When I was in therapy after my divorce, the therapist said that we each come to a relationship with a bucket of love chits and that we keep exchanging them, keeping our buckets full (read: best case scenario). In the case of my relationship, my bucket was feeling lighter with each passing year. I felt I was the one always bending to the beloved. Concessions, compromises, love, acts of service, and all of those love languages that we all need to buoy our marriage was strained in mine.
In a similar fashions, we have our daily life bucket, with the acts of giving, volunteering, working, showing up, being present, supporting, nourishing, and loving others as how we spend our chits. However, this bucket needs refilling as well. Last night, was another opportunity to volunteer and I sat it out. Not without guilt, no I felt guilt, but I refused to give one more of my hours in the service of others, I needed another activity, a receiving one, not a giving one, so I spent my time with friends – it was very simple, I went to a friend’s house and she made me dinner and we watched an episode of Nashville that she loves. And when I came home, another friend stopped by with a dinner to go and we spent time together. This was what my bucket needed.
The first friend says she is turning 12 this year because it’s been 12 years since her cancer diagnosis and she started her birthday clock over again when she was cancer-free. In 2011, we were walking around the Big Lake at City Park and she described how that singular event in her life had turned her life around. It was the impetus that got me thinking about selling the LaLa and moving on into a life that was more meaningful to me and less about what my dreams had been then what were my dreams now.
We keep moving along the spiral towards knowing what we need and what the world needs from us with each year that we are here.
Today, through the generosity of a friend, I have a panel pass to the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. I am going to go to as many sessions as I can, because I can, and will let these literary hours fill my bucket. This week has been a measure of give and take – taking in Stevie Wonder and John Waters, giving to Tin’s school and the Welcome Table. A push me, pull me life, but it keeps my bucket full.
The trick is to be aware of that bucket’s measure – too little and you are depleted, too much is an act of violence.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, poet, social activist, and a mystic wrote these words years ago, and yet they resonate today:
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.