De-throning the queen of spreadsheets

If ‘organisation’ were a gift of the Holy Spirit, boy, would I be a saint by now.

I’ve never been much good at speaking in tongues, prophecy or healing (read: not at all). But I have been labelled the “Queen of Spreadsheets” (rather Marian huh? I wonder if there is an ‘Our Lady Queen of Spreadsheets-and-all-things-electronic’?).

I grew up in a household where one’s ability to be organised, well-planned and well-executed was pretty much considered essential on the path to holiness. Sigh…every family has its ways, eh?

Then I met my husband. Now, before you get the idea that my husband is some scatter-brain, disorganised, bumbling sort…he, too, is an expert in being organised. He was in the military once upon a time. He still refers to twenty-four hour time and carries a compass (slight exaggeration). Enough said.

However, what he has, and what I’m still (painfully) acquiring is an ability to temper that organisational (productive) drive to get a balance.

I stand to be corrected, but I don’t think anywhere in Scripture is it written that we must not be late, we must be highly organised, or even that we must be productive for productivity’s sake. I even read once how Blessed John Paul II would get so wrapped up administering the sacrament of reconciliation, he’d be two hours late for his next appointment.

Sure, we need to give ourselves each day, in our vocations, our families, our workplaces and communities – earn a good wage, go about with a general attitude of service and self-gift, fight the good fight, run the good race – but nowhere does it say we need to be productive and tick off a lot on the ‘To Do List’.

Sure, the nature of today’s society obliges us to provide for our families as best we can, and for many families that still demands an enormous amount of ‘productivity’ in order to just get through the day.

But each of us knows how much of our ‘productivity’ is necessary, and how much of it is pride and default? Do we know how to get off the treadmill? Do we know how to disconnect from technology and connect to those around us? Do we know how to simply not feel anxious about a day that went pear shaped even if we lived it charitably and faithfully?

My husband is, as I said, rather more talented at this than I. He listens to the ebbs and waves of nature and isn’t constantly trying to get one more thing done. I sometimes give him a hard time when something takes a while to get done (like putting in that leave request at work!) but then his ability to know when to shift down gears is an essential temper to my tendency to stay in 5th gear all the time.

Trying to knock ‘productivity’ from pride of place as the thing driving my day is still hard. However, getting to morning Mass is one of the ways I’m trying to do that. It’s a bit out of the way…15 minutes’ drive there, then 15 minutes’ drive to work.

There’s something ironic about honking at the Sunday driver because you’re ‘rushing’ from Mass to work. I calculate just how much more I could get ‘done’ if I just didn’t go to Mass today. And some days I’m ridiculously distracted and have to try with all my might to focus (and still don’t get there).

The point is, it’s an appointment, with God, everyday…and I realise how essential that time becomes – to mull, to just be and give thanks…to intentionally not be ‘productive’ as defined by the world, and yet it is the most productive thing of all (eternally-speaking).

The very fact of getting into His presence, receiving Him in the flesh is the ultimate way to knock productivity from being ‘pride of place’.

Heather King wrote a great blog on this recently…a similar experience of being so wrapped up in her own productivity, that she was stopped in her tracks when she received a message from a reader asking her to explain more the meaning of the ‘real presence’ when we talk about the Eucharist.

“I’m trying to work, I’m trying to be effective, I’m trying to bear fruit here and you’re going to ask me to explain the Real Presence? This is not something you can dash off in an un-thought-out sentence or two…”

I can’t think of a better place to start than just spending a bit of time with the Lord as a way to avoid ‘productivity’ becoming our highest goal. In fact, it’s perhaps the little way that each of us, in our own heart, can be a bit ‘counter-cultural’.

Today’s culture is ruled very much by economic concepts of value…including how we value time and action. From what do you need to seek a bit of refuge in the Lord? Excessive ‘productivity’ [that’s perhaps not all that productive anyway]? A love of stuff? Unnecessary ‘noise’? Mindless technology? We’ve all got something whose gravity is competing with that of the Lord…but whose fruits pale in comparison to His presence.

– Lucy O’Donoghue
Lucy O’Donoghue lives in South Asia with her O’D husband (true Irish right there).  Lucy changes her mind every week what she wants to ‘be’ or ‘do’ in her life, much to her husband’s and parents’ dismay.  Nevertheless, she has spent the last few years earning her bacon in the humanitarian sector in Africa and South Asia and is currently completing a Master of Arts in Catholic Theology at the Augustine Institute

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