Blessed unrest

Every once in a while I come across a quote – in a book I’m reading, online, or somewhere else – that I sit with and ruminate over for days or weeks. That keeps coming back into my consciousness as a key to a puzzle.

Words come into my focus sometimes just when I need them, when I am wondering why I am feeling at odds with the world. As did these glorious words from Martha Graham:

Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

As I move more of my own processes into the light, it’s hard sometimes not to get overwhelmed by other people’s advice. Just to listen and hear what is right for me and what isn’t, to glean the bits of truth for my own life and leave the rest behind for someone else who might need it.

I tried recently to write a post about homeschooling, about the why and how of it, and I bored myself so much that I needed to discard it. So perhaps I will not be writing to instruct. What I’m happiest with is a mixture of observation and magic, some beauty and some shadow, looking at the world slightly askew.

I’ve been trying in the past few months to untangle some of the threads in my life, to give each thing that I love its due. There is some struggle in this untangling and maybe that’s what’s visible from the outside. How can I explain that when I struggle it’s from a place of deep gratitude for the bones of my life? It’s that blessed unrest, always moving me towards an ideal, an ideal of presence, which is not really an ideal of being but of becoming.

But to be present to any moment also means being present to the shifts that are happening: the storms, the shadows. How can it ever be otherwise? When we say out loud, “this isn’t working any more,” our observation changes something, inside or outside. Naming creates space for change.

I love that this unrest has led to some potent family conversations. We’re working together to articulate our common goals, our common vision. I love this digging. I love the storm that carves out the open place. I don’t always love the storm itself, but I love that it makes things happen.

I’ve made some practical changes over the last few weeks. In retrospect they seem obvious, but I’m learning that nothing is obvious until it is named. I’ve separated out specific lesson/work/focused time with the kids, and am holding firm in not allowing anything to intrude on those hours. I’ve also set clearer work times for myself, refusing to let the brief hours when I’m alone slip away from me. I’m setting boundaries around tasks, boundaries of time and attention, not allowing my impulse towards formlessness and permeability to consume all the pockets of time that actually are available. I’m telling more people what I need. I’m saying no, even sometimes to myself (this one’s the hardest). I’m recalibrating. I’m renegotiating. I’m taking each piece seriously: trying to move out of my eternal mode of messily cramming everything together, into a steady and gradual rhythm where there is time and space for everything. A steady pace like walking, step by step.

When I am overwhelmed by the noise of the world around me, and sometimes the noise within, it helps me also to return to this quote from Pema Chödrön:

The basic point of it all is just to learn to be extremely honest and also wholehearted about what exists in your mind — thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, the whole thing that adds up to what we call “me” or “I.” Nobody else can really begin to sort out for you what to accept and what to reject in terms of what wakes you up and what makes you fall asleep. No one else can really sort out for you what to accept – what opens up your world – and what to reject – what seems to keep you going round and round in some kind of repetitive misery.

This is what I need to remember when I find myself wanting to explain, to justify, to apologize. I despair sometimes at my need to be understood. But maybe understanding isn’t even necessary. Maybe it’s only necessary to love what you love, to feel it in your blood, to commit yourself to following through.


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