Friday, March 31, 2006

The Beauty of Hope

Eighteen years ago today I had my last drink. It was(is!) my husband's birthday and we were celebrating. I miss booze like I miss a dear old friend. I do. I wish I could say otherwise but it wouldn't be true. In all the turmoil of these past few months I have longed for the warm fuzzy feelings that booze used to give me. I have gone on to replace the booze with other things. I have 7 days of freedom from sexual addiction today and zero from food addiction. There was a time where if I had to choose between milk for my kids and a lottery ticket the lottery ticket would win. If there's something to be addicted to I will gravitate toward it. I know this about myself. Somtimes I feel ashamed that I gave up one addiction only to go looking for others, as if that negates being sober. Other times I simply am thankful that booze is not thrown into the mix along with everything else.

I wrote a few days ago about not wasting the pain. The other night as I was going to bed I admitted to myself that I had no desire whatsoever to sit in the pain. Then I realized that I didn't know how to anyway. Numbing the pain comes easily, everything else is a steep learning curve. The last time I had a session with Father Charlie he told me I was having a desert experience and that my feet were in the sand. I wanted to tell him my feet were burning and it was time to get out of it before it consumed me.

All I know right now is that sitting in the pain, feeling it, is necessary in order to move forward. I have a hunch that sitting in it means being willing to own and name what I am feeling instead of looking for the quickest means to numb it. There is no hydrant to relieve the heat of the sand. But the desert will either end or become bearable.

This Lenten season I have felt stripped bare. Peeling away layers of illusions. People talk about giving something up for Lent. Illusions fit the bill for me. I am not under an illusion though that this is a one time thing. It's more like a revolving door. Sometimes the door takes you right back to where you started and you stare the same demon in the face; recognizing it's demeanor a little sooner than last time. Sometimes you see it and keep right on going. Sometimes you play kissey face with it; renewing acquaintances at breakneck speed. Other times you come face to face with something you thought was a stranger but has been your bedfellow all along.

Hope lies in the fact that it is a forward journey. Eighteen years ago I could not look myself in the mirror. Could not hold my head up. Today I can and I like what I see. I like me more than I loathe me these days. That is the beauty of hope.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This week's carnival can be found at Living Catholicism.

Absorbing The Grace

Yesterday we bought groceries for just the two of us for the first time in 22 years. It's been a radical change the past six months - going from buying several 4L jugs of milk a week to buying one 1L jug and that often going sour before it's used up. Cereal boxes that were sitting in the cupboard 6 months ago are still there. What a change from buying several of those mega boxes of cereal twice a month. It takes a lot of food to feed a family and for many years we had three teenagers in the house at once, two of them boys who sometimes had shoe sizes to match their age! Last week one day oldest son gave me a hug and said, "You are shorter than I remember."

I think about when I house sat for an older couple a few years ago and I was shocked by how little food they kept in their house. There's a glimmer of understanding now. When there are just two of you it doesn't take $800 worth of food to keep you going!

So this is the journey. What we signed up for when we had kids in the first place. I'm beginning to see that none of it is predictable - well maybe it's predictable - but I've been unable to prepare myself for any of it. And I find it hard to live in this present moment only.

Yesterday as we wandered up and down the aisles there were so many things we looked at where we said, "Don't need to buy that anymore." There were few times while the kids were growing up that buying groceries was something we took for granted. I liked being able to buy that special cereal or special treat for them when we shopped. I think they would be able to say that it was the little treats in life that brought them great pleasure. I know it did me.

I've had two people in one day talk to me about being an empty nester. Both surprised a bit at how painful I'm finding the experience. I had some words of wisdom today from a father who has children older and younger than mine. One paragraph about parenting and one about the spiritual journey:

"The toughest challenges come through our children, and it is really tempting to have misgivings, doubts, fears, self-abnegation, and a lot of other useless focus. I know, because my wife and I face the same stuff, perhaps not at the level that your youngest son is dishing to you at moment, but for every attentive parent there is much of our past and present that discourages us. I think you know that the only solution to the situation with your son lies in the present, and what you are doing for him right now is the best (and only) thing you can do: pray for him and demonstrate your love for him. I imagine by now you've realized that there is little use in giving him directions unless he is asking you to. What he needs most is you yourself. As you grow, he will be more and more attracted to you."

