ISSUES OF FAITH: Time to change gears

ONE SONG I just love from my past (my ever increasing past, as it turns out, against all odds) is Paul Simon’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (aka “Feelin’ Groovy”). The tune is catchy and very singable, and the lyrics seemed, always, to speak to my soul, with its famous “Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last.”

It’s a modern-day meditation on taking it easy, slowing down, you got to make that morning last, not just cause it’s pretty, like today, but also because you don’t want to fill it up too quickly. That would make a nice text for Lent, except that for me, at least, it would be, however desirable, a bit of a lie. I like being busy, I think.

But nonetheless, at this exact moment, it’s time for a nap …

Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right: anyone who knows me knows that I have been a huge Type-A all my life — that it’s been my goal to keep busy, rushing here, rushing there.

All very fine, I guess, but with my retirement from teaching three years in the past, I am wondering if it’s really necessary to go so very fast, racing through what is naturally an ever shrinking amount of time.

I am not talking about illness here, not particularly, I’m just talking about not being so very active in the world as I take classes at Peninsula College, sing at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and with the Port Angeles Symphony Chorus, and volunteer one shift at the Port Angeles Food Bank.

Well, when you put it like that, it looks pretty bad. Only it’s not.

Afternoons are busy, yes, but I can still sleep in, and that’s the bottom line: I love sleeping in with my cat, Hunter.

To make this possible, I have a new rule and, by God, I’m going to keep it. If I set an alarm in the morning, I take a nap in the afternoon.

Sounds simple enough, I just take some time and get some rest.

I also add in a walk when I can, to check mail or whatever, as I go to and fro in the world and back and forth in it. (That’s Satan, the Accuser, to God, explaining exactly what he’s been up to. “No good,” as my mom would have said, in the darkest tone possible.)

But for me, it’s a delicate balance. Maybe this is true for you as well, especially in the gray months we’re finally, finally leaving. I mean, I saw sunlight today!

But again, in the dark, and the dark times, if I get too busy, I get too flustered to be useful to anyone, let alone myself.

If I go too slow, I’m oversleeping and feeling a bit at sea.

One reason I write is that, thank God, writing for me, like painting and singing, is a use of time that is entirely pleasurable. I go into my inner self and things pour out. Not all the things are perhaps as valuable as others, but they were all fun to make.

On the other hand, for me as a maker, at least, whether I’m building words like an edifice, pouring out song or slapping acrylic on paper (my favorite medium), it’s not enough.

For many makers, it is. But for me, I need a bit more going on, more direct service to others — hence, my work at the food bank.

There’s a balance in life and around retirement age, most of us have to find that balance again.

I’m glad I’m not teaching anymore and I’m glad my writing has turned to opinion pieces like this, as they’re pure fun. But if I do too little, I don’t eat or I overeat. I sleep too much or too little. I waste too much time and don’t get enough done.

And, of course, those are the signs of chronic depression, which runs ever so deeply in my family and maybe in yours. If you feel that way, get yourself screened for mental illness.

The reading for today in the lectionary I use includes the psalm that begins “De Profundis,” out of the depths. If you’re feeling that way, get help.

I assure you, you are not alone. Get screened for depression and for other mental illnesses. There’s no shame to that. And if you do, you might find yourself at the center of the story of Lazarus, the dead man who came out of the tomb when Jesus called him, when he was all wrapped in grave clothes.

It’s spring, Easter is very close, the light is coming back. Be ready for it.

Lent has been a time of slowing down. Maybe it’s time to shift up to a higher drive. Maybe it’s time to keep using a low gear.

But be ready to shift gears.

It’s time.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Keith Dorwick is a deacon resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

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