Dear Pope Francis,
How to get beyond the mundane? That’s the question I asked at the very end of my last letter. It was a question that I had been asking myself for weeks before I posted that letter. More than merely ask the question, I was wrestling with it, grappling with it. Fighting with myself as I proposed solutions and ways to move forward.
I could get up early everyday and exercise. I could focus on getting more sleep. I could take a cooking class. I could experiment with new recipes at home. I could start volunteering. I could read for fun. I could write solely for the joy of it. I could look for publishing opportunities. I could start watching a new series.
As soon as I decided on any one course of action, I’d change my mind. I’d fall asleep resolving to get up early, work out and pray before going to work. In the morning, I’d decide to lounge in bed and read a book instead. On the weekend I’d resolve that this would be the week that I would finally post a new letter. But when the next weekend rolled around, I hadn’t even come up with a topic. I did however, try making curry for the first time, and made an excellent apple crisp.
None of these things are bad. I’ve rediscovered my love of reading and cooking solely for enjoyment. i’m devouring books, and I love Sunday afternoons because that’s cooking day.
But none of these answers really satisfied me. They didn’t get to the heart of the problem. And the problem was that in spite of all of the wonderful things I want to do – exercise, volunteer, read, pray, cook, write – I feel overwhelmed by the freedom of having the time to do these things. Instead, I get lost in the mundane because that is easier. I get lost in details at work, in stressing about finances, in figuring out exactly what to do with my time to make the most of it. Focusing on the mundane makes me feel busy. When I’m busy, there is no free time anyway, so I don’t need to worry about squandering it.
Except that stressing about the mundane, trying to get all the details perfect, is exactly what is squandering my free time. Worse than that, it makes me feel listless and uninspired.
“To be inspiring, you constantly need to be inspired”
That was the line that snapped everything into perspective. I heard it during the very last session of a conference I was at. It was the concluding remarks given during an informal Q&A session. It was like a spark, a jolt, a really cold wave of reality.
All that busyness created by worrying about the mundane things was sapping my inspiration. All those things that felt indulgent, that were expressions of my freedom, were things that inspired me. They helped me feel human and whole. Instead of trying to limit them: forcing myself to slow down when I read, or not exercise because I might not have a full hour afterwards to get ready, or whatever other excuse I was making, I should be soaking them in. I can always go back and re-read the book. Being a couple minutes later than I’d like to be or having damp hair is not the end of the world.
While I don’t wake up everyday and plan to inspire people, I need to be inspired for my own well being. So here’s to a weekend of socializing and reading and cooking.