Thursday, July 31, 2008

Butt Glue

It's sunny and windy and I am exhausted.
Last day of Catechism classes today.
Last day of the month, too.
A month where I've managed to show up daily to write here.
Some authors call it butt glue.
Get your butt in the chair and show up to the blank page.
Often I type away and then delete it all,
having gotten whatever I need to get out of the way
off my chest.
Other days I run out of time and simply type away and go 'oh well'
and hit the 'publish post button'
Today is like that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Being Me

The last few days I've been leading a women's session at church using resources from this site. These daily meditations have added greatly to my journey and I have several of them saved on my MP3 player. I listen to them at night if I can't sleep. Some of the music is especially soothing and several of the meditations continue to challenge me months after I originally heard them. I decided to use them as a resource to begin discussion in our sessions this week.

It's been nearly 5 years since I facilitated an adult class of any kind. The last time I did and every time before that, I did so with an unhealthy amount of ego and agenda. I had a certain way of viewing the world and more than a bit of disdain for those who weren't as enlightened as I thought I was. Since then I've had several mentors show me what it looks like to not be ego or agenda driven. There is an expanding of oneself that can happen when given the freedom to simply be on the journey without an accompanying judgement that where that is, is inadequate. Everyone has a certain way of viewing the world and I'm feeling less threatened by someone else's point of view.

So this week has been my first experience of not making facilitating all about me. My first experience of being able to accept that these meditations that so feed my soul, might not be everyone's cup of tea. It's been a bit of a surprise find that I can enter in to something like this and not have an agenda or have my ego running the show. I think I'm more comfortable in my own skin than I've ever been. (Skin that is sagging its way to China, but comfy all the same.)

Part of being me is telling relevant bits and pieces of my story when it's appropriate to do so. I did a bit of that yesterday. I wasn't planning to before we started but at one point it seemed to be the next right thing. I then realized these women I worship with every week know next to nothing about my story nor I theirs. I left the church yesterday afternoon having no idea how my sharing was received and didn't give it a second thought. Not having to check and see if I was still okay as a person based on other's reactions is becoming less foreign all the time.

Today one of the women shared in our group time how my candor yesterday had helped her. I smiled and told her I could only do so because I no longer feel shame about those aspects of my journey. I couldn't have known beforehand that sharing these bits and pieces of my story would resonate with any of them. This particular woman has her own story which overlaps some of my own.

I don't know about you, but I have a continual need to know that I am not alone in my humanity. That my struggles are not unique but common. I feel relieved when I feel less alone in the journey. The blog world has helped me in this for sure. But today I feel less alone in my face to face community and for that I am grateful.

The Skillful Master

"The cruel chisel destroys a stone with each cut. But what the stone suffers by repeated blows is no less than the shape the mason is making of it. And should a poor stone be asked, "What is happening to you?" it might reply, "Don’t ask me. All I know is that for my part there is nothing for me to know or do, only to remain steady under the hand of my master and to love him and suffer him to work out my destiny. It is for him to know how to achieve this. I know neither what he is doing nor why. I only know that he is doing what is best and most perfect, and I suffer each cut of the chisel as though it were the best thing for me, even though, to tell the truth, each one is my idea of ruin, destruction and defacement. But, ignoring all this, I rest contented with the present moment. Thinking only of my duty to it, I submit to the work of the skillful master without caring to know what it is."
~ Jean Pierre de Caussade in The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Confuse Me

I've no idea what today will bring.
Do I ever?
I'm praying to approach the day with an open hand and an open mind.
It's much easier and much worse to have a tight grip on my activities and attitudes.
Rigidity comes easier than suppleness.
So today I'm starting out
acknowledging that God is God
and I am not.
I can so easily confuse the two.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ready To Give

"Be prepared at all times for the gifts of God and be ready always for new ones. For God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive."
~ Meister Eckhart

I read the above quote just before heading out to work at Cathechism classes at church today. After only a few hours sleep last night I was not at all enthused about going. My bed felt far too comfortable and my body weary. But I read this and prayed to be open.

We are a very small parish. There are only 3 children who attend Mass with any regularity. So it was wonderful to hear the sounds of over 20 children fill the sanctuary this morning and even greater to see them enthused throughout the day. Many of these children's grandparents or great grandparents were once regular attendees in our parish. Through quarrels and misunderstandings quite a few of their descendants stopped coming and those hard feelings are still festering. Insensitive priests, misunderstandings between parishioners, and who knows what all, lies between the faith of the generations. Only yesterday I heard the story of one family who left the church because of a mean spirited comment made by the priest in the midst of the Mass. A comment he stopped the Mass to make. I don't blame them for walking out 30 years ago and I believe that there comes a day when one has to take responsibility for nursing a grudge for so long.

One of the activities the children did today was to go outside and pick a rock to symbolize how hardened we can let our hearts get. Then they used play dough to make a shape that symbolized a softer heart. During the course of the day I over heard one little girl look resentfully at a group of boys, who were doing their best to make her miserable, and say, "They make my heart so hard." I hear you, sister.

I have my own issues with hardening my heart. Every day is an opportunity to release a bit of that hardness. Today was no exception. After classes were over and I was on to other things, someone commented on one of my glaring character defects while I was in the midst of repeating it for the umpteenth time. I found myself shutting down emotionally lickety split. It wasn't too long before I was sitting in silence and brooding. I thought to myself, "I'm nursing a grudge." My next thought was about how I really had no desire to let go of it....nursing it felt rather good. Then I thought about where nursing a grudge would lead me and I prayed for the courage to let it go.

