Well, well, well… it’s that time of year again! Sitting under a blanket in a comfy living room chair, admiring the cozy lights on the Christmas tree, hearing the sounds of sneezes, coughs, and the clearing of throats… realizing that I have some time to blog now and that it’s been three months since I’ve posted.
I don’t feel interested in reflecting here on what has been, but on looking to what will be. It’s the time of year when I usually begin a new planner. I ponder priorities, not alone, of course. This week I want to pull out the notes from a Spiritual Exercises retreat I went on in October. I wrote down some resolutions that weekend, but they were lost in the sea of busy days, weeks and months that followed.
In the quiet, slowed pace of this Christmas vacation, I am filled with hope. I am out of the mindset of “I have to do this” and “I’ve got to do that” and resting. I am thinking of what I might like to do in the new year. Maybe I’ll post a Book Notes series on St. Augustine’sConfessions. Or the Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Maybe I’ll work-out in the basement, or go outside more often. The possibilities make me happy. Living in the present moment and enjoying God’s Presence and direction… these are the things I miss in my rush to get everything done. Today there is no hurry, no agenda, just peace and joy. I am thankful for these gifts.
The world is so strange, Lord. Maybe you’ve known this, but I keep on pinching myself (not literally). Why am I surprised about what’s happening? We are under attack as we have always been. This is a spiritual battle. Maybe there are fewer people aware of this fact and fighting back. Maybe I am aware and not doing my part. Looking at my part is what I can do. Praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, loving my family, getting to know people, forming relationships… these are things I can do. I need to have faith, hope, and love before I can give it away. I need to stay in the present moment with you, Lord. To take care of my responsibilities at home. Do not grow faint – Run the race – Read Your Word. Seek the Truth in the places I know I will find it.
“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:17-18
I’ve read the new Motu Proprio by Pope Francis. It’s troubling me and I’ve been trying to figure why because I don’t even attend the TLM. I did one time. I was on a trip and wanted to go to a Saturday morning Mass. I may have been in New York State or New Hampshire. I can’t remember. I do remember having trouble finding parking and the entrance to the church. I could barely hear anything the priest said, and I felt like I was dressed inappropriately. The women wore dresses and head coverings and I most likely was wearing jeans and a hoodie. But I did like that most of the families had similar appearances to my homeschooling friends, holding babies, and filling up pews with toddlers and teens. I don’t remember music. I was not moved to search for a Latin Mass back home.
That was before Covid. I’ve been thinking about going to one for many months now. I’ve struggled with identifying and feeling my feelings about wearing masks at Mass and receiving communion in the hands rather than on the tongue. I didn’t want to be deprived of receiving Jesus when the churches opened up after the shutdowns, so I received Him in my hands. I felt very sad and disappointed. I saw a few women not receiving the Eucharist at all when communion on the tongue was denied and wondered if what I was doing was selfish. I prayed about it, asked for guidance, and decided to receive Him as reverently as I possibly could at the Masses I attended. The rules changed frequently. I often got anxious when I would wait until the end of communion wondering if the priest would wait in the front of the church for those receiving on the tongue as planned. And I did not enjoy sometimes being the only one to walk up to the front of the church, kneel on the kneeler, and receive Jesus on my tongue.
I talked with friends who attended Latin Masses about 30 minutes away from my home. They shared that they didn’t have to wear masks and they could receive communion on the tongue. And kneeling at an altar rail! They said the homilies were moving, the music was beautiful, there were lots of families… I continued to go to Mass close to home to go with my family. My daughter plays the piano at one church once a month. The other weeks we go to our parish where my children are comfortable. They used to be in the choir there when that was allowed. And I’ve been receiving communion in my hand in NYC because that is what the priest allows. So I have been holding onto a desire to try a Traditional Latin Mass for a long time now, but not taking action. Then I heard about these new rules. And they don’t make sense to me. Question # 1.