"You seem to be very accessible to your Heavenly Father just now. You find yourself before him as a helpless child, exactly the way he insisted you must bve to receive anything from him. Sad, isn't it, how so much grace flows off our backs as we thrust forward with full confidence in our mission, our faith, or whatever; because all we really have confidence in is ourselves. When we finally come face to face with how destitute we really are we can begin to absorb what he has been pouring out over us all this time."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Behold! The Way of the Cross

That's the name of the booklet I brought home last night after reconciliation. Usually penance is some sort of prayer. Mine was to pray the Stations of the Cross. The prayers throughout the booklet spoke directly to my situation. Here is one of the prayers I prayed last night:

"My Lord, I fall so often, over and over again, wondering how much more I can take. When evil surrounds me and seems to be prevailing over your goodness and truth, it is so hard to be strong. Help me to see that even though I repeatedly fall, you are there to pick me up so that I can go forward refreshed. When I feel that I am alone, bring peace to my heart so that I can prevail over my fears. Never permit me to be a victim of my own fears."

One helpful site that talks about reconciliation and healing this Lenten season can be found here.

Puke Fest

The only thing I could think of to do with all the turmoil and ensuing sin in my life was to go to Mass and ask for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Left to my own devices I was spiralling downwards fast. There are just so many avenues of distraction I can go down before I know I risk descending into a despair that I may never pull out of.

It never fails that when I get to this point of desperation the readings etc. for the Mass undo me. Last night was no different. I was in tears before the opening prayer was over. Here is the sentence that started the tears: "Give us the grace to rise above our human weakness." God knows how weak I am.

The first reading was about returning to the Lord. From Hosea 14 came these words: you have collpased through your guilt.. and further down: "I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely;" The responsorial Psalm response was: "I am the Lord your God: hear my voice."

At about this point in the Mass the words of a song came into my head: " Turn back to me with all your heart; don't let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming me back to me and living deeply our new life."

So off to confession I go after Mass. Sometimes confession feels like a puke fest. But just like after a real puke fest a person feels better so did I feel better after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Today I can hold my head up once again and face life. Face myself. Hope has been renewed.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

(Not) Wasting the Pain

No one showed up at the AA meeting tonight. I drove around the reserve and after asking two different people where the building was that the meeting was in, I found it only to be the lone vehicle in the parking lot. No lights on in the building. Oh well. I went. I wasn't going to but because I had told you all I would, I did. I still often wonder if I stay sober out of pride.

Earlier this evening a thought popped into my head. One that hasn't surfaced in 6 years. Six years ago I had a nervous breakdown. I cried for months. At the very beginning I moved to town to have some solitude and do some soul searching. I made a decision that week that I wasn't going to waste the pain. If I self medicated in one way or another I was going to waste the pain and end up in the same spot emotionally again sooner or later. And it was just so friggin painful that I didn't want to go through it twice.

Earlier this evening I realized that by all the self numbing behaviours I've engaged in in the past few days I am going to waste the pain if I don't start making different choices. Talk about a wake up call. I am NOT going to waste the pain. I am going to sit in it no matter how much I'd rather not, until I come through the other side. Sitting in it makes me feel needy and whiny and full of self pity. "Get over yourself already" echoes in my head. I want to be brave and courageous and past all this. I want to be a hero. I want that elusive word that I've long detested hearing in Christianese - victory- to be my mantra. How many layers are there to the onion anyway?

Tonight I picked up this book by Mary Jo Leddy. The opening two paragraphs has this to say:

"What we say with our words is so much less important than what we mean with our lives. Only our lives give weight to our words.

I believe that each one of us has at least one significant word to say with our lives. This word is who we really are, who we are meant to become, our calling in this world. Within this word lies the secret of our happiness, the source of our power, and the mysterious point of our being. Through this particular word of our lives we bring the one thing necessary that no other can give. A particular grace."

I really do believe my word is hope. And no matter how whiny, broken, and just plain sick of myself I get, I am going to keep on hoping with my life. Because words can be so cheap.

It's Thursday Already?

1. Last Thursday feels like a lifetime ago. I've spent more time alone in the past week than not. I used to crave solitude. These days it seems like craving solitude would be the healthiest thing in the world to crave. Wish it was the #1 thing I was craving.

2. Trying to numb feelings by trying every track of hedonism you can think of accomplishes absolutely nothing in the long run.

