How Do We Keep Peace in Our Soul?

By Kathy McGowan

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here… And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” (Max Ehrmann, 1872 – 1945)

At the end of September I went on sabbatical. It was weird to be on sabbatical in the time of COVID sprinkled with the Omicron variant in time for the holidays. Despite COVID, I did do a little traveling. With much masking and testing, I did see both of my children and both of my siblings.

One of my goals for this time was to begin my memoirs. I did a great deal of reflecting about family, history, patterns, joys shared, traumas endured, aspirations met, personal failures, lessons learned and more. I got a long timeline written down but not much else. That is OK! I began.

What I really ended up focusing on was self-care. I mean REALLY focused on it. Self-care can mean many things to different people. I can tell you that for me, I did not have one pedicure and I am still going to the weekly therapy sessions that I started.

There are many different areas of self-care. Here are eight common categories:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Professional
  • Environmental
  • Spiritual
  • Financial

I attended to all of these areas. COVID has taken a lot out of us. I began to realize how much once I started focusing on myself. In order to help ourselves, we need to know ourselves. This is why I am so grateful for this time of reflection and action.

It is a trend, at least in Unitarian Universalist circles, to split up sabbaticals; take a little bit now, take a little later etc. If I had done that I do not think that I would have been able to do sufficient reflection AND had time to put some things into action. Not everything I tried worked, so it has taken some time to figure out what is best for me right now.

One of the activities that I recently did was my values inventory. It has changed a bit, as have I; I no longer live with my kids, my husband has died, I live in a different area of the country, my body is older. That is just to name some of the obvious changes in my life in the last decade. I have needed to adjust my self-care and make sure my actions reflect my current values.

One area that deserves a special mention is the psychological. Please don’t forget to use the equivalent of dental floss for your mental health. We tend not to pay close attention to that in this country. Good maintenance is important in all eight areas of self-care.

Going back to the quote from Ehrmann, I can tell you that, on a good day, it is a beautiful world and I have peace in my soul. I am striving to be cheerful and happy. May it be so for you too.

About the Author

Kathy McGowan

Kathy McGowan has been on the Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association since 2013. In that time her areas of focus have been in systems thinking, theology, conflict, intercultural sensitivity, and staff supervision. She is one of the primary...

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