Final Burst! 2021 Wrap-up

Near the beginning of 2021, I began a series of articles under the theme of “Brief Bursts.” My goal was to be less wordy—to say things as briefly and directly as possible—and therefore post more frequently. Unfortunately, as you can see from the shortlist of articles under this sub-heading AND the length of several, I did not accomplish either goal.

In the previous twelve months, many of my posts have appeared under comments to the first article, “Deep Listening.” There, I’ve engaged in an enlightening conversation with my conservative friend Ryan about a wide range of topics, including politics, leadership, and, recently, attitudes toward vaccinations and COVID.  I encourage you to read these comments if your interest is piqued by an exchange between a bleeding-heart Democrat (me) and a conservative Republican (Ryan.) It is not a coincidence that this conversation appears in a blog about respect.

Where With All Due Respect is headed in 2022 is still a mystery. I’m currently preoccupied with writing my first novel and find myself wanting to dedicate most of my creative and wordsmithing time and energy to that. Approaching the sixth anniversary of my retirement, I see the rhythms of my daily life coalescing more and more around the act of writing—my way of being in the world, my orientation toward life.  Whenever I put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard—journaling in the early morning hours, email during the day, scant hours writing fiction, essays, and the occasional poem, or short phrases jotted in my “brain-dump” notebook just before sleep—choosing the precise word is a passion bordering on obsession.

Yesterday, the best-selling writer Joan Didion died at the age of eighty-seven. An NPR report (Joan Didion has died at 87: NPR) declared that

Didion spoke about the act of writing more astutely than pretty much anybody else. “I write entirely to find out what is on my mind, what I’m thinking,” she said.

“The writing itself was a path to understanding and clarification. Her definition of a writer was ‘a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper.’ She said that in a 1976 speech at her alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley.”

For me, those passionate hours are spent arranging and re-arranging words on a computer screen. And a total of ­­­­ 39 journals over 50 years betrays my compulsion for writing as inner exploration.

Thank you to those who read With All Due Respect and offer your comments and encouragement.  Thank you to fellow bloggers who inspire me, including three with different styles and perspectives: Carolyn, Rick, and Joan. I’m grateful to my two writers’ groups: the spiritual writers (Al, Ann, Carol, Hugh, Nancy, Paige, Rick, and Sarah) and the group from my retirement community (Deanna, Fayal, Marcia, Mark, Nan, Phyllis, and Terry).  They have patiently read and critiqued my monthly submissions for over three years, and I’ve become a better writer with their kind guidance. Finally, though it may seem odd, I want to put in a plug for Grammarly, the editing app that I use daily for everything from email to chapters in my book. It’s improved my grammar tremendously and saved me from some dreadful faux pas.

Writing is what I most love to do. Paradoxically, the tragic circumstances of the pandemic have provided more opportunity to do it than my busy nature would have eked out on its own. So, whatever becomes of With All Due Respect in 2021, I will enjoy every minute of it.

Year-End, My One Word – Rest

As the year winds down for those doing One Word practice, many of us have turned our attention to discovering or choosing a new word for 2021.  Because Carolyn, whose blog has guided my practice this year, has been hosting a lively and inspiring conversation about selecting new words, it’s been tempting to let rest fade away quietly in December.  But I am a dutiful sort, and I know I owe rest a debt of gratitude and a summation of its impact on my life this past year.

It’s taken me nearly six years of retirement to settle into a slower, more mindful, less frantic pace of life.  Old habits die hard—the tendency to say yes and get involved before really thinking, in particular. But 2021 has offered me more open space and more free time, and the word rest has lent focus for settling into a new mode of living. 

These days, in both winter and summer, I routinely wake up at around four a.m. and, unable to go back to sleep, get up and begin my day while it is still dark and silent.  I’ve watched and photographed many glorious dawns, sat completely still in my cozy den with my dog beside me and a cat on my lap, just breathing and listening to the silence. So, each day begins gently and quietly. 

There is always at least one long, slow-paced walk early in the day, amid the beauty of green summer foliage or among stark bare winter branches.  I delight in the dog’s excited sniffing, in watching the trees sway, or searching for wildflowers. I try to get outside my head on these walks and observe what is happening around me. Just watch and listen.