3. I know because I tried yesterday.

4. And I got pissed off at God that I knew enough to know that only in Him is there rest. He seemed so intangible so I tried the tangibles first. Didn't work very well.

5. How much frozen chocolate can one eat? Enough to have the old heart rate over 100 for many hours.

6. Time to change the subject.

7. Tomorrow I am going to be watching the World Women's Curling Championships in person. That is pretty cool. Curling is my favourite sport to watch.

8. Tonight I am going to my first AA meeting in over 8 years. It's the last of my addictions that I haven't succumbed to this week and I am feeling fragile enough that I seriously thought of getting drunk yesterday.

9. Thankfully #'s 2. 3. and 4 kicked in before I gave in.

10. I have never gone to an AA meeting without my masks on tight. Well, except the first meeting. I hope I have grown up enough to leave the masks at home.

11. Too bad being stretched by God didn't exercise the waistline. I could use some help.

12. In the past week I have seen coyotes, deer, elk and moose in my wanderings.

13. Prayer is what is keeping me going. Thank you for yours.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kissed To Death

Youngest son is moving in with his 15 year old girlfriend and her family. For a time. He doesn't know how long. He came home Sunday night after being gone 10 days. He said he would stay for 3 nights but this morning told me he was leaving again tonight. I want to warn him that he is on the edge of the precipice but cannot. He is deaf to my words. That's to be expected considering I've spent the past 10 months nagging and saying things in anger. Trying to manipulate him to see things my way. Concentrating on behaviours instead of on relationship.

Without that wall of sand crumbling earlier this month, I'm pretty darn sure I'd be looking for some kind of serious fix right now. Well, I did consume all edible sugar products in the house. Frozen chocolate just doesn't cut it. It's a crappy substitute when what I'm really tempted to do is numb myself with my drug of choice or taste the sweet kiss of a rye and coke after 18 years of passing it by, but for today frozen chocolate is the best alternative.

"Shit, piss, fuck, damn." That's the mantra my husband says when things go to all to hell. I haven't heard him say it in years but he's repeating it like a stuck record these days. Dearest one has aged overnight. Visibly. I looked at him when he woke up yesterday morning and asked if he had a headache. The deep lines etched in his face normally mean a migraine's attacking his head. But no headache....just deep heartache.

I think if making this choice is what youngest son must do to individuate, then do it. I sense that he just wants to be on his own and can't afford it, so this is the closest thing to being on his own/cutting the apron strings that he can do. I was close to 40 before I became my own person, separate from my parents. Youngest son has watched both his siblings move out permanently in the past 6 months. He sees them in the process of becoming their own people. He hates being alone. He often says he wishes he was 9 years old again - a time in his life when he was carefree.

Where is the hope in all this? It is there. And I can sense it even though my heart is heavy. I have this knowing that God is bigger, will always be bigger than the circumstances we find ourselves in. We all walk this crooked path to peace, to healing, to wholeness. It is strewn with pain. It is wet with our tears. Sometimes we just want to puke. I look at my own path and while there are many moments, extended periods of sheer stupidity, I like where I am today. I like who I am. I like that no matter how many less-than-stellar choices I make, it's a forward journey.

Of course I wish youngest son was making different choices. He asked me last night if he was a disappointment to us. I told him that he, himself, never. He was created in God's image and what God creates is good. His choices - yes, a disappointment. We talked for a while but without that driving need on my part to make him see life my way or else know I'd be pissed off at him until he did. Thank God the wall crumbled. His ability to fend off my pissyness with his own choices says there is a strength there. My concern is that he is making these choices, not from a place of inner peace, but from a place of pain and confusion. Up until a few weeks ago I would have had a snarky, "I told you so" response had he started to make choices that made more sense to me. I would have rubbed it in. I can be so predictable.

None of us journey alone. It is a process. I sit here and hold us up to the Light and pray we find our way on the path. Hopeful to do it with as little puking, tears and pain if possible. I read last week somewhere that pain is the kiss of Christ. It feels like I've been kissed to death.

Many years ago I phoned a counselor....overcome with deeply imbedded anger at my husband.....telling her if he didn't change I was leaving. She replied, "Oh no, you need to come to a place of peace first before you can make any decisions." I remember thinking - "What are you talking about? I'm not the problem - he is. If he would only change his behaviour I would be in a place of peace!"