This morning during my prayer time, I was journaling and more questions came to mind. Why would you want to get rid of the growing communities and make those people go to the declining ones, which they may have left because they wanted to be more reverent? Why would you ever want to discourage faithful practicing Catholics at all? Will this put priests in a dilemma of obedience or disobedience? This seems very similar to what is happening with the government and vaccines, and it doesn’t seem necessary. It looks to me like forcing people to choose what side they are on. Are you with the current leadership or will you resist or oppose it? Do you trust us completely or do you have reservations? Will you believe what we say or do you see the contradictions in speech and actions? The leaders speak of desiring unity but they make rules to cause disunity. What is the intention or purpose of what is happening?
As I was thinking these thoughts I realized that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts. I barely know anything. I asked Him: Lord, do you wish for us to choose a side?
And guess what I remembered. We are either with Him or against Him. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. We are sheep or goats. Jesus wasn’t afraid of division.
I’ve made a plan to go with a friend to a Traditional Latin Mass in CT this Sunday morning. I’ll continue to live my life one day a time, enjoying the moments, trusting that God has a plan and I don’t need to know the details yet.
I just returned home after a week in Cape Cod with Bobby, five of my children, and Joseph’s girlfriend (some of the days). In bed at night, I read Diary of a Country Carmelite, A Year in the Garden of Carmel (just up to today’s entry) by Cynthia Montanaro, OCDS. I know her in real life, and I so enjoyed this peek into her days during 2015, when she made her final profession as a secular Carmelite. While I don’t feel particularly drawn to Carmelite saints, and I don’t really enjoy gardening, I found Cindy’s entries fascinating. They were so peaceful. I know I was only getting a glimpse of the whole picture, but I believe that Cindy does live a peace-filled life, and visuals from her descriptions have stayed in my mind.
From my journal: Such a good example of living the liturgical year – putting God first. Doing unpleasant things -accepting what she cannot change – being grateful and thanking God for the good – or pleasant – Simplicity. Not trying to do too much. Just a little each day. Prayer – Mass – work – family – chores – a bit of recreation. An example of an ordered life. Is there a better compliment than the last one?
Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is my favorite saint! (not including Mary and Joseph) I’m going to watch two movies about him tonight. One is a drama and the other a documentary. They always inspire me. I like the example of Cindy’s simple, ordered life and I love the example of St. Ignatius’ life, and his way. I have my own way. I have my own life. If I put first things first like they did, it should be an interesting story.
Today I’m doing things I like to do that I rarely make time for, such as giving myself a pedicure and playing double solitaire. (You could add blogging in there too.)
Being a low maintenance person who rarely wears make-up, has not had my fingernails painted in almost twenty years, and has never plucked an eyebrow, you’d think I wouldn’t enjoy pedicures. On the contrary, they are the best sort of pampering. With the clipping, exfoliating, and soaking in warm water, they are both practical and pleasurable. Very satisfying. And if the nails are painted, they need no more attention for months.
As for double solitaire, I always appreciated the uncountable hours my grandparents spent playing cards with me when I was younger. It was the slow paced quality time that enabled me to talk freely and be myself. It helped me feel close to them. I asked for and received two brand new decks of playing cards for Christmas (with the intention of using them with my children.) I didn’t open them up until last night. Let me back up a bit.
I came to New York City with Bob this week mainly to put together a new TV stand while he was at work. I decided to make my ten year old, Mary, come with us. I wanted to spend some time alone with her. So yesterday, besides building the TV stand, we played Sleeping Queens, Lion King Uno, and you guessed it, double solitaire. And she even helped me get an app called Game Pigeon to play more games. I’m enjoying being with Mary and holding her hand as we walk through unfamiliar neighborhoods with her stuffed dog Dandee.
There’s a church nearby that has a 12:05 Mass. Yesterday we attended but left right before Adoration to come home to eat lunch. Today, a thunderstorm at the end of Mass encouraged us to linger longer, which I appreciated.
Back at the apartment, I put on a “Spa Day” playlist and gave Mary a pedicure while she played games on her iPad with a friend from home. I felt like a professional, but my nail painting needs practice. Then I gave myself a pedicure and wrote this post as I took breaks. The music and the being still has put me in a very relaxed state that I highly recommend.
