The blue jay spread wide his wings and restored me to myself. The spare room is too cold for yoga, and the cat had spent the night scattering litter as far as he could across the floor, but one flash of blue in the small window could hallow the entire day.
That’s how I want to live, my friends. Never mind the epic to-do list circling through my mind. Never mind the plans that fall flat, or the icy patch that comes back no matter how much sand we throw down.
January began with an abscessed tooth that throbbed for three days before my dentist got back from vacation. By the third night I knelt at the foot of the bed and wept. The pain lingered for a couple weeks, but the sense of vulnerability lasted longer. In November, David had an emergency appendectomy. The experience engendered the same response: an awareness of how fragile we are and how precious our moments together.
I wanted that awareness to spark my awe and gratitude. I wanted to be baptized by the fire, and in part, I was.
But also I got busy. The tooth episode set back my plans for the Winter Concert at school, so my teaching life suddenly felt like swimming upstream. Two days after the root canal I started the Novel Generator program at Grub Street and began aiming for ten pages a week. Meanwhile, a slew of other commitments reared their charming heads. Concerts to sing in, events to plan, opportunities to promote.
After a year of being not-so-busy in Kansas, I know that I love being busy. But like so many others, I’m in perpetual danger of mistaking my activities for my life.
In the days after the root canal my arms and shoulders ached as though I’d gone three rounds in the ring. My body braced itself against the pain and in the process created more pain.
Sometimes my flurry of commitments feels like that: a misguided bracing against my own mortality.
Thank God for four snow days in two weeks.
Thank God for a husband who knows how to listen when I’m in over my head.
And thank God for the blue jay outside the spare room window.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes, but I don’t want to see my life as a to-do list. It’s natural to grow weary of the cold, but I don’t want to fixate on the icy patch and miss the wonder of the snow. When beauty spreads blue wings in my sightline, may I take heed. Later, when I’m busy, I’ll glance out the window and remember that my existence is not an accumulation of actions but an opportunity for awakening.