Sunday, April 30, 2006

Got Some Hope?

Yesterday I was in a group of women and one of the questions we were asked was for each of us to share something positive about ourselves. I know many of the women squirmed big time - I shared that I thought being honest about my struggles was an encouragement to others so that they could share their struggles with me. I came home and told my husband and before I could share what I had said he told me that one of the most positive things about me was that my pen name was Hope and that I had encouraged so many people who perhaps never leave a comment on here or I would never even know read my blog.

It's a very rough time for me right now. Not a lot of hopeful things to write. I feel like I am making the smallest of strides(some backwards) when all I really want is to take as big a step as I can - the kind I would make when I played Simon Says when I was a kid. Today at church I had this conversation with God - I finally stopped doing my "na-na-na-na I can't hear you God" dance - long enough to see a picture of a painful path in front of me and the only way to a better place was straight through the pain. Shit.

All this to say that if you could leave me a hopeful comment I would appreciate it. Thanks.

Note: Thank you so much for your generous, thoughtful and hope filled comments. They are worthy of a post in themselves. Thank you for your prayers and friendship.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

You Are Loved

Part of being sick of the journey lies in getting plain sick of me. I can just about guarantee when I have written about some breakthrough that it will only be a matter of days before what I thought I learned I didn't. I merely had a brief glimpse of what is true and history shows me it will take many, many glimpses to have the breakthrough more of a part of my life than a fading memory. I wish I could get that. I mean I wish I could remember that in the moment. To appreciate the glimpses when they happen and then rest, knowing they will come around again. Any major breakthroughs in my journey have that quality of mystery to them. The kind where you really can't put into words what happened, how or when. You just know it did and you aren't the same as you used to be. I am not sure why I keep trying to put it all in words, but I do. How to honour the mystery without dissecting it to death is a mystery in itself.

I have been reading Rick's posts (parts one, two, three, four, five, and six) about his spiritual journey and they have been making me think hard. Think back. I have often said how thankful I am that I came to a relationship with God outside of a church. I was blissfully naive about any church person's expectations for a long while. It was several years before I realized people expected me to act a certain way or dress a certain way in order to be one of 'them.' Then I got it in a big, big way. The kind of way that has made me do the 'us' and 'them' dance ever since. I regret that reality. I have known for years now that Jesus is not into the us and them game. Never was. Never will be. I think Rick's words posted below are a key to the journey of being free of the us and them mentality. If God is looking for me then I know God is looking for you too.

"God is in our lives whether we know it or not. Even when you cannot feel God or think that you have lost your way, God is there. This journey is not about an institution or finding a church. This journey is about meeting and encountering God in our daily life and one definitely does not need to be religious to encounter God. I believe the message of Jesus’ life is about humanity discovering the nearing presence of God in our midst. God has come searching for us. God is looking for you. Regardless of where you are in your journey God is looking for you. God seeks us until we are found. It is about love. The love of God is the reason we exist. You are not bad and unworthy despite what conventional religion may have attempted to get you to believe. You are loved by the Source of Light and Life. Jesus said that the “kingdom” of God is in us.

Go to your closet, open your heart and you will find God is already there waiting for you.

You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.
" ~My Story: a brief pause

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In My Face

The day can only get better. I drove to the closest town this morning and managed to go there and back without getting done what I went there for. Sigh. Just about 70 km round trip just to have to get in the van and do it all over again. There was one point on my first trip where I asked myself what I had gone there for in the first place and came up blank. Oh well. Home again safe and sound.

We saw only daugher in her performance on Saturday. She was brilliant. The only disturbing part was that her character did a lot of crying in the play and every time she cried I did too. At one point the injustice her character was facing was nearly overwhelming and I had to tell myself that standing up and protesting was not an option. Youngest son has an overdeveloped sense of justice and we already warned him when he sees his sister in her show this coming weekend that he shouldn't worry because it all works out in the end. This is the lad who yelled outloud at the theatre screen during the movie White Fang when he was younger. The lad who would take a shit kicking if it meant he had defended the under dog.

