Over the last two weeks the expression that keeps popping into my head each evening when I lay in bed and review the day just past is “running to keep from flying.” I have no idea where I learned it or why it’s stuck in my mind as the proper image for these days, but there it is, refusing to leave.
Is it an expression that others know? I can’t tell. I’ve asked Kathy about it and she’s never heard it. I’ve tried googling it and looking for its idiom history and can’t find it anywhere. Perhaps I combined phrases like “hit the ground running” and “off to a flying start” but when I think of the expression, it doesn’t feel newly created by me.
Running to keep from flying calls up an image for me of running through a large field with a pair of (invisible) wings on my back that want to lift me in the air. I’m aware that, while flying might be a wonderful experience, there’s so much that I have to get done in the field that, instead of letting the wings pull me up off the ground, I run faster to be ahead of the wings’ pull. Each time the wings’ ’ pull catches up, I run faster still, trying to get more and more done and running more and more to try to keep from being lifted away from what has to be finished before I can be free to take off or to just lie down in the field and rest.
I know where the feeling comes from. These last weeks my workdays have been endless. Yesterday, a typical day hour and workwise, I started my work at 6:30 am, trying to get through some paperwork before leaving for a meeting at 7:30. I used car travel time as I went from meeting space to meeting space to get through some of the reading material I need to complete since I was lucky enough to find it in audioformat. I left my last meeting of the day at 10:05, drove home and answered emails while eating dinner, finally giving up running for the night at 11:30. This morning, it all started over again.
Running in this way is often making everything a blur. My glasses bump up and down, making my view a bit dizzying. I don’t have time to think much about, much less enjoy, the various things I’m doing as I run. Rather I just need to keep the wings’ pull from catching up to me. Running like this makes me feel less than human. It doesn’t feel like much of a way to live, though I’m pushing myself on through the hope that part of the pull should decrease as I get to know the new job more, that that job’s hours should decrease to 20 or 25 a week sometime soon, and that some of the pull should decrease as I move away from my pastoral responsibilities in April (a move that, if I were running slower would grieve me deeply, but there’s not time for that). Or at least I hope so, if only I can run like this for four months.
In the meanwhile what’s keeping me going are the centering moments. My days are such that there are lots of chances at the beginning and ends of meetings to be with people leading and participating in spoken prayer and they help give me some energy. Most helpful, though, are the moments I’m grabbing –by walking to the car or restroom by myself, in the moment when Macy the cat first wakes me up in the morning, or just before I fall asleep–to be in silence and breath, focus, open to the divine. Those moments keep me going, giving me some centeredness as I go on to whatever is next on the agenda, and giving me hope—that one day soon a few hours will appear when there’ll be a chance to just sit in the field and look around at all the beauty or, who knows, even a chance to let go of all the work for a while and take off and fly!!!