The official Epiphany season in the Western Christian Church began on January 6 and ended on March 9 (Ash Wednesday) and with that ending, the beginning of the Season of Lent began. (The history of the Epiphany season is in the introduction of the book and you also can read more about it here.) Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter, lasting 40 days. Lent’s purpose traditionally has been the preparation for Easter — usually through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial, or the way I always understood it growing up, “you give up something.”
I was raised Catholic and even went to parochial school until 3rd grade, so all of this was very much part of my upbringing, though before I started doing research for this project, I had no real cognizant knowledge or memory of the history of the word “epiphany” or that it was a season in the church. Easter, though, was always a huge deal in my rambling Southern family, and we basically had weekend-long celebrations and family reunions with all aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and family friends and whoever else was adopted for these glorious gatherings. But as we all grew up and the older generations passed on, these gatherings dissipated as did my awareness and observance of church seasons and traditions.
At the beginning of March this year, I returned from what I dubbed my “home-town” book tour, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Probably the best way to describe it was that it was a time infused with an immense celebratory spirit, and I have never felt more loved and supported. Not only did I meet a ton of new people and had the opportunity to engage with wonderful readers and people interested in epiphanies, but it was also something like, “Elise Ballard, this is your life…” Many people showed up who have played a role in my life along the way – however large or small that role might have been, even if it was 20+ years ago (ie: one of my babysitters I hadn’t seen since middle school and a woman who had thrown my baby shower – yes, for me when I was coming into the world!) And things like BookPassage in Marin County giving me personalized stationery (one of my favorite things) were so unexpected and moving to me. The whole experience, every stop, was just charged with fun, excitement and emotion. It was a blast. It was a learning experience. It was a celebration. It was exhausting.
When I got home, I found myself completely spent. I call it “being tired down to the soul.” It is all I have been able to do to do the bare minimum of work to keep up with life. I haven’t been able to respond to all of the emails, or letters or to even write anything really. I haven’t posted the rest of my photos from the various venues, I haven’t updated my site too much. I’ve just been feeling completely “wrung out” – I’ve had not a lot in me to express but a desire to sleep and be quiet and reflect. It was just so intense over the last 6 months getting the book finished, website launched, book launched, all the promotion, hitting the road and being so moved and overwhelmed by all emotions and joy and the varying interactions, that I think I have just needed time to absorb it all. I also think I was dealing with a touch of what I call “post-project depression,” which I’m familiar with from my years of acting and film projects. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe if you think back if you played a sport and the season ended, or you had been working on a big project that completed, you might have felt somewhat of a feeling of loss and blue because you had been so busy and consumed by it for so long and when it ended, you suddenly had all this down time and might have even experienced what feels like an adrenaline crash of sorts. This is the idea of “post-project depression.” You might also relate it with travel, sometimes people have this reaction after an incredible travel experience (“post-trip depression”). Anyway, you get the picture – many experience it and the good news is that it usually isn’t terribly severe and passes fairly quickly.
Because of my writings about the Epiphany season on Psychology Today and the book and blog, I was aware of when Lent started this year and started thinking about it. One day I randomly read this article about Lent and how many people were giving up Facebook this year, and had to laugh. (Is Facebook not so fun and does it not take up so much of your time if you let it?) That is for a blog for another day, but I thought, maybe instead of “giving up” anything, I make a commitment for the next 40 days to meditate, to focus for a few minutes every day on healing and on a new thought and on being okay with being quiet and respecting it. (Quieting my mind is not an easy task to say the least, though I realize how important it is after working on this project.)
Then, of course as serendipity would have it, I received a notice about an emailed daily meditation happening during Lent with Thomas Moore, the author of Care of the Soul and about 20 other books. I decided, “why not?” and signed up. So beginning March 9, I started receiving short, daily emailed meditations and received this one 3 days ago and keep thinking about it. I’d never heard the concept of respect expressed this way before:
“Wake up, live simply, and show radical respect in every situation.”
– Thomas Moore
Show RADICAL respect. Radical respect. What if we were all radicals in this sense? Radical with our respect. Not with our judgment or thoughts or religion or feelings but with our respect. What would our lives be like? What would the world be like? It’s interesting to ponder, and fascinating to experience. Try showing RADICAL respect in every situation, even in the smallest situations and for the smallest things and when you’re alone, and just see what happens. It’s rad. (Sorry, had to do it.)
Will be updating soon and responding to everyone as I am starting to finally feel “rested down to my soul”… hope you are too.