Note: This was written four years ago, during an intense season of uncertainty. I want to share it here, for those going through such a season now. Please rest assured, it doesn’t last forever.
There’s a sweet spot between being totally adrift, and being owned by my to-do list, and lately I’ve been calling it my “daily bread.” The phrase comes from one of the most well-known prayers in the Christian faith, a pearl of simplicity among more lofty spiritual ideas. It speaks of contentment and trust, and the connection between heaven and earth.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of it as an orientation to past and future, a posture of embracing what’s right in front of me.
In a way it’s cleansing, not in the physical “detox” sense, which would involve no bread, and therefore is something I’m not at all interested in, but in the spiritual and emotional sense. It’s stripping off old ways of thinking that weighed me down, and letting go of the old questions I won’t ever have answers to. It’s peeling away the scratchy clatter of an over-analyzing mind with its never-ending mental math, sanding away the incessant worry about whether it all works out, smoothing out the ragged obsession with when and how.
It’s amazing how much energy I spend wondering where it’s all going. It’s like a hamster wheel. Run run run. Am I making the right choices? Doing the right things? Run run run. What if it doesn’t work out? What if it all goes wrong? Run run run. What will I do next?
Lots of energy, lots of stress, lots of anxiety. Very little forward movement.
Add to that the unrelenting nature of the modern To-Do List, which seems to compound all of it. When you’re putting in all that effort, how could you not wish life had that cheat-y little “check answers” button the Sudoku game has, so you could at least know you were on the right track? If only.
The other night, I woke my husband up in the middle of the night and told him I was too stressed to sleep. My heart was racing hard, which had happened once before. That time, we had gone to the ER where they told me to chill out and drink less caffeine, which, while not entirely unhelpful, was not an experience I wanted to repeat.
So instead, I curled up next to him and focused on the warmth of his chest, the weight of his arm over me, the comfort of his head on mine. Just that one moment, nothing more. And you know what? It worked. My heart rate slowed down, my breathing came back to normal, and I fell back to sleep.
The power of being present.
There’s a great deal I can’t control right now, and it’s teaching me to go with the flow. I need this. I need to learn to lighten up, to not take everything so seriously. I’m already prioritizing madly and delegating like crazy, and so it becomes largely about grace, about being gentle with myself and not letting the weight of it all get to me.
Some days I do better than others, but I think that’s why the idea of “daily bread” is so appealing to me right now. It’s like a reset. It takes all this pressure off.
You don’t need to have a “five-year plan” to live with intention and purpose. You don’t need to know how your story will work out to have hope. You don’t need to have big, lofty goals to live a big, brave, beautiful life. Do you feel freedom in that?
It could be that the future opens up the most when we’re the least concerned about it.
Daily bread. The theme is staying with me. It’s being satisfied in the here and now, satisfied with the next step, not needing the whole map. It looks like making dinner and tidying the kitchen, being grateful that I have all I need, instead of worrying about tomorrow. It’s pausing and asking: what is the most important thing I can be doing right now? What do I need to be doing today? And what might I be able to let go of that just doesn’t need to be done?
It’s being willing to come back to the same inspiration or the same wisdom over and over, gathering that manna day after day until it settles in my bones.
For now, just take deep breaths. Tackle one thing at a time. Write everything down, don’t keep it all in your head. Be honest. And one way or another, make time for the things that matter.
We’ll get there. Give it time.