Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dumbo's Feather

As a way to help ensure this school year at ICS was different than the previous two, I spent a lot of time over the summer reconnecting with and tapping into things that I find inspirational (see any of my posts from the Summer of 2012). At the same time, I sought out parts of my prayer life that have been meaningful to me, but that had, unfortunately, been replaced, ignored, or forgotten over the years. Just like an athlete preparing to be his / her best, I sought after some sort of edge that would give me, even if just from a psychological standpoint, the grit, enthusiasm, optimism and faith to ensure a successful year.

In some ways, these things are no more than Dumbo's feathers. The grace of God is no less with me without these things than It is with them.

This year, more than any other, I have gone through cycles of facial hair. While not tapping into the trend that is the purposefully unshaven look (I do not have style and do not care enough to be trendy), I have used facial hair in my adult life to help me through things like finals in college and other times of trial and intense effort. In the same spirit as athletes growing a playoff beard, I have used facial hair as a way to make periods of time seem separate, special or different from times of being clean shaven. Facial hair denotes toughness. It harkens to figures like John the Baptist or Ignatius of Loyola and speaks of times like Advent and Lent. This year, without intending for this to be one of the purposes, my beards have helped me to feel closer to my dad, who had a beard for about 99% of the almost 34 years that I knew him. Even in grieving his passing, it has given me an edge.

Another, less emotional way that I have sought after an edge this year is by wearing something on my right wrist / arm. As an athlete, I would typically wear a sweat band on my arm for games and competitions. As I haven't played organized competitive sports consistently since college, my workouts can get stale and I've gone through times of being uninspired to exercise. In those times, I've turned to wristbands to help make the workout seem as if I'm preparing for something or to simulate game day itself. Even though it does not help me to jump higher, lift more weight or run faster or farther, it has given me the mental push needed to push physically. This year, I have tried to carry this concept over to my work, as well. Underneath my work shirts, I started the year by concealing sweatbands. Now, I have transitioned into wearing a rubber bracelet with the words "Catholic Education Providing Hope" on it. These small right arm accessories have helped to supply hope to me. In turn, I hope that it has helped me to bring hope to others.

Finally, and perhaps most effectively and/or importantly, I have recommitted myself to prayer. I begin each day, before getting out of bed, with the Prayer of Release:
Dear Lord, please give me a faith that expects greater things. Whatever I do, let me give it my best. Anxious in nothing, at peace with the promise that when I've done that I can that You'll take care of the rest. Amen.
Furthermore, in my back pocket I carry a prayer card with the poem Desiderata on it. It has always been one of my favorite poems and I use its message as a prayer. It has reminded me that my focus must be on God and that I must take time to feed myself spiritually if I hope to have anything worthwhile to feed to others. I have prayed more this year than I have in quite some time, which is probably the reason that anything else I've tried has seemed to be successful.

The thing about feathers isn't that they actually make you fly. It's that you actually believe they do.

And I believe (and) that is why I have found the edge.