... this time of the racing kind. The rat race.
My sister and I were talking over supper (so much to catch up on after her weekend away!) about how many women we know who are suffering from various conditions that stem from stress - hormone imbalances, allergies and sensitivities, fertility issues, chronic fatigue, and so on.
I write about women and femininity for another blog so I wont go into the theology of gender differences here; however, the reading I have been doing of late, conversations I've had, observations of my friend's lives, and my own prayer and reflection, have led me to understand that women are particularly susceptible to stress in all its forms. For example, regular exposure to a noisy environment has been proven to be a cause for heart attacks in women.
What kind of life has no time for silence, stillness, silliness? Why are we so busy trying to accomplish, produce, keep up? I recently spent a weekend back in the Last Place, a fairly big city by Canadian standards. I was barely within city limits before I felt like an ant in a busy colony, scurrying hurriedly from stop sign to traffic light, strip mall to suburban development. Nature was very far away, even in the midst of the beautiful display of tulips, and the little core of stillness at the heart of me was flattened by the noise and activity.
It takes a lot of work, so much effort and diligence, to maintain a peaceful disposition, to live a simple life. I can feel the struggle return since I started working outside of the home again: serenity, silence, simplicity; or more hours, more money, more opportunity? Maybe I should go out more, meet more people, do more. I know people who are never home two nights together, busy with family, friends, ministry, activities.
With all that to-ing and fro-ing, all that doing and getting and accomplishing, do they even know what it is they are doing it all for? And in the meantime, what are their bodies enduring with the stress they probably aren't even aware they are carrying around - worrying about bills, mortgages, children's schooling, house repairs, vacation plans, parent's care, promotion, we owe the Mickleson's a dinner and she never stops talking about how wonderful her Marsha is. So busy trying to take care of all those worries that they don't get enough sleep or rest, or quiet time. The daily walk takes place on the motorized belt of a treadmill (hello rat) in an air conditioned health club; and the prescribed allowance of fruits and vegetables are efficiently consumed in a smoothie or a shake... so much for contact with nature.
Women have a really difficult time jettisoning this stress. It manifests in our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Our environment is so vital to our well being, so that pressure or discord at home or work can lead to swollen glands, chronic fatigue, listlessness, depression or any number of other symptoms, physical or emotional.
Because women are also the more naturally spiritual and prayerfully inclined of the two sexes, I see this as a very big problem. My solution is very simple: stop. Stop. No, it's not easy. Yes, it requires sacrifice. But it will be so, so very worth it.
A very dear friend sent me an email tonight. It was a reply to an earlier message I sent her, which was rather flippant and written when I had a quick moment to write her. Her letter, though just as brief as mine, clearly was the product of reflection. She had read my note, spent time with it, gave her reply careful thought, and poured all her regard for me into her words back to me. I could feel so strongly that all her attention was given to me while she read and replied to my careless message.
This friend quit her teaching job several years ago in order to live quietly and simply. She spends her days in prayer, keeping her home, loving her husband, tending her garden, offering spiritual direction... . She is abandoned to Divine Providence. She performs the duty of each moment. She is living a radical life compared to her neighbours, and being in her presence, I am aware of peace and beauty and holiness. Reading that short email was like being with her, sitting in her living room with a cat on my lap, a cup of tea on the table beside me. It was a reminder that no matter how crazy today at work might have been, or how big the worry about work for next year might be becoming, all I really have to do, is be.
No more racing rats for me.