Sunday, December 31, 2006

All Shook Up Over You

Nineteen years ago tonight I spent New Year's Eve in the operating room. Youngest son had been born shortly after 4 pm and by 6 pm I had gone into shock from blood loss. Just before that happened I had this surreal conversation with dearest one. We were alone in the birthing room and I told him I felt like I was going to faint. This was long before his own RN days so he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and told me to faint then, it wasn't a big deal. I replied that if I fainted I wasn't coming back and then promptly fainted. This diamond like light up in the corner of the room had been trying to suck me into it for a while and I'd spent considerable energy not giving in. When I came to my bed was tipped so that all the remaining blood could feed my brain and heart. All those people surrounding my bed I learned later, had been the code team. The nurse at my head told them my blood pressure was 60/40. When they were scrambling to get a blood sample to cross match before whisking me off to surgery there was a discussion as to where to get it from. When someone mentioned the groin someone else said you couldn't do that to a pregnant woman. I had enough wits about me to remind them I wasn't pregnant any longer and we all chuckled. My feet felt like they were freezing and when dearest one touched them he said it was like touching a corpse because there wasn't any blood left in them.

When we'd arrived on L&D earlier that day our nurse looked so young and I thought to myself that she was going to be useless in our birthing experience. In the end it was her previous 8 years of experience in the ER that helped her get a vial and a half of blood before they ran me up to the OR. She was older than me, too.

Much of that experience, from the time I started hemorraging until I was on the operating table was spent in silence. I spent nearly all my time talking to God. Two thoughts reverberated in my head. Asking for forgiveness and telling God I didn't want to die but if that was God's will for me, so be it. I've never been able to adequately describe those diamond like lights in the corner of the ceiling.

My first memory of the New Year was after I was back on the ward and a nurse came to check my vital signs and the blood transfusion. She told me it was after 2 AM, whispered Happy New Year to me, then I asked her to bring me my baby. I hadn't held him very much before the hoopla began. He had an identifying mark of a tiny hole above his left ear and with that knowledge tucked in my brain I was able to go to sleep, reassured that no one could switch my baby on me.

His birth was the beginning of a new direction in my journey. Up to that point I had been seeking God but didn't have a relationship with Him. Coming that close to death made me realize that Christianity wasn't a game. You either were one or you weren't. I sobered up 3 months later - to the day - and 6 weeks later I surrendered to what the Big Book calls step 3:"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the the care of God as we understood Him."

When I reflect back on this night I think about how I thought I was one place on my journey only to be so shaken up by life's circumstances in order to see I wasn't where I thought I was. This Christmas season has been one of internal shaking up for me. On my way to Mass today I was telling God I wasn't who I thought I was and to please help me become all He created me to be.

The journey continues.

Happy New Year! And happy birthday, youngest son.

Friday, December 29, 2006

One Sentence Resolution

Every December I spend some time reflecting over the past year and looking ahead. With those reflections in mind I've often made a list of resolutions that was longer than my arm. Over time I've let go of the obsession to try and revamp my whole life from A to Z in one fell swoop. The last few years I look at each of the social, emotional, physical and spiritual areas of my life (Luke 2:52)and see what speaks to me. Then I pray to work towards health in those areas. Tonight I read the bit below on Beth's blog and found one sentence that sums up all areas for me for this year. I'm going to have to pray for the "want to" part. But the rest is so dead on it's scary.

"I want to confront the way I skillfully avoid what is right in front of me, and maintain the distance that is the pain of yet-to-be risked intimacy."

The Journey Continues

Two years ago today I was received into the Catholic Church. To some who knew me they felt I had just walked into the biggest bondage out there in Christendom. To others, I had come home. And still to others, big deal, who cares?

And two years later I can say that there is more bondage within me than out there, I will always be coming home and when I get hung up on the minor things (like other people's business), Jesus eventually heaves a sigh, looks at me and says, "follow me." So I keep trying, Jesus keeps loving me and my journey continues.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Remember When/I Loved Her First

When I was little, licking off one of the egg beaters when my mom was baking was a real treat. Mom would call out that there were beaters for the taking and whoever showed up, got one. I often wished I didn't have to share and could have them both to myself. You gotta be a real sugar addict to appreciate licking off cookie or cake dough from a beater. I carried on the tradition of calling out there were beaters for the taking with my own kids. This afternoon I was making a double batch of fudge and found myself alone in the kitchen, licking off both beaters. It was enough to make the tears flow for the umpteenth time today.

I was in town this morning before daylight, hoping to get last minute stuff done before my AA meeting. Stores were getting busy at 8 AM, if you can believe it. I headed to my meeting with nearly everything done on my list, only to find the Saturday morning meetings cancelled for the next two weeks. I've missed the last three meetings and was really looking forward to being at one today. In the moment of walking up to the door I found myself full of gratitude for where I was on my journey, thankful for sobriety and a group of people who 'get it' without a word having to pass between us. Sometimes I think if one alcoholic stood up and played charades to share their experience, strength and hope at a meeting, the rest of us would all be sticking our hands in the air in unison to shout out the answer. That's how much words are often unnecessary as we acknowledge our common humanity with one another. I am so thankful for the people I journey with in recovery. I made my way back to the van and as I started it, the CD player kicked in. The gratitude of a few moments before turned to tears almost instantly.

Before I go any further you need to know that once a song gets stuck in my head I play it over and over again, 20 times in a row if the fancy strikes me. Just ask my family. They all look at one another and groan when that happens, because the song could be by anyone from Josh Groban to Leonard Cohen or Savage Garden. They all pray I get the song of the moment out of my system fast. There's a first time for everything. It just hasn't happened with my music habits yet.

Before I went to the meeting I stopped to see our oldest son. Seeing him in his first apartment felt bittersweet. It reminded me how much time has passed since dearest one and I were in our first apartment. I asked him to burn me two songs from the internet, something oldest son can do in minutes, compared to the hours it takes me with dial up internet. These two songs have struck a chord with me lately and now that I have them both on the same disk, that's what's on repeat as I type. One of the songs I've wanted to share with dearest one. It says so much. You can listen to it here. On the way home from town I was listening to it and sobbing as I drove. How could so many of those years be behind us? I can't wrap my head around it much of the time. This grieving the empty nest feels like a bottomless pit. The pain of it isn't getting any easier. I often feel full of self pity when I cry for what was, but I also recognise that if these tears aren't allowed to surface and flow, I will store them in my body instead.

When other song(listen here) came on the radio a few days ago I asked dearest one to stop and listen to it. He did, although he had to wipe tears from his eyes by the end, cursing slightly whoever wrote such a song. Yesterday, when it came on the radio again, I ended up sobbing anew. Dearest one has a key that fits into only daughter's locket and when the day comes for dearest one to hand the key to only daughter's beloved that tear jerker song will become a tear jerker reality for him.

Earlier in the week I had a session with Father Charlie and in the midst of telling him that I was learning to simply state what had happened in the past without judging myself for it, I started to cry. Those damn tears. They were telling me that I've got a ways to go to forgive myself for some of the memories that the song Remember When brings up. If tears are a form of prayer, like Sister Doreen told me years ago, then I've been doing a lot of praying this past week.

I think the kids coming home for Christmas has been triggering those prayers. While I feel like a contented mother hen at the thought of having them all under one roof again, it's also a tangible reminder that the life we knew as a family is in the past. Perhaps once we get through a full year of firsts, like experiencing a death, the pain won't be so sharp. Maybe the grief will fade as each celebration comes and goes, empty of its rhythm we once knew as a family.

I do look forward to the day when I can honour the past, take responsibility for what is mine to own, and let the rest go. When I can tell Father Charlie I am walking the talk of accepting the past, without it reducing me to tears. The Promises in AA's Big Book state that we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. When that day comes I will whip up some batter with my egg beaters. Afterwards, while I lick them both off, I might even let some of the dough fall on that particular page of the Big Book to ever remind me that if we work for them, the promises really do come true.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Of Healing, Hope and Hula Hoops

Antony gave me the letter "H" when I asked for a letter in his 10 Things/Alphabet Meme.

