Seeking joy in the busyness of life

This fall has been a season of abundance. I have too many things to balance, too many competing priorities, too many problems to solve, and too many reasons not to go to sleep on time.

Some of that is autumn, and some of that is this autumn. This is always a busy season for me, but there’s a different rhythm to the busyness this year. I am trying to approach each day with peace and grace, but I constantly feel I am falling behind.

Last night I was tired, but I stopped by the store to get ingredients for a home-cooked meal. I didn’t really have the time to cook anything special, but it always makes me feel more in control of the situation if I pour some of my creativity into the kitchen.

As I was doing the dishes after dinner, I glanced at the name of the soul we were praying for during the day—the name we pulled out of our November prayer basket in the morning—and I saw that it was Regina Soria.

Regina. She was someone who never seemed overwhelmed by life. She knew how to grasp it all and keep on grasping. She was a wealth of knowledge, an expert in Italian-American art and architecture. Dr. Soria had retired from her job as a professor at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, and it was a pleasure to speak with her on any topic.

By the time I met Regina, she must have been in her 70s. She was born in Italy and came to Baltimore as an adult with her husband whom I never met.

Regina came into our lives when she met my grandmother at Mass one day. My grandmother overheard someone wishing Regina a happy birthday and spontaneously invited her to go to out to eat. Regina accepted her invitation, and the two of them became dear friends.

When my grandmother died, Regina was still there—always a source of strength and wisdom and joy. She was also an author, and one summer she hired me to work on the footnotes for a book she was writing. I was more than a bit in awe of her, and I enjoyed spending time with her in her apartment.

After college, a few friends and I decided to go to Italy for a couple weeks. When I mentioned to Regina that we had planned a trip, she offered me the use of a spare apartment in Rome. She introduced me to her city, and I fell in love with its beauty and history and spirit and the warmth of the people.

A few years later, Regina was traveling home to Rome from her second home, Baltimore, and, because she was in her 90s and needed a little assistance on the way, she asked me to be her companion on the flight. She treated me to a trip to Rome, hosted me there, and let me explore the city again, all on my own.

That trip was an extraordinary, transformative gift. So was knowing Regina. (You can read her obituary from 2006 here. I wish there were a photo.)

As I was thinking of her tonight and praying for her, it occurred to me that I can also ask her to pray for me. What a beautiful gift that is that we can be joined in prayer from wherever we are. And perhaps she is just the right person to turn to in a moment where I feel I am balancing too much.

Somehow I have a feeling Regina would smile her constant smile and assure me that I am handling everything just fine. Then she would ask me when I’m planning my next trip to Europe or when I’ll be writing a book.

That’s how Regina was. She was always looking for that next chance to learn and grow. And she would see this season of abundance as a fruitful one, ripe with opportunity, full of potential.

I’m grateful that she is still part of my life. And I am grateful, too, for this season of too much.

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.