I have been working hard this week. I have been writing and coaching and problem solving and crisis managing and painting and parenting and cooking and budgeting and cleaning and doing laundry.
I don’t mind working hard. I don’t mind digging in the dirt. I will keep going until my fingers ache, and I kind of relish pushing through a worthwhile problem until I’m stiff and sore. I will sit up all night for the people I love. Sometimes I will even get up early for them.
But I very much mind pouring my life force into a sieve.
I hate the idea of exhausting my energy with nothing to show for it.
I don’t want to try to dig a garden in a coal mine.
No one is meant for drudgery, which is to say thankless work without reward or end. I hope it goes without saying that no one is meant to work brutal shifts in unsafe conditions. No one should work long hours and still not be able to afford a dignified home or enough food for their family.
I’m lucky– so wildly, wildly lucky– that I’m not experiencing that sort of desperate physical drudgery in my life right now.
So it seems almost obscene that sometimes I create it anyway…
in my own mind.
There is so much to do, and I can create a kind of prison of my own to-do lists. I can chase an ephemeral finish line that keeps receding, no matter how fast I run. I can enter utter despair over unanswered email.
What a waste of a lovely life.
What a snub to the universe, which has treated me so gently this go-round.
And how callous to people who are enduring true suffering and injustice.
There are real hells. Let me not invent more.
This doesn’t mean my feelings aren’t valid. I get tired. I get daunted. I get frustrated. That’s okay.
But when I push and push and push myself, when I erode my body and leach my own spirit, especially if I don’t even know what I’m doing it for– that’s a choice.
And not a good one.
So let me make a different choice. Let me pull back my own energy and direct it to the things that matter. Let me be ruthless in service to the gift of this life. Let me listen and tell stories that push me back into the river of my own spirit. Let me wake from the spell of feeling vaguely pointless and defeated.
There are many terrible things in this world, indeed.
But this green growing earth, it is so beautiful. Our bodies, they are so beautiful. The things we make with our hands; beautiful. The love that sings between us humans sometimes: absolutely incandescent.
This is what we’re here for.
To feel the electricity zipping through our bodies. To sense the humming in the world around us. To play with the marvels of having hands, fingers, toes. To marvel at the rich banquet of being able to see, smell, taste. To see each other and take care of each other.
It is so rude, the way I sometimes walk through the world.
Seeing only what is wrong with it. Worrying so much if there will be enough for me. Looking the other way when things (systems, companies, institutions) hurt people, because in that one moment it isn’t hurting me in particular.
When I’m plugged in, I know we’re all connected. I know harm done in one place will echo into another. I know that selfishness in one spot will create a vacuum, a little gnawing maw of hunger, somewhere else.
But if I am going to shout one thing into the void, let it be this:
Beauty has its own echo.
Healing trickles down. Generosity has a way of snowballing in the most wonderful way. A whispered truth can change everything. An act of kindness can reverberate for miles, eons.
We’re here to marvel.
We’re here to take care of each other.
We’re here to heal what is ours to heal.
And we’re here for acts of unabashed beauty.