Saturday, June 29, 2013

Looking Into The Void

"God is good."

The thought slips into my mind and catches me off guard. As I let the thought settle in me tears prick at the corners of my eyes. It's been so long since I had a thought like that.

I'm heading out of town for work and that thought - the one where I realize some calamity could befall me on the road - pushes me to send Dearest One a text. "I hope you know that I think our life is about perfect." He sends me a text back that lets me know he agrees. There is a contentedness between us - born from all that these past eight months have held - that feels deep and true.

I saw my grief counsellor this past week. I came away from the appointment knowing that I will think up a ritual to help me let go of the old God Of My Understanding and make room for the new. I told my counsellor that even though my belief system seems to be shot to smithereens there is a stillness within me that I've never experienced before.

I cried with recognition when I read the following from this book:

"The present world we live in does not have much use for God as a living reality. It finds a dead God who can be used to justify dead systems more manageable. That is why the path of contemplation is so difficult - because to walk that path we have to come to the edge of those myths which give our lives meaning and look down into the nothingness surrounding them. (emphasis mine) 
Only in contemplation, when we spend time in this nothingness, do we discover that this nothingness is really the mystery we call God.... 
To live in that radical insecurity is painful, because we not only lose a way, we lose even the name of the way. We lose all sense of direction. We are lost in the dark.....
We can only wait in that darkness beyond a particular broken myth until our perspective changes, until our attitudes change, until we come to the lived awareness of how conditional our existence is.... 
We have a hunger for what we do not know. That hunger not only takes away the myths by which we organize reality. It also takes away even the desire for knowledge, for knowledge is now seen to be ineffectual against our need. At this stage, even the wisdom of the wise does not help."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Speck Of Redemption

"Have you thought of writing a lament to God?"

Another woman, at the same gathering as the first, is asking me this after I share with her that I can hardly stand a single comment from anyone about how God is working in situations. She is a longtime friend and also a spiritual director. She suggested writing a lament after we were both present when someone else shared how the seeming manifestations of God were evident in a situation. My face feels like it's cracking when I try to smile in these kinds of conversations.

Dearest One and I talk on the way home about whether or not we are a blight on God's witness by not being able to cheer with people when they feel God is at work because all we can think of is our two friends who died by suicide within a day of each other and this short time later we still feel like we are walking around in a daze wondering where was God in that situation? If God can find us a parking space why can't God step in and prevent such deaths? Why didn't He?

I know there are no answers to my questions.
I know that.
I also have to trust that there is something to be said for wrestling with the questions. There is a part of me that whispers within, telling me to stuff this all down and put on a happy face and pretend I am in a different space than I find myself in. And it's not that I'm not happy. I am finding little joys daily and I am wrestling with my beliefs daily. My sponsor helped me see the other day that it was my beliefs not my faith that has been rocked off its foundation.

Lament To God

Good Friday - the day You hung from a tree
he hung from a tree, too.

It makes me want to scream.

I remember looking at her face as the pain of losing him had etched itself deep in the space of 24 hours.
Her shoulders shook with emotion and I reached out to hug her
knowing that my hug could do nothing to bring him back.

Later that day she joined him.

Fucking trees.

I hear stories from friends.
The one who put her trusted revolver to her head
and pulled the trigger only to have it not go off.
She had fired it often
it had always come through for her
whether she was scaring someone off
or intending to wound.
This time it didn't.
She lived to tell me.
And gives God the glory.

I so wanted these two to live to tell the story, too.
To find a speck of redemption somewhere.
And You who created the heavens and the earth.
Who can do anything.
It feels like You did nothing.

Except I know that you knelt and cradled them to your bosom,
enveloping them in the love they craved their whole life long.
I pound the steering wheel until my hands are bruised.
Why was it only in death that they found what they craved in life?
For God's sake - why?

"A failure of love"
reverberates in my head
like a needle stuck on a record.
Around and around it goes.

How long will I weep?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

God Is?

"God is in control of everything." She's standing just inches from my face and her face radiates joy. I tell her that that is of no comfort to me.

She tells me surely it must be a comfort! I reply that maybe one day but not now. I can't even begin to tell her why it is of no comfort. I've opened myself up to so much already just by disagreeing with her. She turns to the woman beside me and they talk about other things that they also are so sure of when it comes to God. I decide to look at my feet because I don't want to give any indication that I am in agreement. It also helps me keep my mouth shut tight. Conversations like this make me want to scream.