Billy Joel is one of my favorite musicians. Vienna is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. It popped into my head as I sat down to write this post. It begins…
Slow down, you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, well, tell me
Why are you still so afraid? Mm
Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You'd better cool it off before you burn it out
You've got so much to do
And only so many hours in a day
“Slow down” seems to be the theme of this blog, and maybe of my life. I often come here to ponder “aloud” my desires to be simple. To remind myself of what’s really important, which is doing God’s will and not my own. And slowing down seems to be the only way that I can hear my Lord. The noise of constant busyness drowns him out for me. I keep cycling between feeling close to Him, then doing too much work or socializing and not spending enough time with Him, and then feeling burnt out and disconnected. I’m learning that I love getting things done, I try to please others, and I tire easily. I seem to be married to the Energizer Bunny, and my life would most certainly be more boring without him. And I have six children and relationships with family and friends. I wonder if God has given me the gifts He has given me to continuously show me how much I need Him. Maybe I just need to keep practicing putting first things first.
So the details are, that I am recovering from two days of shopping, cleaning, triple birthday party prep and hosting. And that was after two weeks of traveling to and from New York City, including shopping, packing, and moving into our new apartment there. Yes, we have an apartment in NYC, and a home in Western Massachusetts. I don’t think I can call myself an aspiring minimalist anymore.
My husband will be commuting there for work. I have been helping to set up and furnish the place. It’s a big change happening in our lives, which means I really need to rely on God. And I need to not look into the unknown future, but to stay in the present moment, where He is with me. I need to slow down and listen.
I hear myself breathing. I try to drop all my worries and trust Him. He takes care of all always. I need to reject the illusion that I am in charge. I do not even want to be in charge. I will bring Him everything and let Him decide what the outcome will be.
Nothing needs to be done but what He asks me to do. I do not need to do things for Him to love me. My existence is enough. Every part of me, body and soul. There is not anything that I can do that will stop His love for me. And He tells me that when I am weak, He is strong. All my strength comes from Him alone. I don’t even think I can surrender without Him. His grace seems make it happen.
He tells me to enjoy the gift. He means of His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, which I feel privileged to enjoy. But I think I should enjoy all the gifts. I have so much to be grateful for.
Slow down for one week. Do only necessary work. Be as quiet as possible. Do not initiate any movie nights or put on any music. Stay away from social media and news. Spend lots of time ouside, and rest.
What I Did
Sunday: I went to Mass with my family. I followed our usual after Mass routine of eating a meal while watching a week’s worth of Frank James You Tube videos. I skipped other videos that I usually watch, but that my family does not enjoy. Next, I posted homeschool curricula for sale online. I sold some and prepared them for shipping. I sat on the deck reading meditations and planning out the week. Then I did some more questionable work (necessary or unnecessary?) to please my daughter Sarah. Rachel and I helped her put together her new bed and bedding. I spent time praying and journaling. I made dinner. I prayed the rosary while talking a walk outside. At night, I watched a movie with Bobby that he initiated and chose. Then I ironed Bob’s clothes and made his breakfast for the next day. When I had trouble falling asleep, I looked at homeschool curricula on my phone in bed.
Monday: I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm went off (unusual) and started the day on my phone again. I was looking at Home Bunch, a website that I use to get decorating ideas for my home, or maybe as a distraction, or as a reason to snuggle under the covers longer. I wrote in my journal: I get scared if I don’t sleep enough I’ll get sick. I had trouble falling asleep – uncomfortable – and woke up early. I hope my new “strategy” is not too busy. I already feel rushed in my “slow down” week. I’m planning unnecessary work. I went to a 7:15 AM Mass, prayed the rosary in the van, and returned empty cans at a grocery store while waiting to meet my mom and sister for breakfast. I dropped a package off at the post office, then stopped at the Home Depot to purchase some electrical items for Sarah’s room. I read one of Sarah’s novels aloud to the girls, then took a two hour nap. I picked up and cleaned the house all afternoon, made dinner, went to a meeting on Zoom, then watched a movie with Bobby and the girls. I was up late again reading something on my phone.
