For me, soul care rarely comes through celebrity magazines or reality TV. Soul care rarely comes through junk food indulgence or a bitch session over drinks. Soul care rarely comes through more time on Twitter or online shopping. Soul care rarely comes through talking about politics or watching cable news. Soul care rarely comes from podcasts or book reviews.
So when I’m tired and worn out, when I’m burned out on religion, when life starts to feel narrow, when I start to feel misunderstood or marginalised, defensive and territorial, when the haters or the nay-sayers or the scoffers take the seat in my mind or become the loudest voices in the room, I start to think I need a little more money, I need a little more recognition, I need a little more exegesis, I need a little more page views and clicks and comments, I need a little more time, I need a little more energy, I need a little more help, I need a seat at the table.
(But the truth is that I don’t really need those things. I have enough, right now, for all that God has for me. I have enough time. I have enough money. I have enough because He is more than enough and so I am enough and all of this, whatever this is sometimes, it is enough.)
And so these days, I am learning to take more care with my soul.
I make a cup of tea in the afternoon and I sit down. I paint a thrift store rocking chair a deep scarlet. I hang out with friends. I call my mother. I make meals for someone just home from the hospital. I rock my baby. I go for a walk at dawn. I put the computer away. I pull it back out to write what I want to write, instead of what I think will get me a lot of clicks. I read Beezus and Ramona out loud. I do the laundry, steadily, folding the clothes when they’re still warm. I roll up the rug and sweep the floors. I write letters. I pay attention to the moments of the day. I pray. I do the daily and unsexy work of heroism. I read my Bible instead of what someone tells me about the Bible. I draw with sidewalk chalk. I go to the Farmer’s Market instead of the grocery store.
And I read poetry.
I read poetry every day now, like my daily devotion, like a daily vitamin, like a daily dose of wonder and quiet and exhale.
I usually start with my long-time friends, the Romantics, but it never takes long for me to dip back into Luci Shaw and then I’m dog-earing and underlining Mary Oliver again. Sometimes I wonder if we could call a time-out just so that everyone could read Wendell Berry or Gerard Manley Hopkins or Billy Collins or Coleridge, Shelley, Wordsworth or Rilke or Maya Angelou or William Blake.
These days, radical self-care is coming through eyes that see and ears that hear and a heart that receives and the realisation that if I have to choose between literalism and mysticism, poetry and prose, I’ll make another cup of tea and read another poem.
It’s simple and it’s beautiful and, these days, that is enough for me and it feels fearless.
My favourites for these days, in particular:
- Polishing the Petoskey Stone by Luci Shaw
- Migration by W.S. Merwin
- New and Selected Poems, Vol. II by Mary Oliver
- The Complete and Collected Poems of Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou
- The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson