Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What I Gave up for Lent: "Feeling Aggravated"

I gave up “feeling aggravated” for Lent.

I had not made up my mind what I was going to do until after we had been to church on Ash Wednesday. Giving up a physical thing seemed to be meaningless. Giving of one’s time/material goods are things that should be done year-round. A true sacrifice that also meant acquiring a virtue seemed to be what I needed to do.

Some days I seem to breeze on through, feeling grateful for my beautiful family, nature, and all else God has given me. Other days I feel besieged by children who refuse to cooperate, incompetent clerks, people who have problems communicating clearly, and people who bounce checks.

Normally my blood pressure runs about 110/70, a very healthy number, but when I start to get aggravated I can literally feel my blood boil. I actually registered at 130/80 (“prehypertensive”) one morning when I was feeling like this. I know this is not a healthy state either physically or spiritually. I also wonder how I could allow external circumstances to alter my internal state of peace.

St. Therese of Liseaux wrote in “The Story of a Soul” of her frustrations dealing with the sisters she lived with. They would torture her in all the little ways they could, taking away what little comforts she could possibly have in her monastic lifestyle. She would respond by praying for them, and by trying to learn how to love them better. She actually had to avoid one sister for a while, for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing; but she eventually got so good at loving the good in her that the sister thought she was one of Therese’s favored ones.

Did Therese actually feel aggravated? Probably – she also wrote that it wasn’t wrong to feel a certain way except for how it makes you respond. Some days I think that if I didn’t have to deal with any people I would never get aggravated. That wouldn’t be too practical though.

One day I went ice skating alone with my three-year-old; another day we fell asleep on an early spring day in the sun. “Isn’t life wonderful,” I would think, and vow to hold onto that feeling when times got tough. Playing ball with my kids I also forget all that is bothering me – there is no sound but the cracking of the bat in my brain. Running also clears my mind, and leaves me with a sense of well-being for much of the day. “Maybe I should just stick to these activities that make me feel peaceful,” I think. Or I could live in the real world.

One morning I was doing fairly well. My kids came home from a half day and I had to lean on them to get them to finish their education fair projects. Within a half hour I was yelling, feeling at the end of my rope with one of them. I thought of my resolution. “Does EXASPERATED count?” I thought. I lost it about ten times that day.

In casual conversation, I have been mentioning my resolution with other moms. They usually think I’m joking. “Good luck with that,” they say.

One of my Facebook friends,Br. Cassian Sama, commented:
"Don't worry my friend! Struggling with impatience is God's way of telling you that he wants to bless you in that virtue. If you don't give up and continue to strive for it, then you can easily attain the rest of the virtues that will make you the holy wife, mother, and woman God has destined you to be. For Patience is the engine and force that gives life to all virtues."

Today I received a rejection letter for my book proposal. It was a “good” letter because it said some nice things about the merits of my book – but it still is kind of like winning the silver medal in the Olympic hockey game. Close, but no cigar. This scripture speaks to me on my handling of both “aggravation” and disappointment.

Chapter 5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access (by faith) to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance,
4 and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,
5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

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