Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
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I sit here and wonder who some particular visitors are and why they keep coming back. That person from Ingersoll - I see they visit from a government office. I told my sister it must be the government monitoring me because the word sexual addiction surely shows up more than any other phrase on my blog and they are checking to see if I am a danger to society. And the one from the University in Portugal. Who is that and how did they ever come across my blog? Who lives in Aldersley UK that keeps coming back? There are those who visit faithfully every day who I 'know' and their company makes me smile. Thank you Peter, Val and Terry, among others.
Here's one of the elk that ate, without apology, our bale stack. 40 good square hay bales are only a memory now. The elk's comrades took off and left this one to take the blame. I tried posting these late last night but the power kept flickering on and off so I shut everything down and went to sleep. It was a scary thought - the power going out when it's -45C outside. It's supposed to be -48C with windchill by this afternoon. A chinook is waiting behind this weather pattern to bring us up to 0C by Saturday. No wonder they say 'wait 5 minutes and the weather will change.' Well, in this case, 'wait 5 days and the weather will change. Stay warm.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Despite the weather I am feeling hopeful tonight. Yesterday ( it was only -25C) I went to my AA home group meeting and was abundantly blessed. The meeting I go to is a newbies meeting and I feel like I fit right in. What a blessing to share one's frailties and have people laugh along with you because they recognize the same thing in themselves. Sharing our humanity instead of trying to divorce ourselves from it then becomes a strength not a weakness. I was able to share some of my story without my ego trying to butt in and make a grandstand appearance. That was a relief. It makes me feel like I am truly making progress. It gives me hope that one day I won't feel like a fraud at meetings. Plus it gives me hope that I can learn what it is to simply be me no matter where I am on the journey. There have been so many meetings where I've listened to someone share and wondered how they could be so comfortable in their own skin sharing what they did. Maybe their ability to do that is rubbing off on me. Whatever is happening I am relieved to find out I am capable of sharing like that too.
Afterwards I went to a wrap up meeting of the retreat team from the previous weekend. Lots of laughter and good sharing. I often feel a tinge of bittersweetness at these wrap up meetings because the retreat team changes from one retreat to the next and saying goodbye to this particular configuration was as hard as all the others. Being involved in this group is my sole opportunity to be in a women's only setting. It nourishes me and I find myself forming trust relationships each time I am involved in the process. There is usually one woman I connect with in a deeper way every retreat and this one was no exception. This past week dearest one and I happened to be at a function along with one of the women from the retreat. He told me afterwards that the women from this whole retreat movement sure seem to love me. It was good to be able to simply say, "yes, they do" instead of "oh, if they only knew me". Many of them do know me and love me still. I am reminded of Brennan Manning's words "It is more important that you let God love you than that you love God." It feels good to let myself be loved by God and others.
I am still struggling with some depression but it has lifted considerably. My doctor wanted to prescribe anti depressants for me this week but I am hoping the Vitamin D I began taking this month will continue to help lift the cloud. Me and prescription meds often don't like each others' company. So much so that I remember my drug allergies by alphabetical order - no kidding. I'm not keen on adding to the list. I wish I knew how to tell what depression needs medication and what doesn't. How much has the laughter of last weekend, the wonderful fellowship, the ongoing attendance at AA meetings contributed to me feeling better? Would I still be in that dark hole of near despair had I not started taking Vitamin D? And how much of it would have lifted without any of that?
Today, if you live somewhere warm(er) enjoy going outside and not having to worry about freezing your butt off. Me, I'm going to be thankful I live in a warm home and have the energy and ambition to get up off my butt and do some physical work (for a change).
Thursday, November 23, 2006
A year ago I was in a very dark place. It was on the cusp of Advent that I was able to admit outloud for the first time that I struggled with sexual addiction. The paralyzing shame prompted me to write this prayer at an Advent retreat. What followed was close to 120 days of abstinence. I can still remember what it felt like to be present in the painful places; at times feeling empty, agitated, and restless. The weird but hopeful feeling to choose not to fill the gaping hole with that which could not heal it. The foreign but welcome realization that it was possible to acknowledge the gaping hole without rushing for the nearest escape route. I'm not sure I befriended the gaping hole but I learned it was possible to co-exist with it.
When youngest son moved out of our home and into the home of his 15 year old girlfriend my stringing together of one-day-at-a-times came to an end. I chose to revert back to habits of self numbing oblivion to get through abruptly becoming an empty nester.
