Saturday, January 29, 2005

Something Else

This is a quote from Thomas Merton that I am digesting:

"We always seek to evade the expression of what is most important to us, in fact we are usually not able even to confront it. Haste gives us the opportunity to substitute something else for the deepest statements."

Friday, January 28, 2005

Learning to Eat

Where to start? I have struggled with my weight and feeding my feelings since I was a teenager. I remember once getting so skinny that I looked anorexic and I was so pissed that even though I had lost the weight, nothing had changed in my head. I was so disappointed that I hadn't become someone else....I was stuck with me.

My weight has yo yo'd for years. Through all these years of obesity I have never had a doctor tell me to lose weight. Until this past September. I was in the hospital for testing for 10 days and a cardiologist comes to see me. She asks me when was the last time I weighed 160 pounds. After my initial thought of telling her to f off it took 5 minutes to figure out it had been 12 years. When I whined that, because of my illness, I couldn't exercise and therefore couldn't lose weight, she told me that with everything going on in my body the one thing I could control was what I ate.


So this past Christmas I told God - okay I don't know what issues are lurking underneath all this flab but I am willing to shed the weight to find out. Please hold my hand as I do so. I do know that being molested at 8 years of age and raped at 17 plays in there somewhere. I do know as a recovering alcoholic that sugar is a trigger for me. I know that, in the long run, it won't matter if I die fat one day. I doubt there will be anyone at my funeral saying, "Gee, too bad she never lost that extra 60 pounds." But I do want to get to the bottom of things. Finally. I am finding that by not feeding my feelings I am feeling things much more......I am way more emotional and that is a vulnerable place to be.

I am losing my perfectionistic attitude. You know the one where the first day of the month is a Monday and it is the perfect day to start overhauling your life? You last one day and chuck it all because you can't get through it in perfection? That attitude. Learning to see my spiritual life as a process has helped me accept that all of life is a process. Even learning to eat.

It's always been a dangerous thing to have junk food or pop in this house. Much like alcohol had been, this food called my name until I ate it all. Now I know I can have it if I want but if it is all gone before I get any - if I really want some I can go to the store and buy it. That probably sounds pretty silly but it was a revelation for me. It has helped tame that ever present panic to eat it all right now, before it is all gone.

It's a very different place to be. Looking at what is going on underneath the surface of my physical body and knowing that as I courageously do that the excess weight may disappear. For so long I thought it worked the other way around.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I have been so physically tired these past 5 days. There is something discouraging about waking up after 8 hours of sleep and feeling like it should be bedtime. Time for letting someone else sing while I take a breath. The cyclical nature of this chronic disease sucks, it never fails to take me by surprise.

Here is my current favourite quote. It is by Thomas Merton from a book called The Courage For Truth:

"There is something wrong with the questions that are supposed to be disposed of by answers. That is the trouble with the squares. They think that when you have answers you no longer have questions. And they want the greatest possible number of answers, the smallest number of questions. The ideal is to have no more questions. Then when you have no questions you have "peace." On the other hand, the more you stand with the questions all sticking in your throat at once, the more you unsettle the "peace" of those who think they have swallowed all the answers. The questions cause one to be nauseated by answers. This is a healthy state, but it is not acceptable. Hence I am nauseated by answers and nauseated by optimism. There is an optimism which cheapens Christianity and makes it absurd, empties it. It is a silly, petty optimism which consists in being secure because one knows the right answers."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Fear Manifests Itself in Strange Ways

I posted this comment over at Boar's Head Tavern in response to this post by Michael. I thought it was worth repeating here.

"Oh jeepers, I'll bite on this one. I agree that something happens when a woman decides where the family goes to church. She no doubt has her hubby by the balls in every other area of life too. Fear often underlies this behaviour. All I can do is share my story.

I was a controlling, manipulative woman when I became a Christian and becoming one gave me a whole new area in which to practice these 'virtues'. I heard all the mantras about men being the head of the household but I tell you I wasn't buying it. Oh, I gave it good lip service and then found a way to get my way to be his way of looking at things. We went all over the map with this. First came the homeschooling then we changed churches, then we home churched then a health crisis had us back at the community church. This was all done in a very small community, in view of everyone. You get to choose between one Protestant church on one side of the river or the other and the Catholic Church. That's it.

