I woke up feeling sick this morning.
My tongue parched, stomach growling; my body as if it had been mowed by a steamroller; I could hardly lift myself up from the living room couch, as Natalya sat across from me, sipping her tea quietly.
(Natalya was staying the night, en route back home to Singapore after an autumn internship in D.C.; my Kiwi friend Kat occupied my bedroom; and Wendy, a scientist by day who moonlights as a cellist, pianist, vocalist, journalist, and HIV/AIDS patient mentor, had already shuffled out the door.)
The inevitable had dawned: I was sick.
The early mornings and late nights didn’t help: getting up early to go to work after an evening of meaningful conversation with my friend in town from New Zealand, lasting until 1:00 a.m., left me invigorated but sleep deprived.
And the commitments: the days at work of course, and evenings and weekends, always doing something. And while it was fulfilling, I somehow felt like I wasn’t doing enough. We all feel that anxiety, at some point: about our jobs (that others are getting ahead, or that we’re not satisfied with our work); about friendships or relationships; about a society that is seemingly crumbling around us, and we feel powerless to fix it. And, when we come in contact with the words of Bahá’u'lláh, we’ve been given the medicine to treat an ailing world — but we may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task at hand. Whether it’s the spiritual education of children, the moral empowerment of young adolescents, or study of and sharing the Creative Word with others, we feel pulled in many directions and struggle to work actively toward the betterment of the world.
Examining my course of action and the outcomes, then, I’d become increasingly frustrated with the fact that things weren’t “clicking” the way I expected them to. It left me with a nervous knot in my stomach, sleeping little, eating less. In short, I felt I was falling far short of my goals and expectations.
The stress culminated in my bulldozed, sick state this morning.
Unable to stomach the toast and honey that Kat had prepared for me, and sipping slowly on chamomile tea, I crawled back onto the living room couch, curling underneath the down comforter.
It’s now late evening, and as I chew on a vitamin C tablet, I mull over a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to those gathered at the six Regional Conferences held in the United States, of 41 held worldwide. One statement in particular stands out:
Undeflected by the turmoil and distractions of the world around you, direct your energies to the task at hand with expanded vision and renewed consecration.
The turmoil and distractions of the world around us are self-evident: rampant materialism; a severe financial crisis; corrupt governance; to name only a few. These are external distractions that often cause our actions to stray from that which we believe.
But, what about the distractions and turmoil that lie within us: those feelings of inadequacy? Is there a wisdom behind it, or does it deflect us from accomplishing what we need to?
I derived some inspiration from a talk given last week at the Regional Conference held for the Southeastern United States in Atlanta, Georgia. Stay tuned for Part II to find out what I learned.