Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reality? What Reality?

I love self-development books. Not self-help, so to speak, but development. I love to read books to better my organization, to better my handling of finances, to better my parenting, housekeeping, prayer life, etc. love them. Because, each one offers new hope on how I can finally change my ridiculous behaviors and become...well, let's face it, a grownup. I'm constantly telling Chowder, "Seriously, we're in our mid to late thirties, we have 5 kids, a nice house, a good job, an education. It is time to start acting like grownups!" and we do. for a little while and then we digress into children again.

We blame ADD, we think we just haven't found the right "system" (I love the promises of a good "system"), we try to will and force ourselves to get a grip on it all. but, we always end up failing. It can be so frustrating and so disheartening. And then, I find a new book, with a new promise.

Well, lately I've been reading an old book. with an old promise. The Rule of St. Benedict. I like to read this off and on. I love the amazing insight that it gives on the way to live in a community, which is what every family is. This time around what I got hung up on was the idea of murmuring and how this was among one of the greatest offenses in the monastery (punishable by excommunication). I encourage you to take some time with Nicholas Buxton's sermon that I linked, it really illuminates the separation that murmuring brings about, both between ourselves and God and between ourselves and each other. I was pondering how to stamp murmuring out in my house, meaning in my children, until a light was shown on my heart making me see all too clearly how much murmuring was all about me.

So, I turned to Joan Chittister (a former Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters) and her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, in hopes of finding more insight into this act of murmuring. What I found instead, was nothing short of an epiphany. A full 180 degree turn around on the way I view my own "self-development." Sr. Joan includes an ancient monastic story:

One day the Teacher said, "It is so much easier to travel than to stop."
"Why?" the disciples demanded to know.
"Because," the Teacher said, "as long as you travel to a goal you can hold on to a dream. When you stop, you must face reality."
"But how shall we ever change if we have no goals or dreams?" the disciples asked.
"Change that is real is change that is not willed. Face reality and unwilled change will happen."

When I read this, I literally gasped.
dramatic, no?

I put the book down and just lay there with this wisdom that is so ridiculously obvious, but so amazingly obscured. Face reality and unwilled change will happen. If I looked on finances in reality, and not slip into denial, then I would change the way I handle them. If I looked at the reality of caring for my family, and not become a silly, pouty girl, then I would just do the work and get on with my day (sans murmuring even!). It's not about finding the right "system," the right expert, the latest tips. It's about living in reality. It goes back to pledging myself to the walls. And while some of these books can provide some very practical advice, my core behavior will not change until my perspective does. Living this life. now.


julie said...

Oh my, sister, I am living this life right now with you.

Great post.

Erika said...

Hey! I stopped by from IVF Connections after you mentioned you had a blog. I am psyched that you know about Sr. Joan - she ROCKS. I have her calendar on my fridge, so I get to be reminded of her writings every day. :)

Have you read (or listened to) any Richard Rohr? He founded the Center for Action and Contemplation ( and he is just as awesome as Joan Chittister, just in a different way. In fact, the two of them have done conferences together. I highly recommend him if you haven't already found his works.

Anyway, so glad to have your blog to read. See you on the boards!

Erika (Twelves)