I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Nancy L. Agneberg's reflection, "Release Busyness-Embrace Fullness."
One morning several years ago, while exercising at the gym, a friend, recently retired, shared that her daughter had tried to guilt her into setting aside her own plans to babysit yet again, “You're not busy. I don't see what the big deal is,” the daughter said to my friend, who was ambivalent about how to respond.
“Should I drop what I have planned to do with my day when she expects me to babysit? Of course I would, if there were an emergency, but I love the ways I can spend my time now that I am not teaching full time. I have waited for this open time.”
I shared with her conversations with my husband when I casually mentioned to that I didn't have enough time to read all the books on my shelf or explore all the writing ideas swirling in my head. He would throw his arm around my shoulders, chuckle and tease, “You're sooooo busy.” Even as I felt misunderstood, I wondered if I should do more, be more productive. Should I set aside my quiet days to appear more busy?
When I am busy, too busy, it seems to me, I am driven by the agendas of others, by made up work, by distractions that overshadow what I most need to do for the well-being of my body, mind, and spirit. When I am too busy, I flit from one frenetic activity to another. I sputter. I sink. I sandwich one more thing between items 23 and 24 on my TO DO list. Saying “yes,” without thinking, I salute myself for how valuable I am, how needed I am, and what a difference I make.
Living with fullness does not mean rushing around and filling every minute with activity. Instead, I think it means living with a sense of abundance and awareness of the richness in my life. Living with “fullness” means staying awake to the sacred in my life. Living with purpose and meaning. What keeps me grounded, rather than stuck? How is it I can best respond in life-enhancing ways? For myself and for others. Do I feel overwhelmed or more drained than energized? Is it time to pause? To breathe?
Or is it time to jump joyfully in a new direction?
I am the first to admit I have had a luxurious life. For many years I have not had to balance career and family. I am the steward of my work as a spiritual director and writer, shepherding the use of my own time. I have had time and space to explore and open. To shed busyness and adopt “fullness.”
Of course, some days the pace is faster, one thing happens on top of another, and immediate reaction is needed. I get that, and I am able to respond as needed. At the same time I note that many of the items on my To Do list are not different from the busiest of my days—paying bills, buying groceries, fixing meals, writing my blog posts and working on a book, meeting with my spiritual direction clients, preparing for church volunteer responsibilities, spending time with family and friends. You know – all the stuff of life—but my approach now that I am in my 70's is different.
My prayer is to welcome my life, move in my life, with my whole being, bringing all I am, all I have learned and continue to learn into my days. Now is not the time to withdraw from the gifts awaiting me or to distance myself from the ways I can share gifts. No, now is the time to appreciate and honor the fullness of life. That day in the gym all those years ago I congratulated my friend for her full life and her intentional separation from busyness. That resonated with her. Her shoulders relaxed. Her eyes got big, and her breath more even. I wasn't sure how my friend defined “full,” nor was I even sure about my own definition. What I did know was that we both sought to release the busyness of life and instead embrace the fullness of life.
Lives rich and full. Joyous and full. Alive and full.
Nancy L. Agneberg is living her Sacred Seventies fully and gratefully in her many roles, including mother, grandmother, spouse, friend, writer, spiritual director, hometender, voracious reader, walker of labyrinths. Read her perspectives on aging as a spiritual practice on her blog, ClearingTheSpace.blogspot.