Sunshine and Starlight on My Face Again

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist… most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by the multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence… It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

Thomas Merton
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966

Dear Friends,

It’s been far too long. I promise I haven’t been lazing about with my pampered kitty cat, lovely as that would be. No. But it has been a productive and rewarding few months. Among the best things that have happened are:

  • The website I’ve spent the last eight years working on professionally was named a top ten hospital website in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Actually, many of the benchmarks used in this assessment are the same measurements of church website quality: accessibility, search engine optimization, and content.
  • After years of reading Zen Habits, this February I took the plunge — cultivating better habits one month at a time. So…. I’m off sugar, my house is tidier, I spend less time on email, meditate a bit more, and aim to think positively. The key is finding small chunks you want to improve on, focusing on them, and making them a natural, easy part of day-to-day rhythms. I never dreamed it would be as effective and rewarding as it is.
  • WordCamp (the WordPress community conference) came to Nashville in April, and I was privileged to speak on WordPress SEO. I enjoy presenting, but even better, I learned of two thriving meet-ups in town (SEO and WordPress) and am now active in both. Geeking out with others is so much more fun.

Meanwhile, I still have had my seven (count them — seven) church volunteer commitments. I love each of them too, but bundle all of the above together and it’s obviously too much. The problem is I kept pretending it wasn’t as bad as it was.

Then about a month ago, I happened to hear Thomas Merton’s observations on the violence of overwork and activism. Something about the way he said it broke through my dense fog of work-work-work. I’d known for some time that I’d spread myself too thin, said yes to too many things — that my plans to juggle my many commitments, not to mention a full-time job and motherhood, were hopelessly over-optimistic. But I kept doggedly putting one foot in front of another, weighing priorities, scheduling things in bundles, organizing to the nth degree, being as efficient as I knew how — and not seeing what I was doing to myself.

Merton’s words were a wake-up call I badly needed. While I think his position overstated, I wouldn’t have heard if it were toned down. And there’s obvious truth in his point that over-extending ultimately parches “the root of inner wisdom.”

As I listened to his words, a rare sense of calm and serenity bubbled up. It sounds counter-intuitive, I realize, but it came from suddenly seeing a vastly bigger picture — like sunshine and starlight on my face again. And I knew it was more than a just good idea to let go; it was imperative.

To be clear, “letting go” doesn’t mean stopping with everything immediately. That would be, among other things, irresponsible. As a result I’ve continued to be busy and tense more often than not. But that feels right too — particularly when I take a breath and stop rushing from one thing to the next. Also, a core element of most of my work this last month has been transitioning many of my responsibilities to others.

Where does this leave me with Faith and Web? It’s not something I can transition to others — nor do I want to. Quite the contrary. Instead, it’s a new chapter. I already have a bit more time to do the geeky things I adore, and naturally that will inform what I choose to write. While one of the responsibilities I’m letting go of for now is my church’s redesign, and this means that the redesign series will also be on hold, I have a growing list of other things I’m itching to blog about: responsive design, mobile, browser anarchy, CS6, staffing for church communications, becoming an Amazon affiliate, etc., etc.

So stay tuned and please let me know if there’s anything you particularly want me to cover.

In faith,
Anna Belle


2 Responses

  1. Paul Martin says:

    Glad to have you back. We missed you.


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