I was thinking earlier that I hadn’t had anything exciting or traumatic happening this week, and so I might struggle with a topic to write about. And then I saw a post from one of my friends on Facebook talking about obsessions. The post was something along these lines: “Whatever we are obsessed with will consume us and blind us, leading us away from truth.” I got to thinking about that, wondering why that particular post felt like a knife thrust into my stomach, or someone ripping the blankets off me on a Saturday morning, exposing me to the cool air, to the truth, the truth that stabs at our conscience, demanding to be recognized. I thought about the past week, about how much writing I’ve been doing, about how much music I’ve been listening to, and about my recent Facebook confession of being ‘slightly’ obsessed with Josh Groban’s music. And then today, to top it all off, I heard a sermon of St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s on conquering our predominant passion. At this point, I realized—I’d been letting a bad passion creep up on me, slowly letting it take hold of my actions and thoughts, my desires and my words, and it was only going to get worse unless I did something about it.
So, I suppose, this post will be my ‘doing something about it.’ If I can get it out into the air, think about it, evaluate it, maybe I can take steps to stop it. The thing about passions is that they make their object look so darn inviting. I’ve realized, in looking back on my thoughts, my dispositions, throughout the past week or so, that writing and music were getting the best of me. I would wake up in the morning, wanting to do nothing but write, or at least to scrounge up as much time as I could throughout the day to write. I even posted a Facebook status about this desire. And with this desire, I would do my best to fulfill it, snatching moments of my lunch break at work, moments at naptime, moments in the morning, if possible, and moments after dinner and before the Rosary in the evening.
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with making the most of my spare time, and writing is indeed a gift I believe God has given me to be used and cultivated, for His glory. But I noticed, at work, during nap, if one of the children happened to wake and needed to be tended to, I was loathe to put down the pen and go to them—and in all truth, their welfare is my first priority and duty while I’m at work! At home, if I was eagerly typing away in my Scrivener program, and my grandmother called to me to help her with something, or even if she poked in her head to check on me and ask what I was doing, I would reply with short, curt language: “I’m writing.” She would, of course, in her gentleness, hear the impatience in my voice and quickly withdraw herself. She respects my duty to write, and this is a wonderful thing.
Except, my duty to write does not EVER trump my duty to obedience and charity toward my neighbor.
Moving onto the next point. Never mind that I’d used every moment of spare time to make progress. Never mind that that progress is astounding (15,000 words in 10 days!). The next passion quickly crept up on me as the last began to ebb. (Writers often go through creative spurts where putting the pen down is very hard, and then a few days later crash and produce next to nothing.) I had begun to write while listening to my ‘Writing’ playlist, which includes various things, such as soundtrack music from various favorite movies, choral pieces that I’d sung in my college choir, Gregorian chant, and…a few bits of Josh Groban’s music. As I write (I hope what I’m explaining will make sense to you), I emotionally connect the scene that I’m writing with the piece of music that I’m listening to. And if the piece of music happens to match the mood of the scene I’m writing, all the better. I noticed that many of these songs that I’d been connecting (whether to various characters, situations, relationships, or events) were…you guessed it…Josh Groban songs.
Well, that’s where it started. I began to search for other Josh Groban songs and threw entire albums onto the playlist, putting it on shuffle in the hopes that I could find out which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t. Then I noticed I was skipping through the other songs on the playlist to get to the Josh Groban songs. I started looking up the lyrics to the songs and their translation (many are in Spanish/Italian) to see if the words meant anything to the scenes I was writing. Nothing wrong with any of this, I don’t suppose, in moderation. I would go to bed with his songs playing in my head and wake up with the same. (Sound familiar yet?) I would sing them even when I wasn’t listening to music. And when I began to realize that my enjoyment of his music was taking over, I tried to hold it back by abstaining from music on one day each week. My wake-up call came when I couldn’t even make it one day without listening to it, and I posted a Facebook status ‘confession’ about my new obsession. My co-workers (who are often the unfortunate victims of my music playing) liked my status as a sort of inside joke. Deep within, I knew something wasn’t quite right. Fortunately, the next week, I was able to make it my one day without music, and felt much better about everything.
In listening to the sermon today, I heard a couple of pieces of advice to help remedy these bad passions. One, the first and most important, is to kill them while they’re small. It is much easier to root out a sapling than it is a full grown oak tree with deep roots. The second interesting bit of advice is to turn the object of the passion into something virtuous. So, for instance, instead of being greedy about my time for writing, I could be ‘greedy’ about time for prayer, making time for it, putting it first, and going to it with readiness and joy. Instead of listening for hours on end to secular music, I could listen to more Gregorian chant, sermons, and other music that lifts the heart to God. And most of all, I think a good dose of resignation to the will of God will help with both. If God gives me the time to write, I should by all means use it, provided my spiritual duties have been accomplished, and provided I keep a meek and obedient disposition, to part from my work whenever the Will of God may call me elsewhere. Also, inserting more spiritual music into my playlist may help me turn my eyes to God more often during my writing. And…here’s another biggie…to write when I have the time to, even if I don’t feel like it. If God gives me the time to write, I should not waste it by procrastinating on the internet. Research is one thing, but procrastination looks and feels totally different from research. Research is for the purpose of fact-checking, mainly. Procrastination has no purpose, and therefore it is idleness, a vice so easily fallen into and, once fallen into, hard to escape.
I think the bottom line I truly need to learn and embrace is this: Our obsession should be with making it to heaven; our treasure should be found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In nothing else can we find our true happiness, a happiness not quite experienced but hoped for in this life. This is why, I think, I often feel empty inside, hollow, even when I am doing something I’ve been looking forward to—something like, sitting down at my desk to write with a fresh cup of coffee and a crumpet and turning my playlist up to drown out the world. There is no joy in it, unless it is leading me closer to God, to my treasure, to my true home. If I am not writing to please Him, if I am not writing on His time, according to His will, it is meaningless, joyless, empty. The only contentment we can find in this life is in doing the Will of God. Period. And what is His will? Sanctity. That in all we do, say, think and desire, we reach higher, reach for Him and Him alone, and find our happiness nowhere else.
I have also learned this: It is a very difficult thing to deny your own will. It stings and scrapes at our pride like nothing else can. That is why it makes us saints. Because we suffer in so doing. Because we must fight. But in this fight, we will always be victorious so long as we do not give up, so long as we do not let go of the hand of God which sustains us in all things. And our bitterness will turn swiftly to sweetness when we look up to meet the eyes of God in our suffering and see Him gazing back in love and joy at us, see Him watching our efforts to please Him with infinite delight. We cannot hope to win the fight against our will if we do not love God.
All this to say, dear reader: Fix your ‘obsession’ on your heavenly home and Heavenly Father, for only this ‘obsession’ can bring us to everlasting felicity. All others will blind us and drag us away from God, our only Good.
And, a special ‘thank you’ to the friend who posted such a thought-provoking and soul-searching status.
+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+