Normally when we leave the little town where only daughter lives we have to travel over half an hour before we can see the mountains on the horizon. Sunday morning they were visible within minutes of leaving her house. Not a cloud in the sky, only beautiful white crested mountains in view. It was just too tempting. I suggested we take the long way home and go through the mountains. We did. I am not a spontaneous person. So much so that the kids all thought it must have been their dad's idea that we go through Banff and Jasper National Parks to make our way home. Being outside of tourist season we had the highway nearly to ourselves the whole way. It was wonderful. There aren't words to describe mountains adequately. Even though the route made our homeward trip over 12 hours long instead of 8 we felt more rested because of the lack of traffic and the beautiful surroundings. Listening to this lovely duo play harp music only added to the trip.

It is good to be home. I did realize on this trip that I like the travelling more than I like arriving somewhere. If only it could be like that otherwise. In the spiritual I am tired of the journey. I want arrival. The reading at Mass this morning talked of our adversary prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I am very weary of the battle. I feel like the lion has been roaring right in my face for a very long time. I am back to feeling like making myself list upon list to reign myself in. It is so very hard to stay in the moment, experiencing it, instead of ignoring it, sidestepping it, wanting it to go away. I do take comfort in the fact that the Scriptures said this morning to take heart that believers all over the world undergo the same suffering. After all if I am going to continue to journey instead of arrive, I do need reminding I am not alone on the trip.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Nothing more than feelings...

We were on the way to see only daughter and I was in a pissy mood. Feelings bubbling under the surface that I would not only like to ignore but pretend they belong to someone else. I went to pray about it....something along the lines of asking God to take the burden of the feelings away and the thought crosses my mind that feelings aren't burdens. All these years of shoving down my feelings and now when I know I need to not only feel them but honour them and I'm asking God to take them away? Hah. Don't think so. Are feelings burdens?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Take Me Home Country Roads...

I am trying to type this in a hurry with my 20 minute allotted time slot at the public library. Sure enough my brain is going to go into hibernation mode just as the timer is ticking away. Well. Dearest one is at a conference for his professional association at one ritzy hotel. Now that is a new experience. Continental breakfast brought to room at a price of 21 buckaroos. For one person. Needless to say we shared it. I went to the restaurant last night - all I really wanted was a plate of fries and a diet coke. I opened the menu to find no prices, just numbers. Great. Visions of paying 10 bucks for an order of fries swirled around in my head. Yep. Fries and diet coke plus tip came to over $10. On our trip here we stopped at every Canadians favourite coffee shop, Tim Horton's, and I bought a bagel with cream cheese for $1.59. Same bagel in hotel is $9 plus 3.25 for delivery plus 17% gratuity. Makes one groan and laugh at the absurdity of it at the same time. I cannot imagine people paying these prices without a second thought. Or a third one for that matter. I went to a grocery store yesterday and bought breakfast food for us. I don't know if I am cheap, frugal or just a complainer.

Ritzy hotel is across the street from the public library. It's huge. My local library would fit into the foyer of this one. I go looking for books yesterday and couldn't believe it when the bulk of one section was devoted to the 700 and 800's. The rest of the non fiction was on a different floor! Brings me back 30 years to when my dad would bring us to a city library with its very own floor for children's books plus a story corner where you went through a door that made it look like you were entering the inside of a tree!

I try to go online and when asked for my library card (which works for home library plus any library in Alberta), they see that the expiry date sticker is two years past due and refuse to let me use it. Try to tell them that I come from Hickville where renewing library cards is pretty casual and that the sticker doesn't really mean anything. Nothing doing. A whole process to be able to take out books and get online. I chuckle to myself. I manage to hit on a day when the little bitty library back home is open but then I remember it is also Farmer's Market day and our librarian usually goes there to sell honey. Finally a librarian gives me a temporary card to use the internet but I can't take out any books. So here I am. Trying to type as the clock ticks away. Eleven minutes and counting left.

But I did get to a few book stores yesterday. Walking On Water by Anthony DeMello is quickly becoming one of my favourites. A little book by Catherine Doherty on reconciliation and a pocket book of Merton are in my new stack of books too. And I have a CD collection of Leonard Cohen's best songs. Hubby agreed to let it go into the CD player in his car if I promised not to listen to it 12 times in a row. Something tells me my new John Michael Talbot CD is not going to get any more play time either. That's what happens when you ride in a car owned by a man whose tastes run towards Rush,The Eagles and Dr. Hook. We make quite the pair, don't you think?

