You’ve been ranting a lot about your fear of leaving, the number of people needed in place for the horses, the constant work it’s been to care for them and set them up, and the disaster of your disorganized life in three different houses, with messiness and chaos everywhere. You leave in 5 days. You are overwhelmed and panicking. You would probably love to keep complaining, but the time has come to seek solutions. Let’s think back to exactly how we got here, and ponder if there is a better way to do this than endless to-do lists and permanent back pain and chronic stress, shall we?
What, exactly, is the problem? I was talking with my ex last night, a dear friend, about how unhappy I am in my life and wondering why I find it so stressful. The level of uncertainty is incredible. I don’t know where I will be one month to the next, let alone one year to the next. I love the spontaneity (and it’s part of my DNA, my sister would argue) but it does take a toll with increasing levels of exhaustion as I struggle to keep up the commitments I have made to myself and others. My ex reflected that he’d recently decided he didn’t want to live that way anymore, and we both pondered separately about whether my stress levels and constantly pushing the envelope were part of the undoing of the relationship. He couldn’t deal with the inconsistency, and thought he had to lock me down into some kind of commitment to settle me down. I refused to deal with his lack of trust and what I felt like was an unreasonable amount of control over my life, and fled the relationship. Thing is, he’s probably the only person on the planet with the stamina and drive to keep up with me. I gloomily thought, “well, that’s it, I will die alone” because if we couldn’t work it out together, likely no one could.
So what is the right way to live life, anyway? My Christian friends would probably agree with the statement, “Man is born to glorify God and serve him only”, while my secular friends would shudder at that and suggest we’re just a random assemblage of atoms and we make our lives what we will. As usual, I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I believe we are purpose-made, but nothing is linear in our lives and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense, even from an omnipotent perspective. I believe that we are the product of our own decisions, and nothing is determined by fate or predestination, but I also believe that if you live only for yourself and your own pleasure, you’re going to be utterly miserable. It’s better to live for the pleasure of a benevolent God than for our own petty desires, even if one argues it solely on the point of personal happiness.
This is borne out in my own experience: I’ve never been able to make myself happy, but when I live for Beauty, or Art, or Love – all of which are aspects of the God I know – then the possibility opens up that I can lose myself and become happy. The less I think of myself, the happier I am.
As Uncle Screwtape councils his devil nephew Wormwood in “The Screwtape Letters” on the art of harassing a human and winning them over to their camp:
“I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for county cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the “best” people, the “right” food, the “important” books.”
– C.S. Lewis
Truly enjoying any single thing, whether it be a beautiful landscape or the lines of a horse or the face of your beloved, or taking the time to create or craft something beautiful, or serving another human and focusing on their happiness, is the only way to happiness. That’s also what worshipping God is all about. You’re looking at something utterly beautiful and transcendent in perfection, and you forget your own inner clamour and anxieties, even if only for the duration of a song. Worship takes us beyond ourselves and into the Life around us. And in easing into that flow of Everything that is Other than Me, we find rest and joy.
That’s what I used to live for, and I have to say, there were far more moments of harmony and congruency between my inner and outer life than I have experienced since I became too busy for either worship, rest or joy. The closest I have come lately come in just in two moments in time: when I’m with my horses, and sensing their pleasure at being with me, and when I’m creating art in an edit, which I had only 3 precious weeks of before this departure chaos set in.
So DLS, although you are unlikely to switch tracks at this point, with only 5 days left to go and really too much to do, I really hope you take some time to chill and at least enjoy these last moments with your beloved horses, your amazing friends, your beautiful adopted island, before you step on to that plane and go on another adventure. Maybe it’s too late to take back these weeks of toil and stress, but it’s not too late to breathe deep at least once every hour, to enter into the moment, task or pleasure, forget the stress and just be.
You might find yourself enjoying Life again, in spite of yourself. Here’s hoping, anyway.
Love from The Me I Wish I Could Be