Friday, 28 January 2011

Two Temptations

I am working on my Notre Dame speech, so I have time only to throw out one idea to you poppets today. It is that there is a social golden mean in healthy Single life.

One of the greatest temptations of Single life--and this is a problem for seminarians, priests and religious, too--is becoming self-absorbed. There are many reasons why this happens: you live alone, or you live with able-bodied parents, or you live in a community of self-absorbed or very busy people. Then there's the fact that you are remarkable for your very Singleness, and when other people ask why you're Single, you brood on yourself for hours on end. At any rate, being responsible for yourself and not obviously for anyone else means that you quite often think of yourself, your own needs, your own ideas, your own wants, your own shortcomings, your own talents, etc., etc., etc.

Now Single parents are often saved from this temptation by their children. Single parents, like some Singles I know in lay ministry, are more likely to fall into the other extreme, which is living for others at the expense of their own health or happiness. This can also be a problem for some priests and religious, but the image that comes into my mind is a very busy woman "chaplain" of some kind. (Yes, I know only a priest can really be a chaplain, but hospitals and schools and prisons in Canada and the USA call even Catholic laywomen chaplains when they are doing chaplaincy jobs.)

This woman chaplain is unmarried and childless, and she is working what is considered a "man's job," never mind a priest's job. She has aging parents and so, while keeping her own apartment, often visits to check up on them and take them to their doctors' appointments. She never does this at the expense of her job, however, and feels a special responsibility to prove that a woman can be just as good at it as a man. Everybody knows that if you need somebody to bake a cake or circulate a petition or read the lessons at a special liturgy, she's their girl. Her day starts at 6 AM, it ends at 11 PM, and sometimes she just wants to relax, but if she did, she might let somebody down. In fact, she might not be considered The Nicest Woman in the World anymore. In fact, the world might just BLOW UP!

I think you can all see what I'm getting at here. There's a golden mean. Don't become entirely self-absorbed; figure out how you can work with and help others, how you can really contribute to the community. But on the other hand, don't stretch yourself too thin. Think of how you can put some absolutely sacrosanct time for yourself in your day or, at very least, your week. You need time for prayer, to start with.

Guard your prayer time and any other down time. Don't be afraid to explain to others that you need your space, just like married couples need "family time," religious need days of recollection and priests need golfing holidays.

Update: One quick and satisfactory way to think of others is to send valentines and chocolates to Single pals who might not otherwise get anything on the dreaded Feb one-four. Consider pledging to join Operation Valentinus. For the details, read yesterday's post.


Domestic Diva said...

I'd love to hear practical, concrete suggestions for avoiding self-absorption as a single person. I cook the food I want; I clean the house when I want; everything in my house is as I want it (within the limitations of my budget); I go out when I want, stay in when I want, answer the phone when I want, etc. etc. etc. I try to help out my friends and family with their kids, and my work involves serving others, so maybe that's sufficient. But I would still appreciate practical suggestions.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Domestic Diva, if more is required, I think God will probably send you the opportunities. The one thing that springs to mind is listening to other people talk about themselves. There are a lot of lonely elderly people (usually Single) who talk an awful lot about themselves, which may be one reason why they are lonely, but thankfully sometimes generous people can spare them time to listen.