I have contracted an illness called “the disease of a-thousand-things-to-do.” That’s how author Abby Seixas describes it in her insightful book, “Finding the Deep River Within.” It’s a modern condition whereby human beings are always rushing, trying desperately to cross off every task on their to-do lists, and are bombarded by interruptions and information overload.
Does this sound famililar?
Consider these observations she makes to claim her case of what has become a very unbalanced and frenetic culture:
- The average working couple in America spends 20 minutes a day together.
- “Family time” has become a goal, an achievement, rather than a natural consequence of being a family.
- Most Americans are trapped in a vicious cycle of overwork and overconsumption.
- Dropping in on a neighbor is practically nonexistent.
- Keeping busy and multitasking are praised, while slowing down is frowned upon.
I’ve made my Lenten resolution to adhere to six practices that Abby offers as an antidote to this cultural epidemic of living so fast that we are blinded to the big picture, of having to multitask 24/7 and thereby squandering the opportunities to be present to the moment we are living. Here. Now.
Her practices include: taking time for yourself each week, erecting important personal and work boundaries, befriending feelings (especially those that you’d like to stuff), taming self-expectations, practicing presence, and doing something you love. In my life this means starting my day with 20 minutes of prayer, where I read the lectionary texts for the day and a meditation from a saint or spiritual writer; staying offline until noon, and keeping Sunday Internet and work free; cramming an hour of personal time into each week where I get to do N-O-T-H-I-N-G but hear the dogs growl at the mailman.
I want these 40 days before Easter to be an exercise of jumping off the treadmill of my own packed schedules and expectations. I guess I want to stop living each day like a waitress taking orders, trying to remember all the special requests (skip the mayonnaise, skim milk only, coleslaw no fries) while telling the gentleman at table five that I am not his shrink. I’m chasing the results Abby promises if we are disciplined enough to slow down and take each minute at a time. She writes, “Access to the deeper realms within us gives us back our juice, our vital energy and resilience. …We find a sense of connection to something larger than our own individual concerns and a sense of meaning that makes what we do with our time feel worthwhile.”
If I get even a fraction of that, I’ll be one happy camper munching on Peeps and jelly beans this Easter.