Friday, January 4, 2008

Interior Life

I'll start here since it's the most important of my New Year projects and the most vague.

I've spent the last year learning about and trying to improve the practical aspects of my vocation. I call the year a complete success not because I am suddenly the world's best wife, mother, and homemaker but because I kept the theme of "vocation" as a consistent background for most of the year. This blog is one of the fruits of that theme as is a marginally more well-ordered home. I have a long way to go in terms of living up to my own homemaking ideals but I think it's depressing to keep at something in such a focused way so I'm moving on and I trust that, as in high school math, some of the lessons of the last year will start to click sometime this summer.

So--interior life. This last year was a mostly practical project: figuring out how to order and accomplish all the little tasks of my life. Great strides were made but now I see myself running up against the monotony of it all. I'm at home with two small children. Someone asked me this Christmas what I do besides take care of my kids. Fighting back snarkiness I replied, "I do a lot of laundry. I cook dinner. I pick up a lot of toys . . ." I also read a lot of picture books, do a lot of dishes, cook breakfast and lunch, and, well, I don't think I have any readers who aren't familiar with my job description so I'll stop there. It's a wonderful, beautiful vocation. I don't have any hangups about it. I don't wish I were working. I don't wish I could earn money from home. I don't wish I'd finished my master's degree. I don't wish I'd waited longer to get married. I have no regrets about the life I am living. In my moments of reason and consolation, when I can step back and look at the big picture I can think wonderful thoughts and look forward to a glorious future full of children, grandchildren, home education, housekeeping routines. The works. I love it. I have no problem with the big picture "this is worth it" stuff.

My trouble is in the moment. It's 5:30. Dinner just got started. Both kids are screaming. I'm having a blood sugar crash. The pile of dirty dishes are preventing me from washing the lettuce leaves. I just remembered that my co-op order was due last night and that Eric needed to eat by 5:45 this evening because of a meeting. That's where I fail. I yell at the kids, think mean thoughts about my husband and completely despair. It all just seems like one damn thing after another.

Earlier in the day I survey the wreckage of the moment and think, "I'll just see if any of my favorite bloggers have posted in the last fifteen minutes." I escape from the craziness instead of embracing it. A confessor said to me recently, "You are acting like a person at a cocktail party who, instead of focusing on the person she is with is constantly looking over her shoulder to see if anyone better has come into the room. Except you are doing it to God. He's here in the midst of it all and you are missing it." (Don't you all wish you had my confessor?)

He was right. In the moment to moment living of my vocation I don't have much of a well from which to draw when the frustration and stress and despair threaten to overwhelm me--and they threaten almost every day! I don't have much of an interior life.

This next year I want to work slowly on developing an interior life. A constant awareness of God's presence. An attitude of gratitude. An acceptance and offering up of suffering. An ongoing dialogue with the Lord because no one better is coming to our cocktail party.

I don't have the year mapped out in its entirety. That approach doesn't work for me. But I have thought through the first few steps.

First, I want to work on cultivating gratitude. My goal is to make seven Acts of Gratitude throughout the day. I don't have a formal, written Act for this purpose. I try to incline my heart towards God and thank him for something specific. I need to connect these Acts to different points in my day and right now I'm working towards: upon waking, before my first sip of coffee, after Margaret goes down for a nap, noon, at teatime, after Margaret falls asleep at night, and before I fall asleep at night. Right now I'm hitting about two of these each day but I'm hoping that as the habit develops in one spot it will help out the other spots. This is my main goal for January.

I also have a few books lined up. The first will be Robert Sokolowski's The God of Faith and Reason. Eric has been privileged to take every class offered by Sokolowski during his time here in Washington and I'm looking forward to sharing in his wisdom. Next I'll read Story of a Soul for the third or fourth time. I never fail to take something new from St. Therese. Eric tentatively suggested Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind but I haven't decided about that, yet. I've also taken Josemaria's The Way off our shelf and I'm experimenting with just leaving it out to pick up whenever I have a minute. We have all three of his collected thoughts in one volume--so that's about 3000 points for meditation. Eric has used this as spiritual reading, but I'd rather have the points season my day throughout the year. We'll see if I can stay faithful to actually picking up the book.

So there is the beginning of my spiritual project for the year. I don't know what success will look like. Ideally, I'll be a saint but, more practically, I will be more aware of each little thing in my day and try to more consciously do it all for the love of Jesus. But, really, if I'm still thinking about interior life ten months from now, I will count the year a success.


Robyn said...

Thanks! A good blog to read before tackling dishes and errands and dinner...and...wait. Did I miss the point? ;)

First I want to say: you wrote the word damn! Susan! I'm surprised! And I sort of love it...

Also, when we were talking about this a few weeks ago, I wanted to tell you about a book a friend sent to me. It's called Enduring Grace. It might be a little basic for a Saints Junkie like you, but I am really enjoying it. The author explores the lives of 7 or so women saints. She says that she is not trying to look at each thoroughly (because that would be impossible in one book), but she wanted to see what would happen if she got them all together in one place. It is well written, interesting and has themes of interior life all through it. Those saints seem to be good at that sort of thing.

And, I just got that sewing book by Jonsdotter in the mail and I also got an Amy Butler one too. It looked good and I remember you mentioning her. So fun.

ok. Seriously, now. I need to go to the store.
After I see if I got any comments on my blog...

Robyn said...

Susan!!! Mrs. Pea commented on my blog! We might be soul mates! Yay!