Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring Cleaning

After six weeks of very warm, springy weather, suddenly it feels like winter again.  The National Park Service even says that Washington may lose its iconic cherry blossoms this year because of the warm-followed-by-very-cold weather.  Being a perpetual optimist, I am counting on warmer weather, soon I hope, and clouds of pink blossoms.

As you know, I've had boxes in my closet from my offices since September and the ones from my storage room since January 2016 construction. Yesterday I finished going through them.  What started as 10 boxes is now down to five.  I planned to take the remaining ones down to my storage room last night but decided I was just too tired; that is a good Saturday morning project, I thought.

In my meditation this morning, I got that I should go through them again, as I should.  Just as when I started the project a week or so ago, in each box were things that I knew in my heart that I was finished with, but of which I was just not ready to let go. Yesterday's sorting was even more so.

My challenge yesterday was comprised of boxes from the 1990s, when I was more active in the media, keynote speaking, and running a thriving business. In addition to several years of tax returns, there were a number of copies of my books in languages I don't read, speakers videos, multiple copies of an executive audiobook series of which Leading from the Heart had been a selection, beautiful and creative marketing pieces, videos of TV interviews, and cassette recordings of speeches.

Yesterday's boxes were a monument to a time when both my business and I were thriving, and I felt like I was making a real contribution to a world, which would be connected by love.  That is how I want to remember myself.  Yet the photographs on the brochures were clearly of a younger woman, and who even has a device on which they can play either audio or VHS cassettes any longer?  I got rid of a lot, but kept "a few" copies of each.  Really? What was I thinking? Clearly another pass through the boxes is in order.

Plan A had been to go through clothes today.  I hate to shop, so I rarely throw clothes away.  That means that I also have clothes in my closet from the 1990s, which, if I love them, are now so frayed they should be discard, or if I didn't, they are at least woefully out of style.  I think another pass at the boxes prior to attacking the clothes is in order.

Today is the day that we switch to Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the U.S., losing an hour which we don't reclaim until late fall.  Although the official start of spring won't come for more than a week, in my mind, when we switch to DST, I think it is spring...even if the weather belies that assumption today. All the sorting and the arrival of DST has had me thinking about spring cleaning.

I am not sure if "spring cleaning," as a thing, is a figment of another time or place...or both, but it was a formative part of my childhood.  For anywhere from a few days to a week in both spring and fall, my mother, and I as her dutiful servant, ripped our house apart.  No molecule was left uncleaned. Furniture was moved and cleaned as thoroughly as humanly possible. Floors were scrubbed, stripped, and, as appropriate, waxed.  Carpets were cleaned. Windows, walls and ceilings were washed. AND, cupboards and closets were cleaned out.  (Anyone who thought that spring vacation was a time to go to Florida beaches on holiday didn't grow up in the Midwest, or at least not with my mother.)

The effort was exhausting. Yet, this biennial exercise was not without reward. Nothing, which wasn't being used, ever hung around more than six months. None of this going through 20 years of stuff was imaginable. Professional organizers have a closet-cleaning rule about, if you haven't worn it in the last year, get rid of it. In my mother's home, that would definitely have been enforced by these biennial cleaning rituals.   And, there is nothing like washing ceilings to identify upper-body muscle groups, which haven't been used since the last time we did this.

Despite the physical weariness at its conclusion, the spring cleaning ritual always left me feeling really...clean.  Like a ritual bath.  Adjacent to a photograph of a woman, soaking in a tub full of beautiful flowers,* describes a ritual bath: " are participating in an initiation to open yourself up to spirit. Ritual bathing implies that water and prayer wash away any spiritual grime--cleansing and purifying your body and your aura." Purified is exactly how it felt when we'd finished our spring cleaning. And, energized for doing new things.

I continued the sacrament of seasonal cleaning into my 20s, but then I noticed that no one else I knew did so. I had moved from the midwest to the West Coast, so I don't know if the passing of the popularity of the practice was regional or generational, but despite its rewards, a busy career left me disinclined to use either my vacation or my weekends on hard-core cleaning. Since fall cleaning had never had the uplifting quality to me that spring cleaning did, it was the first to go. (Aren't we supposed to be filling our cupboards in the fall?) Then, washing walls and ceilings went. Piece at a time, I dismantled this ritual.

