Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A worm & I

Sometimes I'm amazed at how much I enjoy nature. Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, I have the luxury of getting to indulge my desire to be outside. Thankfully it feels like a luxury most days, because for my kids, it's a necessity. There is a very obvious change in their behavior if they don't get to play outside. They are grumpy, much harder at hearing, whiny and unhappy. We all suffer. That's why I've been known to throw on rain boots and extra jackets and let them stomp around in the rain (mud fights and all!) or bundle them up and head to a park even though the slides are still covered in dew. And I always join them. Because we all need the fresh air. We need the open space. We NEED the outdoors. I know this about my family and I. 

Another thing I know about myself: I'm not very good at keeping my heart connected throughout the day. I often feel like I'm just keeping up with the necessary logistics of raising two toddlers, maintaining a home and running a small business. Soul work is often last on the list, or if I do try to pull it into my day, my brain just seems stuck in "do" mode. I can't seem to slow the wheels or speed them up or whichever it is that's keeping me from having clear, heart thoughts when I want to.  

And I'm desperate for those quiet moments; those rare chances to connect with myself and refocus my day; the possibilities of discovering something new and growing. 

As I was thinking about the chilly days quickly sucking the hours out of our outdoor playtime and thinking also about how stuck I feel in my own spirit, I started to wonder if my soul often feels like it's trapped indoors. Like there's not enough fresh air to breath or enough space to move; just grumpy and confined and whiny and in need of a good dose of the great outdoors, "soul-style". What does that mean? What would it look like for my soul to get that fresh air, open space, outdoor experience that my body so thrives on? 
Time. Surely time would help. Maybe new input…new books, new music, new art. Good conversation. Ah, yes, a good, soul-connecting friend.
My kids and I dig in the dirt pretty regularly. It tends to be my 18 month old daughter and I sitting in a pile of dirt and slowly exploring to our hearts' content, while my 2 1/2 year old son runs around kicking his ball, then stops by to see if we've found anything worth seeing, then repeats the cycle a dozen more times. We usually end up with a couple good rocks, an ant or two and always a worm. The worms are our favorite! Usually they are pretty calm creatures, especially once they've been unearthed and removed from their moist, warm home underground. 

Last week we found a wild one. This was no ordinary worm. He was small (a "tiny baby" as my daughter calls everything under the age of 10!) and he was non-stop motion. We must have taken turns holding him, laying him on the ground and carrying him around on our shovels for a good twenty minutes. He squirmed the entire time. We tried laying dirt back on top of him to see if that would calm him down. Squirm, writhe, thrash. My son found a second worm - a typically calm worm - and suggested we lay them together so the wild worm would have a friend. Squirm, writhe, thrash. 

I really never have soul moments in the midst of playing with my children (remember, I'm not great at keeping my heart connected), but something about that crazy worm connected with me. He took me out of the logistics of digging and connected me to myself. My crazy, writhing, squirming, thrashing self.  And I clearly thought, I feel so much like that worm! Constant motion with no lasting calm. Spinning my wheels, going, going, going - but nothing (or little) changes in the depths, where things really matter. Life often feels like such a struggle for survival and connection and even in the midst of the struggle, I'm keenly aware that somehow I'm working against myself. That there has to be a better way, a freer way, a quieter way. That all the spinning and going has gotten me little. That I must often look like a crazy worm, kicking around for no good reason at all. 

The compassionate side of me is reminding myself that I have stopped some of the spinning. I've known myself enough to know that increased activity will not lead to increased happiness or wholeness or any such thing. I recognized the squirming a while back and so, 3 1/2 years ago I left a leadership position at a church, and largely left the faith altogether. The leave was for a myriad of reasons, but an encompassing one was that my soul just couldn't keep up. I was so tired, so confused, so disillusioned, and I desperately needed some soul-style fresh air.  I needed open space and room to squirm or question or to just lay still for a while. I really needed a good friend, too. 

But the crazy thing about giving up an addiction (i.e. zealous religious activity), is that it leaves a hole, a wound, an empty place longing to be filled. So even as my soul has calmed and quieted in ways in the past few years that it longed for, it yells and squirms and writhes all the more in other ways. All that religious activity was filling a hole and now there is just a hole. And a worm. Squirm, writhe, thrash. 

I started an eCourse this week, which is a very atypical endeavor for me. It's a Brene Brown/Oprah course on wholehearted living and so far, so awesome. We were asked to take a picture of ourselves (this is my first ever "selfie") with the saying 
"I'm imperfect but I'm enough."  
My image, with no shower, no makeup, having just cleaned the house during nap time, is fitting. It's raw and imperfect and messy. Like the real me. The me I want to let be. 

Oh, and about that worm. I still can't get him out of my head. I see his tiny body squirming and our vain attempts to calm him and I wonder if someone has ever tried putting dirt over me - comfort or empathy or support - to help me feel calmer, quieter, more at home. But I've just continued to squirm. I wonder if someone has lead me to a friend or tried to be a friend  but I've just writhed and thrashed about the whole time and missed it. 
I wonder what I've missed in all the motion. 
And I wonder if I can ever slow my soul enough to see it.  

**Some of these thoughts were inspired by a book I just finished reading, Thrashing About With God, by Mandy Steward. Thanks, Mandy, for your honesty in the mess.**

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  1. Noelle, what a lovely post. I so appreciate your honesty and very much connect to it. Thank you! I hope our paths cross again one day!!

  2. Thanks so much, Jesikah! I'm finding hope just in the honesty. It's a much needed breathe of fresh air! Would so love to connect with you again somehow. :)


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