Being Zoe

Last night as I sat on the glider with my pajama-clad toddler nestled in beside me waiting for her story, I paused a moment. Her anticipation was palpable, her cozy little body so cute. And yet, I spoke to my husband, resting on our bed in a brief respite before the next round of bedtime exhortations for our older three.

“You know, I don’t get anything done around the house when I’m home with her, but it’s not like I spend any quality time with her either. I have all these half-finished things I’m working on and getting frustrated about – instead of just giving up and giving her my full attention.”

He knew it was just my latest in a line of vents/complaints/realizations as I try to come to terms with my reality. It has been an ongoing conversation, one that couldn’t be solved at that moment anyway. There were stories to read, older cats to herd. There’s also a slice of something that just can’t be changed the way life is right now.

This morning, in the small window between two kids leaving and another rousing, I decided to spend a few minutes doing some spiritual reading. Time for me, time to center – before plunging headfirst into the day – or trolling Facebook, which very rarely yields spiritual dividends. I fumbled around, trying to find the page I’d left off on since the toddler, who now positioned her head directly in my line of sight, had been so kind to reposition the bookmark for me on a previous occasion.

I’m pretty sure I reread pages already hard fought on another day, but in them, the author talked about zoe and bios. Eternal life vs earthly life. Do we strive for something bigger than ourselves? Or are we bogged down by the day-to-day so that we can’t see beyond the ends of our own noses?

My first year of teaching, I taught a short story called “Be-ers and Do-ers” by Budge Wilson to my eighth graders. They were more enthralled by the close resemblance of the first word of the title to an adult beverage than the overarching theme, but even then, I think I knew that the play between the two ends of this spectrum was important. Before life got crazy hectic and happiness was hard-won.

Am I mistaking productivity for a successful day? Week? Motherhood? Life?

Am I looking to to-do lists as structure for the free-form days of stay-at-home motherhood?

Am I allowing quantitative data to measure my worth and override the qualitative moments of life? Because it’s easier to complete measurable tasks than surrender oneself to something or someone outside of themselves?

Hours later, after I’d given up reading and hustled number three out the door, I wrestled the toddler onto the changing table. She went full-alligator until I burst into tears. “Why, God, why?” I called out, not unaware of how pitiful my approximation of Jesus’ agony on the cross was. As fiercely as she’d fought, she suddenly was peaceful.

That was why.

Bios – doing – is that much harder when I pay no mind to zoe – being. Being at peace, in God’s light, resting in the assurance that He knows more and can handle more than I can.

“The boredom or tedium of life flows from [a] lack of depth. We tend to focus merely on the horizontal, the immediate reality of life, without ever hearing or obeying the words of our Lord: ‘Duc in altum! Set out into the deep!’ (Lk 5:4)”

Stepping on the Serpent: The Journey of Trust with Mary by Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC

 

Not Mutually Exclusive

There is no need to shame a control-freak, God-fearing Catholic. There is no need to add to the torment she has already inflicted upon herself.

Yet, that is exactly what I found a quote from Marianne Williamson doing last night.

It has been six years since I started medication therapy for my postpartum depression and anxiety. Six years of low dose, slight increases, attempts at doing without – and it still serves me. And yet, a small part of me still questions my need for it.

Why isn’t this glorious life God has given me enough reason to rejoice? Why aren’t the three gorgeous gifts of heaven that are my children a daily cause for celebration? Am I not grateful enough for God’s blessings that I need an antidepressant to merely function, never mind embrace this life?

Catholic guilt is a strong force, but not one I blame for these thoughts. I confessed to my pastor that I feared my mental struggles were tied to a crisis of faith. I worried that turning to secular talk therapy turned me away from God’s gentle care. I fretted that medication was a crutch that kept me from leaning on God’s healing power.

My pastor told me that spirituality is an important piece of one’s healing, but not to the exclusion of other beneficial treatments. My trained counselor was helping me process my feelings without judgment and not keeping me from turning to God for quiet reflection. And if prescription medicine existed in God’s world, created by one of the people He put on this earth, why would I not avail myself of this beneficial tool? Most importantly, my pastor told me that God did not cause this suffering to befall me. It was not a punishment for some wrongdoing or turning away on my part. If I gleaned something good from the experience, perhaps God allowed the growth in me, but He certainly did not beset me with these troubles.

