Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good day

It was a good day today. My husband and I had a long drive to visit our son at the juvenile detention center.

We've always loved long drives. Good conversation happens on long drives and it did again today.

At the visit we were the only family who chose to use the courtyard area. We had a lot of privacy and no distractions from the other families and the conversation was mostly real and personal. We were talking on an adult-to-adult level. He is trying to figure out his life and understand the hard parts better. We are not the enemy anymore but rather allies on a journey that intersects with his.

There are hard parts ahead of him yet, but I am learning not to lose hope. I used to think that if he ended up in prison we would lose him forever. Instead we seem to be finally getting him back.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Day 1 - Accepting Myself

All I can say is that I gave myself quite a workout today. Am I doing all the things I usually feel bad about just so I can see how strong my commitment to self acceptance really is?

I'm trying to achieve this Zen-like state that allows me to just observe without making judgements. That includes observing others as well as myself. I can observe what they do but I have to avoid the jump to assigning motives to their actions. That is quite a feat.

Most of the time strong negative emotions are caused by thinking we know why people did what they did. But that is not always true. I think that observing my child still chewing with his mouth open after five reminders at the same meal can cause strong negative emotions without having a clue as to his motives.

Oops. Judgement alert. "Negative" is a judgement. But I don't judge myself for judging, right?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Try this...

New instructions today. I am supposed to accept myself exactly the way I am for an entire week. No guilt. No shoulds. Just notice what I'm thinking, feeling, and doing without judgment. Next week I can think about changing if I want to.

I have a feeling it will be a challenge to get through a whole week without judging myself or stressing out how to do better. How will I feel at the end?

The instructions include this little sentence just for me. "If you find yourself judging yourself, don't judge yourself for judging yourself." Isn't that great?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Long Loneliness

I'm reading Dorothy Day's autobiography, copyright 1952. It was written before I was born but the writing is personal and present. She speaks of the times (I'm still in her pre-WWI days) but the issues dear to her heart are those that I struggle with.

After college she joined with communist and socialist groups in New York City. She speaks of the people they argued against.
"There was no attack on religion because people were generally indifferent to religion. They were neither hot nor cold. They were the tepid, the materialistic, who hoped that by Sunday churchgoing they would be taking care of the afterlife, if there were an afterlife. Meanwhile they would get everything they could in this.

"On the other hand, the Marxists, the I.W.W.'s who looked upon religion as the opiate of the people, who thought they had only this one life to live and then oblivion---they were the ones who were eager to sacrifice themselves here and now, thus doing without now and for all eternity the good things of the world which they were fighting to obtain for their brothers. It was then, and still is, a paradox that confounds me. God love them! And God pity the lukewarm of whom St. John said harshly (though he was the disciple of love) that God would spew them out of His mouth." p.63

And this:
"She never met a Christian. This I am sure is literally true. When we were at the university together, we never met anyone who had a vital faith, or, if he had one, was articulate or apostolic.

"There were no doubt those whose souls glowed with belief, whose hearts were warmed by the love of God, on all sides of us. But mingling as we did, in our life together, and in our life apart, with radical groups, we never met any whose personal morality was matched by a social morality or who tried to make life here of others a foretaste of the life to come." p.70-71

Dorothy Day later went on to find vital faith in the Catholic church and began the Catholic worker movement. I anticipate that her story will include Christians who lived like Christ in the pages ahead of me. She had no use for religion that did not have a vital concern for those whom Jesus had vital concern.

If we did not have to worry about money or family responsibilities would this change how we are willing to live our faith? Would I do things differently? Is there a way to truly seek God first and not worry about all these things?

I know it is simplistic and guilt ridden. I know that in one of the prophets the people are severely scolded for neglecting the poor. Then they are told to care for the poor without neglecting their own families. But I worry about caring so much for my own family that I neglect the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the refugee. At this moment, I guess I have at least three of those four in my own family or circle of close friends.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In a hurry/Shopping

Last week when we dropped my sister off after the funeral, I noticed my left earring was missing. It has fallen out several times before, but because it is a large hoop, it has been easy to find. This time it was nowhere. It was cheap and I figured I could replace it easily.

