Life, The Great Adventure

This blog is about my search for freedom.

I’d been at a standstill for a while, but I think I started gaining some momentum about a year ago.  I went to the CL advent retreat (pretty much just to get out of town rather than Joe going and leaving me with the kids).  The talk by Father Alex was inspiring and moving for me and it got me going to CL more regularly because I finally saw the need for it.  I need people around me who will challenge me and help me face my faith.

Fast forward to a couple months ago when I read the book Kristin Lavransdatter.  This book moved me….but I can’t fully explain why.  It so truly captured the human condition. The human experience.  Our fallen nature.  At the end I didn’t know how to feel.  I felt a little despair that it seems so impossible to overcome our faults, but also moved. Moved by something I couldn’t put my finger on.  There was much beauty in the book. So I got another book by the author, Sigrid Undset.  I read her book Catherine of Siena.  Catherine herself was a little hard to relate to because of her mysticism and strange life; but I was still convicted and inspired.  This book showed me that it is possible to be a saint.  By the grace of God, by the desire for Christ.  At CL we talked about this and my friend Marta said that at first you may think of Christ a couple times a day, but then 4 times and 6 times and 20 times until with every breath.  By the grace of God I have the desire to not only take my faith seriously, but to make it my whole life.

I recently finished a book on Chiara Corbella Petrillo, who exemplified joy while facing the deaths of her children and finally her own life.  It makes me long for Christ that much more.  I want the joy and peace that comes with placing my life, my plans, in the hands of God, who has the most beautiful journey planned out for me.  Life is looking like an adventure again.  Who knows what God will ask of me?  It’s exciting to discover my destiny and to remember that I’m not in control.  Letting go of the fear of all that I cannot control (violence, changes in life, destruction in the world, loss of loved ones)…..letting go is so freeing!  Because there is an Other who is taking care of me.

 

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Depression, Despair, And How to Have Hope

One of my favorite quotes is by the Italian writer, Cesare Pavese: “But a man’s life is down there in the valley, in the fields, at home. Beside a hearth and in a bed. And every day that dawns confronts you with the same toils, the same failures. In the end it wears a man down… The everlasting, grinding toil, the effort to stay alive from day to day, the recognition of evil in others, petty evil, as tiresome as summer flies–that’s the life that cripples a man.”

I feel this sentiment so frequently.  I’m someone who despairs or gets depressed easily.  Every day I’m confronted with the repetitive daily chores and tasks that are required of me.  If I’m in the wrong mood, it all seems impossible.  Sometimes it makes me want to lay down and give up.  In difficult times, the thought of an escape (death/running away) sounded easier than going through the motions of another day.  So where is my hope?  Well, for a little while I lost hope and I thought that it would be better if there were no God, so that death would be The End.  But I just couldn’t convince myself that there’s no God and no life after death, as if death is not a mystery, but something already known.  And if there’s a God and a heaven and hell, and I only have one chance at life, I don’t want it to be this way.  So I need hope.  I look for hope.  I place myself in hopeful situations.  That is how I came across the author, Walker Percy.  I went to the New York Encounter, hoping to have an encounter with God.  And He gave me someone to follow.  Walker Percy feels like a grandfather to me.  He died an old man in 1990.  He struggled with depression his whole life.  He was agnostic until he converted to Catholicism as an adult.  With his new faith, he was able to keep a fascination for the human experience and write about it. WalkerPercy (1)

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”
― Walker Percy, The Moviegoer.

I think this quote is very similar to Pavese’s quote about the everyday toils we face.  But it goes further and suggests that the only way out of this “everydayness” is to always be searching for something (God, truth, the meaning of life and so on).  And if we don’t search, we despair.

Well, I was curious about who Pavese was since I related to some of his thoughts.  I looked up his bio and discovered that he was a brilliant writer, an atheist, and had committed suicide in 1950.  He had several quotes which I think Walker Percy would have identified with as well, but their lives ended so differently.  Pavese despaired in the end.  Percy fought the good fight and died triumphant.  He was always searching, always questioning and he struggled his way through this life until death claimed him by cancer.

2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.”  This verse has always been comforting to me since it was in a song I listened to as a child.  I hope I can say these words at the end of my life.

