Friday, September 30, 2005

Crawling Over The Edge

Rearranging the furniture is one of my favourite past times. We've lived in this place for 5 months now and every so often I look around and tell my husband I'd like to rearrange things. "Why?" is his incredulous reply. "Because I can," I tell him. Well, that's not totally true. I used to be able to do it myself, before my spoon supply became limited. I'm entirely at this man's mercy now if I want the couch to call a different wall home.

Neither one of us can bring ourselves to move the bedroom furniture around though. Moving the bed would eliminate the view of tall Poplars waving 'good morning' to us. This past week a terrific wind blew off their remaining leaves and now scarecrow like limbs stand in stark contrast to the sky. I wonder if they feel their nakedness as acutely as I feel my own.

When getting a hide ready to tan one has to scrape the skin smooth to get all the flesh off. I swear God's scraping my skin off. Okay, that's an exaggeration. And, no I don't think he's gonna tan my hide. My God will always embrace me. But I do feel like I am trying to squirm away from the hands that hold me. I feel like I am a two year old having a temper tantrum. I twist my body away and stand there with my arms crossed and a scowl on my face. God, this growing up is hard and some days I just don't want to do it. Okay, that's an exaggeration too. I want to grow up. I struggle with wanting to dictate how and when it happens. "Thy will be done" often gets said through clenched teeth. Most days I eventually tell myself that going through this stuff is the road to being a grown up so either suck it up or shut up.

My current read called Praying Naked has this to say to me:

" Suffering is a face-to-face encounter with something you don't want to face. It's your resistance against truth. Against reality. Against the very truth that would liberate you if you would only face it.
Suffering is nature's attempt to help us face illusions we don't even suspect we harbor."

and this:

" Most people claim they want a cure, but what they really want is a painkiller. They want relief from the pressure: "Give me back my health, my good looks, my youth."
They don't really want to escape the kindergarten of life, the baby playpen. All they want is someone to repair their broken toys.
~Praying Naked: The Spirituality of Anthony de Mello by J. Francis Stroud, S.J.

I suspect that the illusions I'm harbouring are getting rearranged within me and that I am crawling over the edges of the baby playpen. Because, with God's good grace, I can.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No Wimping Out Allowed

I have a lot of new blogs bookmarked on my desktop. Haven't got them on my sidebar yet but will get to it soon I hope.

Here is one of my favourite postings from the blog Motherhood is Not for Wimps. You have to read the links within the post to get the full flavour of it. I had such a good belly laugh when I read this posting. Hope you do too.

Now, Where Was I?

Picture being in a house with lots of windows and running around like a madwoman trying to shut them all as fast as you can. You can hear the thunder in the distance and know there is a storm coming. Every window has a shutter on the inside and you hasten to bolt them closed. There, you get them all shut and you sit down in a chair gasping for breath, but feeling safe. What have you just shut out? Hearing the Truth. You wanted to be in a place where you felt safe and secure. Unfortunately that safe place is one that leaves you comfy in your false beliefs. It also means you are alone. Fingers in your ears to shut out the sound of the storm you repeat loudly, "La-la-la-la" over and over again.

Now try being on a long road trip shut up in a vehicle with your loved one. Hearing things about yourself that have such a ring of truth to them you contemplate throwing open the door and jumping rather than facing reality.

That about sums up my weekend. Yes, the conversation took place in the van. Thank God it was parked and shut off when the talking started. My husband has been asleep in some ways for most of our marriage. He has woken up now. He has found his voice. This is good news. This is bad news. It all depends on your perspective. He is seeing some things clearly. I am scared shitless. As one who has always had the upper hand I can now choose to either open the windows and look out to see him on the level or be (together)alone.

For the umpteenth time I find I am not where I thought I was on the journey.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Living and Playing in the Bubble

I have no idea what to write about. I want to write about how I have been binging all week long on food instead of facing my feelings straight on but I want to sound more together than that. Hah, how's that for staring truth in the face. Ugh. Around and around I go. I don't know about you but there are stretches of time when I just don't want to face the truth. Let me be in my denial bubble please and thank you. The only thing is that nowadays I often, or almost always, know when I am in that bubble and know that I am the only one who can pop it. Okay, others can try to pop it but I tell you I can get rather vicious about the timing of popping the bubble.

