This has been a difficult period in my life. There have been many stressors – work, family, faith, church, and money to name a few. After an ever expanding amount of stress, I think I have reached a low point. It is now time to pick myself up.
Many of us have people we can share with, people who can help us to grow, change, tolerate, or overcome. I also have these people. My biggest problem is that when things get bad, I often lash out, or talk to the wrong people. Sometimes even close friends, confidantes, or people who are in the listening profession do not really understand what you are doing, where you are going, or what you need. People love to help. People love to give advice. But do they really listen?
When I finally have my moment to share with the right person, I realize all the damage I have been doing to myself and others in my frantic search for help. At that point, I find I am ready to grow, to change, and to pick myself back up. In other words, the straw finally breaks the camel’s back.
As I look at my current situation, I see things I cannot change. I cannot earn more money, nor can I change the way others behave. I cannot change the people who have authority in a given situation. I cannot turn back the clock to a better time. I cannot rid the world of the bullies, the people who make the rules, or the careless ones who do their own thing at another’s expense. I cannot make people act or do what is right. From this I see that 4 of the named stressors are completely outside of my control. All I can do is learn to live with a situation, work around a situation, or rise above a situation. Given these choices, I need to look at what is, and what can be. This also shows that I need to address the one stress left in that list over which I have any control – my faith.
My faith has been weakening lately. My prayer practices neglected. I have allowed stress to become an excuse for my lack of prayer. As I consider this, I know I need to act. The horrible part is that I am unwilling to act. I like having these excuses – or at least it seems as though I do. What caused this decline? I have to admit that the stressors outside of my control contributed heavily. A recent occurrence really threw me for a loop. But there was another cause – an inability to focus. I always deal with stress by finding ways to distract myself. I already had a distraction and I increased my use of that distraction. This may ring true for others as well. My distraction is a common one these days. Facebook. In particular, the Facebook Bird Misidentification Page. I love the snarky attitude and snappy, sarcastic humor of the people I have “met” through this page. I can – and sometimes do – spend hours reading through the posts, snorting coffee through my nose, or dissolving in a fit of laughter. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The problem is that I find my ability to focus on simple tasks like reading a book, or even getting up to move laundry, is just too much effort, requires too much concentration.
For Lent, I cut back Facebook use to one hour per day. That is still too much, but it did help a bit. I am reading again, however I am still using excuses far too often to do the simple things I need to do to bring myself back up. I guess now that Lent is over, I need to continue to cut back on Facebook. It will be difficult, it is a trap with no way out for me. As of tomorrow morning. I will be down to 45 minutes a day on FB – and I will use a timer to remind me. Next, I will take that extra 15 minutes and spend it in prayer of one form or another. I will also reinstate my evening journaling – a practice I have had for more than a year that has been completely neglected in my current state.
Now, for those stressors I cannot control. This will be more difficult and require more thought. I need to see ways to rise above the wrongs, the acts, the irritations. I need to find a remedy that works for me; to help me to be happy again.
I think I reached a breaking point today. I recently began to do the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises again and it is different this time. I am more committed and more open to whatever results may come. Today’s prayer session for the exercises was particularly stressful. For these exercises one must commit to one hour of prayer a day as well as journaling and an evening examen. These sometimes go smoothly, and sometimes are a struggle. Generally there is a passage of scripture or spiritual reading to go with the day’s prayer period. Today’s scripture for me was Philippians 3: 7-16.
For whatever reason, I used just the first line of this scripture passage: “[But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.” I had read what came before this line a few days ago and that is what struck me. I contemplated Paul’s Damascus awakening, or as it seems to me, Damascus Journey. I know where and when I had my Damascus moment, it was what came after that which interested me. The road after one’s Damascus moment is kind of important. You can’t just have a conversion without continued movement down the road you have been given.
Without going over my road for the last more or less 20 years, I have to say that lately the road has not been great or what I would have wanted it to be. Prayer began to go away in late fall 2015. I struggled with that and really did not know what to do. My pastor changed parishes and I could not feel comfortable with the changes at my parish. My prayer continued to flounder – and it only got worse. Fortunately I have a great spiritual director who patiently keeps me on track, despite my struggles.
