Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When you long for desert monasticism

I just read the excellent post by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary called The Mental Neat Freak. It made me consider why it is that introverts find daily life so taxing, and why modern Western culture makes it hard for us to flourish.

Unfortunately, we live in an extrovert's world, and we introverts are consistently misunderstood. It can be very intimidating for the introvert to explain what they need, because it sounds selfish to say "I need to de-stress after the fun evening I had de-stressing with people after work."  Which is why I've been agonizing over my mental state lately. You see, my husband and I have been blessed with visitors as of late. And by blessed, I mean that less than 24 hours after my in-laws' week-long visit, two close friends of ours stayed at the apartment for Labor Day. And because it's that time of year, the calendar just exploded (by my standards, which just means "I have somewhere to be 4 out of 5 times after work this week.")

In the course of events, I became a fire-breathing, multi-headed she-monster bent on total annihilation of other life forms. I knew it was bad when the steady invasion of crickets into our home became a personal insult to my autonomy, reducing me to flinging sandals at the door as my husband said "you know, it's just a cricket." I couldn't explain my inner rage, my fury at never being alone.

The other side of the coin, as Jennifer explains, is that some of us take it a step further and need time to clean up our brains so to speak. After awhile, unexamined events take their toll, and unless we have time to take mental stock, we end up overwhelmed. If you were a grocery store manager and never had time to take inventory, your store wouldn't survive would it?

We need to wrap our heads around this: mental inventory isn't selfish. It's necessary, and ultimately it helps those around us. If you never take stock, you will be incapable of doing your job, fulfilling your responsibilities, and nurturing those around you.

And guess what suffers first? Yep, the interior life. Think about it: if you never enter into your interior life, how will it survive? We push ourselves to exhaustion, say "yes" to every social engagement, make decisions without allowing ourselves time for discernment, and then we wonder why our prayer life is withered. And by our I mean mine. It was bitter when I realized that my prayer life was suffering because I was running myself ragged while thinking that I could be admired for all my "activity."

The truth is that we can't "have it all" - that's the world's lie. Something has to be sacrificed; are you surprised?

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