All week I've been thinking about it again.  Now, don't get any notions about me starting this on an annual basis or even ceiling washing at all. But over the past two months of transition, I've been imitating the practice in a less concentrated way. After each flurry of sorting, I've felt that spiritual sense of purification and renewal.  Over the next two weeks, I am going to do serious cleaning and cleaning out. Yesterday I had area rugs taken away for cleaning, which will make moving furniture easier.

This morning as I meditated about what should go and what should stay, there was a sense of ruthlessness about what must go.  Make room for new energy.  Like a ritual bath for my home, it is time to cleanse and purify.  It is very clear that there were several things that must go.  Among them is this blog.  I started it as a place to reflect on my spiritual journey, particularly about questioning and clarifying along the way, to help me and other gain clarity about what I know to be true in my heart.

What I know in my heart right now is that my heart is no longer energized by writing about these things.  I will continue my journey, but now when I think about writing, what comes to mind is health, nutrition, refugees and other things that have piqued my interest recently. I am not burying the blog, but rather giving it a sabbatical. There have been times when writing about what was on my heart helped me a lot; I want to keep open the option to do that again.

I have truly been grateful for the readers all over the world that have followed the blog, including the three readers in Albania who read every post for a long time, and three friends who report reading almost daily.  I wish all of you peace and joy on your journeys.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Intimate Friendships

Last night I started reading the book Frientimacy* by Shasta Nelson.  I first became aware of the book when the Transformation-Cafe podcast chose it for a book club selection last summer; I bought it at that time.  My attention was captured in the first chapter. Nelson reports that when she asks audiences, "Do you wish you had more deep and meaningful friendships?" nearly every hand rises. She asked over 12,000 women about their relationships, and over half reported that their friendships weren't very satisfying.

My March 5 blogpost "Warm Fuzzies" revealed that I am in a season of examining the state of my own friendships.  It should not be surprising then that Frientimacy, which has been on  my nightstand for three-quarters of a year, should "suddenly" grab my attention.

I've written previously about the Buddhist concept that "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  This week has been rich with opportunities to examine the state of my friendships.  I have to say that for at least the last two or three years, if I had been in Nelson's audience, my hand would have registered affirmatively when asked about wanting deeper and more meaningful friendships. For a long time, I accepted responsibility.  A definite clue to the problem was that I needed to schedule lunches with friends months in advance.

Then I started making time, and I found that some people were still not available, yet others would leap tall buildings to make sure we could get together.  This week I spent really rich time with two friends.  At the end of each, I felt even closer.  In the same period of time one person that I've considered a close friend avoided responding to an email, and another said she could make time in the 3rd Quarter, as if she were scheduling me in her business plan.

After several weeks away from my Spanish lessons, I started listening again today as I walked my errands on a gorgeous spring day.  Many/most latin languages make a distinction in grammar in the form of a verb that is used to address a close friend as opposed to the verb that is used for an acquaintance.  I kept stumbling on the distinction as I practiced responding to prompts during my lessons. When I was supposed to be replying to a close friend, I'd use the form for an acquaintance.

About an hour into the lessons, it occurred to me that this may be what is going on in my life...except in reverse.  I want "close friends," but I've been addressing those who want to be responded to as "acquaintances."  Suddenly it came to me that these are twice-a-year, thin-coating-of-friendship people required the formal version of the verb. I say this while fully recognizing that that my comfort level with relationships may often have been varying layers of veneer. Unknowingly, I may have teed these relationships up with that expectation.

I really value those that I had good times with in a veneer sort of way. But that's just not sufficient for me anymore.  I want the deep and meaningful friendships of which Nelson writes.  As the title of the book suggests, intimacy is the vessel through which we have those relationships.

Over 20 years ago, my understanding of intimacy was profoundly shaped by my author friend Mark Youngblood in his book Life at the Edge of Chaos. He describes "intimacy" as "in-to-me-see." I spent several days in meditation around this concept after reading it. I recognized the barriers I put up to people seeing into my heart.  I ached for days.

While I craved intimacy, I recognized that I had at least two problems with it.  First, connected silence is essential.  Walk to the edge of something really uncomfortable and take a deep breath--kind of like jumping off the high dive. Except in friendship, we walk to the edge, take a deep breath, and dive together. There is a level of tension that comes with just sitting with someone while they work up courage to metaphorically jump.  While I think I am very good with this my profession, I am lousy at it in my personal life.  Changing the subject has been my habit more often than I'd like to admit.

The second challenge that I have had is with the people I attract into my life.  Like a homing pigeon, I can find the people who will be incapable of intimacy with uncanny accuracy.  Clearly, I have begun to shift that trend, as witnessed by those intimate conversations I've had recently. If they can't go there, then I have been able to say that I want the intimacy, and I can still be rescued from the responsibility required to create it.