Tuesday: I woke up sick. I changed my plans to staying home all day. I spent time journaling, praying, reading more of Sarah’s The Chapstick Chronicles to the girls, talking on the phone with a friend, and then I felt worse. I thanked the Lord for really slowing me down. It was more quiet than I had planned and I believed that he chose what was best for me. Bobby brought us take-out for dinner. I watched a movie with the family at night. All I had to do for it was sit still on the couch.
Wednesday: Too sick to do anything. No reading, no writing. No work. I watched two movies. Probably initiated them. I tried to pray a little.
Thursday: I felt a little better. I shopped online, started thinking about homeschool planning, read The ChapstickChronicles, and spent the afternoon on the deck doing a crossword puzzle. It was beautiful out. Then I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and made dinner. I was busy and unaware of God’s Presence. I started looking into history curriculum, showered, shaved, went to a Zoom meeting and watched a movie with Bobby and the girls. At bedtime, I was up coughing and couldn’t get comfortable so I shopped online for Hannah’s summer reading books and read some news articles. When I realized I said I wouldn’t read those this week, I read the Intro to Consoling the Heart of Jesus into the early morning.
Friday: Still sick. I journaled a long time. Guess I had a lot to say. Read meditation books and some scripture verses and more of The Chapstick Chronicles. I started the Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat. Good times on the deck. I watched a show with Bobby at night and prayed and journaled before bed. I had the bedroom to myself because Bobby’s been sleeping upstairs in a non-germy room.
Saturday: Prayer and meditation, journaling, continuing the “retreat” and blogging.
What I Learned
I am not in charge. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting this one. But on the other hand, I did accept that things were not going the way that I had planned. This time.
God knows what’s best for me. And He gave me another reminder of this. Remember all of the unnecessary work I did on Sunday? Remember on Monday I was already feeling rushed during my “slow down” week? I might not have rested at all if I was feeling well.
I want to try to do one thing at a time. Multitasking makes me feel hurried. So often I listen to talks while working, I eat while watching shows, I think, plan, figure out… while doing other things. I am not in the present moment. This getting things done can get compulsive. I get anxiety about not wasting time. If I slow down, by doing one thing at a time, (and thinking counts as an activity for me) I can be present to what I am doing or feeling and be aware that God is present with me.
I want to watch what is going into my mind. I’ve talked about this before. If I’m going to be limiting the amount of information that’s going in, (because I’m doing one thing at a time) then I better raise the bar on the content. Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it worthy of praise? And so on…
I want to watch what is coming out of my mouth. I failed at being as quiet as possible this week. I think I forgot that was even part of the experiment. Did I really need to give everyone unsolicited updates on my sick symptoms? Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
God gives me encouragement. As I was thinking that some quiet time would benefit me, I read this inJesus Calling, one of my current meditation books: “You need a buffer zone of silence around you in order to focus on things that are unseen.” It goes on to say that overstimulation blocks out awareness of the unseen world. Encouragement.
Put First Things First. Yet another principle that I already know, but struggle to put into practice. I read about it Friday in my “retreat” book. He explains how when we want to detach from something, (Let’s say noise from busyness, talking, movies or media.) sheer acts of the will are the wrong way to go about it. They don’t work… for long anyway. The reason is that focusing on the attachments puts second things first. The only way to detach is to keep the focus on the first thing. He gives the example of St. Peter walking on water until he takes his eyes off Jesus and sinks.
So, I did slow down this week. I didn’t do it exactly as planned. Actually, it wasn’t at all like I planned. But I’d still give this experiment two thumbs up. Look what I learned again! So many good things. Today, I’m not planning anything. I’m just doing one thing at a time, and being quiet, and listening for direction.
Yesterday was the last day of school for Rachel, my daughter who goes to high school, and Hannah and Mary, who were homeschooling with me. We are now officially on summer break. I spent this morning on a “Mother’s Sabbath”, a term I added to my vocabulary after reading A Mother‘s Rule of Life. I don’t know its exact definition. (Though I enjoyed the book, I gave it away.) I think it means getting out of your house and doing things that renew your spirit. When I take one, it usually includes Mass, the Rosary, Confession, Panera, reading, writing and Adoration. It can be a time of recollection and of getting my priorities straight.
