Thursday, May 23, 2024

Faith, Routine and Balance

This morning as I ventured to work, instead of walking down the hallway in the convent and beginning work remotely, I got into my car and drove to the Diocesan Center. Dauphin County turned “green” as I write this, which means we can begin to slowly return to our offices and work as normally as possible.
As I sit here in my office with a mask tied around my face, I am pondering the lessons learned in the past few months. One of the things that many of us, pre-pandemic, struggled with was a sense of balance. By this I mean the time spent between work and home, between your spouse and children, between exercising and being a couch potato, between binging on Netflix/YouTube or working on “the list of things that never gets done.”
With the stay-at-home order, work and home, friends and family, all merged into one experience for many of us. Forget about living a “silo-ed” life! The demands of work were no longer just at work, and the responsibilities of home were no longer just at home. Both blended into an often chaotic mess. How often did we struggle with a “blended” normal?
Personally, I no longer had the luxury of a 25-minute commute to separate one place from the other. Shortly after the stay-at-home order began, I bemoaned, “Whatever skill I need to live an integrated life of work at home, I don’t have YET!” I then prayed to the Holy Spirit for the gift of whatever you call that life-skill.
I could not help think of this experience as I returned to my pre-pandemic series on listening. Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice, writes that if you struggle with balance, you are indeed living a life that is “silo-ed.”
Part of the anxiety of living this life is deciding how much attention and time to give to this or that. One aspect of your life is always being put to the “back burner.” This creates an illusion that one aspect of your life is more important than the other. According to Lindahl, when we listen to life with the essence of our soul, the parts blend into a seamless whole; each part nurtures the other instead of competing for time and attention.1
Isn’t this the new reality that we’ve experienced while working and living at home during the pandemic? For me, with time I found that working from home had become rather comfortable.  Video conferencing and the phone became two tools that I used more often. Limiting exposure to the “outside” created an illusion that home was the only safe place in the world. I watched Mass from the comfort of my home, thus bringing home (no pun intended) what the “domestic church” is all about. We watched the chaos of a pandemic world and the social unrest on the news, as well as the spike of new cases.
Now, some of us are back to work at our place of business. I’m at the Diocesan Center part-time. I have discovered that this is another challenging shift, because what I needed for the rest of the week at the convent, I left in my office on Monday! GROWL!
Knowing that I wasn’t the only person to experience this frustration, I began searching for tips that I would like to share. I came across a blog entitled, “Tips for Establishing Your Post-COVID Routine” 2 written by the staff at the Cleveland Clinic. The categories are from the website, the reflections are mine.
Keep things in perspective – Part of the difficulty of our life right now is the uncertainty of the future. Things keep changing on a daily basis. Who can plan for future events? Weddings, ordinations, retreats and the opening of school are on the calendar, but do we really know what these things will look like? So much of our existence now is out of our control. In order to find security in such times, a daily, consistent schedule is a must, whether you are working from home or at your place of work. Human beings are indeed creatures of habit. Routines become more important in uncertain times.
The importance of communication – With a new schedule comes a new level of frustration. It is essential, I believe, for each of us to reach out to our “support group” and give voice to these stressors. Once voiced, the stressors often seem like they lose control over you. The “remember you are not alone” lesson pertains to circumstances that are also post-pandemic.
Looking ahead – As with the 1918 pandemic, this will not last forever. Look to what’s ahead – to better times! This points to the virtue of hope. Hope comes from your feet firmly planted where you are, and your mind and heart focused on what is above. God is the giver of hope. He is in charge of your life and will work all things toward the good. Hope derives from the absolute belief that the previous sentence is true.
Maintaining balance – We are back to the topic I started to write about. Part of the journey of finding balance is the ability to own what you are feeling. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. It’s what we do with those feelings that count. Constant change and uncertainty can create a roller coaster ride of emotions. Knowing this can truly make the journey within change a bit less daunting. Part of the root and foundation for anyone who might be reading this is prayer. If anything, the pandemic experience has taught all of us the importance of prayer in our lives. Please do not forget this as our lives struggle to go back to the pre-pandemic way.
We are indeed in this together – side by side! God is certainly in our midst!
1Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 668-70.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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