I've made it through the evening in the company of many people we used to go to church with before we became Catholic. A church that held a Sunday School class on cults after we left and included in that teaching was Catholicism. That makes me want to scream, too.

It's a wonder I was honest with this woman. She's probably forgotten the Sunday, when I was still trying to go to both churches in an effort to support my sons whose friends were all there, when she remarked to someone while right in front of me that what could ever be wrong with the gospel that I'd have to go 'there' to church. It's a reminder to me that what I see and the conclusions I come to are just that. My conclusions. Not the truth. But man, it stung.

She had stood just inches from me telling me who God is at a celebration of mutual friends' reaching milestone birthdays. I'd looked forward to the evening, to good visiting. Despite our veering off in a different direction and the misunderstanding of those we used to fellowship with, I still can visit about a myriad of other things and enjoy myself a lot. They are good and decent people. They mean well. Generations of belief that Catholicism is not only downright wrong but perhaps evil cannot be changed in one conversation. I have reminded myself more times than I can count that my only recourse over the years is to live out my belief. And I'm aware, more these past 8 months than ever, how poorly I do that.

There are many things I do cherish about my time amongst these people. They loved me when I was a brand new Christian and forgave me for much spoken out of turn and in mockery and bluntness. They watched me grow and cheered me on. They were long suffering and extended grace upon grace. Which is perhaps why it bothered me so much to be judged when I became Catholic because it was as if they had to forget all they knew about me because my choice made no sense to them. No doubt, no doubt, I do that, too.

I'd told God on the way to the party that perhaps I was done being mad at Him and would go to church on Sunday. I haven't been to Mass in a very, very long time. Why? Because there is no getting around God when presented with the Eucharist. Opening myself up to It renders me completely vulnerable. Several months ago I  told God, ' sorry I can't open myself up to you right now because if I do I am going to start sobbing and won't be able to stop.'  You know, that snot inducing ugly crying? There's no place to hide that level of emotion in our little church in the boondocks when there are only 10 other people present. In the past long while I've guarded myself every time I've been lector at Mass, unwilling to be undone by reading Scripture in front of anyone.

My plan for today is to go to Mass really early. Our little church in the boondocks has a key we all have access to. I will sit in its cool interior on this hot summer day and have a heart to heart with the God of my understanding. Who, if He is in control of everything, sure fucked a lot of things up.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Scapegoating Unaware

Yesterday was my first six month post cancer check up. I sat in the waiting room and thought about all the people who would be getting bad news that day and felt grateful that it wasn't me. I shared that with the doctor when I saw him. He's seen me through the worst of the tamoxifen/cancer related depression and my inability to find a speck of gratitude so he knows a glass half full is improvement.

A friend of mine in recovery told me last week how he accidentally broke the turn signal handle off his car the second time he was diagnosed with cancer because he was so rattled by the news. He's a crusty old bugger with a warped sense of humour and a deep well of compassion, too. I only winced when he told me on parting that I was stronger than cancer. I decided to let it go. Maybe he has to tell himself that in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other after having faced cancer several times.

I've been back at work for nearly three weeks now. Mostly I have been observing myself in relation to others. Grateful for the moment when the word 'detach' popped into my head while a co worker was sharing some work related drama. There is a lot of scapegoating happening and I keep reminding myself that people cannot scapegoat in awareness. I've stopped myself several times from getting up from my desk and whining to others about the person being scapegoated. I come home and tell Dearest One about the times I was tempted to say this or that and we talk about zipping our lips and stepping back from the drama. He's told me some hard things about my attitude towards the person being scapegoated which come from his years of working in a professional environment. There's something to  his wisdom that shuts up every 'but, but, but......" within me. It is good.

In our personal lives we are involved with people right now who thrive on drama which usually includes the police every single week. I have detached there as much as possible because the drama is exhausting and just hearing about it is draining. When I did not engage in the drama with my coworker I heard her later telling someone else the same story. I know that feeling. I had to ask myself if that's what I sound like when I go over and over whatever my personal drama is at the moment. Most likely. The best thing I've done about that lately is to have self compassion.

I came away from my doctor's appointment yesterday with a requisition for a bone scan to make sure that the new hip pain I've been experiencing is not metastatic cancer. Neither the doctor or I think it is but he's being safe and I appreciate that. It's most likely a symptom of the anti estrogen medication I'm on. It was a bit of a shock to the system to see the word metastatic on the yellow piece of paper and a reminder of all that I have no control over.

