“September has begun and now that I’ve completed a month of seeking magic, it feels like the most natural thing to ask when I step outside, ‘God, what feels like magic?’. I don’t add things to the note on my phone (although, trust me, I thought about how cool it would be to continue to jot something down every single day so that I could show this big list at the end of the year which documents 5 months of magic but realized it was perhaps more ego-driven to make those notes then be present to the moments and let my memory serve me), but I still seek the moments, notice them, and, like the curtain being lifted on the world around me, magic is always there.” – From Lessons From a Month of Seeking Magic Part 1
On the Sunday of the September long weekend I awoke to a perfectly chilly morning. The sun was shining and the thermostat in our house read ‘68ºF’. Considering everything is done in celsius, I genuinely have no idea what that means in a number I can make sense of, but I do know that 68ºF means cool and I was here for it.
A soft smile spread across my face as I opened the bedroom closet door and pulled out my cozy housecoat. I walked into the kitchen, feeling the chill in the air drifting in from the windows kiss my exposed skin, filled the kettle with water for my morning cup of tea, and looked out the kitchen window at the big tree in front of our house. Slowly the shade of green it has been most of summer is starting to lighten, allowing a shade of green with yellow undertones to begin to glow in the morning sunlight. My smile grew. What a delight.
Sunday morning continued with a hot shower, more smiles, a cozy sweater on while I walked to the little church on the corner I’ve been attending regularly since Easter, and I eventually made my way out the door for my daily walk to seek magic. Already familiar with the prayer, ‘God, what feels like magic today?’ I noticed the glow (see pt 2) already flowing through my veins and nervous system from a day of delight. So, I asked myself another question…
“God, what would steal my joy?”
Isn’t this blog series about the joyful, feel-good lessons of a month of seeking magic where you’ve learned to trust the invitation from God, becoming content and find connection to the bigger world through noticing the little things, calming your nervous system and not dissociating into the abyss, and being intuitive with who God made you to be?
Well, yes, it IS all of those things.
But, when it comes to being intuitive, it means listening when the questions come up. For me, the question that naturally came as I walked with God was, ‘what would steal my joy?’. This question being a nod to a lesson learned over the years of spiritual director training…
There’s an idea I’ve held onto since learning it.
“When in consolation, prepare for desolation.”
Consolation can be defined as the times when you feel like you’re moving towards God and moving towards greater Faith, Hope, and Love. Desolation, the opposite, can be defined as the times when you feel you’re moving away from God and moving away from Faith, Hope, and Love. I think of myself as standing in the middle of a road. In consolation, I am turned toward the bright, glowing light of Love and I am actively taking steps TOWARD it. In desolation, I am turned AWAY from that light of Love and towards a space of grey and dis-ease and, even if I am not actively stepping toward that space of grey, I am turned towards it.
We all go through periods in life where we experience consolation and periods where we experience desolation. When I think of my feelings of languishing during the pandemic, I thought of myself standing between the bright glow of Love and the gray of dis-ease and just standing there, frozen, not able to move in any direction. As life happens, sometimes regardless of outside circumstances, we can feel consolation and can feel desolation. (I say sometimes regardless of outside circumstances because, perhaps you can relate, there are moments where life is going good yet we feel distant from God. Or, life is hard, yet we feel close to God).
One thing we learned during school was that in moments of consolation, we can prepare for the desolation. In other words, in the moments when you’re feeling connected to God, aware of his presence here and intentional, look back to when you felt desolation and prepare for what that’s like. When you look back at your life in seasons of desolation, you can begin to notice the patterns that appear (cause, actions during, etc) and can make a plan NOW to navigate with more grace your seasons of desolation when they come again.
In applying this to my walk where I asked, ‘what would steal my joy?’, it was the same practical tool being put into practice. On a day where I was feeling so much joy from the multitude of little things around me, what are the patterns I can see in my history that would steal my joy? How can I make note of them now so that, when life inevitably happens, I can be prepared to acknowledge and let pass to try to keep the joy prominent?
The first thing that came to mind, which will sound silly but is very true, was simple, ‘being too hot’ (I hope you laughed out loud when you read that because I certainly did when I acknowledged it). I LOVE the cooler weather. The cooler morning is what initially brought me such joy, so I knew that if I started to get too warm on my walk, I’d be annoyed. Once I acknowledged it, I laughed. It’s true and it’s funny to me that I would allow that to steal the joyful moment. So, I could prepare. I looked for the most shaded side of the street. I told myself that, even if I get warm, there’s a breeze and that is nice and cool. When I inevitably got warm on my walk, I could laugh a little and not let it steal my joy.
Other things I acknowledged could steal my joy would be ‘doom scrolling’ because it was a chill day, not utilizing my time ‘well’ (a lingering productivity-worth habit), and not getting back outside later in the day to do something active like staff spinning. I also knew that not having time chatting with another human would get me out of my joy so I took little moments with by husband when he was around between gigs. I prepared so that I could stay in joy a little longer.
And so it is with consolation and desolation. When we are feeling connected to God, we acknowledge the times we didn’t feel that way so we can be prepared and can have strategies in place.
My walks of seeking magic were that intuitive space of connecting back to the place where I was feeling connected to something bigger, more Divine, in my every day. Add to that getting back into my habit of (almost) daily journaling and, at the end of August, there was a tangible shift in my daily lived experience from when August began. Now, I can look back over the season prior and August and can take these moments of consolation I am now experiencing at the beginning of September and can apply it all in other seasons where the feeling of consolation experienced are not as strong.
How would you describe your current season of life; consolation (moving towards God) or desolation (moving away from God)? Acknowledging honestly the season you are in is a big first step. Know that God is present with you always– no matter the season. But, in the same way you can be present with someone and not feel connected, you can have the head knowledge that God is present with you but not feel in your heart, body or soul that connection.