“Xs” on the calendar
By Leslee Terpay
It is hard to believe that almost a year has passed since I was asked to write about how Lectio Divina could help us through the pandemic time. As I sit and reflect on these past months, I am reminded of a woman I worked with many years ago. Her name was Angela. Every evening when work was complete; she waited coat-on at her desk for her husband to pick her up for the drive home. Sometimes, we chatted but she always had one thing left to do – mark the space for the day on her calendar with a large “X.” She used a thick magic marker and each day that passed would be X-ed out. This was her ritual, and it disturbed me to no end. I kept asking myself, is this workspace really so disagreeable that she has to “X out” the day when it is complete? Angela reported to me, and I wanted to make sure she was happy with the work environment and wondered what I could do to make her give up this ritual. Finally, one day I asked her “Why? Why do you ‘X out’ the day when they are complete?” She replied, “I just like to know easily what day it is.” Her ritual had nothing to do with what I thought it was—being done with a disagreeable day. Reflecting back, I can see how I so wanted to be in control of the work environment, to make her work life more enjoyable (esteem) and at the same time, to make her stop “X-ing” out the days (power)!
These so many years later, Angela comes to mind over and over as I experience the pandemic life—am I crossing out the days as they end? Am I living fully what the day has to offer no matter what the experience happens to be? Am I “X-ing out” the day with any signs of gratitude? When I am out of the house can I see and experience community and the people behind the masks? Is the solitude and sabbath rest that was forced upon me received as gift? Am I making new rituals freely since the old ones are not within reach? The questions go on and on. As I reflect on them all, I realize time has sort of come and gone, some days I have checked off the day without any reflection, other days I remember God with me in each moment. Other days I go from a feeling of nothing to remembering. The remembering brings consolation that even in the experience of nothing, God is with me.
The contemplative practices of praying Holy Scripture and sitting with God in silence, stillness and love have given balance to the solitude and silence of days staying safe at home. Staying safe at home, I’ve found and remember God in the small moments of watching birds visit the feeder or the tree’s leaves growing, blooming and shedding outside my window. I remember God in the passing of the seasons in the skies filled with snow, opening to spring blue, yielding to summer wildfire smoke, clearing to fall blue and returning to snow falling. God in new rituals of sitting on the couch, riding the stationary bike, knitting a prayer shawl, watching children walk to school, grocery shopping within the guidelines, wearing a “Life is Good” tee-shirt even if everyone who sees it questions if I’m awake to the suffering world.
As I prayed scripture, I found God speaking to my life, informing how I respond to the day. There are times, my Lectio Divina prayer time feels as Fr. Thomas has said “like reading a phone book” and yet many times, a word or phrase strikes me at my core and reminds me who I am and how I live in God no matter the psychological content of the moments. Living out of and in relationship with God makes the end of the day reflection or examen enliven the Xs of the day. Sometimes, the Xs are the discipline of keeping up each routine in service to the relationship. Sometimes, the Xs are in gratitude of a day lived as best as possible under the circumstances. Sometimes, the Xs signify the consolation of never being alone while at the same time being lonely. But sometimes, the Xs simply highlight what day it is and that there was a day.
I am grateful to Angela for this long-ago lesson from her rituals that took many decades and a time of suffering to embrace. I have a new relationship with my calendar and the Xs I seemingly draw upon it.