As always, the rational mind, while fully aware of such life-affirming and freeing arguments, still can fall prey to its irrational side. I thought I’d have no problem reading the social media post that started a furious online debate about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Yet, as I did, I felt some of the angst I’d been slowly putting to bed for the last six years come creeping back up.

marianne williamson

This statement plays to all the fears of the postpartum mother.  The guilt of needing medication to enjoy the miracle of life and her role in it.  The fact that she can’t come to terms with ‘normal’ changes in her body chemistry.  That she has somehow failed by not meditating enough; praying enough; eating healthily enough.  And then to judge her own success by the love of others – something over which she has no control.  Or does that speak to the love she fails to feel for her child?

I am only living a modicum of successful motherhood because of the very real diagnosis of postpartum depression and its treatment with medicinal drugs.  And yet, this statement still elicits a shameful, guilty feeling in me.  After SIX successful years of such treatment.  

What of the mother just beginning to wonder if she is struggling postpartum?  What thoughts and feelings assault her when she reads this?  She is already doubting herself and ‘succumbing’ to the crutches of medicine.  She already thinks she’s failed.  And now to tell her it’s all a ploy by ‘Big Pharma’?

‘Big Pharma’ is not issuing me any big paycheck.  I’ve written thirteen different posts about the decision, pros/cons of taking psychotropic drugs, most notably Happy Pills.  When the news initially hit that new recommendations called for all pregnant women and mothers to be screened for depression this was my reaction:

duh

I never dreamed news that was so obvious to me would be seen as a negative by others.

I’m going to imagine that Williamson’s comments were born of the assumption that those standing to make a financial gain would encourage a mindless mass to pop a pill and forget their troubles – and a meaningful life.  I do not encourage anyone to medicate their troubles away without also doing the hard personal work of introspection and spiritual growth.  Meds are not successful in a vacuum.  They must be supported by close medical monitoring, therapies, and lifestyle changes.

Choosing medication is not a mutually exclusive option over meditation, prayer, and love.

I fear that the way Williamson’s stance has been presented, the ensuing social media storm will portray just that.  God-fearing people do not fear medical marvels.  God-fearing people do not judge others for decisions they make concerning their own care.  God-fearing people would never want someone to suffer needlessly while thinking it was a fatal flaw of character.

The Music of the Morning

The distant beep beep beep of a backing-up garbage truck
Residual rivulets of rain on the roof
Ringing in my ears

A Benedictine monk was told to repeat a Psalm over and over in his head
When it was all he could hear, he asked his superior what then.
Repeat it until you become it.

Without the outside distractions of beeping and running water,
the ringing becomes all consuming.
How can I turn down the dissonance and resonate with the truth?

psalmist

thegospelcoalition

To It and Through It

Many straws.

There were oh so many straws that bowed my back the last few weeks.

I could list them. My mind right now is tempted to spool back through the memories, the agitations. But the feeling associated with them is gone.

It took one major freak out, an unepected text message leading me to a chapel, and suddenly, there was peace.

I had been so busy fighting. Without really knowing against what. Working so hard to: Control? Perfect? Protect? All it did was make me miserable.

I lamented how tired I was, of fighting, of doing battle every day. And suddenly this space inside me opened up.

I didn’t have to.

I could trust in God. I could trust that He had everything under control. I could let Him handle everything, worry about everything.

I just had to turn to Him for peace, for strength.

And then the craziest thing happened.

While a cascade of little things finally helped me open the door, God answered with one huge thing. A life altering contract of trust.

He may be serious as a sunburn, but I can’t help but see a little of George Burns’ portrayal in God’s divine providence. He certainly has a sense of humor. He is a master of irony.

