As part of my consideration of a position on the Board of Directors at The Christophers (a position that does not require me to be a practicing Catholic but that allows me to explore those roots and my best self), I have been reading Light in the Darkness by Father Jonathan Morris. He reminds his readers of the Saint Augustine request to do everything out of love. I thought immediately how little we do out of love and how much we do out of obligation. We spend most of our hours each day blindly following routines we created and probably once loved. Remember how excited you were when you moved into your home, when you got the offer that led to the job you now have, or when you first held your child? There was much preparation and anticipation. You played in your mind visions of your house filled with loved one, of your boss loving your work and acknowledging you regularly, and of your precious child’s hugs, kissed and milestones. Now, your home occurs as a money and time thief, your job seems to take more than it gives, and the little human you created is throwing more food and tantrums than love bombs.
I looked at the similarities in my own life. My home isn’t the magical castle where I’ve been living happily ever after like a queen. I was raped there by a man I once dated. My air conditioning went out in the second year I lived in this apartment, and it has been too expensive or low-priority to replace. In 11 years, or 4,015 days, only four of my closest family members have visited–for a total of 14 days, or less than 0.005%. I’ve maybe had 12 gatherings of friends and loved ones. My home has disappointed me, and I sometimes give it the silent treatment as if it can look at me with loving eyes and ask me what is wrong.
I suddenly realize that my home is wrapped around me like a loved one’s arms. I have been a self-absorbed brat who has neglected it. I was the one who stopped doing things out of love. I stopped cleaning daily, making improvements weekly, inviting people over, fixing what broke, and showing my home love. It never stopped loving me. It was I who was out of integrity, making pursuit of things I didn’t yet have more important than taking care of what I do have and once enjoyed.
My fried and fellow coach, Eric, asks himself in times like these. “Where else does this show up in my life?” For me, it slips in with everything from my body to my relationships. It comes to work with me, gets on calls with me, goes to the store with me, and does my work for me–if I am not alert. My lack of focused love even shows up at times on my calls with Eric, as I do dishes, paint cabinets, or fold clothes while we speak. He can always tell I am a bit distant, and he speaks up because he knows it matters. I can pretend I’m still giving 100%–or that 95% is good enough–but a 5% leak will eventually empty the tire, and we will be stalled while we repair what we knew was being slightly neglected.
I’m especially ashamed to admit that I sometimes spend time with people I love and am not doing it out of love. I’m doing it because there was an appointment on my calendar, they called or showed up, I felt like I should, and I never considered what would be the most loving action I could take in the moment–for both of us.
“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” – Pablo Picasso
I try to do too much. Like you, my days are filled with “shoulds.” I should all over myself. What a smelly mess!
I want to live my life out of love. Starting today, things I will do–out of love–include:
- DOWNSIZE. I have many items in my closets, drawers and other storage areas that I am not using (or loving) and that someone would be thrilled to have.
- PRIORITIZE. I have also let clutter build up on my task list. I need to honor my word and either fulfill on my promises or admit that I over-committed and ensure whoever I promised to help has sufficient resources to get what was desired. I also need to be very clear on what I can and will say yes to in the future.
- EXERCISE. I’ve always been a pretty physical person. My mom says I ran before I walked, and I love feeling the muscles of my body in motion. It helps my joints, body chemistry and organs, too. Plus, it rhymes with downsize and prioritize, I do realize. (I’m feeling a little like Dr. Seuss, who reminds me of a life I lived naturally out of love!)
What are you willing to start doing today out of love?