This is about love--the kind of divine love that I've written about at length...what connects us all.  We can't get there until we drop the barriers and let others see into our hearts and souls. In one of the best-selling books of all time--The Road Less Traveled--author M. Scott Peck actually describes love as "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."

In that definition I believe that he has described intimate friendship. I see into my own heart. I see into the heart of my friend. I let my friends see into me. We jump together. We both grow. Love grows between us and in the Universe as well. Perhaps the reason so many of us crave it so is that the world needs.  I started to write that I couldn't do superficial any more, but the truth is that I can: I am just unwilling. I am setting for the power of my intention to attract more intimate relationships for the rest of my life AND to have the courage to step into them.

In the richness of my exploration, perhaps what I am finding is me.

*Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson, Seal Press, 2016.
*Life at the Edge of Chaos, Mark Youngblood, Perceval Publishing, 1997.
*The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D., Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1978.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dating Two Men at Once

I recently discovered a fun, easy podcast, called "Happier," hosted by author Gretchen Rubin and her sister, screenwriter Elizabeth Craft.  The focus of the show is sharing pretty much random thoughts or practices about how to be happier in life.  Subscribers get a mid-week "booster shot," which is a single, simple thought that is usually less than two minutes between the regular 80-minute programs.

This week the thought was "Dating Two Men at Once." In it Gretchen harkens back to college days when a friend gave her the advice to always date two men at once.  Why? When things aren't going so well with one, they may be with the other.  If things don't work out with one, then you aren't alone. If a woman is dating only one man, then it's either win or lose, and we always seem to be trying to figure out are we winning or losing at this moment. Dating two? You've got win, lose, pivot.

Now, this should not be an earth-shaking idea: it is just a bit of a twist on the Buddhist concept of non-attachment.

There is a story set in "olden times," about a Chinese farmer. His horse ran away at planting time.  "Oh, how terrible for you," his neighbors said, "you will not be able to plant your crops."

"Maybe yes. Maybe no. We never know."

The next day his horse came back, bringing a wild stallion with her. "Oh, how lucky for you, " his neighbors said, "to have two horses is a great fortune."

"Maybe yes. Maybe no. We never know."

The next day his son was trying to break the stallion, which reared up and came down on him, breaking his leg.  "Oh, how terrible for you, " his neighbors said, "your son will not be able to help you with the planting and tending your crops."

"Maybe yes. Maybe no. We never know."

A few days later the army came through the farmer's village, conscripting all of the able-bodied men to fight in the war.  Because his son had a broken leg, he was not taken.  "Oh, how fortunate for you that your son doesn't have to go to war."

"Enough!!" said the farmer.  "Always you must judge.  We never know what will be good and what will be bad.

Whenever we "date one man," we tend to fall into the habit of looking at situations, behaviors, and habits as either good or bad.  Rather than taking the advice of the farmer and being open about what they will mean.

Obviously, this thought from two married women is about way more than dating.  It is about holding the potential of a range of possibilities, withholding judgment and staying open and flexible.

I had a great conversation yesterday with a friend, who is action-oriented, about my transition.  "I am just not ready!" I said several times during the conversation as she made suggestions to get me moving.  I am not ready to know whether my future is in health coaching or working with refugees or some other possibility that I haven't considered. I am sort of "dating" different options. Who knows? Maybe I will decide to hang out with both indefinitely.

I have always had the concept of a "job" as a single thing that I would do which pretty much takes all my weekday time and is the source of my income, whether I do it for an employer or work for myself.  "Dating two..." offers the possibility that I might dabble at both...and maybe more things, generating income from all of them. I like it.

Another application of this "happier" idea is that I've thought I had to "get through" this transition as soon as possible--to some as-yet-unknown destination where I would work for the duration of my career.  I am now holding the possibility that my transition may be longer, maybe much longer.  If I am "not ready," my heart is telling me to linger longer in the exploration.  Although I have bristled when people have thought I was ending my career instead of being in an "exploration," the possibility of just allowing the exploration to take as long as it takes is not something I have considered before.

"Dating two men at once," it would seem, is a very liberating concept and one which brought me considerably less tension as I am now in my 11th week of transition.  One might even say that it has made me "happier."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Warm Fuzzies

Into each of our lives fall some people who are very special.  In almost an instant, we know who those people are.  In the "shoulds" of the world, we "should" hold those people very close and never, ever let go. Perhaps it is the vantage point of having crossed more than a few birthdays that gives me that wisdom.  It should be a no-brainer, but apparently, for me, it wasn't.

