Sunday, March 26, 2017

Respect Life and Death

One of the greatest sorrows of my life was the loss of my last and second baby through an ectopic pregnancy. I made the surgeon wait until the hormone levels were down and the baby was "dead" before I let them "remove" her.  And it hurts just to type that.  She was my baby and I loved her, if only for a few short weeks.  I miss her in my life.

Among all the tragedies of the loss of that baby was that I was not allowed or given her "tissue," her body.  It was disgarded with medical waste I suppose.  It hurts to write that too.  But, I know and believe that if God chooses to call her body at the resurrection on the last day, it won't matter if the pieces of her are scattered.  With God all things are possible.

Recently I sat in a group of women discussing death and burial.  Some wanted to be cremated and a couple wanted to have their ashes scattered someplace.  Even though the Church doesn't allow that, they didn't think Jesus would mind.  I kept quiet because I didn't know exactly what to say to all of that and nobody was asking me directly.  But, I have thought a lot about it since then.

The thing is, although I believe God can and will reunite pieces of a scattered body like my daughter's, I don't believe He intended for us to treat the body that way.  The danger of cremation is that the body becomes a "thing," just an object to do with as you please.  It loses the sacredness that the body belongs to God and that body and soul will be reunited on the last day.  And while, of course God can reunite all the pieces, I can't see anything that makes me see that God wants us to treat the body like a party balloon or some sort of toy.  Bury the body to reverence it, to show respect.

Sometimes it seems to me that people in our headstrong generation are ready to throw out the "rules" without even asking the question of an authority who could give a reasonable answer.  Instead, some of us write the rules ourselves based on wants and feelings.  The Church and our tradition can point us toward good right order, what is best for us, what God intended.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Lenten Journey, Good So Far

Last night I went to a presentation (lecture?) by an academic priest (is there such things?) on Who Killed Jesus that was held at my new parish.  There are 2 more programs in the session.  It was truly fascinating.  He talked about the various sects in Judaism and the political and geographical and sectional influences in Jesus' day.  I learned so much (and he assigned us homework).  It is great to have someone who knows tell you things instead of reading books that have more details than I really wanted to know.  This priest was a good storyteller and he knew his facts, so it was very interesting. 

Sunday evening isn't the best time for many people to go out to a program.  I totally understand that.  People with school children usually have a lot of odds and ends to finish up on a Sunday evening.  But, I am past that stage.  Sunday night is convenient for me.

The church wasn't packed, but full enough.  It was a pretty good turn out.  As I left a gentleman held the door and called me "young lady."  Usually when someone says that to me these days they are joking.  I think he meant it.  As I looked out over the crowd I realized that I was one of the youngest people there.  I was a "young lady."  So, on top of the gift of a really good program at a time that was convenient for me, I got to feel young in the company of my "elders."

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Fluffy Side of Sanity

I take an anti-depressant.  I have for about 2 years.  I was leery at first that the pill would help me handle the myriad of troubles in my life.  I was pretty clear about that, it wasn't me, it was him.  And therein lay the problem.  I was miserable and I saw no relief, no way to change or improve my situation.  In fact, it seemed to me that every effort I made just made things measurably worse.  I could sit and cry, I prayed, but it seemed to me there was no way out.

That pill changed my life.  I could think clearer.  I could take action instead of cry about things.  I could recognize the injustice of my situation and make plans for change.  Going to counseling helped.  A. Lot.  But, the pill helped me pull my brain back together and become myself again. I didn't feel hopeless and helpless and wish for a superhero to come rescue me.  I could do it myself, thank you very much.

Ultimately, I ended my marriage.  I have only recently come to recognize that I never loved the person I married in any way except pity.  I wanted to love him, to be a partner to him, but time and time again I learned that I could not trust him with my heart, with my dreams, with my life.  And at the end of the day, when you are "married" to a critical perfectionist who doesn't love honestly and isn't willing to compromise, that marriage is a sham.  I thought I could change him, or grow to love him.  Bottom line is, I didn't.

