In the middle of the journey of our life
I came to myself within a dark wood
where the straight way was lost.
I journey on
though I glimpse mere steps at a time.
The path ahead
obscured by that which
I cannot fathom or control.
Perhaps it is this:
fragile and afraid,
that drives me.
I push on,
long past faltering feet
and ragged breath.
I can not slow.
I shall not stop.
Movement implies direction,
I push on
though my heart calls me,
to stand and breathe. To gaze:
Around, where life pulses
Up, where universes whirl
Behind, in celebration of being
Ahead, where dreams unfurl.
I push on
though the trail narrows,
meanders, creeps, trips, tangles.
Though dusk draws on darkness,
hiding even this next step
on the once straight way.
Only when I can push no more
do I waver.
(Opening line from Dante’s ‘Inferno’)
I have been pushing too hard for too long. Writing—which used to flow so joyfully—has been an effort. I’m second guessing myself on parenting and many other things I used to do with confidence.
This Lent has offered me the gift of slowing down, stopping and taking stock. It has given me a sense of my own lostness. It’s a good realisation I suspect—a start on the way back to that ‘straight path’.
But how do I find my way back?
I’ve seen a few signposts pointing in the right direction.
The first are the words Jesus spoke to another woman too busy to realise her own tiredness:
“Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42)
The first step back is to do as Mary did–the better way. Sit at Jesus’ feet.
I find other signposts in the advice of John O’ Donohue:
Take refuge in your senses, open up to the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain when it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight, taking time to open the well of colour that fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone until its calmness can claim you. Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Gradually you will return to yourself, having learnt a new respect for your heart and the joy that dwells far within slow time.
(From ‘To Bless the Space Between Us’)
And so if our paths should cross and you find me watching the way of rain or pressing my cheek against silent stone, know that I have chosen to dwell in slow time.
Use it as a moment to stop and take stock of where you are on your own journey. If you sense you might be a little lost too, heed the words Jesus spoke to Martha and allow yourself the time and space to find your way back to the straight path.