When I stopped working at my regular paycheck job and retired early, I promptly fell flat on my face on the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco Marathon. This required five stitches in my upper lip and ended my modeling career (not really, but the stitches were real). I also fractured my left wrist. Medical intuitive Louise Hay would say that the left side injury meant I was having difficulty resolving issues with my past, perhaps the recent retirement, and needed to slow down. Hey, Louise! I was already in spiritual direction and therapy; did I need to fall down too in order to resolve issues with the past? I am not so sure about medical intuition.
Then I read this poem by Robert Bly, called “Things to Think:”
“Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats…
When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it’s been decided that if you lie down no one will die.”
How would you react if someone told you that you are forgiven? Do you think about something specific or do you think big and overall? I think big. It has taken a long time for me to “grok” that I am ultimately, completely forgiven and nothing I do can change that. There was a tiny part of me that held a sneaking suspicion that there was a behavioral scorecard, despite my belief in my faith tradition and God’s love. Rob Bell’s re-telling of the Prodigal Son story helped me toss out the scorecard again. The Waiting Father said to the proud and self-righteous Elder Brouther, “I love you and everything I have is yours. Now come and enjoy the party.” He was always loved and forgiven. And so am I.
I am writing a book. To accomplish this, I read blogs by authors and publishers who give advice to people writing books. They say things like, “Write three hundred words a day at the same time every day in the same spot and make this a habit.” The poet Robert Bly writes, “It’s not necessary to work all the time.” Granted, three hundred words does not take all day. Yet, I am retired. It takes a little balance. I needed Robert Bly’s saying even more when I had a regular paycheck. What about you? Do you work too much or do you turn things into work?
“If you lie down no one will die.” You are simply not that important. You may think you are, but you are not. Neither am I. The older I get, the more I realize how replaceable I am. After a few years, people no longer remember you where you worked yourself to the bone. I have found this to be remarkable, yet true, even where I very visibly served. So, it is best to learn to nap without guilt. “Always get your rest,” said Aunt Grace. She was right. No one will die.