I can laugh about that phone call now. I went to see her for many sessions. I deleted instantly everything she told me that didn't line up with me getting my own way. Last year I saw her daughter at a church service and asked her to tell her mom that all the deleted stuff made sense now. Yes, I need reminding that operating from a place of inner peace is much better than knee jerking my way through life, but that's okay. Today I know there is a place of inner peace to be had whatever the behaviour or circumstances. I know the Source of that peace, too. Thanks be to God.

Catholic Carnival LXXI

From posts that challenge us to engage both our mind and heart, looking inward in order to look outward, to posts that remind us of the nuts and bolts of our faith, there is much food for thought in this week's collection.

At Ramblings of a GOP Soccer Mom Christine discusses how the homily at the Rite of Election, based on the gospel readings about the enemy of the man who sowed wheat, affected her in a post called The Bishop’s Homily.

A powerful experience of meditating on the cross can be found at CowPi Journal in a post called He Died For Me. In it we are challenged to ask ourselves if we have accepted Christ's sacrifice and death in our hearts. If we believe that if we were the only person in the world that Christ would have died for us.

During Lent, as we search our hearts, Moneybags over at A Catholic Life delves deep in a post titled The Necessity of Confession
where he discusses how so many people don't go to Confession and many more don't understand its importance. He talks about the need to go to Confession in a post rooted in Biblical and Catechism references.

Recognizing the need for our faith to proceed from a lived koinonia,Fred from Deep Furrows in his post, I Want More than a Conservatism of Ideas, wrestles with the best way to approach engagement with the world.

Over at Diary Of A City Parishioner Leo, in his post Vital and Important Matters, challenges readers with thoughts on one thing that is needful.

Another post that is timely during this Lenten season can be found over at Rifugio San Gaspare. In The Letters of St. Gaspar Fr. Keyes shares a gem of a quote from letter 2598. There are nearly 4000 letters of St. Gaspar del Bufalo available and Fr. Keyes is slowly but surely putting them online. Letters 2501 through 2750 are the latest ones uploaded.

From the blog On Pilgrimage Nate Nelson in his post Labor Riots, Labor Rights, discusses the need for a middle ground between socialism and laissez-faire capitalism, reflecting on what it means to see Christ in our neighbor and how the corporal works of mercy relate to labor rights.

In a third post in his series on NFP, Funky Dung from Ales Rarus focuses on addresses given by Pope Pius XII in Investigating NFP:Pius XII.

The current emphasis on lay ministry concentrates on service provided inside the parish. Herb Ely, in his post called Dismissal Ratio - an Index of Parish Effectiveness estimates that for every person providing service to a parish there are 200 providing service to the world in their jobs or other volunteer activities. He goes on to say that in the spirit of Vatican II, parish liturgies should build to the dismissal and send people forth "in joy to love and serve the Lord" - from Monday through Saturday.

Judith over at Our Word and Welcome to It sheds light on a recent news story which tells of the "marriage" of a woman and a dolphin in her post That Slippery Slope. She goes on to say that such is the slippery slope we encounter when we mess with the definition of marriage. It takes courage to stand up to this threat - do the leaders in our Church have it?

At Crusader of Justice Justice, in a post called Marriage Again analyzes some comments on marriage made in the blogosphere last week.

Faith and Vocation is the name of a reflection for the feast of St. Joseph by Kevin Miller over at HMS Blog. In this post he focuses on the meaning and importance of Christian faith.

In a reflection on our Lord's response to his Mother and
St. Joseph in the Temple, called Where Christ Is, Penitens from A Penitent Blogger writes about the questions our Lord's response raises for our lives.

A brief answer to the question: "Why should evangelicals have become so politically active of late, even to the extent of wanting our Republic to be explicitly Christian?" can be found in the post The Left Ended the Separation by David over at Be Here Mondays.

Catholicam Speluncam Masculum over at Catholic Caveman higlights the dubious behaviour by several Catholic Universities in "Catholic" Universities Link to and Endorse Local Abortuaries.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Of Pot and Soy

Some days I just need a good belly laugh. Good thing I have the belly to go with it, hey? The posts below gave me a great chuckle. Hope they give you one too.

Christian School of Pot

Soy People

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Some days I feel overwhelmed by what some people (who I know of only through the internet) have to deal with. Sometimes I sit here and weep. I pray a lot in front of this computer screen. Here are some people who are weighing heavy on my heart today and need lifting up in prayer.