Today, I thought of something that was a part of my daily schedule when my children were young. I called it Quiet Time. It was usually after lunch. It was when everyone went into separate rooms to do something quiet for an hour. It might be playing with toys, napping, reading, drawing… as long as it was quiet. My Quiet Time was often “interrupted” by babies. And sometimes I would blow it myself by going on a computer. This was back in the days before iphones and ipads. This morning I realized I want to spend the first week of summer break slowing down.
From my journal:
Slow Down Week – Like a Sunday. Do what’s necessary, but enjoy life. Spend the week with you, Lord. In prayer and meditation, adoration… quiet. No news, no videos. Resting – Nature – Art – Music (not quiet) Remember Quiet TIme? Unplug.
So that was how I remembered Quiet Time. I think I need to be more disciplined if I want the life that I desire. To be closer to God, I cannot crowd Him out with noise and ceaseless activity. So, I’ll try this for one week and report the results.
Slow down for one week. Do only necessary work. Be as quiet as possible. Do not initiate any movie nights or put on any music. Stay away from social media and news. Spend lots of time ouside, and rest.
I finished reading this book three weeks ago. I really want to dive right into The Discernment of Spirits, but I’m making myself write a final post to fulfill my “duty of bringing to completion” (227) what I started. Part IV of Chapter 8 is titled Doing Things Well and Finishing Everything. OK, A.G., I’ll take your advice. I’ll be constant, patient, and I will persevere. I would not want this unfinished work to “be a reproach” to me. (229)
“I see a cause of moral decadence in abandoning a project or an undertaking. One grows used to giving-up; one resigns oneself to disorder, to an uncomfortable conscience; one gets a habit of shilly-shallying. Thence comes a loss of dignity that can have no favorable effect on one’s progress.”
Sounds serious. Shilly-shally is my new favorite word. Shilly-shallying is why I want to learn how to practice the discernment of spirits. It means:
: to show hesitation or lack of decisiveness or resolution
I do this frequently. I am unsure. How does God want me to spend the time I have been given? More questions arose when I read this part of the book. Do I finish what I start? Do I reflect (count the cost) before starting on a piece of work? (228) A quick list eased my mind. I usually complete projects I start. I also have many commitments that have been ongoing for years, and although they don’t end, I have not given up on them. What I often neglect are books, home studies, and writing, the very things for which The Intellectual Life offers help. The end of Chapter 8 sums up what conditions are needed for success in work: to reflect at the start, to begin at the beginning, to proceed methodically, to advance slowly, to give out all one’s strength. (233)
So now I have come to the final chapter, for which I hand wrote four pages of quotes and notes while my four daughters were getting haircuts at a local salon. To limit the length of this post, I’m going to focus on just two ideas. I’ll call them: living and resting.
LIVING (Chapter 9, I. Keeping Contact With Life)
Living in society requires us to take part in many practical activities. (For me, it’s picking Rachel up from school and dropping her off at tennis practice, folding clothes, visiting my mother, painting a bathroom, taking kids shopping for bathing suits, going for a bike ride, etc.)
“It is hard to settle on exactly the measure of all these things.”
The author seems to understand the uncertainty I mentioned earlier of how to spend my time, but he says he has confidence that I will be able to decide, and that I’ll appreciate the relative value of things. (236) He addresses a concern that the intellectual will get so into his work that he’ll neglect the practical activities, or he’ll turn his back on the worthwhile things of life. Think scholé! I have an opposite concern. I may overdo the practical activities, neglect my intellectual or spiritual life, and also turn my back on scholé. Sertillanges advises: “Give up nothing of what belongs to man. Preserve a balance…” (241)
The beauty of this section inspires me. I see his message in other places, but the way he writes it makes me long for it.
