Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Blake Sittler
“Overdrawn,” I thought, as I drove out of the city on the first day of vacation. “I feel like my whole life is overdrawn.” The metaphor has been slowly revealing its roots over three weeks away, gradually giving over the gifts that can come from wrestling with an uncomfortable thought. The disconcerting thing is that overdrawn is progress for me.
Our family has work, school, family and community commitments, just like other families. When we look at each other, we see the surface of lives being lived. We see what can be observed, what can be expressed, what has form. We cannot see how other people’s lives feel. Two years ago, when my whole life was uprooted by loss, we were broken by crisis. Overdrawn is a vast improvement, in contrast.
For so many years in my adult life, the idea that I was not in an ideal state barely registered in my awareness. It wasn’t safe to acknowledge that I needed to change because discomfort triggered shame. My primary response to shame was self-loathing and a destructive dose of beating myself up for not being perfect. As such, I relied heavily on denial that protected me from myself.
I have discovered that trauma attaches itself to forgotten wounds and scar tissue. Healing is tracing its way through grief as well as older pain. Constantly doing more has been a coping mechanism for me, and overdrawn is just a variation on the same theme.
In early August, we spent a glorious week at family camp. Each afternoon, the counsellors played with our children for an hour while the adults listened and talked. On the first day, our speaker called the week a retreat and invited us to “come away and rest awhile” (cf. Mark 6:31). I was thinking of camp as an activity, a fun way to make memories as a family, an excursion in nature with meals provided, for the win. The idea of a retreat spoke to my overdrawn heart.
Playing and visiting, snack time and campfire – these can be the stuff of retreat and rest. It looks different than days away in silence with a journal and spiritual director, but it was a retreat nonetheless – once my perspective shifted. I frequently practice resting where I am, and I am prone to forgetting. (Some lessons will take me a lifetime to learn.)
Resting awhile always shifts my perspective. From here, I remember that overdrawn is not how I want to live, even while I see clearly and gratefully just how much an improvement it is over shattered. I have always coped with stress by doing – more and better – in the hope of defeating life’s problems.
My sister’s death was a forceful crash into the reality that not all problems have solutions. The trauma of her death settled on a well-established scar-line, tracing my lifelong and ill-advised affair with the perfect. Feeling overdrawn is such beautiful and messy growth for me, a recognition that I am neither capable nor called to do all the things. If life is about loving rather than achieving, then overdrawn is an invitation to love with more intention.
As summer heat is overtaken with a chill on the air and green leaves start to tinge yellow, the roots driving my choices are exposed. I want music, knitting, and unstructured time to be a bigger part of my life. I need movement, sleep, vegetables more consistently. For years I have been adding more: more kids, more commitments, more responsibility. It is time for a little less adding so I can love more fully where I am.
At this stage, doing less is complicated. Bills and hungry kids will not pause for a sabbatical. Rest looks like another attempt at a family chore chart, like shutting off the TV to go to bed on time, and like eating for energy instead of comfort. I am relying on supports more readily, asking for help more often, and even saying no.
In the middle of my everyday life, I am choosing to say yes to resting awhile. I am feeling the discomfort of being overdrawn and getting curious about what actually must be done, and what can be surrendered.
Overdrawn feels uncomfortable instead of addictive for maybe the first time in my life. Instead of criticizing how I have coped in the past, I am congratulating myself for growing toward a better way.
Photo Credit: Blake Sittler “Overdrawn,” I thought, as I drove out of the city on the first day of vacation. “I feel like my whole life is overdrawn.” The metaphor has been slowly revealing its roots over three weeks away, gradually giving over the gifts that can come...
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On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.