What is that saying? It's darkest just before the dawn? By the end of the third month of being an empty nester I nearly lost my 18+ years of sobriety. Although I had always been a social drinker, becoming a closet one was starting to look inviting. Making my way to an AA meeting after an 8 or 9 year absence felt like more of a bottom than my initial steps into a meeting all those years ago. Admitting I couldn't do this recovery journey solo anymore was more humbling than a relief. I've since learned that years without a drink are entirely different than years of sobriety. I feel 95% newbie and 5% old timer at meetings.
Let Go and Let God is a recurring theme in recovery circles. Not too long ago I read somewhere you can either let go or get dragged. When I think of the verse "the truth shall set you free" maybe that's what letting go means. Perhps when I find myself getting dragged I am resisting truth. Today I experienced a moment when I was able to let go of a situation. These days I celebrate those tiny victories. It was a moment of "oh, that's not my problem to comment on, let alone fix."
Letting go is what I am bringing down with me into the darkness to chew on this Advent. This post has given me focus as I prepare to hunker down and wait for the Light.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Thank you for all your well wishes and prayers. The retreat was wonderful. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. Sometimes when I go for a long time without laughing and then eventually do, my laughter rings hollow. I feel startled at the sound of my own laugh....like it doesn't belong to me but someone I don't even know. This weekend my laughter felt warm and life giving and fluid. Best of all it was spontaneous and genuine.
My talk was well received although that's neither here nor there. I like talking and they let me, so we're both happy. Last week dearest one was in the middle of writing a letter for me to read during my weekend, when I walked into the livingroom and started chattering his ear off, oblivious to what he was doing. Eventually he looked at me and told me his thought train had 'derailed' and he had been on a roll before I started talking. We laughed and I thought he was pretty sweet not to just delete the whole thing. He told me he now knew what I felt like when I was writing a blog post and he started talking to me and I lost my own train of thought.
Written words don't come easily to him so he was disappointed to be 'derailed' in the midst of writing me an encouraging note. However he made me laugh and cry this weekend when I read that particular note. Here is what he said:
Hope is such an easy word to say; I hope this...I hope that...I hope you...
Your pen name fits you so well because as Dr. M. said, "Her determination will do her a lot of good." That is the same determination that has kept you going for thus far all the way since '62 and will likely be the substance that keeps you plugging away through the next however many decades of this life.
For me that has been somewhat of a two edged sword at times. There are the "I can do this or I'll be damned" times when I would have sooner done it for you; to me it would have been easier than watching you struggle with the fallout later [he's talking of me using up spoons unnecessarily]. For you it seems to be that same 'determination' that your grandma saw.
Hope is your favourite word in the English language, perhaps which is partially why you are so well able to....(Here's where my train derailed) ...give others a vision of what it looks like for themselves.
I have many hopes for you, for me, for us....the greatest of which I know will be realized when we are snuggled in the arms of Christ, hearing his "Well done."
Somehow I know he will forgive me for eating the last can of his coke.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I am procrastinating along with the best of them today. Tomorrow I am headed to a women's retreat where I am one of a dozen speakers. I enjoy the speaking part of it as much as the writing and preparing ahead of time. I've accepted both are gifts God has given me and am thrilled to share them with others. It will be a weekend of little sleep, lots of laughter, a good cry or two, plus great food. I will be totally spoonless before it is over but will be rejuventated in my spirit. The thought of daily Mass and access to a chapel around the clock (with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) both lift my spirits. I have quite a long list of things that need to get accomplished before I head out the door tomorrow. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute to get my butt in gear.
Mentally I am feeling like something has lifted. I don't have any more energy or ambition to do a blessed thing but at least I am not feeling like there is a black cloud hovering over me on top of it. I'm no longer resisting the pull into my prayer room and I can go and sit there in solitude and feel some peace.
This morning while waiting for the computer to wake up I looked outside to see a herd of elk grazing not much more than a stone's throw from the deck. The dogs must be used to them already because they didn't bark up a storm at their presence. Maybe before winter is over I will be able to get a photo of them to share with you. How to do that without spooking them all away will be the challenge.
