About Me,  Catholic Spirituality,  prayer,  self care

2017: a saint, a word, and some idiot proof habits

Well, it’s that time of year again where the New Year’s resolution you made 11 days ago is maybe losing it’s shine, and maybe you’re looking ahead to starting up in February instead, right?

No? Just me?

Actually, this year has been a little different so far, 10 whole days in. Maybe it’s because the ball dropped amidst an endless storm of viral illnesses in our household. Maybe it’s because I possessed the strength of character and courage of conviction of a newborn kitten when I made my little list, but at any rate, here’s what I came up with, and what is actually, so far, sticking.

First of all, my “word” for 2017. Trust. I shiver in anticipation at what that might mean. And it’s not a good shiver. (See why I need to work on this one?)

Well see.

And the habits? They’re really complicated. Ready?

1. Pray for 5 minutes a day. Preferably the first 5 minutes (but not necessarily the first. Because that little resolution has killed me dead so many times over.) This sounds ridiculous, right? Because I write for a Catholic organization, my kids go to a beautiful Catholic school, heck, sometimes I even go to daily Mass. Maybe one or two times a week, this season. So surely I was already, you know, praying on a regular daily basis.

Weeeeeeeell. Not necessarily. I mean Holy Mass absolutely “counts,” but Mass with 3 or 4 small companions writhing under my arms is generally not a prayerful experience for me. It must be a personality flaw. I go to Mass to desperately dart up the center aisle to receive Jesus with sometimes a child literally dangling from each armpit, feeling not unlike a savage animal baring my teeth to Father who bemused, places the God of the Universe on my waiting, awkwardly extended and probably not stuck out far enough past my teeth why can’t I get this down after 20+ years of receiving the Eucharist???? tongue. And then I run back down the side aisle, screaming tots dangling, and finish up my prayers of thanksgiving in the vestibule. So, no, not terribly prayerful in the recollected sense.

But 5 minutes with my Bible in my lap and maybe even a coffee? That’s heavenly. And I can do it. I can pray for 5 minutes. My fractured millennial attention span, further aggravated by sleep deprivation and internet browsing, can handle 5 minutes. I can even lock myself in the bathroom to accomplish it. Theoretically.

And that’s my big spiritual resolution for the year. That I pray for 5 minutes a day. With 5 minutes being the minimum threshold. So some days I might pull off 20 minutes, circumstances permitting. But the minimum is all I’m shooting for, which makes it almost impossible to talk myself out of it/forget about it.

Now, onward to ambitious effort number two:

2. Run one lap around the park across the street, every day. This one seems grandiose, but believe me that it is not. I mapped it out after the first time I did it, mentally patting myself on the back for having “a perfect one mile loop literally on my doorstep!” The mapmyrun verdict? .62 miles. Cackle. Guess I’m not quite in the fighting shape I’d imagined.

It has been so good though. Because it takes 10 minutes. I don’t have to get in the car and drive to the gym (but on the days I do that, I just run 1 mile on the treadmill at a laughably slow pace, and sometimes a little further. But 1 mile is all I “have” to do on an indoor run.

When Dave gets home from work, if I haven’t done it yet, I throw on some running shoes and disappear out the door for 12 minutes of stretching and running. Sometimes it turns into 20, if I’ve gotten dinner already going and the mood strikes me. But either way, I get that one lap in. And it feels awesome. About a month ago when I was going through a really rough patch, my best friend left me a Voxer message telling me “RUN! You’re a runner! Put your shoes on and go! It’s your thing, I know you!” And even though I LOL’d and rolled my eyes almost inside of my forehead at that, it resonated pretty deeply, nudging awake a little part of myself that had been buried under stretches of sleepless nights and long months of pregnancy. I was a runner, I told her in my reply message, a little indignant, but if I were to try that again, my body would fall apart. My hips would get out of alignment, my back would hurt, I’d pee my pants, I rattled off a whole list of geriatric complaints for why I couldn’t run run anymore. And then I went and I thought about it for a couple weeks, feeling alternately mad and excited by the prospect, however remote it seemed.

