Breaks and Falls

Perspective from my window on the train
Perspective from my window on the train

My life these days is mostly consumed with what is right before me–writing my thesis and preparing for my oral comprehensive exams. So, while this week is technically “reading week” at Catholic Theological Union, every week has been reading (and writing) week for me since I came back from our congregation chapter almost a month ago.  I’m hoping to get to the halfway point of my thesis today or maybe tomorrow (God willing!), which helps me to realize that what is ahead of me is doable and I just need to focus.

But focus I’m realizing also requires breaks for perspective. And so I took the train to Wisconsin this weekend to visit a younger Catholic Sister friend. There was no substantive reading and no writing this weekend. Just visiting, laughing, exploring, and relaxing which I think I really needed. Breaks are important. They ground us in reality, help us touch back into the wider world and see beyond the tunnel vision we can develop when we’re focused solely on what is ahead. I guess you could say that breaks are a way of getting practice using our peripheral vision.

While I have plenty to be about in my immediate future, given that I am working to finish my degree requirements before Christmas, I also find myself skipping ahead to the adventures that start in January. But a funny thing happens when I do that, or at least a funny (and somewhat painful) thing has happened twice in the past month. I fall. No major bones broken, just some minor scrapes and bruises that I have acquired while thinking far ahead into the future instead of paying attention to where I am walking. My subconscious does this to me sometimes (or maybe it’s the universe or even an experience of God’s sense of humor).  In any case, I wonder if it’s not a way of keeping me real.

For example, I remember when I was preparing to profess vows I fell not once, not twice, but three times in the weeks before,  in a very similar fashion–walking while worrying about the far off future instead of paying attention to what lies directly ahead. What’s funny is that this last incident literally occurred just as I was arriving home and getting ready to cross the street with my suitcase to my building. Here I was, physically transitioning from my mini-relaxing-weekend-break to the work of research and writing, but my mind was even farther down the line. So my body protested, bringing my focus and attention back to the present moment.  I could do without scraped knees and bruised elbows, but I’m also happy to be present in this moment. I just hope that maybe I’ve learned what I’ve needed to learn and can avoid a third fall?

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