Monday, September 9, 2013

How are you?

How are you?  No, really, how are you?  Have you been cranky, out of sorts, easily frustrated, quick to raise your voice?  Are you impatient?  Depressed? Can you think clearly? Are people getting on your nerves? Do you say in your best Marlena Dietrich voice, “I want to be alone?”  Before you make a call to your nearest therapist, ask yourself the following question.  Are you getting enough rest?  I have become increasingly aware that sleep is a very underestimated thing of value in our world today and I believe that’s the cause of many maladies; physical, mental and even spiritual. Is anyone sleeping or even resting anymore?

Back in my parents’ day, life seemed simpler.  Dad went to work in the morning and came home in time for dinner with the family.  We ate together and he relaxed for a while out in his garden watering the roses and then went to bed well before 10:00pm.  Mom cleaned and cooked and sewed but she, too, made sure she went to bed at a decent hour to get ready for the next day.  There were no hand held devices to continually check and no computers.  There was only TV and radio and their programming completely ended at 11:00pm.  Only doctors were on call 24/7. What a difference between then and now!

We have advanced so much technically and the world has become so much smaller. That’s a good thing, I assume.  But what are we sacrificing in order to be “on” and available all the time?  There are young families with children who have loads of homework, soccer practice, cheerleading, piano lessons and science projects.  Some of us have elderly parents or relatives who are less than able to care for themselves and need our time and TLC. We have our jobs, which demand our attention even away from the office.  Our inboxes never seem to be empty and text messages come at all hours of the day and night.  There are a million tv channels from which to choose with endless news and sports programming.  We haven’t even covered general housekeeping duties, grocery shopping and yard work.  And have we left any time for prayer? 

We’re exhausted.  Our society is sick and tired. And we wonder why.  My friends, I think we need to put sleep on our calendars.  I know we can’t turn off a crying baby but can we turn off the tv, the cell phone and our iPads, even for a few hours a day? Our brains, our bodies and our souls need a break from this frenetic lifestyle.  Maybe we can’t get 8 hours of sleep a night but we can take important mental health moments during our busy days.  Will we allow ourselves even 15 minutes of healing silence each day? 

Because I have personally experienced many of those “attitudes” described in the first paragraph, I have resolved to spend one day a month, or even just a couple of hours of that day to rest, reflect and recharge.  I need it and God knows, the people around me know I need it.  I want to take time to just be.  I long to smell the flowers, to praise God for the brilliant sun and the glorious sky.  I want to listen to the rain during a storm and let it soothe my spirit.  Honestly, I just want to take a nap sometimes. 

What kind of rest brings you peace and healing? And are you taking the time for it?  

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Passage of Time

Many years ago, when I was an elementary student at St. Monica’s in Cincinnati, I did quite a bit of daydreaming, especially during math class.  During those periods I would stare at the big circular clock that would tick ever so slowly. I was convinced something was wrong with that clock because it never seemed to move.  The minutes passed by so painfully slow.  Staring out the massive windows in our classroom, I wished I could be anywhere else but at my little wooden desk.  I would dream that a river would flow near the school and I could jump in and let the cool waters carry me home. Then Sister’s voice coming near me would startle me back to reality.  I would glance at the broken clock and see that the big hand had creaked only two more notches. Do you remember similar times as a child when the school day was interminably long, when you thought summer vacation would never come, when waiting for Christmas was sheer agony?  

It seems that when we’re children time is something we always wanted to pass.  We were always looking forward to something better.  We wanted to be older, to wear stockings and lipstick before our time, to be old enough to drive, to envision ourselves as adults and be the boss of somebody.  But as we grew older, time became elusive, its passing something that we could not control.  Before we knew it, all the things we longed for had come and gone and didn’t we just blink our eyes? Sometimes I feel like I am in a Rip Van Winkle story and I have been asleep for twenty years. What happened?  The babies that I lovingly rocked and read to now have children of their own.  Their cries for homework help and playground injuries have faded and I can’t help but wonder if I truly relished every single day I had with them. 

There aren’t a lot of perks that come with, shall I say, maturity.  The bones make strange noises, the joints ache, doctor visits become more frequent, wrinkles deepen and checking for root growth is a daily ritual.  However, I have to say that with age comes a marvelous gift and consolation.  It’s the gift of wisdom.  I have finally figured out the beauty and the wonder of the present moment.  No longer will I take time for granted.  Each morning God gives me a brand new day to be the best I can be no matter what I may encounter.

While my life is still a very busy one filled with lots of daily activities, I now greet each day with a prayer of thanksgiving.  It doesn’t matter if it’s freezing cold outside, or raining or snowing or foggy.  This day is precious.  Even if I have a splitting headache or I'm stuck in a horrific traffic jam, I am where I am supposed to be.  Each moment is a gift in and of itself.  If there’s a particular cross I am carrying, I know that God will give me the grace and the strength to endure it.  No more wishing this or that time away.  No more saying, “I can’t wait for this job to be over” or “If only these next few weeks would just fly by so I can go on vacation”.  

My friend, time IS flying by. Let’s not continually check the calendar or stare at that clock waiting for something else.  If you fall into bed at night completely spent and the day seemed like a blur, think of just one wonderful thing that happened. Recall it, burn it into your memory so that you didn't miss the joy of that day.  It's all about the present moment and making the best of it.  Your life is a gift from God.  Thank Him for it and embrace it.