#shelterathome · #shelteringinplace · Spirituality

One bucket at a time

“I’ve cleaned everything in my house. I’ve run out of things to clean!”

This is not a statement made by me. I wish that all that was left for me to do in my house was alphabetize my spices. I truly admire the Type A people with time on their hands during these weeks at home who have been cleaning like gangbusters. I wish I was more like them.

I’m finding that I’m not as productive without the structure that was in my schedule, even without working full time. I’ve been sleeping later and then spending too much time reading all the news feeds coming into my email box. Before I know it the day seems to have slipped away.

I have, however, been working outside. Every year, no matter how hard I try, my flower garden gets overrun with weeds and it takes me a few weeks to get it in shape. Since I have so many little plants scattered around, I do the majority of the weeding on my knees, pulling each up by hand. As I go, I fill a five gallon bucket with the unwelcome invaders, then dump them out at the edge of the yard. I put down pine straw as I finish a section.

I’ve lost count of the buckets I’ve dumped so far but I’m just a few buckets away from finishing. Bucket by bucket I’m getting it done.

Anne Lamott wrote about this concept in her famous book on writing, Bird by Bird. She tells the story of her brother as a little boy, who procrastinated about a project on birds. The night before it was due, he stared helplessly down at the poster he needed to make. Their father put an arm around his shoulders and told him, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Lamott teaches that we should approach writing in this way. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the task in front of us we should take it a step at a time, maybe just a sentence at a time.

Bucket by bucket is how I work most of the time. Big jobs overwhelm me. Inside the house, I’m taking a drawer by drawer approach. I’m slow, but eventually I’m getting something accomplished.

Many of us are feeling overwhelmed right now by the magnitude of this pandemic. As the quarantine dates keep getting pushed back and the number of the dead keep rising, it’s easy to feel panicked. It was novel for a while to stay home, but we are over it now. My son had a great analogy when he said he felt like he was living in the Groundhog Day movie – each day the same as the one before.

The other day I sat back and wondered where my time had gone. What had I done all day? I spent thirty minutes talking to a friend who is worried about losing her business. I was on the phone with another friend who is working hard with an agency to raise money for people in our community. Another friend had a death in her family and I spent time on the phone with her. I’ve connected with old friends who I haven’t heard from in a long time.

I’m trying to cut myself some slack about my lack of productivity. Right now these phone calls are important. I feel so helpless to do anything for so many folks dealing with the disease and losing their jobs. We are all anxious and dealing with unknowns. We need each other.

So kudos to those of you who are redoing your houses, baking bread and shining everything in sight! I did clean out a closet yesterday and it felt good! But if you need a day to rest, listen to your heart and body and don’t feel guilty about taking it.

Keep filling your bucket with what is at hand. We will get through this, bucket by bucket.

My garden waiting for the daylilies, butterfly bushes and lantana to start blooming!


Can you live for today?

Is it possible for us as humans to truly live for today?

I’ve thought about this as we are all suddenly unable to make any long range plans. I’m not really a huge planner, but I like having things written down on my calendar to look forward to. I was going to be busy in April teaching Sunday School, practicing for Celebrate Life, having a special meeting with my Calhoun Area Writers, doing a trail run and going to see Hamilton at the Fox. Now there are just empty blocks.

Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount to not worry about tomorrow.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Mt. 6:34)

I’ve struggled with this verse. Of course we have to worry about tomorrow – we have to plan financially, make reservations for trips, think about what is in the house to eat.

But now we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t plan. We don’t even know what is going to be in the grocery store when we go. We don’t know when life is going to feel safe again. We are literally having to do it one day at a time.

I think animals have the ability to live in the present in a way that we as humans do not. This is good and bad. When our grand dog Molly stays with us for more than a few days, she becomes resigned and a little depressed. Even though we have lots of fun and go on walks and she gets plenty of love and treats, it’s not her home and Keith and I are not Adam and Jess. Her dog mind can’t wrap around a time frame of a few days and then she will be back with her people. All she sees is today.

Molly with her new Christmas toy.

On the flip side, when she is back in her familiar surroundings, and especially during these weeks when Adam and Jess are with her 24/7 while they are working from home, she is content.

Unlike Molly, we have the advantage of being able to look ahead and have hope. What we need to learn from her is being content with where we are.

Our human brains know this will someday end but our human brains also start worrying about all the “what-if’s”. That’s where we get in trouble.

Honestly, I don’t know if we will ever be back to normal. but our new normal may be more focused on who is important to us and realizing that we spend too much of our time filling it up with activities.

I’m finding some freedom in the lack of planning. Not feeling the pressure to constantly fill up my calendar page is releasing.

I don’t know if I can ever get to a place where I don’t worry at all, but Jesus is trying to get me to understand that no matter what is coming tomorrow, He will be there with me.

So today I’m going to be thankful for the beautiful blue sky, being with Keith and friends to talk to!