“Losing hope is not so bad. There’s something worse: losing hope and hiding it from yourself.”
-Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

And one of my favorite quotes, which I recently used in another post:

“You live in a deranged age – more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.”
― Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Do you struggle with depression?  What helps you?

On Being Open to Life

I have my good days.  I have my bad days.  A night of awful sleep in which both kids wake up and there is lots of crying and trying to coerce them back to sleep, I am an angry zombie.  You’ll hear “I’m never having another child!”  from my lips.  If enough time has passed and the kids are being super sweet and adorable, my heart starts to soften.  But the first year of a babies’ life is not my favorite.  I’m not a baby person.  Babies are so very dependent and require so much time and sacrifice.

But all this talk is me, me, me. A line from a book called “Are You in Reality” by Gregoire Plus, struck me: “Life is difficult, and many would like to live as if life should be easy or without problems”.  This line immediately made me think of my fears of having more children.  I wrote down a few notes to understand why I am so nervous about this area in my life and why I try to resist giving it over to God.

1.  My life will become more difficult again (and it’s been getting easier lately since my youngest is over a year).

2.  I will lose some of my recently gained “freedom” as I’d have to start over again with sharing my body with another (from pregnancy to breastfeeding…)

I think I’d written down a 3rd point, but it was probably just another way of saying “It’s not going to be easy.  In fact, it’ll be downright difficult for a while!  And I’ll lose my “freedom”, whatever that is to me”.

So to admit this fear out loud really made me understand that I am resisting the toil of being self-sacrificial.  For some months I could go through much difficulty and be forced to sacrifice much of myself for my family, and maybe struggle with depression for a short time (I don’t take big changes very gracefully).  But after that rather short time (in the spectrum of things), I would come away with a child who will turn into an adult and forever be a love in my life that I will never regret.  And who is, in fact, an eternal soul.  It still seems kind of worth it to me…..

At this point, however, for my own sanity, I think spacing my children out a bit is a good thing.  But these thoughts and questions about when I might be ready for another child is more than just about what I want.  Creating an eternal soul is God’s specialty, so I think it important to ask His input and clarity on the matter.  Sometimes I was afraid to pray about this as I was afraid it’d be sooner than I wanted; but I want to be open to God’s will in my life and trust that He’s working for my good. Maybe a life of self-sacrifice in raising a family is the way God intends to sanctify me and lead me to holiness if I cooperate.  No saint ever walked the path to sanctity with ease.

Everyone Has Dirty Little Secrets

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Everyone has dirty little secrets.  I don’t know if any new scandal of secret affairs or hidden addictions could surprise me because enough people have shocked me when their shit hit the fan that I know it’s only a matter of time before the next person’s secret is discovered.  I know what we are all capable of, what I am capable of.  And nothing is beneath us humans.  We are all a push, shove or a shimmy away from committing murder, so to speak.  If the world collapsed before us and we became desperate, how would we react?  There’s plenty of movies that ponder this question.  From apocalypses to alien invasions to zombies; people are tested on how they will react in desperate situations.  If you are thinking you would never be capable of some atrocious act, keep in mind your life is probably pretty comfy right now.  I’m not saying that no one could resist the temptation, but that we should all have the humility to admit we are weak (left to ourselves).

I think I grew up fairly sheltered.  Like most kids, I thought there were “good” people and “bad” people.  Growing up in Baltimore city exposed me to things my parents couldn’t hide.  Like the boy who got beat up by a group of schoolmates in front of our house and was left on the ground with a broken leg.  Or the woman who crashed her car into my dad’s friends’ car that was parked at our house, and tried to run from the police; but ended up shaking and convulsing in my neighbor’s yard because she was on some heavy drugs.  Or my dad’s coworker who was stuffed in a trunk and murdered.  Or the thieves that broke into our house on multiple occasions and took any toys we left lying around outside.  The people who did these things were the “bad” people.  Everyone else was good.