The road from the Damascus is never smooth. And, certainly mine has not been. But since sometime in 2016, I began to see the “signs of the times” in our country and grew more and more anxious. This did not smooth my road in the least. The events in November of 2016 only made the road harder. Now I wake up each morning with a compulsion to check the news, and with trepidation because I am in fear. I worry for the environment, I worry for the poor and oppressed, I worry for anyone who is considered “other,” and I worry that we will be at war. It has been a very difficult time for me and I feel constantly compelled to speak out against what is going on. The phrase often used is to “speak truth to power.” As my language skills went downhill, I adopted this: “Speak truth to Bullshit.” I am trying to clean up my act.
I see nothing wrong with speaking out. I do not believe ANY of us should stay silent or ignore the news. We do not have that luxury. My issue is how I say it. I love all those memes that support my beliefs. I love to share them. I love to share properly vetted news stories. I share my fears. I share my anger. I share my position. Sadly, this only results in an increase in anger as I watch people who cannot understand my thoughts or position, or cannot believe well-reported stories, or who urge war, discrimination, hatred, and many evil behaviors in this country.
I cannot help who I am or who I have become. I believe in justice, mercy, kindness, and honor. I am not a believer in unilateral bombing of other countries nor in non-peaceful ways of discussion. I am deeply hurt by the current level of hate that is spewing across the news these days, and the deliberate turning away from the truth by yelling “FAKE NEWS” when one does not like what one hears.
Somehow, I need to continue to speak truth to power and not be pulled into impossible arguments with those who cannot hear me. Somehow, I need to clean up my act – verbally and behaviorally. While I will not be silenced, I need to be judicious.
Pray for me.
Who drew the line that said that at 65 one is finished with life? That has been my question this week as I weed self-help books at work. I just finished the “midlife and aging” pop psychology books and grew more and more annoyed at the books trying to help us “old folk” figure it out. Also, this week, as I explored a medical procedure and its costs, I was told by the hospital involved that I should just retire and let Medicare pay for it. Crazy. I just do not feel old. I have a lot more to do, I just know it.
At my job, all of the side duties have dwindled to naught, and the side duties some of my co-workers have are also fading in their usefulness. I know that technology has taken its toll on the role of the librarian.
Everywhere I go I see evidence that those younger than I am believe we do not know how to use technology and have no idea of the current needs of the people. BULL****! Yes, my viewpoint has changed over time, but I am still informed and still aware of the world around me. Also, against all evidence presented to me, I love technology and learning new things (if I didn’t I wouldn’t be trying so hard to learn Italian, and continuing to read informative non-fiction on whatever topic strikes my fancy.)
Yes, my knees do not work as well as they might, and my health has more snags than it used to, but my brain seems to be running just fine. So, faced with this dilemma, what should I do?
Yesterday it was suggested to me to amp up my marketing of my department’s materials in ways that, while not new, are not being used. We once had blogs and I really enjoyed using these to tell others about exciting new materials, but a computer glitch caused the blogs’ demise. (Oh, well, we never knew if they were being read, anyway.) I am going to try some things I have not before, but on my own and on my own time since there are divisions of labor involved that would hold such an attempt up. Meanwhile, I would love to have suggestions for creating a new way of being a science and technology specialist librarian in a large library.
There is no way I can possibly match the words of the Beatitudes in the Gospel. My favorite version comes from Matthew 5:1-11
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. (http://usccb.org/bible/ (NABRE))
It really does not matter which version you choose, what matters is how we live them and how we become them.
I am preparing for our book discussion group meeting tomorrow night. We are reading The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis, and tomorrow we will be discussing Chapter 4. As I think about this chapter, I am struck by how little I practice what Pope Francis is telling us is necessary in our lives. As I ponder my own failures, the Beatitudes came to mind and how they might be written in words we understood today. Yes, we understand what we need to do, and the things we are asked to do really have not changed. The problems in the world have not changed as much as we would like to think. We still have wars, famine, disease, homelessness, wanderers, outcasts, bigotry, crime… the list goes on and on.
So, I say it is not enough for us to consider the poor blessed, the mourners comforted, or the persecuted as having a place in heaven. Rather we must make the Beatitudes come true here and now. Let the Beatitudes inspire you to act in certain ways. Living them out is absolutely at the heart of the matter. (http://bit.ly/1GLpcTK)
I know I am not a saint, nor am I a theologian or a scripture scholar. Although this is not precisely what Jesus said, this is what I hear. What do you hear?
