I have a mind that multi-tasks. I think there is a technical name for that, maybe with the initials ADD or something, but we’re not sticklers for terminology here. My train of thought is probably more accurately described as a whole train yard, a mega-Penn Station, full of trains rushing simultaneously and in different directions, until there is an epic crash and voila, an idea. Or several hundred.
Ok, I know that is an annoyingly less than apt metaphor but in the 2.5 seconds it took me to compose it, I was simultaneously: trying to decide about bagels or grass-fed hot dogs for breakfast; debating at length low-carb v. low-fat; wondering if the hot dogs really ate only grass or if someone is smoking it and laughing at the suckers who buy them; wondering if I buy the bagel instead will I get the friendly cashier or the one who hates me?—wondering if perhaps she doesn’t hate me and maybe just has a chronically disapproving resting face; thinking then about my own face and adding “buy makeup” to the To Do List; remembering I can’t afford makeup because I buy grass-fed milk and mentally crossing it off again; cursing the economy; cursing all things political, and about to curse the Mets but then realizing, no need, someone clearly already has; wondering if perhaps pork hot dogs eat grass…? The train is longer than that but to describe the remaining 2 seconds of it would take up this whole post.
In short, if there was a Hoarders show for the mind, I would be a star. (Only I think the point is that hoarders keep all that to themselves. Never mind…)
Needless to say, this mental multi-off-tasking makes prayer difficult at times. Most times. But especially during Mass. I know as a wanna-be saint I shouldn’t confess these things lest they be used against me in my canonization process while Ohio, Kentucky and New York fight over my body, but who are we kidding?
I know that we all battle distractions at times, and for some these are semi-polite skirmishes and for others closer to an all-out nuke fight. Today was somewhat the latter. It went something like this:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Good morning Jesus! Please help me to pray well today and focus today. Not like yesterday when I spent most of Mass thinking of about work. Like that problem with Group 17E. I can’t believe those people; who do they think they are? Maybe I should get a new job. Maybe in a tropical place. By the beach. With blue water, and umbrellas, the kind in drinks, not a big fan of beach umbrellas, hope I don’t have skin cancer…wait, I am at Mass. Focus!
Oh yes. Dear Jesus help me to remember that this is the Heavenly Banquet. That you are truly present with all of heaven at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! Feast—is that just a metaphor or is there food in heaven? I know that theologians disagree. But surely there should be at least chocolate? Sigh. No chocolate right now; I need to lose 11 pounds by the 16th. Maybe if I work out for 2 hours a day and eat only green smoothies. Green smoothies would taste much better with some sugar. Oh sugar, I am supposed to be praying! (Expletive replaced because I am such a holy person…)
Maybe it will help if I focus my eyes on the altar. The priest is washing his hands. Of course his hands aren’t dirty; it’s a sign of our desire that something else, our hearts, be clean. How beautiful. My heart needs to be cleaned. So does the bathtub. Ugh. We should probably get a new cleanser. These eco-friendly ones don’t work. They don’t kill you, but they don’t kill anything else either. I should buy a nice toxic one, maybe on the way home from Mass. Oh yeah, Mass…
And somewhere between distractions 2,078 and 3,043 I remember the story of the king, the artist and the rooster:
A king sought an artist who would paint him the perfect rooster. Finally he found one who promised to do it, but said that it would take him a full year. So the king waited impatiently for 365 days, then stormed in and demanded to see the painting. The artist took out a blank canvas and paint brush and with bold and beautiful strokes produced in five minutes a perfect painting of a rooster. The king was outraged—why have I paid for you to waste a whole year, when you could do this in five minutes? And the artist patiently explained, “It has taken me this year to learn to paint it in five minutes.”
On hopeful days, I feel that way about prayer. It may be that in one Mass, or in many Masses together, I have but a moment of “real” prayer. One moment in which my mind and heart are still enough to pray something that pleases a King.
The truth is, after all these years I am still a baby at prayer. One that squirms and babbles and protests even when being fed. But then, sometimes, Someone chooses to pick me up and carry me to a place that I cannot go on my own. Not because I am good, but because He is.
And that is why I practice my faith. Literally. Speaking of metaphors…
Photo: Penguins at the beach in South Africa March 2014
© 2014 Grace-fed and Free Range