The Frail-to-Strong Continuum

I wonder if any of you have reached a place in your lives in which you feel little at all could toss you out of perspective?  At least barring the deterioration of your mind?

It is a silly question, perhaps.  Who among us doesn’t feel as frail in perspective, some days, as we feel strong in spirit on others?

I am thinking of what Nicky wrote about relying on her spiritual toolbox, and how the practice of prayer can coat our lives with resources beyond ourselves–sort of like the ice is right now coating up to an inch thick all the branches and utility lines outside.  Sometimes I too have felt carried by prayer.

But the last few days I’ve simply felt disoriented and, more recently, ill–though I’m emerging from it now, able to do the dishes and go out and scrape ice of the porch steps.  I was among those without power for 2 and a half days, an ice-filled branch having fallen on my service drop line and yanked it entirely off the house.  I was inefficiently trying to finish grading exams while shuttling to and fro the homes of my friends Heather and Peter, since I couldn’t live at home for three days.  There were many phone calls, some to ask why Ameren had wrongly concluded my power was on, some to discern the best way to keep the pipes from freezing as the temperature dropped to zero outside, and I concluded that the best thing was to keep all the water running–my father cleverly thought of a way to keep the toilets perpetually (and undoubtedly expensively) flushing.  And then, once I was home late Sunday night, after dropping off grades, I came down with some sort of fever the next day, was unable to eat, and slept more often than I was awake.

In all this time, I cannot say I felt centered, as I often can quite swiftly with a bit of sitting down with with lectio–or a listening for words or direction to arise.  I didn’t feel emotionally connected to others, though I was glad I could spend time with two human beings, one of whom I regard as a brother.  Instead, I was aware of just how much we tend to rely on constants in our physical environment to proceed with our lives, and even–but how much?–in the life of the spirit.

Some thrive on sudden physical crises, come alive, feel energized; since I don’t have the know-how or resources to climb up a pole and reinstall service drop lines, or physically move the many heavy branches that have fallen around my yard as if a tornado has struck, I can say I feel more my limitations as a solo human being than my strengths.  I don’t fall apart in crises of this sort (or haven’t thus far in my life), and I do what I can to organize resources for managing them, but I don’t maintain the sense of current to serenity that well at such times.  Instead, I feel irritable, ungrateful, pessimistic, and powerless.  Something more to add to the list of reasons for humility!

Perhaps a new spiritual practice ought to involve getting a television and cable, and learning to pray without silence–learning to pray through many loud commercials, action dramas, football games.  My sister-in-law, Rosa, always puts the children down for a nap with rock music playing, for she wants them to learn to sleep through anything.  Perhaps learning to be comfortable with noise would help with keeping serenity when electrical lines are pulled from the house and trees are falling all around!  I’m not sure I really want to find out, for I do dislike the sound of a t.v. if I’m not actually watching it.  At any rate, I do feel oddly grateful to know once again that I cannot rest in some notion of my own spiritual progress.  Every day we begin anew, and some days we begin with less than we had before.

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