After that, work—connecting, communicating, planning, writing, gardening, cleaning, errands, appointments.  Following the teaching of the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, I try to do each task mindfully. Of course, it’s going to take many more years of practice to be as aware and attentive as I aspire to be, but I’ve noticed tiny incremental improvements over the last six years, and that gives me hope.

For instance, I now sit down to eat meals most days, departing from my previous practice of grabbing bites between tasks or standing at the kitchen counter and spooning food into my mouth, often coughing after swallowing each mouthful. In summer, I may eat breakfast and lunch in the garden; a pair of clippers and a watering can close at hand so that I can roam from bush to flower, watering, and pruning as needed. When I first sit down at dinner time,  I pause and become fully present in the room, at the table, to the person(s) across from me and the food before me.  I give thanks and smell the delicious odors.  I try to put my fork down after each bite and concentrate on chewing and swallowing.  I still eat more quickly than anyone else at the table, but slightly more slowly than I used to do.

Swimming has gotten slower, and I spend more time luxuriating in the hot tub and the sauna after my swim.  I often take short naps, sometimes only 20 minutes, but they are deliciously relaxing and bring balance. Though I’ve not read nearly as many books as I would like, I’ve read more than in past years. 

These settling changes have come about gradually and naturally, but my mental and spiritual exploration of the word rest has influenced and provided new motivation for them. Using resources provided by Carolyn, monthly check-ins have enabled me to probe the meaning of rest for myself and the world around me.  Definitions, synonyms, word associations, visual images, sounds, and watching others have opened new doorways to understanding.  

For instance, I spent significant time contemplating balance, juxtaposing effort and rest using this image.  I would not know what rest is without exerting effort, and vice versa.

The Roots and Fruits image of a tree with many branches helped me hold all my discoveries about rest together, organically and systemically.

The Foundation and Building Blocks diagram teased out basic concepts intrinsic to my experience of rest.

Living with rest for the last year, reflecting on its meaning, has been not so much an attempt to change as an experience of noticing—observing the gradual transformation happening within me. With intention and practice, with patience, acceptance of failure, and beginning again, I’ve come to a more restful way of being.  Watching the process brings joy. Discerning progress, however small, gives hope.

I still have a long way to go.  My habits are tenacious.  But I am not leaving rest behind.  Indeed, I’ve chosen next year’s word(s) to take me further along the path to accepting, letting go, and resting.

Links to my previous posts on rest in 2021.

One Word – With All Due Respect

REST – My One Word – Mid-Year Check-In – With All Due Respect


As I turn from sneaking a peek through the windows of the modest cottage under renovation, I notice a slight, older woman standing on the front balcony of the McMansion next door.  She calls out to me, and I approach to exchange what I hope will be just a few polite words.

“You’ve been looking at my niece’s cottage,” she says. “What do you think of the renovations?”

I feel a tinge of anxiety that my curiosity may be considered prying or even trespassing. “The place is exquisite!” I exclaim.  The small building, nestled among others of similar size and rectangularity in this seaside condo community, has been transformed since my last visit.  The new owner has covered the exterior with natural cedar shingles, and flower boxes with fresh fall plants hang beneath the windows on either side of the front door. Inside, though curtains restrict my view, I see walls covered with light pine paneling, a kitchen completely modernized, and a new, polished wood floor.  Artisan carpenters have been there most of the day, working on the finishing touches.

The woman says her niece plans to use it for family and friends, but not rent to strangers, to ward off, I suspect, any interest I might have in leasing it. I tell her that I am staying in the tiny cottage nearest the bluff, and she relaxes a little and indicates that she knows the owners. We agree that this seaside cluster of homes is a quiet, perfect getaway spot.  I exude enthusiasm.

She seems frail and a bit shaky, so I am surprised when she asks if I would like to see the inside of her home. It is enormous like the newer units on the property—a three-storied, light-grey clapboard mansion with balconies facing the ocean on the first and second floors.  Still, when I hesitantly accept her invitation, I am not prepared for what awaits inside the front door.  I have not brought a mask, and I wonder if she has a COVID vaccination, but I follow her inside.