Ultimately, I neither trusted him nor loved him in any way except sorrow.  The way I described it was that he got worse and scarier and scarier.  I think that is to some extent true.  But, I also got older and less fearless against threats.  I felt manipulated, controlled and lied to. I came to the dawning realization that nothing would change and I couldn't change enough to be happy in the situation. It is hard to find love in continual pain.  Through the decades I tried every "fix" that I could find, but ultimately, I became depressed because I felt trapped in a situation of my own making that was detestable to me.  I didn't want to kill myself, I wanted to run away.

So, here I am two years into pills.  I am happier, saner, and more secure than I have been in a long, long time.  I don't miss him at all.  I feel such relief when I encounter problems and I get to work to solve them.  But, I am considering, actually, I am planning to try to stop the pills here pretty soon.  I have been encouraged by my counselor and my medical doctor that I could probably do it.  I worry a little that I might revert to the crier I was or panic or have anxiety.  But, I think I have skills to handle this now.

When I think about having the life I now have and not needing anything to sustain me, to keep my emotions in check, I would describe it like floating on air.  It is the fluffy side of sanity.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Game Is Afoot

I always wanted to say that, "the game is afoot," like in the old murder mysteries, Sherlock Holmes and all of that. I love a good murder mystery.  Anyway, the game is afoot, "it's on" as my school kids would say.  What game?  What am I talking about?  Well, for me today it is Lent.  Still early enough to accomplish things, far enough in, that it doesn't seem brand new.

I began this Lent feeling overwhelmed.  I had a lot of fear and anxiety. I had to sit in prayer and accept God's Mercy and Love.  I had to breathe and remember that anxiety and fear are not from God.  Most of the time worry or anxiety only hurts and never helps a situation. I began Lent full of fear, full of dread, full of anxiety.  I recognized that I had to somehow deal with these emotions before I could be led closer to Christ in Lent. 

I really wasn't even aware that taxes were the thing that was causing me to sweat.  But, Sunday as I was about to climb out of my skin with anxiety, I began to recognize that the cause was fear that I wouldn't be able to do the taxes, couldn't find all the paperwork, couldn't figure out what to do. So, I prayed.  I loaded in the tax program.  I entered in the information and hunted for a couple of additional pieces that I needed.  And snip snap it was done.  And I don't owe anything. This big mountain of fear I had been avoiding was really not that big of a deal.

I know that for some people this is a stretch to say that God used all of this stuff to teach me to trust.  Let go, let God.  Something else I learned is that I have to go after my fears, face them head on, let God teach me and lead me through them.  Once they are faced, most of the anxiety leaves me.  I can move on.  Which is what I am doing with Lent--the game is afoot, I am ready to go where God leads me today.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What Can I Learn From This?

Today was a really stressful day.  I dealt with a dozen broken Chromebooks.  I don't in most cases do the repairs.  I assess the fine, order the repair, inform the parents, notify the tech department and once in a while try to solve the software issues.  I figure that one Chromebook takes me an average of 30 minutes to process through my system.  That means that the largest part of my day at work today was spent on Chromebooks.  That is the kind of day that makes me feel stressed and overwhelmed.

I am trying to learn this lesson--invite Jesus to come along and help me with these overwhelming tasks.  If I could be more in tune with God's mercy I think it might go easier.  But, not necessarily. Some things are hard.  Usually there is something I can learn from the challenges that I couldn't learn from more serene times.

So, what can I learn from this head pounding situation today?  That is what I am pondering.  One thing is--I got it done and even worked some other things in.  I made a couple of phone calls on my break instead of working straight through and got some things accomplished for myself.  And God sent me little gifts throughout the day if I had the sense to notice them.  One of the classes made homemade biscuits and brought one to me while it was still warm.  My counselor called in the midst of total chaos and I managed to talk to her for a minute, schedule our final visit, and she even said I sounded great (while I was thinking I sounded like a hot mess). And more than a dozen kids thanked me for helping them today (not always the norm with middle schoolers).  My job has been posted because I am retiring and I received some congratulations from people. And even more.  There are gifts.

