How is your January going? I have a feeling it is going to be a challenging month. The calendar is already looking rather full and I have a strong feeling of “Oh dear, here we go again!”
I would have to admit that I tumbled into the Christmas season exhausted and dosed with a very nasty viral cold. Advent had passed in a blur – far from the quiet, reflective preparation for Christmas which I would have wished for if I lived a quieter life!
I am not big into New Year resolutions but I do feel the need to rebalance my life and January feels as good a time as any to do it. One of the films I watched over the Christmas season was About Time and it really had an impact on me. In it a young man finds out from his father that all the men in the family have had the ability to travel back through time. It transpires that any of the past generations who have tried to use this gift to become rich or influential have fared badly.
Towards the end of the film the father advises his son – the very excellent Domhnall Gleeson – to live each day as he usually would, with all the stress and hassle and then to go back and live that day again noticing the beauty in it.
Gleeson’s character does this and realises how much richer his life is when he takes the time to notice a smile, to be pleasant to someone, to rejoice in beauty, to laugh. It’s not that I don’t know these things. I do. It is just that I need to be reminded – regularly.
So, January is here and I am determined to notice what is going on around and within me. I am deeply aware that when I live ‘tuned in’ to what is happening in my life I am more at peace, better able to deal with stress, less likely to feel overwhelmed by having too many things to do and – importantly – more capable of saying ‘no’ to those additional meetings/responsibilities/hassles.
I have returned to my journal, committed myself to taking a little time each day to write – even if it is only two lines to name the blessings in my day. Ideally, I will write more than a few lines, noticing also the challenges in my day, thinking a bit about what God is asking of me, how I might respond and, over time, see the patterns that emerge and a sense of where God calls me to be. It is in the light of this that I will be able to review the many commitments of family, work and community involvement and hopefully make wiser decisions about where to put my time and energy!
Essentially, my journal will enable me to pray the Examen – that reflective practice which St Ignatius developed. You can find a wonderful app for that online – ‘Reimagining the Examen’ – which will help you reflect on your day, notice where you have been present to God and others and where you have been absent.
I plan to use that app on my phone to guide and prompt my reflections but for me, writing it down, expressing my thoughts on paper, helps me to see more clearly where I’m at.
The Examen is something we can all do, whatever age we are. For children it may be simply noticing where they have experienced love, goodness, happiness during the day and where they have shown these to others.
We live in a fast-paced world. Stress and anxiety are on the increase. We all need to take time out, to rebalance, to ground ourselves in the experience of God’s love.
That is my prayer for my own family and for you in 2019.