A couple years ago, I listened to the Enneagram teacher Suzanne Stabile and the author Brian McClaren talk about facilitating a retreat together. Suzanne was sharing that she found herself sneaking off to be alone during breaks, annoyed with some of the retreat-goers, feeling drained by their needs and conversational advances. She asked Brian where he got the energy to keep interacting with people. He said something like, “I find a snake in the grass, and we look at it together.”
This has become a mantra for me: Find the snake.
Find the actual, touchable, we-can-both-see-it phenomenon and be in wonder and fascination. Take a break from reflecting, analyzing, divulging, displaying.
Reading Lisa Olivera’s newsletter this week, she quotes Annie Dillard:
Self-forgetfulness is tremendously invigorating. I wonder if we don’t waste most of our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves.
I am really glad mental health and emotional fluency aren’t the taboo topics they used to be. I’m happy many people have enough bandwidth and impetus to explore their inner worlds, and then to talk, paint, or write about them. You know me. I’m all about that.
But I’m off to find the snakes.
I’m about to launch into my annual August break which will include swimming in as many places as possible, my son visiting from college (and all the conversations we will have about the natural world), cleaning my pantry, celebrating my parent’s 50th anniversary, going to a feast on the beach, back-to-school shopping with my daughter, sleeping in, reading some novels, cooking, dancing, painting, not checking email, not improving myself or burnishing my image in any intentional way.
I am blessed to be self-employed and in charge of my own schedule. But it’s still a big lift every year to say “no” for the months leading up to August. Risk letting people down, risk being seen as lazy or entitled, risk that clients will go find other help. But I am clear—the best gift I can give clients is my tuned-in presence. And I can’t tune into them if I haven’t made space.
I hope you get fascinated by lots of snakes in the last weeks of summer. See you out there!