ST IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA

Leave the Old

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One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience, and not injure his health.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

          Work From Home took effect once more last week, and by the look of things, we could be in for the long haul as Covid cases surge out of control.

          At work, back in March, we were put on a new schedule and it was very demanding. I could barely move from my seat and within a month, I felt and saw its effects. Then came April and a return to my work place. I coped better not having to stare at a screen so much – but the relief was short-lived. When a close contact at work contracted Covid, I was forced into quarantine and soon, our workplace was shut down once more. It made everything so much tougher and that new schedule sure didn’t help things.

           May was a repeat of April in some ways. After another brief time at work, Covid began to overwhelm our nation and soon, we had to shift back to WFH which began last week. After experiencing the fallout from that unforgiving schedule, I knew this time I didn’t want to repeat some mistakes. The awful schedule was going to stay – but I needed to make firm changes to how I handled the workload. I needed to deliver yet manage my health and sanity too.

          We had a short break a week into May and for the very first time, I didn’t touch a single work-related task for those few days. Although travel restrictions meant we could not even go on family drives, not even peeking at my work files and folders gave me such a deep and joyful rest. That short holiday was like a romp in a sunny flower field. There was so much fun with the family. Even the most simple joys delighted me no end. Although I still cooked and cleaned, everything was done at a calm and leisurely pace.

          Around this time, Someone began to remind me about all the little lessons I had learned about coping and living and being happy. 

If today is the best I can make it, the lifetime will take care of itself. If this hour, right now had kitty petting, dinner cooking and book reading in it, and the next had a bubble bath and a call to my mom, and the next had painting with a cup of tea, an old movie and a walk in the woods, if I put all those hours together, what a lovely Red Letter life that would make.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

          Reflecting on this deliberate layering of my day hour-by-hour, I felt led to another life-lesson:

That the time for me to be completely involved and absorbed in one specific thing for hours at a time had passed. More than 2 decades of such commitment had taken so much out of me and I was no longer able to maintain that level of work.

          But neither was this the time to completely shut down and let go. We cannot afford for me to retire early. Neither do I have the luxury of getting more help with running the home. Somehow, I have to still continue working long hours, running the home and still take care of myself.

It was now time to incorporate a bit of everything into a day, whispered a small voice within me. Time to shut out work when it has overstayed its welcome, to firmly ignore the endless beeping of the phone as my superiors text orders and instructions all hours of the day, pushing deadlines on us even at night.

To instead make my day a collage, of not just the tough things which just have to be done, but also of things which sweeten the hours and bring me peace and delight.

          When that dawned on me, it was like light suddenly pooling bright in my mind. I should not wait to live only on weekends or on holidays.

It was time to fight to really live each and every day.

          So, I returned to work after that short break, determined to take charge of my life, to take it back from that terrible schedule first. From Monday till Wednesday last week, I interspersed formal work with work around the home. I began the day very early with my laptop and files and ear plugs stuffed into my ears – but I made sure to get up and move around every few minutes and not become a slave to the laptop. I spent more time in our garden than I ever did before. Granted, it was never much to begin with in the first place. But I learned what so many others have long known – that having even a simple garden routine was a discipline that wrought a lot of good. It was good for my body and certainly good for my soul. A hidden strength and serenity always follows a good  commune with the winds and the sun, the trees and the flowers.

          Those 3 days of the work week passed and I was so pleased with myself. I felt strong and in control. My work schedule had not changed and yet, I had gotten so much done and still felt good.

          Then, came Thursday, Friday, and everything changed. Since March, those have never been good days. A ton of reports is always due on Friday so Thursday is a day to slog. I found myself struggling. On Thursday, I made a lame attempt to be in the garden. On Friday, I just couldn’t.

         It wasn’t that I had fallen off the track or gone back to my old killing ways; I could see no other better way to do things.

          I was disappointed. It was so important to me to learn to work differently and to stay on this new course. So many things were tied in to that. If I failed yet again, then there was little chance to hold on to my job, to win back my health and happiness.

          I wondered if there was something I should have done or not done in order to have lived those days better.

          Just before I fell asleep on Friday, I asked God to speak to me. If there was something that needed to be changed and could be changed, I needed God to lay it out clear and straight for me because all I saw was a hard, high wall in front of me.

          As always, God’s reply was the last thing I expected.

One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience, and not injure his health.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

          The moment I read that quote, I backed away from it.

I was not ill.

That was not the quote for me.

          But those words pursued me gently and silently, like a little friend who loves you and who knows what you need even if you could not admit it to your own self.

One who is ill…

          I am not sick and I will not pretend to be. But for years, I have pushed and battered my body in the mistaken belief that I didn’t deserve any better. While others took breaks and rested, I listened to voices I should have instead shut out, and forced myself to go on working. I worked because I loved to work hard but I also worked to make life easy for others, believing that when you suffer in life, you have to try and keep others from suffering the same. While that might be true and good in many respects, it is not an absolute. In my case, unfortunately, I ended up spoiling some people into believing that I would always be there to pick up the pieces for them. That they could drop things on a whim and yet count on me to finish their job and watch the house, so to speak, while they took time off for hobbies and holidays and rest and rejuvenation.

