Joy and Self-Care

Since I started thinking more deeply about religion and faith, words whose definitions I thought I knew have started to take on different meanings. Suffering no longer means quite what I thought it did. Once I thought suffering meant “utter misery for no particular purpose other than the fact that life sucks and then you die,” but suffering started to become more purposeful. Suffering involves hope and faith.

Similarly, joy has taken on another meaning. When I thought of joy, I always thought of the giddy excitement that builds up before an expected event, like waiting for Christmas or your birthday. I suppose I had a child’s perception of joy.

About this time last year, one of our parish priest’s homilies was about joy, and how joy was actually an acronym that stood for Jesus, others, yourself, and they are in that order for a reason. You can do things for yourself that bring you fleeting happiness, but putting others first is always better because the good feeling lingers. ‘Tis better to give than to receive and all that. In turn, what you do for others is also done for Jesus, as in Matthew 25:40: “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Things that are done solely for Jesus, like prayer and adoration, always bring the greatest joy. True, they may not seem joyful at first, but over time, they become the necessary things to sustain one’s spirit in a world that is overly focused on material.

One of the trendy buzzwords that comes up all the time is self-care. That word always irritates me because I read about “self-care rituals” on Tumblr, and they involve things like taking bubble baths and spending hours binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix. Most of the time, it equates to “if you’re an introvert, it’s OK to take your introvert time.” Well, that’s all fine and good. I admit that the occasional bubble bath and Netflix marathon aren’t bad. It’s necessary to take a break from reality to restore your sanity. But self-care can be overdone, and that may not always bring about happiness or joy. Self-care involves putting yourself first.

A common argument is that, to some degree, you have to put yourself first so that you can be at your highest capacity to serve others. It is true that you shouldn’t neglect your basic needs, like food and hygiene and being adequately dressed, but that’s not really self-care… it’s just common sense. To me, this self-care thing goes much deeper than those basics and can easily turn into selfishness. Leave me alone. I’m doing my self-care rituals. It is easy to have too much introvert time and become lazy and unwilling to come out of your metaphorical blanket fort, even when others need you.

Putting others first can sustain you in ways that self-care can’t. Spending time with others is more worthwhile (80% of the time) than spending time by yourself, and spending time with Jesus in prayer and adoration is more worthwhile (100% of the time) then spending time by yourself engaging in self-care.

Self-care is perhaps only surface-level care. Little bits here and there can be restoring for moments, but they are not gifts that keep on giving, like acting on the “J” and the “O” of joy. A good offering for Advent might be to moderate our self-care and keep the “Y” where it belongs—last.

[Thankful] Thursday Three #38

There are three main things I have to be thankful for:

  1. Health. I’ve often heard it said that if you ain’t got your health, you ain’t got nothing. Over the past year, I’ve learned that this is true. You can’t focus, can’t enjoy simple things, and find it very difficult to function and do the basic necessary chores.
  2. People. All my life, I have been afraid of people, and to a degree, I still am. People bring irritation, but they also bring joy and happiness, and I never realized that more than I did this year, so I am deeply thankful for the people in my life.
  3. Memory. Someone said recently that they were thankful for their mind, that it worked properly. In a similar way, I am glad for my memory, that I can look back on all the things I have enjoyed over the years.

And I am thankful for you, the reader, because you listen to my ramblings. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

Clarity in Modernity

Sometimes I get moments of perfect clarity. Everything makes sense. All the questions I’ve been pondering for many years are answered. I know the truth, even if it hurts. And yet sometimes, after having these moments, I ignore the truth.

No, I’m not on drugs. I honestly couldn’t tell you what brings these clear moments about. But I had another of them last night.

There isn’t a lot of permanence in today’s society, or even anything that lasts a decent amount of time. People are constantly picking up and changing jobs, significant others, hobbies, and so on. We are searching for something.

Last night, my friends and I were in church decorating a poster board for the ministry fair. We talked about how the church (our particular parish, not the Church) has been in somewhat of a decline. Around 600 teenagers/young adults are registered members of the parish, but you don’t see anywhere near that number at Mass. The amounts we are taking in during the offertory are dangerously low. People are leaving Mass early, and only a few linger in the vestibule to chat afterward.

Everyone seems to disappear.

Why? Because time rushes on and we can’t sit still. Why do you need God watching your every move when the government and your mobile devices already do that?

We can’t look our friends in the eyes because we feel the compulsive tug to look at our phones and see what people we never see in real life are doing. Then our real-life friends disappear, but we still have them on Facebook, so it’s OK.

Holidays become meaningless—just another way for the great big companies to make money and become bigger and greater. What are we really celebrating at Christmas? The birth of a man whose life is increasingly irrelevant to us because we have lost the meaning of sacrifice. The “I” is sacred. If it doesn’t work for “me,” then it can’t work, and I’m going to find something else.

My church is boring, so I’m finding another church. I haven’t gotten a promotion, so I’m finding another job. My significant other doesn’t make me happy, so I’m going on Tinder and finding another one. You know, I think I might get a new iPhone. 

I know I’m being overdramatic. We’re not all that vacuous. But I think we are turning in that direction. We are so accustomed to rapid change because nothing inside computer screens stays stable for very long. But with things changing so rapidly, there is no time to really think and ponder what’s going on and what the point of everything is. We’re just living for the moment, which passes and changes so quickly that we forget what we’re truly living for.