1. How could I start with any other word but Hope? I may be the first pessimist in history to love the word hope. Over time my tendency to be a pessimist has softened. I like to think it has to do with recognizing the amount of mercy God has extended towards me, which in turn I try to extend to others. Somehow, no matter how rough life gets, a little bit of hope keeps me putting one foot in front of another.

2. I like to laugh. Thankfully I married a man who has laughed so much in his life that he has these beautiful rainbow shaped etches in his forehead above his eyebrows. So howling with laughter is something I love to do with him.

3. I dearly love my husband. Ha. How did you guess that word was coming next? In a few short months we will celebrate 25 years of marriage together. I was 14 and he 16 when we started out as pen pals. When we married 5 years later I was an atheist and he was on the run from God. The story of our journey to faith and our journey as a couple has as many twists and turns as a road in Jamaica.

4. In a few days my kids are going to be home for Christmas. I love that word, whether it means me going home to my family or my family coming home to me. We've been empty nesters less than a year so this is our first Christmas where our kids are coming home for Christmas. We haven't lived very long in this particular place and when I was decorating the tree I was thinking that me and dearest one living here makes this place home for them. That helped me see this place as home a bit more.

5. I tend to live life from my head and when I manage to live it from my heart I rejoice. It's also scary, and I may want to back peddle to the safety of my head, but living from my heart means being authentic, real and without masks. It means being free to say nothing instead of having verbal diarrhea to keep people at a safe distance.

6. Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness two years ago I have a new appreciation for good health. Doing what I can to improve my health is something I keep in mind. Keeping perspective is another. Coping with what is, instead of what could be, is something I try to do. It could always be worse. At least this illness isn't a death sentence, just something I need to learn how to live with and not let define me. On good days it's no problem. On bad days I cry.

7. I don't know what's under your bed but underneath mine is my hula hoop. It's a glittery multi-coloured hoop that I have hopes of swinging around my hips with ease one day. I keep trying. It was one of the first things I bought when I began honouring the child within me. The little girl who has no memories of playing without keeping one eye out for the adults who could make the rules of life change at any moment.

8. When I was young my grandparents went for a Sunday drive without a destination in mind. Sometimes they ended up so far away from home that they stayed in a hotel overnight and came home Monday. Between spring and fall there is nothing I like better than getting in a vehicle and heading for the open highway. One of my best memories of this past year is the time dearest one and I took the long way around and drove through Banff and Jasper to get home. It was in April before the highway gets busy so we drove miles and miles without seeing another vehicle.

9. I grew up in a family where the only touch you got meant pain. When I married my husband I entered the world of hugging. After nearly 25 years together I forget that others don't spontaneously hug one another several times a day. A good hug is good medicine.

10. What all the above words have in common is that they play a part in my ongoing journey of healing. I don't always embrace the path that I must take in order to heal. Sometimes I swear an awful lot before I take another step but God continues to be merciful and gracious as I make my way home.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

5 Things You Don't Know About Me Meme

My dear friend Bobbie has tagged me with this one. Most of the time I feel like anyone who reads this blog knows more about me, at least the deeper stuff, than most people in my life. So here's a bit of fluff about me.

1. Give me any flat surface and I will pile it high with papers. And God help you if you touch the pile. I don't quite worship paper, but almost. I often grab the closest bit of it to write things down that I don't want to forget. There's been many a time I've cleaned out an old jacket or pair of pants and come up with scraps of paper filled with the title of a book to get from the library. When that happens I feel like I opened a misplaced Christmas present. When I'm online I write notes to myself about books or blogs or other bits of information. That's a photo of the pile beside the computer. Dearest one gave me a notepad the other day and asked me if I could please write it all down in one place from now on. I'm trying.

2. On Saturday afternoons my favourite activity is watching Sports Saturday on CBC TV. If anyone else is trying to endure the afternoon with me they often are more entertained by my yelling at the TV and cheering on the athletes than by the sports themselves. Deciding to make a Saturday morning AA group my home group (150km round trip)has meant giving up my addiction to watching sports on TV. Kind of kills two birds with one stone.

3. The state of my house plants, like my African Violet here, and in summer, outside flowers, are a good guage of my emotional health. The summer of my nervous breakdown a friend of mine knew I was in trouble when I let every last one of my flowers die. My favourite flower is evening scented stock. One day I hope to have a window box outside my bedroom filled with their glorious fragrance.

4. My grandparents always hung little Norwegian flags on their Christmas tree. I cried when my sister sent me Norwegian flags for my own tree. They only cost a dollar or two a package but they were my favourite present that year. There they are on our tree this year. Now if only I could master making Lefse and KrumKake.

5. I finished crocheting this baby blanket a few days ago and have another one started already. My grandma taught me to crochet. She was left handed and I wasn't but I learned to crochet left handed. When I was a newly wed my 11 year old sister-in-law taught me to crochet right handed. Call me old fashioned but I like to think of every baby having something home made just for them.

They've Got The Rhythm

Just before 5 o'clock this morning the wind hurled ice crystals against our bedroom window and woke me up. The wind sounded like it was on the prowl so I knelt on the bed and looked out the window to see what it was up to. Partially out of fear and partially out of wonder. Our trailer is surrounded by tall trees close enough to make our home their final resting place, given enough wind power. I tried to sleep but I kept hearing the bullet like crack of breaking trees and my curiousity got the better of me. This photo is taken from where I knelt so that gives you an idea of how close and how tall those suckers are. Picture them with hoola hoops around their mid section and how they've not only got the rhythm down pat but are in a pissing contest to see who can swing their hoops the fastest and you get the idea.

Dearest one was trying to sleep through all this. After all, that's what people do at 5 am, right? I snuggled back under the blankets and asked him if he was scared. No, he said, the wind just reminded him that God was in control. Oh. There I was cringing at every crack of a branch, expecting it to crash through the roof and hit me on the head. It was rather fascinating watching those trees dance. At one point I told dearest one it was a miracle they didn't all just come down in that wind. After the nth time of kneeling on the bed and giving him a running commentary on the trees and how they'd make great belly dancers, he gave up on sleep. We got up, he had coffee and breakfast and I had a cup of tea. After about an hour we realized that normal people were alseep and what were we doing up at such an hour anyway? Dearest one glanced at the alarm clock as we crawled back into bed and I told him that we'd wake up by the time it was bright out, which is 9 am here these days. At five minutes to ten he woke me up because he could see a moose just on the edge of the bush, eating its way through fallen tree branches.

Dearest one teased me for quite a while this morning about how he was having this really good sleep last night when this kid kept waking him up and giving him a running commentary on the weather. If you knew how serious and intense I am most of the time you would smile with me at the thought that I actually acted like a kid for once. I even got the timing right.

One Thing

If you have time to read just one thing today, go read this post. Jennifer is such a talented writer, has such a big heart, and is so wonderfully human in her sharing.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Unpacking My Thoughts

It's late and I need some sleep. I won't be able to do that unless I unpack my thoughts first, so here I am. I haven't picked up my journal in a while and perhaps more than anything, blabbing here is a good reminder to pick up that pen again.

I've had a lonely day. I was hoping to go to my weekly AA meeting but the roads were slick and winter driving isn't my favourite thing to do at the best of times, so I stayed home. Dearest one said there were vehicles in the ditch all the way home tonight. I'm thankful not to be one of them.

I needed the meeting today.

Needed to see some familiar faces and hear the experience, strength and hope that would've been offered around the table. With being out of town last weekend and staying home the previous Saturday due to weather, it feels like far too long since I sat my butt in a chair at a meeting. Days like today I would almost trade my secluded spot on the planet for a house in town with daily meetings just a few minutes drive away. I did have a phone number of someone I could've called but I didn't pick up the phone. I needed to reach out my hand but chose to isolate instead.

I've been following the Sugar Addict's Recovery Program for several months stepping my way through the first step and seeing quite a bit of change within myself. Simply 'doing the breakfast' has made me more stable and seems to have calmed my drama queen tendencies. Fog brain has lifted as well. My body likes a stable blood sugar instead of the peaks and valleys bingeing brings.

There is a connection between my body loving alcohol and how it processes it and it also loving sugars and what that does as well. My body will take the Beta Endorphin hit however it can get it. The program teaches new ways to do that which don't involve food and also how to eat so that there aren't spikes in blood sugars.

