Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Shifting from Guilt to Gratitude

Last night I dreamed disasters.

I will probably use that line in a poem soon, but it also happens to be true.  I dreamed about storms approaching, and I couldn't get the old people in my care to understand that they had to move to safety.  I dreamed of car crashes.  I dreamed of being unable to make my appointments.  I dreamed of illness.

And then I woke up to the news of the variety of bombings in Brussels.  In my younger years, I'd have wanted to believe that I was dreaming in a sort of language that foretold the future.  But I have plenty of anxiety of my own--no need to channel the world's troubles.

For the past week or so, I have been feeling low to medium grade anxiety--the kind that's in the background, the kind that makes me wonder what important task I am forgetting.  And in fact, I did discover a permit that needed attention to get renewed--I got the packet in November, but it wasn't due until April 6, so I put it in the important papers to think about later file and didn't discover it until I pulled out the tax envelope.  Happily, I was able to get that taken care of.  But what else lurks?

My main anxiety revolves around the fact that I will be gone next week because I am going on back-to-back retreats in the Carolinas.  From Monday to Thursday, I will be at a writing workshop--my favorite writer, Kathleen Norris, will be at my favorite monastery, Mepkin Abbey, in the SC Lowcountry.  Then on Thursday, I go to the Create in Me retreat at Lutheridge, in the NC, mountains.

I am looking forward to the time to write, the time to create, the new vistas for my eyes to see.  But it is the week between quarters, the time when lay-offs occur at my job.  I think that I am safe and that my faculty won't be affected--but I now feel this quarterly anxiety, since I know that for every set of lay-offs, those who are left have more work to do.

I realize that if I was in South Florida, I could not keep the chaos from descending, if chaos is coming.  But when I leave for any length of time, I do worry that I'll return to find only bits and pieces where before there were buildings. That building can be a metaphor for the job, for my house, for any variety of relationships.

And because I will be gone for a week, that means that I have a lot of work to complete this week.  If I was here, I could spread those tasks out in a more leisurely way.  And here, too, I worry about what I've forgotten.

And then there are the worries that hardly seem worth mentioning, but they are on my mind.  I'm travelling through a variety of weather and socializing situations.  What will I want to wear?  I will be bringing a variety of clothes:  swirly skirts, big shirts, lots of layers to keep me either warm or cool.  As always, I am frustrated with my body and the fact that I only have 1 pair of long pants that fits and feels good.  Living in South Florida, I'm usually able to forget that fact.

First world problems, I know.

I am surprised at the amount of guilt I feel for taking this time away.  I have gone on numerous retreats in the past and not felt any guilt at all.  Of course, I wasn't usually taking retreats back to back, and I've rarely been gone this long.  In the past, often my spouse would come with me--this year, he's teaching.

But I am also aware of how lucky I am to be able to do this.  I have a boss and a workplace that supports this time away.  I have a self-sufficient department that is not likely to need me next week.  My spouse is also supportive, although we will miss each other.

And how wonderful that we will miss each other, even though we've been together for decades.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

So, let me continue to try to shift my focus from anxiety and guilt to gratitude for these opportunities.

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