Mark, Amy and Micah Palmer

Chad's Family

Amanda and Eric Update: Eric passed away the day after I posted this. Please lift up Amanda in prayer...thank you.

Thursday Thirteen

Wouldn't you know it? I've seen this cool link to be a part of Thursday Thirteen and today, the day when I decide I want to participate, I search in vain. And guaranteed once I post my Thursday Thirteen I will find the blog that has a link.

1. If you try to open a cellophane package with a pen, when it really needs scissors to do the job, you might end up with a 6 inch gash on your tender inside forearm instead. I'll spare you the picture.

2. More often than not when I read a passage of Scripture I get hung up on some obscure fact. At RCIA last night we read a passage that had the words alien residents in it and I wanted to know who they were. And how did one make them observe the Sabbath anyway?

3. We saw youngest son on his lunch break yesterday. His eyes looked sad and heavy hearted. I am sure he expected to get chewed out for his choices this week and he looked like he couldn't figure out just plain 'glad to see you' without an accompanying guilt trip/manipulation session.

4. He did come home to help dearest one unload a heavy package from the van after work. He came and hugged me tight three different times on his own. The first time I never heard him coming and he hugged me from behind. I was drying off a paring knife at the time. Scaring your mother when she has a knife in her hand is a dangerous thing. But when she hasn't hugged you in 6 days she'll forgive you anything. We are a very huggy family - hugs and kisses at least twice a day for everyone.

5. I bought bright orange computer paper yesterday. Did I mention it comes in the toughest cellophane paper I've ever encountered? I have the gash to prove it. Orange is my current favourite colour.

6. We bought our first new TV in 25 years yesterday. It's too big for the entertainment centre. Handy dearest one took the entertainment centre apart and adjusted it so that the TV fits. He thinks anyone can do this. I told him most people would either go buy a new entertainment centre or take the TV back and buy a smaller one that fit. He shrugged. Taking things apart and fixing them is just what he does. His father does wish he knew what dearest one did with the motor parts that never made it back in that motor in 1969 or so. Dearest one threw them in the bush when he couldn't figure out where they went. That was a one time experience. He's a quick learner!

7. My grandparents started off their day with having a cup of tea in bed. The sweetest days are when dearest one and I start our day the same way.

8. Decaf Earl Grey is my favourite tea. I have my grandma's tea pot that she received as a wedding present in 1929. My one idiosyncrasy about making tea is that you must pour boiling water onto the tea bag or leaves. Remembering how my grandma would swirl a little boiling water around in the bottom of the tea pot before filling it gives me the warm fuzzies.

9. I have bright pink tulips blooming in a vase in my livingroom. I once dreamed of having fresh cut flowers in my home all the time. Four months of the year they come from my garden and the other 8 months I could have them for just 10 bucks a month. Little pleasures in life don't have to cost a lot.

10. My younger sister inspires me. She is absolutely brilliant at stuff that she thinks is ordinary. Like speaking at a workshop for 100 people and making it seem like she is having a private conversation with her closest friend. She was born to be a teacher and she is still teaching me things. You go girl! I am so proud of you!

11. I have collapsible hands. I always wondered why my hand still fits in the pickle jar. Most jars I can fit my hand into to wash them out. I thought that was ordinary until the geneticist told me not everyone could do it.

12. I sit here and wonder if I am supposed to be writing about stuff that has happened since last Thursday. Who makes the rules? I can't remember back that far. Oh yes, I can. Last Thursday I saw Father Charlie for counseling (I cheated and looked on the calendar!) Last Friday I was so exhausted I had to go back to bed not long after I got up. The geneticist would tell me that is normal for someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome like me.

13. I have no wish to be thirteen ever again. Just about the worst of my growing up years. I swore like a sailor and punched anyone in my class who didn't do what I wanted. Boy was that an angry year. Today I would be expelled for being a bully.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thank God The Sand Crumbled

I am very thankful for the experience last week of watching that wall of sand crumble. I have turned around and looked in its wake many times since. Maybe I'll just turn around and stare at that place forever. I don't wish for it to come back but I feel a bit lost today without it.

Today finds me disheartened. Youngest son has spent the night at his girlfriend's every night since last Friday. He phoned on his lunch break today to tell me he won't be coming home this week. He wants to see what it would be like to spend a week there. Hmmm - without last week I would have manipulated, guilted, been pissy in response. I told him I would miss seeing him tonight but to have a good week. Yes, there was a part of me that wanted to scream "Are you out of your fucking mind?!" But it's not my mind to make up, it's his. And the real snarky part of me wondered, "Is the sex that good?"

