Chapter 5: Stop and Smell the Roses–and Live!

One should make one’s living in a manner that allows true “living,” on the job as well as off.

Serving as a reference librarian and bibliographer is the pleasant way that I spend my day, the way that I earn a living that doesn’t consume all of me but allows me to think and dream about other things.

When I am stressed, I don’t make much progress in my spiritual life because I am too distracted.

Maybe I should take the route that allows me to live comfortably (emotionally) because big bucks in some other job might make me financially secure but very tense, anxious, and maybe even unhappy in the daily work.

There is a point at which too much work to do becomes clearly counterproductive, because one’s stress level impedes actually turning out the work at a reasonable pace.

In the midst of 800 junior high students clamoring for attention in their school library, I  once said to myself (over and over, in a kind of refrain), “If I do nothing else, I will remain calm.”

Of course, that affirmation actually put me in a frame of mind in which I could do something else.  Reverse psychology is a powerful protective device.

On the strength in remaining calm:  “When I’m not stressed, I think I can handle virtually anything.”

On solving problems:  “No decision can be really difficult unless we complicate the issue by worry.”

The re-entry problems at work on Monday are not physiological or even psychological for the frequently cited reasons.  After “flight” on the preceding two days, the body gets up once again to “fight.”  And the more relaxing the flight has been, the more likely the fight will bring fears.

One has let down one’s guard, and the ego doesn’t take kindly to peace.  It knows its days are numbered if its owner should ever learn to choose peace consistently.

Why is it that so many of us are cowards in the middle of the night?

If we could all learn how to separate “big deals” from trifles, we would certainly be well along the way toward living satisfactorily and peacefully.

Why do I seem to need to have permission to be happy—never to spoil it by worry?

A Course in Miracles says, “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.” Jesus means that the “real world,” a dream granted by the Holy Spirit, is without the conflicts that most of us experience in the modern, work-a-day, world.  The miracle comes about because of inner changes in a person.

Even the most conflicted day loses its punching power when one looks out on the chaos from a soft and warm heart.

For me, too much stress brings on anger (and, all too often, resulting attack), whereas overwork linked with perfectionism brings on a critical attitude.  Knowing this suggests that I should consciously avoid filling my life with patterns that bring out the worst in me.  Knowing this, does it not follow that I should cultivate peace at whatever cost to ambition?  It is best to observe what triggers one’s negative behavior, and then turn in the opposite direction.

“Stop and smell the roses.”  This everyday admonition invites speculation:  If we don’t, what is the worst that will happen to us?  An unexamined life may mean less real living (as opposed to existing), especially if what happens always seem to happen to us, rather than being selected by us.

My husband David has never wanted us to have outside household help, and even though I hate doing it, I have never really wanted help, either.  David vacuums while I do (rather superficially sometimes) the other chores.  Lately I’ve been trying to cultivate Hestia in my housekeeping.  She is the goddess of the home and hearth, the one who knows best how to “center” in the activity of the moment.

This centering in the moment is powerful stuff!  It seems to be working.  David has long said that if I didn’t just try to “get it over with,” I would feel better about the whole activity.  And now he’s delighted with my newly emerging attitude!

Is suffering a choice?  Leigh says “yes”; Betsy disagrees.  And neither has had a particularly happy life.  But the fact that suffering might be chosen should give us the impetus to walk lightly along our paths.  As the sympathetic executioner is reported to have said to Socrates on handing him the hemlock:  “And so fare you well, and try to bear lightly what must needs be . . .”

Sometimes the best therapy is going to work each day.  An easy attitude toward one’s duties is a remarkable coping mechanism.  Should one resist, the force field may become stronger, and the flow all but gone.

David said that he thought I would be very good at library administration, but that I would be perfectly miserable in my work.  Yes, I too fear I would be in a place where no birds sing.  So I risk making a mistake by avoiding this challenge in order to travel peacefully along more pleasant pathways.

After all, the Course says, “Heaven asks nothing.  It is hell that makes extravagant demands for sacrifice.”     In the cool of fading evening, I think I will be glad I listened to the song of birds.

I remember in college hearing a professor mention that some character in literature “derived his meaning in life from work.”  I immediately saw myself in those words.  But in recent years my journal has been filled with variations on the theme, “I have to get over feeling that I want to push-push-push at work.”  The problem is that I become obsessive about work when I am truly “into” it, but my emotional make-up screams at me that I need to lighten up.

So I do—and the oscillations of greater and lesser work play themselves out over and over.  I would be better to seek a steady pace, not making the same mistake of work overload on a recurring basis.

It is hard for me to go easy when I see deadlines staring me in the face.  Yet this is just what I must learn to do.  The fact that the problem recurs proves that there is a better way for me to freely choose—and choose it I must.

Norman Vincent Peale counseled pacing in daily life (though he did not call it that).  If in God’s own time, it is not there, it was not meant to be there.  This also works to mediate against precipitous action.  I don’t know that it would work in a life-threatening situation, but in my own life and work, I know that considered action and going with the flow (not bucking the tide) is what gets the job done.

On what really counts in life:  “I’ve wondered if putting A Course in Miracles into practice in a fast-paced and demanding life is the best thing that I could do in that regard.  But I don’t think life is meant to be as fast-paced as we live it.”

On developing “flow” in living:  “I find that I can ‘tune into’ intuition or not—as I will.  The willing is largely unconscious; I make a decision to listen or not without really thinking about it.

Today, on my morning off, I wandered about—from the bookstore to the library to the frozen yogurt shop (for a snack) to KFC Chicken (for lunch).  It has been fun, and I feel more relaxed as a result.  Now I’m back home, lounging in the sun porch.  I need more undirected days like this.”

As Arthur Hays Sulzberger wrote, “Lead, kindly Light . . .Keep thou my feet:  I do not ask to see/ The distant scene; one step enough for me.”

Simply put one foot in front of the other and walk.  This is the secret of getting over an enervating malaise, if it is only mildly debilitating.  Truly pathological depression is going to require something more: usually medication as well as a good listening ear.  (And God has the best listening ear of all.)

On what “works” in work for me:  “This morning I was very sleepy and relaxed–a little numb.  As a result I slowed down at work to great benefit.  I need to stop falling all over myself to get my work done.”  Yet, the very next day, I wrote, “I seem to anticipate work and have a hard time doing that.  I don’t handle a million things to do very well.”  Yet, though I clearly recognized this a long time ago,  I still haven’t truly accepted it and planned my work accordingly.

I have a pattern of taking on more and more, getting “swamped,” and pulling back—only to repeat the same dynamic.  I may be addicted to an adrenaline rush which my body can’t sustain over the long haul.  So I end up anxious, and David does therapy for me over breakfast.  Not fair to him or my real Self.

A Course in Miracles says that the first obstacle that peace must flow across is the desire to get rid of it.

How true!

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