Blessed are they who help the poor, feed the hungry, house the homeless. Be like the widow who gave her last.
Blessed are they who help the stranger, the wanderer, the outcast, the immigrant. Set aside your fears and make others welcome.
Blessed are they who pay a fair wage. Treat others as you would treat yourself.
Blessed are they who do not judge another by the color of their skin, their faith, their gender, their sexual orientation. We are all made in God’s image, remember this.
Blessed are they who honor others and allow others to speak rather than attack. Blessed are they who live by Jesus’ words and accept others.
Blessed are they who are there when and where they are needed. Blessed are they who comfort.
Blessed are they who do not bully, blessed are they who help the bullied.
Jimmy Carter image by www.habitat.org
Pope Francis image by www.catholicnewsagency.com
I am getting new windows put on my house. The old ones were pretty shabby, needed new screens, leaking between the panes, and no longer see through. Some of the wood around them is moldy from too much moisture. Needless to say, we really need them.
They have finished putting in the windows in the upstairs rooms and this makes the walls look like they need paint, the curtains in need of freshening, and the shades and carpets now look more worn than I had realized. Tomorrow, when they do the kitchen, I will notice how worn out and cluttered my kitchen looks.
Isn’t it a wonder how we always “need” more?
Yesterday a fresh catalog arrived from Chico’s. I looked through it and thought “I need new clothes.” Of course, I don’t need new clothes. I have plenty of things to wear – more than any woman needs. Besides, my checking account is almost empty.
So, when I saw the post on the dotMagis blog called “New Eyes of Gratitude, Grace, and Freedom,” I saw myself. The article refers to a blog from momastary.com called “Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt.” The writer of momastary is perfectly happy in her home, that is, until she posts a picture of herself in her kitchen. Many comments were made about that picture. Suggestions for what she could do to get a nice, new, modern kitchen. Suddenly she lost her happiness.
But that night she remembered that she did not need new things, just new eyes with which to see the things she already had. When she awoke, she had new perspectacles and suddenly she appreciated what she had.
This is something I need as well. I pray each day for gratefulness and generosity, for surrender of those things I hold on to. But, do I mean it?
Check out the two blogs linked in the article for more on seeing with new eyes.
I read this post and realized it said exactly what I wish I was able to say. “People for Others” is a great site to follow, written by Paul Brian Campbell, SJ.
Posted: 20 Aug 2014 09:00 PM PDT
Most of the time, I bumble and stumble through life with barely more consciousness than a fly. Recently, however, I have had some experiences of the exaltation to which humanity is capable and, at the same time, a growing horror at the cruelty and depravity into which too many of our fellow humans can sink.
Think of the loving service that hundreds of medical personnel have been giving to victims of Ebola, the stunning brilliance shown by architects, musicians and other artists throughout history, the everyday kindness of so many people we encounter.
And, yet, we also have a tendency to wage war upon each other to an alarming extent, the physical and sexual abuse of children continues, there is widespread corruption in business and politics and — to speak only for myself – I do nothing much but impotently watch as it all happens before my eyes.
I sign petitions for or against this or that, but the last time I actually rallied for a cause was against the Second Gulf War… and that was a long time ago. These days I feel so tired when I get home from work that I can barely keep my eyes open through Mass and dinner.
Where will I stand at the “Last Judgment”? Will I be among the blessed who’ve helped release captives or will I be sent to join those who would not feed the hungry, clothe the naked or visit the imprisoned?
I wish I knew.
I wish I knew too!
January is the time of year when many of us make resolutions; sometimes to lose weight, to exercise more, or maybe to spend more time in prayer. Perhaps this last one is the one that calls to you. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that your relationship with Jesus is deepening and prayer certainly brings this about.
Consider meeting with a spiritual director to help you discern your path. Monthly one-on-one sessions of ongoing direction can give you much food for thought and help you recognize God in the everyday occurrences of your life and help your relationship grow.
Or consider weekly individual meetings while going through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Through this special program you will gain a deeper understanding of how much you are loved and also learn how to walk with Jesus through specially selected scripture passages which will take you from His earliest days through the joy of the Resurrection.
