“What one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.” ~ C.S.Lewis
Who of us hasn’t crept into that wardrobe, pushed through those old, fur coats, and emerged out the back of it into a land of wonder where profound truths are made real through the likes of fauns, beavers, a lion, and four siblings? What did interruptions look like for Clive Staples Lewis? He who gave us Narnia and many other written works had this ordinary life that was interrupted by interruptions. His full quote is – “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.” I can’t help but wonder what interruption prompted him to write this observation…
Years ago, I heard a talk where the speaker used the acronym PIE to itemize his points. I don’t remember what the E stood for, and I think the P stood for prayer, but I do know that the I in the acronym stood for interruptions. The speaker suggested that when there is an interruption, it’s good to sit up and take notice – something of importance may be brewing. Love may be gently knocking. That idea reshaped the nuisance of interruptions for me – at least somewhat. Sailing along tickety boo with no disturbances to my planned out days has appeal, but in reality those days are rare and, they may even suggest something of a small world.
When our kids were little, interruptions were precisely my life. Going to the bathroom, taking a shower, and sleep were often interrupted by some little one in need of something. Those little ones are now big and self-sufficient, but there are still needs – rides to a job site, texts requesting a recipe, soothing broken hearts – that show up as tiny fissures in the rhythms of my days. Those openings that often present as an interruption can provide a small space wherein with I can connect with my kids.
Recently, while meandering my way back from a Sunday afternoon walk, a neighbour lady called to me and came across the lawn to chat. She wondered if I had heard that her partner’s son had been killed in a car accident. Raw open wounds of the heart. Hard places that don’t come with a manual. Our conversation wove to include her delight in her grandbaby, our shared practice of running and resuming running after injury, and other losses her family has been through. The late-afternoon, autumn sun slanted in as we leaned across her white, non-picket fence to embrace and say ‘see ya’. An interrupted lazy Sunday afternoon. Serendipity? Maybe.
Is youth interrupted by getting old or is youth gifted with aging? Is summer interrupted by fall or is summer gifted with autumn? I suppose that can depend on one’s perception.
There are interruptions that strike me as just plain rude. Formulating a thought in a conversation only to be interrupted by another’s formulated thought – generally rude. Anxiety that simmers and bubbles up exactly in that wonderful moment of joy – rude. Life events that blindside and completely dislodge – rude, right? Death interrupting life has got to be the ultimate rudeness.
And then what?
Some years back, during a time when I was feeling emotionally dishevelled and felt like I was gasping for air, my husband’s helpful words were to keep doing the things you need to do – activities of daily living as it were. The simple tasks of getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, stepping outside, a sip of tea, those simple tasks provided a groove that helped to ground me and keep me moving forward. Staying in a bit of a groove helped to settle my shakiness. That groove was potentially life-giving.
At what point does a groove become a rut?
If I have settled into a comfortable groove that has worn into a rut, can interruptions serve to shake me loose? Can I be mindful enough not to claw my way back to that rut? Can I see the interruption as ‘my own real life’ as Lewis suggests?
To imply that all interruptions are fraught with divine meaning is silliness, and to sugar-coat loss with redemption rings tinny and hollow. Sometimes you may need to crawl into bed or under the bed and simply do the hardest thing of all – breathe. However, during the living of our ordinary days, the interruptions will happen, and when they do, can I at least occasionally remember to look a little more closely, listen a bit more deeply, look below the obvious? Loss in some form will find its way to living, and when it does, can I watch for Presence?
I leave with you a quote given to me by my spiritual director. “God comes to us disguised as our life” (Richard Rohr).