Good habits spring from doing the same thing every day. We fall out of them much faster than we can fall in...or at least, that's been my experience. When I make a list, more gets done. Why I refuse to make a list is anyone's guess; I'm chalking it up to my own stubborn stupidity. Over the past four months, I've fallen out of the daily rosary, fallen out of working out, fallen out of reading every day, fallen out of doing the daily patrol of the house, and eventually (it had to happen), fallen out of writing. The first problem with falling out of habits is the void left in their wake. Somehow the days slip by and I can't account for what happened, other than stuff got done, dishes, laundry, errands.
Somehow, what could happen before, seemed impossible now. The second problem is damming the tide, stopping the skid into not writing, not praying, not exercising, not reading, not writing. But I didn't know how to start, how to even begin, especially when people from all areas of my life, personal, at the kid's school, even in online communities where I assist, were saying the same thing. "You have too much on your plate." They didn't mean I was serving myself too much food, they meant I was starving myself in all the areas that matter. But again, I didn't know how to cut back. How do you cut back when what you want to do--if you look at that list, is add.
Sunday, my daughter asked, "What do you want to do today?" and I hadn't an idea. I didn't have a thought of what to do for fun, and to me, that was the kicker. I needed to spend some time praying, because I wasn't able to think of something to do except that which was dutiful, and I knew letting myself be obligated to work to fill the time, would eventually lead to me being mad I had no free time. But I would be working to cover up the reality, I didn't know how to use it, and I wasn't allowing myself. Things had to change. So I let myself read. I let myself watch football. I won't say all the dishes or all the laundry got done, but when I tackled it the next day, it didn't discourage me as it had before. I'd not been using Sunday properly, nor had I let myself use prayer properly, I'd been checking it off, rather than entering into a conversation. As long as it remained something to do, not something I wanted, it became a chore. The same held true for writing, exercising, and everything else.
Yesterday, I found myself with the opportunity to go to adoration, and though the Sacrament wasn't exposed, the small chapel remained open. It is a favorite place of mine to pray. Sitting in that room, knowing the Eucharist is there, even if I cannot see it, I stared at the crucifix, stared at the flame and found my heart poured out. Turns out I knew I was overwhelmed but it wasn't something I wanted to say. A parishioner in the chapel put his hand on my shoulder and said, "God bless you." as he walked out, leaving me with the Crucified Jesus. I'd read in the Morning Offering the following quote:
"What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering. If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow. It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly, makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor. Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective, defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences."— Fr. Jacques Philippe.
I'd been afraid to do the hard work, so I'd avoided it, (be it exercise, prayer or editing).
So the small success was the next day, to write a list, and to be at peace when not everything got done. The second success was to write the list again the next day, and again, be willing to live with whatever did not get done, as long as writing or exercise, and prayer, all at some point, happened, not because I got to check off the box, but because they mattered.
Copyright 2015 Sherry Antonetti.
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About the Author
Sherry Antonetti is a Catholic published author, freelance writer and part-time teacher. She lives with her husband and 10 children just outside of Washington, DC, where she's busy editing her upcoming book, A Doctor a Day, to be published by Sophia Institute Press. You can find her other writings linked up at her blog, Chocolate For Your Brain! or on Amazon.