The challenge for me will be to leave here in a few minutes and set it all down.  I need to let it be the problems of this day.  I need to start fresh and renew tomorrow morning. And with that said. I'm done.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Grace of a Good Lent

Lent starts tomorrow.  I am over 60 and have an issue that makes fasting a bit of an issue, so meatless for Ash Wednesday, but not too hungry.  I have considered what I need to do this Lent to revive my soul and prepare for the joy of Easter.  I suppose that is why I have had the posts on stress lately.  If there is one thing that pulls me away from being happy and free walking with the Lord, it is anxiety.

With me anxiety goes along with fear to the point of panic.  It cases me to freeze and get very little accomplished.  Anxiety causes me to weep and to feel overwhelmed.  And yet, I know that anxiety is not from the Lord.  My anxiety shows my lack of trust in God's providence and care for me.

When I get into an anxiety cycle, I find that I can't let myself laugh, have fun or engage in enjoyable activities.  Without really doing this consciously, I punish myself and beat myself up.  I lived a long time with shame and blame and I find it hard to shake.

So, my last conversation with a wise spiritual adviser was about Lent and what my attitude needs to be this year.  Basically, she says I am supposed to go easy on myself.  I am supposed to feel God's grace and mercy and do things that I enjoy instead of not having time for those things.  I need to recharge.
 
I have decided to go to Stations of the Cross whenever I can.  My new parish has Stations at 4pm on Fridays, so it will not be easy to get there, but at least once or twice will be my goal.  I love Stations.  It brings me to the cross and helps me to unite with Christ in my heart. I need to find out how to get into the Adoration Chapel. There are some other things at church I am also considering--a weekly talk by a local priest, working the fish fry, and maybe joining a Lenten group.

But, I need to plan some activities with friends.  I need to find ways to laugh and relax.  Sounds the opposite of Lent to me, but my adviser assured me that this is what I need. I suppose she is right because even typing this is causing tears to well up.  I don't deserve this comes into my mind.  But, that is the point, none of us deserve it, the grace and mercy in our lives.  But, I need to accept it.

I want a good Lent this year.  I want to prepare and feel ready for Easter joy.  I want to explore the dark places in my soul and bring them to the light.  I want to stand and smile and accept God's care of me and to trust that He will always be there with me. This year I pray for the grace of a good Lent.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dealing With Stress

I have a tendency to get stressed about paperwork.  Things like taxes look like King Kong to me before I start working on them.  I have had a lot of paperwork to do lately.  I have felt layers and layers of stress eating me from the inside out.  So, I sat there in prayer in stress and wondered if I needed to go back to counseling.  I felt overwhelmed.

I recognized that Christ is not asking me to be stressed.  He is also not going to do that paperwork for me.  This is "trouble" for me to handle.   He doesn't give me more than I can handle, it only feels that way.  I prayed and prayed and studied the Scripture readings with the Masses at the current time frame.  And I prayed some more.

Somebody appeared who was able to help with one piece of the paperwork.  What had seemed impossible to me was easy for that person.  Christ provides a community to be here to help each other, if only we ask. I bought the tax program that I need to try to do my taxes.  That is a start.  I have done taxes before.  I can do it now.  Or, if I can't, I can hire some help.  Christ provides community to help. There is still a lot of paperwork to tame.  It helps to remember that if I am not able to figure something out, somebody can assist me.

Some of it, I have to do.  I have to untangle the paperwork junkyard myself.  I dread it.  I get stuck on things.  I can't find things I am looking for.  I feel overwhelmed.  I have forced myself to stay home on weekends to try to accomplish the organization I crave.  But, I have spent several full days avoiding working on the paperwork.

Yesterday, I decided to give up and visit a friend in the hospital.  I decided that I would rather spend time with this friend than do the paperwork.  I spent several hours at the hospital with her.  I sighed on the drive home, that once again I would have all of that paperwork undone. 

But, Christ surprised me.  I decided to work on a few things and see what I could get done.  Things fell into place.  Paperwork that had overwhelmed me fell into place.  I was able to figure out what to do with it.  I did it.  I got a lot done.  I hadn't thought I would get more than a couple of things done with the few hours on Sunday evening, but I got a big chunk of it done.