This also means there hasn't been any white knuckling it, the program is based on abundance. It heals at a cellular level and I've started noticing small moves in that direction. One is that the blocked saliva gland in my mouth that I was on the cusp of letting the doctor lance open, has healed on its own and disappeared. It had been there for over 6 months.

There are 7 steps to the program and I'm hoping to be detoxed from sugar by next June. For once I am willing to baby step my way to something better instead of trying (and failing) for the umpteenth time to revamp my life overnight.

Recently I noticed that since getting stable on the breakfast I was actually inhabiting my body instead of living from my head. It was unnerving to be that aware of myself. I don't quite know how to describe it. One day I simply noticed I felt grounded in my body instead of detached from it. It was kind of like, "holy crap, how did that happen?" It scared the daylights out of me and I promptly stopped eating a decent breakfast in a quest to stop feeling so vulnerable. It worked. Out of whack blood sugars make for an out of whack me. Being out of whack is familiar, something I know, but don't always love.

Today is day three of avoiding doing what is healing and trying to run the other way fast. It's not fun. It's not worth it. I'm a little more ready to learn what it feels like to inhabit this body of mine instead of insulating it. Tomorrow is a new day. One with an adequate breakfast in it. I will take calm over reactionary any day and if doing the breakfast is the first step in making that choice easier then so be it.

I do have nearly 5 weeks of stringing one day at a times together in my battle with sexual addiction. I don't feel like I am white knuckling it through that either, more that I've become willing to swing back and forth in an imaginary hammock that God rocks gently back and forth until the urge passes. Getting hit over the head with a rock would be more timely and less painful some days. But being present, acknowledging the temptation and simply waiting it out seems to be what I need to do. It feels like I've willingly exposed a big, gaping hole by doing that sometimes but I'm trusting it will be less painful in the long run. Looks like I'm learning to be present in both mind and body.

Reminding myself that I can't - God can - and I'll let Him is the only way that I can keep putting one foot in front of another.

I came across a new-to-me blog the other day and found this post that I printed out and found a space for on the wall above my keyboard. Shame has been such a heavy load to carry on my journey. Once, when I went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Father Charlie asked me where I was in regards to shame and I told him I was in over my head with it. Learning to not be covered in it or let it call me by name is a gift I'm learning to receive.

I quote the whole post here for you:
"Shame........a hollow empty pit where disgrace lives

by painful self-contempt
by the fear of humiliation
by the guilt of impulsivity
by thoughts acted out.

Shame........ugly remorse that devours goodness.

Hidden in the folds of the shadowed curtains.

Reflected in the eyes of esteem

Rinsed in bile.

Nothing makes me more distraught than feeling shameful.
It is lonelier than lonely. "
~ from Awareness

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What Was I Trying To Say?

I had this clever-to-me blog post in the draft vault and I was in the midst of polishing it up and showing it to you when I realized I hadn't the foggiest idea what the point of the piece was anymore and there was no one to ask, "What was I was trying to say?" So that piece is back in the vault, waiting to either be ressurected or put in the forever dead pile.

Isn't that a gorgeous sunrise? As we inch closer to the shortest daylight day of the year (7 hours of daylight here) I still don't know what I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Catholic Carnival 97

Sarah over at just another day of Catholic pondering is hosting this week'sCatholic Carnival. Lots of Advent thoughts to read. Enjoy

Friday, December 08, 2006

Two Good Years

Today is my blog anniversary.....two years ago today I started writing this blog.
What can I say?
I am a writer.
I have a voice.
I am truly on a journey.
I need to journey with others.
Exposing my humanity to you will not get me stoned.
It might make me wish to get stoned :)
but even if I did
I am loved even in the midst of much sin.
Confessing my sin will not diminish my worth.
Failing is not the end of the story.
Having an audience watch
Christ peel back
the layers of my woundedness
and breathe healing on them
will not kill me.
Healing is possible.
There is hope.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

For Rodney

Today is my brother Rodney's 46th birthday. I don't know if I've ever used some one's real name on my blog before, not even my own. I do have a brother whose real name is Rodney and this post is for him.

Forty-six years ago today my mom was on bed rest in the hospital, due to complications in her pregnancy. She had miscarried before and she was doing her best to carry this baby to term. Married a week shy of her 18th birthday, she turned 22 during her hospital stay. She had a three year old and a twenty-two month old at home waiting to welcome their new sibling.

The doctor came in that day to tell her the baby in her womb had died. They couldn't get a heartbeat so they were going to start labour. My mom protested because she could still feel her baby's movements but no one would listen. By the time they did, it was too late. Rodney was born weighing between two and three pounds. He graced this earth with his life for two short days.

At that time there were no grief support groups, nothing to help a young mother deal with her loss ....I am sure my mom was told in one way or another to 'get over it'. As if getting over losing a child can ever be so . The waters of birth and grief take time to cross. My mom was so distraught during this time that years later during a drunk, she confessed to me she had no idea what day Rodney had been born or died or even where he was buried.

The doctors told her that the best thing she could do to get over Rodney's death was get pregnant again. So she did, with me. Eighteen months after Rodney's birth I was born at the same gestation as he had reached. She almost gave birth to me in a bedpan and I am sure she could hardly believe she was giving birth prematurely twice in a row.

My siblings and I have no idea if Rodney's short life contributed to my mom becoming an abusive mother or if it contributed to her alcoholism. It's hard not to wonder what life might have been like had he lived. It's difficult not to memorialize him as a would be superhero, saviour of us all.

Growing up we knew to mention Rodney's name to mom would bring instant tears so his name was seldom spoken. I think I had been prodding my mom about her feelings about Rodney the night she blurted out to me that she didn't know Rodney's birthday or where he was buried. I remember feeling afterwards like I had kicked her in the gut by prodding such a pain filled place of her heart. She had never told anyone before that she didn't know these things. She said my dad knew where Rodney was.

Through reading my grandma's diaries after her passing, I found out that my Grandad stood beside my dad the day they lowered Rodney's little white casket into the ground. The only other people present were the minister and the grave digger. I did ask my dad for the name of the cemetery and then dearest one and I (and our young family) went for a drive. At the cemetery I found a little building filled with natural light where the living could ask for records of their dead. A gentle man looked up Rodney's name and found the dates of his being and wrote them down for me. When he extended his hand towards me with that little slip of paper I felt like it was a holy offering.

Because there was no headstone on Rodney's grave I was given a number to look for in a certain section of the cemetery. Faced with a mass of green grass with circular cement markers hidden underneath, each one stamped with a number, I felt like I was looking for a needle in a haystack. After much searching I smoothed away the right patch of grass and matched the number on the paper with the number on the marker. "Have you been waiting for someone to come find you Rodney?" I wondered. As I knelt down and traced the numbers with my fingers it was as if the waters of birth and grief rose up and I was overcome with big gulping sobs. I felt like I was crying a generation's worth of pent up tears.

Seventeen summers have come and gone since that day. Shortly afterwards I phoned my mom and read her the dates from the slip of paper. I don't know if it helped ease her misplaced guilt or her grief but hopefully it helped the years become a little less blurry. In the past few years I've started telling people I have three brothers, not two, that Rodney, whose name has hardly been said aloud these past 46 years, is indeed my brother. Since learning about the communion of saints, acknowledging his presence in our family has even greater meaning.

Happy Birthday Rodney. Pray for me.

your sis

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

An Offer Of Clarity

Today I read from an Advent devotional guide by Joyce Rupp:
" We can have the best eyes in the world, but in pitch black darkness, our eyes are of little use to us. We need light in order to see our way. Advent is a season for Christ, our Light, to break through our spiritual darkness. When I consider the shadows that pervade my heart, they are usually the results of the way I see things. This seeing involves illusory notions I have of other persons, limited understandings of a situation, and unreal expectations that I foist upon others.

Sometimes my lack of seeing is due to my failure to know myself as I truly am or because my blind spots hide a part of myself from me. It always takes a while before I have the eyes to see how foolish my thoughts, feelings and actions are. I come to see more clearly when I accept the guidance and insight offered to me by the Indwelling Christ. The light of this inner guideance is essential for my spiritual growth and well being. Without this divine direction I would continually judge others falsely and unkindly.

