Life in the greater Los Angeles area can be rough on a soul.
By Tera Landers
We drive long distances in grueling traffic to get to jobs we love, and jobs we suffer through. Our friends might live on the next block, but they are just as likely to live in downtown, or in the (other) Valley or in Santa Monica. We must time our visits just right so we don’t get stuck on the 405 or the 110. After work we face the multitudes vying for a parking spot at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. We wait in lines at the bank, dry cleaners, post office. Single folks have a hard time meeting potential mates. Those already mated have a hard time sitting down to a meal together.
We run around this beautiful city, rushing rushing rushing, barely slowing down long enough to notice that the days are, indeed, lengthening. Tonight’s sunset is at 5:48 pm, a full five minutes earlier than last Sunday night. The rains are coming (though never enough), the sweet scent of citrus blossoms is on the breeze, and orange poppies are bursting out all around us.
That busyness affects all of us differently. Some of us thrive on it, adding ever more responsibilities onto our already heaping plates. It feels good to be needed. It feels good to tick items off our never-ending to-do lists. It may feed into our need to control things. But – it may keep us from truly connecting with what lies at the heart of our souls.
My friend Stephanie is an artist. Until a couple of days ago I only knew her as a community activist. Stephanie works tirelessly on historic preservation in northeast LA. She has been doing this for well over a decade. She loves our neighborhood and the people who live there. Stephanie helps neighbors choose paint colors. She finds ways people can afford to stay in their homes. She consults with folks about how they can renovate their homes while keeping the historic character in place. Her passion infuses her connection to our neighborhood.
Friday night I discovered something new about Stephanie. Her heart is with her art.
Stephanie showed a few of us around her studio, filled with paintings she recently completed. Vibrant images of women and endangered species in deep cobalt blues and radiant golden hues lined the walls. As we looked over each piece, Stephanie told us that she hadn’t painted in the last 8 years. And not painting had put her in a terrible depression. That surprised me, because I only knew Stephanie as an incredibly energetic, caring, helpful neighbor and community member.
Yet, without her art she had lost part of her voice. She forgot an essential element of herself. As Stephanie showed us her artwork, she became jubilant. Through her art, she is in the midst of reclaiming a part of her voice that fell dormant.
In some cultures, a dis-spiritual person or dis-connected person is diagnosed by asking four questions:
- Where in your life did you stop singing?
- Where in your life did you stop dancing?
- Where in your life did you stop telling stories?
- Where in your life did you stop listening to silence? (from Mark Yaconelli)
Each one of us has experienced a time in our lives when we have shut down an integral part of ourselves. We wandered in the wilderness. Life became less vigorous. We lost our connection with our self, with our community, or with the sacred. A part of our soul entered a season of barrenness. A piece of us died.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Spring reminds us that life returns. Life always returns. In the midst of our full and busy lives, we must find places where we can sing. Or dance. Or tell stories. Or listen to the silence.
Where can you do this in your life?
Which friends are open to it?
What part of your normal routine can you shift so this can happen?
It is imperative that we allow ourselves the time and ability to connect with our passions. This will enable us to create and choose a life full of meaning and purpose that ensures all of Creation flourishes.
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