…we have come to our real work…*
The sound roared out of nowhere from our usually silent basement. It could have been the remaining seven buffalo that munch on the plains in Richmond, Ma., galloping through the basement. Or it could have been the locomotive from behind our house, detouring and creating a new transcontinental route through our house. Or perhaps it could have been 110 pots and pans tossed onto the floor by one frustrated heavenly chef. The noise was undefinable, massively loud, and a little scary.
We looked at each other. Nobody moved. Silence settled. Unable to hold the stillness, I jumped up and scurried down the steps.
Yep. The wall fell. Not the whole wall, and not all of the walls. The tiles. It appears that the heat-proof tiles behind the wood stove un-adhered themselves from their twenty-year-old place of stability. They lie on the floor, scattered around the wonderful wood stove, in a variety of chunks and sizes and pieces. The tiles, the outer wall, shattered into pieces.
I had seen it coming over the last year or so, little puckers of un-adhesion bubbling up. I chose to fully and totally ignore the signs. I could have intervened, I could have gotten our brilliant handy-man-guy come and attend. But by doing nothing, I chose to allow life to shatter itself.
Once the area literally cooled down from the fire, I busily cleaned up, swept up, picked up the pieces, dusted them off, making tidy and neat the devastated area.
Why am I so committed to tidying?
Why do I have to pick up the pieces?
Massive walls of my life are crumbling; they are crashing down. I’ve been so busy “tending to”. What if I just left the pieces to lie as they might?
If I do just a little less—if I let go just a little more—what new pattern might be formed on the now blank walls of my world?
What new pattern might create itself, through the power of non-doing, through the grace of non-action, through the possibility of perfection and flow?
I have no clue. It frightens me to do less; it disrupts my illusion of control.
Yet I commit to allowing the destruction to continue, as painful and different a behavior as that is for me.
On a concrete level, the physical breaking down/acting out around me is ridiculous:
- the new rice cooker, imitating Old Faithful, spews water in a five-foot radius
- the land line that has a mind of its own, deciding who to continue talking to or not
- the cell phone, never mind, I won’t violate our confidentiality
- the precious website, out of intensive care, healing from conflicting messages within herself, resembles not herself at all but some orange stranger with dashes and dots of code all over her forehead
On a more emotional level, professional, energetic, and physiological level—I am aging. The machinery of my being is slowing, shifting, sagging. It is time-appropriate. It is age-appropriate. The walls are bubbling up.
So? My commitment to you, to me, to all?
To do less.
To allow the pieces to lie.
To remember it’s okay.
To relax and breathe in these powerful words by Wendell Berry:
It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and that when we no longer know which way to turn,
we have begun our real journey.
And you, dear readers? Is there falling apart? Is there unraveling, literal or figurative, around you? What are you noticing? Please keep me posted. I am email@example.com.
*opening line by Wendell Berry