Sunday, May 08, 2005

Intense Week

Whew! What a week it has been! I won't go into all the details, but it was one of those weeks in which suddenly too many things are happening at once. And to make it worse, I was struggling with a bad cold the entire time -- it started the night before my concert! So, I had to keep bearing up under a lot of pressure but I was exhausted the whole time. This intense week began with the concert, and ended with my giving a sermon at a church! Somehow, miraculously, I made it through everything relatively intact.

What was hardest of all was refusing to lapse into an attitude of merely "making it through." In my exhaustion, it was seriously tempting to shift into that mentality. But everything I was doing was really important -- mattered to other people -- and so I stubbornly refused to let my high standards flag.

Now that the worst of the pressure is off, I look back astonished and surprised. Not only did I "make it through," but I think in fact things have gone quite well.

But I feel spent. Several times today, the slightest things nearly dissolved me into hopeless tears. One was a moving story I heard on public radio. Another was a thought that popped into my head at Quaker Meeting. When I wasn't suddenly teary like that, I was giddy with an almost hysterical joy -- I think it was sheer relief at having made it through this time of intense pressure.

Oh, and yesterday, when I was giving a final exam for one of my classes, I sat there proofreading it while the students took it (yes, I realize I should have proofread it before the students started taking it, but, like I said, it's been quite a week), and I suddenly almost collapsed into hysterical laughter at some of my own attempts at levity that I had put into the exam to cheer the students up a bit (for having to take an exam on a Saturday). It was all I could do to contain myself. I looked at the students, all grim and serious, and forced myself to think some somber thoughts to calm down again. About an hour later, a student finally laughed out loud when he came to the funny part, and said when the other students looked at him, "some of this is really funny!" I felt gratified. The mood of the whole class finally relaxed and brightened a bit.

There can be something kind of thrilling about intensity like this week. The pressure gives your life sharp focus and meaning. You are forced to dig in and find deeper sources of strength. You can have these moments of being so exhausted you don't know how you can go on, but when you pause to seriously consider giving up, you then realize how important these things are to you, and realize that you don't want to let go of any of them, you don't even see the point of feeling better except to help you get through these tasks, and so even if you do finally just go to bed at that point, it is not so much for the pleasure of rest (since when you are that exhausted, rest is not immediately pleasurable anyway) but for the hope that when you wake up you will be revived enough to continue.

It's really wonderful to believe in what you are doing like that.

In a meeting yesterday with people for one of the projects I've been working on, someone actually almost criticized me for what he called my "uncanny ability" to keep seeing the positive in things.

But this is a spiritual discipline I intentionally cultivate.

I'm starting to see more of what this Blog means to me. Even though I don't think anyone is actually reading it, the thought that someone someday might read it makes me feel responsible to this "audience" and this actually helps keep me motivated to keep positive. In this world that keeps pressing us to anxiety and negativity, I find myself more and more wanting to demonstrate by my own life that staying centered in the positive really is possible. It can be hard at times, and it takes discipline and intentionality -- but it is very well worth the effort. I do feel a distinct sense that I am starting to move into a new kind of strength, and this is amazing to me. So -- thank you!

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