That is making me think of the last time I went for spiritual direction and one of the things Father Charlie and I talked about was my need to learn how to play. He told me to go buy some kid stuff and spend some time playing. I brought home a colouring book and those big fat grade one kind of crayons, a thing of silly putty that turns colour when you play with it and a container of bubble liquid.

Maybe it is time to go blow real bubbles and stop fooling myself that being in the denial bubble is the kind of playing Father Charlie meant me to do.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tagged Faith or Fiction.

5 things I plan to do before I die:

1. Write (and publish) a book
2. Be a grandma (I know, it's not in my control)
3. Learn how to paint watercolours
4. Learn to play a musical instrument
5. Belong to a religious order (however you do that without being there in person)

5 things I can do:

1. Blow a bubble inside a bubble
2. Write a personal essay on any topic
3. Type as fast as I can think(!)
4. Do the Rain Dance and other aboriginal dances
5. Colour inside the lines

5 things I cannot do:

1. Roll my tongue
2. Whistle a tune
3. Rub my belly and pat my head at the same time
4. Back a trailer up without jack-knifing it.
5. Play a musical instrument

5 Things that attract me to the opposite sex:

1. Their countenance
2. Kindness
3. Way they treat others
4. Hands
5. Smile

5 things I say most often:

1. Oh crap
2. No way
3. Really?
4. Oh God
5. I'm going to check my email

5 celebrity crushes:

1. Mel Gibson in Braveheart
2. Hugh Grant in Love Actually
3. Viggo Mortenson in Lord of the Rings
4. Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets
5. Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love

5 people I want to do this next:

1. Christ(tine)@ Tattered Thoughts
2. Annieoddflower @ New Life Rising
3. Alwaysclimbing @ Sunshine and Moonbeams
4. Hazelorbs @ Warrior Child
5. Tina @ Corner Chair

Telling The Truth

If you go readthis post you might just want to join a nudist colony (of sorts).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Full Monty

My husband grew up learning his mother's mantra "Keep the peace at all costs." That message rotates to the front of his brain when we have conversations that could head into dangerous territory. Anything from "How do you like my haircut?" to "We need to talk about this." has his mental rolodex moving at breakneck speed to the well worn mantra that will save his skin. Okay, any man with half a brain will flip to that mantra when it comes to his wife's haircut and clothing. But when it comes to matters of the heart, it's a sad mantra to call on for help. I realized yesterday the mantra front and center in my brain has been "Speak the truth at all costs. Especially in battle." Fun household, hey?

We are at a point in our marriage where we both want to change. Oh, we have been a changing all these years together, but lately it seems like the changes are cutting to the bone. Masks are cracking and falling off for good. We both desire to honour the spirit of the other as well as our own. I don't know if taking this long is simply the result of marrying very young and trying to grow up together or is par for the course. I do know it's been an often ugly and pain filled road to this place but here we are and it's good. I didn't say it was fun.

In the midst of erasing his mother's words from his brain pathways my husband now says what he really thinks much more often than what he thinks I want to hear. Dear me. After all these years it's my turn. I also get to experience what it feels like to have truth slung my way without warning. Ouch. I have much thinner skin than I realized. I can probably count on two hands the number of times, in the last 23 years, that my husband has brought me to tears because of his words. I have talked here before of what verbal dynamite I can (and do) concoct on a moment's notice.

Sometimes I think I was born mean. I'm not kidding. I have a habit of saying what I think and figure the other person should just suck it up already. My husband has had lots of practice trying to do that but he is a gentle soul who thinks before he speaks. I'm trying to be a bit more discerning as to whether truth, as I see it, is necessary to our every conversation. I don't mean I'm wanting to adopt his mother's words. I wouldn't want to keep the peace at all costs no matter how much you paid me. After being together this many years though, I know, as does he, exactly where his sore spots are and it's time I stopped picking at them.

