Yesterday I arrived home from a weeklong visit to the Chautauqua Institution, a wonderful place in New York that my family visits every summer. It’s really difficult to describe Chautauqua, and so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that. What does or doesn’t go on there isn’t really the point of this story anyway. The point of this story has to do with what being at Chautauqua does for ME.
When I am on my vacation, I attend a short worship service most days (but only if the preacher of the week is really good because mornings). I also take in two lectures most days, topics determined by a theme for the week. One takes place in a large amphitheater and the other in a smaller venue called the Hall of Philosophy. So with just these things, being on this trip gives me all kinds of fuel. Fuel for my spirit, fuel for my brain.
I am also there with family, so I get all kinds of connective fuel. I plug back into relationships and watch my kids and extended family do the same, getting to those conversations that take more than a lunch date, phone call, or even Sunday dinner can allow. In our home away from home we also have access to concerts, ballet performances, plays, visual arts galleries, and even a few comedians. So I get a big dollop of culture while I’m there as well.
Now, if you’ve hung in with me, I appreciate the trust, because this is not a commercial about my favorite place. Frankly I don’t need anyone making it harder to get tickets, but I wanted to show you how FULL my week was, how packed with things that are nourishing to me, how abundant the goodness. And I didn’t even mention the lake, the wooded walks, and the chipmunks… SO FULL.
And so I leave at the end of the week admittedly a little tired because I hate to miss a single opportunity and it’s a LOT of stimulation. There’s not a ton of downtime for this introvert. But even with that slight imbalance when I come home, to my life that really is pretty great, it feels a little empty.
After spending all day in the car yesterday, I stayed home this morning with our old canine buddy who is still working on forgiving us for leaving him… well, okay he doesn’t actually appear to be working on it at all, but I trust forgiveness will come anyway at some point because dogs are like that. In staying home I had the opportunity to catch up on some things I needed to do: some music I really needed to practice, some laundry I needed to get going, a little more unpacking because we ran out of gas to finish last night after the drive… and here I am in a lovely home, having some peace and quiet like I often really really want and honestly, it doesn’t feel all that great.
The funny thing is I didn’t really notice it, that it didn’t feel so great, until I noticed myself dipping a little desperately into the container of whole cashews. If you’re not a cashew fan, let me just catch you up by pointing out that they are VERY satisfying for hunger and they are a favorite gap filler of mine.
I noticed as I was attending to my bits, carting laundry around, making some iced tea, stopping to pet the annoyed dog and talk to him in hope of speeding reconciliation along, that I just kept dipping into the jar. Munch, munch, munch. I noticed after a couple of dips, that unlike the first foray, it really wasn’t about physical hunger at all anymore.
And I heard in my head: “They’re cashews, not communion Jules.” We can talk about the voices in my head if you want, but it could take awhile. So let’s just suffice it to say that this was the voice of the wiser and sometimes kind of impatient me, the one who wonders how many times I need to hear something before I get it. This lesson was about the use of food in inappropriate ways. This lesson was about covering up how I felt and failing to see what I really wanted.
I wanted to feel FULL. I wanted to feel bursting at the seams full. I wanted to feel all of the full feelings I got to feel for a week, but I was using the wrong tools. I wasn’t craving food, well, at least not after the first handful. I was craving the feeling being full, deeply satisfied, plugged into my body and my mind. I wanted to feel like there are so many amazing and brilliant people out there doing good work and so many more who are just on the verge of that and maybe don’t even know it yet. I wanted to feel like anything is possible, and that every single one of us has gifts beyond measure, even if we aren’t the one dancing Acteon’s part in the ballet. I wanted to feel full of new ideas and inspiration. I wanted to feel plugged in to the people who matter most and to myself. I wanted to feel full.
But cashews aren’t communion and so I put the jar away. I wasn’t hungry anymore anyway. They were just filler.
Yesterday in the car I made a list of actions I want to take that reflect some of the parts of our vacation that I want to extend into my “regular” life. I’m going to take another look at that list and see if it is listening to what I’m hungry for, and when my seminarian gets home from the service he was wise enough to go to in spite of fatigue, we’re going to check a couple of those boxes off, add the things/people/experiences we want to have to feel that good full, that deeply satisfied feeling. Because that’s really what it’s about right? Having the presence of mind to see what we’re REALLY hungry for and then figuring out what to do about it. Cashews aren’t communion. Cookies aren’t love. Physical fullness doesn’t do anything for a case of the soul empties. It’s all just cover and I can do better for all of me.
If you and your taste buds can’t seem to get a handle on what you’re really hungry for, I’d love to help.