trying to sort out, without much success, what I was bumping into. Word-less.
Early Tuesday morning, I was drinking coffee, staring out our front window onto the quiet and still street, paging my way through a collection of blessings by John O’Donohue entitled To Bless the Space Between Us and I came to a blessing, aptly titled “For One Who Is Exhausted.” Some very good words found me, naming much of my current inner life, as well as the experience of so many of the leaders with whom I am in conversation. These words have been help-full to me this week.
May they be helpful to you as well… Spirit, be generous to our spirits.
For One Who Is Exhausted
by John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. DoubleDay, 2008.