Friday, July 26, 2013

Fumbling for a Simple Life

A couple of weeks ago I attended the daily Mass at my parish (an Episcopal parish in the catholic tradition). It was the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the saint responsible for the most popular of monastic rules, one full of common sense for ordering the communal life. Our rector talked about the simplicity of a monastic life, a life very attractive to me. So much so that when I was in my mid-twenties, I entered a religious order (I was Roman Catholic at the time). 

I was with the sisters for six years before discerning a different path. I left with a taste for morning silence, a clean room, and an ordered life.

My struggle for integration is part of this attraction to a simple life. But here’s the rub. To engage with life pushes one outward, to help the neighbor, to address injustice, to be involved in community. These things complicate life. How much simpler life would be if other people weren’t involved! 

This will always be a struggle of mine, perhaps a defining struggle. Much of living more simply is internal — keeping perspective and mindfulness amid the busyness of the days, but external circumstances don’t always have to be as counter to a simple, more contemplative life as I let them become. I like to jump in and take charge and get things done, until I feel squashed beneath the weight of agendas, meetings, and follow-up. The day arrives that I’m not only not doing what is needful for my own life, but I’m probably not being as helpful as I think I am. 

Time to let go of the things that are no longer life giving. If they’re not life giving for me, I doubt they are for others. 

All of this is easier said than done, but the new school year is about to begin, and I am committed through at least May for some things, and through December of next year for others. My goal will be to shed those things I need to shed over the next ten months. And since  it is my habit to fill freed up time with more busy, I will commit to giving any of this miraculous time to creative work that brings some measure of joy. Like Tolkien’s road, ‘fumbling at joy’ goes ever on and on. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Good, The Sort Of Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and the Good Again.

The Good — 

Recently I was kicking myself for procrastinating on getting a new term life insurance policy, because with my recent skin cancer removal and a few other medical issues, I was looking at a rate below standard. Imagine my surprise when my insurance agent called to congratulate me for getting the preferred rate! My blood work results must have been quite good (I have to mail a request if I want to see them). So I’m surprised but feeling good about my health right now. 

The Sort of, Maybe Good — 

For the past three months, Kat has spent many hours studying for a promotional exam held last Tuesday. She actually took a couple of weeks vacation at the end to really focus on her studies. At her rank, promoting to the next level is extremely competitive. 

She did well on the test, but seniority is not on her side, and her score plus seniority put her at number thirteen on the eligibility list. Normally this would be good enough for a promotion sometime over the next year, but rumors are that it will be a lean year, with fewer than ten promotions. She’s convinced herself that no promotion is in the cards and is already working out her strategy for studying next year. UGH!!! I on the other hand, while disappointed that she is disappointed after her very hard work, am optimistic that she’ll be promoted. Time will tell.

The Bad  —

The San Antonio Spurs loss in Game 7 of the NBA finals. Actually, the disappointment came at the end of Game 6, which was almost won before being snatched away. Most residents of San Antonio have been suffering the past couple of weeks from PSSD - Post Spurs Stress Disorder. It’s not pretty. We love our Spurs! Time and perspective will heal this one.

The Ugly —

I’m dealing with family stuff from afar (two hundred miles away). My parents and sisters are going through some stressful times, details I’d rather not go into now.  I’m doing my best to be present by phone. It means a couple of hours every day, talking, texting. It still doesn’t feel like enough. This too will pass.

The Good Again --

My sciatic nerve pain is nearly healed, and I can sit again for long periods of time.  After Kat’s stressful promotional exam, we went to the movies for the first time in ages and saw Star Trek Into Darkness. I loved it. I was amazed that given how long the movie has been out, I had no idea going in the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character. I don’t want to spoil it here, just in case there are others out there who haven’t seen it. What a marvelous surprise it was! (And how I love Benedict Cumberbatch).