My ex-boyfriend is a preacher.
He is not my only ex-boyfriend to have established a vocation in ministry—the first had a stint as a Catholic seminarian, but that’s another story for another day—however we remain on good terms and surprisingly theologically compatible.
I surprised him on a Sunday about a month ago, driving 20 minutes off of the freeway to pay a visit to his tiny country church. It’s a freestanding brick sanctuary with five rows of pews and no parking lot, bordered by a cemetery on a hill. You know, the kind of church you see in period pieces on the Civil War or life on the Yorkshire moors.
My stories of my ex are typically marked by my characterization of both of us as awkward twenty-somethings, but watching him lead worship was something of a metamorphosis. In front of the congregation, he turned from a bumbling former sweetheart into a silver-tongued orator. Standing at the altar, he presided over the service with grace and good humor.
I resolved that either the pulpit was magic, or—a much more likely explanation—that my friend had truly begun embodying his calling. As Rilke wrote, he had made peace with the unsolved questions of life, and was now “living his way into the answers.”
I listened very carefully to his sermon, and it struck a chord with me. He spoke about how we all have things that hold us back in our lives—personal, professional, spiritual hangups—that keep us from living fully and unreservedly. So many people bury themselves in work or toxic relationships or vices and find themselves stuck. My ex-boyfriend, the preacher, explained that his hangup was quite deceptively simple: inactivity.
It has taken me over a month to write this post. It has been sitting unfinished in the queue since the middle of July while I have watched innumerable episodes of The OC, cooked many a gourmet meal for my housemates and our guests, and read pages upon pages of stupid books that I have no intention of really remembering.
Have I felt like I have done much of anything during these days of watching and cooking and reading and sleeping and sitting and wondering?
No, not really.
For me, this has been a summer of inactivity, and it has made me feel small and fruitless. I have become mired in my idleness, and it in turn has rendered me restless and tense. It is a funny thing how overworking and underworking can beget the same results. It is another funny thing that folks from your past can pop back into your life at exactly the opportune moment to teach you these life lessons, and force you to recognize that you do in fact need a vacation from your vacation.
Today I started my first year of graduate school, eager to break my cycle of sluggishness. I read ahead. I ate a good breakfast. I picked out my clothes and put on my makeup and did my hair. And I went to class and I had more fun than I had experienced in weeks because I was so excited to have something to do. I was excited! You should do things that excite you, because sloth (and its accompanying friends, doubt and discontent) is a parasite that will otherwise feast on your dwindling motivation.
Side note: Okay, my new house was also infested with fleas when I moved into it at the beginning of the month, so that’s a thing too. Have you ever faced a flea infestation? They are soulless bastards, and I have found sadistic delight in drowning them one by one as I encounter them.
This wasn’t the cheeriest of posts, which was one of the many reasons why I was reluctant to ever publish it. I’m feeling much happier now that I have meetings and classes to vary my days with, as well as the words of an old friend to think about whenever I start to feel the old lethargy creeping in.
Maybe I should take long Sunday drives more often.