Distractibility gets everyone eventually

I expect that Ms. Norris found profound reassurance in reading ancient struggles with distractibility, given that I find comfort in her comments, particularly her choice of quote:

[quoting desert father (“abba”) John Climacus]
“Tedium reminds those at prayer of some job to be done, and searches out any plausible excuse to drag us from prayer, as though with some kind of halter.” p42

Right?! Isn’t this The Thing That Happens right as one sits down? Laundry is my most common excuse, though weeding the front yard may be gaining traction. Abba John’s image of being led like a donkey or, more likely, an ox rings true to me…my household duties, my parental responsibilities (back when they were more pressing) would and do drag me away, frequently without protest. Or only the perfunctory grumbling kind of protest. Not the kind that throws up a hand and says, “Let’s re-assess.”

Even important and useful work can distract us from remembering who we are, and what our deeper purpose might be. p40

Oh wow yes. There is a 13″x16″x26″ bin in my mind full of papers and books and heart-burning and sidelong glances in and around my past two decades and Doing More Great Work. Because my calling as a writer and my calling as a parent to the particular people who are my children did not mesh together like zipper teeth. Even figuring out which those two was/is “important and useful” and which part was/is “deeper purpose” is completely beyond the scope of ‘discussing Acedia and Me.’

But as I sit here I wonder: does that tension make rips for the acedia to come through? Hm.

Monastic wisdom insists that when we are most tempted to feel bored, apathetic, and despondent over the meaninglessness of life we are on the verge of discovering our true self in relation to God. […] Even as I discovered my vocation as a writer, I had to struggle to maintain the boring work habits necessary for nourishing it. p40-41

Norris refers in a few places to her monastic friends’ calm assumption that bad thoughts/temptations intensify when things are going well, which is the other side of the thought quoted here. Which makes me nervous, given how much better I feel about the way my days have been going. May God have mercy on me and my damp, new-hatched habits!

I’m in the midst of a meta-moment: I think this is not quite how I’d prefer to bring you into this book alongside me,
but I haven’t figured out a different way to tackle what I do want. Thank you for your graciousness while I write my way to the other side through the…what is this? Meadow full of tall scratchy grass and burrs? Central Texas scrub? Something a little tough, for sure.


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