women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


"To be, or not to be: that is the question."
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare

"Do be do be do"
- Frank Sinatra

When I am home, I do many things:
  • shop for groceries
  • read the paper
  • surf the Internet
  • knit
  • cook
  • pay the bills
  • exercise
  • work on new designs
  • meet up with friends
  • answer email
  • fill orders

But the thing I do most often is:


I'm good at it; I learned from my mother, who probably learned from her mother.

  • How will we meet our various financial obligations? (It ain't easy during your children's college years!)
  • Are the deadlines I have set for myself realistic?
  • How many mistakes can I make before throwing up my hands in frustration?
  • How many mistakes can I make before YOU do?
  • Am I overextended?
  • Am I underutilized?
  • When will I grow up?
  • When did I grow old?
  • Will my kids learn to live without me?
  • Do I even want my kids to learn how to live without me?
But what I worry about most often is:

What do I have to do today? This week? This month?

Our "To Do" lists get longer and longer. Studies show that as convenient and time saving inventions have made our lives easier, instead of doing less, we have simply ramped up our expectations accordingly, taking on more and more activities and responsibilities.

During the days of the Pony Express, the mail coming into town was a real occasion. People waited weeks, months, or even years for word of their loved ones.

Now people become impatient if we don't respond to email within hours, or even minutes, let alone days.

On any given day we may:
  • take the dog to the vet
  • draw up a guest list for an upcoming social engagement
  • order prescription refills
  • pick up the dry cleaning
  • compose a memo to co-workers
  • review a quarterly report
  • help our child with her homework
  • cook a nourishing meal
  • volunteer at our children's school
And, if we are very lucky, take a few moments out of our busy lives to knit.

So how are we doing?

Most of us are "doing" very well.

It's the "being" that poses more of a challenge for most of us.

There are two states (yes, I know you thought there were fifty, but stick with me...)

There are two states: being and doing. At any given time, we are usually doing a lot,

but we often forget about the being part.

And (I believe) that is to our eternal detriment.

We are human "beings" after all; not human "doings."


In our book on parenting teens, Greg Sipes and I propose that parenting is not something we do; it is who we are. And who we are makes a lasting impression on our children, far beyond anything we do.

How many times have we met someone, and immediately asked, "What do you do?" as if that is the most crucial bit of information we can glean from them.

To which they respond, "I am a: dentist, stockbroker, stay at home mom, writer, etc."

But that is what they do, not who they are.

Who they are is much deeper, more complex, and not easily encapsulated in a brief engagement.


I used to be a real type A personality; I did it all.

I was Executive Director of a not for profit organization. I met with board members, volunteers, advertising execs, the press, and potential donors. I wrote solicitation letters, contracts, grants, press releases, and newsletters. I put together budgets, collaborative efforts, and sponsorship packets.

I was a wife and mother. I cooked, cleaned, shopped, did laundry, ran errands, and drove car pools. I was treasurer of the PTO and a Cub Scout Den Leader.

I was active in my church. I sang in the choir, sat on the worship committee, designed and constructed liturgical banners, contributed food to every pitch in, participated in every service.

I was a great human doing.

And then I crashed.

I could no longer hear, let alone heed, my inner voice; that of God which dwells in each of us.

I had completely lost touch with who I was.

So I stopped...


I fell into deep depression, and spent one very long year doing nothing. And two more years learning who I was and reordering my activities accordingly.

I quit my job. I attended seminary. I wrote a book. I became a mindful person, one who lives as much as I can, in the present moment.

That is why I took up knitting. To learn to focus on now. To learn how to turn off the product-oriented "doing", in favor of the process-oriented "being."

I find it interesting that "vacation" comes from the root word, vacate, which means: to give up possession or occupancy. We vacate our usual routine, our daily lives, full of all we have to do...

And reconnect with who we are.

That is why I love the lake house. My time here lets me connect directly with my past, my present, and my future.

I am not the same person today as I was a year ago, nor am I yet who I may grow to be in God's good graces. But I do know that, for me, a large part of knowing myself and knowing God means clearing a space for him (and for me) within the activities of a full and rich life.

Therein lies both the challenge and the joy.


My husband sneaked around the outside of the cottage a few days ago, and snapped a picture of me lying on the couch on the porch, reading (and yeah, OK, maybe napping, just a bit.) He told me he wanted to take a picture of the...

"Lazy Susan"

Then he proceeded to nag.

  • "Want to go swimming?"
  • "Want a glass of wine?"
  • "Want to take a walk?"
  • "Want to go tubing?"
  • "Want to play shuffleboard?"
"Well, what do you want to do?"


"Nothing. Really. I am cultivating holy leisure. Just let me be."

The Beatles had it right all along. Who knew?

"When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be. "
- Beatles


Pat K said...

Beautiful. Thank you for the meditation. I'm going to go knit and be in the present moment.

Donna Lee said...

Living in the moment and being mindful of my being is one of my goals. I try everyday not to let the being get overwhelmed by the doing. Somedays I succeed better than others. I think this manifests itself as a calmness. In my work life as a psychiatric social worker I see so many people who are so worried about everything (and sometimes with good reason). I try to get them to breathe and take a moment to just let go. Find a space where you can be at peace and listen to your own small still voice amid all the noise around you.

Thanks for the thoughtful weekend post.

La Cabeza Grande said...

I, too, am working on the core of Zen, and that is living in the moment. It's hard work, avoiding the habit of being absent in the "Now," and projecting what you will do in the "Then."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the thoughtful and thought inspiring post. All of us need to live more in the now and not the past or the future. This is something I am trying to do - not always succeeding but trying. Thanks again for another great post.


Ros Ritchie said...

Thank you! Thank you for reminding me to just be and not to feel guilty for doing just (and only) that. Thank you for reminding me to be still and let God be who He is and to work on me; it's only when I do this that I actually find the peace I've been striving so hard to find. Thank you for your inspiration.

I too was a great doer (and still have those tendencies). I too crashed and burned, although thankfully managed to stay in the depression pit only a few months. I am now three years on, having completely reviewed and changed my life. I am about to embark on a year's intensive post-graduate training to become a primary teacher (like you, I used to be senior in business circles but have no wish to return). I pray I take my learning with me as I throw myself in to this intense period. It will be so easy to get caught up in a cycle of doing and to forget just to be.

Bless you for your wisdom.

Knit and fall back in it said...

Once my daughter graduated from college and established her own home I stopped doing and started being. She is a strong, successful, responsible, beautiful young woman and I realized that I have "done" my job and now I can just "be" proud of her.