But while He asks a great amount, He will always be right there to see me through it.

image from diaryofamormongirl

image from diaryofamormongirl

We are Pilgrims on a Journey

As I sat there listening to music being created right before my eyes, manufactured by human hands up on the stage two tent lengths away, it struck me how amazing the moment was. How lucky I was to be alive and experiencing it. A resounding hum roiling behind my breast bone – the hum of music another om of humanity.

And it is no coincidence that the space music swells is the same place that aches with longing for life, the unnamed.

For where there is a lack, there is also largess.

A void with the ability to be filled.

An ebb and flow

A sacred space that the filling and emptying of reminds us of the balance of life.

For every pain, there will be achingly beautiful joy.

For every time we feel bereft, there will be the overwhelming beauty of belonging, of certainty.

Seeing such music flow from the source brings the magic to life even more. It is the shared experience, the affinity between and among all humankind: a common ache for the sublime, a beatific high when we attain it, and the lonely muddling through when we don’t.

We all are passengers on the same journey, all trying to find our way.

On nights like this, our souls travel together.

"Servant Song" by Richard Gilliard & David Haas

“Servant Song” by Richard Gilliard & David Haas

I Am Proud

I see how you drag gray gunk out from under the drain plug with a q-tip
I see how you scrape dark purple nail polish from the bathroom tile
I see the smile you give,

the squeeze of a hand,

the rub of a knee.

How you tackle the monotonous and never-ending mountain of laundry

How you give and give and give
to the point of an extinguished flame

I see how tired you are
yet you keep getting up,
keep going.

I see how you love your children.
You think I don’t notice, but I do.
I see how you bear your pain for them.

Let me bear your pain for you.

Grace

The bounce in the step
the joy bubbling up and over
through words, demeanor, joie de vivre

The hearty laugh
blossoming at the core, rolling out in waves
infectious, contagious, sanctifying – us

The conscious breath
undulating and growing with each notice
the physical embodiment of our existence

It fills us –
if we watch for it
if we train our eyes with a gentle gaze
if we open our heart to the gifts around us

It imbues us with a calming peace
and a loving embrace

We can all glide through life with a little grace

Smash the Taskmaster

I will not feel guilty for doing what the Spirit moves me to at any given time.
I will revel in the mindless work of plucking pine needles from fingers of moss.
I will lose myself in the monotony.
I will let my mind drift along meandering paths –

    not to the should’ve, could’ve, would’ves.

I will write for the pleasure of it,

    not the drudgery.

I will not let unfinished business ruin the relish of the deal on the table.

There is no sense in feeding our souls if we are constantly counting calories.

open

Breaking Ground

Jennifer Butler Basile

Jennifer Butler Basile

Nature, fate, the universe, the Spirit – has a way of prevailing.

While we humans fret that we may impede it,
that if we do not clear the ground and make way,
the right way will not progress –
we give ourselves too much power, too much credit.

All shall move forward on its own course.
We just need to stay that course.

Epiphany

In high school, somewhere around the time I began to expand my vocabulary, realize the power of words – and prep for the SATs? – I came to love the word epiphany.

This phenomenon also coincided with my own spiritual awakening, but ironically, it had little or nothing to do with the three wise men heralding Jesus’ birth.

I would excitedly proclaim I’d had an epiphany when some amazing truth would whack me between the eyes. An amazing idea or affirmation. When the whoosh of a flock of shorebirds made my heart swell with the certainty of who I was as I stood sentinel on a sandbar.

As life rushed in to fill the free spaces, however, the epiphanies got fewer and fewer – until at some low point, they stopped. A noisy, dissonant place where even the chorus of bird calls could not be heard.

And yet, I still maintain our Christmas tree until January 6th. I still display Jesus and His cast of adorers in the creche. I try, I try to push back the doing, the speaking, the thinking – to open space for His coming.

And in short bursts, He has. I’ve opened windows just small enough for a spark to shoot through. A movement in a certain direction. A push toward a way of being.

I want the lightning bolt, but it can’t strike as readily under all this stuff. The circuit is closed. A spark will have to do. But great flames can burst forth from a tiny spark. And purify everything in their path.

from tcc-online.org

from tcc-online.org

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