Thoughts on the Fly

I'm here in the airport with (glory be!) free Wi-Fi. I'm supposed to be blogging, right? After all, that's why I have a laptop. It's what laptops are for: to make sure that we are never far from our keyboards. Always connected. Able to keep working no matter how much we move around. Best irony of the day thus far: I figured out the outline for chapter 3 (praise be!) just as the plane on the first leg of our journey was preparing to land. I have a notebook, of course--that is, a real, paper Moleskin notebook--for jotting down ideas, so even though I couldn't connect to the Internet at that point I was still able to write (physically, that is). But oddly enough, when I tried writing a draft of a blog on the plane (in Word, not on-line), nothing would come. Do I then need to be connected in order to think? Scary image, thanks to Finder: Emma Grosvenor with her memory wires all hooked up to the recording jack in the Pasttimes Museum (not exactly the name, but this is being written "on the fly," after all, and the book is at home). And here I am at DIA with the thoughts suddenly flowing.

Oh, no, they're jamming up again. Maybe it's time to move to the gate so that my son will let go of me and stop worrying about whether we're going to miss our flight. Back in a moment.... Ah, a respite while he goes to check whether there are any outlets free so we can plug in. Meanwhile, my husband is sitting next to me busily posting photos of us to his Facebook page. What a wonderful world we live in with so many toys! Fencers SMS (a.k.a. text) a lot at tournaments, so when I got home from Nationals I decided that it was time to upgrade from my old Samsung phone to a Blackberry. Just as when last summer I switched from PC to Mac, I've had a grand old time these past two or three weeks learning to use all the functions. I know, I know, I should have gotten an iPhone. Or, perhaps more accurately, I should have wanted an iPhone, but I really didn't. I like all the little keys on the Blackberry keyboard. I make typing mistakes all the time on my iPod Touch* and I hate having to change from one screen to another to enter numerals or special characters like punctuation. It's curiously, if not all that surprisingly, much easier to type accurately when you are not wholly dependent upon your eyes for knowing where to hit.

Not everything about the upgrade has been easy, of course. Just yesterday, I was trying to figure out how to sync my calendar from my iTouch with the calendar on the Blackberry. I had downloaded PocketMac (not recommended), but for some reason when it tried syncing the Blackberry with iCal on my MacBook, iCal started duplicating every "all-day" event. At one point, I had five or six entries for "Assumption of the Virgin Mary" (not to mention every other birthday and feast day in the year) and no sign that it was ever going to be possible to get them back down to one. My husband (now sitting behind me; we've moved to the gate) valiantly intervened and helped me install The Missing Sync (moderately recommended, at least my calendars sync now), but just when we thought that everything was sorted out, I discovered that my address book was empty. This wouldn't have been such a problem except for the fact that I had just stepped out the door--late--to meet one of my friends for lunch and I only realized I had no phone numbers when I took out my Blackberry to call her. Forty-five minutes (and several chapters of Eat, Pray, Love) later, I got to lunch, having spent most of the drive wondering how on earth I was going to be able to remember everybody whom I had put into my address book. I am convinced that the only reason I didn't lose it completely--or run into somebody in the Air-and-Water Show traffic all along Lake Shore Drive--was thanks to my new practice of centering prayer. Miraculously, I didn't.**

Which, I think, is really what I wanted to blog about earlier but didn't know quite how to say. Centering prayer works! Okay, I'm a new convert; it's early days yet. But so many things that seemed insurmountable hurdles only a few weeks ago are now starting to seem manageable again, even hopeful. It really isn't that I've been having visions of God (although I tell myself I would still like day), but rather it is just as Father Thomas Keating says: you experience the effects of centering prayer in its fruits, not necessarily during the time you are actually at prayer. Some of the fruits that I've noticed of late: not being totally undone yesterday when I thought that three weeks' worth of creating a new address book had gone down the drain; feeling strangely energized even without very much sleep (although this may be excitement at the fact that I'm now officially "on vacation," not just "on leave"); finding myself at fencing practice giving myself the sort of small goals and concrete things to work on that I know I should have been giving myself all along (e.g. maintaining my grip), but couldn't because I was always so worried about whether I was any good; perhaps most astonishingly of all, not being completely freaked out that I "lost" as much as two months' worth (depending on how you count) of writing time this summer struggling with how I was going to structure chapter 3.

There's something else I like about my Blackberry, other than the keyboard. (Bear with me; this isn't as much of a non sequitur as it might seem.) The reason I wanted it, as I have said, was in order to send text messages, but of course with a Blackberry, you can also send and receive emails. And one of the best things about getting an email message on your Blackberry is that you can answer it quickly without having to use one's computer. Remember what I said above about laptops keeping us always connected? But they're distracting as well. Open your laptop and you have the whole world at your fingertips. The Blackberry (if you're wondering, I have a 8320 Curve) is more limited. The screen is tiny; it's not very easy to see anything other than a few lines of text. Most webpages are incomprehensible at that scale. But you can answer your email--and then let it go. Let it go--without getting sucked into something that you never intended to think about just because the thought grabbed ahold of you while you were there at the screen. I told you this was less of a non sequitur than it seemed. Centering prayer is all about letting things go. Letting our thoughts and anxieties and worries and plans and to-do lists and struggles with our chapters and questions about whether, in fact, we really believe go so that we can be present to God.

Talk about being connected! There is a power there; that I can feel. Do I name it "God"? Do I need to name it? Not really. But I have Its address. And I can feel it when I brush against it with my sacred word. And you thought this was just a post about blogging while I was waiting for a plane.***

*Okay, okay, I have too many devices. I even got an iPod shuffle for my birthday this year so that I could listen to music while I warm up at tournaments. It's all really about psyching myself up for getting on the strip.
**Somewhat less miraculously, given the fact that he is a genius, my husband was able to find where all my addresses had hidden (back in the MacBook--they hadn't been there before we tried syncing with the Blackberry) and so I did not in fact have to spend all last night hunting for phone numbers and emails.
***Actually, so did I when I started, but then I started putting in the highlights to help you scan down the page, and then I realized that the boldface was telling its own story. Read again: it's there, staring you right in the face. Just like God, once you allow yourself the opportunity--by letting go--to see Him.


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