One of the best pieces of advice I heard in these Joe and Charlie Big Book Study talks was about resentments (step 4). There they say that the original hurt at the hands of someone else - the first time, they did it - no problem - it's only natural and human to feel the hurt. But the second time I replay the situation in my mind, to feel the pain again - I'm doing it to myself now. And every time I replay it I make what they did a little bit worse and what I did a little bit better. This is the way an alcoholic mind works, anyway. The way my mind works.

So I'm in the process of letting go of today's hurt.
Before I shut my eyes tonight I will have worked it through and let it go.
I'm not always so willing to do the next right thing.
But hanging onto my hurt will only harm my recovery.
And I can be stubborn in the weirdest of ways.
Remaining pissed off at someone, while knowing full well that the consequences will do more damage to me than them, is enough motivation today to make the smart choice.
I'm grateful to know that choice exists.
I often don't want to follow through on it.
But I'm still grateful to know it's possible.
Sounds like a gift to me.

Ripped Open

It's the middle of the night and here I am on the page about 6 hours too early. That's going to mess with my day tomorrow. C'est la vie. My compounded tiredness of the week caught up to me and I chose to nap in the early evening. At this moment I'm fully experiencing the relationship between cause and effect.

Yesterday I went to church an hour early and enjoyed sitting in the sanctuary alone. I set up the altar for Mass and then sat in my pew with the lights off. Daylight streamed through the old fashioned single pane windows, keeping me company. It was a very peaceful place to spend time in contemplative prayer. A real stillness settled within me. For once the stillness was bearable and even soothing.

Eventually people started to come in for the Mass. First the priest and then little by little, we gathered. I can always tell when the priest comes in because the first thing he does is turn on the lights. Sometimes I wonder what big city people would think of our relaxed ways out here in the boondocks. The Mass starts when we figure all the regular attenders who are going to show up, do. If that means it starts 5 minutes late then, oh well. If that means there's only three of us, oh well. Today we had 15 or so gathered around the altar for the Eucharist.

One thing I especially appreciate about this priest is his emphasis on a heart relationship with Christ. He often talks about the emptiness of praying, attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments without those things coming out of a heart relationship.

Today, as he was emphasizing that point, I gazed at a statue of the Sacred Heart Of Jesus. Often when I look on it I remember a day when I felt like Jesus told me he wanted my heart open, exposed and touching his. It wasn't a pleasant image - more like my chest had been ripped open and Jesus then grabbed me by the front of my shirt and pulled me close so his exposed heart could mingle with mine. I don't exactly know how the cause and effect of that translates into daily life, but I continue to find that image a comfort, a challenge and something to ponder every time I gaze upon His face.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Feeling The Feelings

Life's given me opportunity in the past 12 hours to put the AA program into solid practice. Thank God a person has options instead of just knee jerk reactions. I can still feel angry mighty fast. There's a saying around the rooms of recovery that the program works if you work it. Last night I felt the anger (got a bit teary, too) and then decided what to do with it. In days gone by, I acted out faster than thunder follows lightning, be that phsyically, verbally, or emotionally. I fought pain with pain.

The sun is kissing my cheek as I type. A hint of rain touched grass is floating in the window. The energizer bunny is sitting here looking at me expectantly like it's a new day or something. There's nothing like a dog to keep a person in the here and now instead of the yesterdays and tomorrows.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

To Have Relationship

Last night I was cooking up a storm for oldest son's stag party today. In less than a month he will marry and I will officially become a mother-in-law. I do hope to not be one of those horror story mother-in-laws. Without recovery I am quite sure I could be.

My own mother-in-law has set me a terrific example. I've often told her that I look up to her in that regard. She has loved me through some rather difficult to love me times. Dearest one's family was my first experience with Christian people and back then I was an atheist and a sarcastic one to boot. I spent a goodly amount of time baiting them and combine that with huge cultural differences, well, let's just say they gave me a first hand lesson of grace in action.

Twenty six years have passed since then and now my mother-in-law and I enjoy a good relationship. She is one of my favourite people to visit with. She is honest about her struggle as a human being and if you ask her a question she'll give an honest answer no matter what it makes her look like. She has a great sense of humour, too. We also share a love of reading. One of the things I love the most about her is her huge capacity for accepting children as children and not as minature adults. She's more likely to laugh at their behaviour than anything. Nothing much fizzes her in that department and I'm grateful.

She's never made me feel wretched for being a terrible housekeeper. I remember her once being in my home when it was a mess and I was worrying out loud about it. She looked around and told me that it was nothing that 15 minutes wouldn't fix and that there was a huge difference between messy and dirty. She knew I'd rather be reading than cleaning and while her culture wouldn't allow the room for her to do that freely, she didn't hold it against me when I simply read instead of cleaned.

She read to her (11!) children every night before bed and because of that tradition I did the same for mine. Even some of the same books. I expect that tradition will be one that will be passed down to the next generation, too. It's such a wonderful tradition.

Last month we worked together in my garden, visiting side by side as we pulled weeds. She kicked off her shoes and walked barefoot as she wielded the hoe, fully enjoying the dirt between her toes. She is nearing 80 now and has leukemia. I've made a point of telling her what I need to....told her how grateful I am for the example she set for me. She tries to protest a bit only because of the inner struggle she had to love and accept me when doing so meant saying farewell to the chance that her son would ever be a member of their ultra conservative church. A church that espouses membership as the only guarantee one will see heaven. So, she let go of a lot in order to have relationship.

The years have mellowed us both.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An Invisible Thread

"The thing about healing is that I have no control over the twists and turns it takes. Don't know what I'm going to feel until it's too late."