Tonight we are off to the little town where only daughter is on stage. We'll pay less for two nights in a bed and breakfast there than we will for one night at ritzy hotel.

The title of this post says it well. Sorry, the clock is ticking and tells me to save files before they cut me off. I just had to tell someone how out of my league and spoiled I feel in Ritzville.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Of Beds and Breakfasts

Dearest one and I are off on a mini holiday starting tomorrow. I'll be back here next week. First holiday without children. First time of staying at a bed and breakfast. First time seeing only daughter in her new play. And first time of going to a huge Catholic bookstore, as well as Ikea. I welcome book suggestions for the bookstore and your favourite Ikea purchase.

I want to draw attention to some posts over at Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit which are about addiction. The Addict's prayer found there is going to be a new daily prayer for me. Also if you have time go to Motherhood Is Not For Wimps. She writes so beautifully about motherhood. Just looking at pictures of her oldest daughter yesterday made me burst into tears. Motherhood is such an incredible blessing and this mother knows it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Holy Days

"I like you." We're sitting at a table in the food court breaking bread together when only daughter says this to me today. "Oh," I think to myself. What sweet words to my ears. Maybe it was because I had just bought her lunch and to a struggling student actor food ranks right up there with a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Just kidding - I know it came from a place much deeper than a full belly.

I realized this past weekend that it is much less stressful to have adult children who live away from you than children of any age living in your house. I also realized that having kids in the house makes me want to eat the nearest available food. The ten plus pounds I recently lost have oh, so been found. Sigh.

There was a time when the fantasy played out in my head that we would gather around a perfectly set table and everything that pressured filled scenario implies. Good thing I let go of that expectation somewhere along the way to this weekend. Our first weekend where all our kids came home for a holiday. It felt like a Holy day in more ways than one. Supper was ready for nearly an hour before people showed up to eat it. No one ate the pie I bought from the store and that made me glad that I didn't feel pressured into making one from scratch. Just a few years (weeks?) ago I would have been a basket case when my plan didn't turn out to be the plan.

I came home from Easter Vigil Saturday night (at 1:30 am no less!) to find one of my relaxation CDs playing, all the lights off and umpteen dozen candles lit. Youngest son and his girlfriend were still there and they talked about how peaceful our home is and how they want to spend time here more often. Having wished and worked at making a home a haven it was so nice to hear it affirmed. And from youngest son who has forced me into prayer overtime lately, too.

Oldest son and his girlfriend came after suppertime due to work schedules and how nice it was when I asked if she was hungry to hear that she was starved. Happily they ate leftovers and we had such a good visit. She fits right in and feels comfortable with us. I feel blessed. Oldest son has lost his angry countenance and has a happiness about him that thrills me.

Somehow, after 20 years of making it about me and about my kids' behaviour, I have found this place where I am able to embrace who they are as people, separate from myself. Where relationship comes first. Where mercy trumps judgement. Where I finally see them as equals. A place, by the grace of God, where I can say, "I like me too, dear girl."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Real Hunger

Sometimes matters of faith are too personal to write about. Today my husband crossed the Tiber. This weekend all our kids and their partners came home to be with us. It feels like there is a ribbon of grace being woven through all the circumstances of our life right now and for that I am deeply grateful.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Honouring My Weaknesses

"I want what I want when I want it." I read this sentence in a book the other day and laughed out loud. Yep, that about sums it up for me.

I am learning what it feels like to live this journey one day at a time. Numbing my feelings whenever I want to is still scratching at the door most of the day. Learning to sit with my feelings and feel them is a bit like saying yes, I'll not only have a helping of pain, I'll take a second helping too, if you please. It's enough to make me into a screaming ninny.

But here I am. Learning what it is to not give in to my wants of distraction as they rise. Learning to cry out to God for help. Learning to name outloud the ways I want to numb my feelings and asking God for the grace to resist. Learning to ask why I want to numb them and what is that feeling that would like to rise to the surface and be honoured instead of shoved down in the darkness and shamed.