The last time he said something truthful(but necessary) to me, instead of keeping the peace, I ended up in tears for the hour it took us to drive home. During the trip I asked myself if this was what it felt like for him every time I'd paid homage to my mantra over the years. Last night he told me it nearly cost him his spirit. It is a miracle we are still together.

But together we are. I'm prepared to be on the receiving end of a lot more truth than I am used to from him. I've accepted that it might be rocky on this learning curve. I am okay with being his sounding board as he deals with dying mantras. I told him yesterday that his honesty makes me feel closer to him. Even when it hurts. Not that all truth hurts. But being the one who has wounded his soul so often, it is a privilege to be trusted enough to see it heal. Not content with a partial striptease of the soul, I hope for the full monty.

My current read had this to say this morning:

"Graciousness is a quality of mind that does not separate truth and beauty. Talk of truth always makes it sound as if truth were the cardinal virtue. Yet without beauty, truth becomes blind and can be turned into a blunt and heartless imperative. When you hold beauty and truth together, truth will always have a sense of compassion and gentleness. Sometimes the so-called 'facts of a situation' actually tell us little or nothing about the heart of an experience. Only in the light of beauty can we come to see what is really present. This is true also of the way in which we view our own life. If we were to describe our life strictly in terms of its factual truth, most of its interesting, complex and surprising dimensions would remain unmentioned. The gracious eye can find the corners where growth and healing are at work even when we feel weak and limited. It is no wonder that Jesus said: the gentle shall inherit the earth. When we succeed in being gracious and gentle with ourselves and others, we begin to truly inherit the inner kingdom." ~ John O'Donohue in Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

I have people in my life who do not separate truth and beauty. It looks effortless and I love being in their presence. The birth of truth and beauty would be a worthy mantra to replace the dying ones for us both.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Voluntary Vulnerability

It was a great weekend. There is still much to sift through; notes to go over and questions for reflection to ponder. It is a new experience to be in a spiritual setting where open ended questions are asked instead of questions that have 'right' answers. I am embarrassed at how much I am in a 'right or wrong' mentality when it comes to most of life. I've criticized others for this very mentality but found it is alive and at home in my own head too.

The presenters this past weekend were more interested in what God was saying to each one of us about the topics we discussed than that we had some 'right' answer they were looking for. It was a refreshing way to be taught although I found myself panicking sometimes, in search of the right answer, instead of looking within for what I thought. With another 7 weekends between now and May to get comfortable with this process, I will no doubt get lots of practice.

Most memorable thought for me came from one of my classmates: Trust is - voluntary vulnerablility.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stretch Marks of The Soul

It feels like forever since I posted. It's been a busy week with something happening every evening and then today I spent the day substituting for our local librarian. I had one morning this week where I woke with too low of blood pressure and I was crashing into walls before I found my equilibrium. Ugh. It's shortly after 8 pm and I am ready for bed. I have a busy weekend ahead of me too - off to a course on Lay Formation through our Diocese. It is a one weekend a month course for 8 months of the year for two years. Not sure I am up to it physically but am craving some spiritual stretching and am hoping this fits the bill. Not that daily life doesn't have enough stretch marks of its own.

I am reading an interesting book by John O'Donohue called Beauty: The Invisible Embrace and I'll leave you with this quote:

"When we devote no time to the inner life, we lose the habit of soul. We become accustomed to keeping things at surface level. The deeper questions about who we are and what are here for visit us less and less. If we allow time for soul, we will come to sense its dark and luminous depth. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives."

Have a blessed weekend.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Gospel Squeeze

Today's Gospel Reading made me squirm big time. Some Sundays I sit in the pew and read the Gospel passage before Mass and think to myself, "Oh shit, I don't want to face this right here and now."

But like it or not I heard the Gospel read and heard it speak to my heart. I know of a woman who is always quizzing a friend of mine's adult children on where they are in their spiritual journey. She once asked my friend's son "How is your walk with Jesus." She was waiting for a chance to jump him with the four spiritual laws. He answered, "Following Jesus is hard."