I said this through tears to Fr. Charlie yesterday. There are times when 'oh, for fuck's sake' seems far more appropriate than 'glory, hallelujah' to describe the healing process.

A few weeks ago I was writing away - working on an article about women and their struggle with sexual addiction. I was free writing - typing every thing that came to mind, not having a particular direction I was looking for. Often writing is akin to playing for me. I was writing in a "let's see where this will take me" mindset. Playing with fire was more like it because in the midst of this came a paragraph from my own journey. A paragraph that, when I saw it in black and white, left me stunned. It had been 30 years since the incident had happened and seeing it converted from thoughts in my head to words on a page, stopped me in my tracks. It left no room for denial, showing me that despite a black hole in my memory when I was being sexually abused, my response in this particular situation confirmed what the black hole had tried to hide.

Instinctively I knew the paragraph would make an opening paragraph of a book. It's a sick, twisted paragraph but gut honest and pivotal to my story. I promptly printed off everything I'd written, stuffed it into the clear plastic sleeve with other material for the article, and shoved it under a pile of books and papers on my desk.

I haven't looked at it since.

But it's contents have been haunting me.

Yesterday I shared the specifics of that paragraph with Fr. Charlie, the first time I'd spoken of this particular incident to anyone. I couldn't look him in the face as I spoke because I still feel some shame about it. It makes me look more like a whore than anything.

I told him how seeing it all in black and white on the screen had stunned me. How it forced me to face that what I suspected had happened, had. That my involuntary response in the incident showed me that my subconscious knew all along what my conscious mind didn't want to. I could see an invisible little thread tying my whole story together from the sexual abuse to this incident to every other bit of my sexual story. No wonder I felt like I really need a punching bag yesterday. When we talked about forgiveness I told Fr. Charlie that I wanted to beat the shit out of this person first, then I might consider it. He gave me a 'that makes sense' look and left it at that.

We talked about how was I going to honour my story. Fr. Charlie talked about the responsibility to that little girl within me to set her free. Into my mind popped a picture of her coming and sitting in a chair beside my computer. She talks and I type. She isn't sad, she feels important and listened to, and she's ready to tell it all because there's someone willing to listen, to validate her story, to not try and shush her up for speaking the truth.

I looked at Fr. Charlie and told him of the picture in my head.
Then I said, "I can do that."
I don't feel brave, just determined.
It also scares the shit out of me because I have no control over the mix of emotions that may come but I know that until I let her tell her story I will continue to be haunted by that paragraph.

Oh, for fuck's sake.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 617

I'll be on the road today making a 200 mile round trip to see Fr. Charlie.
Some people express surprise when they find out I still see him for spiritual direction despite his move to a different parish. Many people simply move on to another SD when circumstances change.
Next month it will be three years I've been seeing him for sessions.
Maybe other people have an easier time building trust relationships.

I trace where I'm at in my recovery, in my spiritual journey, in large part to the grace of God working through Fr. Charlie. He's listened as I talked around and around in circles. He continued to believe in me long before I was able to do that for myself. In short, he had hope in me while I was still hiding in the shadows. It was in his presence that I first spoke the words 'sexual addiction'. When he didn't die from shock at the phrase, I saw a glimmer of hope that I didn't have to continue living in the shame of that addiction forever. Through many relapses he continued to affirm my journey. I'd sit there all teary over losing 90 days of abstinence, looking backwards as if I was a total failure. He looked at the 90 days of grace and held it up as a beacon of hope that 91 days was possible. I have lost track of the times he has said to me that the truth will set me free. Today is day 617.

I've learned that the sessions where it feels like no progress is being made are just as much a part of the journey as the times when huge 'aha' moments happen. (Kind of like blogging.) I remember phoning him between sessions once to tell him that it all just felt like same shit different piles. That I was wasting my time and his. He replied that going from one pile to the next was still movement. Could you just get as weary of me as I am? I wanted to shout. But he didn't.

So today finds me making a worthwhile journey.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Do You Spell R-e-d-n-e-c-k?

There's a scribbly black line on my kitchen floor courtesy of youngest son.
Let's just say he has strong feelings about the energizer bunny being in the kitchen.
He's trained her to get out of there at his command.

Up until now there's been an invisible line that the dog had to stay on the other side of. Youngest son would say, "out" and she'd obediently walk to the edge of the boundary, turn around and sit there looking at him. She must have been pushing her luck one too many times lately though, because this past week I walked into the kitchen to see a black marker line on the floor clearing up any misunderstanding about where the boundary is. I could tell whoever made it must've been a bit irked because it was made by scribbling back and forth, back and forth all the way across the floor, as if the overlapping wavy lines emphasized the point to stay out of the kitchen.

Too bad Pugs can't read. Well, she does recognize words, we have to spell the word w-a-l-k because she goes beserk if you forget to. She gets all excited that you're going to take her on one otherwise. She looks at you with such eagerness and it's a shame to disappoint her. Youngest son is convinced she's beginning to figure out how the word walk is spelled now, too. But I'm digressing.

I looked at the line and considered having a hissy fit. I wondered how much scrubbing it would take to get the mark off the floor. I was glad youngest son's job this summer has given him stronger arm muscles. Youngest son may complain about living in redneck country but that line looked mighty redneck to me.
I looked at it and at the 35 year old flooring and said to dearest one, "He could at least have used a yardstick and made a straight line."
After all, I am a visual person.
And I left it at that.

That evening dearest one, youngest son and I were standing in the kitchen when the subject of the black line came up. I told youngest son he could've at least used a yardstick and made a straight line. A look of increasing horror contorted his face as he said, "You don't think I made the mark right on the floor did you?"
As my face registered "yes" I peered closer and realized he'd put down a strip of clear medical tape on the floor first and then had scribbled away.