When I look back over this season of Lent I am humbled that the journey of being aware of my weaknesses has brought me to this place. One of being okay with me as I acknowledge, embrace and lift to the Light the things that hound me most. Only by God's grace. Not on my own strength. If there was a way to give into all the distractions that are my pleasures and still have peace I'd do it in a heartbeat. I know this about myself. But I also know it is not a journey of perfection but a journey of progress.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Giving Birth

Simply be. So easy to type, so hard to do. This is the part of the journey where I usually chicken out. Getting down to the hard stuff feels a little like having the 24 hour stomach flu, except you don't know when it's going to end, only that Someone told you it would and you gotta take that on faith.

I hate feeling needy. Hate, hate, hate it. I can wrap my head around the reality that everyone has needs. I still fear my needs not being met. In any way, shape or form.

Yesterday we were in town. A decision made unexpectedly threw me for a loop. I went to the van to sort it out. Sort me out. What was I feeling? Anger. The kind of anger that makes me want to cry. So I did. Kept digging. Why was I angry? I feel like I am in grade school with this crap. Well, the truth is I am. I am sure I buried my needs, my feelings much earlier than grade school so this truth should not alarm me. When all was said and done the root of the anger was fear. Fear that the unexpected decision would mean my needs would not be met. Somehow figuring that all out diffused the anger and the fear. Because in reality the decision made was no threat to my needs. When I figured this all out I caught a glimmer of hope that I could do this. I could befriend my emotions instead of continuing to act like they were my enemy. Only last week I would have gone and bought something to eat and shovelled the food in fast in the hope that the feelings could be shoved down to the point where I wouldn't have to feel them.

Tonight I'm in that space where I feel so desperately needy and I know how much I avoid people who are this needy. When I am around them I feel like I am going to be sucked dry. There's a mantra going around in my head, "Careful, don't get too needy." It's followed by another that says, "Simply be."

It is so much easier to go looking for distraction than it is to deal with what is. To simply be where I am on the journey. Tonight I have 18 years of sobriety, 17 days of abstinence from sexual addiction and 10 days free from feeding my feelings. Last year when I started counseling this image of an egg came into my head. I got this feeling that I was giving birth to myself. I've gone through labour and delivery three times without any pain medication. Looks like this birth will follow suit.

Tagged bobbie over at emerging sideways.

Name 5 experiences of the performing arts that have touched or tickled you.

1. Being in a grade 5 musical which included the song "King of the Road". ...trailers for sale or rent, rooms for just 50 cents....

2. Going to my first live theatre experience in grade 11 to see Romeo and Juliet. At the intercession our teacher leaned over and whispered to us girls that in case we didn't know it the male actor Romeo was wearing a jock strap. Turned us into a blushing, giggling mush.

3. Writing and performing my own monologue in church about a woman who was telling the story of Jairus's daughter. There won't be a repeat performance even though I got good feedback. The character that popped into my head who narrated the story however, keeps trying to tell me other stories she witnessed and wants to share. I keep telling her to stop stalking me.

4. Seeing only_daughter perform in her first public performance in professional theatre last December.

5. Looking forward to seeing only_daughter in her second play (yes, that's her in the poster!) in professional theatre in only 12 days from now! Go girl go!!

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Pearl Of Great Price

My monthly session with Father Charlie yesterday was both painful and hopeful. I sat in my van before I went in and asked myself what I wanted from the session. I had spent an hour in candle lit darkness yesterday morning trying to discern what to bring to the session and came up empty. A time of being open to what Jesus might have to say to me about it and not one word back. I shake my head because it doesn't seem to matter to me at the moment if I hear anything back or not. It doesn't rattle my cage as if Jesus didn't hear me. I know Jesus heard me and that seems to be enough. In the van I came to the conclusion that I wanted the courage to be unafraid of my emotions. I thought about the whole range of emotions I have felt sitting in Father Charlie's office. How amazed I am that I haven't thrown anything through his office window although the urge has been there many times. I prayed for the courage to be unafraid of my feelings, opened the van door and went to my session.

