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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Simply Put

This is the toughest question I have ever had.

Dear Sister,
 I am looking for a saint that can help me with rest, relaxation, and the pursuit of pleasure. I am a workaholic and type A personality. I'm also co-dependent. All of this adds up to me coming in last in my life. I absolutely have to change this and I need some help. I thought if I had a patron saint of pleasure and/or relaxation, I could ask him/her for help everyday until I develop some healthy life balance. Thank you!!

Before I address my own problem in answering this question, let me assure you that what I'm about to say is not an admonishment to the dear reader who posited this in clear need of "healthy life balance". You can't help anyone if you are completely burned out and have no time to recharge your batteries. If you have children, it's not even safe.

The problem for me is finding you a patron saint. Because basically, I can't think of any saints who put themselves first in any way, rested, relaxed or in some cases, even slept much.

St. Catherine of Sienna only slept for about 2 hours a night. She fasted continually, sometimes surviving on only the Host. She didn't live long at all.

The Apostles walked as far as their feet could carry them, non stop, until they were stopped by martyrdom.

St. Sebastian spent all his time preaching to soldiers to lay down their arms, stop warring, turn the other cheek and all the other things we like to pretend Jesus didn't say because we're too weak to find another way to solve our differences. They got sick of Sebastian and shot him full of arrows. He survived.  Then he went back to tell them a few more things and they clubbed him to death.

Penniless St. John of God found a house, begged for money to rent it, begged for sheets and mattresses and supplies and medicine AND took care of the sick people who came there.  If they couldn't come or didn't come, he went and got them and carried to the his hospital. When it caught on fire he carried everyone out and then went back for the precious mattresses and bedpans.

I don't recall Mother Teresa having any spa time. And Jesus Himself washed the feet of His disciples.

Even the saints who actually didn't help anyone but themselves, the desert hermits who eshewed living in society because they found they couldn't stay holy and pure living among other people and the temptations there, spent all their time praying and fasting, devoting their every thought to God.

I just can't think of a single saint who knew how to relax. That's pretty much what made them saints. Work for God on a heroic level.

I do think you need to relax and recharge.  I just can't think of a saint who was into that. If anything, reading the lives of the saints will make you feel like you should be doing more. A lot more.

So let's take a step back and think about what you're doing.  You're a doormat.  What are you helping people do?  Are you helping them find money for their chemo treatments? Or are you doing their homework for them?  If you're doing the later, you're actually not helping at all.  Are you feeding the hungry? or are you making the kids afterschool snacks?  They can get their own snacks.  They can get you a snack. That would be more helpful to them because they should learn to do for themselves and others.

Are you helping the least and the last? or are you helping people who could do whatever it is you're doing for themselves.  Because if they could do those things for themselves, they could also be training themselves to help the least and the last. Are you following this?

Put simply, don't help people be lazy.

Is your workaholicness stemming from ego?  Is it that no one can do it as well as you, so you just do it yourself because you want it done a certain way?  Get over yourself. You might actually be robbing someone else of a simple pleasure, like making a nice sandwich or washing the car with the kids.

You're probably doing a lot of things that don't even need doing.

A saint for you? Let's try St. Francis de Sales, who had a lot to say about something that you desperately need: simplicity.

When a simple soul is to act, it considers only what it is suitable to do or say, and then immediately begins the action, without losing time in thinking what others will do or say about it. And after doing what seemed right, it dismisses the subject; or if, perhaps, any thought of what others may say or do should arise, it instantly cuts short such reflections, for it has no other aim than to please God, and not creatures, except as the love of God requires it. Therefor, it cannot bear to be turned aside from its purpose of keeping close to God, and winning more and more of his love for itself. -----St. F. de Sales.


the holy longing said...

God rested on the 7th day
Jesus went away for 40 days!

Anonymous said...

I think your idea of balance is spot on. I also think there were times the saints and even our Lord took time for themselves. Jesus several times went off by himself to pray. Most religious orders send their members on retreats occasionally and build in down time in their days. I suspect a lot of the issue here is having the wisdom to reach for the things that will truly refresh us, like prayer, adoration, and regular mass attendance, instead of reaching for the things that, though not inherently wrong, don't feed the soul, like spa days and chocolate.


