One afternoon in February of this year, I left work to go to an ultrasound appointment. Little did I know that day that it would be my last day at the office for over five months!
To make a very long story short: I was 21 weeks pregnant with twins and this routine appointment led me to be admitted to the hospital, I had surgery the following day, and was ordered to bed-rest until the babies were born. Luckily, we made it to 36 weeks (Halleluia!!) and welcomed two healthy boys into our family.
One month ago, I went back to work. What a strange, strange feeling!! I had not been there in so long. In some ways it was like I had never left and nothing had changed; in others it felt like I had been gone forever.
One of the hardest things for me was something quite silly. I couldn’t remember all the keyboard short-cuts I had taught myself over the years. Due to problems I had developed years earlier in my wrists, I always look for ways to stay on the keyboard and not move back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse. I had figured out so many short-cuts on my own through trial and error as well as by accident that I hardly ever used my mouse when in certain programs. My first couple weeks back at work I worked a bit slower than what had been my usual pace and I found myself stopping more often to contemplate the keyboard, knowing there was a better way to do … whatever it was I was trying to do.
Then just this past week I made a break-through. I realized that I had to stop thinking. I needed to be on autopilot. I shut off my brain and my fingers just knew what to do. I found myself suddenly typing weird combinations of key strokes and wondering how I knew what I was doing. The moment I tried to think about it, there would be hesitation. I had to just stop and allow myself to go on autopilot.
Being on autopilot was exactly what I needed to do to get my “groove” back. That’s one of the great things about being on autopilot. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments. But autopilot is not always a good thing. Unfortunately it often happens in our prayer life. I know it does mine and I’m sure it has infected everyone’s prayer life at some point or another … or it is right now.
Time to switch it off!! Believe me, I know that is easier said than done!
At the same time that I was having this epiphany at work, my husband and I started putting the babies in their rockers/bouncers at the kitchen table with us so they could see us while we ate. It’s funny how the way we pray the Prayer Before Meals changed when the babies were with us. We said it slower, more deliberately; we said the sign of the cross fully and didn’t just do it on our own at the end. It struck me that we are usually just on autopilot because we do it all the time, at every meal.
I mentioned this to my husband and he simply replied that of course we do it better, because the babies will need to learn. True, but why aren’t we doing it better all the time; shouldn’t we be more deliberate in our prayer regularly, regardless of if the babies are present or not?
Interesting how this autopilot thing can be a blessing in some cases, but a hinderance in others. I feel challenged now to turn off the autopilot while I pray, to allow the words to have more meaning to me and to really, fully understand them. Have you ever stopped to think about the words you are saying when you recite the Creed at Mass? I stumble over the Creed a lot more when I’m thinking about the words than I do when I just allow myself to say it out of habit. It can be so easy to get into a habit and a routine, whether you are praying a standard prayer or praying in your own words. Even praying in our own words can have a familiar routine that can also lose its meaning.
Are you also up for the challenge? Have you sat back and re-examined your prayer life lately? Do you, too, need to turn autopilot off in your prayer life?
Kerri Baunach is a Catholic wife and mother of three boys (plus three in heaven). She and her family live in beautiful central Kentucky where she is active in her church, a member of Cursillo, and a Benedictine Oblate. Kerri often writes on her Catholic faith, pregnancy loss, her kids, and pro-life issues. Kerri is a former music librarian (16 years) now stay-at-home mom, was a musician for over 20 years, loves taking her kids to the library (and loves that they love it), is passionately pro-life, can’t cook, and has lived in six states. In additional to writing at Catholic Sistas you can also find Kerri on her own blog at Journal of a Nobody.