I said this blog was going to be about faith as well as needle arts, and yesterday, while sitting in Mass and listening to our talented choir sing Quoniam tu solus sanctus, For thou are most holy, Thou only art the Lord, all the stupid worries of the past week began to fade. From this vantage point, I was reminded that God has a plan for me, just as he does for all of us. I realize this sounds cliché’, but if you’re going to be a person of faith–whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever–you’re going to have to embrace this centerpiece of theological thought–God has a plan.
But this is the hardest part of any spiritual practice, the letting go of that tight-fisted squeeze around the heart. I wrote about it frequently in my first novel, Budapest. It’s the kind of anxiety that comes just on the edge of sleep, just when you’re sitting down for a quiet cup of coffee, just when you find yourself alone in the car, waiting in chaotic city traffic. Your body is still, so your mind amps up the volume. You forgot to do this! What if your arm catches on fire! What if the children run wild into the street and get hit?! What if the dog gets fleas! What if I look fat!
These are the things that hit us and we blame them on Satan, ourselves, the people who triggered the thought. I’m not really sure I can assign any particular blame. The mind is a powerful instrument all on its own. It doesn’t really need any help to get the neurons firing in weird directions, but when you let go (as I did during the choir’s Vivaldi piece late Sunday morning), you begin to realize that you never really had any control in the first place. That everything is already settled and to enjoy life you need only to breathe and accept whatever is going on. Here again, this sounds stupid and cliché’, but that is because it’s a simple directive, and, as humans, we like these complicated or we give up on them. We like the drama and fury that comes with all that life struggling to get ahead.
Perhaps, this is a unique American trait, this always grabbing, but there it is, and it is the thing that gets in the way of peace every time. Conflict will always abide inside our bodies. There will always be something else that needs done, someone else we should apologize to, another thing we could have said better, but understanding when to push that all away and think only Thank You is the point at which happiness grows. This is the truth that pushes me back to the hymns of my childhood. I can hear my mother singing It Is Well With My Soul whenever a long day has ended, and I have finally sat down without regret.
Lately, I have been worrying that my writing career, which is lengthy and quite successful, has not been enough compared to other people in different professions. Our family is not wealthy. We’re smack in the middle of middle class, and often we have to tell our children, “You can’t have that. We don’t have the money,” and we can’t give them a date when the money will appear. I wanted to be one of those mothers who just throws material gifts at her children and says, “Of course you can have that,” but this is not my lot in life. I have an autoimmune disease that limits my physical abilities outside the home, and so I write, and I love it, but it is work. Hard work.
I had recently been offered a wonderful teaching position, completely out of the blue. At least, it sounded wonderful, but it was not the original job offered. I love the students, the staff was wonderful, but the position was the one I was not originally offered on the phone. It will be the perfect place for someone else, just not me. I would be chasing and caring far more than teaching, and my swollen knees and tired bones would not allow such a thing. For me, all the writing (that I complained just didn’t yield enough material goods) has produced a spiritual bounty that I would never have otherwise experienced. My gifts are still here and I have found that we are a tightly knit marriage of words and research. God has given me a myriad of abilities, and I need only to accept them and embrace them with gratefulness for the anxiety to wash away in an instant. It sounds stupid, but it’s really that simple.
The Lord will work for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14