You see? I don't mean to sound bitter, and yet the sameness of it all -- and the overwhelming sense that too many illusions consume our time, earnings and energy -- is wearing on me.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Although I've given up grousing for Lent, I recently found myself complaining to anyone who would listen that life was beginning to feel like the instructions on a bottle of shampoo. Rise. Work and commitments. Repeat.
Weekends didn't offer much variation: Rise. Many different commitments. Prepare for work.
Friends say it is the same for them. Our days seem to be running together into an indistinct blur -- a joyless haze of sameness. I had welcomed Lent, hoping a daily immersion into new reading and sacrificial disciplines would shake me out of it, but I still feel trapped in "Lather; rinse; repeat" mode, even as I growl that those instructions are illusions. In general, one hit with the shampoo is enough, but if we obediently "repeat" we'll have to buy more shampoo sooner. And our more frequent pennies are needed, desperately, to fill conglomerate coffers -- and thereby the corporate, sociopolitical and yachting interests they fund, while the rest of us wonder if we can afford to make omelets of a Sunday morning in order to have strength to get through the next cycle of "Rise. Work ... Repeat." It's all too much!
Stop. Breathe, Lizzie, breathe.
You see? I don't mean to sound bitter, and yet the sameness of it all -- and the overwhelming sense that too many illusions consume our time, earnings and energy -- is wearing on me. That shames me because I'm smart enough to know that a life where we can count ourselves employed, reasonably healthy and available to the people we love is a life that deserves some joyful gratitude.
And yet I grouse, and Lent begins to feel like it's been absorbed into that same pit of commitment that pulls at me like mud -- even my soul seems squelching and stuck as I try to put one foot forward, toward a promise of light.
Perhaps I am trying to do too much -- perhaps Lent feels mucky and entrapping because I have chosen four books to read instead of one book to really study and pray with; because I have over-committed to a schedule of devotions; because I have embraced an illusion that I can "do all the things" that promise me a holy and fruitful season if I just ... lather, rinse, repeat. All the "doing."
Whatever happened to simply lying fallow? Permitting our lives a time of restorative rest -- a time of limited "being," in order to be able to support all the endless "doing?"
Perhaps what I really need -- what many of us really need -- is a good old-fashioned pajama day: a period of refreshment in which we need not do anything beyond ordering in a pizza.
When our kids were little, my husband and I would declare an occasional pajama day, removing all responsibilities from our plates for 24 hours. We'd stay snug in our pajamas and talk, or play around together, or read something fun or just sit silently with our own thoughts -- what a concept.
Pajamas days reminded us that the demands of work and the illusions of perfection that drive us so relentlessly -- the laundry and lawns, the bill-paying -- will still be there the next day, and not markedly changed for being delayed.
We were changed, though. One day ignoring everything but the desire to rest and play provided genuine renewal to body, mind and soul. Like refreshed batteries, we had a bit of juice to us -- the bit of crackle and spark we'd been missing. We resumed real life with a bit more interest and creativity (another necessary seed of joy), for having ignored "doing" for one solitary day.
The fields need their fallow times. And we humans need them too, for restoration. Even in Lent -- perhaps especially in Lent, when we seek to reorient ourselves -- it is good (and necessary) to take a pajama day. Check your calendar. Schedule a day of doing nothing. And then take it.
- Elizabeth Scalia is culture editor for OSV News.
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