Jesus told his disciples they were fortunate to be able to see what they did. He helped them look beyond and beneath their limited perceptions to the deeper reality of each one's goodness. Jesus continually guided his disciples by the light of his message, encouraging them to understand and accept the kingdom of love. It was up to them to follow and live out the clarity he offered to them.
~ Joyce Rupp in Welcome to the Light (emphasis added)

When I wrote the other day about my dream
"I so often try to arrange life to suit me and the hell with everyone else. A few weeks ago I had a dream where I was trying to sleep and was woken up to find a scary man trying to lure me away. In desperation, I pulled out my stand-back-and-no-one-will-get-hurt expletive and told him to "fuck off". In reply he leaned down to me and said, "It takes just as many breaths to say God bless." "
I wondered if I could ask God to bless those scary parts of me instead of trying to keep them at a distance. How often have I told my skeletons-in-the-closet-who-are-kicking-up-a-storm-to-get-out to shut the fuck up so I can have some peace and quiet? I've lost count. As if keeping them at a distance will ever bring me any peace. I've been pondering what peace could be mine if I embraced all-that-hinders-me and offered it up to the Light. Asked what it would look like to have awareness without fear of what the scary places might reveal about myself to myself. Realizing the possibility of seeing myself as I am without letting the less than stellar parts define me.

While waiting for the Light I feel like I'm a child hunkered down with my arms around my knees, facing east, waiting for the sun to crest the horizon. I do not sit alone. I've taken my shadowy side by the hand and invited it to sit with me as I wait. I'm not sure I'm ready to call it friend but I'm more at peace since it stopped trying to kick the door in to get my attention.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pregnant With God

Pregnant With God

By Thomas Hoffman

"Standing at the threshold of another Advent we begin our season of growth and expectation - a time to secret ourselves with Mary, to join our hearts with hers, and to grow pregnant with God together. God invites us to a quiet place of reflection and bounty. This Advent, choose some time for silence. Make space within yourself to grow large with the abundance of God's favor. Make this a time to fill your lungs deeply with God so that you can breathe Christ into the world." ~from

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Breathing Out Blessings

I'm hoping for some kind of renewal this Advent season. I typed that and then thought how every season brings renewal or growth of some kind anyway. I don't have to hope for it; normal living gives me plenty of opportunity to grow, change and be renewed. I often pray for the eyes to see and ears to hear those opportunities. Then sometimes I resist, cuss my fool head off and stamp my foot when my eyes are opened and my ears unstopped. I'd like to orchestrate the whole thing thank you very much. One of my favourite passages in the AA Big Book says this:
"Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangement would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great."
I like that passage because I so often try to arrange life to suit me and the hell with everyone else. A few weeks ago I had a dream where I was trying to sleep and was woken up to find a scary man trying to lure me away. In desperation, I pulled out my stand-back-and-no-one-will-get-hurt expletive and told him to "fuck off". In reply he leaned down to me and said, "It takes just as many breaths to say God bless." I'm not sure there's an adequate comeback to that one, do you? I'm still mulling it over. I don't think it was coincidence that he said "breaths" as I was in a situation in real life where I was finding myself short of breaths. Maybe, just maybe in this season of waiting I'll think twice before spouting off.

I'll also be praying along with my favourite Advent resource, which can be found here. A great place for learning about Advent can be found here -hat tip to Boars Head Tavern for the link.

Breathe in, breathe out. God bless.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Waiting For Hope

If you ask my family they won't be surprised that my Hope candle lamp and the nativity are displayed to the world already. Yes, being cooped up in the house while it was -45C outside had something to do with it. There are only so many distractions in our small home to keep me occupied. Tomorrow the weather will be much closer to normal and I will be filling in for the librarian at our local library. But in all honesty I have never been very good at waiting. My dad chuckles each time I actually wait to call him on his birthday. When I have bought gifts I find it hard to wait to give them on the special day. It's one of few childlike qualities of mine that has refused to lie dormant over the years. I do remember as a child getting this beautiful Advent calendar to share with my sisters. No chocolates in it at all but beautiful sparkly pictures beneath little windows numbered 1 to 24. I opened the Christmas Eve picture way before time and gently put the double window pieces back together to look as if I hadn't peeked. But I will never forget the wonder of that beautiful picture and how I wanted to peek again and again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Curiosity Gets The Better Of Me

With all this cold weather I haven't been out of the house since last Saturday. To pass the time I've been letting my curiousity get the better of me. I've been downright feeding it. Below are the 20 most recent google searches that brought people to my blog. Little tidbits of info have always intrigued me. Putting those little buttons on my blog that let me track who visits here feeds the anal retentiveness in me - I'll be constipated before long if it doesn't warm up outside. Okay, so that was a lame attempt at a joke - cabin fever must be setting in. The photo is what it looks like standing on my tiptoes looking out my kitchen window - Jack Frost is trying to block my view. The blue winter sky was too beautiful not to capture on camera.

Last 20 Searchengine Queries:

augustine spiritual director
pigeon holed quote
sugar sensitivity
a song not scored for breathing
Henri Nouwen Advent prayer
stages of letting go
pulmonary fibrosis very bad in mornings
gerald may and spiritual direction ppt
gerald may and spiritual direction ppt
breathing incense in church
"AA" and "resentments"
hope who am i to say song
a song not scored for breathing
"poor in spirit" homily teenagers
henri nouwen soften me into love
quotes bad kids
addiction and grace
the funeral prayer of braveheart
song with lots of laughter

I sit here and wonder who some particular visitors are and why they keep coming back. That person from Ingersoll - I see they visit from a government office. I told my sister it must be the government monitoring me because the word sexual addiction surely shows up more than any other phrase on my blog and they are checking to see if I am a danger to society. And the one from the University in Portugal. Who is that and how did they ever come across my blog? Who lives in Aldersley UK that keeps coming back? There are those who visit faithfully every day who I 'know' and their company makes me smile. Thank you Peter, Val and Terry, among others.

Here's one of the elk that ate, without apology, our bale stack. 40 good square hay bales are only a memory now. The elk's comrades took off and left this one to take the blame. I tried posting these late last night but the power kept flickering on and off so I shut everything down and went to sleep. It was a scary thought - the power going out when it's -45C outside. It's supposed to be -48C with windchill by this afternoon. A chinook is waiting behind this weather pattern to bring us up to 0C by Saturday. No wonder they say 'wait 5 minutes and the weather will change.' Well, in this case, 'wait 5 days and the weather will change. Stay warm.

Catholic Carnival 95

This week's Carnival can be found at phatcatholic apologetics. When I got up it was -45C with the windchill outside. The best it's going to get is -40C with windchill. Reading is going to be the extent of my activity for today!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Of Hopeful Butts And Weather

I'd take a picture out my window to show you the scenery but many of the windows in my house have been visited from top to bottom by Jack Frost. Today's temperature hovered around -35C and tomorrow the forecasted high is -38C when you factor in the windchill. What that really means is that to go outside unless necessary is downright foolish. When you live where I do, it makes no sense at all to get in the vehicle and drive anywhere. Vehicle breakdowns could be hazardous to your health when it gets this cold.

Despite the weather I am feeling hopeful tonight. Yesterday ( it was only -25C) I went to my AA home group meeting and was abundantly blessed. The meeting I go to is a newbies meeting and I feel like I fit right in. What a blessing to share one's frailties and have people laugh along with you because they recognize the same thing in themselves. Sharing our humanity instead of trying to divorce ourselves from it then becomes a strength not a weakness. I was able to share some of my story without my ego trying to butt in and make a grandstand appearance. That was a relief. It makes me feel like I am truly making progress. It gives me hope that one day I won't feel like a fraud at meetings. Plus it gives me hope that I can learn what it is to simply be me no matter where I am on the journey. There have been so many meetings where I've listened to someone share and wondered how they could be so comfortable in their own skin sharing what they did. Maybe their ability to do that is rubbing off on me. Whatever is happening I am relieved to find out I am capable of sharing like that too.