The place looks like the prize home in an HGTV contest.  The interior design is perfection indeed. She has impeccable taste—not an object is out of place, lush furnishings and fine art abound, kitchen counters are clear of clutter between top-line appliances. We tour the living room and bedrooms. The beds are piled high with expensive duvets and designer cushions. Except for a book, open on the living room coffee table, it looks like no one lives there—like they’ve staged it for an open house. 

I rave about her taste, the beauty of the furnishings, the view from the abundant windows.  She leads me upstairs to the second and third floors, moving one step at a time, her slowness due, she says, to a recent back injury. As we amble through the house, I ooh and ah at every turn.  She tells me that she and her husband built it a few years ago as a retirement home for her daughter and son-in-law.  Then, suddenly, her daughter died of a massive stroke in her late fifties.  At that very instant, I turn and notice a carved plaque above the slider windows to the second-floor balcony. “Jenny’s Happy Place,” it reads. “Your daughter was Jenny?” I ask quietly.

“Yes.” Almost apologetically, she tells me that her son-in-law still comes to stay with them on weekends sometimes.  I express my condolences and acknowledge that losing a daughter is very hard.  She nods.

We chat for a bit longer, and I start looking for a way to ease myself out of the house politely.  We find a transition topic in our appreciation of the view and the quiet seclusion of the location.  They come to stay just about every weekend throughout the year.  She talks about the other homeowners warmly as I head down the front steps and say goodbye.  The woman has told me her name, but I have already forgotten it.

I stroll back to my weathered and worn one-room cottage on the brink of the eroding cliff at the beachside, keenly aware of the dramatic difference between the two abodes. Although a part of me would like to live the princess life inside the castle I have just toured, another part of me feels relief as I open the paint-chipped front door to my tiny rental.  Most of me aches, though, for the slight, shaken, affluent woman who has lost her daughter and the future she had planned for her family.    

When I awake at 12:55 a.m. the following day, waves are crashing on the beach at high tide. I step outside on my little porch.  The air is warm for October, and the sky is clear. Unnumbered stars glow brightly in the blackness directly above and weakly through the light-polluted haze closer to the horizon.  I haven’t seen stars in a very long time, and I marvel that I can still identify the Little Dipper. Except for the breaking waves, a hush surrounds me.  I turn to look at the neighborhood’s dark buildings.  A dim light shines through a first-floor window of Jenny’s Happy Place.

Altered names and details protect the subject’s privacy.

Wake up!

In general, I have steered away from political topics in this blog, believing that there are plenty of better-informed commentators, a plethora of varied opinions out there, and adding my voice would bring little gain. But I woke up this morning needing to make a gesture of solidarity with the women and girls of Afghanistan. I am painfully aware that this is nothing more than a gesture.

Today, my first contact with the media informed me that Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, had fallen to the Taliban over the weekend and that the elected president had fled the country. I heard this at about 8:50 a.m. while working out in my retirement community’s fitness room, wearing yoga tights and a short-sleeved tee-shirt, earbuds connected by Bluetooth to my iPhone. The BBC interviewed an Afghan women’s education activist about the Taliban’s takeover, asking her if she feared for her life.  From hiding, her response was not alarmist. On the contrary, she was trying to keep an open mind but spoke about her worry for women university students and those working outside the home. The dramatic contrast in our circumstances could not have been more apparent.

The situation in Afghanistan is complicated and hard to understand.  The history of the country and the Taliban’s role there is murky and confusing.  I’ve gained superficial knowledge from news reports on NPR and Khaled Hosseini’s novels Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both sources demonstrate the Taliban’s inhumane actions toward women and children—at least from my perspective. Likewise, the United States’ relationship to Afghanistan, its military and political activities in the country, its withdrawal of forces, and the effects of its influence are widely debated. I know two American veterans who have served there. One lives with PTSD, and the other has severe physical injuries. I wonder what they were thinking this morning about the Afghans they have known and the suffering they have seen.