Is this what letting go looks like? He knows how we feel. I've only reminded him of that every other day for the past 10 months. It's time to shut up now.

Did I mention his girlfriend is only 15? And that her parents long ago offered for him to move in there? My gut tells me he is going to take them up on it. I sit here and wonder if this is the path he must take to get to a better place. Last week I would have been praying for God to bring him back home....and anything less would have seemed like unanswered prayer. I would have wanted youngest son to see his world the way I see it. Now, wouldn't that have made history? Teenager sees things the same as 40-something mother does without the additional 25 years life experience.

I sit here and think about my own young adulthood. How I was involved with a man 8 years my senior when I was 18. He was from Nigeria, with a totally different culture. We talked seriously about marriage but my gut instinct wouldn't let me. The day he told me if his mother came to live with us after we were married she could stay as long as she wanted I knew I could never marry him. I remember telling my mom we had stopped seeing each other only to hear her say, "We knew you'd come to your senses sooner or later." I won't repeat the thoughts that went through my head in response.

Only yesterday I said to my friend that whatever happened or didn't happen in the next stress filled two weeks for her, she would be okay. Those thoughts are echoing in my head today. Peace and sadness sit side by side in my heart. I covet your prayers.

Monday, March 13, 2006

In Solitude

It's been a different kind of day. First I woke up at 3 am and that was the end of sleep for the day. I managed to get an hour's nap later in the morning before the phone woke me up. Two and a half hours later I was off the phone and the sun was shining so beautifully through the windows that I just sat and soaked it up like a cat. I have been in solitude since last Friday and the quiet has been good. I wonder sometimes if solitude is necessary for a person to learn to be comfortable in their own skin, to welcome one's own company?

On the other end of the phone was a long time friend who I chat with every 3 or 4 months even though we only live 5 miles apart. It was good to connect again.

I met her when I moved back to this community nearly 17 years ago. She didn't want to be friends with a young mom of 3 preschoolers. Her kids were 10 years older than mine and she was in a different stage of life. But she persevered. We have laughed so much together and cried, too. Seventeen years has seen her marriage break down and the start of a new life for her. Seventeen years has seen the breakdown of my health and the start of a new life for me. She went away thankful for her health today and I went away thankful for my marriage.

Our common bond is our faith and much of our conversation is about our relationship with God and the struggles of being human. It is good to have friends for the long haul, who stick with you as you grow and change and take a detour on this or that tangent. People who believe in you when it looks like it would be stupidity to do so.

Cheap Answers

The following quote is from this reflection
"Questions do not dampen faith, cheap answers do."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Losing Weight

Putting one foot in front of another. Tripping and falling, going backwards. Sometimes not having the energy to move; having faint and sometimes no faith that the energy and courage to do so would return. This is what much of my spiritual journey has felt like. For the past 7 months I've been going to Father Charlie for spiritual direction and counseling. Some months have felt empty. I've left feeling like there was no movement and I was wasting his and my time. He continued to encourage me that dealing with the "same shit, different pile" was still movement. It's been hard to accept that rarely are there big 'aha' moments in the journey. That slogging through without seeing any tangible results is just as important as those light bulb moments. I wonder if in my spiritual journey I am a junkie - looking for a quick fix to struggles that have been years in the making. Searching for a fad diet for the spirit. Wanting the high that comes from feeding my flesh to cross over to the spirit and nourish it too.

It is easier to write about the highs than the lows. Sometimes both are difficult to put into words.

Last weekend I listened to someone talk about the difference between destructive and constructive guilt. As she described destructive guilt I recognized its familiarity. It has felt more comfortable to cuss myself out than not. Destructive guilt feeds self loathing. It says that I am not trying hard enough, am not okay as I am, that every shitty behaviour or choice I make makes me a bad person. It tells me that my world will not be okay until I am perfect, until I never make a mistake, until you never make a mistake either. It destroys the spirit instead of building it up. It sucks the life out of a person. If I hold myself in judgment then your judgement of me can't hurt so much. Destructive guilt has sometimes said that if I can't be perfect then you can't be either and I'll pretend I'm perfect while making sure you know you aren't. Destructive guilt distorts the mirror.