Afterwards I went to a wrap up meeting of the retreat team from the previous weekend. Lots of laughter and good sharing. I often feel a tinge of bittersweetness at these wrap up meetings because the retreat team changes from one retreat to the next and saying goodbye to this particular configuration was as hard as all the others. Being involved in this group is my sole opportunity to be in a women's only setting. It nourishes me and I find myself forming trust relationships each time I am involved in the process. There is usually one woman I connect with in a deeper way every retreat and this one was no exception. This past week dearest one and I happened to be at a function along with one of the women from the retreat. He told me afterwards that the women from this whole retreat movement sure seem to love me. It was good to be able to simply say, "yes, they do" instead of "oh, if they only knew me". Many of them do know me and love me still. I am reminded of Brennan Manning's words "It is more important that you let God love you than that you love God." It feels good to let myself be loved by God and others.

I am still struggling with some depression but it has lifted considerably. My doctor wanted to prescribe anti depressants for me this week but I am hoping the Vitamin D I began taking this month will continue to help lift the cloud. Me and prescription meds often don't like each others' company. So much so that I remember my drug allergies by alphabetical order - no kidding. I'm not keen on adding to the list. I wish I knew how to tell what depression needs medication and what doesn't. How much has the laughter of last weekend, the wonderful fellowship, the ongoing attendance at AA meetings contributed to me feeling better? Would I still be in that dark hole of near despair had I not started taking Vitamin D? And how much of it would have lifted without any of that?

Today, if you live somewhere warm(er) enjoy going outside and not having to worry about freezing your butt off. Me, I'm going to be thankful I live in a warm home and have the energy and ambition to get up off my butt and do some physical work (for a change).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Darkening Cusp

The daylight hours are shrinking here. With just under 8 hours of daylight now, knowing those will dwindle to just over seven in less than a month, I've found the Church's celebration of Advent gives meaning to the encroaching darkness. Advent reminds me that darkness is not the end of the story. Embracing Advent has been a hopeful alternative to the gritting of my teeth I used to do in order to get through these darkening days. Don't get me wrong. I'd be lying if I said I embraced these days with full abandon. I'm as happy as the next person to see December 22nd arrive with the knowledge of lengthening days literally on the horizon. But having a focus during the waiting helps.

A year ago I was in a very dark place. It was on the cusp of Advent that I was able to admit outloud for the first time that I struggled with sexual addiction. The paralyzing shame prompted me to write this prayer at an Advent retreat. What followed was close to 120 days of abstinence. I can still remember what it felt like to be present in the painful places; at times feeling empty, agitated, and restless. The weird but hopeful feeling to choose not to fill the gaping hole with that which could not heal it. The foreign but welcome realization that it was possible to acknowledge the gaping hole without rushing for the nearest escape route. I'm not sure I befriended the gaping hole but I learned it was possible to co-exist with it.

When youngest son moved out of our home and into the home of his 15 year old girlfriend my stringing together of one-day-at-a-times came to an end. I chose to revert back to habits of self numbing oblivion to get through abruptly becoming an empty nester.

What is that saying? It's darkest just before the dawn? By the end of the third month of being an empty nester I nearly lost my 18+ years of sobriety. Although I had always been a social drinker, becoming a closet one was starting to look inviting. Making my way to an AA meeting after an 8 or 9 year absence felt like more of a bottom than my initial steps into a meeting all those years ago. Admitting I couldn't do this recovery journey solo anymore was more humbling than a relief. I've since learned that years without a drink are entirely different than years of sobriety. I feel 95% newbie and 5% old timer at meetings.

Let Go and Let God is a recurring theme in recovery circles. Not too long ago I read somewhere you can either let go or get dragged. When I think of the verse "the truth shall set you free" maybe that's what letting go means. Perhps when I find myself getting dragged I am resisting truth. Today I experienced a moment when I was able to let go of a situation. These days I celebrate those tiny victories. It was a moment of "oh, that's not my problem to comment on, let alone fix."

Letting go is what I am bringing down with me into the darkness to chew on this Advent. This post has given me focus as I prepare to hunker down and wait for the Light.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Just Ate Your Last Coke...

..that was the sentence I was composing in my head before I sat down to confess such in an email to night-shift-working dearest one tonight. It took me several run throughs to realize I must be really tired to think I could eat a can of Coke.

Thank you for all your well wishes and prayers. The retreat was wonderful. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. Sometimes when I go for a long time without laughing and then eventually do, my laughter rings hollow. I feel startled at the sound of my own it doesn't belong to me but someone I don't even know. This weekend my laughter felt warm and life giving and fluid. Best of all it was spontaneous and genuine.

My talk was well received although that's neither here nor there. I like talking and they let me, so we're both happy. Last week dearest one was in the middle of writing a letter for me to read during my weekend, when I walked into the livingroom and started chattering his ear off, oblivious to what he was doing. Eventually he looked at me and told me his thought train had 'derailed' and he had been on a roll before I started talking. We laughed and I thought he was pretty sweet not to just delete the whole thing. He told me he now knew what I felt like when I was writing a blog post and he started talking to me and I lost my own train of thought.

Written words don't come easily to him so he was disappointed to be 'derailed' in the midst of writing me an encouraging note. However he made me laugh and cry this weekend when I read that particular note. Here is what he said:

"Hi Heart,

Hope is such an easy word to say; I hope this...I hope that...I hope you...

Your pen name fits you so well because as Dr. M. said, "Her determination will do her a lot of good." That is the same determination that has kept you going for thus far all the way since '62 and will likely be the substance that keeps you plugging away through the next however many decades of this life.

For me that has been somewhat of a two edged sword at times. There are the "I can do this or I'll be damned" times when I would have sooner done it for you; to me it would have been easier than watching you struggle with the fallout later [he's talking of me using up spoons unnecessarily]. For you it seems to be that same 'determination' that your grandma saw.

Hope is your favourite word in the English language, perhaps which is partially why you are so well able to....(Here's where my train derailed) ...give others a vision of what it looks like for themselves.

I have many hopes for you, for me, for us....the greatest of which I know will be realized when we are snuggled in the arms of Christ, hearing his "Well done."

Forever hope,
dearest one

Somehow I know he will forgive me for eating the last can of his coke.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blessed Procrastination

There is a blessed chinook going on outside today. Blessed because it means a relief from the abnormally cold temperatures of late and the partial melting of the two+ feet of snow we've received since the 28th of October. I haven't been out of the yard since last Friday. Winter driving is not my best suit and when you live in the middle of nowhere driving is mandatory if you want to see another human being. Icy roads and a sudden snowfall kept me home last weekend instead of going to my Lay Formation course. It's getting pretty bad when a person feels snow(house)bound and winter hasn't even officially begun!

I am procrastinating along with the best of them today. Tomorrow I am headed to a women's retreat where I am one of a dozen speakers. I enjoy the speaking part of it as much as the writing and preparing ahead of time. I've accepted both are gifts God has given me and am thrilled to share them with others. It will be a weekend of little sleep, lots of laughter, a good cry or two, plus great food. I will be totally spoonless before it is over but will be rejuventated in my spirit. The thought of daily Mass and access to a chapel around the clock (with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) both lift my spirits. I have quite a long list of things that need to get accomplished before I head out the door tomorrow. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute to get my butt in gear.

Mentally I am feeling like something has lifted. I don't have any more energy or ambition to do a blessed thing but at least I am not feeling like there is a black cloud hovering over me on top of it. I'm no longer resisting the pull into my prayer room and I can go and sit there in solitude and feel some peace.

This morning while waiting for the computer to wake up I looked outside to see a herd of elk grazing not much more than a stone's throw from the deck. The dogs must be used to them already because they didn't bark up a storm at their presence. Maybe before winter is over I will be able to get a photo of them to share with you. How to do that without spooking them all away will be the challenge.

Yesterday morning I took a picture of the sunrise from inside the house. I do love the expanse of sky just outside my window, don't you?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Catholic Carnival 93

This week's Catholic Carnival can be found here. Lots to read over there.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wading Through, Doing The Work

Wow. I could write a separate post on each one of you and how you continue to impact my life. Some of you I know only through the internet - from what I've read on your blogs and through personal emails, others I also talk to on the phone and there are several commenters who I know in my everyday, face to face life.

A few years ago when we were a family on welfare and using the food bank I learned that whenever someone takes the time to pay attention to me, be it in conversation, prayer or by meeting a physical, emotional, or social need, they sacrifice to do so because they could've been spending that time/money doing something else. So thank you for taking the time to not only read, but comment. Jean Vanier in his book, From Brokenness to Community says the cry of the human heart is this: "Am I important to you? Do I have any value?" Thank you for hearing my cry.