“Nature renews everything, refreshes every well-formed mind, opens up new vistas and suggests surveys that abstract thinking knows nothing of. The tree is a teacher; the field teems with ideas as with anemones or daisies; the clouds and stars in the revolving sky bring fresh inspiration; the mountains steady our thoughts with their mass; and the course of the running streams starts the mind on lofty meditations…
Yet you let your mind get cramped and your heart grow dry, and you imagine that it is loss of time to follow the course of the torrents or to wander among the stars. The universe fills man with its glory, and you do not know it. The star of evening set against the darkening sky is lonely, it wants a place in your thought, and you refuse to admit it. You write, you compute, you string propositions together, you elaborate your theses, [you stare at your iphone] and you do not look.”
“Music has this precious quality for the intellectual that as it conveys no precise ideas, it interferes with none. It awakens states of soul, from which each one in his particular task will draw what he wills.”
He speaks of the connections between thought and the manifestations of creative power. (238) And the manifestations (a sunset, a visit to the Louvre, an evening at the symphony, a walk about Versailles under the autumn trees, and so on…) are dreamy. Homeschoolers may have heard of the British educator Charlotte Mason’s “Education is the science of relations.” Or her other famous motto: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” This came to mind when I read this quote:
“One is a poor thing all by oneself in one’s study! It is true one can bring the universe into it and people it with God; but that divine inhabitation is effective only after long experience, of which the elements are everywhere about us. Should I write under the impression of nature and of universal beauty, if great scenery, the peaceful countryside, the vision of the achievements of art, had not previously educated me?”
What a great reminder to me, that atmosphere is important not only for a parent to provide for her homeschooled child, but for anyone, for life… We are all born persons. It also reminded me of the idea of an integrated curriculum. And how you can separate subjects into time slots in your day, but they will always overlap. They are all parts of one big story. Let’s allow no compartments! (241)
And speaking of being born persons… Theology of the Body came to mind when I read this next quote:
“Refuse to be a brain detached from its body, and a human being who has cut out his soul.”
Lastly, I shall paraphase a description of Sertillanges’ intellectual – to envision for myself: She has varied knowledge that goes well with her special studies. She loves the arts and natural beauty; her mind is one in everyday activities and in meditation. She is the same woman in the presence of God, with her family, and with acquaintances. She has a world of ideas and feelings that she writes about, shares in conversations with others, and by which she lives. (241)
RESTING (Chapter 9, II. Knowing How to Relax)
“Nothing must be in excess. Work, precisely because it is a duty, requires limits which maintain it in full vigor, make it lasting, and enable it to yield in the course of life the greatest total effect of which it is capable.”
That’s what I always say.
I like to relax; so reading arguments on why it’s necessary, makes my logical heart flutter. Let it be known that:
“Relaxation is a duty… to refuse to rest is implicitly to refuse an effort that rest would render possible.”
“When one does not make room for rest, the rest one does not take takes itself: it steals into the work, under the form of distractions, of sleepiness, of necessary things that demand attention, not having been foreseen at the right time.
… If I omitted these preparations because of some nominal work, some inferior occupation that I was bent on through lack of self-control, there is a double disaster; I arrive at this result: no real rest, no real work. Disorder reigns.”
The rest of this section goes on to describe true rest,
“St. Thomas explains that the true rest of the soul is joy, some activity in which we delight. Games, familiar conversation, friendship, family life, pleasant reading such as we have spoken of, communion with nature, some art accessible to us, some not tiring manual work, an intelligent stroll about town, theatrical performances that are not too exacting or too exciting, sport in moderation; these are our means of relaxation.”
how we must have a proper balance between work and rest,
“To work too long is to get worn-out; to stop too soon is to fail in giving one’s measure. In the same way, to rest too long is to destroy the momentum acquired; to rest too little is to fail in renewing one’s strength.”
and he gives another plug for being in nature.
“Ah, if one could work in the heart of nature, one’s window open on a fair landscape, so placed that when one was tired one could enjoy a few minutes in the green country; or, if one’s thought was at a standstill ask a suggestion from the mountains, from the company of trees and clouds, from the passing animals, instead of painfully enduring one’s dull mood -I am sure that the work produced would be doubled, and that it would be far more attractive, far more human.”
