Meanwhile and Moving On

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At the beginning of this new year, new decade, and soon-to-be new decade for my own chronological years, I want to notate a few markers of my health.

  1. Despite all my struggles, my faith is strong.  Believing and trusting Christ’s Presence with me is the source of my endurance.  His Holy Spirit is the source of all that is Good and enduring in my life, myself, and from others.  Praise be Jesus.  For the record, I am confident that all Good is from God, whether or not intermediary channels acknowledge God’s Grace is giving the Good – whatever it may be.  PBJ!
  2. Meanwhile, I am almost overwhelmed with frustration and near-despair regarding my eye health.  I haven’t yet found an eye specialist who can help my blocked tear ducts and is in my health insurance network.  The details of this struggle make a very long story, full of tortured twists and turns.  And as time goes on my condition gets worse.  Given this is a problem with something in my face, it also affects my sociability: I don’t really want to be around people when I have thick, sticky, white discharge coming out of my eyes’ puncta.  At the time of writing this, I don’t know what my next step is.  That’s the hardest part: not having a plan, and not having anyone helping me secure one.
  3. Again, despite this struggle, in this meantime of frustration, I have decided that the only way I can continue to be patient, to be even sane, is I MUST make purpose in any waiting I do.  My best tool for connecting with meaning is through my ears.  Thanks be to God for hearing.  And praise God I have access to technology that allows me to listen in so many ways.  Besides music, I have found podcasts and audiobooks to companion me in this time of visual-desert.
  4. I am convinced the original cause of my tear duct problem is mold allergy and the source of the mold is in my own home.  The background to this is another long story.  The current plan is for latest roofer to return and do interior work of removing all affected materials and restore structures with new materials. He is due to resume this stage of work this month.  Then we will have the entire house fumigated (not sure that’s the correct word; we will have a professional company treat the house to kill mold spores.)  I am hopeful this plan will work.
  5. If our home is restored before I manage to find an oculoplastics eye surgeon to surgically create new tear ducts, then I might consider being patient even longer to see if my tear ducts open up once I am no-longer facing mold daily.  We’ll see.  Ha!  See.  I hope so.
  6. One BIG bit of Good News regarding my emotional/psychological/spiritual health is that not only is my desire to have interest in life and the things of life reviving, but I’m finding actual interest in specific things growing within me.  It has been my prayer (for around a year now?) to move far enough through grief and the fatigue of grief to find again interest in my own life.
  7. I still don’t know what my purpose is for this next chapter of my life.  But I’m not so anxious about having a Grand Purpose.  I know my general-purpose has always been to connect with God, share Love, and Be Grateful.  I learned this clearly in one of my very darkest times as a young person.  This conviction of such a simple purpose has helped me throughout my entire life.  Yet, I am vain enough to want to “matter.”  So when I have felt super-charged with purpose in my role as piano-teacher or music-minister or steadfast-companion to aging/dying parents, that sense of making a difference to others was not only gratifying but energizing.  As an introvert, my energies are depleted when giving myself to others, yet my value of being able to give and being valued by others fed something within me enough to give me the sense of Purpose.  Purpose with a capital P is for me believing I am spending my time, talent, and treasure in ways that are worthwhile, so worthwhile that they might be sowing something eternal, or at least making fertile ground for eternal-seed.  While I continue to teach a handful of students, I know I make a difference in their lives, and I am profoundly grateful that I get to have these relationships.  But I no longer have a sense of myself being “important.”  As I age, I feel more of my expendable-ness.  Existentially I still believe every human-being is unique and essential to the grand fabric of eternal meaning.  But in daily practical terms, I know humans can always find other humans to meet their needs.
  8. I’m enjoying greatly that my nieces and nephews are marrying and having babies!  It’s not so much that I think everyone is called to marriage or parenthood.  I just want to see each of them happy and growing creatively in wholeness.  And when that, for them, includes a new person coming into our world, I feel joy.  I feel hope.  I am glad and grateful for a new life!
  9. Some of my reviving interests are:
    1. Things that used to interest me: repertoire to practice, books to read, writing my thoughts and feelings, contemplating art;
    2. New activities I might explore to see if they interest me: more disciplined writing, playing petanque at the local club, trying new foods (especially vegetarian).
  10. This is a quickly written, cursory list attempting to describe my personal “state of affairs” and having jotted down this much, I must say I feel a little more hopeful than at the outset, regarding my capacity to make improvements – any improvements I set my mind to.  PBJ

Love Came Down and Shone All Around

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Why is Christmas packaged and presented as a thoroughly happy time?  Many holidays have multiple threads of meaning with complex nuances in each meaning and between each thread.  Easter is probably the best example of this in-as-much as everyone knows you can’t have resurrection without death before.  I know that the secular or commercial version of Easter is all about bunnies and candy eggs, but even that is rooted in the season of Spring with the understanding of Spring as nature reborn or revived.

