I started flossing recently. Most of the time, I floss in the car in between driving. I recognized flossing as a new achievement this morning in the self-indulgent, self-conscious and slightly panicked way where we can’t help but over-analyze what we’re doing when we realize someone can see us doing it.
Flossing has always been important. I’ve always known I should do it. I also knew it was boring and practical. Flossing doesn’t take much time, but it’s almost always uncomfortable and rarely is it instantly prettifying in the gratifying way of whitening strips. It doesn’t seem to be a hygiene mandated for social inclusion like brushing your teeth. It’s pretty simple to avoid and its benefits are interior – a kind of private self-care we can invest in everyday or a few times a week- or not at all.
Behaviors like flossing reveal truths about the way we live and why we make—or forget to make—the choices we do. What makes us do it? No single thing commands us to adopt a habit. For myself, I started flossing one day because I suddenly owned a lot of floss. After a few weeks of accidentally leaving my new floss in the next place I went, I ended up with small floss containers in my backpack, purse, car, and vanity drawer in my bedroom. It’s changed my response to what was a vague theory of dental hygiene to something I don’t think about anymore. If I see it and I’m able to use it, I do so and carry on with my day.
I guess flossing never felt like a real choice to make when there was no floss in sight. But it is, as I understand it, the non-negotiable factor in having healthy teeth and gums.
And I think that’s kind of how the rosary works. The similarity seemed obvious yesterday in the car. Would I have committed myself to the rosary years earlier if I saw it in front of me, everyday? For all our planning, God calls us by the minute. For all the hours that slip by everyday, I seem to have those minutes. In the car, before bed, in the waiting room, walking somewhere, waiting somewhere, or sitting somewhere. Can I dock a few minutes from nighttime phone scrolling to rest the day to Our Lady? How would that feel to fall asleep with moments spent in familiar prayer, the Hail Mary of my childhood? The rosary is carved for habit, for turning our thoughts to God, while resting our minds from ourselves.
How would it feel to really make use of the gift of the rosary? To make a habit of it? To make it part of my day? A few minutes, if taken, can make a difference in our whole emotional mind. Could a few minutes with the rosary do that for me? Would it help me choose my more graceful self, would it bring me towards Our Lady? More importantly, if I don’t immediately feel any of those things will I pick it back up? This is my soul and this is how I get back to God who lives in it. If flossing is good for my teeth, will I give my spiritual needs the same small time, the same little planning of keeping the tool nearby? If the health of my teeth requires everyday minutes, will I realize my soul deserves the same?
As I live out my mid-twenties, I’m learning to pay attention to the holistic health of my teeth and gums instead of noticing how white they seem in the mirror today. I’m also learning that self-care doesn’t have to be a dramatic feeling. It doesn’t have to be a feeling at all. Just a bit of trying, as often as the day allows. God wants those minutes, and deep down I want to give them to Him, anyway.
For the month of September, I’m committing to keeping a rosary in daily reach. My hypothesis is that, like my floss, more often than not I will pick it up and use its beads when I can. Which leaves me thinking, I’m probably less smart but maybe more good than I think.