When our plane lifts off from Denver International Airport on its way to London tomorrow night, I will be journeying into an unfamiliar emotional, psychological, and spiritual space as alien as a voyage to Mars. Although the pattern of my husband’s days and weeks will be similar to previous sabbaticals, my own will not. My hours and days will be unlike anything I have ever experienced as far back as my memory spans. You see: I literally have nothing to do for almost four months.
There is no work awaiting me – no writing deadlines, no spiritual direction, no ‘product’ to produce. There is no list of books to be read, pondered, assimilated, discussed. There are no scheduled meetings that require I be in a particular place at a particular time. The fiber art that has become my vocation cannot come with me – at least not in any recognizable way.
This may sound like heaven…but it feels like sitting blindfolded during that initial long slow anticipatory climb on the roller coaster, the cogs clicking as the cars are dragged upward and upward and upward [insert ominous background music here] before that heart-stopping second when you realize you are about to go over the top.
There is something quite terrifying about knowing that I have been offered the blessing of unlimited time to be. Simply to be. I do not need to prove I am worth my paycheck, or justify my existence any other way – there is no one employing me or needing my skills. I have no role to fulfill. I have no external reason to do anything beyond the most minimal tasks necessary to sustain life: finding food to eat, lying down to sleep, breathing. I have nothing to distract me from uncomfortable thoughts, or scary questions like,
“Who am I when I am just Andrea?”
“For what purpose beyond self-sustenance am I taking in air, drinking water, eating food, using the limited resources of the earth?”
“Of what value am I when I am not producing some tangible product?”
Just close your eyes for a moment and let the idea of doing nothing slip into your heart. Doing nothing not merely for one glorious day, or a week of vacation, but day after day, week after week, month after month. How does that feel? How does it really feel?
For the last two, three, six months I have been busy doing what I do really really well: creating lists and crossing things off them. I have been busy doing things: choosing clothes and packing; scrubbing sinks, windows, the stove, the microwave, floors; dusting; vacuuming; gathering tourist brochures; buying tickets; ironing; organizing; planning; paying bills; arranging plant sitters; clearing closets and pantries and the fridge. I have been running almost non-stop at what has felt like warp-speed. And I am only hours away from being finished with everything I can do to prepare.
All that is left ahead of me is living. Living one minute at a time in the amazing geography of open space that stretches to the horizon in every direction, to living in this amazing and scary geography without any landmarks that I recognize.
It somehow seems meaning-laden that I am launching into this vertiginous space as my community of faith travels through the Great Fifty Days of the Easter season – the faith journey from the tomb to the tongues of fire. I am being asked to lay down a life that is very real and very visceral – asked to let it die voluntarily – so that something beyond my wildest imagination can resurrect. If I had been paying attention, I might have seen it coming. I wasn’t, and I didn’t.
This expanse of time is beginning to shimmer around the edges with something like invisible heat lightning, something that feels perilously like the transformation that is birthed from immram. I am hoping for the courage to resist returning to the familiar. I am hoping for the faith to trust the process.
I ask your prayers as I lean into what awaits.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2014 Immram Chara, LLC