It comes in different forms.
Sometimes it's the smartphone in your hand, or on your bed, or next to your elbow. I cannot tell you the number of times I've come to a moment that felt hard, in my writing or singing, and I didn't really want to deal with it, and the solution was Instagram.
Sometimes it's the lure of the calendar, of planning. I am here to tell you that planning time to pursue your calling, planning all the things you will do with it, is not actually doing the thing. I quote to you the wise words of the great sage Amy Poehler:
So what do I do? What do we do? How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? How do we drag ourselves through the muck when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop?
Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer... And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You and write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.
- Amy Poehler, Yes Please (emphasis mine)
The planning is not the thing, the calendar is not the thing, the scheduling time to write or sing or paint or cook or garden or throw a ball or quilt or do some accounting work (Hi, Mom) -- the scheduling is not the thing. The doing it is the thing. At the end of the day, everything surrounding the thing is nil if we don't actually do the thing.
That is what I know.
I am here to say that some of the things that look like distractions aren't, actually. On Monday a friend texted me to see if I wanted to hang out after work -- and I did. Same again on Wednesday, when I ended up not practicing at all. It is not that anything that takes you out of doing the thing is evil. Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes God disrupts our well-ordered lives to remind us that He is God and we are human and we need to remember we are people, not machines. It's this spontaneity that lends color and mosaic-like variety to our days.
It's the willingness to bend a little, or a lot, that creates a good story.
What we are learning is when to sway and when to stand firm. When to step aside and when to plant our feet. It's a perpetual dance that we are ever-always practicing and never mastering.
And now we're gonna get a little specific, a little close to home.
Sometimes it's the relationship you've longed after for six months.
You've been in relationships before, and you were very clear: You're grand, but practicing comes before you. And you've got the same outlook this time.
But something happens. Something is different. Maybe it's the person (in hindsight, you suspect that it is). Maybe it's you. Maybe it's just what your friend says after the fact: you wanted it to work so badly. And even then, when said friend says it, you still want it to work, so much that it physically hurts you and your chest feels like it's caving in on itself.
Maybe that's it.
Sometimes we stand firm and break when we should bend. And then sometimes we dance to the side when what we need to do is hold our ground.
That caving-in sensation? It mirrors what you felt in your chest whenever he walked into your practice sessions.
Remember what I said about doing the thing?
That means that the time spent doing the thing is consecrated to God.
It means that the action of doing the thing is sacred. We are not to mess around with it.
And then this boy walks into your practice room before you've even warmed up all the way, and it's not his fault, because you've welcomed it.
And one time won't kill you, really.
But it turns into a second time, and a third, and a fifth, and before you know it you are hoping he walks into your practice room and plops down on your piano bench in front of your copy of "Prendi, per me sei libero" and starts doing something else.
It's not his fault.
What you have done is allowed something to walk into your sacred time, and that is not to say that the thing or the person is wicked or bad. It's to say that you have to establish some boundaries.
And you know it.
(When I say "you," we all know who I'm talking about, right? Consider this Current Sara writing to Past Sara, a la Ted in How I Met Your Mother: "Dammit, Past Ted!")
You know you know it, too, because your posture suffers. Piano benches are NOT comfortable, but you slump, and the curve in your spine comes to reach hunchback-ian levels, and and and you feel your chest caving in on itself in a very un-singer-like way. Your voice teacher would have a thing or two to say if she could see you now. And part of the Giant Spinal Slouch is that you're trying to be comfortable, but really you're trying to hide the fact that you sing opera at the same time that you are proud of it and want to have sacred practice time.
He takes it away from you, but only because you give it away.
Because you really want this to work.
You forget that it could work without you giving away the sacredness of your calling.
So much of being a believer is just the cycle of forgetting and remembering, forgetting and remembering, over and over and over again. Calling is a little like that, too.
Sometimes the distractions grow. That's why we have to have clear boundaries. Because if we don't, the distractions turn into detours. We go from glancing out the window at a bright spot to pulling over onto a dirt road to get out of the car to see what it is. To take a closer look.
And sometimes we turn away from the main road entirely to chase a rabbit.
This post is the first of a mini series-within-a-series. The post on detours is to come tomorrow, so stay tuned, sports fans.
But for today, let us say: not everything we think is a distraction actually is one. And sometimes the things we want the most can be the biggest distractions of all.
Be on your guard, friends. The enemy is in the least likely places.
Do not give away the sacredness of what you have.