Claudia said...

I think a visit to your doctor and perhaps some anti anxiety Rx might be in order. You need to take to someone.

Unknown said...

I have a saint for her--well,almost--Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati--who was well known for hanging out with his friends, singing, hiking, joking--and still managed to live heroically.

Anonymous said...

Sister: Your response was kind and very gentle. I've been in the poster's place (overwhelmed to the extreme) and ultimately what helped was considering exactly the issues you posed. It wasn't easy.

Unknown said...

I am always quick to gladly admit to having made a mistake. I am not certain, may be this is what has protected me from becoming burnt out. I know the price for sin. I thank God and all the holy people under him that I have what I have, I am not greedy. As a Roman Catholic I find my need for communion justified along with dedicated prayer. I just wish there were more people willing to indulge in God's inner being. As the younger generation might say, I feel violated.
I have heard the opinion that certain types of people think only of themselves. I have been accused of the same. The reason I am reluctant to accept that I am selfish is that unlike most I still think things through. I will not lie like our soothsayers and say that I am loved. If I went around telling all I met that I am loved, yes, there will come with it a sort of refuge from the worst, giving me a synthetic cheerfulness, but no, I am hated. For years up to my present age of fifty nine, my way of dealing was to ask and get prayer, and I did get prayer. It seems to put away hurt ( and in your case it will prolong death, you need to do a Catholic sort of search for "reparation", a word lived by Catholics. read one meaning here http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reparation ) It helps me through. And this is normal because this is what prayer should do, heal the mind, body and soul. ( I humbly admit it is in contrast with all, including Catholic, a Roman Catholic concept no matter it's origin :) Only hard core Catholic can withstand the torments of purgatory. )

Bethy said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,
It's me,your celiac supplicant from way back! I found this while searching up "rest and relaxation"... something I've always had a time and trouble with! (I always tell everyone else to do it, but, when I try, I end up needing to run, walk, or else, I find something in my house isn't clean- even if I vacuumed just a little while ago! I'm also the person jokingly called "Descartes" and told "I can hear your brain working away!") Anyway, I'm having some issues... I am currently having trouble nutritionally, and cannot eat enough if I try. I also am dealing with some neurological issues. As always, I am keeping Saints Jude and Lawrence VERY busy, and will be doing so even more during a 2 day EEG next week, which means I'll be walking around with wires and gauze everywhere, and egads! No coffee! :-/ (I'll offer it up!) Thanks so much for you, the God that made you, and for your help. Many blessings!

Maureen said...

I draw on this beautiful verse in times of crisis, when I am ready to Throw In The Towel; I don't know who wrote it, but it's quite beautiful:

If I had known, if I had dreamed
It's weight was meant for me
I would have built a lighter Cross
To bear up Calvary.

I'd love to know the author.

Feisty Irish Wench said...

I learned the hard way that behind the wife, mother, sister, friend, is a WOMAN behind the roles she fills. I had to rebuild myself because I was overextending me, and spreading myself way too thin. I was quickly becoming burnt out, cranky, mean, spiteful, and just plain ugly. And then a number of years later, I had to rebuild myself again after being worn down by the challenges I'd been having.
It's my job as a mother to put myself out of that line of work. Over-mothering leads to being that meddlesome mother-in-law that gets complained about on the internet. Don't be that meddlesome mother-in-law. Get your own life and interests, and equip your children for the real world by teaching them how to function outside of your arm's reach.

Anonymous said...

I think st Benedict would be a pretty good patron saint. After all, it's not so much about relaxation but about finding balance, and the rule of st Benedict is very balanced. If i remember it correctly, it was more or less 8 hours of work, 8 hours of prayer, and 8 hours of sleep!

Anonymous said...

Blessed Pope John Paul II certainly enjoyed sports (soccer, skiing, etc.) and the theater. He also traveled extensively, which can be relaxing as well as invigorating (as long as you don't spend much time in the airport). So I would say John Paul II is a good choice. He worked his entire life, but found time to spend with friends and enjoyed the company of people.

Anonymous said...

The little girl in your blog post is my daughter. She's a whiz in the kitchen and 13 years old now.