When Solitude and Speed Collide
This morning as I sat in the waiting room of my doctor, I felt two worlds collide: the world of solitude I just left (OBX) and the world of speed in which I live. As you know, I really didn’t want to leave the covering of my beloved beach umbrella, but I had to. I guess I could build a little box and set up camp, but that is not the best plan (smile). For a few days I shed my cares, the most recent being this darn diagnosis of Achalasia. I really want it to go away.
The knock on the door quickly brought me back into reality.
The reality that I am back in the real waiting room of my doctor’s office—facing the reality of a pending surgery.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
“Ah! My new favorite author, Anne Morrow Lindbergh…the wife of famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh,” I smiled.
“She’s helping me face my fears about this Achalasia-thing,” I said.
“Well,” he paused. “That’s a good thing, right? Yeah, we have to take care of this.”
“This really isn’t going away?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Are you seriously asking me that again?” Dr. Lawson smiled, as he pushed back his stool and lowered his reading glasses. “Really?”
“I thought it was worth a try,” I said. “I hate it. I know I am not dying, but this sucks. I was holding on to one last hope that maybe I can manage it somehow.”
There, I said it. Put my great displeasure out on the table.
“No, it has to be fixed, especially now while you are young. You don’t want that esophagus to get stretched out of shape. Then we’re talking real trouble.”
“I get it. I did find a bit of resignation while on vacation,” I admitted. “Now I am just trying to live my new normal. Accept the facts and garner the courage to move forward. It isn’t easy, as you well know. If I had my way…I’d stay in that beach chair under my beach umbrella.”
He laughed. “Wouldn’t we all?”
At that moment, solitude collided with speed.
This is Not a New Tension
In 1947, Anne wrote Charles, “C,” a letter in which she describes her own struggle of solitude colliding with speed.
“It is the compromise with the world that is so hard. The other day I was thinking of all the conflicts below superficial issues. I want a quiet and peaceful and serene living room—and I have five children with no very good place to play and no desire to starch them in discipline. I want to be pure in heart—but I like to wear my purple dress. I want to live so quietly that the flight of live swans over my head is an occasion for a hymn and yet I want to go out in the world and meet people. One cannot be half-monk. But perhaps one can be a monk for half the year—or even just one month out of the year.”
Be a Monk for a Month or Maybe Even a Minute?
“Yes!” I quietly exhaled. “That’s it! A monk for a month!”
Then I realized how virtually unreachable that is for most of us.
So I took it a little further than Anne, asking, “What about gleaning wisdom from the monks and practicing monk-like mindsets and habits and spiritual disciplines? Now, that is a reasonable goal.”
When I talk about monks or the monastic life, don’t vivid images of brown robes, burlap belts and bald heads pop into your head? I mean, it should. For centuries, we have looked to the ancient writings of these beloved souls who have taken vows and set themselves apart—outwardly stripping away the speed of their time and accepting a different way to live.
Over the next few days, I want to introduce you to my favorite monastics, St. Ignatius of Loyola. His Daily Examen was first introduced to me at a Morning Aside Prayer Retreat I attended three years ago. Ever since, I’ve tried to read more in an attempt to understand how to incorporate this practice into the day-to-day of my life. Ignatius practice a five-step daily examen:
- Be aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look toward tomorrow.
And then, on June 19, when I was given the news that I do indeed have this Achalasia-thing, I realized, with even greater force, that I must find a different way to live. Some things have to change.
Finally, while researching for a book project, I found a book, The Inner Compass, that explained Ignatius’s Daily Examen in a simple language I could understand.
You guessed it, it made its way under my beach umbrella and definitely found its way into my heart.
Grab a Brown Robe and Join Me?
I’d love to have you come along with me as I look at balancing solitude with speed. You don’t have to wear a brown robe (smile), just bring your willingness to learn from this wise pilgrim, Ignatius. I know he can help us find the answers we are looking for.