So I’ve been thinking.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people lately about food. It seems everyone is on a special diet to help them feel better. So we go gluten free, low FODMAP, cut out milk, limit caffeine, cut out processed food, go organic free range, eat brown-not-white, and avoid flavour enhancer 621 (it makes me hyper).
I suppose it’s all about looking at what we put into our bodies and how it affects our wellbeing. As far as conversations go, it can be a deathly boring subject, but it got me thinking – what kind of diet is my soul on? What do I watch and read and do that is healthy for my soul? What do I watch and read and do that is toxic?
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Catholic. One of the – I don’t know – “membership requirements”? – that we have is that we go to Mass once a week on a Sunday unless we’re really sick or something. Please wait a minute whilst I shudder inwardly at the abysmal grammatical mess I just created. I don’t even know where to begin fixing that sentence. Please forgive me.
Maybe a new paragraph will help. A lot of people I know take issue with this obligation and think my church is a cranky parent who likes to make rules and boss people around, as if the church itself is somehow separate from the people that form it. These people say things like “it doesn’t really matter if you go to church or not, so long as you are a good person” (because it’s one or the other – take your pick) and “you don’t have to go every week – it’s too hard. Just go when you can – God will understand” (because parties, sport and wandering around Bunnings should always take priority over your spiritual health).
The thing is, Sunday Mass is supposed to be the minimum I do to look after myself and my community spiritually, and if I commit to it regularly, it becomes a part of who I am. It makes me think of something my friend did the other week.
I had some friends over at my house to watch the Grand Final / gossip and eat food whilst the Grand Final was playing. My friend, whom I will call Lydia, turned up with bags and bags of fruit (and a cask of delicious vodka cranberry, which counts as a fruit), which she then proceeded to transform into healthy fruit platters. As we munched strawberry and pineapple and felt very virtuous (and drank vodka cranberry and felt rather tipsy), we praised Lydia and her healthy generosity. It was at this point that Lydia made a sheepish confession: she had eaten KFC for lunch and the fruit was part of a rueful attempt to get back on track.
I feed my soul a lot of junk food. Every day I feel like I battle an onslaught of Buy-Now-Pay-Later, Post-Baby-Bikini-Body, Give-Your-Little-Precious-a-Head-Start-in-Advanced-Calculus, Kim Kardashian, First-World-Problem-Facebook-Rant, What-Does-Your-Loo-Say-About-You, Miley Cyrus, She-Bought-a-Jeep, Seven-Signs-of-Ageing, What’s-Hot-and-What’s-Not, Who-Wore-it-Best, Adultery-Dot-Com.
One hour a week feeding my soul fruit in the form of Sunday Mass doesn’t seem like a big ask. I need to be challenged on the way I treat those around me. I need to be reminded that what I buy really isn’t that important, it’s who I am that counts. I need to love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength and love my neighbour as I love myself and all that. And it’s the minimum, it really is. And sometimes I only do the minimum. Far too often I turn up at Mass only to realise that the last time I spent in prayer was a week ago in Mass, whilst holding a wriggling baby and saying “Shush”. I need more wholefoods in my spiritual diet. And I need to cut down on the junk.
So what does this mean? Here are some things I need to work on:
- I’m cutting out the sort of radio where the announcers make a career out of being cruel and then cut to a song extolling the virtues of anonymous sex before half-an-hour of blaring ads. Light FM might be a little daggy, but it’s got my vote.
- I’m not ready to cut out TV completely, but I want to cut right back – especially the sort where I’m just staring at the screen for the sake of it, to ‘relax’.
- If I were to spend as much time catching up with those friends who give me joy as I do fiddling about on social media, I would be a much happier person.
- I need to stop reading the sort of magazines that teach me to hate my body and feel depressed and wrinkled and fat.
- I need to spend more time with God in prayer.
I had a plan for that last point this morning. I set the alarm for six o’clock and snuck downstairs for some quiet prayer time and maybe a sneaky bit of blog time as well before the rest of the family got up. I started digging around in search of the nifty devotional I’d recently purchased when I heard the distinct clomp-clomp-clomp of a small person making his way down the stairs. There stood Harry, tousle-haired and bleary-eyed, wearing only his night-nappy (he’d thrown a tantrum the night before and refused all pyjamas that didn’t have Batman on them. His Batman pyjamas were in the washing machine.).
“I want a cuddle, Mum.”
I tried to patiently explain to Harry that it was “still night time” and that he could “go back to bed had have a bit more sleep”. Harry shook his head.
“I just want a cuddle, Mum.” and settled himself on the couch. I sighed and continued my search for the devotional. Harry giggled, “I’m right here, Mummy!”. He thought I was looking for him.
And so I made my prayer whilst holding my three-year-old third child, feeling his small heart beat in his narrow chest and smelling his golden hair. I gave thanks for him and his healthy, sturdy little body. In a few short years, he won’t want to be held like this. Last night I was short-tempered with him. He kept climbing on me in a bid to win my attention. I’d had enough of being a Mummy for the day and I just wanted five minutes with NOBODY TOUCHING ME. So I prayed that God’s grace might enter my life, that His light might shine through all the cracks of my shortcomings and imperfections. Most of all I prayed that I might remember to pray when I needed to most. It was beautiful and profound, it really was.
Then Harry dirtied his nappy and woke his baby sister and poured cornflakes all over the floor.
But I picked up the broom with a serene smile (after changing two nappies and fixing two breakfasts). I felt peaceful and recharged.
It’s amazing what a healthy diet can do for you.
PS: After I was halfway through writing this, I discovered The Simple Italians at Simple Living ABC’s had written an excellent post on this very topic. You might think I copied their idea, but I didn’t, I promise. And it’s definitely worth a read.