Then she talked of constructive guilt and how it started with acknowledging that I have missed the mark. That when I sin I am not who I have been created to be. And who have I been created to be? I have been created out of love for love. Love of God. Love of neighbour. Love of self. Something shifted within me as I recognized the truth in what she said. If I am created out of love for love then instead of being pissed off at myself for missing the mark I could ask for a spirit of love towards myself. Destructive guilt has served a crappy purpose in my life. I can stop telling myself I'm a fuck up for being less than perfect. It feels like a paradox to hold myself without judgement while acknowledging how often I miss the mark.

The need I have had in my life for control has been fed out of fear. Fear that who I am is not enough. That I am not worthy of love unless I am perfect. Destructive guilt has fed this lie.

A shift occurred in my spirit as I shared all these thoughts with Father Charlie yesterday. In my mind I saw a wall built of sand. I saw myself making the occasional foray out beyond it - small pockets of space when I let my need for control go. But every time I felt threatened I ran back to the safety of the wall. In the midst of telling him this I felt God's spirit asking me to let the wall be destroyed. I saw that to let it didn't mean I would be cured of my pattern of running for the safety of the wall. I would still have times of wanting control but there would be no wall of sand to go hide behind when my defenses felt threatened. Big, gulping tears came as I said goodbye to the wall and watched it crumble. When I turn towards its safety now only to find it gone, I know I will be okay. "Created out of love for love" is written in the sand in its place.

The scale says I weigh the same as I did yesterday morning but I feel like a 50 pound weight has lifted from my being.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Look For The Good

The first time I got a glimpse of what my future mother-in-law was like I was 15. Her son and I had been penpals for a little over a year by then and his decision to join his parents' church prompted her to write and tell me his choice meant he could no longer be in contact with me. His family belonged to an ultra conservative church where dating was non-existent and even having a penpal of the opposite sex stretched the limits of right and wrong. My young heart was broken. The story of how we eventually met and married when I was 19 is a long one but for now just know that the first time I met my mother-in-law in person, it was a shock. My husband-to-be had mentioned he was Mennonite(he thought it would be self explanatory) so he didn't explain that meant his sisters and mother wore dresses and headcoverings, had no TV or radio in their home and higher education was looked upon as an unnecessary evil. I had just graduated from college with the majority of my subjects being journalism, TV and radio related. My attire was more about showing off my figure than hiding it, plus I was an atheist to boot. Whew. No doubt they were in shock, too.

The night before we wed dearest one's parents sat him down and tried to get him to call off the wedding. He dismissed their concerns and 5 pm the next afternoon found us before the justice of the peace making vows that have lasted 24 years now. I have to hand it to my mother-in-law. Once that ring was on my finger she let go of her prejudices and welcomed me as a daughter(she already had 5 of her own plus several other daughters-in-law). It was a done deal in her books and that was that. At the time I was an antagonistic teenager who had no respect for parents or authority and I tried my damnedest to let them know I didn't care a wit for their faith either. They were gracious at every turn. Every turn (including the time I showed up at their house in a pair of short shorts and a negligee top). I know this woman must have cried buckets of tears and prayed many prayers as she watched her son begin married life. She never let on the turmoil she was in. Not once.

This afternoon I paid her a visit. Dearest one had told her on the phone that I wanted to talk to her of sons and their girlfriends and all that entailed. We had a good visit, with her doing the listening and saying very little, but with both of us knowing she knew exactly what I was going through because I had once been the girlfriend that she would have rather her son grown weary of. When we had talked the whole thing through she told me I had much to be thankful for.

I have so much to learn from her.

I have cried my own tears and prayed my own prayers about the relationship my youngest son has chosen for himself. This afternoon, while walking in the spring rain, I sensed a willingness in my spirit to let it all go, I mean truly let go of how I want this world to work when it comes to my son. There was a peace that God was big enough to handle it, whichever way it goes, that enabled me to unclench my fists and let go. I thought this day would never come. God worked out in my Spirit what I couldn't work out in my flesh. I can't make choices for my son just like my mother-in-law couldn't make choices for hers. But once they are made I can choose to be supportive as he and his girlfriend muddle through this thing called life and love.