I sat in my prayer room this morning welcoming the solitude and silence. I felt embraced and hopeful. I was reminded that my job is to show up. The way God works is a mystery and today I could accept that again. I didn't need to have it all figured out. I get tripped up so easily thinking the finish line is the point. Like my friend Peter says, "one foot in front of another." Often in the quest to put that one foot in front of the other, I trip and fall, then feel ashamed that I haven't managed to keep standing. Reading these words were soothing to me this weekend:
"Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multivolume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us, and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don't waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success. Listen, learn, go on."(emphasis added)

The author also writes,
"It is ...... fatuous to think that once we solve an issue it stays solved, that once we learn, we always remain conscious ever after. No, life is a great body that grows and diminishes in different areas, at different rates. When we are like a body, doing the work of new growth, wading through shit, just breathing or resting, we are very alive,.....If we could realize that the work is to keep doing the work, we would be much more....peaceful."

Part of my struggle lately is that I am still wading through this relatively new empty-nest-season in my life. I home schooled my kids for 15 years and went on quite the detours in my spiritual life during that time. I joke to only daughter that it's a wonder her and her siblings don't have spiritual whiplash. Some of those detours celebrated repression in the name of being a good wife and mother. I lost a part of me in it all. I don't mean that as a slam against homeschooling or being a stay at home mother. There were many positives to both. Any person, no matter how they spend their days, can repress that which is life giving, can drown out the voice of their own soul, in order to get the (fleeting) applause of the (invisible) crowd.

And so here I am. It feels both scary and exhilarating. The rest of my life is before me and with far less responsibility, I find myself trying to navigate a freedom I haven't had since my college days. Had I known I would develop a chronic illness before this season of my life began I might've made different choices earlier. But none of us have the wisdom of hindsight until it is just that, hindsight. I've come to the conclusion that repressing what would have breathed life into my soul has quite possibly contributed to my illness. I don't think it is a coincidence that being short of breath was one of the first symptoms. If I hadn't had the genetics that made this illness possible, I think my body would've tried to get my attention some other way. It has my attention now. Some people would read that and think I am being too hard on myself. I don't feel any guilt or shame coming to the conclusion I have come to. I feel thankful that my body would do what it had to, to get my attention. It is a gift. I am forced to pay attention to those things I could've kept silenced by busyness and noise. It doesn't mean I don't mourn what used to be because I do. So does my dearest one.

Last week he was in a(n)(unusual for him) melancholy place, saying aloud several times that he felt like someone died. We both thought his mood was about his deceased brother, who's birthday was that day. Eventually he realized the person he was mourning was me. Us. We had quite different dreams for this season of our lives. They all involved doing things that took physical ability. Dearest one walks 108 steps up from locker room to hospital floor daily. He says not one day goes by that he doesn't think of me as he walks and how I am unable to face such a challenge. Me, who used to thrill at the challenge of walking faster, pushing myself a little harder every time I exercised. We both know if I attempted those 108 steps I would be going down on a stretcher. This makes dearest one feel not only sad but angry, too.

Our dreams of walking the beach, travelling overseas, getting in the car and driving wherever our hearts desire are no longer possible. Our lives together revolve around my spoon supply. As we talked about this last week I realized anew that when one person has a chronic illness it impacts everyone around them. Dearest one has to pace himself to my pace. Part of me laughs at the irony as I type that. There were so many years when I went for a walk and was absolutely frustrated that dearest one wanted a leisurely walk and I wanted to acccomplish something instead - get my heart rate up and have an aerobic work out. These days moving from doorstep to car can get my heart rate up into that level. I dearly miss the challenge of exercising and increasing my stamina, being fit instead of fat.

Dearest one says it makes him feel like he is a single person because for him to realize his dreams of travel, etc. it will have to be alone. For even if we went together, the exploring and all that we find exciting about doing it, is impossible for me. Heck, we can't even go for a long quad ride together on our farm because if we get stranded I will be unable to walk my way out of the bush. Dearest one is seeing his dreams vanishing because what we wanted to do together holds no appeal to do solo. My physical limitations often make him feel like he is married to someone 40 years his senior.

So while we are in yet another cycle of mourning, we are also looking to the future and how to make the most of it. Validating the feelings yet not getting stuck in them. I refuse to let this illness define who I am. How exactly to navigate the reality of it is something we continually revisit. The wading through, doing the work continues. I do feel like I have my bearings again spiritually. I feel like I am able to face those things I have repressed and see what they have to teach me. I am hopeful in it all that I will befriend my feelings instead of being scared of them. I am hopeful that my mind and body will become more in sync instead of enemies.

Last week one day dearest one met the doctor who pushed the specialists until they came up with a diagnosis for me. She asked him how I was and when he told her that he thought I was worse and I thought I was better she told him that his assessment was most likely right but that my determination would get me far in life. When I was a newborn, premature infant in an incubator, my grandma came to see me. She went home and wrote in her diary that I had this look of fierce determination on my face. By the grace of God, it's still there.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The View From Here

Yesterday morning with the windchill factor added the weatherman said it was the equivalent of -34 C outside. We definitely have winter in full force here. That's the view from our deck looking out towards the creek.

A new reader left a comment on the post below this one. Yesterday I just about decided to stop writing on here, convinced it wasn't life giving to anyone, not even me. In the process of changing to beta blogger and categorizing a pile of posts I got to see how I keep going around and around the same subjects. I know this is how the journey works but if I get tired of it I figure you do too. Well, and in the grand scheme of life one less blog really isn't going to matter, I know that.

I will be away for the weekend and am asking regular readers and those who lurk to leave me a 'hi' in the comments. It is so easy to lose perspective and feel like I have been stuck forever or am only taking steps backwards. I can't remember ever being in such a funk. One day I hope to be able to rest in this moment, not worry about the next one and not obsess about the past ones. I'm looking that direction but I'm not there yet.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Naked Safety

Lately I've been in the darkest of pits. The safety of that pit has been easier to take than the vulnerability of living in the Light. If I didn't know what it felt like to bask in the Light I most likely could keep living in the pit. But I have experienced a chunk of time when the need to feel safe in the dark was replaced with the freedom of living in the Light. It was a most beautiful, intimate Light. And having experienced it, I am torn between the two. In all honesty if it were possible, I would choose safety in the pit and freedom - but it's not. I've been very disilllusioned about how, in what seemed like a nanosecond, the freedom disappeared and I found myself back in the safety of high, high walls. Lately those walls, despite their height and strength, have been a sad and lonely place to feel protected yet bound.

This afternoon I had an appointment with Father Charlie, my spiritual director. While he reads whatever blog offering I bring, I usually read one of these books. My favourite one is called Be-good-to-yourself Therapy. Today I picked it up and found the very first page to read something like this: "Trust yourself. You know what you want and need." It seemed like every other page had either the word trust or ask. When one has isolated themselves in a wall of protective darkness doing either seems an impossibility. Trusting means opening oneself up to pain and being hurt. Asking means needing others and owning your voice. Every line had something to do with looking inward and seeing goodness or looking up and trusting the Goodness. As I read my heart rate started to speed up, then I got teary - something I haven't allowed myself to do while in this particular pit.

I told Father Charlie my heart was pounding so fast that I had to stop reading. My body was filled with the tension of trying to keep Truth out. Finally the tears spilled over and I started talking. We talked of the difference between setting boundaries and putting up walls. Of resentments, hiding in black holes and being closed up within oneself so tightly that movement felt impossible. We talked of my struggle to choose freedom over hiding.

He asked me if there were any images coming to mind as we talked. Often I get a picture in my head when he asks questions and that picture is usually very telling. Today I had none but he did. He said that a picture of my house kept coming to him and how there are rooms in one's house where they feel comfortable being vulnerable and others where that vulnerability wouldn't be such a sure bet. He also talked of how a closet is a place where it's usually dark. He meant it all metaphorically...

