Friday, February 20, 2015

JUST FOR TODAY I'M GOING NOT TO COMPLAIN


WOMAN IN BREUER CHAIR WEARING OSKAR SCHLEMMER MASK
CIRCA 1926

Since getting unexpectedly ejected from my living situation of the last four years (adventure! fun!), I have been just a teeny bit "time-challenged" as in from the moment I wake till the moment I go to sleep I am "busy."

Lots of travel, prep for travel, recovery from travel, deadlines, admin.

I went to the tax guy yesterday (self-employment tax: adventure! fun!)

But that the Lenten season is upon us has not been lost on me. And this morning I thought: I am going to try to "fast" this Lent not from sugar, not from meat, not from swearing, but from COMPLAINING.

Every morning for years, as part of my morning prayer, I have read a little bookmark called "Just For Today."

It begins, "Just for today, I will try to live through this day only. and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime."

Which, every day, strikes me anew as genius.

Anyway, it goes on from there and some of the things are easier than others but this is the one where I always always think: Whoops, didn't do too well on that one yesterday. Again:...

"Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won't find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anyone but myself." [emphasis mine].

I mean enough said, right?

I often think of St. Therese of Lisieux, who apparently made it a spiritual practice to complain about nothing. She suffered terribly from the cold in the unheated convent, but apparently refrained from even putting her hands inside her sleeves to warm them so as not to make a show of the fact that she was suffering.

She was no humorless faux martyr, though, which is what makes her especially attractive to me. Certain people drove her crazy: she writes about them with affection and humor in her autobiography. She didn't try to force herself to not be driven crazy by them. She just tried to love them anyway, through Christ; to be kind to them even though she felt not an iota of spontaneous feeling.

That is the kind of "spiritual warfare" I thoroughly endorse. Real warfare is always done in silence, in secret, away from the eyes of the world. It doesn't announce itself or make a show of itself or claim special powers such as would garner notice or praise.

And it's hard--so hard you think you'll die. In fact, you do die. Very slowly. Very painfully. It's hard to suffer and now show it, whether our suffering is "small" or "large." Probably everybody's worst suffering consists simply in the zillion petty meannesses, setbacks, annoyances, frustrations, discomforts and fears that come our way in the course of any given day.

But I know for myself if I can refrain from complaining, the result is that I'm more open to recognize the also inevitable small kindness, the word of support, the moment when miracle of miracles I am able to be kind to someone else, especially someone who--perhaps unbeknownst to them--has hurt me.

The "Just for Today" bookmark ends with the St. Francis prayer--which always calms me down and always brings me back.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace."

Wishing you all a rich and fruitful Lent.

And seriously, I am ENJOYING the leaf blowers!

EDWARD HOPPER
WOMAN IN THE SUN, 1961



4 comments:

  1. One day at a time!! I too have been making an intent out of not complaining, but mentally noting what I am grateful for in each situation. This is laborsome at first, and eventually becomes easier, but I notice once I slip up, if I excuse it I will then continue complaining on and on and on... anyways, that's the deal.

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  2. i've just discovered you and I love your message ! the one especially about surrender .... my Mom who is a very devout catholic actually was all excited about you and was going on and on about you . She is 78 and i am 53.so i am now a fan of yours -u seam to reach all the ages . keep up the writing !!!!my son who is 18 told me about bill hicks and how much he loves his message about advertising so now you have reached that generation too ! Amazing !! i am a huge fan :)

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  3. Great little lenten read, thanks Heather My son and I have been getting chocolate soccer balls and basketballs this week habitually at a local candy shop.
    I've been thinking to myself (geez what kind of lesson and am I teaching him- It's Lent! But he's two and I love sweets so giving up complaining sounds great to me too. So true how when we stop complaining we are more open to seeing the good and the blessings around us. Happy Lent! I'm right with you on giving up on the complaining.

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  4. I love the meditation, but as an aside- my mom had 2 Breuer chairs when we were growing up. Someone gave them to her in college. She thought they were hideous and kept them in our unfinished basement for us kids to lounge on. She sold them for nothing before a move, then shortly later found out what they were worth. And, um, not that I'm complaining or anything, but those chairs would look bleeding AWESOME in my living room under my favorite Klimt reproduction. And such is life.

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