Illustration for the Blog: The Giving Heart
The Habit Of Being
by Gina Rizzo Bishop
So many worlds, so much to do
So little done, such things to be. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
” During her lifetime (1925-1964), neither the camera nor the critics were very kind to Flannery O’Connor. She was as unphotogenic as she was unapologetic. The camera’s harsh lens couldn’t capture the intelligence, passion, imagination, exuberance, witt and grace her family and friends knew and loved. For much of her adult life, the camera only recorded a honed sense of the grotesque- that southern specialty- with all its satire, black humor, and pathos, nor her obsession with religion.
She was a cartographer of the human soul, and her searing words gave expression to the yearning misfits. The characters in her novels and short stories were forlorn and flawed, searching for redemption whether they knew it or not.
Redemption was a major theme in Flannery’s work as well as the thread that held her life together. “There are some of us who have to pay for our faith every step of the way and who have to work out dramatically what it would be like without it,” she wrote, “and if being without it would ultimately be possible or not.”
Her rural Georgia surroundings, coupled with her affliction with lupus at twenty-five (the disease that killed her father when she was a child), contributed to a deep sense of isolation, for she was unable to care for herself and lived, until her death at thirty-nine, with her mother.
What her close friends remember best about Flannery was her determination to revere and savor the gift of every day. Her close friend (and editor of her letters), Sally Fitzgerald, calls it “the habit of being”, a deep joie de vivre that animated her daily round.
Flannery’s passion for life, Sally Fitzgerald tells us, was “rooted in her talent and the possibilities of her work, which she correctly saw as compensating her fully for any deprivations she had to accept, and as offering a scope for living that most of us never dream of encompassing.” Her mornings were sacred, reserved for her writing, but the rest of the day was devoted to being Flannery.
The habit of being- the exultation in the present moment- is an exquisite concept, one that could enrich our lives beyond measure.
"The Birth Of The Symbolic Human Being" - Paulo Zerbato/11
We’re all habitual creatures, but usually we practice the habits of doing: getting up, making breakfast, getting children off to school and getting ourselves to work.
Then there are our habits of brooding: projecting into the future, dwelling on the past, nursing old wounds, holding imaginary conversations, indulging in comparisons, conducting endless mental calculations about money, gnawing on regrets, second-guessing inspiration, ruminating on problems at work, anticipating the worst. The habits of brooding are rooted in the past or the future, and they can rob the present moment of all harmony, beauty, and joy.
But what if, as curators of our own contentment, we deliberately cultivated the habit of being: a heightened awareness of Real Life’s abundance?
The habit of being is a grateful appreciation for the good surrounding us, no matter what our circumstances might be today. What if you always knew there was going to be a simple pleasure to look forward to every few hours? What if you made sure there was? How do you think you would greet the day?
Flannery O’Connor generously offered struggling writers advice. To one she wrote: “Wouldn’t it be better for you to discover a meaning in what you write than to impose one? Nothing you write will lack meaning because the meaning is in you.”
I believe this passion for discovering meaning extends to the art of the everyday as well. Once you commit to cultivating the habit of being, nothing in your daily round will lack meaning because you’ll discover that the meaning is within you.” (Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach)
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