Yesterday morning I took a picture of the sunrise from inside the house. I do love the expanse of sky just outside my window, don't you?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
A few years ago when we were a family on welfare and using the food bank I learned that whenever someone takes the time to pay attention to me, be it in conversation, prayer or by meeting a physical, emotional, or social need, they sacrifice to do so because they could've been spending that time/money doing something else. So thank you for taking the time to not only read, but comment. Jean Vanier in his book, From Brokenness to Community says the cry of the human heart is this: "Am I important to you? Do I have any value?" Thank you for hearing my cry.
I sat in my prayer room this morning welcoming the solitude and silence. I felt embraced and hopeful. I was reminded that my job is to show up. The way God works is a mystery and today I could accept that again. I didn't need to have it all figured out. I get tripped up so easily thinking the finish line is the point. Like my friend Peter says, "one foot in front of another." Often in the quest to put that one foot in front of the other, I trip and fall, then feel ashamed that I haven't managed to keep standing. Reading these words were soothing to me this weekend:
"Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multivolume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us, and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don't waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success. Listen, learn, go on."(emphasis added)
The author also writes,
"It is ...... fatuous to think that once we solve an issue it stays solved, that once we learn, we always remain conscious ever after. No, life is a great body that grows and diminishes in different areas, at different rates. When we are like a body, doing the work of new growth, wading through shit, just breathing or resting, we are very alive,.....If we could realize that the work is to keep doing the work, we would be much more....peaceful."
Part of my struggle lately is that I am still wading through this relatively new empty-nest-season in my life. I home schooled my kids for 15 years and went on quite the detours in my spiritual life during that time. I joke to only daughter that it's a wonder her and her siblings don't have spiritual whiplash. Some of those detours celebrated repression in the name of being a good wife and mother. I lost a part of me in it all. I don't mean that as a slam against homeschooling or being a stay at home mother. There were many positives to both. Any person, no matter how they spend their days, can repress that which is life giving, can drown out the voice of their own soul, in order to get the (fleeting) applause of the (invisible) crowd.
And so here I am. It feels both scary and exhilarating. The rest of my life is before me and with far less responsibility, I find myself trying to navigate a freedom I haven't had since my college days. Had I known I would develop a chronic illness before this season of my life began I might've made different choices earlier. But none of us have the wisdom of hindsight until it is just that, hindsight. I've come to the conclusion that repressing what would have breathed life into my soul has quite possibly contributed to my illness. I don't think it is a coincidence that being short of breath was one of the first symptoms. If I hadn't had the genetics that made this illness possible, I think my body would've tried to get my attention some other way. It has my attention now. Some people would read that and think I am being too hard on myself. I don't feel any guilt or shame coming to the conclusion I have come to. I feel thankful that my body would do what it had to, to get my attention. It is a gift. I am forced to pay attention to those things I could've kept silenced by busyness and noise. It doesn't mean I don't mourn what used to be because I do. So does my dearest one.
Last week he was in a(n)(unusual for him) melancholy place, saying aloud several times that he felt like someone died. We both thought his mood was about his deceased brother, who's birthday was that day. Eventually he realized the person he was mourning was me. Us. We had quite different dreams for this season of our lives. They all involved doing things that took physical ability. Dearest one walks 108 steps up from locker room to hospital floor daily. He says not one day goes by that he doesn't think of me as he walks and how I am unable to face such a challenge. Me, who used to thrill at the challenge of walking faster, pushing myself a little harder every time I exercised. We both know if I attempted those 108 steps I would be going down on a stretcher. This makes dearest one feel not only sad but angry, too.
Our dreams of walking the beach, travelling overseas, getting in the car and driving wherever our hearts desire are no longer possible. Our lives together revolve around my spoon supply. As we talked about this last week I realized anew that when one person has a chronic illness it impacts everyone around them. Dearest one has to pace himself to my pace. Part of me laughs at the irony as I type that. There were so many years when I went for a walk and was absolutely frustrated that dearest one wanted a leisurely walk and I wanted to acccomplish something instead - get my heart rate up and have an aerobic work out. These days moving from doorstep to car can get my heart rate up into that level. I dearly miss the challenge of exercising and increasing my stamina, being fit instead of fat.
Dearest one says it makes him feel like he is a single person because for him to realize his dreams of travel, etc. it will have to be alone. For even if we went together, the exploring and all that we find exciting about doing it, is impossible for me. Heck, we can't even go for a long quad ride together on our farm because if we get stranded I will be unable to walk my way out of the bush. Dearest one is seeing his dreams vanishing because what we wanted to do together holds no appeal to do solo. My physical limitations often make him feel like he is married to someone 40 years his senior.
