In a recent sacrament meeting talk in our ward, someone quoted David O. McKay saying, “What you think about when you don’t have to think, shows what you really are.” Over the preceding week, I’d found myself not so much in my thoughts, but in what I’d chosen to do with my time, now that something that was taking all my time had abruptly ended.
The past two months or so have been heady days for me. I’ve been riding the wave of some unusual, very exciting opportunities. Much of what makes up the mundane rhythm of life–no matter how important–has been completely shoved to the side, and not even regretfully. I got an individual email from the Visiting Teaching coordinator last month, asking if she could please, weeks late, finally get my report from last month (and another one later for this month). My disdain for the intrusion into my time was almost fierce. “Did I get time to do my visits? Are you serious?” I remember thinking, “Do you have any idea what kind of deals I’ve got pending at work right now!” Looking back over the past two months, I’m realizing that much of my smalltalk has probably been insufferably self-centered, and my kids have eaten macaroni and cheese far, far too often.
Everything came to a very abrupt cut-off this week. Promised opportunities were unceremoniously rescinded, golden eggs turned out to be of more mundane poultry variety. I went through my familiar stages of grief: (1) Cursing the fact that I can’t go get a drink–kidding!–maybe. (2) Deciding I really needed some Ben and Jerry’s instead, but my kids were asleep, and my husband was working his night job, so I couldn’t even scurry out to buy some. (3) Firing off a few irate emails, and finally, (4) Fitful sleep. Then the next day, Friday morning, I wandered bleary-eyed through the detritus of our neglected household, and into the detritus of my neglected garden.
It was good that I found it in such miserable shape, because if there had been any less work to do, and any less pent-up urgency that it be done, I might have rushed through and quit before my soul had been adequately rebalanced. Somewhere between hand-edging the lawn with a pair of clippers because I couldn’t get the gas edger to start, and cutting back the overgrown purple Lantana, I felt my peace return. I went and took a peek inside my compost tumbler, and was delighted to find its rich, black, moist and crumbly earth teeming with worms. Spreading it around the base of my young lemon tree, I remembered how good it feels to be covered in sweat and dirt and grass clipping dust. The kids found a beehive across the street, and constructed a fort out of my accumulating yard waste. The dog even rota-tilled a patch of the garden for me, to prepare it for planting.
I spent Saturday with extended family at the beach, collecting sand crabs in a bucket, watching leathery fisherman keep their patient vigil for a bite, and eating tacos from my favorite beachside shack.
On Sunday, I took a deep cleansing breath of Sabbath, in a way I haven’t for so long, even long before the recent whirlwind. A lazily fulfilling day of blissfully average routine. Awaking early but staying in bed just long enough, reading the newspaper, preparing a lesson while supervising happy children building elaborate block cities and temples, and going to church. Routine talks, routine songs, teaching a routine lesson. But I can’t remember the last time the trite and the platitudinous not only felt cozily familiar, but rang so immediately true: As long as you have the gospel, your family, and the church, nothing else really matters in the end. Add to that list as close seconds: dirt, plants, bugs and crawling things, a body of water, and cheap comfort food.