My neighbors’ generators hum in the background as I rummage through a pile of work assignments in search of one I can perform without benefit of internet. The power’s out, after an overnight storm. As a freelance writer and researcher, I find the lack of internet access nettlesome. Even cell service is affected today.
It’s quiet as I select the files I can work on. Only a few billable hours in there, but that’s better than nothing. I can work without distractions. The only device at hand is a pen.
As I realize that, it occurs to me that I’ve spent much of my life wishing for days like this. I was sure that if I only had more peace and quiet, less need for structured time, I could…fill in the blank: pray more, study more Scripture, read more devotions, study Church history. I’d go on retreats. I’d have time for more than a morning offering before diving into the day.
I am blessed with children, and grateful for them. I was blessed to be their “stay-at-home” mom. My husband made that possible. Parenthood never ends once launched, but my kids are now grown. The intense day-to-day five-kids-at-a-time whirlwind is behind me. I distinctly remember thinking in the midst of that whirlwind that someday, things would slow down. Someday, I’d have quiet days to work on other things.
So what am I doing this quiet day? Setting up to work, that’s what. No work, no pay. The power outage nonetheless leaves me a few hours of open time. What to do?
Draft a pitch to a client. Cull no-longer-useful files. Practice a presentation I’m scheduled to give in a few weeks. The to-do list lengthens.
The quiet day I used to call “someday” is here, and I’m finding all kinds of things to do besides the Mass and prayer and study I was sure I’d spend my somedays doing.
The very intensity of today’s quiet – no phone, no apps, no flickering screen – is forcing me to pay attention to what I’m doing, which quickly leads me to what I’m not doing.
I pick up my rosary, trying to put aside thoughts of clients and presentations and when might I get electricity back.
This “someday” stuff is hard. I thought for sure it would be easy, maybe even come naturally. Here I am, though, alone in silence but for the hum of generators down the street. I’m pacing and praying aloud in an effort to turn my attention to God and turn away from the to-do list.
Someday, it turns out, is a matter of intention. Anything less is merely a wish.
As I recite another Hail Mary, a voice inside me is mocking me for ever thinking that someday, all I’d want would be time to live my faith more fully.
Stripped of intention, left to my own undisciplined habits, my spiritual life keeps receding into one someday after another.
What was it St. Paul wrote to the Romans? The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
Any resemblance to present company is purely coincidental.
I doggedly finish the Joyful Mysteries. I stop pacing. I sit down, pick up pen and paper, and resume work. That comes easily. The prayers didn’t.
Maybe that was the best reason to see them through.