A mysterious package arrived this week from Franciscan Media (formerly St. Anthony Messenger Press). I’m always happy to receive a package in the mail, but until I tore it open, I had no idea what might be inside. Much to my delight, the box contained two complimentary copies of the audiobook of Party of One! We finished the recording way back in September, and I had completely forgotten that these were on their way.
The first question I often receive about the audio book is, “whose voice is on the recording?” Well, it is me. Answering that question again this week brought to mind this unfinished blog entry that’s been sitting on my desktop for nearly six months.
Prior to sitting down in the recording studio, I skimmed through the book – mostly to take note of a typo or two that were missed in the last round of edits. I did not, however, read through the entire manuscript page-by-page. Several hours into reading the book aloud, I wish I’d been more prepared!
Upon completion of the manuscript, I felt more confident and comfortable with the single life than I’d ever been before. Sitting there alone in a soundproof booth, just me and a microphone, with the sound engineers three doors down the hall – I felt a surge of emotions that I had not anticipated.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being single! Most days I am content and completely happy in my relationships, my work, and my personal life. This is truly the place where God has called me to be. And yet, as I’m sure is true with any vocation, there is that occasional nagging “if only” voice. If only I were in a relationship. If only I had made different choices along the way. If only things could be different. Is this really where I’m supposed to be?
Reading the book cover to cover allowed me to reflect on the current state of my single life, and I was surprised at how much I need to hear my own advice.
I was amazed at how often I talk about “living in the moment.” Staying present in the moment is not always easy. Invariably, we sometimes give in to worry or comparing ourselves to others or a need for control. Gratitude is a helpful spiritual tool for staying present to what’s in front of us.
Ultimately, gratitude shows me where love is present in my life: where intimacy resides in my relationships, where laughter overflows in my friendships, and how the generosity of friends and strangers alike provides for what otherwise seems to be missing.
I tell a story in Party of One about a pottery studio in southern Utah that I visited many years ago. I also spent a significant part of the summer on the East coast on retreat and visiting friends. All of this reminded me of how much I love to travel, and how desperately this sense of adventure has been missing from my life!
God, who first breathed life into us at the beginning of time, is the ultimate Artist. It is in God’s very nature to be generative. As children of the Artist, we all have inherent creative instincts. … As single people, it is important that we find an outlet for being generative in order to fulfill that hope and desire that our activities and relationships become life-giving for others.
Creativity and new life come in many different shapes and forms. I made a New Year’s resolution to take advantage of opportunities to “try something new”. So far this year I have eaten octopus at a local Korean BBQ, attended a bris at the invitation of a Jewish colleague, and taken my first (and probably last) music lesson on the french horn. (One of my students needed a guinea pig for his music pedagogy class, and I enthusiastically volunteered!)
Finally, I’ve been reconfiguring my work-life balance, and the chapter on hope rang true on many levels. As I’m now finishing this blog entry at the half-way point of Lent, it also seems fitting to mention that hope is at the heart of the Pascal Mystery. As we allow pieces of our past to die, we trust that new life is on the horizon. My Lenten journey has been all about “breaking up” with bad habits and allowing new opportunities to unfold. That is how transformation happens.
Hope means letting go of the past, holding onto what is good, and re-imagining the future. What remains when all else is stripped away? What in my life, what of my purpose, my identity, my mission, and my values in life still remain? Maybe there is nothing obvious at first glance. But perhaps there is a tiny seed of hope buried deep in the darkness.
Party of One: Living Single with Faith Purpose and Passion – Available in paperback, Kindle edition, and now in audio format!