I see now that we all have good and bad in us.  The saintliest person still makes mistakes so long as they’re human.  The scum of the earth still has the tiniest bit of good in him so long as he’s still human.  As I’ve thought about the grey lines of people, things, thoughts, actions and words, I’m quite unsure how to raise my kids.  Do I keep them away from those who could be a bad example?  I’m beginning to lean toward “no”.  These “bad examples” are the same as me.  They are seeking freedom and happiness.  They love and they get lonely.  They have no problem helping us out when we need it and don’t expect anything in return.  Yes, they have their faults and their addictions, but they also have their hearts.  Since my kids are toddlers now, I don’t really mind them being around our friends when they are drunk or high.  But will I mind when they’re impressionable teenagers?

Keeping my kids away from danger and people with problems is probably less helpful than teaching my kids about the dangers and the vices that these people practice.  I could tell my kids some day that “you see these people around you who are alcoholics and drug addicts and materialists and gluttons and hedonists, etc..  And you love them because you know them and see the good in them.  But you also can see that these things don’t bring them happiness.  These things only take away their freedom.  Because an addict is not free, he is bound in chains to his addiction.  And every sin takes away our freedom and makes us slaves to it.  Don’t stop asking what you are made for and where you can find freedom….and happiness.”  (My silent plea: don’t be like me- someone who knows what could bring happiness but is still attempting that which has proven to be unsubstantial, letting happiness escape me.)

I think above all, we all just want to be happy.  But we’re always looking in the wrong places for it.  Who are we, though, to judge others on their search, even if they did get tangled in a weed and forgot they were even on a search.

Of course I still have to protect my kids from people who could do them harm.  I’m not going to let them be around people I don’t trust.  There are damaged people who inflict their own damage on others through physical, sexual or emotional abuse.  These are the people I hope to protect them from.   But I can’t protect them from all possible harm.  Thus is life.  It’s dangerous to be alive.

What do you think about sheltering your kids?  Where do you draw the line?

Bible study and the kids’ first daycare experience

A friend invited me to a bible study group that had free childcare during it.  Ok, ok, she had me at free childcare.  I was nervous because Silvia usually naps during that time and doesn’t do too well with new people and no mama.  When we got there I thought they’d be ok because there were so many cool toys.

I snuck away because Leo was seeming hesitant about me leaving even though there was an awesome train table in front of him…which he quickly succumbed to.  The bible study was nice.  I’ve been struggling so long now with frustration and indifference with my faith.  I still put myself in these encounters in hopes that a word here or there might strike me and light a fire again.  This was a non-denominational (or inter-denom?) group.  There were 2 great grandmas there, many many grandmas, some older women and a few younger women and moms.  I say this to try to explain the age differences.  I really liked the diversity of age because I have never been in a group like this.  And these women really like to share about themselves so it was interesting to see a glimpse of their lives.

An obvious revelation: the older women still struggle with the same things I do.  I guess I’d always hoped that I’d be near sainthood by the time I was nearing the end of my life.  It was illuminating, slightly discouraging, but mostly a reminder of our humanity.  They’re just as human as I am and are subject to many of the same temptations, pressures and vanities.  I keep thinking that these faults and weaknesses of mine are something that I will work through over time.  But in reality, up until my death I will struggle, even as St. Paul did.  “In my weakness I am strong” St. Paul said.  I kind of understand that, but not fully.  And the application of it hasn’t really worked for me because I’m too damn impatient to wait for God to work on me.  If God denied St. Paul’s request to take a temptation or struggle away, knowing that it was for the overall benefit of his soul, He could of course do the same for me.  However, I just feel like my requests aren’t being heard because I don’t hear God talking to me in a very direct or indirect way.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have a close spiritual confidant anymore.  When my best friend and I first met, we immediately connected spiritually because we met as youth group leaders.  I felt like God was using me as an instrument in her life and vice versa.   Her advice was always so good and sound that I felt that God was leading me and talking to me through her.  Since I moved away, or since we stopped our work as youth leaders, we don’t talk as much about our faith lives.  We don’t talk near as much in general.  Our lives have gotten way busier, but I miss it.  I miss having someone to put me in my place.

I know a lot of people have accountability partners,  and that is what she was for me.  I think I’ll try to pray about this.

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janyceresh

If sarcasm and self deprecating humour were an Olympic event I'd definitely qualify.

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