I have verbal skills that my husband does not. I could outdo him in any conversation to make it look like my way was THE way. Underlying this whole thing was my need to be right about everything in order to feel secure about my little corner of the world. The reasons for that are a whole 'nother story. I could be vicious and I was. Being right overrode everything. I even went so far as to wear(for a time) a headcovering and dresses to prove my superspiritual state.

The short story is that after a nervous breakdown and eventually learning that needing to be right about everything comes at a huge price, I learned to celebrate the man I married and to celebrate that he sees the world differently than I do. It was a huge gift when I saw that he was not my enemy and not out to 'get me.' We still get teary when we talk about this change in our marriage. It seems impossible that this barrier was broken down considering all the energy I spent keeping it intact.

We eventually made our way back to the community church. It was where we were baptized together 15 years ago. We live in an isolated community in northern Canada. These people are our neighbours. I rarely see eye to eye with many of them about 'church' stuff. I can still fall into the trap of thinking I am better than them for seeing things differently. I rarely am fed more than milk at church but I have a love for the people. They have stood by us through thick and thin.

I recently converted to Catholicism with the blessing of my husband. It is most likely the only church related thing I have ever done without manipulation. We go as a family to the local community church and I go to Mass as well.

A woman deciding for the family where they go to church is a symptom of greater things going on. It is pure grace that any of it gets looked at and dealt with. I always wanted a strong husband who would take the lead in our marriage, not only in where we went to church, but in all areas. My fears kept me from ever considering his opinion as valid for years. Probably more important than me seeing his opinion as valid was that he did the hard inner work that has brought him to the point where he knows his opinion is valid whether I validate it or not. We finally learned to see each other as equals. It's pure grace that has brought us to this point."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's NOT all about me?

My husband is a giver. I am a taker. I often think life is all about me. I know that is supposed to be something only 2 year olds think but I confess that often I am really a 2 year old in a 42 year old body.

I don't know if I will ever become a giver in the deepest sense of the word. Giving comes so easily for my husband. He makes two slices of toast for himself and if someone comes into the kitchen he automatically offers them one of his slices of toast. Without begrudging it one bit. Me? Make your own toast thank you very much.

We were at my in-laws place for lunch today. My father in law is a giver. We came home with a slab of sandwich meat. He gets such delight in sharing what he has with others. To refuse him this delight would be an insult.

I am a hoarder by nature. I wish I wasn't.

The journey continues.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Throwing Chairs

One of my current favourite reads is Robert Benson's book Living Prayer. There is nothing better than having a library book surprise me by making it onto the list of books I want for my own bookshelf. One of my favourite chapters is about journalling.

I have kept journals off and on for most of my adult life. Consistently for the past 10 years. That consistency started with reading Julia Cameron's Artist's Way and a wretched burst of violence. I'm sure Julia Camerson didn't have violence in mind as a means of getting people to start writing Morning Pages but that is what it took for me. I know that she did intend for people to give birth to the creativity we all have, simply because we are created beings. I had very violent birth pangs.

It was a Saturday morning and I was having a conversation with my husband about his plans for the day. When he told me he was going to go do something for his brother instead of following through on a previous commitment for me something inside me snapped. I picked up a heavy, wooden dining room chair and threw it across the room at him. We both thank God I missed. Oh geez, I never thought this post was going to go in this direction. Anyway, after I threw the chair I realized my anger came from wanting someone else to deem me important. It's the old "pick me, pick me" story line that has harrassed me all my life. I had spent my entire married life (12 years at that point) waiting for my husband to be available so I could have a life! It had never crossed my mind that I could deem myself important. That I could pick me!

I started picking me by picking up that pen in the morning and writing out every darn feeling I had. I truly thought someone was an asshole? So be it. No more censoring myself under the guise of "what a good Christian woman SHOULD feel, think, write". There were a lot of assholes in my world for a while.

Eventually my journals became places where I recognized I was revealing myself to myself. I was not only giving birth to my creativity but was, in one sense, giving birth to me - the real me. It was a surprise some days to find out what I really thought. Some days the truth was scary and some days it was a relief. When I saw patterns of behaviour or thought I knew it was up to me to do something about it. I really wasn't in the market to see if I could win a "throw the wooden chair at life" event.