Maybe I couldn’t train for a half marathon right now (or maybe I could and I’m just too busy/too lazy/too tired), but I could probably run like, a mile a day, right? At about a 12 minute pace. So we’re talking extremely gentle here. I could probably do that. But what would be the point? Besides, I’d look stupid. People driving past me would probably honk at me for looking so stupid, or stop to ask me if I was okay. I concocted a million unlikely scenarios that involved strangers rolling down their car windows to laugh at my sad, slow run…and then I laced up my shoes and jogged out the front door on New Year’s Eve.

One lap.

I came back inside flushed and exhilarated and totally hooked again, becuase I forgot how good it can feel, how the endorphins flow just with the littlest bit of effort, and how it isn’t what you wear or even how you look that makes you a runner; it’s if you run.

If you run, then you’re a runner.

I’ve been tracking these little daily habits in the Catholic Women’s Companion which has all but converted me to keeping a non-digital planner, and I can see that I’ve run 9 miles so far in 2017. That’s a hell of a lot of miles. That’s a round trip to school. That’s a one-way jaunt to the Bronco’s stadium, as the crow flies. And over the past 11 days, I ran it on foot. In my not-so-in-shape, 34 year old mom body.

That feels pretty dang good.

Finally, I clicked over to ye olde Saint Name Generator that Jen puts up every year, and got myself a patron for 2017: Pope St. Leo the Great. Doctor of the Church. First Pope to be dubbed “the great,” defender of the hypostatic union of Christ, developer of the Petrine Doctrine, reasoner with Attila the Hun. Pretty rad guy all around. I love me some popes, as anyone reading for more than a little while can attest to, so I was happy to get such a saint for the year.

So that’s the plan. A couple little daily habits so unobtrusive that even a lazy hag can grind them out. And if my calculations are accurate, even if most days I opt for the bare minimum of a single lap (.65 miles) and 5 minutes in prayer, by December 31st, 2017, I’ll have run 237 and a quarter miles, and spent 1,825 minutes, or more than 30 hours, in prayer. 

I’ll take it.

How about you guys?

Me too buddy.



  • BridgetAnn

    As a former “athlete” (3rd grade to 11th grade counts, right?) I had never successfully kept an exercise routine as an adult, until recent times when I committed to doing the minimum, (according to my nurse/husband). It definitely doesn’t have to be something big to make a difference, both mentally and physically! And it helps with the prayer time too….

    • Jenny Uebbing

      yes! Once I did the math I was like, whoa. And there’s something about committing to teeny things … maybe why I can brush but not floss? Too monumental.

  • Sarah

    I like these…probably because after the birth if numero four low expectations be mine! But more importantly, that picture of your numero four is EVERYTHING! His clothes, his expression, I die!

  • Maureen

    My saint for the year – Bernard of Clairvaux!
    The Diary will have to wait for another year – £30 I do not have….but perhaps I can simply keep a journal:-)

    At New Year our Parish Priest said that most New Year resolutions are merely pagan; loose weight, exercise more…all about the world and the body. He said we needed to make Catholic resolutions; pray more, give more. Sounds like you were in the congregation that day:-)

    If you do enter your race, how about raising money for Mary’s Meals? https://www.marysmeals.org.uk

  • Jean

    Let everything we do be a prayer. Take every opportunity to pray when doing things we don’t have to think about – while making that pot of morning coffee, walking down the hall to an afternoon meeting, peeling potatoes for supper, generally anytime we have to do routine chores, choose that time to invest in prayer because some days that’s the only time we can appropriate so why not use it as an offering? Of course it doesn’t compare with the experience of sustained quiet meditation but in time and with persistence I’ve come to savor these moments throughout the day.

    • jeanette

      You are very right, Jean. People often tend to equate their prayer time with formalities, such as devotions or meditations, and need to realize that while those things are certainly prayer, first and foremost prayer is a relationship with God, not an activity so much. It is raising the mind and heart to God, and as you point out in your examples, that is so possible in many of our ordinary activities.

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