Although my college roommate is probably my closest friend in the world, and the one that I have hung onto most closely over the years, there were many of calendars that came and went without more than a phone conversation. Whenever we have had a rendezvous, it was always like we'd just dropped off the day before, but they just didn't happen often enough.  Last fall we had the opportunity to spend a few days together, and I realized that we should really make a point to spend more time together.

Through the miracle of modern technology, we've been walking and talking together--a joint effort to exercise regularly, as well as stay connected.  We are doing it through our smartphones.  We both walk in different states, but do so while talking to each other.  I've been savoring those work-outs. Last week I scheduled to visit her again in the late spring.  I am really looking forward to it.

At the end of this month, I will spend time with one of those special people. When we visit and try to explain to others why we are such good friends, it makes no sense.  Just something clicked in the beginning and we're fast friends.  The fact that she has brought to beautiful little girls into the world that I adore is just a bonus.

I am getting a second chance at another one of those very special relationships.  I can't tell you exactly when we drifted apart, but the how is that I let my life get too busy for people who were very special to me.  It wasn't a conscious decision.  I was too busy for a call or too busy to plan a visit. From their perspective, I can imagine it might have seemed that when I got married and moved to another town that I had moved beyond the relationship.  That really wasn't true at all.

Before I knew it, 20 years had passed...then more.  I wanted to reach out but really agonized about what to say that would make 20 years of non-communication seem OK, because there was nothing about it that was OK.  A year or two ago I made the decision that there was no way I could make it OK, and if I wanted to see these people again, I had to swallow my pride, reach out, and simply say I was sorry. I thought it was better to write. I got no response.  Considering that I hadn't been communicating all that time, that seemed reasonable.

When the right season came, I sent a Christmas card. Silence. I'd long since forgotten birthdays. I waited hopefully but not expectedly.

A few months ago, I received a Facebook friend request.  I accepted.  I really don't do much with Facebook, but this was a way to reestablish contact.  Over a few months of sporadic Facebook communications, I discovered we still had the same things in common that had first brought us together.

Yesterday, she sent out a post of a picture of her husband, also a close friend, marking a landmark birthday with their youngest granddaughter on his lap.  I responded. Tonight we talked for an hour. Just as with the roommate, it was like we'd seen each other yesterday.  At the end of the conversation was the most sincere "We love you!" that I can imagine.  I teared up.  How could I have drifted so far from this important relationship?

I am not sure how it happened, but as I write this, I am still full of warm fuzzies. I am also savoring the wisdom to hang on for dear life to people that are very special.  In the end, the relationships we have are really all we have.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Persistence Pays

October 1, 2013 -- The U. S. Government closed its doors, and after a badly needed good night's sleep, I got up with purpose. I should have been concerned...maybe even frightened...about how I would pay the bills until my next paycheck at some unknown date. I wasn't. Instead, I went for a long walk on a beautiful October day.  It felt great to move. It felt even better to break the shackles of my workplace and have time when nothing was scheduled. Bonus time if you will.

When I had blown the cobwebs out of my mind on the walk, I came back with the intention to accomplish two priority projects. And, I think, intuitively, I knew this recharge time was to kick me in the rear and propel me into what was to be next.

The first was to start posting regularly to this blog.  I'd set up the site a couple years earlier, and just 10 days before the shutdown, I'd made my first post. I had no mastery of the mechanics, though.  I posted a request for help on my building's bulletin board, and within a day, an angel in my building came over after her workout one evening and walked me through all the peculiarities of blogspot. By the time the government shut down, I was ready to roll. With the gift of time, I started writing. In the last three months of 2013, I made 100 posts.

The second of the projects was to get a more polished version of The Game Called Life onto Amazon and a Kindle edition published. Regular readers will know that this has been my serious work for the intervening three-plus years.  I am nothing if not slow...and persistent. I accomplished the former in late January.* When I returned from volunteer work at a DC theatre at 11 p.m. last night, a message from Amazon reported that the Kindle version is now available.+

The Game Called Life is a very personal treasure to me.  Both the writing of the book and its sponsorship smacked of divine intervention. I am happy to finally have broader distribution.  I believe that it defines how we spiritually dance through life with divine intent.   For many years, almost every reader was known to me or blog reader/commenter Amy Frost personally. When I gave up my home over a decade ago, I shipped most of my inventory to Amy, who became my main distribution channel. (Bless you, Amy!)

