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Saintly aspirations

Last week, I revisited a theme that recurs in Matthew Kelly’s books, presentations, and now Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever. Matthew Kelly has always said, “Our lives change when our habits change”. The day’s particular reflection focused on the saints and their habit of daily prayer. Matthew drew a parallel between the saints and successful people having certain habits. Some habits build us up and make us better versions of ourselves while others do not.

As part of the reflection, I was asked to write down three good habits I practice. As a family, we pray every day. M and I do a daily litany of saints and pray for special intentions. Another is that I tell M and her father “I love you” at least once, if not multiple times, daily.  I’m good at hydration.  I carry my water bottle to work and as I go about my day.  It has become a routine that helps me feel refreshed.

We then were asked to list three habits. My worst habits are my time on my phone, my inconsistency in daily exercise, and my poor sleeping habits(ok so I mentioned leaving dishes in the sink but when one of the Dynamic Catholic speakers mentioned sleep, I realized I needed to change my answer.) These are habits that need to be reshaped.  Getting enough sleep and consistent exercise will help me feel physically better.  Disconnecting from my work phone and my personal phone will lead to improved focus and increased mindfulness. Since I didn’t disconnect from social media this Lent, my ability to commit to spiritual reading and actively participate with Dynamic Catholic has been negatively affected.

Matthew Kelly pointed out that 10 minutes to be with God and pray can make a difference whether you do it for 60 days or 100 days.  When I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours, that helped set the tone for my day. We used to pray the rosary in its entirety and do night prayer daily. These are habits we can bring back; they are not lost. Now is the time to be proactive.  On Friday, like most people, I feel rejuvenated. It’s a good day to commit to something with renewed energy. It’s time to make a habit to use time productively and pray in gratitude consistently.

saints-fra-angelico

Saints by Fra Angelico. Who wants to be in that number?

Mindful eating, the first chapter

When I decided I would have my gallbladder removed this summer, I asked about diet changes.  I know four friends/colleagues who had their gallbladder removed and know of countless others. Some folks are back to eating as they did before their surgery; others decided to forever modify their diet. I am part of the second group.  In the month that has passed since my surgery, I am much more mindful of what I eat.
I am an emotional eater. Food has been a painkiller over the years. Recent example: June is a crazy time for educators.  End of year and graduation keeps you busy and stressed. Mix in characters that probably shouldn’t work with other people(especially not children!) and you have a volatile environment. 
One afternoon, after a long day that ended with an unpleasant meeting, I walked into the house, grabbed the can of Pringles my daughter and her older sister had saved after their sleepover, and sat on the couch for a solid ten minutes. No praying, no meditating, no strategies learned in CBT or DBT. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

 As if every chomp could eliminate the foolishness of others. As if my tendency to internalize others’ nonsense could be swallowed like so much salt and grease. I won’t be seeking comfort from binging on chips anymore. 
 My lifestyle change isn’t about solely about giving up processed snacks or fried food or avoiding emotional eating; it’s about an overall change to my cooking and eating habits.  At home, I am making more stews and soups with less chicken. When going out to eat with friends and family, I now choose different meals. Vegetable-based soups like tomato basil paired with salads with honey mustard dressing or vinaigrette make for a satisfying meal. Most Asian restaurants offer plenty of vegetarian options. The Bay Area boasts great vegan restaurants including one of my faves, Souley Vegan, and a new discovery, Gracias Madre.  Even a trip to the ice cream shop with the kiddo hasn’t been torture: fruit sorbets are tasty.

At the moment, my body is letting me know what is best. I still feel queasy if I ate too much animal protein in a meal.  Trying a piece of birthday cake at a party is probably not wise. Dairy is off-limits for now.  For the most part, I am back to my normal routine. I have resumed daily exercise, light morning cardio for now, and have begun taking a Zumba class with my dance mom friends. I look forward to running and dancing with SambaFunk in the next few weeks.  Yes, I am at my lightest weight in twenty years, 125, (lighter than the weight discussed during my last weight loss journey:  http://mujerevolving.blogspot.com/2012/10/three-more-pounds.html )  I am committed to sustaining my health; that is the ultimate goal. 

Twelve days of Christmas(in June and July)

“Our lives change when our habits change.” Matthew Kelly
During the summer of 2004, I was fortunate to be awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a high school teacher, I would study the Renaissance in an intensive institute at Columbia University and create curriculum to be used with my students as my final project. I also moved into Carman Hall, one of the dorms.  After checking out the campus gym, I explored my new neighborhood and found the local Catholic church, Notre Dame. At that point in time, they had Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and I thought it would be a nice start to the day after my morning workout. Before I knew it, I was a daily Mass attendee.

Prior to my summer in Morningside Heights, I had only ever attended Mass on Sundays. Daily Mass is different. It has a different pace and overall vibe. It is a much more intimate experience than Sundays or holidays because it is often more quiet and the people who attend may be “regulars” who attend consistently. I like to attend daily Mass during Lent and other times I’m not bound by my work schedule. I am not surprised that many spiritual advisers recommend daily Mass as a means to reconnect and revive your faith life. It certainly has that effect for me.

About six days after surgery in June(and once I was cleared to drive) I spent 12 consecutive days in church. I attended daily Mass at the three local parishes I visit. Initially I had intended to do a novena, nine consecutive days of prayer and devotion, in gratitude for my health.  But once daily Mass became part of my daily routine, I made an effort to get my day started in this way.  It allowed me to focus on hearing the Gospel and being in community with others, rather than analyzing the aches and pains of my body’s recovery.
Now that I’ve had a week of not attending daily Mass, I can tell the difference. I am more connected to technology (phone, computer, TV) and less focused in the mornings and therefore back to my last-minute, oh-man-I-forgot-my-charger-my-medication-the-entrance-passes ways.  I am reading for leisure less. I’m skipping my prescribed daily walks. I have not followed through on my plan to write more often.  Yet I’m encouraged by one positive change daily Mass helped bring about in a mere 12 days.  I have committed to serving as a lector in my parish. After 7 years, I will be returning to a ministry I loved.

Health isn’t simply about the body but the soul. No hay mal que por bien no venga. My physical health challenges have pushed me to seek healing in many ways. The key will be to commit to healing habits.