I can do nothing practical to affect the situation in Afghanistan. Yet, my heart is filled with sadness and fear today for the approximately 14 million females living there, half the country’s population. Like women and children worldwide, they are disproportionately harmed by war, persecution, and violence. Taliban rule will profoundly and adversely affect their lives.

I am immensely grateful for the privileges I currently experience and conscious of how fragile these advantages, protections, and freedoms are everywhere. My respect and compassion for Afghan women—what they have suffered, fought for, and again lost—makes me want to scream, “Wake up!”

No nation, no ethnic group, no gender is exempt from the possibility of war, enslavement, physical and mental abuse, environmental disaster, or disease. The last seventeen months of global pandemic and accelerating natural disasters worldwide have made this dramatically clear.  When my sister in Afghanistan suffers, I suffer.  My fate is linked to hers, inextricably.

Wake up!  Violence, discrimination, prejudice, and hatred are universal. See them for what they are and where they are in your life, in your presently sheltered and relatively safe little corner of the world. Relinquish complacency and self-delusion. Wake up, pay attention, be alert!   

The Tyranny of the List

I’ve been making lists since, well, probably first grade.  As soon as homework entered my childhood world, I began making lists:  assignments for the next day or the next week; vocabulary lists; when playmates would come to my house, and I go to theirs; lists of things to do, lists of things to buy, lists of Christmas gifts requiring “thank you” notes, lists of letters or cards due, packing lists, bill paying lists, phone call lists, email lists.   Virtually all of my lists focus on things that I must not forget.  Sometimes, they are things I feel I must do to be viewed positively by someone else. 

Usually, making a list calms my anxiety about forgetting or failing. That function is a useful and helpful one.  A thorough, prioritized list can talk me down off the ledge of panic.  For most of my career, I was responsible for accomplishing my work and helping my bosses keep track of and achieve their goals.  I could not have been successful or, indeed, survived without an advanced “list-making” technique.

And then came retirement, and I went right on making lists.  To this very day, five and a half years after I left my last job, a list sits next to my computer—this one I have highlighted in multiple colors indicating the urgency of various tasks.

I’ve heard it said that there is a great deal of satisfaction to checking off a task on a to-do list.  I’ve experienced mild pleasure in doing that.  But invariably, for each job I check off, I add at least two and sometimes ten new ones. The sense of accomplishment does not last long or feel deeply gratifying.  Indeed, when I go to my list to check off a recently completed item, my eyes will stray to the rest of the list where I will note, with a sinking heart, the number of things I was NOT doing while I was finishing the one thing just checked off. Even as I initially choose one item to focus on for half an hour, I am aware that fifteen others will go undone in that timeframe.  Truly a depressing and discouraging realization—perhaps the epitome of the “glass half empty” syndrome.  Here are the things I am not able to do right now because I AM doing THIS.

It’s a vicious circle—a vicious list.

I have friends who make fun of me because of my “obsessive” list-making. The implication is that I am at least a little odd, if not downright bad.  It has been hard for me lately not to subscribe to their point of view.  And, truthfully, I’d like to do away with list-making as a thing of the past, no longer necessary in this more relaxed stage of my life.  But remember, I have been doing this since I was six years old. 

Realistically, I don’t think a complete about-face is likely.  I can and have moderated my list dependency, and I give myself breaks from it periodically when I am on vacation, sick, or on retreat. However, as with most other aspects of my life these days, the most helpful approach is to take myself less seriously, to “hold it lightly,” as one of my friends might say.

A few quotes from Pema Chödrön’s The Wisdom of No Escape (Shambala, Boston & London, 1991) might shed some light on the “path” I am currently cultivating:

“…if we see our so-called limitations [habits, crutches, addictions] with clarity, precision, gentleness, good heartedness, and kindness and having seen them fully, then let go, open further, we begin to find that our world is more vast and more refreshing and fascinating than we had realized before.  In other words, the key to feeling more whole and less shut off and shut down is to be able to see clearly who we are and what we are doing.” [p.13-14]
“The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself.  The other problem is that our hang-ups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth.  Our neuroses and wisdom are made out of the same material.  If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom…So whether it’s anger or craving [for comfort through list making!] or jealousy or fear or depression—whatever it might be—the notion is not to try to get rid of it, but to make friends with it.  That means getting to know it completely, with some kind of softness, and learning how, once you’ve experienced it fully, to let go.” [p.14-15]
“Our life’s work is to use what we have been given to wake up.” [p. 30]

Thank you, Pema! 