He had no idea how this image would speak to me. As he described the image I heard a bit of the twilight zone theme buzzing round my head. Earlier this week I took some pictures in my house and dearest one taught me how to download the images to the computer just this morning. The image Father Charlie was getting was not simply metaphorical but very real. Although he's been a guest in our home he had no idea I even had a prayer room. Or that I haven't been inside it in nearly two months. I used to take a breakfast tray in there every morning and journal while I ate. Then I would light candles and sit in the silence. Sometimes I would also pray the litgurgy of the hours, the rosary or simply talk to God. It's the one room in my house where I can shut the door and, in privacy, safety and all nakedness of soul, get totally vulnerable with God. I've been walking past its open door a dozen times a day lately but haven't been able to bring myself to actually go in it. It isn't a space I can keep my arms wrapped tight around myself in without risking feeling the warmth of God's arms enveloping me, too. It's a sacred space where I feel stripped bare. I told Father Charlie it almost feels like there is an invisible force field in that room and lately it's as if I'm being drawn to go in there but resistant to the hilt inside myself.

I still haven't set foot in it. But it is comforting to know that when I am ready to go from the protective darkness to the safety of the Light, there is an actual space to sit in and be comforted while I weep, and pray, and let down my walls.

At the end of our session I picked up the book and finished reading it. The cloying darkness had lifted and just knowing the room is there when I am ready, calmed my heart and gave me a hope I haven't felt in a long time.


Coasting is what I feel like I am doing right now in life. Couldn't care less about anything. Trying to be in the moment but feeling like there is no point to this moment. Feeling guilty that I can't even fake a gratitude list. Feeling like I am living in a self induced vicious cycle. No journalling, no meditation. No quiet of soul. Auto pilot existence. And I feel like it is up to me to do something about it. Do something about the numbness. I think I used to live like this all the time. A safely masked existence. I know this will pass but do I want it to? The glimmer of hope? This is day 8 of abstinence.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I'm playing around with the template and having changed to beta blogger I lost all my haloscan comments and I can't get them to load into this new system. Sorry if you are getting many posts on bloglines. Sometimes too many choices gets more annoying than not.

Living In The Tension

I came across a blog the a few days ago and in this post a sentence jumped out at me. It read:
"I have a desire to live life rather than hide from it."
The author put into words what I have been doing lately - trying to hide from life.

Yesterday at my weekly AA meeting someone talked about waging a war within ones' self and how in a war when one side waves a white flag they are surrendering to life not death.

I find myself living in the tension between those two thoughts, hiding from life and surrendering to life.

My phone went on the fritz before I could post this yesterday. In reflecting on it between then and now I realized that there has to be some level of awareness to have either of those phrases jump out at me and grab my attention. Somehow realizing that helped me see that I am not as lost as I thought I was.

Words To Ponder II

The Way I Want to Love You

by Julian of Norwich

You must learn to understand that all your deficiencies, even those that come from your past sins and vicious habits, are part of my loving providence for you, and that it is just with those deficiencies, just the way you are now, that I would love you. Therefore you must overcome the habit of judging how you would make yourself acceptable to me. When you do this you are putting your providence, your wisdom before mine. It is my wisdom that tells you, �The way you are acceptable to me, the way I want to love you, is the way you are now, with all your defects and deficiencies. I could wipe them out in a moment if I wanted to, but then I could not love you the way I want to love you, the way you are � now.�

Source: Revelations of Divine Love


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Life On The Cerebral Plain

I have very little experience to go on when it comes to living life from somewhere other than my head. Living on a cerebral level feels much safer. Total control. My body, my feelings, my gut - well - they aren't nearly so predictable, you know? One time my mom was showing me something in her bookshelves when she touched my shoulder. My body's instant reaction was to freeze and try to get away from her touch. I was over 35 years old when that happened. The body remembers things that the mind would rather not. It doesn't seek permission first either. Scary stuff.

The last time the Gospel reading at the Mass was the one where Jesus says "Who do you say that I am?" Father Charlie asked us how we would answer that question. I know now why I gravitated towards a fundamentalist bent of evangelicalism all these years. It seemed to be about having the right answer and preening (at least inwardly) if you did. And since I have spent most of my life either convinced I was right or pretending to be, that whole mind set suited me well. And while I know there are fundamentalist Catholics out there, and as much as I sometimes want to run to their camp, living my faith from somewhere deeper than spouting off the 'right' answer is a challenge I try to embrace.

So, Father Charlie throws out Christ's question to us, "Who do you say that I am?" and I get all smug, sit up a bit straighter and call out, "Saviour." He shoots back without a moment's hesitation "Why?" I throw back at him something along the lines of Christ died for my sins and the rest of the answer I was used to getting brownie points for. The 'right, safe' answer. Something out of a textbook. Father Charlie said nothing in reply. No gold star for me. No pat on the back. In the intervening nano second of quiet someone else gave their answer. Several minutes of this goes on, with nearly everyone in our tiny congregation saying something, when he challenges another women in the pews to answer at more than a head level. At this he turns and tells all of us that we need to answer that question from somewhere more than a cerebral level. He draws his hand across his forehead, puts his hand over his heart and tells us we need to answer the question from our heart. And then he repeats Christ's question, "Who do you say that I am?" and leaves us hanging there - making us responsible for our own response.

Geez, I hate trick questions like that. After spending years being asked spiritual questions in a context where the person asking already has the set answer in mind, I get lost when the rules change. Ask me what I think and I can nearly give you a thesis. Ask me how I feel and more often than not I am stumped. I have lost track of the number of times I have been confronted with that question, "Who do you say that I am?" since hearing the Gospel read at the Mass every Sunday. It trips me up every time.

Where am I going with this tale? On some level I know that my sobriety, my abstinence, my linking together of one day at a time(s) hinges on living from somewhere other than my head. It means being open to listening to what my body, my feelings, my gut is trying to tell me. Doing so scares the crap out of me. But life has become pretty unmanageable by trying to live solely from my head so I know it's either quit my bitching and jump into the unkown or accept the same old, same old. I hope to God I've come to the end of the same old, same old.

Last month at one of my AA meetings a woman shared how she lived her life from her heart. She said that she knew all too well what life had been like when she tried living it from her head. I immediately thought of the magnet you see in this post. When I got home I took it off my fridge, put it in an envelope and wrote her a short note of explanation. I got goose bumps when she shared at that meeting because she nearly quoted the magnet word for word just by sharing her experience, strength and hope. She gave me hope that living from my heart is possible, that letting go is necessary, and that one day, the words on the magnet will be my own reality.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Addiction and Grace

"Addiction cannot be defeated by the human will acting on its own, nor by the human will opting out and turning everything over to the divine will. Instead, the power of grace flows most fully when human will chooses to act in harmony with divine will. In practical terms, this means staying in a situation, being willing to confront it as it is, remaining responsible for the choices one makes in response to it, but at the same time turning to God's grace, protection, and guidance as the ground for one's choices and behavior. It is the difference between testing God by avoiding one's own responsibilities and trusting God as one acts responsibly. Responsible human freedom thus becomes authentic spiritual surrender, and authentic spiritual surrender is nothing other than responsible human freedom. Here, in the condition of humble dignity, the power of addiction can be overcome." ~ Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

Day one for me today.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My False Self

Early on in my sobriety I remember sitting at an open AA meeting next to a woman of wisdom. She was nearing 80 years of age and when she spoke we were all mesmerized by her humility and wisdom. I remember asking God to infuse me straight away with some kind of similar wisdom before it was my turn to talk. Ya, right. Not exactly the way it works is it?

At that point in my life there were two thoughts that were constantly at the edge of my consciousness. One was that AA meetings were the only place on earth that was safe and real. That reality alternately scared and thrilled me. The other was wondering why I couldn't handle living in that reality. Why could I not just say how it was with me without it having to be about image? My image. I found myself jockeying for position - a position that came from within me - not one that anyone was trying to compete with me for. Eventually the group I was in disbanded and there were several reasons I didn't seek out a new one. None of them good or justifiable. Had I gone to a different group I am sure I would have either been confronted with truth that I couldn't side step and I would have either welcomed it or used it as an excuse to get drunk. With no sponsor (still thinking I could go it alone) there was also no one to answer to. I walked away from it thinking I had enough years of sobriety behind me that me and God could handle my soriety solo.

