Garden of Solitude
It’s hard to believe that we are in our fifth week of sheltering in place. It seems like only yesterday that I was rushing to Target to buy extra headphones for the kids before the shelter in place order began. I was brainstorming and figuring out all the ways I was going to be productive. I was making a list of all the things I would accomplish during this time.
And then we began this shelter in place journey and I found myself less productive than I wanted to be. And so I worked on giving myself a little grace. And then I hit a productive streak where I was doing all.the.things. Which really became a distraction from all the ways I was feeling overwhelmed.
And now we’re here in week five. In some ways, I feel like I’m in a mix of all of these things. Some days I’m ready to take on the world, weed my entire yard, make homemade biscuits, and learn how to knit. Other days I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through another day of this. Some days I’m just working on doing all the things so that I can distract myself from it all.
In the midst of this rollercoaster, the thing that has been especially grounding is the quiet prayer time that I’ve been taking each day. Sometimes I think that the most difficult part of this thing is the amount of time we’re being asked to spend with ourselves. We often don’t like to spend too much unoccupied time with ourselves. It can lead to our minds spinning, our anxieties ramping up, our bodies itching to do something. But I’ve been reading a great book by Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. This has helped me to think about the difference between loneliness and solitude. Nouwen says, “Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.”
This is my new goal for this time. That I might sit long enough and intentionally enough with my loneliness that I might change it and allow it to be changed into a garden of solitude.