I truly don't know what this accomplishment will mean to the book or to me, but it feels like a huge albatross, which has been blocking me energetically, has been cast off.  My persistence has paid off.

This morning, I awakened much earlier than I have been recently, bounced from bed with purpose, and was compelled to start clearing the work boxes from my closet.  That project is not yet done, but I made a major dent in the project.  I made several trips to the recycle bin, but found myself not quite able to throw away some major creative projects that I had done either by myself or with a close colleague. I am allowing myself grace.  I am fairly confident that I will not ever use that small remaining pile, but I am granting myself a reprieve until I am ready.  (Maybe there will be a second sweep.)  I did make sure to leave a box in the middle of the closet so I will have to walk over it.  I will persist with the project.

When I emerged from the closet in the late afternoon, I rewarded myself with a manicure/pedicure, and while I was being pampered and relaxed, ideas about the coaching business just started flowing. I came home a worked for about an hour capturing them.  And, not unlike the closet project, I am giving myself grace with the coaching business as well. I am going to create simple materials on my own computer, and if/when I feel like I want to invest more, I can do that later. I am not going to spend money or energy on marketing, but I now that I have clarity of intention and being clear about intention is all I need right now.

Persistence has paid off in all of these areas, and clearing out the closet is creating energetic space for new things.  I am eager for the new.  While tomorrow is supposed to be a splendid day, and I don't work on my Sabbath any way, come Monday, I expect to be back in my closet.

For all of you who have supported me through these publishing projects, thank you.

If you have people who may be interested in knowing more, links to the book and Kindle edition are below.


(Purchasers of the book, get the Kindle for free.)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Allow Yourself to Fail

As I carried a box of office accumulation from my office on one of my last days of work, I ran into a colleague who didn't realize that I was making my exit from the organization.  I told her I was entering a transition period during which I would explore new career options.  She, and a number of others before her, remarked how courageous it was of me to leave my current position before having a new one in hand.  I didn't think it courageous at all.  To continue to be bored with my work seemed among the worst option that I faced; I just didn't want to do that any more.

As she and I continued to talk, I related five or six areas of interest that had been sparked in me.  I said I wanted to explore each of them in some way until I found a place where I wanted to land for a while.  I would try it out, and, if I enjoyed it and felt like I was making a contribution, I would continue.  If I didn't enjoy it, I hadn't lost anything, except maybe a few weeks or months.  I would move to another option on my list.  I was quite excited about the menu of options before me. And, I was excited by the adventure of trying new things.

When both health coaching and refugee involvement--both items on my list--bombarded me with opportunities in early January, I was excited.  I truly enjoyed being in learning mode with both.  I truly felt fully alive.  Then I finished the class about 10 days ago.  As a bonus for completion, the organization offered us a significant discount on a number of items, including additional classes, that would help establish our health coaching practices...when purchased within two weeks of the completion of the first course.

I've been to the site a few times.  I've stewed a lot.  Is this really what I want to do? What about all those other things on my list that I haven't had the opportunity to explore yet?  Do I want to abandon the executive, life, and spiritual coaching, which have been the foci of my work over 25 years, or do I want health coaching to be one more offering?  This hadn't been unhealthy or obsessive overthinking, and often not even conscious questioning, but more like a soundtrack to my daily life.

Since I have decided to do more focused self-exploration during the 40-day Lenten season, I decided to start the process by drawing a "transformation" card* to focus my meditation.  "Allow Yourself to Fail," it read. Among other admonitions, it continued, "Redefine 'failure' as 'steps toward progress'--a means of learning."*

I am rarely concerned about making mistakes, and I often joke that I prefer to work in pencil instead of pen because it allows me to fix mistakes more easily.  However, I realized that in regard to this transition that I'd allowed myself to fall into the trap of limiting my options. I recalled the conversation I related above and wondered where I had let my sense of exploratory adventure go.  All of a sudden, I had narrowed myself to a "Is it a yes or is it a no?" with regard to a health coaching practice.

Ah!  I don't need to do that: additional meaning for "Allow Yourself to Fail."  I have a graduate degree in management, and my marketing machine is a well-oiled one.  When I started my consulting business in the early 1990s, the editor of the local business journal called me.  He wanted to do an article about my marketing because he said everywhere he'd turned in the last two months, he'd hear something about me or read something about me.  I know how to do that...well.

