Remaining sane

Daily Reading for April 29 • Catherine of Siena

A common trick a lot of midlife women play on ourselves is to feel, and act, responsible for everything. But Jesus, via Catherine of Siena, doesn’t recommend this: “I in my providence did not give to any one person or to each individually the knowledge for doing everything necessary for human life. No, I gave something to one, something else to another, so that each one’s need would be a reason to have recourse to the other.” In other words, there’s a divine plan for us to need each other. So don’t go trying to do everything for everybody all at once. Treat your psyche with care—mental illness is not in the divine plan for you.

Even Catherine of Siena felt overwhelmed sometimes, and tried to protect herself. Apparently, at least once she did so by retreating to the roof. Some local parents were worried that their baby was possessed by demons, so they set out to ask Catherine for help. When Catherine saw the three on their way to her cottage, she felt so overwhelmed that she hid herself on the roof, muttering all the while, “Alas, every day I am tormented by evil spirits: Do you think I want somebody else’s?” On Catherine’s less stressful days, she poked fun at the devil, calling him “the Old Pickpocket.” Then, as now, the devil could steal enjoyment of life from you—and one of Catherine’s strategies to keep him at bay was humor. . . . Clearly, Catherine viewed the incessant demands that could lead to depression, anxiety, and mental illness as the work of the devil. And she was determined to remain sane.

From Wisdom from the Middle Ages for Middle-Aged Women by Lisa B. Hamilton. Copyright © 2007. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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