Now his face included a look of "you trained me better than that, Mom"
I laughed more at his outrage than at my assumption.
I was so glad I didn't have that hissy fit.

Wait, there's more.
It doesn't matter if the energizer bunny is over at her food dish or just passing through the kitchen, whenever you say the word "out" her eyes search out the scribbled black line and once she's recognized it she looks back at you to confirm her findings. The best is when she's sitting right at its edge and she drops her head down, as only a Pug can do, well, has to do to see it, and then stares into it's depths.

Don't tell anyone but I'm secretly teaching her to recognize the word redneck.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Solitude and Community

"Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one's self. It is not about the absence of other people -- it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people -- it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone."
~Parker J. Palmer in A Hidden Wholeness

This puts a whole new spin on solitude and community for me. You?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Little Bit Of Grace

The smell of rain kissed grass is wafting in the window as I type.
I'm looking forward to a walk in the gentle rain.
My Bell's Pasly is flaring today.
My chest hurts when I breathe.
I will be glad when allergy season is over.
When my immune system isn't under such constant attack.

Dearest one and I sat up late watching the first six
episodes of Saving Grace, Season One on DVD last night.
It won't appeal to everyone.
Too much sex, swearing,
and humanity.

I wonder if there isn't a little bit of Grace in all of us.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Being Found

He calls a camper his home.
His worldly belongings
divided between the camper
and his vehicle,
he's full of gratitude for his circumstances.
Fully content to be where he is on the journey.
Easily listing all he's grateful for,
right down to the little cat curled up
at his feet every morning.
The cat he tried to leave behind
only to have it find him
again and again.

I watched his peace filled face as he spoke.
Observed warmth, sparkle and peace co-mingling
like a stained glass window
illuminating his soul.
For a split moment
I let it's rays
touch me.

I had arrived at our meeting impatient.
Finding it next to impossible to be present.
Fretting over trying to fit an hour's worth of errands
into the 30 minutes left over before I had to leave town.
Where was I in such a hurry to get to?
A funeral luncheon.

Oh, the irony.

Between my friend's gratitude
and my arrival at the luncheon
I found myself in the grocery store
grumbling over the price of cat food and razor blades.

I can picture my friend
taking pure delight in feeding his little cat every day,
Smiling right up to his eyebrows
at life as it is
right here
right now.
Giving thanks for being found
all over again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Safe Enough

"The people who help us grow toward true self offer unconditional love, neither judging us to be deficient nor trying to force us to change but accepting us exactly as we are. And yet this unconditional love does not lead us to rest on our laurels. Instead, it surrounds us with a charged force field that makes us want to grow from the inside out - a force field that is safe enough to take the risks and endure the failures that growth requires."
~Parker J. Palmer in A Hidden Wholeness

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Room With A View

Dearest one is done working nights.
We are going to spend the day together,
travelling in his car to places north and west.
I love driving with him.
He is fun to be with.
Last night we caught a ride with friends to visit some other friends who were working nearby at a Bible camp.
As I got in the vehicle the door unexpectedly swung closed behind me.
I said, "Watch, dearest one is going to comment that I didn't leave the door open for him."
As soon as I said it, dearest one opened the door, got in and muttered in a half jesting tone, "For pity's sake I even have to open my own door."
We all errupted in laughter.
I told him it was good he was so predictable.
He is fun to be with.
Later on he went for a walk and came back into the dining hall with his hands cupped.
He motioned for me to open my hands to receive what he had to offer.
I hesitated. Was it a grasshopper? A frog?
I got ready to scream.
"Trust me," he said.
Into my hands he dropped two very tiny wild strawberries.
They tasted so sweet on my tongue.

I'm leaning against the wall as I type. Above my shoulder is a small window. Every morning the sun shines on my face as I write these posts. I read once in a book on small spaces about how people often want a bank of windows to look out in their home. The writer challenged the idea and talked about how a view, however small, has a story of its own to offer. A snapshot of sorts. There is a little piece of one of our livingroom windows that was left exposed when we put the air conditioner in. This tiny piece of glass was something I looked through whenever I did a certain yoga pose in my yoga routine. I'd turn and bend and hold the pose. My gaze out the window revealed a sturdy tree trunk and then trees in the distance behind it. I often thought about how I would be watching the changing seasons through this bit of a view. I never spoke of it. It was simply a comfort every time I did that pose.

Then dearest one covered it over with a blue file folder. Blue file folders may fade in the sunshine but they remain static. However small the view out this piece of glass, I looked forward to its stability. When I wash the dishes I look out another small window and observe the fields, the trees and in the distance, a bit of the highway as it curves up the hill. On winter days I can guage the road conditions by how much of the highway's black ribbon is visible. Other times there's a long string of lights and it tells us there's most likely been an accident. Occasionally a huge harvest moon appears for a few moments in all its orange glory as it crests the hill. The same view with subtle changes on a daily basis. All I have to do is open my eyes to see.

Last night we met at the Bible camp a man we used to spend quite a bit of time with when we were new Christians. He and his wife were missionaries nearby, ministering to people who were raised with a different view of Christianity. Hospitable people, rigid, very rigid in their beliefs. I liked rigidity back then. It made me feel safe. Over time that has dissipated. Occasionally I still find myself drawn to it. When that happens I know I am afraid of something. Now I worship in a setting with the very same people this man spent so much of his life trying to convert. Because of this I found myself feeling on guard last night. I realized I was holding my breath and tensing my body. As if ready for flight. Which really says more about me than him. I had to remind myself to breathe, to relax. This morning I wrote in my journal that I needed to give this man the benefit of the doubt. That in the interceding years since we last met that perhaps he has softened his rigid ways, that maybe he's changed as much as I have. I believe the people who I feel the most threatened by are my best teachers. They show me parts of who I am and where I am on my journey. I usually embrace those as opportunities after the fact. In the moment I tend to want to run the other way. I hope that one day I will be settled enough in who I am and where I am that I will embrace whoever I meet.

