I’ve spent the last ten minutes staring into the middle distance of my backyard. I’m in my outdoor office — laptop on the painted patio table, bowl of nuts and water bottle by my side, bare feet propped on a chair. The Northern Lights Azalea is in full-bloom, the orioles are twittering their sing-song tune, and Josie is sprawled at my feet in full Squirrel Sentinel mode.
Yesterday I sent my next book proposal off to my agent (just so you know, I haven’t given up spiritual writing altogether), and I don’t have a single deadline looming. When I think about it, I’ve been pushing myself for six or seven years straight now – first with the long, long process of writing, editing and selling Spiritual Misfit, then with writing and editing 50 Women Every Christian Should Know (which, by the way, releases September 16 – you can get a sneak peek here!), and finally with marketing and promoting Spiritual Misfit.
In the midst of this busyness, especially in the last year or so, I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be instead of do. I’ve forgotten what life without a mile-long to-do list looks and feels like. I don’t think I remember what it feels like not to push and pull and “make things happen,” as my dad is fond of saying. I’m good at “making things happen” (or trying to make them happen, anyway). I’m not so good at letting things happen.
Last night Rowan and I took Josie to her first dog obedience group class. Josie has “issues” with other dogs. She’s as mild-mannered as an inch worm in day-to-day life, but introduce another dog into the picture, and our sweet girl goes Cujo. We suspect there was an “incident” at some point in her past, before she was rescued and adopted.
Anyway, we learned last night that most of the people and the dogs in the dog class are veterans. As in, Flash and his master have taken more than 1,000 classes. As have Murphy and his master. Some of the participants have enrolled in dog obedience classes with Trevor, our dog whisperer, for the last eight or ten years.
I was astounded. One thousand classes?! Eight or ten years?!
“Man, get a life,” I thought to myself as I glanced around at the group gathered in a circle in the park.
But as I gazed at the ten or so participants and their dogs, I realized something: this weekly dog class is their life; it’s their “thing.” They arrive early. They gather on the lush grass and chit chat as their dogs sniff and romp and roll. They pulls treats out of their pockets and share them with the dogs. They know each other’s names; they know each other’s quirks; they even know each other’s dog quirks. Their dogs are their passion, and this class is just one of many dog-related activities that feeds that passion.
“So are we doing to do one thousand classes with Josie?” Rowan asked me in the car on the way home, undoubtedly picturing himself as a 40-year-old at the Monday night dog obedience class. I laughed. “No, honey, we are not going to do one thousand classes with Josie.”
I explained to Rowan that the people and their dogs weren’t really there for the class, per se, but for the community. I told Rowan that their dogs are their thing, kind of like Minecraft and soccer are his things right now and chasing squirrels is Josie’s thing.
Rowan was quiet for a minute, thinking, I imagine, about Flash and Murphy and their people. “So if Minecraft and soccer are my things, and the dog class is their thing, what’s your thing?”
I paused. I was about to answer, “Writing,” but before the word was out of my mouth, I stopped. Because truthfully, I’m not sure writing is entirely my “thing” any more. Not that it’s not my thing; just that the line is a bit more blurred since writing became both my passion, my “thing,” and my profession, my livelihood.
Which is why (you were hoping I’d come around to a point here, weren’t you?) this resting period — this being instead of doing; this letting things happen instead of making things happen — is important.
For those of us lucky enough to enjoy a profession that’s also a passion, it’s important to nurture that precarious balance between the do-do-do professional side of the equation and the more artistic, contemplative, passionate side of the equation. Too much emphasis on the doing and you might dull the passion. Too much emphasis on the passion, and well, you might end up in the poor house.
Turns out, I’ve put too much emphasis on the doing, especially this last year, and too little emphasis on the pure pursuit and enjoyment of my passion.
And so today I sit on the back patio with my bowl of nuts and my laptop, my dog at my feet, the orioles twittering from the white pines. And I write a blog post that’s a little bit rambling and a little bit pointless, but that makes me feel like I might just get my “thing” back after all.