Amen, brother. Most times I come away from church thinking to myself, "Following Jesus is hard."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Shape Of Things To Come

I love the shape of things. I will be attracted to a vase or a teapot based solely on the shape of it. I have always been a visual person and being drawn to something based on its shape is nothing new for me. Heck, I can even like the way words feel based on the shape of them as they come out of my mouth.(Try to say the word 'orb').

A few days ago I had an appointment with my priest, who is also my spiritual director. I am new at doing this as Thursday was our second monthly meeting. Last month he helped me sort through my thoughts and feelings surrounding my friend's death. I had no idea what we would talk about this time but as in most things spiritual, I just show up and trust that God will work out the rest. (Do I have 'sucker' stamped on my forehead?) I did print out a few of my blog entries so that I could share them with Father Charlie. Feeling free to do that tells me we have built a certain level of trust. Sharing my writing with someone I know feels risky. It's almost like having a baby wrapped in a blanket and uncovering its face and saying, "See, isn't she pretty?" and opening myself up to affirmations and naysayings, not knowing in advance who will say what. Very few people who know me, know about my blog and even fewer know the address. The post he read this week was Of Sawdust and Icons. He read very slowly. Ugh, the agony of wondering what he was thinking. If there was a job to be had where one could climb inside another person's brain I think I would apply (I know, I know, it's called Neurotic Mother.)

He laid the papers down and started asking me questions. We talked about how it felt after I had written a post. Of how vulnerable a feeling it was to spill my guts but also the satisfaction in writing something that was born from authenticity. I said sharing my writing with him was a way of saying "This is who I am." That particular post spoke of fears. I hadn't intended for it to be the fodder for our time together. Never saw it coming. He asked me if I could see my fears what would they look like? A picture of a rock came into my head as he was asking. He asked me to describe it - what shape was it? It came to me as an egg shaped rock. Was it smooth or rough? Smooth. Warm or cold. Warm. Heavy or light. Light. Big or small. Small. What did eggs symbolize? Life. New life.

We then spent some time talking about my life and what is going on in it. I felt most comfortable telling him it all. I was also there to celebrate reconciliation so I held nothing back. Tears and realizations but mostly such an incredible feeling of hope permeated even the ugliest of happenings in my life. Things I have done that have been hurtful to others, to myself, to God. He was able to see such hope where I saw only pettiness.

One of the assignments he gave me was to reflect on what was being reborn in me....what the egg shaped rock was symbolizing in my life.

That is when I remembered that just before I had come to his office I had been shopping. I walked into a small gift shop and was immediately attracted to a small pottery like container. It stood only 3 and a half inches high, had that brown green colour of some pottery, with a lighter coloured interior. I liked the shape of it. I looked throughout the whole store and found nothing else that caught my eye like this vessel did. As I returned to it I told the sales lady that I had no idea what I would put in it but I just liked the shape of it. At $4.50 it was a good deal so I brought it to the counter. As she was wrapping it she told me it's shape was called an egg cup. The last of its kind in her store.

After I left Father Charlie's office I went and bought a bag of big polished rocks and a bag of small ones to fill up the egg cup and surround it. Not quite sure what is incubating in my life but it feels full of hope.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 36:26

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Place To Call Home

It's been four months now since we've called this place home. I remember saying over and over again to my family - "Is this the way it works? You move all your possessions into a different house and presto, it's supposed to become home?" Even though we have lived in nearly 20 different homes this time I had such a hard time settling into calling this place home, nevermind feeling like it truly was home. I often thought of when we moved from one province to another and our then three year old son would sit on the front step and cry and tell me it would just be okay if we could've brought our old house with us.