But back to the point of the Christian understanding of the high holiday when we celebrate our Lord’s death and resurrection: We spend six weeks meditating on Christ’s sacrifice of self.  We spend a whole week preparing for the Easter Vigil which itself begins with and spends much time in darkness.  The point being, we don’t avoid entering into the dimensions of Easter that would normally be things not considered worthy of Celebration: darkness, deprivation, self-sacrifice, searching, waiting, sin, need of forgiveness and forgiving, need of Someone beyond ourselves to lead us into Meaning worth Living, death – death that is both repugnantly real, horrifyingly painful, and yet mysterious – mysterious because we know we don’t really know what it contains and what comes next.  (And by the way, when I mention repugnance, horror, or pain, I’m not alluding to hell; I’m talking about what we witness when we accompany loved-ones to death’s door.  Real-life death, when faced directly, is absolutely antithetical to our living here, now, beyond the moment of someone else’s departure.  At the heart of the matter is that they are gone, and we are yet here.  What we make of that is worked out through grief.  Through faith too, yes, of course.  Or not.  Some don’t have a faith that gives them any meaning beyond this life here.  But even for those of us who believe in life-after-death, even with the hope and faith our Home is Heaven and we will someday go there, that moment when a loved-one leaves through death’s door is like no other experience in this earthly existence.  Their spirit goes, their body immediately begins to chill, and the door through which they went closes in your face.

So for us to actually Celebrate Christ’s death is radically curious.  I think it’s most likely universally known that Christians don’t celebrate Christ’s death ONLY because He died.  That would be a grief without end.  We celebrate Christ’s death because of what we believe He accomplished through self-sacrifice, suffering, death, descent into hell, resurrection to eternal Life, and ascension into Heaven, where He opens the door for us to join Him.  All the pieces of the puzzle are essential.  So I’m not pretending that we sit in darkness celebrating death for its own sake.  Yet we do spend a great deal of time, energy, scripture, liturgy, contemplation, devotions, charity, faith-works devoted to reckoning with the fact that Resurrection is THROUGH The Cross.  We Celebrate a Mystery that integrates all that we could fear or abhor into the Salvation-Story for which we rejoice and praise God with every fiber of our being.  I feel I’m not describing this phenomenon as well as I’d like.  I’ll let it suffice to say Lent-Easter is a holy season of immense complexity.

Most other Christian holy days are multi-dimensional as well.  What I know of other religion’s holy days: there is usually a story behind it that also conveys a wide range of human experience and supernatural wonder.  Even secular or non-religious cultural holidays often include some version of triumph over hardship.

So it’s a little bit odd that, at least in the USA, we have mostly divorced our remembrance of the story and our forms of celebration of Christmas from any sadness or anything other than merriment.  To be fair, I know there are many songs and movies that express either a nostalgic view of Christmas with the central idea being either a) Christmases long ago were better and why can’t we make now like then, or b) we’re so sad we can’t be with all of our loved ones, yet we keep them in our hearts and so we’ll be happy anyway.  Another thread woven into all these variations on the theme of Christmas is the idea of Gifts and Giving.  The common centrality of our celebrations is how-wonderful-and-beautiful-it-is-to-give-to-one-another.  Giving is Good.  And that is a simple idea that is certainly true and worth celebrating.

Yet, even amongst Christians who celebrate the original Christmas Story and all of its historical events, many don’t spend much time contemplating the difficulties that were integral to bringing about Emmanuel’s birth.  They don’t take much time to remember the slaughtered infants who Herod thought might have been Jesus. They don’t recount the flight into Egypt.  All these details are part of the same wondrous Story of God coming to us in our own flesh.

A young unmarried woman becomes pregnant by some means other than intercourse with her betrothed which in her time and culture merited death by stoning.  Those two things right there are worthy of profound pondering.  Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit?!?  Joseph learned of this in a dream and believed it too?!? Mary said yes to the Spirit even though she knew it could mean death to her before she even had the promised child?!?