When I got home I took out the right hoop and laid it on the table. There were things to catch up with, devotions to do, and I wanted to hear as much as I could about the funeral my husband attended. After all was said and done I went to get ready for bed.

My earring was on my dresser in my earring box. Didn't I leave it on the table? I went back to look. Yup. It was on the table AND in the earring box. I was in such a hurry getting ready to leave that morning that I only put on one earring. I have long hair so no one really noticed. I guess I could let those tiny holes grow shut and quit spending that vanity money.
*****
I had to buy jeans last week. I hate shopping---especially retail shopping. I needed to be in the city to get my bike worked on so I went to Kohl's. I walked through the Jr. jeans. It was frightening. Everything was low slung and I just don't want my lower back having air time at my age.

Against the wall in the Misses department were cubes labeled with style and size of Levi jeans. None of the jeans on the shelf matched the labels. After sorting through all the shelves I chose 5-6 pairs of jeans in a mix of short and medium lengths because I don't know what I am anymore. Off to the dressing rooms where I discovered that the same style and cut and length can fit completely differently from one pair to another. I reread labels to make sure. Why is this one baggy and short and this other one tight and long when they are both the same size, both designed to fit at the waist, both relaxed fit, both boot cut, and both short? I now knew that I could not find a pair that fit and then just pick up a second that matched from the shelf. Every pair I bought had to be checked on me.

Sadly, none of the jeans I had chosen fit well, so I went back to try the Lee's. They had the same problem with jeans that were supposedly identical fitting much differently. But I was desperate. I tried on five pairs of Lee's and chose the two I hated least and left the store. There was no way I was going to try another store and try on any more jeans.

Now that I'm home I hate them less than I did in the store. I'd really hoped to get jeans with legs cut narrow, but boot cut seems to be the thing right now. So for the next 5+ years my jeans will be boot cut. I'm hoping not to repeat this trip for at least that long.
*****
The local second hand store was much more pleasant when I needed a skirt for the funeral. They had a large assortment in my size and the shoppers there are so friendly. I'm came out of the dressing room to check the mirror and this woman smiled at me. She couldn't speak English but between her Spanish and her gestures she made herself understood. She was complimenting me for being small and wishing she could fit into the clothes I was trying on. I found two skirts, a pair of khakis and a pair of black flats and paid just over $12. Too bad they didn't have any jeans my size.

When all is said and done

In the last week we lost a niece and an uncle and attended both funerals. Grief has affected me strangely this time around, with exhaustion rather than tearfulness. One day I had a five hour nap and still slept through the night.

I've done a bit of the 'why' thinking. All those unanswerable questions...

The other thing that death does is sharpen the issue of how one lives one's life. What do I hope will be true of me on that day when no more changes can be made to my history?

Of course funerals don't really give history. Funerals are times when we look for the best in people. That is as it should be. The things we will miss so much are the good things. Those are the things we have to speak of again and again as we realize the loss.

I've accompanied people in grief before. It can be more than a year before they are able to confront the fact that this person they miss so much was hurtful to them sometimes. The funeral is much to soon and too inappropriate for total honesty.

Of course, not everyone has to do this. There are people who manage to treat others well habitually, and who make things right on the occasions when they fail. I don't want to assume that every grieving person will someday think hard things about the person they have lost.

But anyway, I've had to think a lot. What defines my life? When the funeral is over and the honesty begins, will I measure up to my own standards?

Monday, April 02, 2007

I got to hear my husband laugh out loud today. He smiles easily but almost never laughs out loud so I take note of what elicits it.

We own the movie 'Dave' because he always laughs out loud when he watches that. I love that movie, just because of his laughter.

But today we weren't watching 'Dave'. We went to the NPR website and listened to old April Fool's stories. This one was played on Sunday. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page at that link you will find several other April Fools stories. We really enjoyed the one about maple syrup.