These thoughts are swirling in my mind as I think of all the people who lost their homes because of Hurricane Katrina. We talked here about where we would have gone in the event of an evacuation and it would have meant going 600 miles to my parent's place. The house I grew up in that my folks still live in. It made me think about what place means to a person and how it is not easy to just up and start over anywhere, under normal circumstances, let alone the horrific ones that the people in the Gulf States have experienced. And by place I mean not only our homes, but the geography, the nuances of a place. Those things that seep into our very bones about the bit of ground on which we live. You open the window or walk out the door in the morning and the rhythms of the place soothe....whether that be a busy street in a city or the quiet of a country setting. Place matters.

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Sweet Aroma

The tiny church I go to sits by itself on a parcel of land about half a mile off the highway. It is so secluded, on a mostly unused road, that my in laws had no idea where it was and they have lived in this community nearly 50 years. There is one house close by but other than that it is surrounded by a few trees and fields of grain. The church grounds are home to all kinds of wildlife. Earlier this year we were greeted by a mama groundhog protecting her babies under the old Sunday School Cabin. The lady next door said that one year a family of foxes made their home under the church. It should have come as no surprise then that a skunk saw this site as a possible new home too. No one knows whether it died under the church and I have no idea how we will figure that out, but we were greeted by a skunky smell through and through yesterday as we entered the building. I had parked my van in the shade of the trees and left the windows open so that it wouldn't be too hot after Mass. My van now has a faint skunk smell to the whole interior and my clothes even worse. When I left Father C. was lighting incense and was planning on going through the whole church. I have no idea if God is wrinkling his nose or having a chuckle. Maybe both?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Cresting The Horizon

It's been a very quiet day. A good day. I sat in the warmth of the sunshine filled livingroom and gave thanks for the luxury of such a simple pleasure. Like the sun cresting the horizon I am being filled with hope. With two of my three kids having left home in the last week I never expected it. I like when that happens....when one comes out of the pit of despair and is surprised by the daylight. It feels like I must have been yanked from the pit (versus a slow ride up) because the dawning of hope is such a surprise.

Yesterday was a "no spoons" day. Walking from the livingroom to the kitchen was all I could manage. Days like that scare me. I had planned on going to a funeral of someone I knew who passed away from unresolved heart & lung issues. Scary that her issues and mine are the same although they manifested differently. She was only 54. I have so often told God in the past few months that not only do I want to live, but to teach me how to truly live. Existing is one thing but it is something else to truly live. At the last moment yesterday I decided to listen to my body and stay home in spite of wanting in my spirit, to be there to give honour to her life.

Today I had to plan every move so that I didn't expend steps twice when once would do. But it trumped yesterday's energy level and for that I am grateful. It feels like the "hope fairy" has been sprinkling her dust over my very being this whole day through. It is delightful and my cup of hope is running over. I am so grateful after these past very stress filled weeks where despair was threatening to be my new pen name. What I am most pleased with is that it doesn't feel like surface hope where it means putting on a brave face while inside one is crumbling. It means I may still crumble but I know that crumbling won't be the final word.

This afternoon in the general store, I ran into a woman who buried her 91 year old husband this week. Our conversation was confirmation that my friend's death has changed me deeply. In the midst of my mourning so many things I was graced to be able to authentically ask her how she was. At first she started to gloss over her feelings until she realized that I was asking from a deeper place than customary social graces dictate. Her eyes softened and her body visibly relaxed. She then let me see the inner pain as it bubbled from the depths and surfaced in her eyes.

"God cannot be seen. He can be recognized."
- Anthony de Mello in Wellsprings

Friday, September 02, 2005

Wax Horror

I don't know about you but I needed a good laugh this morning and thanks to Warrior Child I had one of those too good not to share laught out loud stories. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Counting To 200

Sitting here with insomnia; hence the next 100 list. It's easier to do this than write a proper post.