While I was waiting for him in his office I looked through his bookshelf, looking for a book he had offered me last November. At that time, when I saw the author's name, I went on a rant about how angry one of this guy's other books had made angry I had been because he had been so right and I just couldn't handle it. One of the things I like about Father Charlie is that he doesn't push anything. Don't want to borrow the book? No big deal. I couldn't find what I was looking for but I did come across a different book I had wanted to read - Addiction and Grace by Gerald May - and when Father Charlie came in he found the book I had been looking for - Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw.

Almost always I bring a blog post to my sessions and often it is the springboard for our discussion. Talking about the book that had pissed me off so bad had me off on a tangent in less than 5 seconds so I never did show him any writing yesterday.

We talked about secrets and shame. Family secrets. Personal shame. To think we go through this life without our actions, seen or unseen by others, affecting no one is a lie. Yesterday I said words outloud that make me cringe. B.l.o.w J.o.b. Such a fucking ugly word. I can't even type it without wanting to run outside of my body screaming. It makes me want to put my head down on the desk and sob for who I might have been.

So many tears. So much anger. Yesterday I let them rise as they wanted to. I acknowledged that they had a right to be there. At one point, as tears were streaming down my face, Father Charlie said to me "I know. You just want to open up a zipper and let all the pain out. But it only comes out in layers. And there is a pearl waiting to be found at the core."

I said out loud yesterday things I've never allowed myself to say. I stopped pretending that where my parents were in their journey when I was a kid made their behaviour excusable. Covering their tracks and assuaging their guilt was more important than protecting me from a predator. How fucked is that? I stopped pretending that just because there was a black hole in my memory about a certain incident didn't mean what I thought must have happened didn't. I cried for how cruel the truth can be.

At one point I thought,"now what?" What did closure look like? Once I acknowledged the truth what did I do with it? As if reading my mind Father Charlie said, "How does one reconcile it all?" He asked a few questions and I came home with some concrete things I could do. They won't be fun, but they will be healing. I also came away with the assurance that it could be reconciled without letting anyone off the hook as if their behaviour didn't matter. I won't have to pretend what happened was okay when it wasn't. I saw that there is a path through it, a path that leads to healing. A path that will allow me to stop being defined by my pain. A path that can speak truth without apology. I won't have to be nice at the expense of being honest.

I was one of those kids who did what they were told and never said no. I gladly took on being responsible for your mood. If I was going to be rebellious it was never going to be in ways that were direct. Are you kidding? I'm not a fan of getting my face slapped. Yesterday though, I had one memory that gave me great hope.

My mother had many affairs when I was an adolescent. One of her 'friends' once told my younger sister that if he won anything on the lottery that week that he would buy her a teddy bear. She told me and I said, "He doesn't care about you. He's only trying to buy your love." She started screaming, screaming so loud that my mom came in the room to see what was the matter. My mom made me repeat what I had said to my sister. I calmly looked her in the face and told her. No slap across the face. No repercussions.

When I was telling Father Charlie this yesterday my mouth twitched with a hint of a smile. The memory was a positive one. On the drive home yesterday I realized why. It is the lone time in my whole childhood where I voiced the truth about a situation I was supposed to pretend was a secret. Even though it was happening right in front of my eyes I was supposed to pretend I was blind. I spoke truth out loud, voiding the secret's power. If I had a voice as a child in that instance then it is possible to uncover my voice for all the other things that we were forbidden to acknowledge. I can stop the crazy making. I have a voice. I can stop being afraid of it as I face the past.

Honouring my voice will heal the shame that binds me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Finding His Stride

Yesterday I read Poor Mad Peter's blogpost about walking and commented that I envied his ability to walk his way through Lent. Well, through any day really. Yesterday dearest one and I walked less than a quarter of a mile before my spoons were used up. During that walk I said how I missed the ability to walk as much I would like to. Walking used to be about getting there and back - sweating off calories and accomplishing something. Power walking is a thing of the past for me now. I used to do it so hard that I injured my shoulder permanently from pumping my arms too hard as I walked. When I got into my moods where I was going for a walk dammit, I couldn't care less about the beauty of my surroundings or even what was happening in my body. It was all about the goal and not the journey.

