the no that leads to yes

Mark and I are preparing for a small getaway.  Only a couple of nights, tied in with a business trip, but I will have the luxury of a hotel room and a keyboard to myself for a few hours and then some much-anticipated time alone with my husband.   I have been reading Gift From the Sea again, setting my mind in a frame for the coming days.  

Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes:

"It is a difficult lesson to learn today - to leave one's friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.  For me, the break is the most difficult..."

I can relate.  For such a long time in our lives, leaving was nearly impossible.  One of our children needed constant supervision, even up into the late teen years.  We forgot about regular date nights, weekends away, even a few hours out at a coffee shop most of the time.  Contrary to what people say, you can live without solitude and escape, you can even thrive in your own way - but, I suspect, only for a time.  

Now we make casual plans for a getaway and it is done.  The most difficult part is retraining myself to go without guilt, and that is why I have been so glad to pull Anne Lindbergh off the shelf this week.  

"Moon shell...You will remind me that unless I keep the island-quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large.   You will remind me that woman must be still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of her activities; that she must be the pioneer in achieving this stillness, not only for her own salvation, but for the salvation of family life, of society, perhaps even our civilization."

I think perhaps this is necessary for all people, not only women, this certainty of self and calling that allows us to stand still at the axis of need and demand.  How many times have I settled my own spirit by rehearsing the parameters of my calling and work, reminding myself that a muscular "no" is one of the keys to holding the self still and peaceful?  Perhaps this is easier for a person of faith, for I rest confident that Providence orchestrates the meeting of the world's needs and my part is simply this work, this giving, this faithfulness.  That belief makes the "no" possible.

The "no" isn't just for other people's demands however, is it?  It's a "no" for us too, that sometimes means "no more housework", "no more obsessing", "no more late nights", "no more perfectionism".  Recently, the "no" led me to hand off quite a bit of the household work so I could spend more time writing.  A "no" that leads to a wonderful "yes." As Lindbergh said, the breaking was the hardest part.  Letting go of what I think I should be doing for more of what I want to be will take me awhile to adjust.

But I will learn it, in the way we learn to do all good things: little by little, practice by practice, habit by habit.