"Ethel! You get your clothes on!": How the Mundane Becomes Sacrifice and Sacrament
Getting dressed in the morning is painful for me.
It is also sacrificial, sacramental.
It integrates physical and spiritual realities in a way nothing else does.
Maybe you're like me. I hate stopping what I’m doing to start something else. This includes sleeping.
(And it only applies to intention, not distraction--in which case, starting something else is easy!)
But if I must stop sleeping, instead of getting up and dressed, I would rather begin writing down thoughts with which I waken, or read something that currently has my attention. Books, pen and paper are always stacked next to my bed on the blue chair, a relic of my grandfather’s homestead, which serves as my nightstand.
What could be wrong with this?, I defend myself. Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way that it’s a necessary practice, to write three pages every morning. I’m not sure, though, that waking at 7:15 and sitting up in bed writing and reading until 11:29 (which sounds better than noon...!) is what she had in mind.
Nonetheless, from this hallowed space, as I have listened to construction and the rest of country life taking place outside my open window, I have also:
-- Conducted the business of afterschool transportation with my grandson via text
-- Facebook messaged a friend with a passage from my reading which I think she will find
helpful to her book project
-- Practiced 30 minutes of centering prayer
-- Worked on an upcoming retreat presentation
-- Planned dinner
-- Written a couple of blog posts
Still. It seems more legit if I’m writing at my desk, makeup on--or at the least dressed, with breakfast and outdoor chores behind me. Instead I’m propped up with three pillows, books/papers/phone strung across the comforter, dental appliance still sitting on the bathroom shelf (which I’ve worn for years, thanks to a teen car crash), and fending off the early September chill in my ever-present black chenille robe.
Eventually there will be tasks for which I will have to be what Mom called presentable.
-- Like dinner at 5:30 with my in-laws and their visiting cousins.
-- Like meeting my granddaughter’s bus at 4 p.m.
-- Like answering the door for the UPS truck.
How can I leave this sanctuary without begrudging the act?
Sacrificially. Sacramentally, I tell you.
I’m a morning person neither by design nor by conditioning so having to get dressed upon rising just adds insult to injury. For years, as a career musician and minister, my working days rarely started before 2 p.m.—except on Wednesdays when there were meetings scheduled according to bankers’ hours. And the few gigs I held at public schools when I had to be on site at the “crack of early”—a phrase I borrowed from a generous friend who just happens to be my husband, who laughed like a school girl when I told him my required arrival time, and who holds a very different view of both mornings and getting dressed than I.
I could live contentedly in this space between my ears surrounded by authors and ideas. But as wise others have said, art exists to support life, not the other way around. This assumes there are other vital elements to said life, like keeping good tax records, laundry, meeting school busses and eating dinner with relatives.
It’s true. My current work is writing and reading and praying and thinking and creating.
But it’s also dirt, and laughter and exercise, and bills. And [most of] that requires getting dressed.
So I try.
I try to stop sleeping and smile in the morning—through scratchy eyes and monster breath.
And once in a while I remember to say thanks for the increasingly-rare nights of restful sleep.
I try to write just briefly enough to capture what I dreamed or woke up thinking about—
And when I don’t forget, I offer it up as prayer.
I do stumble to the bathroom for whatever needs doing…
…thanking God that it all works.
I try to exercise a bit, stretching my limbs.
Remembering days in physical therapy reminds me to be thankful I can move.
I try to wash my face—usually. And bathe if I didn’t last night.
I give thanks that there are people in my life whom I love, who support and surround and suck
life from me, for whom I will put on makeup and fix my hair…or at least moisturizer and a hat.
I will don whatever is needed for the day’s demands.
I will give thanks for provision and meaningful work to do, even if it’s just tending the tomatoes.
“Present your bodies…a living sacrifice…holy...(wholly?)…acceptable to God…your reasonable service,” I read.
I guess this starts with getting dressed.
So I try.
What is something you dread doing that you have turned into an act of love?
Is there some ordinary task that could become an extraordinary expression of love if you began to consider it as both sacrifice and symbol?
Posted by Gwen S at 2:16 PM