Monday, May 28, 2012

lassitude

So I've been reading a lot of poetry lately, specifically Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Francis Thompson.  Here's an excerpt from a poem by Mary Oliver called, When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention:

"As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant.  Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground.  This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully."

And they went on.  "Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness,"

w.o.w.

Lassitude.  Do you know what that means?  I had the vague notion that it was roughly equivalent to laziness, but I felt a pressing to look it up, so I did.  It is actually not exactly laziness, it is the state of feeling weary, listless, without energy.  When I looked up the word lassitude, I felt like I was standing on the wrong end of a jet engine at take off.

Talk about conviction.

I am not a lazy person.  When I don't have something I have to do, I'm quite happy to embark on any of dozens of projects I've wanted to try for a while.  However, I suspect that I've been living in a state of lassitude for months if not years or maybe, if I'm honest, my whole life.  Especially since Emmett's death, there have been days where the only reason I get out of bed is because Quinn is jumping on me.  I feel like I drag my feet though the day sometimes just waiting for the hour when I can hide under the covers again.  Let me pause here and point out that this is not depression.  I have moments of joy and mirth as well as sadness, but the overriding emotion of my life is simply lassitude.

This poem was so arresting because I never really thought of lassitude, the weariness and listlessness of my soul, as a shackle on my heart.  I've wanted to love better and more, I've wanted to do more and be more to the people around me, but I never saw how much my lassitude is a hindrance to who God has created me to be.  I'm sure the feeling of lassitude is part emotion and part biology and part lack of faith, but regardless of its origin, my feelings of emotional and spiritual weariness are probably the single largest hindrance to my fellowship with God.  I don't call people because I'm not feeling perky enough.  I don't show up to an event because I don't want to muster up the energy to make conversation.  I don't even pray fervently, and that doesn't even require physical energy.

May has been my month of medical issues, from strep throat to a sprained ankle.  I've been physically unable to attend church most of the month, and much of my time has been spent in bed.  This time of stillness comes after many months of intense, focused activity.  While the activity was good, I did not realize how much it was covering a heart mired in weariness.  Sure enough, when I stopped moving, I spewed forth lassitude from every corner of my being.  Even though I've had endless stretches of hours to read or pray, I've struggled to do anything more than lay in bed and pretend I don't exist.

I didn't even realize how strong a vice grip that lassitude has on my whole being.  So I've been praying, as much as my undisciplined mind can pray when it encounters such a formidable foe.  I've been praying for deliverance and waiting for my prayer to be answered.  Because, like the roses in the poem, I really do want to spend my life being hugely and damply extravagant before dropping, petal by petal, to the ground.

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