So while we are in yet another cycle of mourning, we are also looking to the future and how to make the most of it. Validating the feelings yet not getting stuck in them. I refuse to let this illness define who I am. How exactly to navigate the reality of it is something we continually revisit. The wading through, doing the work continues. I do feel like I have my bearings again spiritually. I feel like I am able to face those things I have repressed and see what they have to teach me. I am hopeful in it all that I will befriend my feelings instead of being scared of them. I am hopeful that my mind and body will become more in sync instead of enemies.
Last week one day dearest one met the doctor who pushed the specialists until they came up with a diagnosis for me. She asked him how I was and when he told her that he thought I was worse and I thought I was better she told him that his assessment was most likely right but that my determination would get me far in life. When I was a newborn, premature infant in an incubator, my grandma came to see me. She went home and wrote in her diary that I had this look of fierce determination on my face. By the grace of God, it's still there.
Friday, November 10, 2006
A new reader left a comment on the post below this one. Yesterday I just about decided to stop writing on here, convinced it wasn't life giving to anyone, not even me. In the process of changing to beta blogger and categorizing a pile of posts I got to see how I keep going around and around the same subjects. I know this is how the journey works but if I get tired of it I figure you do too. Well, and in the grand scheme of life one less blog really isn't going to matter, I know that.
I will be away for the weekend and am asking regular readers and those who lurk to leave me a 'hi' in the comments. It is so easy to lose perspective and feel like I have been stuck forever or am only taking steps backwards. I can't remember ever being in such a funk. One day I hope to be able to rest in this moment, not worry about the next one and not obsess about the past ones. I'm looking that direction but I'm not there yet.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
This afternoon I had an appointment with Father Charlie, my spiritual director. While he reads whatever blog offering I bring, I usually read one of these books. My favourite one is called Be-good-to-yourself Therapy. Today I picked it up and found the very first page to read something like this: "Trust yourself. You know what you want and need." It seemed like every other page had either the word trust or ask. When one has isolated themselves in a wall of protective darkness doing either seems an impossibility. Trusting means opening oneself up to pain and being hurt. Asking means needing others and owning your voice. Every line had something to do with looking inward and seeing goodness or looking up and trusting the Goodness. As I read my heart rate started to speed up, then I got teary - something I haven't allowed myself to do while in this particular pit.
I told Father Charlie my heart was pounding so fast that I had to stop reading. My body was filled with the tension of trying to keep Truth out. Finally the tears spilled over and I started talking. We talked of the difference between setting boundaries and putting up walls. Of resentments, hiding in black holes and being closed up within oneself so tightly that movement felt impossible. We talked of my struggle to choose freedom over hiding.
He asked me if there were any images coming to mind as we talked. Often I get a picture in my head when he asks questions and that picture is usually very telling. Today I had none but he did. He said that a picture of my house kept coming to him and how there are rooms in one's house where they feel comfortable being vulnerable and others where that vulnerability wouldn't be such a sure bet. He also talked of how a closet is a place where it's usually dark. He meant it all metaphorically...
He had no idea how this image would speak to me. As he described the image I heard a bit of the twilight zone theme buzzing round my head. Earlier this week I took some pictures in my house and dearest one taught me how to download the images to the computer just this morning. The image Father Charlie was getting was not simply metaphorical but very real. Although he's been a guest in our home he had no idea I even had a prayer room. Or that I haven't been inside it in nearly two months. I used to take a breakfast tray in there every morning and journal while I ate. Then I would light candles and sit in the silence. Sometimes I would also pray the litgurgy of the hours, the rosary or simply talk to God. It's the one room in my house where I can shut the door and, in privacy, safety and all nakedness of soul, get totally vulnerable with God. I've been walking past its open door a dozen times a day lately but haven't been able to bring myself to actually go in it. It isn't a space I can keep my arms wrapped tight around myself in without risking feeling the warmth of God's arms enveloping me, too. It's a sacred space where I feel stripped bare. I told Father Charlie it almost feels like there is an invisible force field in that room and lately it's as if I'm being drawn to go in there but resistant to the hilt inside myself.
I still haven't set foot in it. But it is comforting to know that when I am ready to go from the protective darkness to the safety of the Light, there is an actual space to sit in and be comforted while I weep, and pray, and let down my walls.
At the end of our session I picked up the book and finished reading it. The cloying darkness had lifted and just knowing the room is there when I am ready, calmed my heart and gave me a hope I haven't felt in a long time.