We all look out our windows and see the same sun, sky and moon.
Depending on where we are in this world, we see them from
a different perspective.
From a different view.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you. I want to see you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It Is Not Always Difficult

"Change is not a miracle. Change doesn't just happen. We have to make it happen. We have to work at it - but it is not always difficult. In fact, sometimes it is so easy that we don't believe that it's possible, we don't believe that we can change. The Buddha is supposed to have said that change is as easy as flipping a coin to the other side. What I believe is that if you want to change, you will change.
Maybe you are a little skeptical, and you feel like the wife and mother who went on a weekend workshop retreat and came back and told her family, "I had such a great weekend. I had breakthrough experiences. I gained all these wonderful insights." Then, looking at her family, she said, "But what's the use? None of you have changed."
If you really do experience change, trust that your family will change toward you, and if you truly embody the change, the world will change with you." ~ Paul Coutinho, SJ in How Big Is Your God?

The Shortest Path

"Many things in life are beyond our control. We can do very little about the weather, natural calamities, sickness, and so many things that happen in our lives. Often we see things as hardships, as unfair situations. But we do have the power to decide how we will respond to situations beyond our control. One effective response is the Serenity Prayer........Or we may use the Eastern way of looking for the divine presence in the unexpected. The Bible begins by telling us that in the beginning there was chaos and confusion all over the world, and God hovered over this chaos and out of it brought forth a new and beautiful creation. When my life is chaotic and I find it difficult to understand what is happening, let me allow the divine spirit to hover over my darkness, and let me wait for the new and the beautiful to spring forth in my life. Chaos is often the shortest path to our spiritual core. ~ Paul Coutinho, SJ in How Big Is Your God?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


A new day.
The sun rests on my face as I type.
Opportunities not yet known.
I can do this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

That Place Within

I'm sitting here wearing the same toque I wore for my morning walk and it's nearing bedtime. I never got it together to have a shower and carry on after I came in from outside. Dearest one is working the night shift and that often curbs my daytime activity. Not that I need a reason. Tonight is his first night shift and I've been mostly inactive for days already. A combination of that inactivity that is fully interior with the outer kind that means the newspaper's gathering dust on the floor and the laundry hamper is overflowing.

Today I remembered something I've heard in an AA meeting more than once: "pray for guidance, then do whatever's in front of you." It was said in response to some one's "paralysis by analysis". I think I fit that category. Paralyzed by thinking, over thinking. Even over thinking why I can't seem to put together a blog post that comes from that place within - that place which seems just beyond my reach at the moment.

Remembering to do the next thing in front of me means the day's dishes are drying on the counter instead of piled by the wayside. Doing the next thing in front of me - that seems realistic and possible no matter how hard it is to shut off my brain. I've been in a funk for how many weeks now? Many. I don't have a clue what the answer is other than to simply accept this is where I'm at and to remind myself it's not a permanent state.

"Pray for guidance, then do whatever's in front of you."

I was grateful I rememebered that saying this afternoon. Having the dishes washed as a result feels good.

Grace In The Moment

I found this quote on someone's blog (sorry for not remembering who's):

"God gives grace for the situation, not the imagination."

As someone who tends to make a big deal of things in my head beforehand I really like this quote. It reminds me that grace is found in the present.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Talking Statistics

Dearest one is in the other room working on Statistics.
I'm pretty sure he thinks Statistics is the spawn of Satan.

We slept in this morning after having a full day yesterday.
We saw our niece exchange vows with her beloved.
It was a small wedding in her faith community's terms.
That means it was less than 400 people.
We sat with family and enjoyed their company.
I visited with different women, some of dearest one's aunts,
people I don't usually see unless there is a family function.
It was good.

My journey to becoming comfortable within this cultural circle
has been long and winding.
That I can simply be myself is a gift.
Which is a far, far cry from my days as a newlywed
when I hadn't the foggiest idea of how different
dearest one and I had been raised.
Pure culture shock.
I went from living in a city apartment
to a 10 x 20 bunk shack with no running water.
A five gallon pail served as a bathroom.

Despite our path going in a different direction than his family's
I do take comfort in living in a community
where dearest one's last name is widely known.
Where his family has lived for over 50 years now.
Yesterday another woman and I stood talking about dearest one
and her husband's common family trait of being able to
strike up a conversation with anyone.
That the journey from the table to the car would no doubt be
stalled by countless conversations along the way
and the possibility of an hour's delay at least.

We left the building together
and when I turned to talk to dearest one
he was in another conversation
back on the front steps.
This is the way of most of the men in his family.
It used to drive me batty
in the days when I took it personally.
Today I take comfort that it is a trait passed down from
generation to generation.

