How is it with thy spirit?
Many of the churches in the denomination I belong to hold small meetings called covenant groups. We always start with a check-in, often with that question. Not just how are you, or how was your week, but how is it with thy spirit? How is your spirit holding up/on right now? How are the big issues in your life resolving, and how do you feel about them? Are you up or down, in touch with your feelings or out of touch with them? The question is open ended and lends itself to answers we want to give.
These days if I was leading a covenant group, I would plan to do very little other than ask that question, then wait for a flood of responses. Because for most of us, how we’re feeling, how we’re absorbing the world around us, how we’re moving through whatever trials and tribulations we’re facing, is really the heart of all our days.
Today’s blog won’t be a lesson on how to overcome obstacles. I bet you’ve noted that some advice is condescending and annoying. I’m not going to tell you that you’ll feel better if you take tuba lessons or translate sacred texts into obscure languages, or write that screenplay that’s been in your head since you were sixteen. If tuba, text or screenplay sound like they’ll lift the weight of the quarantine off your shoulders, then by all means, do them. But if not? Stay six feet away!
So here’s what I’m doing–beginning with being kind to myself.
In one of the many talks I’ve had with myself since Covid-19 started it’s trip around the world, I decided on a few things to help myself. Quite possibly none of them will also help you. The important message might be to give yourself time and space to think about what will help, and then find ways to do them.
My first important insight was to let up on myself. For me this is the right time to lower standards and find fun things to do when, in the past, I might be working to fill my time.
Finding fun things wasn’t a bit hard, but first I had to let go of expectations. I hadn’t realized how strong a work ethic I have until I decided to work less and play more. At first I felt guilty. I still do a little. But then I began to get in the swing of things. When the exhaustion from round the clock writing on my latest book began to lift, I jumped right into two crazes sweeping the country.
Two weeks ago I shared the similarities of putting together a jigsaw puzzle and a novel. If you remember, our first purchase was a thousand piece mystery puzzle. The pieces had to be sorted into two 500 piece puzzles to solve an arson. Of course, being driven workaholics, we started with something that was too hard. Luckily now the first puzzle is completed and I’m 50 pieces from finishing the second. I’ve spent countless hours working on this. I’ve learned that puzzles are soothing and entertaining, and I’ve stopped feeling guilty about both. I’ve also learned to buy simpler puzzles for a while.
A neighbor handed Proman a recipe and a cup and a half of sourdough a few days ago on his nightly walk. I took a bit of the sourdough and grew it. And today I made multigrain sourdough bread in a pan I bought more than a decade ago and have used maybe twice. (Photo above.) I’d had a sourdough starter for years but finally gave it up as too time consuming. But now with so many more recipes for using the extra sourdough instead of throwing it out when you feed the starter, I’m back at it.
Like that pan, I’ve also began to use things I bought and never took advantage of. Old cookbooks. Fabric from my quilt stash for face masks. Odd ingredients in my pantry that I’m finding homes for in new recipes.
New and different meals.
One of the oddest of odd ingredients was pasta I bought at a farmer’s market several years ago. (We won’t discuss how many since one of my children might read this.) Weighing the possibility of tossing it against using it, of course I went with the latter. I used Papperdelle’s Pacific Rim blend to make a delicious pasta salad. And wow! Double wow. Our favorite dish ever. Do, however, cut the red pepper flakes to 1 tsp. It’s still spicy but not explosive.
After we realized we couldn’t live without having more Pacific Rim, I found Papperdelle’s Pasta online and bought eight pounds, although choosing what kinds was hard because I wanted it all.
My favorite viewing experience in recent months was Unorthodox from Netflix, recommended by friends. It’s the story of a young woman’s journey from a Hasidic community in Brooklyn to a life outside the sect in Berlin. Absolutely fascinating and so well done. We record Turner Classic Movies Essentials series, which airs at 8 o’clock on Saturday nights. So far my favorite movie was Casablanca but we passed on Gunga Din. This Saturday it’s A Hard Day’s Night, with the Beatles. I’ll be watching.
On the lighter can’t-brag-about-it side? In the afternoons we sneak in an episode of the original Law and Order (appearing right now on three different channels), and in the evenings while we’re waiting for the news, we watch portions of Shark Tank (people are so amazingly creative) and sometimes episodes on the old Carol Burnett shows. Luck was with us the day we tuned in and found her famous Gone With the Wind skit. If we luck out and get the Tim Conway dentist skit someday, my television life will be complete.
In addition to old cookbooks and pantry ingredients, I also dug up a cross stitch project I started about 27 years ago. It’s in great shape, just waiting for patience–and possibly better eyesight. But if neither arrives, I’ll find someone to enjoy finishing it. For me now is the right time to complete projects. That includes, quilts, of course. Maybe this year my Christmas wall hanging (pattern purchased in 1998 according to Amazon) will finally be finished in time to hang by December.
No tubas here, but I am thinking I might learn the penny whistle, and I do faithfully practice Spanish lessons with the Duolingo app. If you ever wanted to learn a language, this is a painless way to begin and the selection is vast. The point for me is not to do things to “improve” myself but to “improve” my mood. So far so good.
So how is it with thy spirit? What’s getting you through each day with a little joy left over at day’s end? Let’s share ideas.