You may be wondering where I have been. It’s almost two weeks since I posted anything. I would like to say that I was celebrating the Christmas Season right up to its conclusion with the Lord’s Baptism last Sunday. The truth is that I have been stuck in that liminal space that transitions us from feasting to ordinary days. I often experience a certain malaise in January when the Christmas decorations are down but still lying unboxed all over the living and dining rooms. Children and adults have returned to school, and toddlers, including my “grands”, are back to their daycare routines. I am usually eager to return to my ordinary days and routines, but this year I couldn’t seem to muster the energy to finish with Christmas before starting back to my work at church. Responsibilities at work don’t wait for us to recover from malaise, and, for me, took priority over getting my house in order.
The dictionary defines malaise as “a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.” It’s not sadness or depression, but more of an “out of sorts” feeling. If the malaise around getting my house (and life) in order was not enough, this week I was reminded in a very real way that I am vulnerable to the effects of aging, that is, that I am slowing down. In attempting to move a lamp and end table, I took a few sidesteps in my flip-flops, lost my balance, and “flip-flopped” over an armchair, landing forcefully on the arm before bouncing to the floor. For the first time in my life, I am grateful for all the extra padding I carry around with me! Nothing broken, thank God, just a bad bruising to my body and to my pride.
I don’t “bounce back” from falls as I did in my younger days – neither physically nor mentally. The energy that I have been trying to muster has been consumed this week in dealing with physical discomfort. I have great empathy for those who live with chronic pain their whole lives, and begin to understand their prolonged states of malaise.
I am reminded today of Kathleen Norris’ book, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (2010). When I read parts of this book last year, I couldn’t identify with the concept of acedia, a word used in monastic periods in the early church, now retrieved by Norris. Acedia is soul-weary indifference, spiritual or mental laziness, a kind of apathy. It is a failure of the will and can be dispelled by embracing faith and life. I don’t think I am experiencing acedia, but maybe malaise is “short-term acedia.”
I am also reminded of an important guideline about prayer: There is no wrong way to pray. The important thing is to show up for prayer and to show up regularly. Today, I am applying this guideline to writing this blog. In the midst of this malaise when I feel as though I don’t have much to say, I just need to show up for writing and to show up regularly.
Fernando Ortega always seems to have the right song for any occasion. I leave you humming “This Good Day” from his album The Ultimate Collection (2014). Once you listen to it, you will be humming it for the rest of the day. (You can find a performance of this song on YouTube by googling the title and composer.)
If rain clouds come or the cold winds blow
You’re the one who goes before me
and in my heart I know
This good day; it is a gift from You.
The world is turning in its place
because You made it to.
I lift my voice to sing a song of praise
on this good day.