Sunday, November 20, 2016

Putting air in the tires

Spider plants and Klein bottle. 
I put air in the Mini's tires today.  The low pressure light has been on for...well, longer than a week, and longer than I would like to admit.  Surprise, the car drives better when the tires are properly inflated.  But I just haven't had the time to do it.

I needed air, too.  Work has been chaotic, so much to do, and no breathing room at all.  This week I had more than 30 scheduled work hours on the books -- meetings, classes, talks, office hours.  Everything else — two manuscripts to edit and return, class prep, grading, letters of recommendation to write and submit, administrative planning, and dear God, the email, the email — had to be shoehorned into the remaining waking hours. And still they knocked on my door. Every 10 minutes one afternoon.

By Thursday, the email was flowing into my box at a rate that exceeded my rate of response.  I would answer an email, click back to the main screen to find three or four new ones.   No, I had to tell students, I can't meet with you this week, and perhaps not next either, as the molten lava of commitment creeps across my calendar, leaving ashes in its wake.  The good news was that saying "no" at this point was easy. There was no more time to give away.  The bad news, I was desperate for air.  For space to breathe.

On Friday, I had a lunch time appointment with my spiritual director. And this weekend, I had no work committments that required my presence elsewhere (for the first time since the middle of August).  And I declared a day of rest.  A sabbath of sorts.

I wrote yesterday.  I transplanted the spider plants and their offspring.  I got my hair cut.  I went to the farmer's market. I did my laundry and folded the towels.  I got my flu shot. I prayed.  I put air in my tires — and in my soul.

Lessons for young faculty (and others with high demand, high autonomy jobs) in learning to say no.  Or in my case, re-learning.


  1. Beautifully said, the theology of exhaustion and rest. I am always reminded of St. Paul and at times such as you describe I think that I am "poured out like a libation."

    Saying no is the hardest thing. I think I learned a little bit more about it when on Camino, which is ironically perhaps, about saying yes.

  2. "In-spiration" from ordinary actions -- like putting air in the tires of your car. Thank you. I find restoration in farmers' markets, too. Also, in browsing libraries and bookstores. Now that I am in less demanding circumstances, I can practice saying "no, thank you" more easily. Not yet guilt-free, however!

  3. Katherine3:20 PM

    Thank you -- much needed wisdom in these crazy end of semester days ... ordinary actions are healing, restoring. (And your workload makes me truly ashamed to complain about mine!) I'll remember that molten lava image ...

  4. A great reminder that we all need to set aside time just to be! Blessings in this Advent season.