I haven’t prayed a Rosary in many, many years. I almost said “decades” but that would have been too much even for me, loving a good pun as I do. I own a Rosary which my Aunt Regina (Sister Adrian, of the Loretto order, now deceased) brought me from Rome. I also have my mother’s Rosary. I keep them in my jewelry box. I never look at them.
But sometimes, such as when the burning in my legs exceeds a tolerable level, I find myself reciting the Hail Mary over and over. I do this in times of genuine stress — like the instant in which I got run over by a car; or the terrifying moments when Alan and I crept over the bridge during the flood of 1995. I often can’t remember anything beyond the first line but my mutterings have the feel of litanies. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. An endless drone, the vibrations coursing through my body, comforting me as nothing else can.
I also make lists, endless lists of goals, desires, duties, and burdens. Most folks know or read about my combined cleansing ceremony in which I wrote a list of troubles on Christmas paper, burned it with sage, and set my dining room table on fire. I blame my Catholic upbringing for both the list obsession and the drive for ritual.
My noncomplaining has taken this form. I create a long mental account of everything that’s bothering me. I tear the page from my virtual notebook and light an imaginary fire. I watch the insubstantial pages curl and turn to ashes. I damp the flames with a ghostly snuffer. I barely blink until tears sting my eyes.
The first item on every list is pain. Other woes tumble from me in a hurried rush. I can’t get the match lit fast enough. I want to be shed of all my troubles. I crave a more permanent relief than the temporary respite of venting. I want to truly embrace a state of nonconcern about the petty foibles which besiege me. Is that too much to ask? Too big a challenge for my limited psyche?
As my year stretches into its fifth iteration, I begin to understand that my quest has deepened. I don’t any longer yearn simply to foreswear complaint. Instead, I crave a genuine, deep, abiding level of acceptance. I see this as the difference between offering my suffering for another’s betterment (another Catholic thing) and walking in a state of grace despite discomfort, no matter how great. I’ve a long way to go to reach that existence. I’ll keep walking though. I’ll make it, eventually.
It’s the second day of the forty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.