Now if only Statistics could talk.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Losing Something

"Because our stories make us vulnerable to be being fixed, exploited, dismissed, or ignored, we have learned to tell them guardedly or not at all. Neighbours, coworkers, and even family members can live side by side for years without learning much about each other's lives. As a result, we lose something of great value, for the more we know about another person's story, the harder it is to hate or harm that person.
~Parker J. Palmer in A Hidden Wholeness

I'm sitting here this morning wondering if the truth of the above quote sums up why I blog anonymously. Why many of you know more about my journey, about who I am at my core, than the person who sits next to me at church.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pitiful Hope

Thank God his mercies are new every morning.
It's very tempting to not post when I'm in
that head space that makes me feel like a pitiful
example of hope.
Yet to avoid posting then would violate
my belief that we need to know other human beings
are as human as we are.
It's one of the reasons I blog as I do.
And so I let you know.
For those of you who emailed, left a comment,
prayed for me, or simply listened,
thank you.

I read this morning in one of my daily readings
that whining is self pity pushed through a very small hole.
It comes as a result of not taking responsibility for one's life.
As a result of falling back into victim mode.
God help us all.

I spent time yesterday figuring out some things.
Took some action as a result.
Life seems more manageable this morning.
Stepped out of victim mode and took responsibility
for my own life again.

Stopped apologizing to myself
for having needs.
Stopped getting wound up about things
that instead needed me to take action.
When I let myself stay immobilized
I lean back into the numbness
as if it is a gift.
What a lie.

The fog has lifted for today.
Thanks be to God.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Gift In Disguise

I am close to a full blown self loathing melt down.
I keep typing and deleting the whole shebang here.
What would I say if I was in a meeting right now?
I need help.
I know the journey is worth it.
It just doesn't feel that way today.
I know my feelings are not a permanent sentence.
But dang, I wish they'd pass.
Thank God I have a place
where I can come and share.
Where people will love me
in the moment
no matter what the moment looks like.

That a risk taken
may be a gift in disguise.
I'd really like to believe that.
But I have to take the risk first.

Last night I came to some conclusions
about what the next right thing is for me to do.
I remembered a conversation with a friend
from 15 years ago.
She told me I'd been talking about the same thing
for as long as she'd known me.
I remembered being startled at
how much time had passed.
To find I was still talking
and not taking action.

When I spoke of my angst last week
with Fr. Charlie he simply reminded me
that until the answers came to keep
putting one foot in front of the other on the path.
I gritted my teeth slightly at his suggestion.

I look forward to the day when
I accept life on life's terms
more easily than
"let's have ourselves a little crisis, shall we?"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Will I?

Will I show up for my own life?
That's the question that's hounding me of late.

Showing Up Part Three

Dearest one and I both had appointments in town today.
When we woke up neither of us felt like
going through the motions of getting ready and heading out the door
for a 150 km round trip.
Energizer bunny looked sad that we were going away.
But here we are.
Tired, but here.

In therapy today I looked at a list of questions
about the process of zoning out in the midst of my day.
I think it is so second nature to me to do so that to
identify when I'm doing it is going to take some work.
Never mind assessing what I do not only in my head but in my body
when I check out of the present moment.

No wonder I've had such a struggle
with being disciplined
in contemplative prayer.
But this is the second week
of consistently showing up for those 20 minutes set aside
to be present in the moment.
I used to look at the timer when I'd sat for 10 minutes.
Often feeling like they were the longest 10 minutes of my life.
Now I look when there's anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes left.
Being quiet, being present, being open.
Who would have thought it would be so hard.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Walking The Walk

It's been a day. A good day. I went to the funeral of my friend who passed away last week. He was a cradle Catholic and was really good friends with a group of men from the Mennonite Church close by. My friend's funeral, held at the Catholic Church, was a wonderful celebration. The music ministry from the Mennonite church really blessed us with meaningful music. The priest led the service and turned it over to the Pastor of the Mennonite Church after the Gospel reading. This Pastor acknowledged what an honour it was to preach in the Catholic Church and was grace filled, loving and gentle spirited. He is a man my husband grew up with, his father a man my husband had the greatest respect for. He said nothing that was contrary to Catholic belief. I am convinced there is more that unites than divides us and I am grateful this pastor focused on that.

A few weeks ago at a different funeral, a Protestant Pastor got up to say his piece towards the end of a Catholic funeral, time courteously given him by the priest and at the request of a few family members. Time with which he then ran roughshod over the message that had been preached. Correcting people's faulty perspective. There's a certain rudeness about doing something like that that irks the daylights out of me. I don't know about you but words don't speak to me near as much as actions do. What's that saying? Your actions speak so loudly I can't hear what you're saying. Advice I need to take to heart as well. Sigh. Excuse me while I take the log out of my eye.

Today, the priest went out of his way to explain the order of the Mass without apologizing for it, nor making people uncomfortable if they were unfamiliar with what came next. Here's how we do as Catholics and here's the meaning behind this symbol or that one. I've rarely seen such inclusivity without apologizing for the differences. No watered down Catholicism, no dissing one another's faith communities. The mutual respect was beautiful to see.

My friend's life touched many people. He let the Holy Spirit guide him and more than half the people attending raised their hands when asked if they had prayed one on one with my friend. He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk.

At the luncheon afterwards I was able to connect with a friend whose husband is undergoing chemotherapy, his second round tomorrow. It was good to talk and honour her tears as they overflowed. Tears of all that is unsettled within her. In the circles we know each other in there have been several deaths and diagnoses of cancer lately. She knows firsthand that no one is immune to suffering. It's a painful road of transformation for her right now. I don't know how her story will end. She is still raising young children and is also a grandmother. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I wonder....

This day feels like its been 40 hours long.
In other words I am bored.
I'm headed out to mow grass
for lack of something better to do.

Eons ago I trained as a journalist.
I learned to write about whatever I was asked to.
I've forgotten stuff like how to craft
a grammatically correct sentence.
But I still know how to write about whatever someone suggests.