What I don't know how to do so well is not market, not have cards and brochures, not have a business plan--all the things that people do to keep their businesses from failing.  You've got to be fully in--fully committed to your success all the books say.  But I was more interested in sticking my toe in the water to check the temperature rather than jumping off the high dive.  To "Allow Yourself to Fail" doesn't mean that I  have to fail: it just means that I am willing to give myself that possibility.

Which is exactly where I was when I ran into the colleague when I was moving out of my office in December.  "If it doesn't work, what did I lose?"  I will now allow myself to shake free of all that Graduate School of Management programming and stick my toe in several pools of water before deciding where to dive in.

I recognize this pattern other places in my life.  Something from outside of me pressures me to make a decision--a commitment--to something before I am really ready.  Then I figure out how to "do it right," which inevitably puts me on a course from which it is difficult to deviate.  Before I know it, I am years into something I didn't want to be doing.  This time I really want to shop carefully.  I want to make a decision that is correct for me, not because of external pressure...and then I want to allow myself to fail.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Forty Days

Although it feels like light years, it has just been a year ago since I marched into my boss's office and told him I couldn't do that job any longer. I handed him a copy of this cover of Family Practice Management, the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The mostly black and white cover shows the remains of a forest after a fire, only charred twigs of trees sticking up through lingering smoke and clouds.  In the foreground is a single daisy, sticking its blossom up through the ashes.

This journal cover was designed to accompany one of two cover articles the Dr. John-Henry Pfifferling and I coauthored in the late 1990s about burn-out and compassion fatigue, a concern that we encountered with physicians we met in our work together at the Center for Professional Well-being. In the cover article, John-Henry and I said that it took six months to recover from long-term burnout. We knew, and more importantly knew, that there were no short-cuts.  I desperately needed that six months to recover.

I assured my boss that I would put in the five months that I expected it would take to complete open projects and leave my clients in a good place, but I just couldn't do it any more.  I explained that this picture reflected how I felt after giving too much for too long.  I needed time to nurture the little ray of color left in my life.

Yet, even though I knew it would take six months, when the end of my extended notice arrived, I immediately took another job. I gave myself many reasons why I was ready to go to a different job. They were all lies that I told myself because it was a good opportunity.  I knew I needed the time to heal. A few months later when I finally admitted that I needed the time, it was an admission of something I'd known all along: I needed to heal.

In some recent posts, I've bragged that I'd knocked a lot off of my "to-do list," lamented that I hadn't discovered my new purpose, and complained that I had a hard time hitting the ground running like I used to.  These are all signs that I haven't been adequately healing from my burn-out.  As I crawled into bed last night after yesterday's post, the image of this journal cover occurred to me. About the same time, I recalled that today would be Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season, a time of intense spiritual reflection and fasting leading up to Easter.

Although the 40-day Lenten season coincides with the 40 days that Jesus spent praying and fasting just before his crucifixion, that number is probably not happenstance.  Since almost the beginning of time, 40 has been a spiritual number which symbolizes "time needed to totally recharge, renew the body; change to a higher perception."* Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days before returning with the Ten Commandments, and he led the Israelites for 40 years before he acknowledged that they had the understanding of God that they needed. Rain fell on the earth for 40 days and nights, creating the flood from which Noah saved the animals in his ark.  It occurred to me that the seven weeks of vacation that I had accrued and was going to use to "cover" my recovery was just a hair over the 40 days.

Since I had really given myself less than a week to recover from burnout before charging into a new class and book and cupboard cleaning, I think I need a restart, and what better time than this designated period of Lenten reflection?  I didn't worry about when I woke up this morning. I went to church. I spent the afternoon reading a book I wanted to read and plan to go back to it when I finish here. I didn't even turn my computer on until almost 10 tonight, and that was to write this blogpost.  (I did make one quick email check on my iPhone on the way to church this morning, and then I closed the mail app.)  I turned the news on this morning, and just as quickly turned it off. I spent time in the kitchen, trying a new recipe.

I don't know what this 40 days will bring.  I think that is the point. I am going to make every effort to stay out of my head, avoiding all but the very essentials of anything that smacks of planning and productivity. My 40 days will not be the six months that I know I need to heal from burn-out, but, with God's help, at the end of the 40 days, I will know what I need to do next.  I think that is all I need to do. Be as present as I can be and allow myself to be led.  Ah, that quintessential spiritual lesson...again!

*Bethards, Betty, The Dream Book--Symbols for Self-Understanding, Element, 1983, 1995, P. 140.