So, I am not going to pour a lot of energy into reform.  Instead, I’ll look deeply at what lies behind my list-making.  What are its roots?  Where does it come from?  What’s life-giving in it and what is not. I will offer acceptance to whatever I find in that investigation and hold it gently, lightly, and kindly. While I do that, perhaps I will find myself understanding and feeling compassion for others who, like me, have compulsions, coping mechanisms, and addictions.  I’ll wonder about the roots of their behaviors. And I’ll try to open up—wake up—to the other side of the coin of my neuroses and theirs, our wisdom. 


REST – My One Word – Mid-Year Check-In

Little did I know in January 2021, when I chose my “one word” for the year (see this post), that I was in for an adventure in insomnia. 

Truthfully, I thought of rest mostly as slowing down, taking life easier, feeling more relaxed, healthier, and balanced.  But I didn’t think about its relationship to sleep.  How dense can one be!

Then, a necessary medication change sent me on an unexpected journey. I began having trouble falling asleep, started waking up multiple times during the night, and getting up earlier and earlier. (I’m writing this at 4:30, but I have been up since 3:00 a.m.) My excellent nurse practitioner medical team suggested cognitive behavioral therapy, and I had a couple of sessions with a very astute therapist.  She recommended creating a sleep ritual, so, following her suggestions, I started stepping outside to get a breath of fresh air just before bed. I made the bedroom darker and covered the digital clock. I began writing in a “brain dump” book and reading a couple of quotations from Hush by sleep expert Rubin Naiman.  Then I turn out the light, make an intention to let go of wakefulness and embrace sleep, and start breathing deeply and relaxing progressively from head to toe. On most nights, I am asleep within twenty minutes.

BUT I awake again at 2:00 a.m., and often I am unable to go back to sleep. So when I awoke at 2:00 this morning, I asked myself, “What does insomnia have to teach me?

One of the wisest of Dr. Naiman’s bits of sleep advice is: “The best strategy in our war against sleeplessness is surrender.  We wage war against illness.  We fight disease, kill germs, and go to battle with our symptoms.  This is most evident with insomnia.  Many of us silently hurl expletives at our nighttime wakefulness.  But the peace of sleep cannot be realized through an inner civil war.  To sleep well, we must learn to approach sleep in a thoroughly nonviolent way.  Giving up this fight is not about a forced supplication, but rather a gracious surrender.”

Who knew embracing “rest” would lead me to contemplate surrender? And not just in sleep, in everything. I’ve begun to notice how much of my life is about struggle, particularly struggle against something.  It takes a lot of effort to pit yourself against gravity, the clock, responsibilities, aging, physical and mental diminishment, cold, heat, uncomfortable or painful feelings, disappointments, loss, unfulfilled dreams.

Some synonyms for surrender are “to cease to resist, yield, acquiesce.”  I’ve deliberately chosen positive ones because I don’t want to imply that resistance is never appropriate. Resistance and struggle are never effortless, though, and rest is. So, my mid-year check-in on rest has brought some of the following concepts to the fore. In no particular order:

  • Effort requires balancing with rest.
  • Exerting control is exhausting; letting go, accepting, and flowing with whatever is happening is restful.
  • Rest is self-care and self-respect—no guilt trip.
  • Stop being so damn responsible!
  • Time is abundant, not scarce.
  • Rest first, do later.
  • Breathe.  It’s the most restful thing you can do!

Repeating Myself

Sometimes I wonder if the Source, or whatever name you use (the energy of life, God, the I AM, the unmanifested one, the universal consciousness, Mother Earth) has created the Coronavirus to give us human beings the opportunity to recognize our interconnectedness and interdependence.  Or our “interbeing,” as the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, would say.

If you follow the emergence, re-emergence, first, second and third waves of COVID-19 around the world, you will notice that as soon as we humans begin to let down our guard, we experience another outbreak. When we put individual desires and wills ahead of the common good, we start down the path of another “surge.”

