Magpie Moment: Sustainability

As I dream up version 2.0 of my online soulcare community, Flock, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would like to create. Frederick Beuchner once asked us to find the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meets.” That’s what I’m trying to do with Flock. So I’m pondering quite a bit about the community’s needs, and the place where I can give most joyfully. I’m looking for the intersect so I can dance in the overlap.

But even more than these thoughts on content, I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability. Where is the place where the world’s needs and my passion intersect, and how can I live in that place for the long run??

After parenting, the hardest job I ever had was pastoring. The pay was minimal. The hours were long. The demands were endless. There were no boundaries. I loved the work, so I threw myself into it, body and soul. My housemate Sharon cautioned me to pace myself. My boss encouraged me to have sabbath time (while not modeling this himself.) And my congregation looked at me hungrily from the pews. Their needs and expectations were endless. True, there were always a handful of dear souls who would check in on me, offer to help, remind me to rest. But it was hard for me to hear this minority voice in the midst of a needy, vocal community. I loved the work, so I thought my “deep gladness” would carry me through.

Then my body collapsed.

That was 5 years ago. I’m only now strong enough to start again.

So in light of that story, I’ve been asking myself: What does it mean to do what you love in a sustainable fashion — without burnout? What does it mean to live passionately over the long haul? What does it take to do the passionate work you love for a lifetime?

There are a lot of amazing people doing stunning and self-sacrificial things out there. Just amongst my in-real-life friends I have Rose, who started a non-profit while running a church and raising kids; Jen who starts small business and saves refugees as often as I pour a cup of tea; and Shari who just adopted another set of twins (teenagers!) I am inspired and in awe of their stories. But those stories are not always transparent. Even among these friends, I don’t always see the infrastructure of self-care that lets them live a life of service. And I don’t always see the secret collapses. (Although when I do, I am honored to be a withmate in the midst of the beautiful mess.)  The picture is even more incomplete when we only read about this inspiring people on line — where we have even less of a panoramic view of things. We don’t always see the sustainable path.

I believe we can find a way to serve and live passionately within the framework of healtful shalom. I believe I can find away to serve passionately — even with a chronic illness, even with teenagers, even with a delicate HSP soul.

I don’t have the answers yet. But maybe we can find them together, in the Giant Pool of Wisdom. So tell me friends, when you are doing what you are passionate about:

  • what are your physical needs and how to do you meet them?
  • what are you emotional needs and how to you honor them?
  • what are your spiritual needs and what practices sustain you?
  • what are your needs for rest and sleep and how to you make space for them?
  • what kind of creative outlet do you need and what hobbies or habits fulfills that?
  • what kind of interpersonal connection do you need and how do you create habits to nurture your realtionships?

Go ahead, Magpie. Write a big long comment telling me all about it. Or let the world know how you do it on your blog and drop the link below. Your right-fit solution will give us ideas about what might work for us. We really can find the place where soulcare and worldcare meet, if we share our strengths. It’s like mama always says, “There ain’t no place to go, but together.”

My blessing for you today is this: May you find the place where the world’s great hunger and your deep gladness meet; and may you dance in that glory for a lifetime.

Much Warmth,

*your magpie girl


Magpie Moments is our Monday morning series this Fall, featuring a single shot of soulcare from me, your Magpie Girl. Join us each week and toss back some nurturing goodness. Need a double shot of soulcare? Click here for previous Magpie Moments. Thank you for being here today.

j October 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I don’t remember how I found you, but every time I visit your blog it feels like soul medicine. Thank you!

I’m interested in this subject too. In January I will launch an expanded love project (2011 has been my year of loving fearlessly). I’ve thought so much about content and where my strengths and the world’s need connect. I’ve thought about how to stay tapped into my soul and facing north. Reading this post, I realize I never thought about emotional/physical/psychological sustainability. I look forward to hearing how people reply.

heidi October 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I am still floundering on the subject myself, but people like give me great hope!

Simone October 18, 2011 at 10:59 am

Hmm. This post makes me think that my life (currently involving a full graduate courseload, a 30/hr week job while I’m trying to start an online business) currently has NO room for me to meet a lot of my needs. Spiritual? Creative? Forget about it. I’m just trying to stay afloat!

And of course, there are people (such as the ones you mention on this post) who seem to do it ALL. Except (also as you say), we don’t get to see when they collapse. Does the world need more stories of apparent superheroes breaking down? So that we can finally stop living in this fantasy world of Getting Everything Done and Never Having a Crisis?

The insfrastructure of care. How do you build it when it seems impossible?

If I were to daydream, I imagine a life in which I have time every single morning for an hour of yoga, a leisurely cup of tea, and at least two hours of writing/creating time. Maybe 4-5 hours during the day doing research (my current job). A break, in which I get to contemplate, read books, take walks. Then a couple of hours for friends/clients (I’m imagining my dream world, in which I am a highly effective and sought after coach and speaker.) Then, plenty of time for an unrushed, lovely, home-cooked dinner with my family. Then an early night to bed so I can get my 7 hours.

This is the Dream Life in which every single one of my needs — physical, emotional, spiritual, creative, interpersonal — are met. Right now it feels like pure fantasy. I mean, sure, I could live this life but it would also mean I have no money (…right?) and all of my NOT BEING CONSTANTLY EXHAUSTED MEANS YOU’RE BEING A LAZY ASSHOLE!! monsters are running amok.

Or, at the very least if this could happen some time in the future, it would be a super duper distant future.

.. that’s what it feels like. :(

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