Unexpected days off can seem like a blessing one minute and a curse the next. I always try to look at uncontrollable schedule changers as something to be celebrated. These are opportunities to realize how small our place is in this big, huge world. It’s humbling, but it is also incredibly freeing. You realize you do not have to control everything, you do not have to meet every deadline, you don’t have to operate with ruthless efficiency from 9-5 each weekday. The world does continue its spinning. Find your food, breathe the air, sleep some place warm, and it is likely you will wake up tomorrow.
When the sky unloaded yet another round of snow, ice, and sleet, we hunkered down into the house to enjoy a few days of housework, couch lounging, and binge television series watching. We made it a point to venture out each day and take a stroll through ice-encrusted Murray. I think it’s important to go out and find these pictures to burn into your memory of all your familiar places during the seasons. I really enjoy knowing what it feels like to travel sidewalks under 6 inches of snow and ice and try to remember that in summer when I can walk them barefoot. I don’t know what exactly it is, but there’s something about the knowing of these things that seems important to me.
Ash Wednesday came this week, and even though I missed out on receiving ashes, I’ve made a point of observing Lent. For the past few years, I’ve really grown to enjoy participating in Lent, I think, because I’ve really grown spiritually lately from the practices that slow you down and quiet you. I think Lent is a guilt-ridden weight loss plan for most people, and that’s how I used to see it too. But lately, I’ve realized that it’s made to shake you out of your selfish habits, to make you look at what you really need and ultimately find something that’s more fulfilling. I started my daily Lent Haiku, and vowed to fast each Friday from sun-up to sun-down.
I also started a job at WKMS, the local Public Radio station in Murray. I’ve loved radio for a long time, even more now than I like TV. I don’t know what it is, but I like how listening to someone’s voice engages you, yet frees you up to do other things. There’s something comforting about listening to someone tell a story as you do housework or take a ride somewhere. It’s like having a friend keeping you company. Anyway, I love it, but I don’t know much about it, so for the first time in a while, I’m doing a job where I have to learn a lot of things and lean on a lot of people to know how something works. It’s a humbling experience to have to put yourself in someone’s hand like that, to have to bother them to help you with something you know is incredibly simple to them. How do you thank them without being even more annoying and taking up even more of their time? I must say, it is an awesome thing to push the buttons, to drag an icon and then have the voice of Ira Glass come over the airways. After that, you click another button and the background music comes on and its time to give the weather, thank the sponsors, identify the call letters. Right now, I’m scrambling to get the order right, to know which knob to push, which dial to raise and lower. But, I imagine the time months down the road when this is second nature, and I can speak like its comfortable. I imagine speaking these lines and feeling like I’m connecting to people over the tri-state area, hoping that my voice is somehow putting people at ease, making their days a little better.
My fast this Friday was a tough one, but (as tough things tend to be) rewarding. I worked for most of the day at the radio station making practice promos, getting to know the system. I heard my voice as it would sound on the radio. As the day went on, I became more tired and more aware of how my body needs food. I took my lunch break and sat in a quiet room of my house praying the prayer of Saint Francis, reading the Beatitudes, asking for the fruits of the spirit. I could feel the tension of a headache wear away as I untensed. The hunger was still there, but my body was less worried. I went back to work, training at the station, then on to the Murray State Wesley Foundation to work on their blog. At 5pm, the long day was over, and my lovely wife Allyson picked me up with my faithful dog, Digby. We took I-24 to Nashville, under a silver clouded sky, reflected off the ice of the hills and cornfields. At one point, I saw nearly 30 deer in the distance foraging for food. I wanted to freeze the moment, to slow it down, listen to the sounds of them filling their stomachs, extending their lives.
That night, we sat around the table with our good friends, James and Sarah, celebrating her birthday. At this Italian restaurant, they brought bread for us to tear and pass around with each other. I took a few moments to breathe in the smell of that simple food. I let it set in my mouth as I chewed, and I could feel my body being made whole again. With these old friends and so many of my loves, it was a great reunion, a humbling experience, showing me how many things in this life there are to love and how I should let them stop me to savor them. These times are not always easy. But there is something in us that is calling out to search for great things. To shake off the things that yoke us into an autopilot routine. Begging us to notice it all, not to live with the blinders on. There is much to see, and the only wasted time is that spent avoiding the fantastic, the powerful.