Monday, November 06, 2006
"I have a desire to live life rather than hide from it."The author put into words what I have been doing lately - trying to hide from life.
Yesterday at my weekly AA meeting someone talked about waging a war within ones' self and how in a war when one side waves a white flag they are surrendering to life not death.
I find myself living in the tension between those two thoughts, hiding from life and surrendering to life.
My phone went on the fritz before I could post this yesterday. In reflecting on it between then and now I realized that there has to be some level of awareness to have either of those phrases jump out at me and grab my attention. Somehow realizing that helped me see that I am not as lost as I thought I was.
by Julian of Norwich
You must learn to understand that all your deficiencies, even those that come from your past sins and vicious habits, are part of my loving providence for you, and that it is just with those deficiencies, just the way you are now, that I would love you. Therefore you must overcome the habit of judging how you would make yourself acceptable to me. When you do this you are putting your providence, your wisdom before mine. It is my wisdom that tells you, �The way you are acceptable to me, the way I want to love you, is the way you are now, with all your defects and deficiencies. I could wipe them out in a moment if I wanted to, but then I could not love you the way I want to love you, the way you are � now.�
Source: Revelations of Divine Love
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I have very little experience to go on when it comes to living life from somewhere other than my head. Living on a cerebral level feels much safer. Total control. My body, my feelings, my gut - well - they aren't nearly so predictable, you know? One time my mom was showing me something in her bookshelves when she touched my shoulder. My body's instant reaction was to freeze and try to get away from her touch. I was over 35 years old when that happened. The body remembers things that the mind would rather not. It doesn't seek permission first either. Scary stuff.
The last time the Gospel reading at the Mass was the one where Jesus says "Who do you say that I am?" Father Charlie asked us how we would answer that question. I know now why I gravitated towards a fundamentalist bent of evangelicalism all these years. It seemed to be about having the right answer and preening (at least inwardly) if you did. And since I have spent most of my life either convinced I was right or pretending to be, that whole mind set suited me well. And while I know there are fundamentalist Catholics out there, and as much as I sometimes want to run to their camp, living my faith from somewhere deeper than spouting off the 'right' answer is a challenge I try to embrace.
So, Father Charlie throws out Christ's question to us, "Who do you say that I am?" and I get all smug, sit up a bit straighter and call out, "Saviour." He shoots back without a moment's hesitation "Why?" I throw back at him something along the lines of Christ died for my sins and the rest of the answer I was used to getting brownie points for. The 'right, safe' answer. Something out of a textbook. Father Charlie said nothing in reply. No gold star for me. No pat on the back. In the intervening nano second of quiet someone else gave their answer. Several minutes of this goes on, with nearly everyone in our tiny congregation saying something, when he challenges another women in the pews to answer at more than a head level. At this he turns and tells all of us that we need to answer that question from somewhere more than a cerebral level. He draws his hand across his forehead, puts his hand over his heart and tells us we need to answer the question from our heart. And then he repeats Christ's question, "Who do you say that I am?" and leaves us hanging there - making us responsible for our own response.
Geez, I hate trick questions like that. After spending years being asked spiritual questions in a context where the person asking already has the set answer in mind, I get lost when the rules change. Ask me what I think and I can nearly give you a thesis. Ask me how I feel and more often than not I am stumped. I have lost track of the number of times I have been confronted with that question, "Who do you say that I am?" since hearing the Gospel read at the Mass every Sunday. It trips me up every time.
Where am I going with this tale? On some level I know that my sobriety, my abstinence, my linking together of one day at a time(s) hinges on living from somewhere other than my head. It means being open to listening to what my body, my feelings, my gut is trying to tell me. Doing so scares the crap out of me. But life has become pretty unmanageable by trying to live solely from my head so I know it's either quit my bitching and jump into the unkown or accept the same old, same old. I hope to God I've come to the end of the same old, same old.
Last month at one of my AA meetings a woman shared how she lived her life from her heart. She said that she knew all too well what life had been like when she tried living it from her head. I immediately thought of the magnet you see in this post. When I got home I took it off my fridge, put it in an envelope and wrote her a short note of explanation. I got goose bumps when she shared at that meeting because she nearly quoted the magnet word for word just by sharing her experience, strength and hope. She gave me hope that living from my heart is possible, that letting go is necessary, and that one day, the words on the magnet will be my own reality.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Day one for me today.