All that to say your questions would be
more than welcome.
From the ordinary or humourous to the serious.
I've let you in on some pretty intimate
moments in my life.
Ask me what you'd like.
I'll do my best to entertain you with the answer.

A Keeper

If I turn my head to look out the window
the sun shines directly on my face.
I love sunshine.

Last night I went to a bridal shower
for one of my nieces.
On dearest one's side of the family we have
over 35 nieces and nephews.

This niece is one of my favourites.
Her wedding is this coming Sunday.
I wrote her a little card to go with my present:

"Dear Niece,

I spent some time looking online for a wise quote
about marriage that I could share with you.
Eventually I decided that with 26 years
of marriage under my belt maybe there was something
from my own years that would do.
I have always held onto those wonderful qualities
I saw in dearest one when we first met.
Basically, he's a good man.
That has held me steady through all these years.
The good you see in your own dearest one today
will always be there no matter what life holds for you
together as a couple."


I sat beside a stranger last night.
I'm not big on social gatherings.
Give me one person to talk to and I'm fine.
Conversing in a group is another story.

As this new to me person and I chatted
I was able to simply listen to her
without trying to fix her or give her any advice.
People, that is a record.
No, wait, it's a miracle.
I can be so opinionated.
Yet, last night I found myself able to speak my truth
without having an agenda about her own.
She has a certain bitterness about her.
Lots of emotional pain for where her journey's brought her.
It was new for me to gently hold open space for her to share
without trying to change her direction at all.
In the end I simply liked her.
Her bitterness and hard edges
didn't stand in the way of that.
It left me wondering if liking people
isn't more about where I'm at than about who they are.

The shower was held outside.
I was dressed for an indoor one.
Which meant I came home with cold, cold feet.
One of dearest one's wonderful qualities
is that my cold feet on his bare skin
is something he will put up with.
Normally we end up laughing or tussling.
Well, no, when it's his cold feet
on my bare skin I scream and carry on
as if his cold feet will be the death of me.
There's only so much bed to get away from him in.
He has long legs, too.
Either way we eventually end up laughing
about it and snuggling close.
The man really is a keeper.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Seeping Through

Dearest one and I live in a 35 year old house trailer.
It's not going to last another 35 years.
We're looking at what to do when we replace it.
Looking at our values, what's important to us.
At this point in our lives we don't want to
accumulate a huge amount of debt.
Originally we hoped to replace it with a 10 year old trailer.
But the rise in real estate prices here
make their price tag not much different
than a brand new one.

We've talked about building a house.
Do most of the work oursleves.
Do we want the stress of that?
And the cost?

We don't have to make a decision overnight.
Which is a nice position to be in.
But with 2x4 walls and windows that rattle
when the washer does its spin cycle
eventually we need to do something.
Back up heat with a wood stove is nearly
a necessity in our harsh winters.

I heard someone say
values aren't believed,
they're lived.
That sentiment has stuck with me.
What I live is what I believe.
Neither have I been so challenged
to look at what I'm living
since hearing the Gospel preached
Sunday after Sunday these past 3 years.

I was hashing this all out
with my mom last night.
What to do. What to do.
At one point I told her
that when a person dies
it really doesn't matter
what kind of house they lived in.
She replied that people don't think like that anymore.
Not that it was a new thought to her
only an old thought renewed.

I remember going to a home
a good 15 years ago
that was ramshackle.
Yellowed newspapers piled 3 feet high.
Plywood floors.
Old, old worn out furniture.
Part of me felt repulsed.
Yet as I was feeling that
the thought came into my head,
"love lives here."
The people knew how to love.
They lived it.
I knew it.
There was no cutesy little wooden sign over the door
that announced 'love lives here'
love simply seeped through their pores
and into ones soul.

My soul.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ain't No Sunshine

Typing this is the limit
to my spoons.
Lifting my arms to wash my hair right now
seems like too much of an effort.

Hopefully as the day goes on
my energy will increase.
Sometimes it works like that.
I just can't predict when.

The energizer bunny is snoring gently at my feet.
She snored between us all night in bed.
If you'd asked me a year ago
if I'd ever let a dog sleep in my bed
My face would have said it all.

Last night an inch of rain
fell on our hay crop which is
lying in swaths in the field.
The rain was sorely needed in general.
Just not on our hay.

I was talking to only daughter as it rained.
Several times the phone crackled as lightning struck.
I remembered hearing a tale from when I was young
of someone killed while talking on the phone
during a thunderstorm.
After one loud crack that nearly disconnected
the phone line between us
we agreed to end our conversation.

Seven weeks from today
my parents and sisters
will be at my house for supper.
In the 28 years since I left home
it will be a first to have
them here together.
Only the fourth time my parents
have ever been to my home.

Oldest son is getting married in
seven weeks less a day.
I watched as his bride to be
tried on her wedding gown last week.
She looked beautiful.

Despite my lack of energy today
it still holds the promise of being a good day.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hard Fought

My friend with the 30 year medallion passed away last night.
I can't get our last conversation out of my head.
He knew he had a lesion but no biopsy results yet.
He said he hoped his time wasn't up,
he wanted to be around for a while yet.
That was less than two months ago.

A week ago his wife asked for prayers
that he wouldn't linger long.
That they both wished for his time to come quickly.
I imagine this past week has felt
both exceedingly long
and exceedingly short.

I rarely pray farther than
"Thy will be done" anymore.
To some that probably sounds lame,
as if I don't expect anything from God.
To me that prayer is simply
acknowledging that God's God and I'm not.
I don't know what God's will is.
For me. For you. For anyone.
I can so quickly get my will
and God's screwed right up.
As if I know what's best
for me. For you. For anyone.
I don't.