With the guidance of a spiritual director, you can make this a very special year. Please call Karen Zeleznik at 216-570-4099 to set up your first meeting. Also take a look at https://deeperfriendship.wordpress.com/ for further information. All meetings are confidential and conveniently located.
I was just reading a post from last week from the blog dotMagis called “A Place at the Table.” The article was a reflection on the topic of who Jesus would eat with. Jesus was known for eating with sinners and tax collectors. The blog asks us to consider the question of who are the sinners He would eat with today? I would like to take this one step further. Besides all of today’s well-known heinous sinners, Jesus would also have me at the table. How do I feel about that? Am I worthy? Who among us is worthy?
Upon further reflection, I have another question. Who would I eat with? Would I call the sinners or the saints? The needy or the wealthy, or both. All of us have need of acceptance, forgiveness, and friendship. Am I willing to be at table with those “others;” are they willing to be at table with me?
When we come to the Eucharistic table we are sharing the table with others – all sorts of others. We are the Body of Christ, receiving the Body of Christ. We are sharing the Body of Christ with people we might not agree with, approve of, or dine with. But, together we become the Body of Christ.
One of the hardest lessons we learn is applying this to our lives. Just as I wrote this, someone I do not want to associate with in any way came along. I helped him anyway. It is something I have to learn again and again.
Picture Courtesy MorgueFile
Someone once said, “Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past” Why do I bring this up? Well, I know someone who is a master at holding grudges. The hurts of his past are regularly brought up and dwelt on again and again. I have come to realize that this is a habit that makes one a very unhappy person and sometimes unpleasant to be around.
I have been guilty of this behavior as well. I remember things that happened when I was in elementary school, junior high, high school, and a host of other times and occasionally trot out these hurts, large and small, and examine them. They hurt all over again. What good does this do me or my mood? Absolutely none. The offender does not suffer. The offender does not remember the offense, and most likely, the offender did not even recognize an offense was committed.
Holding a grudge only hurts me, it ruins my day and my life, and others may then consider me to be a negative person and try to avoid me. That is not how I wish to live. I have consciously chosen to drop those hurts, to try to forgive the offender. I find that by doing this, I am a much happier person.
But since it is amazingly difficult to make this change, I have adopted the practice of mindfulness when it comes to past hurts. I simply recognize that something once hurt me, and move on. I found that since adopting this habit, I truly am a happy person.
Today I learned of a mindfulness practice that may help others to simply notice and then move on. Get a bracelet – any bracelet will do. Put it on your wrist. When you notice the thought you are trying to eradicate, just notice it. Move the bracelet to your other wrist. This will help you to change a habit of dwelling on a thought into noticing the thought and moving on.
And remember this from the prayer that Jesus taught us, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
By the way, I researched the source of the quote and there is no definitive answer.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits and I hope for his word. (Ps 130:5)
Altogether too often we are in a hurry. When it is time to pray, so many other tasks, thoughts, and desires reach out and grab us. I find that I am guilty of this as well. I sit down to do my evening prayer and my examen and the shy cat comes over and wants his special time with me. So, I spend time with him. Then my latest read catches my attention and I want to get to that already. And it’s late and I want to go to sleep. Thus I miss my prayer or hurry through it.
I have found ways to lose some of that hurriedness I have. I arrive at my prayer spot earlier in the evening. I now have grown to expect the cat to arrive. I give him a few minutes of my time, then he decides he has had enough and moves on. Next I pick up my prayer. I very deliberately ignore my fiction book waiting right there for me, and because I have started a bit earlier, I can wait before sleep.
On a retreat all of this changes. My cat is not there. I have nothing to do but pray and walk. I have learned that during this time, it is essential that I devote my time to God. And thus I am ready to listen to what God may have to say to me. A retreat is then very rewarding – and helps me to wait for God. It also continues to help me when I return home; it helps me to build good habits I can take back.
On a recent post at dotMagis, one of the blogs I follow, Becky Eldredge discusses the topic of retreats and their benefits. The final statement of this blog really sums up the retreat experience. “God most certainly works with the limited time God has with a person on a retreat!” Take a look at the entire posting.