Being Mindful: The Merging of Laughter, Tears, and a Watermelon Costume

I’m trying to direct my attention to the things that are happening in the present moment. It’s helpful for the most part. I say that because what’s right in front of me is a collection of things that are good, hard and pretty much everything in between.

Take today.

I woke up feeling good, which I received as an incredible gift. I’ve been sick and out of sorts this past week, acutely missing my parents and hyper aware of the challenges that I face. Somehow this morning my spirit was lighter.

I love the fall and today felt more like it to me. As I write, there is a cool breeze and late day sun pouring in a window.

Two funerals took place this afternoon for women I did not know, but were connected to many people I love, including Dion and Joanna, through The Causeway and Sanctuary (a place that functions much like The Dale). My heart grieves two more lives gone and reminds me of the many people we have said goodbye to this year.

Cate has decided she wants to be a watermelon for Halloween. A watermelon! So now I sit surrounded by reams of fabric and an old hula hoop, endeavouring to create a costume that she will be proud to wear. It’s a definite work in progress.

Today we celebrated a friend’s birthday at drop-in. We ate cake and carved pumpkins.

There are a number of people at The Dale who are not housed or at risk of being evicted. They need help, like yesterday. My voicemail is full of requests for The Dale to offer assistance. It’s humbling, hard work.

I’m making a pot of turkey soup, which is filling the house with a familiar, comforting smell.

Being mindful of what’s right in front of me does not make everything easy, though it does help in the way I manage it. Similar to my experience of Sabbath-keeping, it helps me to slow down and really look at things. I am able to pay better attention to not just my feelings, but what is motivating them.

Which brings me back to today. I have laughed and cried (and likely will do both again). I feel a mixture of joy and sadness. Somehow this day has been infused with a mysterious, yet firm sense of hope. Today, in this moment, I am grateful for all of it. Even the challenge of making an outfit that resembles a watermelon.







Rest, Even On the Roller Coaster

I was recently asked to describe the last six or so months of my life. As I shared the variety of things that have taken place, I stopped and for a moment thought “if nothing else, my life is consistently a roller coaster”. Up and down, up and down, sometimes all in one day. This existence is good, and hard, and full, punctuated by gratitude and grief. Which is why I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of Sabbath: a day of ceasing, a time of rest.

Many people scoff at the idea of Sabbath. It feels like a punishment: as though you must stop everything you enjoy doing, risk falling behind at work, and feel guilty about both. I have come to understand that Sabbath is actually meant to be a beautiful gift, and isn’t just a means to be more productive during the week. As John Bradshaw put it, “we have become ‘human doings’ who define ourselves by what we do in the world. [Sabbath] teaches us to remember our true essence as ‘human beings’ and to practice the art of simply being”.

This is, at least for me, difficult. I enjoy being productive. I love being with people and very easily fill up my calendar. But rest calls me to something even more challenging than to cease being busy: it invites me to release the anxiety that I carry around. Many of the hardships I face are ones that I have no control over, and yet I somehow believe that if I worry or do enough, I will somehow be able to “fix” everything.

It takes discipline to create space for rest. I long for the kind of break where my mind is not preoccupied with all that I should be doing and everything that may or may not happen in the future. I suspect that if space is made, something that I’m not planning or counting on might actually happen. As author Marva Dawn once said and I’ve quoted before, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us, not by becoming passive or lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives”.

I suspect the roller coaster is going to continue. As hard as it is, I’m grateful for all the experiences that are teaching me to touch life beyond the surface. My hope is that I will keep learning to put the brakes on. Maybe as I slow down I can be reminded how to be and not simply do. In the quiet, I might even catch a glimpse of the good things in store over the next crazy hill, and instead of being anxious, I can enjoy the anticipation.



Morning on the Spit: Lessons from a Bike

Saturday was a really beautiful day. The sun was shining and the air crisp, good conditions for the ride and walk a group of us were about to embark on to raise money for and awareness of The Dale. I borrowed a nice bike from a friend since the one I could have been riding needed some major repair. We gathered at the start line and began our picturesque ride to the Leslie Street Spit. Well onto the road, as I chatted away with someone, I was suddenly aware of the murmurs of my teammates from directly behind me.

I can’t quote verbatim, but it went something like this: ‘Erinn’s seat is too low. Do you notice that she should be in a higher gear? I think her back tire is soft. She’s working way harder than necessary’. Though in mid-conversation I stopped and said, “I can hear you talking about me!” I think I even inferred that their commentary of the bike issues felt like a description of my sometimes-life: everything a little askew and more work as a result. What ensued was laughter and agreement that the situation was ripe to be made into a sermon illustration or life lesson.

We finally pulled over and Joanna raised my seat. I hadn’t even realized it was a problem until she pointed it out. Let me tell you, it is amazing the difference such a seemingly small change makes. Suddenly my legs could extend, creating momentum I didn’t have before. As Joanna’s dad pointed out, being up higher meant I had a better view. Eventually I sort of got the gears in the right place. The soft tire never got fixed, but I’m certain if it had my speed would have picked up.

Clearly, I’m no professional cyclist, though I do like to ride. I love the wind on my face. I love even more what being on a bike last Saturday reminded me of, that: I have friends who are looking out for me, noticing my weak spots, and finding ways to ease my load; a little air in my “tires” can go a long way; and small changes make a big impact. It is somehow comforting to be reminded of these simple truths, especially when life can be so overwhelming and such a lot of work.

By Saturday afternoon I was home. The stress I felt leading up to the big event (not so much the ride, but the fundraising) finally subsided, leaving me a good tired. I told Cate I needed to have a nap and escaped to my bed, where I’m certain I dreamt about the morning. I was riding along the spit, surrounded by my teammates on a bike the perfect size for me, with a properly positioned seat and fully inflated tires. I don’t remember much else, except that it felt like I could have cycled forever.