Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Years' resolutions

I hardly ever make them. I always figure I can reform my life any ol' day, so why put such pressure on this one? :) When I decided some years ago to go on the first diet of my life, it was a perfectly ordinary weekday. No need for a new year; I simply went and bought some cans of Slim Fast at the grocery store (I remember being all embarrassed, hoping the clerk wouldn't comment), and eventually I lost forty pounds and I've mostly kept it off. Likewise, most of the other significant changes in my behavior or mindset have come in midst of normal life, not on a special holiday.

But now I'm inspired by a post over at Conversion Diary, where Jennifer F. has decided the following:

Every night before I go to bed, I will ask myself three questions about the next day (and give detailed, specific answers):
  • "When will I pray?"
  • "What will I eat?"
  • "What are the essential things I need to accomplish tomorrow?"

What a good idea. Those are exactly the three things I need to watch myself. But I have the same problem Jennifer has:

It should only take about 30 seconds...yet I've been trying to do it over the past few days and have found it to be surprisingly hard to force myself to focus long enough to provide thorough answers to each question. Trying to implement this simple resolution makes me realize just how much I have a tendency to drift aimlessly through my days.

I hate the aimless drift. My mom, who's sixty-seven and has been retired for some years now, says that every morning when she wakes up, she hears a voice in her head: "Go! Get up! Get moving!" The longer she lives, the greater her urgency not to waste time. "Does thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of." I dozed through much of my twenties but a few years ago I began to hear that voice too. It doesn't matter much to me whether I become a success by the usual standards; indeed I suspect I won't. But it would be a tragedy to fail to do what I was created for, to miss God's intention for me.

Here's something from C.S. Lewis (he's so easy to quote!) Sometimes when I'm being lazy, the memory of this passage disgusts me enough to get me moving again. It's the demon Screwtape writing to a junior tempter on how to handle his "patient"; I emphasized the parts that most get to me:

...You will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those whom he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong.” And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.


Rachel Ann said...

The song doesn't start until about 1 minute into the video, but...

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

start small work your way up, 2, 5, 10 and things become much easier.

JimAroo said...

Perhaps you have read: The Examen Prayer by Father Timothy Gallagher OMV. One of the fruits of the Spiritual Exercises is to order the disorder of our lives. The Examen Prayer is one of the best tools to achieve that order. Give it a try.

Hint for the JimAroo types (slothful cheapskates): Read Page 25 at the bookstore, memorize the 5 easy steps there and save the price of the book. Don't tell Gaby I said that

Rachel Gray said...

Thanks very much, guys, for the song, the advice, and the slothful cheapskate tip. :)