Monday, July 4, 2011

Daily Life and Prayer Life: A Form of Schizophrenia?

How do others do it? Combine a life of prayer and a life of activity? They seem to be diametrically opposite ways of being. My day usually starts and ends with prayer, but often the start gets a bit squeezed, depending upon how late I am in getting up. Or, sometimes work gets a little squeezed when I arrive a little late because of becoming "stuck" in contemplative prayer before leaving the house. (Hey, it's a lot better than getting stuck in early morning traffic, which does not happen when I leave late because rush hour, such as we have it, is over.)

I suppose one can define prayer somewhat more broadly, along the lines of Br. Lawrence's definition, in which he did everything in his life as if doing it for God (as described in The Practice of the Presence of God). If only I could remember that when I am in the throes of some kind of intense discussion with employees insurrecting against one of my junior managers or when the new senior assistant to my boss's boss is pontificating in a (usually unsuccessful) attempt to demean me, something that does not work well with a farm girl who grew up on the boy's side of the playground, took on seven boys on the bus in the seventh grade and would have won had we not all been kicked off the bus as the fisticuffs were reaching their zenith, and served in the Army while it still belonged mainly to men. Fortunately, there are whole days when I do remember to do everything as if I were doing it for God. Those are usually good days.

When I remember to send a quick request for help and guidance in the midst of the chaos and trauma, things go much better. When I forget, I usually end up afterward saying, "Oops, God, sorry! Could you fix the mess I made?" I usually get that help, but it would be more efficacious were I to remember to ask in advance and not in retrospect!

Wednesdays and Fridays are better days. There is a daily Mass at the chapel near my office at noon. My secretary knows not to schedule anything at those times. Once I overheard her say to someone begging for an appointment at that time, all other times for the week already being filled, "No, she will not give up her time with God for time with anyone here -- and, trust me, you want it that way!" Hm, I guess there is some residual peace and "connection" when I return that people notice. Now, if only I had that option every day!

I have a little sticker on my computer. It says "PG." Many people think I love Pacific Grove, a small beach town near here, or think I live there. Actually, PG is a reminder to myself to "pray to God" before pushing the send button on any email. Often, I do remember. Other times I rush past even that sign and the little moment it takes to ask God for a second opinion about what I have written -- and then, sigh, I sometimes have to go in and push the "recall" button because I did need that second opinion.

What I yearn for, though, is that which I generally get only in the evening when, as the sun begins to set and the air cools off, I can work down our hill and stroll about our sleepy neighborhood (or around the mission grounds) in prayer or in contemplation. (I know: the recommendation for contemplation is to sit upright quietly, but sitting quietly is not something I know how to do, and I can certainly "be still" while walking, and I can certainly "listen" while walking. It's just my nature, and it does not matter if I am not following man's "rules" since I am doing what God put into me to do naturally.) I love the "being still" part in the breeze, in our little town's sleepiness, in the occasional call of a bird or hawk or dove or owl, in the fading light that is still there enough to guide my steps. I love the being with God part that has no real time limit because even if the light goes away, the Light is still there!

Then comes the next day, and I once again become a schizophrenic. The Russians have an interesting verb, the translation for which I do not know: slit'sya. It means something along the lines of two or more things flowing together, coalescing, become one new, combined thing. I am looking for the moment when there will be a "sliyanie" of my daily life and my prayer life, and I will no longer feel schizophrenic.

Suggestions always welcomed!

P.S. Happy Fourth! (No work today -- sliyanie!)