The Intellectual Life by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P., has given me conviction and clarity. I see how necessary it is for me to make time for scholé in my life. Scrolling through the Table of Contents (or past posts) reminds me of the methods suggested, and I feel so inspired. A confidence rises up inside me. I can do this! Clearly, I will just: feel a sense of duty, discipline my body, simplify my life, make solitude a priority, limit and be choosy about my reading, quiet my evenings, be focused and methodical, be sure what I start is worthwhile, finish what I start, and produce results! Woo Hoo!
I said at the beginning of this series that I wasn’t going to summarize the chapters. I’d just post stuff I’d write in a commonplace book, such as favorite quotes that inspired me, thoughts I had…
Well… this chapter, “Creative Work”, has been the most thought provoking, inspiring one yet! I began reading this book because I thought it would help me find more time for scholé. I enjoyed hearing about it on Christopher Perrin’s podcast. Now, I want to write! This could be blog-changing.
When I was a kid in the early eighties, I played Barbies with my brother, and when he outgrew them, my sister. I was likely the one who came up with our systems of separating the furniture and accessories. I think for awhile, we’d line everything up and take turns picking what we wanted. Then, it later changed to someone mixing up the stuff while the “picker”, back turned so as not to see the items, chose a number from one, to the number of items there were. And that’s the item they would get. Picking continued until everything was fairly sorted. After that time-consuming raffle-type experience, we’d set up the houses. I remember one day, (likely too old to be playing with Barbie dolls) that I had the thought: I enjoy getting ready to play, more than I enjoying playing.
I instantly saw this memory when I read the first two lines of this chapter:
You have come now to the moment of producing results. One cannot be forever learning and forever getting ready.
How true. I have seen this pattern in my life. I have enjoyed homeschool planning, sometimes more than implementation. I enjoy getting the house in order, and messing it up by cooking or crafting, I tend to avoid. Or how about gardening? The preparing the soil and planting seeds is something I like. And I don’t mind weeding. But I’ve finally admitted to myself that watering and harvesting are not how I’d like to spend my time.
I see two things about myself here. One is that I prefer to participate in activities that are not messy. And the other is that I want to play it safe. Are these related?
When I am preparing to do something, it’s beautiful in my mind. We are going to have a homeschool year (or day) that is filled with discussing fascinating subjects, appreciating fine art, music, and nature, and consistently improving skills. It never works out the way I envision it. There is a wide range of other realities from a lack of enthusiasm to tears.
How many times have I gotten excited about trying a good-looking recipe, confident that following the instructions exactly and putting in the work would yield a wonderful meal? And then I’ve been disppointed by too much pink inside the chicken or the burnt whatever. You can probably imagine how a garden could let me down.
All of this to say that I might be a perfectionist. I might be immature. Maybe I think of things not going as I planned as mistakes. That is my initial response. But I when I slow down and take a long look, I see that everything that has happened is good. I can accept that I don’t love cooking, but it is something I do to take care of myself and my family. I can have compassion for myself and my children as we homeschool imperfectly. I can see the garden beds as a lesson learned and move on. And I know I love to write. This chapter has inspired me to do it imperfectly.
An organ that is used grows and gets strong; a strong organ can be used more effectively. You must write throughout the whole of your intellectual life.
I realize that I’ve been playing it safe. I pour my heart out in my private, black leather notebook. But here I write about decluttering, capsule wardrobes, and give room tours. I share quotes I like. I read, learn, pray, meditate… “forever getting ready.”
If you produce nothing you get a habit of passivity; timidity grows continually and the fear caused by pride; you hesitate, waste your powers in waiting, become as unproductive as a knotted tree-bud.
I certainly don’t want to be described as knotted. It’s spring. Time to open up. I want to fully live.
If you want fully to exist from the intellectual point of view, you must know how to think aloud, to think explicitly, that is to shape both within you and for the outside world the word which is the expression of your mind.
So this is the plan now. This is not to say that I won’t post room before and after pictures. I just don’t want to hold back anymore. If you are a writer or a wannabe, and want inspiration, get a hold of this book and read chapter 8, part I. Writing. Yes, there are other parts to this chapter. Four more in fact. So, there may be a sequel.