“I speak French,” she says, enunciating each word as a sentence, “can you speak slower so I can understand you?”
My cheeks turn from pink whisper to siren in about two seconds. I apologize, exhale and slowly explain to the lady behind the glass why I need a Paris train ticket. Several yards away, my family waits for me, leaning against suitcases; awkwardly standing behind a transparent barrier as crowds of commuters pass.
Their tickets worked; mine was rejected.
Once bags are loaded onto the train and we settle into seats around a table, I mentally scroll through the events of the past two days in tandem with rooftops and trees blurring past the window.
Our short time in Paris is surreal, as if my body is frozen in time yet life moves all around me. Standing underneath the Eiffel Tower lit up in the dark, winding our way past the iconic street lamps, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Champs Elysée; places I’ve only seen in post cards or read about in books.
We can’t speak a word of French. Well maybe two words: Merci and Bonjour. The lady behind the glass cracked a smile when I spoke them.
Two hours later, a male with a British accent announces we’ve made it to London. Signs are written in English. I no longer have to use Google translator to talk to strangers or decipher menus. As soon as the doors slide open, we commute to the next platform intuitively.
While seated on the tube with suitcases parked in front of kneecaps, a familiar face from our new church appears in the underground. From a seat opposite, an over-sized rucksack beside him, he tells us he is on his way home from a conference.
Three stops later, our brief conversation pulls me back into church culture, shared relationships, and our neighborhood in London.
“I can’t believe I saw you guys,” he says smiling while minding the gap.
As a writer, Mondays are the hardest day I commute each week. And the days following vacation: even harder.
The longer I stay away from the page, the longer the commute to get back.
In Still Writing, Dani Shapiro explains it this way, “We are commuting inward. And on Monday mornings – or after a long holiday, a summer vacation, any time we have been away from the page – we have to be even more vigilant about the commute. We are traveling to that place inside ourselves – so small as to be invisible – where we are free to roam and play.”
As we change focus from the folly of summer to the routines of autumn, a margin of predictable activities cushion the journey. Boarding buses, waiting in carpool lines, pushing our way through crowded tube stations; all these routines help us make the transition from one part of life to the next.
But the longer we travel away from predictable rhythms, the more entangled we become in the minutiae. For me, all the little details become a mountain of distraction away from my inner life. I struggle to know what I need or how the activities I’ve just experienced affect me.
Commuting inward requires intentionality, perseverance and focus.
Really, this is what we are all learning every week in the Sabbath Society. The more enmeshed with the details of work, the less margin for making rest a reality. Preparation makes the commute to Sabbath much shorter and in essence, a rhythm of life.
On Monday, I get back to the page by pushing off housework and answering emails. I postpone making appointments and returning phone calls. I sit at my desk with a steeping cup of tea, engage in conversation with Jesus before my people stir from sleep.
Those of us who write know this little inward commute is like fairy dust for inspiration.
On Sabbath, work is left undone in exchange for a day of rest. Beautiful vistas of truth come to the forefront and I remember why I work in the first place.
Sabbath is a weekly inward commute from a loud world to a still small voice; a rhythm of familiar conversation in a language that speaks deeply of belonging. It is a reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me.
Commuting inward is a journey I long to take every week, not just on vacation or Monday. Would like to join me?
How do you commute from summer to autumn? From work to rest? From chaos to focus?
Linking with my dear friend Jennifer for #TellHisStory. If you haven’t visited her writing yet, you’re in for a treat.