The refusal to wear a mask because it is “my right” to choose whether or not I do, puts those around you in danger.  The need to “open up” as fast as possible for the sake of the economy (this all-important economy in which the rich continue to get richer and the poor poorer) precipitates another surge in COVID cases.  The refusal to be vaccinated sets us all back on the road to “herd immunity.”  The current competition for vaccines worldwide and the disparities in vaccination rates in rich and developing countries flies in the face of the truth that none of us will be safe until all of us are safe—from anything.

The Coronavirus goes on, mutating, developing new strains, dodging, and eluding all our attempts to beat it back. Should we ultimately succeed in defeating COVID, when will the next pandemic strike? What will the subsequent super infectious disease be? And the next?

Could the lesson we are avoiding be—everything is entirely dependent and interdependent? Huge disparities in health, wealth, and resources only create instability that ultimately undermines everyone’s safety, security, well-being, and perhaps even our continued existence.

(See also: I Dream a World, COVID Sacrifice, Cleansing or Transforming?)

I Dream A World

This year, on Martin Luther King Jr Day, NPR ran an interview with its poet in residence, Kwame Alexander.  Alexander noted that the poem “I Dream A World,” by Langston Hughes inspired Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech 58 years ago. He invited listeners to write and submit poems beginning with the line “I Dream a World.” From the submissions, he will take phrases and lines to create a community crowd-sourced poem embodying the listeners’ dreams. I was intrigued but didn’t enter the challenge.

Early on in the pandemic, a friend suggested that COVID may be a wake-up call to humanity. Social distancing might provide an opportunity for self-examination, reflection on the state of our crisis-ridden world, and imagining a better future. For some time, I have been struggling with how to express my dream for the post-pandemic world. A world presently plagued with poverty, injustice, racism, hate, inequality, sickness, war, and climate crisis. Though I can imagine a different, fairer, healthier world, my imaginings seem as naïve and unlikely Dr. King’s dream. After all, look where dreaming got him! Though I cannot make rational arguments to justify my vision for the future of the earth, and I am powerless to persuade others that it is viable or even desirable, I still dream.

The more I allow myself to dream, the more my desire for such a world grows and affects my words and actions. I hope that I will not let myself off the dreaming hook, that others will have similar dreams, and that change will be both imagined and created.

I Dream A World
 I dream a world
 Where each receives enough:
 Enough food to satisfy the body's hunger,
 Enough clothes for warmth or cool,
 Enough shelter to call a home,
 Enough learning to foster growth,
 Enough imagination to dream,
 Enough freedom to walk proudly,
 Enough work to impart dignity,
 Enough safety to banish fear,
 Enough respect to nurture hope,
 Enough hope to conquer despair, 
 Enough suffering to make one wise,
 Enough beauty to feed the soul,
 Enough love to fill the heart.
 I dream a world
 Where earth soaks up the gentle rain,
 The air is clean and clear,
 Where sea breeds and nurtures life.
 Where heat and cold are balanced
 And gently alternate
 Like night and day. 
 Where skies are black or blue,
 And stars and moon are bright,
 And sun warms, and shade cools.
 Where life is green
 And death embraces earth.
 I dream a world
 Where balance reigns 
 And justice rules
 Along with truth and love.
 I dream a world
 Where tender hearts are open,
 And open hands are giving,
 Where eyes are softly gazing, 
 And ears attuned to listening.
 I dream a world,
 Where perfection and failure
 Are not the nagging enemies of good.
 Where each unique being, 
 Each thing is treasured,
 Held in reverence and awe.
 I dream the change of hearts,
 Abundance shared by all,
 And lack no longer known.

 I dream of many friends,
 To walk with me this path
 Of letting go too much
 And wanting what's sufficient,
 So, all may have enough.

