Friday, January 16, 2009


I've lost track of the number of people who've asked me, "Are you scared about having to return to Iraq?" since I arrived home in the States on leave. I hadn't even been here one whole day before I heard the question the first time.

The multitude of queries invited me to reflect upon a phenomenon (for me) of this deployment: I've been taking things just one day at a time (or one thing at a time, or one hour at a time, or one moment at a time) since I mobilized more than six months ago. This is relatively new behavior for me -- or at least, the instinctive employment of this program for living is relatively new.

Friends of mine who have been attending many AA and Al-Anon meetings for many years now (one day at a time, they tell me) have been encouraging me to try this technique. "It really works!" my friend Cormac B has told me, again and again. "It's really simple, too."

Be that as it may, when my self-will runs riot, I just stop listening to what other people are saying. I can become so self-obsessed that I lose sight of the fact that there are others even around me. My contempt prior to investigation will keep me paralyzed into doing / believing / saying what's familiar, even if it's not comfortable.

Sure, they've told me for years that living one day at a time works for them, but my situation is unique. Don't they know that? "Sure you are, Tim. You're unique all right. You're so unique, you'll be *terminally* unique!" says my friend (and identical twin, separated at birth) Susan R, who celebrated 29 years clean and sober this past September.

(As an aside, if you're ever looking for proof of miracles in ordinary daily life, I'll introduce you to Susan. She's a miracle, and I don't use that word lightly. I heard her tell her story of sobriety once, and it sent shivers down my spine in the midst of the spontaneous and uncontrollable fits of laughter I experienced while listening to her. She is a gift.)

So these friends of mine (all of whom lack last names, which had never before seemed odd to me, until just recently when someone who was reading this blog wrote me to point that out...) have for years encouraged me to try living "one day at a time." I've got to tell you, that just seemed boring.

Of course, my friend Fr. Joe K from Chicago, who was patiently trying to share his many years of experience, strength, and hope in AA with me over the course of a couple of years, pointed out to me that "boredom is a form of grandiosity." I *hate* it when that happens!

It has always seemed more exciting and energizing to try to take on the whole of the rest of my life, or at least the end of life as we know it, all at the same time. Anything less would seem to be wimping out.

The adrenaline rush can be awesome.

At least until I suffer a stroke or a heart attack.

But over the years, with so many last-initial-only people drumming this concept into my head -- by showing me how they're living their own lives -- I guess I finally began to recognize the wisdom they were trying to impart to me, and almost despite myself, I've found myself beginning to live my life the way they've been living theirs.

Anticipation -- whether it's of something delightful or of something distasteful -- can prevent me from "doing the next right thing" as my friend Elizabeth G keeps telling me. The reason for this, I've discovered, is that anticipation takes me out of the present moment. I either wind up in the past or in the future, which might not necessarily be a bad thing, except for the fact that my Higher Power only exists in the "now."

If I'm wallowing in the past or cowering in the future, I'm unable to have any conscious contact with that Higher Power, whose realm is the present.

"One day at a time" really means one thing at a time, or one breath at a time, or one present moment at a time.

And feeling pelted by the same question again and again, "are you scared about returning to Iraq?" I've come to see that the answer is a definite, "NO!" The reason for this is that I'm not even thinking about being in Iraq, seeing as I'm here in the States.

I look back over the last six months, which have seemed to fly by rather quickly, when all is said and done, and I see that I've been taking this deployment one day at a time. I've not been concerned about stuff down the road which only exists in the future. My focus has been in and on the "now" -- a prime example of living "one day at a time."

By willfully staying in the "now" -- in the present -- I can remain in the Presence of a power greater than ourselves. Rather than being something boring, living in the now opens up the present to me as a gift.

I encourage you to give it a try.

"Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually." (NRSV: 1Chron 16:11)

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

View My Profile

No comments:

Powered By Ringsurf