101. Decaf Chai Spice is my favourite tea
102. I have never been a coffee drinker
103. The guys in my home drink more than my share of coffee
104. I carry a cell phone but don't know what the number is
105. Once I asked someone who called me on it what the number was
106. We sure laughed about that
107. No, I am not blonde
108. I don't mean to offend anyone by #107
109. I'm pretty crabby if woken up from a sleep
110. I got an orange bike with a black banana seat when I turned 9
111. By the end of the day I could ride it
112. I'm never going to make it to number 200
113. I sent in a submission to a book on home schooling tonight
114. I made the submission deadline with less than 45 minutes to spare
115. Procrastination is my greatest motivator
116. That is embarrassing to admit
117. When I was a teenager I requested a nose job for several Christmases in a row
118. My mom always laughed at my request and I never got one
119. I am okay with that today
120. In grade seven I was bullied
121. In grade eight I was the bully
122. I am always amazed that people remember me
123. I worked as a telephone operator at an answering service on one of those switchboards like on I Love Lucy
124. I memorized 100 phone numbers
125. It was my all time favourite job
126. I promise this will be my last 100 list
127. Bay City Rollers were my heroes way back when
128. I prefer cut flowers from a garden to those from a florist shop
129. Chocolate though is preferred over everything
130. I've had 6 pregnancies and 3 live births
131. My babies were all over 8 and a half pounds
132. My shortest labour was one hour and 20 minutes
133. Are we there yet?
134. My favourite article of clothing is pajamas
135. I would pick mascara over lipstick
136. I want my grandchildren to call me Nana
137. My sister and I used to refill part of my mom's Vodka bottle with water
138. We would find it hidden under the cabinet in her powder room
139. It never occurred to me to drink any of it
140. Thank God
141. Since Hurricane Katrina I've realized the only things of value I would hope to take with me are my journals and photos
142. It has made me wonder then why I would want to buy more stuff
143. I think I have a more closed hand than an open one
144. I wonder what it will take for me to keep my hand open
145. Hopefully something less permanent than death
146. I didn't mean that to sound morbid
147. Just honest
148. I've always wanted to play a tambourine
149. Since our eldest son moved out I am the last one on the computer every night
150. And often the first one on it in the morning
151. I do sleep in between
152. I crochet baby blankets and afghans
153. I cross stitch too
154. These hobbies filled my creative itch during the years when I didn't write
155. Words are like candy to me
156. They are addictive and I like the way they taste in my mouth
157. If that makes any sense
158. Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings is my favourite book on writing
159. When I write a good sentence I bounce around in my spirit like Tigger
160. Tomorrow is funeral #6 of people I know in the space of the last 5 weeks
161. The oldest was 91 and the youngest 54
162. It's too many
163. Two summers ago I sat at a funeral and looked at a stained glass window
164. I couldn't make out what the picture was of but it had a red part in the middle
165. As I was sitting there looking at it I heard these words echo in my spirit:
166. "That is my heart throbbing for you"
167. This was before I had ever heard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
168. I think of that every time I go to Mass and see the statue of the Sacred Heart
169. I cringe most times when I hear people talk about what God said to them
170. I want to write them off as fanatics with great imaginations
171. But I don't want anyone writing me off as one
172. I think it's called having a double standard
173. It's not pretty is it?
174. I have lots of them double standards
175. Many more than 200
176. The last movie I watched was the HBO movie called "Wit"
177. Emma Thompson is one of my favourite actors
178. Daily Reflections for Ragamuffins is my most used devotions book
179. I could write a list just about books
180. But I won't
181. In a few days it will be the 24th anniversary since my husband and I met in person (see #69)
182. And a few days after that we will celebrate the anniversary of our engagement
183. Despite all we have been through he can still make my heart go flip flop
184. He had a 1979 Ford half ton way back when and we still have one
185. Riding with him in it makes me feel much younger than I am
186. When we met I couldn't tell the difference between a Ford and a Chev
187. Only the difference between a truck and a car
188. He remedied that
189. I can now tell you if it is a 1977 or 78 or 79 Ford half ton
190. Impressive only if you like Ford's
191. Or maybe not
192. When we play that "punch buggy no return" game I never punch anyone first
193. Today I got punched (very lightly) twice before I even saw the volkswagon
194. It was green
195. I still bend the corners on my library books sometimes
196. I feel guilty pleasure when I do it
197. Only stubbornness has kept me at this list
198. My insomnia was over 50 numbers ago
199. I hope you slept well last night
200. I plan on it