Sunday, June 30, 2024


Father Jim sends miniature Daily Reflections prayer books like a ticking clock every Advent and Lent. I recognize Father Jim’s black ink and hard-pressing penmanship on the outside of the standard white envelope. I can feel the boxiness of the prayer books as I hand the gift to Mom.

I always keep my copy on my nightstand, where I plan to read it every morning. Of course, my plan succumbs to an unfortunately more dedicated scrolling of X or Facebook on my phone. A subtle pang of guilt hits me anytime I move the prayer book to dust or reorganize my clutter. I will pick it up, read the devotion for that particular day, and then casually flip backward through the numerous days I have missed, making a half-hearted internal promise to catch up soon.

I carried Daily Reflections for Lent to the Easter vigil at Saint Michael this past spring. Reading the numerous missed pages would fill my soul during the quiet time before mass. As the few dim lights exorcised some darkness throughout the church, I found the March 21, Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent passage: “Reimagining Time.”

I read this passage about time and how we perceive it. I sat quietly in my pew as my thoughts caught fire. I reread it, dog-eared the page, and then dropped the prayer book to my side as the service began with a quiet opening hymn.

I took the prayer book home and returned to moving it from place to place, occasionally glancing at the unopened book, leaving it untouched long after Lent had passed. I had all the time in the world and simply let my questions and answers about that passage continue to simmer.

The mid-June heat wave had kept many people inside during the week's blistering afternoons.  Other than watering the plants in the morning or late evening or occasionally walking Charlie-Bear from shady spot to shady spot in the yard, I spent little time outdoors. I had already experienced enough of those oppressive summer bursts of intense heat and humidity when I lived for twenty years in North Carolina. I am older now, perfectly content to close the blinds, turn off the lights, and catch up on chores inside the house.

I found myself with time on my hands amidst all the unfinished projects and clutter stuck in the unseen nooks of my world. I began to organize the seeding containers, starter mix, and LED lights I used this past winter, placing them in random boxes in the basement and garage to be merged later. For months, Google has pressured me to buy storage space for my overflowing Google Photos account; hence, I sat at my computer, completing two years of photo saving and purging a day, leaving the hope of organizing my favorites into themed folders for a later time. I found plenty of projects to start but none to finish, and, quite honestly and surprisingly, that was fine.

Thoughts of the dog-eared Daily Reflections prayer book and the “Reimagining Time” passage returned with crisp, cool air as the heat wave subsided. 

“Our worldview is usually quite linear,” the author writes. We view life as moving from one event to the next, seeing everything as having a beginning, middle, and end. The author also talks about other cultures that do not “perceive things” as a “series of events” but as “an enduring circle of relationships” extending over time. 

These concepts are simple to understand on the surface but are worth more exploration. If you live the linear philosophy, you must find a balance within society’s movement from one task to the next, from one event to another. We know how taxing life can become, constantly checking a calendar and reading the notifications on our cell phones of where we need to be. Advances in technology have certainly helped to “move us along.” We genuinely yearn for the balance a circle of relationships brings to restore our depleted emotional and mental health from running on a never-ending hamster wheel.

What do I consider reimagining time? It is easier for me now as I am retired from teaching. But, Lord, I recall being on that treadmill going nowhere: working longer hours just to finish a project in one day when I should have taken two days, always hoping to arrive at the end instead of enjoying the process, not being mindful of the signals my body sent to take more care of myself. I needed a better philosophy because the one I had was not working.

I wanted to listen more and more to the world's rhythm and my body and heed the influence of the changing seasons. I wanted to not think of myself as procrastinating when I simply wished to wait until a better time. The passage in the prayer book I read at Easter is a great example. Months ago, I felt guilty and beat myself up for not returning to it at that specific time. I like that I finally explored the passage in my own time. It was worth the wait.

That heatwave represents the exhausting effort and work we put into maintaining a schedule and living within that linear worldview. In the past, I would have been passionate about finishing the boxing of the seed starter materials and been angry with myself if I had not completed the project the way I had wanted. All my pictures are still in Google Photos and awaiting sorting. Could I have finished the project while the sun beat down on the house? Will my life fall apart if I wait until a later time?

Without a need to rush, I can spend time elsewhere. I can make a nice meal for Mom, one we have never had. I can be OK with her saying I did not cook the pasta enough since I can always try it again. I can spend more time giving my son Robert a regular call in North Carolina instead of feeling too tired finishing projects I had started as I kept my nose to the grindstone. I can finish that challenging Sunday crossword puzzle, ignoring the 67-minute time limit that used to remind my self-conscious self to hurry up. 

I wish I had reimagined time decades ago. I wish I had prioritized aspects of my life better than I had. I would have been much happier if I had learned to balance a beckoning impersonal list of things to do with other pleasures like lunch with a friend, an extra-long trip to visit family, or another walk around the park with my dog. 

Last summer, shortly after closing the door to my classroom for good, I made a bucket list of the things I wanted to do now that I would have so much time on my hands. Much to my surprise, I am far busier than I thought. I have experienced one or two things on that bucket list in the past year; however, when I look at it again on the first anniversary of its creation, I want to do so with a healthier and wiser attitude. I want to look at the remaining list and say to myself: all in good time.

Upchurch, Catherine. Not by Bread Alone 2024: Daily Reflections For Lent, Liturgical Press, 2023

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