Then there’s the hard journey to Bethlehem, and no place to rest.  Shepherds have heard the Good News from a choir of Heavenly Angels???  Later on, some wise men from afar arrive because they learned from the stars a King was to be born???  In my estimation, pretty much every part of Christ’s birth story is in ordinary terms: preposterous.  Assertions worthy of scorn or derision.

Yet, at the heart of the Sacred Story is a baby, a family.  A “yes” to God.  And from the Christian’s faith-understanding: God’s “yes” to humanity!  Emmanuel.  God is not only WITH us, God is IN us!  This central message is essentially: Have hope; Life is Good!

But how was that Good Hope given to us?  Again, through hardship and sacrifice.

As Catholics, we ponder all these things in our hearts throughout the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  We ponder the mysterious ways God comes to us.  We ponder the unexpected nature of our hopes fulfilled.  Like Mary, we ponder how God uses even the things we think might be “bad” to be instrumental in God’s working of Grace.

Admittedly, I’m rambling here quite a bit.  I’m letting my ponderings spill out on the page.

And, indeed, I’m glad we don’t burden children with the entire Christmas Story.  I’m glad we (as families, as Church, as culture) let children have a time of pure wonder and delight in Light, Hope, Faith, Love, Peace, Gifts, and Giving.  I’m grateful for all the Santa stories.  I delight in all the traditions involving trees, wreaths, candles, caroling, cups of cocoa, cookies, jingle bells, reindeer, even elves.  Just as light spreads everywhere, sometimes in myriads of colors, so too does the Good News in all its lovely variations.  Let all the ornaments twinkle echoing the Star that brings folks from afar to those near.  Let humble hospitality welcome poor and wealthy alike.  Let us sing with angels and each other.  Let us make merry as if there are plenty of tomorrows.  Let us ring in the New Year as if it makes sense to keep the faith.  Let us dance.  Let us dream of sugar plum fairies.  Let us share love with everyone regardless of how we understand the Christmas Story, for that is what it’s truly about: love unconditionally.

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Twas The Week Before Christmas

This poem here just drafted is a little bit rough
I admit I just wrote it today off-the-cuff.
Please humor me and read all that I’ve written
For I hope to amuse and offer something fittin’!
I write in the rhythm and style of another more worthy
Yet I hope you’ll not mind for my topic is mirth-y.
And even if it’s not quite to your discriminating taste
Perhaps you’ll have only a few minutes laid waste.

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House
Not a creature was stirring not even a louse.
The articles of Impeachment were crafted in a hurry
And the vote was conducted with chaotic flurry.

Democrats shouted and danced with glee
To think they had done something worthy to see.
But then suddenly Pelosi realized
She dare not give Senate her Christmas surprise.

For much to her dismay and deep, dark chagrin
She saw polls and stock-market declare Trump always wins!
Even more to her shock and further confusion
Three Democrat colleagues didn’t vote for her delusion.

One Democrat voted against the Impeachment,
One voted “present” because she couldn’t reach agreement,
And one honest Democrat chose to change parties
For he saw how Deep State yet ruled Dems, those old farties!

So what is a Speaker to do when she’s done?
Why, try to rewrite rules, even Constitutional ones!
Can she control what the Senate will do regarding trial?
Oh, what a mess, what distasteful, foul bile.

She must be retching and gnashing her teeth.
She has no more control!  Oh, how she must seethe!
And what is a People to think of these affairs?
Why, not much at all!  For we know that our cares

Are not really at all in the hands of our POTUS
Or the House, or the Senate, or even the SCOTUS.
Our futures and even our quality of living
Are much more determined by our work and our giving.

It’s by our labor and devotion to family and neighbor
That our nation’s made great and with the world we find favor.
Even more let us remember that our soul’s satisfaction
Is found in our daily and faithful interaction

With our loving Creator and Lord, the Holy One.
As Mary’s sweet babe, and God’s Only Son
He came enfleshed in our human frailty
He came first to serve and not for cheap fealty.

He came to teach, to heal and to bless
He came to die, then to rise, bringing us Heavenly rest.
He came and He comes now to each and every child
As king, yet as servant, most merciful and mild.

So as we approach this Holy Christmas Eve,
Let us not about politics moan, groan, or seethe.
Let us take stock of our hearts and forever remember
It’s Christ we adore this twenty-fifth of  December.

And as we prepare to begin the New Year
Let us walk without dread, without anger or fear.
Let us celebrate Life, where-in Love does abide.
Merry Christmas to all on this blessed yule-tide.