These days walks are more about the moment. There is an awareness of all of life around me and in me that I am grateful for. Having to be aware if I'm getting short of breath, or if my heart is racing and whether it's getting to be an effort to lift my feet makes me grateful for any walking I can do. I have to guage how far I can go down the road and still have enough spoons left to get back to the house. We live on a dead end road and there won't be anyone to pick me up and give me a ride if my spoons get used up before I'm home! And soon it will be time to watch out for black bears trying to get where they're going and hoping our paths don't cross on the way. I just hope the bear doesn't wait until I am looking at all the pretty stones on the road to make his appearance. I am a sucker for rocks and would like to bring home a pocketful every time I walked. Oh boy, can you belive I was once so legalistic that I wouldn't let my kids bring rocks home from our walks because those rocks belonged to the government. Sigh. Oh, thank God I've journeyed since then.

Earlier in the year dearest one once walked backwards facing me as I walked forward saying he was breaking the wind for me even though there was no breeze. I was so spoonless by this time that I could not lift my feet and the house was barely in sight. He had laughter in his eyes and I smiled back but we both struggled with the reality of my old-age shuffle.

Even though I was envious of PMP's Lenten walks I am thankful that nearly a quarter of a mile was a possibility yesterday. Earlier in Lent I decided to challenge myself and I walked a mile a day several times a week. No matter how much the doctors tell me to go slow and build up to something more than I can do now I keep trying to push my body more than is possible for the long term. Five minutes daily would be something if I could do it daily and then the goal is to do 5 minutes twice a day and gradually build on those times. I do try to do that kind of walking but eventually I get a "piss on this" attitude and want the old days back so I push myself too much. Then it takes days to recuperate and I am back to zero again.

If dearest one walks with me then the distance is shorter because walking and talking take many more spoons than silent strides. Through 18 homes and two provincs we have long hashed out life and struggles by going for a walk. It's been one of our favourite ways of spending time together.

What I appreciated about Peter's post is that he has found his stride. One that appreciates the journey without having limitations force him to be aware and so alive in the process. He questioned how he would view it if he did have limitations. He dropped the thought that some see circumstances as God's way of testing us and added a prayer that God save us from such assumptions. I don't feel tested by God in all this at all. I think about who I am becoming in this process and even with mourning what once was, I feel deeply loved and grateful.

Peter closed with these thoughts:
"I don't know, but I could hazard that my way of looking at Grace would be very different from what it is, now. And I would hope to have the Grace to see the Grace, whatever form it takes. As it is, I am feeling more and more blessed, and absolutely bewildered by that. " ~(emphasis added)

I sat here and thought to myself "me too, Peter, me too."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Catholic Carnival # 73

Wow - just reading the whole Carnival post before clicking on any of the submissions is a treat in itself. Go check it out!

Coming Home

I'm going to hunt for snow today. The only snow to be found at our place right now is north of everywhere. It will be delightful to stick my hands into the white stuff on a day where sunshine and its heat are main stage. It may be my last chance before it's all gone. Transformation doesn't happen according to schedule. With over 12 hours of daylight these days, the snow that came last month really didn't stand much chance of staying longterm.

This will be our first spring in many where we won't have lambs to welcome the season. No kittens or puppies either. Last year only daughter rescued a duck egg from abandonment and we raised it in the house until it could recognize and accept its mother, who was floating on the pond waiting for reconciliation.

On my table sits a yellow bowl that I bring out every spring....on the rim of it are the words "Spring offers hope of a new beginning." Every day, every moment offers hope of a new beginning. This season reminds me of that truth.

We are in a new beginning, dearest one and I. Perhaps it is fitting for it to be happening in a season where there's new growth daily. To help bring some sort of closure, to pay homage to our newly empty nest, we went into the city on the spur of the moment (as much spur as living 75 kms from nearest city one can have)Sunday night. What a concept. We stayed overnight, the first time in 22 years we didn't need to tell anyone where we were or when we would be back.

We are both in mourning to a certain extent. Acknowledging how painful this time of transition is. We are thankful we enjoy one another's company. Thankful we started out as friends 30 years ago and time has deepened our bond. He still can make my heart do a flip flop.

With no kids waiting our return and with no hurry to get home we took our time coming home yesterday. Maybe during this season we will come home to ourselves.