In Praise of Monday Mornings
Here we go again. The alarm goes off. I stagger out of bed in the gray funk of Monday morning depression. The weekend was, as usual, less refreshing than it should have been. Now it’s time to go around one more time, the same as last week. In Pooh’s immortal words: Oh help. Oh bother.
When Blessings Aren’t Counted
Never mind that on one recent evening I remarked to my wife, as we prayed for friends who had been struck by devastating illnesses, that it was difficult for me to conceive of being more richly blessed than we are. Never mind that I’ve been happily married for 35 years, with six wonderful children, all of whom practice their faith, and four (charming!) grandchildren so far. Never mind that we’re all in fairly good health, we're materially comfortable, and I have a job which, in the minds of many, should by itself disqualify me from complaining about anything. None of this matters in early December on a rainy Monday morning.
On most days, roughly around communion time at morning Mass, I start to pick up a little. On Mondays, it takes longer. A little sports talk radio on the way to the office after Church sometimes helps. The guys on the radio do a passable imitation of being worked up over nothing, and this is to some degree infectious. By the time I’m at my desk, I’m beginning to ask God what His will is for me today. But the mood is still one of resignation. Well, I can usually kill a little time organizing my weekend email. Deleting spam becomes the contemporary equivalent of clearing for action. It isn’t much, but it’s a start.
The sun, as if mimicking my straining soul, has peeked out now, which of course means I have to close the curtains over the inconveniently placed window in my office, shutting out all contact with anything but my desk. Damned if it rains; damned if it doesn’t. I have to remind myself that there is a crucifix on the wall and a rosary in my pocket, so there is no material excuse for feeling cut off from life. I brighten momentarily in the realization that I haven’t had my second cup of tea, but quickly remember that it won’t do much good, decaffeinated now that I am so clearly in my declining years. Sigh.
A Bother, A Pest
One of the stories we used to read our kids featured an old man named Grumble who continually muttered things like, “A bother, a pest, all work and no rest. Come winter, come spring, life’s a nettlesome thing.” His wife was named Merry, which doubtless contributed to his discontent, since peevishness prospers in the presence of joy. Anyway, today I can sympathize with those who live their lives in a sort of perpetual Monday morning. (The children’s book in question is Journey Cake, Ho! by Ruth Sawyer, illustrated by the immortal Robert McCloskey, famous for such gems as Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings and One Morning in Maine.)
Peevish drat! Thinking about those old stories is improving my mood. If I’m not careful I’ll find myself as annoying as Grumble’s wife, humming a merry tune. If I expect to hang on to my funk, I’ll need to take myself smartly in hand. But there’s danger there, too, for doing anything smartly tends to break the spell. Fortunately, I’ve already begun reading the legitimate weekend email, which will invariably bring up some unpleasant subject. I can safely go ahead with this, as it will only confirm How Bad Things Are.
Out of nowhere I recall that I made a morning offering back in the dim reaches of dawn, and also said the Angelus, both prayers mumbled by rote and by habit after having been extracted from some small corner of a consciousness not yet far from sleep. Unfortunately, I now also remember the infernal idiot who rang the house an hour before the alarm was due to go off, returning a call incorrectly to someone he didn’t know. Now there’s legitimate cause for complaint, I can tell you! While annoyance is not enervating like depression, it will enable me hang on to a vague sense of wounded discontent a little longer. It doesn’t pay to rush these mood swings. Nobody wants to be a silly Pollyanna by noon.
The Tunnel and the Light
After all, which one is real, the tunnel or the light at the tunnel's end? The answer is both. Life is a sort of tunnel in which we find ourselves restlessly seeking something else until we can escape to the pinpoint of light at the end. The relative darkness of the tunnel is conditioned by an astonishing variety of shadows which plague our fragile vision, as well as by many temporary lights, somehow catching and reflecting rays from the barely visible source. At times, the tunnel’s lesser and greater shadows are thoroughly dispelled by a singularly powerful flash of that distant pinpoint. This is called the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God.
Comparatively speaking, the depression I feel for a few hours on Monday morning is hardly worth mentioning. I know from experience that it will pass, and I am always at least dimly aware of the light. But Monday mornings remind me that others, who haven’t received good instruction or good example, who feel trapped by sin, who face severe trials, or who experience deeper and more prolonged loneliness or depression, may have trouble seeing the light at all. They might lose confidence in its reality or never realize it is there in the first place. This challenges my priorities, for all that is human depends completely on the light. When the light is obscured for anyone, however briefly and for whatever reason, we ought to sense the growing shadow and respond by stoking the Divine spark in our own hearts.
And here’s another thing about Monday mornings. They remind me of the need to prepare for death. At some point we should be sufficiently detached that we are ready to move on. This shouldn’t be a detachment of depression, of course, but I think as we age we grow a little more tired of everything this world has to offer, a natural process which both simulates and stimulates spiritual growth. “Been there, done that,” we sigh, and there simply has to be something more. I feel this pretty strongly on Monday mornings: Here we go again. Oh help and bother! Surely this is a sign and a portent: a portent of the ultimate inbreaking of the Kingdom and a sign that it is time to stop holding back, time to put all my trust in God.
But now it is already noon and, in the midst of improved spirits, I know I’ve once again failed a kind of test. I may not be singing merry tunes, but for better or worse I’m my old self again. Is it an illusion, or did I have a more permanent noon in my sights a little while ago? I begin to hope that God will send me at least one more chance, one more opportunity for growth, one more minor depression so that I can get things right. Please, Lord, forgive me, and grant me your Monday mornings until I give myself to You.
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