One of Robert Benson's friends commented to him one day that perhaps journalling is the deepest prayer that a writer can pray. I liked that thought. There is something about writing it all down that frees me to say to God - 'here I am - in all my humanity'. And even though in my journals I've called God an asshole, I know he'd rather I was truthful about my feeings than repress them and eventually chuck the chair at him.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Whole Journey

I love the outer preparations for Advent that start when I put out my nativity set. Most of my Christmas paraphanelia was put away by Epiphany but I left the Nativity Scene where it was. It sits on the top of the enterainment centre - a picture of Jesus above it, a luxurious plant on one side and a trio of candle holders at the other end. The wise men, Mary, Jesus and Joseph, a shepherd boy, a few sheep and a donkey gather there with tea lights interwoven among them. The sheep sit on rocks with their ears cocked to the midst of the scene as if they are listening for what the Christ child has to say to them. Smaller rocks are scattered throughout. I have one rock, the size of an almond, that is broken in four pieces. It is a continual reminder that we are broken people in search of healing.

Often I sit in the dark with only the tea lights illuminating the room. It helps me focus on the inner work that begins with Advent and continues throughout the Church calendar. This year, like years past, one of my kids found my angel of prayer figurine and sometime during the holidays placed it at the feet of Mary who is holding the Christ Child in her arms. The other day I noticed that someone had also turned one of the wisemen so that his back is to the whole scene. At first it irked me. As much as I have grown to be okay with the lack of symmetry to life there is still something comforting about it. But the longer I pondered on this wise man with his back to the Christ Child the more I was okay with it. Between the angel of prayer kneeling at Christ's feet, the broken rock, and the wise man with his back turned I figured this encompasses the whole spiritual journey. And the longer I journey the more at home I get with the tension that has our wholeness and brokenness inhabiting the same space.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Gnawing The Bone

Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life....Know your own bone: gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.

-Henry David Thoreau

I'm gnawing the bone today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I'm Not Alone

Some days I sit in front of this screen in sheer panic. It's not that I don't have anything to say. My husband and I jokingly refer to one another as the heckler and the diplomat. You guess who is who. So often I think there has to be something meaty in my posts. I am reminded of my friend Carol who, upon becoming a grandmother, sat on the couch and said to herself, "I gotta get me some wisdom fast."

Often when I tell my sister about my wretched stories of motherhood she is gleeful. The worse my 'horrible mommy moment' the happier she seems. And while I want to get pissed at her response I know it comes out of relief that she is not alone on the journey. If I can have these wretched moments of humanity daily and live to tell about it then maybe she can too.

I started this blog in part because I wanted to be able to share the reality of my humanity with others. I am learning to befriend my humanity instead of trying to hide it. We (I) need to be reminded often that we truly are companions on the journey. The thirst to have that affirmed is huge.

Monday, January 10, 2005

To send or delete

Hitting the send button on my computer feels so scary sometimes. I just let 16 people, who matter to me, know that I became part of the Catholic faith in the last week of December. There are some who will not be impressed. I really do like the thought of living the life of a hermit at times. My journey has had so many zig zags and if it has to be so then I wish I could zig zag in private.

But I keep trying. I remind myself that this is a journey. What I really hope is that I get comfortable enough with the reality that it is a journey to let others have theirs too. God knows I have spent so much time judging the journeys of others.

And that is probably the most frequent thought since I became Catholic. I am not God. I don't have a clue as to someone else's journey. I have my journey to live. I'm trying to live it as best I know how. I pray I learn to extend that grace to others.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Aunt Mae

My husband's great aunt Mae passed away today. I have written about my brother-in-law Abe who died 8 months ago today. He died in Aunt Mae's yard. His dying undid her and she simply couldn't handle looking out her livingroom window onto the yard where Abe had been found. Aunt Mae was not in a good nutritional state at the time of his death and she had the worst case of lice that several health professionals had ever seen. She went downhill fast. Dementia set in quickly and progressed at a rapid pace. It still seems hard to believe that she is gone.