- Moriah Freeman
  January 23, 2021

One Word

Carolyn, a friend and blogger I deeply respect and whose posts I follow avidly, has recently revamped her blog site.  It’s now called Your One Word. The idea is that you select, through a process of inner listening, a word that will be a hallmark of your life for a year.  Hallmark is, for this purpose, defined as a distinguishing characteristic, trait, or feature.  It may be a quality or virtue you aspire to, a practice you want to embrace, or something you want to understand more deeply.  Through reflection, active noticing, perhaps even study, you will let the meaning of the word unfold in your daily life for a year, checking in monthly or even weekly to become aware of its effect on your thoughts, dreams, and actions.

Carolyn provides some helpful resources for choosing your word and working with it regularly.

My word for 2021 is REST.  My word for 2020 was “slowly,” but I was a dismal failure at incorporating it into my life.  Anyone who knows me will laugh at my 2020 choice because I do everything as fast as possible – walk, eat, exercise, clean, shower, dry my hair, read, type, cook…ad infinitum. One thing I learned from “slowly” last year was how fast is my usual pace.  I also observed others around me, particularly my partner, and noticed how graceful and gentle moving slowly is by comparison.

I am 68 now, and I’m tired, in general, and in particular of going fast. So, without moving too far from last year’s aspiration, I chose “rest” for 2021, or rather, it chose me.  Already, with Carolyn’s help and inspiration, I am learning about what rest means for me.

I want to share with you the list of questions that arose when I began to explore my word:

  • What is the definition of rest? What are some synonyms?
  • How does rest show up in my hobbies: photography, writing, coloring, card design?
  • How is rest affecting my chronic pain?
  • Has rest helped me to move more slowly?
  • Am I struggling against something? Can I stop and rest?
  • When I have rested, what have I noticed?
  • Does rest help me to let go?
  • How are rest, solitude, and retreat related?
  • What three memories of rest can I recall this week, this month?
  • Have I seen examples of rest in nature? In others? What can I learn from them?
  • How are rest and saying “no” related for me?
  • How are rest and mindfulness related?
  • And, for the sake of this blog, how is rest related to “respect?”

For me, rest has an essential relationship with self-respect.  It gets at a part of my nature that has always been troublesome – my difficulty setting limits.  Limits on my workday’s length and intensity, limits on my care for others, limits on the physical demands I place on my body. Getting older, if you pay attention, can teach you vital lessons about limits.

This year, I hope to practice self-respect by discovering what rest is and incorporating it into my physical, mental, relational, and spiritual life.

Is “one word” calling you?

COVID Sacrifice

Wearing a mask during the COVID pandemic is a sacrifice. Some are willing to make it and others are not.  Many who refuse to wear face coverings say they are exercising their personal freedom – their ability to make choices without taking anyone else into consideration; their right to choose what is important to themselves, regardless of what authorities say is necessary for the greater good; and their right to disregard what scientists have told us about how the virus spreads.

Those who choose to wear masks for their protection and the safety of those around them, often do so at significant personal sacrifice.

For instance, those who are severely hearing disabled and who rely on lip reading to understand another’s speech, cannot do so when masks are covering lips. Therefore, they are at a disadvantage in social gatherings.  They haven’t a clue what others are saying.  They are aptly described as “out of it.”

Those who wear eyeglasses are also at a disadvantage.  Their glasses steam up, especially outdoors in the winter cold.  The seeing-impaired are constantly adjusting their masks to minimize steaming.  Many have chosen not to wear glasses outside at all.  I am among those, and the outdoor world is now a constant blur to me.  I don’t recognize neighbors when I meet them on the street and have to rely on the sound of voices to identify approaching figures. I can’t see what my dog is sniffing, and I miss seeing colorful sunsets clearly.  I admit blurred vision has a certain charm – occasionally.

Those with breathing difficulties also make sacrifices by wearing masks.  They are continually short of breath. I don’t have this problem, but several of my friends who have asthma, COPD or congestive heart failure are struggling with this sacrifice.

For these three groups, the inconvenience of wearing masks is prolonged by those who refuse to do so.  The duration of the COVID pandemic will be determined, in part, by how carefully and sacrificially we observe the CDC’s public health recommendations: wear a mask, stay six feet apart, don’t gather indoors in groups of any size for extended periods of time, and wash your hands frequently.

Which will it be for you?  Personal freedom? Or personal sacrifice?