Saturday, June 25, 2022

Office Hours

     One of the things about ADHD is called "time-blindness." It's one of the reasons why people with ADHD are impulsive and inconsistent and distractible. For us, there really is no time but the present. We have really poor memories. For me, the past is like a movie I watched a long time ago, not something that happened to me, personally, at all. And I mean, a few days or weeks or months ago, let alone years and decades. And we're no good at envisioning the future, either, which makes planning for it hard, and sticking to a plan even harder. On a smaller time scale, we don't naturally track the passage of time throughout the day. We have no idea how long things take, even if we've done them every day for years. We're always running late. We very often get hyper-focused on the task of the moment, and completely lose track of its relative place or priority in the overall scheme of the day. It's a whole thing.

    In my Rule of Life, I promised to keep on what I was doing when I wrote it, which was to pray all seven Hours of the Divine Office daily. That's not a whole duration of seven hours, it means at seven hours each day. It means that seven times a day, I would stop and read (usually chant) a litany of psalms and prayers and short readings from Scripture or other religious texts. I used it deliberately as a prop for my time-blindness, because it created a natural framework for my day around which to create a loose schedule. I downloaded a church-bell ringtone and set it to ring for the Hours. I loved the way it broke up my day, continually recalling me to, first, my intention to live prayerfully, and then second, back to whatever program I had invariably gotten side-tracked from in the interval since the previous Hour.

    But I also hated the Office. I hated the language, which makes God all-male and women pretty thoroughly invisible. And too many of the texts address a punitive, vengeful, nationalistic God, that doesn't align with my own sense of theology. So, when I renewed my vows last year, I changed that section of my Rule. I said that following the pattern of the Divine Office, I would pause at set times throughout the day for prayer, meditation, and sacred reading. But it hasn't worked out that way, either. I can't be making it up from scratch 7 times a day, it defeats the purpose of recalling me to mindfulness. It's not meditative for me that way. 

    So finally, over the last few months, I've begun to reclaim the Office. I've begun to make my own versions of the psalms and canticles that more honestly reflect my own relationship with God. The "official" Office omits some of the more bloodthirsty psalms, so I feel justified in omitting, for example, sycophantic psalm 45, about the induction of one more helpless virgin into the overflowing harem of the lecherous, corrupt, despotic king (next time I hear somebody say how "wise" King Solomon was I think I might have to scream).

    So far, I'm only up to 3 of the 7 Hours, morning (Lauds), evening (Vespers), and bedtime (Compline). But it's kind of a relief to be getting the Office back. It is calming, healing in an odd kind of a way. It doesn't really have that much to do with the content of the texts, although it matters that the new versions are at least neutral and not triggering. And of course, some of them are genuinely moving. I'm at the point now where I want to think about adding back in my daytime bells. Again, for the double purpose of continually recalling myself to an attitude of prayerfulness, and time-blocking my days so that I don't completely lose track of all the other things I want to spend my time doing.

    I'll close, this time, as each Hour of the Divine Office ends: 

God bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

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