Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ORDER! Order in the home!

As Lents go, this one has been a bit of a flop. It bothers me because I'm usually GREAT at Lent. I pick really hard sacrifices, like giving up TV or secular music, and then I'm rabid about adhering to it. I began dating my husband in college shortly after Lent began that year, and I remember distinctly sitting on the couch with him one Friday evening trying to come up with something to do. Movies and any sort of TV were out. Dinner, drinks or dessert were out because I was fasting. As a good Catholic girl, I wasn't about to sit there making out with him to pass the time, and we'd been talking for hours and were over that. I remember his roommate came into the room and asked what we were doing, and when we explained our restrictions he just kind of looked at us and left. It's a moment I'm particularly proud of.

But this year I've been all over the place. I think my mistake was not setting a firmer sacrifice. Giving up "laziness" is too nebulous for any real success. Part of the problem is that there's ALWAYS something that needs to be done. So even when the kitchen was clean, the kids in bed, and my Rosary said, I felt guilty taking an hour to watch TV because I could be doing Spanish homework, mapping apartments for my volunteer work, reading/studying Scripture, etc etc etc.

In some ways, too, I feel like my industriousness got in the way of my deeper goal: to get closer to God. I had imagined if I gave up internet surfing I'd have all this time to read important books and pray for people, but I just ended up doing more sweeping, organizing and laundry. A clean house is nice -- very nice -- but not really my Lenten objective. Additionally, I used cleaning the kitchen as a catalyst to keep myself away from the computer or TV. It worked for the most part, but by constantly cleaning the kitchen I removed the one chore that my husband usually does to help out around the house. He's been telling everyone this is the "best Lent ever!" but I think our relationship has been hurt by it. Without this act of sacrifice to say he loves me, I've been looking around at the coat rack I bought in December that he still hasn't hung and thinking, "Doesn't he love me?"

It came home to me in a big way as I was reading "A Mother's Rule of Life," by Holly Pierlot, which a friend has lent me. I've heard it highly recommended elsewhere in the blogosphere as well, and for some time I've been pondering the idea of setting a real schedule for myself that puts a priority on time for prayer and orders my days a bit better. Really, if I have spare time, it's far too easy to waste it on something frivolous, and when Lent is over I won't have any reason not to.

When the author spoke about the chaos of her life and feeling as though she were always three steps behind, I thought about Et Tu, Jen?'s series of posts on praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and how implementing hard stops has helped her be LESS busy even without removing any of her responsibilities. And when Holly Pierlot ordered the 5 P's of marriage (Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider) I realized how skewed my priorities were. My current life is something like Provider, Parent, Partner, Person, Prayer. You'll notice that's EXACTLY the opposite of what it ought to be. I feel I should clean the kitchen and THEN read to my kids. I all too often watch TV instead of reading Scripture. At the moment, I'm putting my youngest's needs in front of my husband's, though I'm continuing to work with her in hopes this is a temporary situation.

Given how strongly drawn I am toward homeschooling, I think a reordering of my life is rapidly becoming a MUST DO rather than a "might be nice." My inclination as a procrastinator is to wait till after Easter, especially since I have so much to do before then, but I think I've already learned that the more I have to do, the more important it is to prioritize and work out a schedule that realistically takes into account the amount of time I have.

My whole family will be here in 10 days. I've also invited my husband's side for Easter lunch. I am already overwhelmed by my mental list (clean and paint playroom, move bed upstairs, buy 6 pounds lamb and figure out how to cook it, sort through summer clothes and set aside for warm days, buy my daughter a pink bow to match her Easter dress, get a mattress for the top bunk, plan the weekend's meals...) half of which I probably don't really need to do before they get here, but I want to do because I'm afraid they will comment on it. My mother is the consummate host, so I feel all this internal pressure to make things perfect.

It can so easily get out of hand. I don't want to spend this trip arguing with my mother about my lifestyle choices, biting my tongue at my sister's impatience with my kids and obsessing over small details that should not matter. It will be Holy Week. I want the focus on God, not on whether my parents will like the salmon I bought for our Lenten supper or whether my sister will be annoyed when we all leave for Mass.

So I want to pray about this for a few days and see if I can come up with a schedule that puts my home, my heart, my priorities and my life in order. The back of Holly's book asks "Are you desperate, yet?"

I think I'm desperate.


Zina said...

I love honest reflections like this. Do you mind if I forward to my Catholic AP mommies who are having similar struggles?

I have had a great Lent - which is very unusual. I wrote everything down and posted it up near the calendar in the kitchen.

Tienne said...

Forward away, my friend. You never need ask permission for that; this is a public blog. :)

I'm so happy for your great Lent! It makes Easter so much more joyous when you've really journeyed closer to Christ for the last 5 weeks.

Jennifer F. said...

I can't wait to hear how it goes!

As I was praying Lauds this morning, I was overwhelmed with joy to realize that I've actually kept this up since early January, and it's not even hard. For me, what worked was to do something radical: choose the three times I would pray the three major hours, and let *nothing* stand in the way -- even if I had to take the prayer book with me and do it sitting in my car, I would pray at the set time. Between that and the rule that the work day ends at Vespers (around 6:00) my life has truly been transformed. My husband was remarking yesterday how different things are now.

Can't wait to hear about your experience!