New Man and I were in a Christian bookshop yesterday, looking at a book called 'The Highway Code for Marriage'. There was a page on communication, which said that one of the problems with communication between men and women is that men stop talking to work out what they think about something, while women talk in order to work out their thoughts.
In my case, and for certain topics, you can substitute 'blog' for 'talk' in the last bit of that sentence - blogging helps me to work out what I think about some things. There are three ways in which it does this - first, I learn from reading other people's blogs (or their comments on my posts); second, I think things through while writing my own posts; and third, I read around the subject and thus learn more about it while writing a post.
Take Friday, for instance. I could have stopped at the point where I was annoyed at other people's appalling driving, and carried on shouting and swearing at practically everyone else on the road. But I didn't want to leave my post at that, so I read further, looking up the Ten Commandments for Motorists on the Vatican website. And in reading the whole document, I found that wonderful quote from Pope Pius XII.
And guess what - I've done lots of driving this weekend, and I didn't swear or shout at anyone once! Even New Man was impressed. OK, I'll still fail often, but I really think doing that extra bit of reading has helped me to add a weapon against bad tempered driving to my armoury.
And then there was this morning. For the second week running, New Man and I went to the Tridentine Latin Mass up the road. And for the second week running, I was very distracted by a family sitting near us. Here's how my thoughts ran for the first half of the Mass: "They've come in late AGAIN, and the baby's screaming to be fed AGAIN - why can't they make sure she's fed before they come to Mass, or go to the 9:00 Mass if this one disrupts her routine so much? ... He's opening a packet of biscuits AGAIN. How much noise can one person make with cellophane wrapping? And feeding them biscuits is no way to keep the children quiet in Mass anyway - this Mass is just snack time for the entire family ... He's taken the toddler out for being too noisy, and now he's coming back to get another biscuit. Way to reward bad behaviour!" and so on.
You may have gathered by now that I wasn't concentrating very much on the Mass at this point. I was too full of self-righteous indignation. But then something came into my head that I've said many times before, and really ought to live by a bit more: "It's not my place to judge".
I realised that I was distracted not because these people were being noisy or badly behaved or disrespectful, but because I was so busy judging them that I couldn't concentrate on anything else. That was a fault in me, not in them.
I then observed the following: "This couple bring their three small children to Mass regularly - I reckon the boys are about 4 and 2, and the girl is about 8 months. I bet it's quite a performance to get everyone ready and out of the door on time ... They don't bring any toys or secular books - the children are required to sit still and listen ... The 4-year-old really is behaving pretty well - he's sitting quite still and apart from occasionally asking for a biscuit, he's keeping quiet ... As soon as the toddler started getting noisy during the homily, his father took him out to quiet him down and stop him disturbing other people", etc.
And then I felt relaxed and was able to concentrate on prayer and ask God's forgiveness for being so easily distracted.
Several years ago, one of my neighbours knocked on my door to tell me there might be a bit of noise that evening, because he was having a party, and he apologised in advance. It was Good Friday, and I was woken at 3 am by a noise so loud that my bed was vibrating - we lived in a block of flats, and his sitting room was above my bedroom. I thought to myself, "Oh well, he warned me it might be loud", and WENT STRAIGHT BACK TO SLEEP! That was when I discovered that it's not other people's noise that disturbs me - it's my own reaction to it.
This weekend, my neighbour is away and her teenage son is alone in the house. All through this evening, I've watched teenagers come to his door and heard loud music thumping through the wall. The party is still going strong at 11 pm, and I've got to get up by 6:30 at the latest tomorrow morning to get the 7:19 train to work. And guess what - I'm not bothered. My neighbour told me this might happen. I wish it had happened on a Friday or Saturday night rather than a night when I need to get up for work - but I know that if I have the right attitude towards the noise, it won't disturb me.
And that's why blogging is good for me - writing about things from a specifically Catholic perspective, reading round the subjects and trying to live up to the ideals that I talk about are (very gradually) helping me to develop a more serene attitude. And if that serenity helps me to get a good night's sleep tonight, that alone will make it worthwhile.