Just do the next thing

It has been a wild and crazy couple of months. The non-stop events of the season of Advent, followed by the sigh of relief that Christmas brings always turns my life into a madhouse. This year brought that to new heights. Visiting family, a daughter home from college, the normal events of the season at the school and parish along with trying to become more present with the Spanish community had me spinning like a top. This year I think I went a little too far, as my body succumbed to the worst flu I’ve had in over a decade, putting me out of business almost two whole weeks. It’s been a roller coaster.

When things get like this, usually at Christmas and Easter, I have a little mantra that keeps me sane. “Just do the next thing.” If someone asks if I’ll do something, I just put it on the calendar and don’t worry about it until it’s the next thing. Planning takes a backseat to action, and though I admit my quality drops, everything gets done. At times like this, that is often simply the best I can do. However, this website project of mine just isn’t on the calendar, and I’m afraid that as such, it was never the “next thing”! So all I have been able to do is respond to emails. My apologies to those who look forward to this content.

I have a horrible tendency at times like this to make a great mistake, one that can destroy my peace. I can forget to set the time to pray. I know how it happens, I get in late one night and miss my evening office, or can’t find time in a day to pray a rosary, and next thing you know, days start clicking by where I don’t seek the quiet time with the Lord that we all desperately need. If I am not careful, I find myself entering a full relapse, where I binge watch Netflix while lying on the couch with potato chips whenever I get that rare few hours to myself. I am quite good at rationalization, and find myself talking about how “I need to take time for myself”, and “I just need thirty minutes to chill”, which quickly eats up all the extra time I have. Then, it quickly becomes a new normal, and I have to fight hard just to get back to a decent prayer life, let alone a good one.

I remember once my bishop talking about this, and he said something so profound I have never forgotten it. He said that good habits are hard to keep, because God wants us to grow in merit. It’s hard pray, or eat right, to read a spiritual book or go to the gym every single time, because the fight to ‘do it’, is part of the goodness. It’s easy to fall, and hard to get up simply because it’s a good thing. The evil things in life are quite the opposite, you fall into them until your will and intellect are darkened and habit begins to lessen culpability. It is almost like a spiritual governor, making sure you receive all the merit from your good actions, and limiting the amount of willful sin when you fall off the horse. My bishop says this brilliant kind of stuff all the time, it’s humbling to always feel like an idiot around him.

But it’s true. It’s so easy to fall, but it is just as hard to keep a good habit as it is to start one. Prayer is the hardest one of all, and in these holy times when you would think I would be brimming with the joy of the season to fuel my prayer, instead I find my mantra of “Just do the next thing” to be putting prayer on a list of which, sadly, it is not at the top. This does not serve me well at all.

Nothing to do of course but pick it up and try again. I remember a quote from Br. Lawrence, and I’m sure I am going to get it wrong, but it goes something like this, “Whenever I fall, I just look to God and tell Him, ‘of course I fell, I always fall when I stop looking at you’, then I laugh at myself and turn my eyes back to Him”. I guess what I’m saying is that if this happens to you too, don’t worry about it, and don’t beat yourself up, you can’t fix yesterday. You can do something now though, and get back up out of the mud. Mud happens, but getting back up is what makes Saints.

So that’s the “next thing” for me now. It should have been the “next thing” all along.

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