Me Time

I was talking with Fr. T and pulling a standard maneuver wherein I complain about how well things are going, and try to work out some way that I must be doing something wrong — you know, something I could work on, something to feel guilty about. Fr. T blames this, mostly in jest, on my Jewish heritage: people talk about “Catholic guilt,” but Jews have got Catholics beat in that department. And if you happen to be both…sheesh.

The particular thing that I was trying to interpret in the most guilty light possible was the Kung Fu. There aren’t too many things that I spend more than a few hours a week on: work, eating, sleeping, maybe prayer. Now Kung Fu has made that list, and I’m wondering: how much is too much?

Right now it’s an hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. But then there’s the stretching and practicing at home; plus I just got sparring gear (there’s a session every Saturday); plus I’d love to sign up for the new special-training module (that’s another two hours a week). Shouldn’t I be doing less training and more praying? Couldn’t we chop off an hour or two at the dojo1 and add an hour or two at the soup kitchen?2

Fr. T points out that Kung Fu is, for me, therapy. Okay, it’s a good point, even though I don’t like to think of it that way. But it’s a good point because, as I’ve mentioned before, it seems to have been tailor-made just for me: community, friendship, the chance to be physical, the chance to give and receive affirmation; all of it’s just what I’ve always wanted, and all of it beats sitting in a chair with a box of tissues and kvetching about my parents. Beats it with a large stick.

Eh, I don’t know. I’m not exactly up nights thinking about it or nothin’, I’m just a little wary. This is the kind of problem that any of my married siblings would kill to have. Celibacy has its perks, and one of them is the ability to spend as much time as you like taking care of nobody but yourself.

1 Technically kwoon, I guess, but I don’t hear anybody actually use that word.
2 And by “add” I mean “add starting from zero”.


16 Comments on “Me Time”

  1. Kevin says:

    Wary of the old Holy Mallet? Been in the same “rut” recently also. Every thing is going so…damn…perfect, that I must be doing something wrong. It’s times like these that God chuckles to himself and wonders when we’ll ever be truly content with being content.

  2. Chris says:

    Two thoughts:

    1. One of the priests I talk to on occasion calls this Holy Leisure (also in the Catechism, I’ve recently learned, 2185). You’re doing recreation that is wholesome without actually “being spiritual.” IOW, you’re taking care of yourself by doing stuff that makes you Not A Dull Boy. Non-Catholics call this “Live a little.” Not sure I like it, but I do it. And I’m getting pretty good at it – I’m almost to the point now where I relax.

    2. I’ve heard it said (from Patrick Coffin, if you can believe that absurdity) that Archbishop Sheen used to hear confessions of a convent of cloistered nuns every week. He described the experience as being like, “Being beaten to death with marshmallows.” Sounds like you’re well on your way.

  3. SUZANNE says:

    You can pray while you do Kung Fu. I sometimes pray while I work out at the gym. I kill two birds with one stone.

  4. I like Suzanne’s comment, “You can pray while you do Kung Fu.”

    Many saints, like Bl. Charles de Foucauld, over came any hang-ups about exercise and work by saying explicitly, “Time given to manual work is not time taken away from prayer, but given to prayer.” This is also very Benedictine: work and pray (together).

    In your case, as with many of us for various reasons, time given to working out/work-out “therapy” is a kind of “physical work”. It’s certainly requires effort, anyway, and there’s a good reason behind doing it!

  5. Rose says:

    Dude, yes, be happy.
    God does not want you to drop the things you enjoy for the sake of suffering more. Suffering will come up naturally again the next time a problem needs you to solve it or the next time you need to grow on something.
    You’re not doing something wrong because you are happy. We are called to make sacrifices for others, but if we’re not taking care of ourselves, we can’t take care of anyone. So keep taking care of yourself. 🙂

  6. Liz says:

    I don’t know about Kung Fu, but my years in karate taught me A LOT about acceptance, servant leadership and respecting authority/obedience. As I said before, it can get weird as you get to the higher ranks, but you’ve got awhile before that. You will know it when you see it. Keep a healthy prayer life. Enjoy and learn.

  7. Sarah says:

    I dated an ethnically Jewish Catholic man. Boy, do I know what that Jewish guilt thing you’re talking about is. 😉 Oy vey iz mir.

  8. Laura Vellenga says:

    i’m not catholic, but i find that exercise is an essential spiritual discipline for me in so many ways. it helps me steward my mental health, is good for my body (i’m also diabetic and have OCD) and helps me move toward being a whole person, with head and body in unity. sometimes i pray when i bike; sometimes i don’t. i asked my shrink the other day if perhaps i wasn’t getting a bit too obsessive about the biking and she pretty much said no. and from my spiritual director, the words of martin luther: love god and do as you please. both perspectives are helpful and reassuring to me.

  9. Victor says:

    err – not that I doubt Martin Luther said that, but iirc, copyright goes to Augustine of Hippo. 🙂

    1. Laura Vellenga says:

      even nicer!

  10. Lauren says:

    Yeah man, I do kickboxing and whenever we do pushups or something and they’re extra difficult, I say a Hail, Holy Queen or something. It’s a good way to offer up any physical discomfort and add some prayer time into your workout time.

    But I don’t think God really keeps tally of “hours spent specifically at prayer” vs “hours spent working out”. It’s more important to live out everything you do FOR God.

    1. Great point, about the tallying. Keep having to remind myself that I do not serve The Great Accountant In The Sky.

  11. Belle says:

    Offering up the workout to the glory of God works too. 🙂

  12. Veronica says:

    Geez, sometimes the Holy Spirit just really insists on my full attention…. Here I am reading your post this afternoon, and just yesterday I added three books to my Amazon Wish List regarding exercise and bodily health from a Catholic viewpoint, all this in light of my asking God to make me “fit” to serve Him! I was particularly thinking of mental agility and emotional resilience as I prayed, but God apparently has something more in mind for me. I’ve neglected my physical fitness all my life, so establishing good habits in this area is long overdue. Catholic workouts? Who’da thunk it! 🙂
    In case they may also be of interest to you, the books I mentioned are:
    The Rosary Workout, by Peggy Bowes
    Fit for Eternal Life, by Kevin Vost
    Tending the Temple: 365 Days of Spiritual and Physical Devotions, by Kevin Vost, Peggy Bowes, and Shane Preston Kapler

  13. albert says:

    Totally agree with you that celibacy has it’s perks, actually for the first time in my life I’m beginning to enjoy being single.

  14. albert says:

    And I agree with Fr T that Kung Fu is therapy for you.

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