One who is ill…

          A couple of years back, when it became apparent that something was going very wrong inside me, I tried to get help. I thought it would pass but it didn’t. For a while, meds and herbs helped but soon it was clear that something had been started and my body was set on a path it would not turn away from. Now, I can no longer spend hours scrubbing and cleaning and polishing the house, then, find an extra pair of legs to run after the kids and later, do a good amount of cooking. I will be 49 this year but in a couple of months, I’ll know if I am in menopause. I’m not even 50 but so much has changed within me, little of the old remains. When I compare photographs of myself now and from 10 years before, the deterioration is painful to see.

One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience…

                  There’s something in the Bible about how Love pursues, and those words of St. Ignatius did just that. Wherever I turned, whatever I did, those words from the quote never left me. Soon, I stopped turning my heart away and quietened myself and lay my head upon Jesus’ lap. What do you ask of me, Lord?  

…compensate by moderation and patience…

          There is no point in getting upset over the passing of the old days when I seemed to have endless amounts of energy. I have already mourned that. It is now time to accept the inevitable and move on to learning to do things differently. While I cannot keep to the old pace, I can still do so many things – in fact, I can do a lot – just slower and differently.

          A bit of everything in a day. Work. Gardening. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching the kids. Not for long hours like before but in short spurts. Bit by bit. Or brick by brick as Linda Raha wrote in her beautiful, compelling post.

        …compensate by moderation and patience…

          My Jesus is calling me to gentle living. Even in the midst of the roaring seas that life is now in this country, He is leading the way down a different path, one whose turns and bends I am less familiar with. He wants me to learn that gentle living is not just when I’m on a break or during weekends but that He calls me to it every single day.

          Even if on some days work will not allow me this, I must somehow learn to take back some hours each day to move in God’s meadows. 

          I must learn to let my body teach me how to work. To listen to it as I seldom have before, for more than anything, the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It makes no sense to punish or mistreat this sacred vessel.

          My step will be hesitant and unsure along these new roads. There will be Thursdays and Fridays. I will trip and fall.

          But slowly, by moderation and patience, in adhering to the new discipline of keeping things simple, I will make my way to new meadows.

          And leave the old behind.

 

The Fatima Way

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          It has been a blessed and joyous two weeks lived well and loved well. But a few days ago, I learned anew the truth of Sr Lucia’s Dos Santos’ prophetic words:

The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about

marriage and the family.

I have some issues with my beloved husband, and they boiled over yet again this week. As a result of that, I lived some long moments with sand in my eyes and a storm in my heart.

          One day later, late at night, I stayed up reading about the Fatima Apparitions. I came to the heartrending part where little Jacinta lived her last days, and finally, passed into eternal life. I was so glad for the late hour because it meant no one would witness my own reaction to the enduring courage of a wee child to love her Cross till the end – to offer her terrible sufferings for the salvation of souls. The lateness also meant on no ears would the sound of my own grief fall as my heart traced the path of two simple Fatima parents humbly answering God’s call to bury their own child.

          That part of the Fatima book also took me back to memories of old wounds I’d rather not see. It took me back to what we had lost as a family. It took me back to black hours that we lived through, unknowing that even darker hours awaited us in coming years.

          My pillow was wet that night, and I prayed that there’d be no sign of it in my eyes in the morning, for my grief is private and I wanted it to stay that way.

          I awakened to two miracles the next day.

          There was no sign of the night in my eyes.

          And a greater one – those tears had washed away the grit of old hours of my marital and family related grievance. With the sand washed away, I saw with fresh eyes what the storms had clouded over:

I had not carried my Cross in the Will of God; I had not walked the Fatima Way. 

          Marriage and family struggles come to one and all, some more bitterly and more devastating than others. Some we bring upon ourselves through the choices we make. Some are allowed because it is through the splinters of the Cross that we are emptied for Heaven. In my specific reaction to my frustrations with my husband over his parenting methods and his some of his spousal attitudes, I saw that I had left my Cross. I did not carry it, neither did I ask for God’s help with it. I chose to do it my way, and it was as self-serving as the life of the man of Frank Sinatra’s song (even if the world disagrees with me!)

          My way was not the Fatima Way. My way was the serpent’s way. Seemingly harmless and justified, but winding resolutely and stealthily towards the desolation of Me. I was going in the wrong direction – not towards Heaven, but towards Myself.

          My compass had to be reset. If little Jacinta and Lucia could push past walls rock solid with pain, to love and carry their crosses as God willed of them, then so could I.

          Fresh and cleansed, I got up from the ground. A new day was before me – to be lived the Fatima Way.

          And live it thus, I did. Despite my sinfulness and smallness, I lived it in love as best as I could. Despite the fact that the issues which upset me still remain, and will surely resurrect itself yet again, I held nothing back from my husband and family but gave all I had in love and joyful service.

          This morning, ambling through online highways searching for prayer meditations by saints, I came across a website. Browsing through the prayers, I read each one and waited for the one that would ‘fall into my heart’.

          Just then, I caught sight of a line at the end of the webpage – What if God chose a prayer for you?

          For some reason, that little line stuck its burr into my heart.

          Quickly, I responded, God give me my prayer, then. And resumed searching.

          It was the very next prayer. It was by St Ignatius of Loyola, and it was his Prayer of Generosity ~

Prayer for Generosity
of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve You as I should,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and ask not for reward,
Save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will. 

          Every line, every word of it – the Fatima Way.