Finding Time to Breathe


Suffice it to say that everyone is “busy” these days. Some of us use the word loosely, as an excuse to bypass the things in life we’d rather not face, what’s inconvenient, or what we view as boring. Others of us (the majority, I’d argue) are truly busy. We shuffle kids to and fro—school, extracurriculars, doctor’s appointments, and the like—and we somehow manage to keep food on the table, take the dog to the vet, maintain a marriage, run errands, and clean the house.

This is my life, anyway. Except it also involves diagnostic tests, case conferences with educators and social workers, physical, occupational, music, and aquatic therapies, and managing medications. My daughter, Sarah’s care has increased. With her rare disease, this is not uncommon. Talk to any Apert mom or dad, and we all concur that the part of the syndrome’s mystery is that it’s unpredictable. There are seasons of relatively few appointments, check-ups, or surgeries, but suddenly a slew of them create heap upon heap of new developments.

How does one manage the busyness of life, whatever it may be? I’ve been asking myself that question since Advent began. Now the Christmas season has officially ended, and I’m still stymied. What can be done to make this new year more peaceful, less full? I search the calendar and can find no solution. Everything we do revolves around medical care—nothing fun, nothing frivolous.

Last week, however, I was reminded a lovely and timeless quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy.” And another from St. Francis de Sales: “Everyone of us needs a half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.”

How is this possible? We know it’s true—to be grounded in grace, to live with an unwavering interior peace, we must pray and do so often. But if you’re anything like me and, I’m guessing, most people, maybe you feel completely wiped out at the end of the day. Maybe all you can muster is to survive—eat, drink water, and sleep. I go through many cycles of “back to the basics,” but one thing that never falters is prayer.

It might sound sanctimonious to say this, but it’s my lifeline. Prayer, even in brief intervals of five minutes several times a day, allows us room to breathe. When I pray, I am sitting down in my prayer room, facing an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Despite the myriad concerns, the minutiae, the overwhelm, I look at the Lord and breathe. I relish those moments, because they give me perspective on what really matters.

No matter how or when you pray, it must be the very movement of your breath. Prayer, like a beautiful song, might linger in the back of our minds even when we are commuting to work or school, tuning out noisy kids, or ready to turn off the lights at night. It must be a constant stream of thought, desire, longing, and belief that fills our hearts at all times. To me, prayer is the part of my being that never sleeps but is ever attentive, always attuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit throughout my day. It’s the way my conscience grips me when I sin. It brings me back to the Lord time and again.

It’s time to acknowledge that we are too busy. We are a people who move faster and faster, with the intent to become more efficient or proficient at what we do. But we must return to a state of dependence upon the Lord. We need to admit we are finite and weak and cannot do everything without grace, without His unfailing help each day.

Above all, breathe. It sounds trite, but it is a simple solution to finding peace and allowing reason to override emotion. Without pausing in silence and entering the sanctuary of solitude, we cannot know ourselves and certainly cannot know God. Self-knowledge leads us to self-donation, and the whole purpose of this busy life is to love those whom God has placed in our lives – our frail and aging parents; our young and needy children; our apathetic or gossipy co-workers; our nosy neighbors; the enraged drivers on the road.

First, pause. Then, pray.

Jeannie Ewing (c) 2018, all rights reserved.


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