by Krista E. Hughes
In his poem “What To Remember When Waking” poet David Whyte describes the moment we wake from sleep, noting that fleeting sliver of time between our waking and our planning of the day before us. He cautions that our life is much too large for the limited plans we make for it.
Anxiety, even for the non-anxious, can be omnipresent and overwhelmingly multifaceted, from the mundane to the weighty. When my thoughts are not occupied with how we’re going to pull together Halloween costumes last-minute or the professional emails I need to send or my overdue writing obligations, I am grieving over Syrian refugees, another black person brutalized, more polar ice melting—and cursing my sense of helplessness. Stress. Guilt. Constriction.
How to gain some measure of control over things? Make a plan. Beginning first thing. How else will I get through my day and get it all done? Never mind that this is a coping mechanism that may help me cope but rarely leads to non-anxious flourishing.
What do I miss as I race through my plan? The children’s creativity and delight that goes into imagining their costumes, the opportunity for personal connection amidst professional demands, the joy and challenge of articulating ideas, and the spaces of breath that return me to a sense of perspective and possibility, even with regard to the world’s most intractable problems. Some planning is necessary, but too much constricts my life—and my spirit.
Process-relational thought affirms a God who has a capacious vision rather than a definitive plan. While there is certainly an ordering that takes place, the process-relational cosmos moves forward with spontaneity, novelty, and a sense of open possibility. I remind myself this because when I cling too tightly to my plans, I am working against the very cosmic flow of which I am a part.
As we lay ourselves down to sleep at the end of this long day, may we commit to waking tomorrow into that precious liminal space of possibility, to keeping the planning at bay for a few moments longer in order to let the breath come in.