A big part of my struggle has been facing how ugly I can be if life doesn't go my way. I never knew the depth of judgment, rigidity and lack of love I was capable of until I saw it played out in real life. My life. I verbalized outloud to myself today that if truth be told, I just wanted my son to break up with his girlfriend so that our relationship could go back to what it had been. (As horrible as it is to admit, I've felt more than slighted at going from being the only woman in his life to not even registering on his radar screen anymore.) As soon as I verbalized my thoughts I saw how unhealthy and unrealistic it was to want to go backwards and repeal the growth in both our lives. And then I laughed outloud at myself.

The last week or so the phrase "Look for the good." has been swirling around in my head. Sometime between last night and tonight I became willing to do that. In him. In her. And in myself, too.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

69th Catholic Carnival

The Carnival is ready to be read - you can find it here. Lots of good reading to reflect on. Enjoy!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Food For Thought

Our instructor at the Lay Formation Program this past weekend left us with some very beautiful and pertinent quotes. Here are two of my favourites:

"Hope is the winter name for God."


"Casual sex cheapens the soul."
"Abusive sex destroys the soul."
"Sacramtental sex sanctifies the soul."

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Powerful Appetite

" You owe me." Words I thought today but thank God, did not say out loud. What an ugly realization to find that I feel like youngest son, especially, owes me for the years I have parented him. I found myself thinking, "I wouldn't have homeschooled you had I know you were going to be making these decisions. I would have sent you to school and saved myself years of not having any solitude." What a fucking martyr I am trying to play. God, the truth is ugly some days.

Thankfully dearest one has wisdom and perspective and is able to handle hard days with hard words to say without taking any of it personally. Without making any of it about him. He took me by the shoulders tonight and lovingly, but firmly, told me I had to stop taking youngest son's behaviour as being all about me. For the sake of the relationship and for my own sake, too. I wanted to hit him because the truth hurt too much. "I don't want to be grown up," I thought to myself. Then he told me I needed to get off the pity pot as well. Oh shit. I prayed that I wouldn't harden my heart to the truth. That I wouldn't put up walls because I courted self deception more than reality. Tears and more tears. This man of mine who prayed as a young boy, "God, if you give me half the wisdom of Solomon I will never want anything else." When push comes to shove he has wisdom every time.

Tonight I am feeling like I know very little. I sit here and wonder if it is going to take a severed relationship to make me truly let go and stop expecting to be in control of it all in order to be okay. I haven't the foggiest idea what to do next. It makes me feel like I have been on a dry drunk for 18 years with very little real sobriety under my belt. While I made supper I thought about how a two year old thinks the world revolves around her and has a temper tantrum as she learns that is not the way the world works.

The other night at the Ash Wednesday Mass the only word that came to me when I prayed about my Lenten journey was "appetite". Of course I right away thought of my struggles with fleshly appetites. I left it at that. Tonight I see that my appetite for power and control is far more damaging and what I need to repent of. Christ have mercy.

Praying Lent

I have been using the Praying Lent material here. One prayer from that site which spoke to me was this one:

Let everything I do this day and in this season of Lent
come from you, be inspired by you.

I long to be closer to you.
Help me to remember that nothing is important in my life
unless it glorifies you in some way.

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day of my life and keep saying,
"Tomorrow, I will spend more time in prayer,"
but now my longing meets your love and I want to do it now.
Help me to rely on you for help.

The prayer asks you that I reach perfection.
Please, Lord, remind me that "perfection"
isn't the crazy, "successful" way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.
My "perfection" might be holding my many flaws in my open hands,
asking you to help me accept them.

Heal me, Lord, and help me to find you in the darkness of my life.
Let me reach out in this darkness and feel your hand and love there to guide me."

I don't remember ever feeling so blah while continuing on in obedience with habits of discipline. I am thankful for this season of Lent, with its inherit disciplines, that keep me putting one foot in front of another when I would rather not. Being disciplined doesn't comes easy. Usually feeling blah and giving into all kinds of hedonism go hand in hand for me. I usually figure - "What's the use? I'll get back on track when the feelings come back." Today I simply recognize the value in praying the prayers and keeping the lines of communication open when my spirit feels absolutely nothing. The one thing I do know is that this lack of feeling, this frozen space inside, won't last forever. I don't struggle with God being okay with me, I struggle with me being okay with me. And so I lift it all to God and despite feeling no guidance whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Catholic Carnival LXVIII

For some really interesting posts, especially about Lent related themes, go over to Happy Catholic. Thanks Julie for hosting it!