I am sitting at a picnic table watching a steady stream of people team towards stages around the Ulster American Folk Park to hear some foot stomping bluegrass and soul resounding Gospel music. In a seriously post-viral state, I consider myself legitimately excused from this melee; I have ducked singing with the Festival Choir. Later on I will go and sit in the audience, listen and applaud. That is about the height of my power at this moment.
As I sit here I find that I am doodling ideas. Mind mapping is what my beloved would call it. I give it no such grand title. It is an alternative to the ‘To Do’ list. In the interests of transparency I began with a traditional list and quickly abandoned it as too exhausting. The doing feels like my undoing.
My beloved has also pointed out to me in the past that the word lament comes from a similar root for caring. Truly there is plenty in the world, on micro and macro scales, to lament. But is it possible to care too much? In this Year of the Horse it feels like I have been galloping along, barely hanging on to the reins, frequently escaping being unseated, but the last hurdle had me completely thrown. This is not a tame Year of the Horse. This is a bucking bronco of a year that would probably defeat the most talented Horse Whisperer.
I know I am not alone feeling this way. The pace has felt both chaotic and inexorable for many friends and acquaintances. Also, I have to confess, I have always found horses to be a bit scary.
One of my mantras is “Keep the drama on the stage or the page and not on my doormat.” It is not that I have compassion fatigue (well, maybe some) it is just that all this caring, the doing that has been the practical component of caring, has left me feeling undone. Or done up.
Undone is an interesting word. On one level it implies the incomplete or unfinished task. Oh, shudder of guilt! But another sense of the word is ‘not being tied or secure’; it has a more metaphorical meaning. It implies feeling utterly destroyed, washed up or thrown into utter disorganisation. I don’t think that I am alone in touching on such a raw vulnerability given what is happening in the world, whether it is brought to me via internet newsfeed or a friend stopping me in a supermarket aisle and imparting more catastrophic news of suffering. The buttons have come undone and it is as if we are all channelling the Sacred Heart with its crown of thorns and spear piercing.
What tugs at my heart right now is the desire for miracles of peace, reconciliation, less doing and more being. Has the world not done enough? Are we not brought to the brink of extinction by our doing?This is where my doodles on the page have led me as I sit apart from the crowd streaming towards an uplifting day. In my post-viral state I know I just have to wait this exhaustion out. But in my immune system’s burn out I am noting that I need to summon more moments, hours, days, maybe even weeks of being, to recover from being this Psychic Crispy Critter.
I often advocate putting in strong boundaries to others. In my caring, have I put in strong enough boundaries to take care of myself? Obviously not recently. Time to take some of my own advice and review what is really nourishing as a daily practice to revive my lowered spirit. What can you do when you feel so down and dry that prayer seems hopeless and the concentration for meditating eludes you? I figure that I will just start with a daily doodle and see where it takes me. At some point maybe I will doodle my way down to the well of being.
As I finish my doodling here on the picnic table I do make one serious resolution. No more ‘To Do’ lists! Henceforth, if I must marshal my thoughts and study future actions I shall write at the top of the page
“Make it Be So”
Given my age and propensity for distraction I will need to jot down important aides memoire. When I have finished a serried rank of these at the bottom of the page I shall write.
“And the Time is Now.”
I am hoping this strategy will work. Perhaps there will be a time of ‘undoing’ and, as my physical strength returns, the habit of doing may reassert itself. Old habits die hard. Maybe age and the inevitable adaptations to shifts in physical energy levels will force me into more ‘undoing.’
However, do I, at the end of my life, want to be or to have been done by? Do I want to be left undone by this chaos that exists and threatens to engulf each of us?
Paradoxical, isn’t it, that doing can ultimately be very passive, while being is the most active force.
So I shall consider my actions – and be active – in the now. But there will be an interval first where I shall drop down into the Well of Being and drink my parched heart full of its cool sweetness. Then I will once again feel the tug on the bucket’s chain and be drawn back into the world. Not to do more caring. Just to be caring.