Aunt Mae was like a second mom to me when I arrived in this part of the country, a soon to be newlywed. Plunked from southern Ontario to the bush country of northern Alberta in the midst of winter would have been culture shock enough. Add to it cultural/religious differences and the shock only increased. We lived in a bunk shack - a two room 12 by 16 shack with no running water. Just a scant 23 years ago this was still considered normal. My husband's family had no tv or radio due to religious reasons and I had just graduated from college with a major in journalism. Add to that that I was an atheist and well you have an interesting mix.

Aunt Mae was a godsend. She was also a little scary. She stood only 5 feet tall and had pop bottle like glasses that made her eyes look 3 times the size they actually were. She never minced her words and I never had to wonder where I or anyone else stood with her. Fortunately she liked me. She listened to me by the hour try to sort out my feelings and figure out the way things worked in my new extended family. When I was a new mother two years later she was only a phone call away for the many questions and worries I had about motherhood. She was the first one to have our baby overnight while we had a weekend away. She loved our daughter as if it were her own grandbaby.

We moved a lot over the years and eventually found ourselves one of Aunt Mae's neighbours again. My kids were little and my worth was wrapped up in how well they behaved. I let the perceived judgement of my parenting by Aunt Mae come between us. It was only in the past few years that I was able to gain perspective on that and realize it was my problem and not hers. Her husband passed away in 2003 and her grief was great. She would phone me up 8 months after he died and ask me how it could be that she would wake up crying in the middle of the night and not be able to stop. Her grief seemed to confound her. It never healed.

One of Aunt Mae's favourite terms was describing someone as full of piss and vinegar. It would really make her chuckle. I think she had a soft spot for people who fit that description. They were kindred spirits to her.

This past week when it was obvious she was failing my youngest son said she was holding hands with her husband through the fence.

I will miss her.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Lover Of My Soul

I dont know what to write about. I want to write about how the thought came to me this afternoon that God is not a rapist. The thought startled me. I had been thinking about that kind of lovemaking that is tender and consuming. The kind that a person knows when it happens that it is what it was created to be. Then I thought about how not too long ago at church I thanked God for being the lover of my soul. For pursuing me. Then I thought about how our image of God gets so screwed up and it is a wonder that we welcome him at all in our lives. I'm sure there are more thoughts to come on this topic. I don't really want to go there at all. But the sentence is echoing in my brain. God is not a rapist.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


There is an interesting post over at Boar's Head Tavern about courtship.

There was a phase in our parenting where we were sold on courtship. In all reality I think it fed my controlling nature. Gee, I could control even who my daughter married. Forgive me for snorting and chortling my way through that last sentence. In hindsight I'm not quite sure what was so appealing about treating my daughter like she was a child right up until she married.

On the positive side my husband took our daughter out for dinner when she was about 12 and presented her with a locket on a chain, which represented her heart. She gave him the key, in trust, until she marries. The symbolism of it all still is a tender memory for them both. Had there not been the good relationship between them in the ensuing years it might be a different memory. It is a mistake to think that anything done without the hard work that a good relationship takes will make the relationship.

Ideally my husband and I thought that by going the courtship route we would be saving our daughter from bad relationships and much emotional pain. Our intentions were good on that part. It was only as we both dug deeper into the issues in our own lives and how they affected our relationship that we saw that courtship might be okay in theory but not so ideal in practice. We were strangers enough when we got married. We don't advocate it for others. We were penpals at ages 14 and 16. We stopped writing for a few years in there and met and married when I was 19 and he 21. We had been together in person for a week before we got engaged. It's pure grace that we are still together. I was an atheist and he was from a very conservative evangelical background. We both thought where we came from was normal.

Our daughter is older now than I was when I married. She is often more mature than I am now! And always more mature than I was at her age. Like many other tangents I have gone on in my spiritual journey, letting go of courtship tangent was difficult only because I didn't want to be wrong again. Like someone said on another site they don't so much want to get it right anymore as to get it.(sorry am going to try and figure out where I read that sentence - it was so good.)

Our daughter has lots of issues of her own to work through. Thankfully she has the tools to do so. There are lots of things she is thankful for in her upbringing but she has her eyes open too. Yesterday I was telling my teenage son that as a parent you sometimes wonder if a specific parenting incident gone bad is going to be the one that damages your kids for life. He told me very matter of factly that everyone is damaged for life. It isn't going to stop him from having kids. Somehow that gave me more comfort than his remark 4 years ago that he was never going to be a parent because what right did people have bringing kids into the world just to screw them up.