The scapegoating at work and the whining I'm attracted to is like a metastatic disease in itself.   I have total control over not spreading that disease any further. It's become my main prayer as I drive to work every day.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Slivers Of Grace

"I'm sorry you are questioning your faith."

"Oh, I don't think it's a bad thing," I say with a smile.

I believe that even though I'm at a teenager level of angst about how God does or doesn't work these days. And even though I find myself wanting to still, still, be a superhero when it comes to all things faith wise, I feel like I'm dragging my super hero cape behind me like a deflated balloon on a string.

Who knows, maybe I will let go of the string one day or at least become comfortable with the tension between my ego's need for hero status and my soul's desire for what? I want to write communion with God but don't even know if that's it.  This spiritual journey is about being nothing more and nothing less than who I am, where I am, in the here and now. That's who I am when I pray. Well, God, here I am in the fullness of my humanity. 

The conversation at the beginning of this post happened a few weeks ago after I shared at a meeting. I wasn't totally comfortable sharing that my faith has been shaken to bits because I knew I was risking people coming up to me afterwards and telling me how to fix it. The man who was sorry I was questioning my faith was totally sincere in his concern. The most comforting thing someone did was give me a hug and talk about how we learn compassion on this journey of recovery. He was someone I thought would try to block my pain with advice so it felt like a possible sliver of grace when he didn't.

How long will it be before I can once again say the word grace without feeling like I am trampling on the lives of those whose journeys seemed devoid of grace and for those of us whose journeys zig zag all over the place without much to go rah-rah about?

Decades ago, when I was searching out a relationship with God, a minister asked me what I thought about God's grace. I had no idea that the word could even mean anything other than something my grandma said before Christmas dinner. Decades later I find myself cringing any time someone tells me how God's grace was at work. They say it with such conviction that I alternately pity them and stand amazed at their certainty. I so want to shout at them but what about this person or that person's story? Where was God's grace then? Where was the neat and tidy all wrapped up in a box ending? Huh? Huh? I wonder if we know when and how God's grace appears.

And so I find myself shying away from any mention of God's grace in my own story or anyone else's. I wonder then if I am a shoddy witness with my silence?

It's not a bad thing to question my faith but it sure can be uncomfortable feeling like God has slipped through the grasp of my certainty.

Friday, June 14, 2013


My BRCA 1 and 2 test came back negative. This news felt like getting the last piece of information in a very long journey. It's such a huge relief to know I am not passing this on to the next generation. And I'm sure it's a relief to my mom that even though she's had breast cancer (twice!) I did not get it through genetics. I know - as if a person can do anything about their genetics  - as if it's in one's control but still, I'm relieved. That and the geneticist laid out what my reality would most likely be had the test come back positive. I don't blame Angelina Jolie one bit for being proactive after she tested positive. 

I've felt such anger towards the surgeon who has told me repeatedly that sure, mistakes were made but had they not happened and if certain other things hadn't happened then my story could be a whole lot different than it is today. I have felt an undercurrent of  "so be happy and grateful and if you feel those other feelings, then you aren't grateful and shame on you."  to his words. It could very well be that we just have the same chatter going on in our heads and well, I can guilt trip myself without any outside help, okay? I have wanted to tell him look, could you just listen to me without telling me how I should feel? Feeling my feelings through this journey has been my biggest triumph. Much scarier than putting on a brave face and faking it for the sake of those around me.

The day after I got the latest test results I thought to myself, mistakes were made and had not things happened after that then your story could be turning out so differently than it is. I checked and couldn't find an ounce of  internal pressure  or a sense of  "I should feel this". I felt no emotional charge, instead I felt calm. And grateful. Who knew?

It was a shock and a relief to feel something genuinely positive. I have not felt a whole lot of gratitude through this journey. It's been a blow to my ego not to qualify for a gold star poster child award. I've heard people eulogized lately who have died from cancer as people who never complained and were always other centered.  I think to myself, well - that won't ever be my story. And there's a part of me that really wants it to be. I did chuckle while reading an obituary the other day that said that so and so would be remembered for their lack of patience and their love of cooking. Mine might be something to the effect of being remembered for her vocal opinions and love of dark humour. 

After I reflected on the surgeon's words the next thing that popped into my head is that I owe it to - I don't know - God - my fellow human beings - myself? to make the most of this life I have. I don't know what that looks like and I have no intention of being anyone other than myself while I do it. But I am trying to not take what is before me for granted.