I love the ritual of making New Year's Resolutions. No matter how many times I fail (and sometimes succeed) in achieving my goals, I love the process of clarifying my vision for how life could be, fulfilling my aspirations to be a better person in all ways. In recent years I have used the "Getting Things Done" process as taught by David Allen, a highly useful tool.
This being the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, I have the added (and not typical) luxury of being on vacation. Perfect for pulling out the paper and writing my lists and goals.
Yet as perfect as conditions are, I can't seem to pull it off. The truth is, I am exhausted. Specifically, I am exhausted on a spiritual level.
There are good reasons for this exhaustion. Because it involves another person, I won't go into details. Suffice it to say, during the last two months I have had the opportunity to be of service while God saved the life of someone I love. This is the answer to prayers over many years-- my own, and others, for this person in need. Finally, after years in the Pit, he was able to let go and say Yes to help, and by the grace of God and perfect timing, I was able to respond and help line up resources for this person. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I confess the whole process was made much more difficult by my own fear, anxiety, and worry. Despite my willingness to be of service, I can't say there was no static on the line between me and God during all this drama.
People, it all came together. And it was a series of miracles that left me bowled over with the knowledge of God's love and Grace in our lives, if we would only trust. So once again in God's economy I see how in being of service I am also being blessed and healed.
Grace upon Grace, that's all.
So anyway, I have been reading (providentially) Thomas Moore's new book "A Life At Work: The Joy Of Discovering What You Were Born To Do", in which he shares his insights on the life of the Soul and Spirit as it relates to doing our life Work. He talks about job and career through the lens of finding meaning for a life well lived.
The terms "Soul" and "Spirit" are often used interchangeably, yet Moore shows us that these are two aspects of self with very different impulses and purpose.
It is our Soul that connects us to depth of feeling, meaning, personal history, family and community. Soul work is intimate and slow and evolves over time. Soul does not care so much for the Ego concerns of success and failure as defined by society. In the world of work or career, a Soulful job makes us feel nourished by the work, whereas a job without soul makes us feel empty or dead inside.
It is Spirit within us that is aspirational, where we cultivate a vision for the future and how things could be. Spirit brings energy and vitality, creativity and spark to what we do, either at the job or at home. A Spirit that is satisfied by work has something to contribute. A spirit crushing job is one where creativity is unwelcome, where one feels like a "cog in the machine"--interchangeable and bored.
As I anticipate the New Year, contemplating this duality of Soul and Spirit brings a welcome perspective to the usual ritual of making "resolutions". Instead of being frustrated that I cannot charge ahead with my Ego, writing up a laundry list of Things To Do and Be, I see the gift in being just plain too tired.
I see that the last two months have been deeply tiring to my Spirit, not because it came from my Ego, but because my Ego did not quite trust enough. In other words, while my Spirit was working, my Ego was also trying and interfering and making it Hard. Now that the crisis is over, I see how my Spirit needed to learn this lesson. Does that make sense?
In these days of Christmas and after, I find myself reflexively doing Soul feeding work, while my Spirit takes a rest. I rest in the bosom of my family. I revel in the presence of my husband and grown sons. I gaze in joy at the nine month old face of Joshua, my nephew's new son. I hold him and feel him push his tiny feet into my abdomen, getting ready to stand and walk someday very soon.
I bake gingerbread cookies and let their sweet aroma of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves transport me to Christmas both past and present. I look at the lights and familiar ornaments. I hum the carols. I sweep and mop the floors. It is all so very good.
This year, when my Spirit revives (and it will), there will be new resolutions and a new vision for the Work God has in store for me. I intend to face it with courage and discipline, (virtues I confess I have often lacked). But this time, as I follow the promptings of Spirit, (and writing this essay is one such prompting), I won't leave the slow, grounded and humbling work of Soul behind. There's been a bit too much Heroics for that, and it simply has not worked for me. The yearnings of my Spirit must be answered if I am to have a full Life. However attending to the balance of Soul and Spirit in my life may make it a little less likely that my Ego will assert itself and hijack the horse I am riding into the sunset. That's my prayer, anyway.
Have a Spirit filled, Soulful New Year everyone!