Well, that I could handle it solo and would call on God only when it was obvious that I wasn't handling life on my own too well. What followed was nearly 10 years of mostly a dry drunk. Occasionally I walked the talk. More often than not I didn't. More often than not today, I still don't.

I can type that without beating myself up. I do have regrets about not having gone to meetings for the past 10 years. I came close to losing my sobriety this past June and in desperation I went back to meetings. When I did I came in contact with people with the same amount of sobriety as me and I got to see what sobriety, in its fullness, could be. I'm willing to learn not to mourn those years too much but I still stumble over the words we read aloud at every meeting:

"We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it."
I feel like I am newly sober. I want the serenity others have. I want to know what it is to say how I am without dressing it up a bit. To be able to own up to my humanity without being self condemning. It could be someone newly sober or someone with 22 years of sobriety that God uses to speak truth to me. It took at least two months of meetings for me to ''get it'' that years of sobriety didn't count for much, it was living it in this moment that really mattered. And when I heard someone with 2 days of sobriety worry less about image and more about reality than I was capable of - that got my attention.

Which brings me to today. Wondering what it says to have 18+ years of sobriety behind me and not one day of abstinence when it comes to either bingeing or sexual addiction. There is a bit that we read at every meeting that has been haunting me lately. It reads like this:

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men or women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest."

I used to read that bit in the big book and think of my brother-in-law who went through rehab like it was a revolving door. He died over two years ago, sober on the night of his death, but not in sobriety. I used to think what a pity it was that he couldn't get honest while patting myself on the back for my own. These days I hear the above read at meetings and more often than not the words are hitting me so hard I am unaware of anyone else in the room. I pray I can learn to be so rigorous. I worry that I won't.

I told someone the other day that there was no way I wanted to be an 80 year old woman still stuck in her addictions. But do I want freedom bad enough to do the hard work? It seems I keep coming back to the truth that this life is lived only one fucking day at a time and I keep trying to live the rest of my life at one go. It feels like paying attention to this moment is an impossibility. I am scared to find out how that feels. I have heard enough at meetings to know I will never do it perfectly. But can I be willing in the moment, to be in the moment? I get exhausted just thinking about it. It makes me feel like I will have to spend the rest of my life like some guard standing at attention when all I want to do is slump against the wall.

The other day a piece of the puzzle came into focus for me. I have read of ego and have heard others speak of it at meetings but I never really understood it for myself. It was while reading this the other day that I got it finally. I sat there and realized it was my ego all along that has been in the way of being honest or being me at meetings. In love with my false self and protecting it at all costs. It was what others at meetings had faced in order to be rigorously honest. There was a time - let's say oh, 2 weeks ago - when having that revelation would have propelled me into action - trying to fix it and prove to anyone who cared that my real self truly leads the way. Today I can simply acknowledge the revelation for the gift it is, saying a hesitant amen to these words:

"If we are blessed God will destabilize and begin to 'break down' this false self."

I keep on hoping that it is possible to string together days of abstinence like my friend bobbie has. I do however, question whether I want it bad enough to make it a reality. I wonder if going to AA meetings and learning what I am there will make me come to the end of myself in these other areas or whether I will be one of those unfortunates who is unwilling to be honest with themselves. Some days I wonder who the hell do I think I am fooling. I'd rather have some miraculous cure from Jesus than face doing the hard work of recovery. But something tells me that hard work is the only way serenity and abstinence and true sobriety is ever going to be my reality. And that by stringing together one day at a time's worth of any of it really is a miracle.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I'll have mine on ice (not)

Over a foot of snow fell yesterday while I was in town for meetings. Highway travel wasn't recommended so I didn't venture home until today. On the drive home the worst stretch was the five miles of pure ice. Winter driving isn't my idea of a good time so I was really glad to turn in the driveway; my 55 minute drive turned into nearly 90. But here I am safe and sound. I am thankful.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Way Back

Lately I have felt like I've been blindfolded, spun around countless times and left to navigate my way with no sense of direction. I spent the afternoon reading an amazing book online. Reading this book helped point the Way back.

One of my favourite quotes:
”When you’re not content with reality you will always worry about the way things appear.”


"Aloneness is not a curse to be avoided but a grace to be embraced. Aloneness is the goodness of an inner centering that faces the pain of differentness, sculpted and understood by God. And there is no greater grace than the blessing of acceptance in the face of one's differentness and aloneness...the God who made the world with kaleidoscopic beauty affirms us at the core of who we are and says: "I know you,do not be afraid."
~Henri Nouwen~


Words Of Comfort

"There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling rain & remember it is enough to be taken care of by myself."


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I feel like I am slogging my way down a very murky path
doing the fake it til you make it dance.
I feel kinship with the cold, bare trees outside my window.
Except I have a layer of fat - humour still intact, that's gotta be a hopeful thing.
I feel like embracing waiting, being present and grounded are things I am faking.
Embraced is the last thing I want.
So I run the other way and get pissed that I do not run alone.
I want to yell "leave me the fuck alone."
Yet know that will never happen.
Not only does One run by my side but
I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses,
seen and unseen, cheering me on.
I try to drown out their voices
only to find A voice inside me.
Even so, I try to hide what cannot be hidden.
And I cry because I am embraced
on the murky path,
while fighting to go it alone.


There are some excellent posts over at Prodigal Kiwi(s)Blog regarding a series of talks given by Richard Rohr.

Day One
Day Two

The pdf notes available within the posts resonated with me.

Here's one quote from the notes that I wrote out:
"If you do not transform your pain, your hurt, your brokenness, your addictions and your woundedness, you will always transmit it - will always relate to others out of it."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Work Of Grace

I am grateful for the mysterious happening called letting go. God knows I can't seem to make it happen on my own.

Last night our youngest son came over with his girlfriend. A girl I have had a real hard time liking. Thoughts such as you've got my son by the balls and I'm onto your games have been at the forefront of my mind for much of their relationship. Ya. Not the proudest of that, but it's the truth. I had had a breakthrough with my attitude towards her earlier this year but my attitude didn't last. No angel halo for me.

So last night (at the end of an 18 hour spoonless day, no less) I was pleasantly surprised to find no ill will within me towards her. Instead a calm acceptance. Somewhere between last night and I don't know when, I realized I had stopped expecting things she can't deliver. Things like acting more than her age (15) or not acting out in behaviours that she could only change through hard work, healing grace and much love.

And while I was pleasantly surprised not to have that below the surface pissyness towards her I was also unsettled. Because I know a change in attitude towards her means I most likely have a softer attitude towards myself, too. A work of grace. And for this control loving woman, not being able to put a finger on where and when and how it all happened, and that it happened without my orchestrating it all - well - that's an answer to someone's prayers! Including my own.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thank You For Each Moment

I spent the day at a journalling retreat. It was good to get a different perspective on journalling as well as concrete ideas for cultivating a deeper awareness of my spiritual journey through journalling. Here is a prayer we prayed (whose title is this post title) together at the start of the retreat:

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the blue-sky moment,
the softening earth,
the refreshing wind,
the yellow bush,
for my full heart
and the joy rising in me.

Soften me
to receive whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment
for the twilight moment,
the pause,
the good tired,
for the quiet reflection,
the slowing down,
the mysterious sunset,
for the wisdom growing inside me.

Gentle me
to feel whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the midnight moment,
the loneliness,
the fretful wondering,
for the watchful stars,
the long ache,
the sleepless wait,
and the hope straining in me.

Focus me
to see whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the high-noon moment,
the job,
the necessary routine,
for the sweaty struggle,
the impulse to change,
and the courage gathering in me.

Ground me
to wrestle with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the shared moment,
the listening,
the unguarded word,
for the fragile openness,
the ready smile,
the accepted difference,
for my passionate heart
and the trust rooting in me.

Stretch me
to grow with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the charged moment,
the confrontation,
for the hard decision,
the unexpected growing,
for my intense heart
and the truth expanding in me.

Free me
to be open to whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the holy moment,
the music,
the child's eyes,
for the sunlight,
the touch,
the tears,
for the trembling pleasure,
the unutterable beauty,
for the life and love and heart in me aware,
and the wholeness spreading in me.

Touch me
through whatever comes as a gift
That I may be grateful
and praise you in it.

~from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder