October was a difficult month. It started with laryngitis, which led to a sinus infection, which led to a fever, which led to a stomach bug, which limped across the finish line with chest congestion and an overall bad feeling. I remained upright, for the most part, but didn’t want to be. Every chair I passed or every bench I passed—park or otherwise—called to me, like some tortuous siren to come sit or lay down for a spell.
Although long, the sickness was, if I may be trite, a blessing in disguise. I found myself reevaluating my days and doing only what was absolutely necessary. There are many activities in my life that I have volunteered for, but I quickly learned to tell those in expectation, “Not this week.” If it was a daily personal undertaking that I felt an urgency to do for reasons known only to me and not even sure why the reasons were there, I began to ask myself, “why do I feel this thing is so important?” and would, consequently, skip it for that day…and the next…and the next.
Even church and choir attendance fell down on the list of things I felt I must do and I began to give even those activities a second look. I don’t often enjoy church. It’s big and relatively unfriendly. Sure, people talk to me and we are usually glad to see each other on Sundays, but the majority of people I know, know me only as, “Hi” rather than by my real name. This isn’t entirely their fault, of course. I could do more to change this reality, but it would require work. It would require more involvement, joining small groups, getting involved in small ministry projects, and so on. Just writing what I need to be doing makes me sigh with stress much less stepping out and actually doing it.
I haven’t enjoyed choir…well…maybe never. Again, it is large and relatively unfriendly. It has been a good day in choir practice if I strike up a conversation that is longer than 3 seconds. Again, this is not the fault of the choir, but my own. I could do more. I could…well you get the picture. I have a background in music, so music is quite important to me, but our choir director, although an amazing spiritual leader, has led for so many years, I think, that his enthusiasm for music and directing has waned. Over a 2 hour rehearsal, for example, he will talk an hour of it or read something to us or tell us, at length, about a new spiritual book he is reading. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there, as are the rest of us, waiting to either (a) sing or (b) go home, both of which are long in coming.
So now that I am better where does this leave me? I have felt powerful, in a way, telling people no and skipping church, choir rehearsal, and the other “necessary” activities of my life. It’s almost been like storing junk. I have piled and piled these things in my life and turn around one day, during an illness, and realize how much energy I have been spending on things I don’t enjoy. So, do I quit church for awhile or do I ignore the fact that I’m going through the motions mostly for others and keep attending and keep doing?
More than likely I will keep attending, because of commitments I made at the beginning of this year, but next year, say September of 2010, I anticipate change. Those things that I do in my personal time that I have somehow, over time, felt necessary I will scale back and try and not add anything new that is not somewhat enjoyable and heart renewing.
What about you? Have you scaled back and if so how? What was the result? I would love to hear about your personal “fall cleaning.”