Why hermits have it easy – sort of

I now understand the wisdom of hermits, monks, and even the celibacy rule for priests and religious. Prayer takes time, and when you’re distracted by the pressures of a job and family (when you aren’t, essentially, paid to pray), it is really hard to find the time.

Like most people, I can catch a few minutes here and there to read, reflect or ponder the wonders of God’s world. But a few minutes here and there isn’t enough. I always feel behind, as though there’s something I’m missing or I’m last in the race to find all the answers. This, dear readers, is disconcerting.

Every year – and I do mean Every. Single. Year. – I tell myself I’ll be better at it, yet every year I wind up feeling like a failure half-way through January. With Lent and its command to be even more present to/aware of God barreling down on us in just a couple of weeks, the pressure to find time is becoming more intense in my head.  The intensity is fed by this pile of books:

SAMSUNG

These are the books I thought I’d use as spiritual food during the Year of Faith. I bought each of them (except for the Catechism, which I’ve had as a Catholic-writer reference for Lord knows how long) because I  heard them calling my name. Seriously. Amazon’s creepy robot thingy that tracks buying habits threw them up in front of me and said, “Renee, have you considered these selections?”

Well, Amazon Robot, yes, I actually have considered the Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything because everyone knows the Jebbies have the secret to life, but those other books, no, not necessarily. But now that you mention them, well, of course, I see the wisdom of your selections! I should buy them! They’ll help me! I’ll grow through their wisdom! They would make the YOF fruitful and productive and prayerful!

Alas, it hasn’t necessarily been so. I have read about one-third of the pages in all of these books, but completed none of them. This is most likely due to the fact that I read in fits and starts and bits and pieces at the end of the day when I’m exhausted from the demands of my paying job and the secret writing habit I feed in the evenings between dinner and bed. I am not, perhaps fortunately, a hermit or monk or religious sister. I am your average workaday Catholic. Thus, I am tired.

Indeed, I frequently fall asleep with one of these books open on my chest or, if I’ve been smart enough to read sitting up, on my lap. (Before you think this is simply a problem of time management, let me run down my day briefly: Up at 5:10 a.m. to head out for 45 mins of exercise before getting ready to work and catching the bus at 6:55 a.m. Work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., usually with no break for lunch. Ride bus home and arrive safely at my doorstep at 6:20 p.m. Throw a dinner together and attempt cheerful conversation with my husband while cooking, eating and picking up kitchen. Retire to my office from about 7:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. to feed writing habit through blog or novel and answer can’t-wait personal e-mails. Go do doctor-mandated 15-minutes of physical therapy exercises for my RSI. Get cozy in my reading chair and open one of these books at about 9:15 p.m. and … fall asleep 10 minutes later.)

I told myself I’d be better about all this during the Year of Faith. Really, said I to myself in a very serious tone, you simply MUST get your act together and make this type of reading a priority. Find the time! Carve it out of something else! Get a grip you willy nilly! Yelling at myself doesn’t seem to work.

Deadlines, however, do. For instance, when I know my women’s faith group is about to meet, the book we’re reading somehow jumps to the top of my to-do list. Granted, the SAMSUNGmove-to-the-top action usually happens on a weekend when there is a tad more flexibility in my life, but still, it does happen. The book, by the way, is one I would recommend, especially for Cradle Catholics. You can see it there to the right. Go ahead, take a minute to glance over.

Of course, I could read more during the middle of the night when I will wake for no apparent reason and start worrying about any number of things, usually connected to my adult children. They don’t need my worry, I don’t need the worry, but somehow, like my idol Erma, I wrestle with this demon anyway. Perhaps – and I just thought of this – I will read instead! (My children will be thrilled!)

But, besides reading in the middle of the night, there’s not a lot of free time for reflection in my day. Except – and here is yet another wonder of public transportation – when I’m riding the bus. I can’t carry one of those bigger books with me, but I am rather committed to the habit of reading a small devotional on the bus on the way to work. That sometimes leads to praying for people on the bus and others who come to mind or who have asked for my prayers. These few minutes – usually about 15 – help me get more centered for my work that day and also remind me (yet again) that I am not God. It isn’t perfect, of course, since city buses are pretty loud places, and it most certainly isn’t as easy as I imagine it might be in a hermitage. But for now, it will have to do.

How about you? Where do you find the time to read, reflect or pray in a busy world?

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2 comments

  1. I read just a little first thing in the morning, along with prayer–right now it’s My Life with the Saints. I also read for 30 minutes – 1 hour in bed before I get sleepy. Rarely, which I would like to change, I read at lunchtime. Someone once told me she read every second she can, even when she’s brushing her teeth.

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