At the conclusion of this, I have to say that the things I learned about dealing with stress are many I need to ask for help.  I need do important things like visit the sick instead of making the stress producer the priority.  I need to break the stress producer into smaller parts.  I need to assume that I won't be able to complete everything in one sitting, but rather do a piece at a time.  And over it all, pray. In this world there will be troubles, but Christ has conquered the world.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

That Which Doesn't Kill You.....

Chromebooks, those little tablets with keyboards were about to do me in.  I spend most of my days these days dealing with broken Chromebooks.  "I sat on my Chromebook because the chair was hard," "my cousin stepped on it," "I forgot to bring the case".....and on and on.  Then I have to email the parents, put the fine in the system, write out the slip for the tech, use another system to enter the repair into a spreadsheet.  Then, if they pay the fine, they get the thing back when it is fixed and if they don't pay, I get to check it out and collect it from them everyday.  Yay. And this is not in anyway my main job, just a little side job......

The frustrating part for me is I love the other part of my job.  And I don't get to spend much time doing it.  I hated going to work every single day.  But, past tense, hated.  I can't say I love my job and I don't have a good feeling about Chromebooks.  I have changed my attitude--There are no Chromebook emergencies.  Chromebooks can wait.  Not forever, but they have to take their turn.  I was letting them take over and I didn't like that.  So, now I am not. 

That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so they say.  I feel a certain level of triumph about my changed attitude with the Chromebooks.  I do what I can.  And that is that.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Breathe

I have a lot of balls in the air.  I am not much of a juggler, more of a plodder.  But, whether I like it or not, I have a lot of things to juggle.  That is part of modern life, or maybe all life on the planet.  I run like a hamster on the wheel, spinning and seemingly getting nowhere.  One of the things that was clear to me in spiritual direction is that I need to breathe, to relax, to recharge or I am going to burn out.

Specifically, I need to find some friends to do things with.  I don't do badly at treating myself or watching television or relaxing a bit.  What I am not skilled at is asking people to do things with me.  I have people I could ask, but what if they say "no?"  What if they really don't want to do anything with me?  Awkward, that. My life has taught me to be a loaner.

But, I need to breathe, to exhale, to take a chance and clear the way. I need to find a way, find my way.  When I reflect, I am not getting nowhere.  I finish some things and new things get added.  Juggling isn't all bad.  I just need to allow some time to breathe. And some friends to laugh with about it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Possessed

Love, love, love......all you need is love.....love makes the world go round.....love your enemies and pray for those who would harm you......


I have struggled with the demands of love and the importance of boundaries through my life experiences.  What is love?  Does love permit boundaries?  What is the difference in the demands of love and possession?

In darker moments I consider myself a failure at love.  I tried to love someone by not seeking my own, by serving, by accepting what was offered, by not thinking about what was missing in my life.  I didn't do it perfectly by any means, but that is what I tried to do.  I have come to understand that the "I" referred to is ego, is self pride and self satisfaction.  I prayed for help, but I thought I could do this love thing. I thought that was my vocation, to do the hard thing, to love someone who was hard to love.

There was a lot of talk in that relationship about him loving me.  But, ultimately, I came to realize that the thing one has as a goal is the thing one treasures, one loves.  I was possessed, owned, but money was the love.  It is easy to say love, but not easy to do.  It is impossible to give love, if one has not received it in the nurturing toward adulthood.  I have come to understand that one can not give what one never had in the first place.

I still wonder at this, I wasn't really loved, I was possessed.  And once possession was taken away, all the money that could possibly be gotten was extorted from me.  I still wish him well, I really do.  I pray for him to be in heaven someday. I love my enemy and pray for the one who would harm me.

I am a little sad that I will probably never experience spousal love, the love that encourages and builds up.  I have experienced much other love in my life though. It feels good to be in the place I am now, not someone's possession, not shamed and blamed for every difficulty, for the hard parts of life.

The mercy and grace I feel now is more than enough, it is all I need. Love.