Marriage is not something to enter into lightly. Neither is parenting. I don't think there is one way to do it that absolves us of facing our humanity. Some people shouldn't marry. Some people shouldn't be parents. I imagine everyone feels like they fall into both categories at some point in the journey. God is bigger than mistakes made in both. Without my belief in that sentence I would be without hope.

I thought that courtship would somehow ensure a great marriage relationship for my daughter. That it would bypass some of the challenges that marriage can bring. I don't think that any more. I encourage my daughter to face her issues, work through them as they come up. I know that some of the issues may not be worked through without the challenges of marriage or parenting. The other day she had to share at college about her journey. She told me that sharing her journey with others involved painting me in a not too favourable light. She knew that even though that wasn't comfortable for me that I affirmed her in telling her own story.

And maybe that is where I have come to in the courtship thing. My daughter is an adult now. Her journey is her story to tell. When my daughter was home over the holidays we watched the first LOTR movie together. Later she told me that after Galadriel had gone through her struggle with Frodo's ring and said, "I pass the test. I will diminish..." she was describing a parent's role in an adult child's life as well. Enough said.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Poor, Crippled, Blind or Lame

The title of this post comes from some thoughts from Anthony DeMello's book that I mentioned yesterday called The Way To Love. In it he talks about being in the presence of someone that generates negative feelings in oneself and seeing them as being poor, crippled, blind or lame instead of as stubborn or malicious.

This thought has helped me alot. Not that I put blinders on to what I do see in someone else but to remind me that I don't see the whole picture.

Yesterday when I saw this thought underlined in my book, I realized that I need to apply it to myself as well. When I am not happy with myself, full of self hatred, I need to remember that I am poor, crippled, blind or lame. I need to be gentle nor judgemental towards myself. Then I will be free to see beneath the surface and deal with what needs to be dealt with in my life. When I judge and condemn myself, without mercy, the world looks very black.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Thoughts

Every day I read a chapter in a little book called The Way To Love. Thanks to this man's thoughts I have a new way of looking at resolutions and all the crazy making in my head it usually promotes.
I think last year I took the verse in Luke 2:52 about Jesus growing in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and man and made myself an enormous list of things in my life I wanted to change. Now. I have gone back to that verse many times in my life when things are out of whack just to gain some perspective. It reminds me that I need to look at all areas instead of fixating only on one like I often do. Wisdom to me is the mental/emotional part of me. Stature is all things physical. In favour with God is my spiritual life. And favour with man is my social life. Just picture pages and pages in a journal filled with improvements for all these areas. And laugh. Cause like a house of dominoes it all comes crashing down the first time I don't meet a goal. I don't need anyone else to sabotage my life I do it quite nicely myself!

The biggest message in Anthony DeMello's book is to be aware of yourself with no judgement. Here is one of my favourite quotes:

"Holiness is not an achievement, it is a Grace. A Grace called Awareness, a grace called Looking, Observing, Understanding. If you would only switch on the light of awareness and observe yourself and everything around you throughout the day, if you would see yourself reflected in the mirror of awareness the way you see your face reflected in a looking glass, that is, accurately, clearly, exactly as it is without the slightest distortion or addition, and if you observed this reflection without any judgement or condemnation, you would experience all sorts of marvelous changes coming about in you. Only you will not be in control of those changes, or be able to plan them in advance, or decide how and when they are to take place. It is this nonjudgmental awareness alone that heals and changes and makes one grow. But in its own way and at its own time."

I love that last line. But in its own way and at its own time.

I've never been able to achieve any lasting change by my own effort. For some crazy reason that hasn't stopped me from trying. The best changes in my life have come about without awareness of effort. Ack - that last sentence was hard to type - am worried about getting accused of I don't know what....something spiritual that is bad. It doesn't mean my will is not engaged or that I am not aware of struggles. But something often happens in the midst of the struggle and only in hindsight can I see that a shift has happened in my spirit. My prayer for this year is that I will become aware. One sentence encompasses it all. That is a grace all on its own. Thanks be to God.