I do believe that God is with me
in whatever my life's circumstances may be.
I don't have to like those circumstances.
Sometimes I sit here, look at what is and
think, "Oh, for fuck's sake."
As if I'm on a merry go round
for which there is no stop button.

But whatever is happening today
is not permanent.
It just is.
I take comfort in believing
that Jesus hunkers down with me
in both the worst
and the best of days.

It's easy to type that right now
because this is not the worst of days.
I've had a few of them though.
I'm thinking of this day in particular.
That day will always be a defining moment in my life.
Where the rubber met the road when it came to my faith.
Where I had to decide whether God was with me in the midst of such anguish
or I was left on my own to blindly make my way through.
I don't know what the future holds for me
any more than my friend knew his two months ago.
Hope is a hard fought word for me.
It would not be my favourite word
without the worst of days.

Rest in peace my friend.

Showing Up Part Two

Darn. I've had to enable comment moderation and not let anonymous commenters do their thing. So you may need to set up a blogger account if you still want to comment. First I lost the previous post to delete the 100 comments, then I found it again sans comments. Such is life.

It's Saturday.
Dearest one and I are headed to town.
He to work on his Statistics course.
Me to go to my home group AA meeting.
I have never heard anyone say they enjoyed Statistics.
More like it's a course to be endured.

I think I'm getting the far better deal today.
Then again, I think that nearly every day of my life.
I rarely want someone else's life.
At least with my own I know what I'm dealing with.
In AA there is a saying about the danger of
comparing our insides to another's outsides.
What you see is rarely what you get if swapping sides was possible.
I'll take my own issues over someone else's anyday.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Showing Up Part One

There's a freshness wafting in the window as I type.
A thunder shower went through a little while ago.
A nice reprieve from the 30C weather of late.
My rain barrel was getting low.
The tic tic tic of the sprinkler
went back and forth
over the garden just this morning.
Dearest one set it at one point
so that I would be in its rainbow like arc.
So like him.
So like me to screech and run away.
I couldn't help but laugh.

I spent some time playing with
my skip it
before I went to bed last night.
I always smile big
as I make it go around and round.
Play is good for my soul.

It's been a slow lazy day.
A nice way to start the weekend.
Today is day 6 in a row of
contemplative prayer.
I just show up and do it.
Who knows what difference it's making.
I try not to analyze it.
Perhaps the only area of my life where I don't.

It's been a good week.
Much more even keel than last week.
Even keel feels better than helter skelter.
But the whole journey is to be embraced.
Not just the parts that suit me.

Here I am on the journey.
Here I am.
Such a small word

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Shifts Are Happening

This afternoon I had a session with Fr. Charlie.
We sat in the coolness of a basement room
and visited for 2 hours.
We laughed quite a bit.
We shared back and forth.
We sat in silence, too.

As I reflect on the session
I see I need to relax and simply
be where I am on the journey.
Shifts are happening within me
and I need to let them work themselves out.
Or rather in.
There's no hurrying the process.

There is no end to the areas in my life
where I will go look for distraction
rather than be present.
I had my eyes opened
to a whole new area today.
I don't feel discouraged
but I do feel surprised.

That void that only can be filled
with His life
I often try to be fill
with other things.

Fr. Charlie rarely has answers for me,
Just questions.
Pokes and prods my soul.
Stays out of the way
while the answers take
their own sweet time to surface.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Such is Life

A lone bird sings as I sit here and type next to the open window.
Soon the heat will descend like a blanket just warm from the dryer.
Closed windows, the air conditioner running will soon be the order of the day.
The forecast is for 30C today.

Yesterday dearest one was able to get all the hay cut
and it's lying in lush thick swaths drying in the sun.
Allgeric to every blooming(literally) thing out there
My time outside is limited these days.

I did however just come in from weeding the garden.
As I weeded I looked up and saw a doe at the edge of the field.
Her bambi was a casualty of the hay bine yesterday.
It's instinct to lie still and close to the ground
made it impossible to see nestled in the tall hay.

A few days ago dearest one and I went for our morning walk.
Energizer bunny came along.
Right now she's running around the lawn and barking at
imagined or real critters in the bush.
Anyway as we were walking we came upon fresh bear scat.
We both took a quick look around
but the bear was already out of sight.
Every other day or so it leaves its droppings on the side of the road
letting me know we share the same daily route.

When we were newlyweds dearest one and I applied for a homestead.
There were still such things to be had back then.
My only caveat was that if a bear ran across our hoped for land
the deal was off.
As we entered the boundary of the land
a black bear ran across in front of us.
Such is life.
Actually when we sat down and figured out how much money
it would cost to go from a bush quarter
to a farm that would bring a return
we withdrew our application.

There have been many homes since then.
Now we're settled on 80 acres of hayland.
Dearest one is happiest when he's on a tractor.
He calls it his therapy.

A few more birds have joined the chorus outside.
A few vehicles in the distance can be heard, too.
It's early in the day yet.
One full of hope.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Power of Choice

I stopped self sabotaging myself yesterday.
Recently one of my friends talked about how sobriety
gave him the power of choice back.
Yesterday I took a good look
at what direction my choices were taking me.
Where I was headed if I kept on feeding my feelings,
looking for distraction, avoiding doing the hard work.
Did I really want to return to that place?
Where self loathing and shame
were my closest companions?
By the grace of God I reached for help
out of the miry clay.
Which put me squarely back in the now.
Today finds me doing the next right thing.
Where I'm grateful for the power of choice.
I wrote in my journal this morning
for the umpteenth time
"I can do this."