Hitting the Wall at 80April 17th, 2013
Hitting the wall at eighty, even if it happens metaphorically, is never easy.
It was a rough Lent. It seemed to go on forever (as did winter). Wasn’t it at least 100 days long? We’ve all been there, but for me, an endless procession of intense, grey, days, serious illness and deaths in loved ones, dissertation deadlines, criticism and apathy from others, and random, stupid difficulties added up to an agonizing month.
It is not often I feel like I’ve hit the wall and can’t cope – losing things, forgetting more, not sleeping, not even able to write. When my body rebelled with the “dreaded stomach bug” (and right before the Easter Vigil, of course!) things were really bad.
So, what does one do when it seems one’s life is stuck on Good Friday? When one difficult moment follows another, but the demands of the moment still have to be met, so physical retreat isn’t possible?
For me this period was a call to slow wwwaaaayyyyy down – to focus on just what it was I was really supposed to be doing – not just in that difficult time, but beyond. What was the lesson here?
The response of many would be that I should pray more. Well, I’ll tell you that at the worse of this period, because I wasn’t happy with God, my usual forms of prayer just weren’t happening. No way. Instead what went on was something like this (imagine angry inflection): “Okay, God – you got me into this, take care of it! Preferably NOW! And I really, really don’t want to hear anything about how you want me to do something more, or that I’m going to be a stronger, better person because of all this ‘cause you know what… right now I REALLY don’t care! This just stinks, and I’m tired of it!” Cue tears.
Harsh, perhaps, but I know God understood. And I felt blessed, because even in the midst of it all I had no doubt that God WAS present, and in the end it would be okay. It was just a matter of getting through and hanging on. That gave me hope. This time wouldn’t last forever.
Those feelings were aided by my practice of the Examen, the great Jesuit prayer. With this you are encouraged to look at your day, consider how you responded throughout, and find God in its events. Although related to the Catholic “examination of conscience,” the Examen is far more than that. It is a useful, daily practice of discernment of God’s presence and direction in your life.
In the end these weeks reminded me how important it is, regardless of where we are in the spiritual life, to realize that we are called to increasing trust in God throughout that life. No one ever reaches a point where that growing reliance isn’t necessary. If Lent and the Triduum aren’t about teaching us that, what is?
Perhaps then, hitting the wall at eighty during Lent, painful as it was, is never such a bad thing.