Archive for May, 2010

29
May
10

beyond pentecost

A great deal has happened since I last wrote. A dear friend of mine advised me to speak to my community…to tell them what I need to feel at home with them. I took his advice, and although painful to be so vulnerable, I believe doing so has released the bird in me from the wire that held me fast, and has provided freedom to move…eventually to fly once again. This time I must learn a new flight pattern—a slow and easy circling pattern that allows for the inevitable waiting that is often the life of faith. I am a bird flying carefully and quietly so that I hear God’s voice and feel the leading of the Spirit. I have a lot to learn at the same time that I have so very much to give. Holding the Both and the And together, while walking forward with a basket of life balanced on my head.

Tonight I went to bed early but couldn’t get to sleep. Night can be a very difficult time for those of us who are loss-prone. All the needles and threads of daytime busyness fade into the deep, velvety-blue, darkness of night and there is no covering. I deeply miss adopted daughter, Bettina, whose let’s get it done energy melded so well with mine, allowing me to venture forth in foreign lands with bravery. There are birds who fly on the loft others create in flight formation. I am learning to fly solo and grateful for the several friends whom God has provided as air traffic controllers during this time of transition and initiation. They are my angels. I think they know who they are…

At night I turn on my Taize music, take my meds, turn off the light and wait for Bella, my little orange cat, to come join me. I talk to God. I say everything and nothing. I pour out wordless thoughts and painful experiences. It is my most intimate God time. I ask why and I ask how. I mostly ask for help. There are always tears. After a while Bella comes and with her comes Bettina to say, Goodnight Mamma. I like that.

My soul aches…not for any one thing or any one person. My soul aches for something it needs…God.

I am a bird circling high overhead, hoping it does not rain…preferring the clear blue of a sunny sky.

22
May
10

Pentecost Sunday

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday. It is a day of commemoration and celebration of the 50th day following the resurrection of Jesus—the day (according to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2) that the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles and other followers of Jesus. It is considered to be the birth of the Christian Church.

Today, as I prepare to dress the altar in my current place of worship, I am painfully reminded of Pentecost Sunday, 2009, a day that began beautifully and joyously in the church I was attending, but ended in gut-wrenching pain and confusion for Big Dawg and me, as our request for membership was euphemistically burned at the stake. The church was in turmoil. We were in shock. The young, inexperienced pastors were immobilized, despite having been largely responsible for the disaster. Since that time nothing has been okay. There has been no respite, no core reconciliation and no going forward. This church has added another sad chapter to it’s history of passive/aggressive behavior. And we languish in the field wondering where we will ever find a comfortable fit in the Body of Christ. There is something so glaringly wrong with this picture. BD and I initiated and expressed forgiveness to the pastoral leadership, yet no confession of responsibility has reached us…sorrow for loss, but not accountability.

I live in a church world I do not understand. There is a bedrock of discipleship, but it is in dire need of a face-lift. No one likes change, but change it must and eventually will. The question is: how many dead and mangled bodies will be piled up along the way? I’m feeling pretty mangled right now. I’m so messed up that I actually miss the church that threw us out! But it is not the same and one cannot go backward. Everything changes and everything stays the same. What a conundrum! I am once again a bird on a wire, and it’s not a comfortable place to be.

At the church I currently attend, I am accepted, but I do not feel affirmed. They don’t seem to see the difference. It’s a cultural thing, I guess. Teutonic peoples are very different from demonstrative middle easterners. When AD was with us, we were a unit. Now I am feeling alone. They tell me it takes longer than a year to feel a part of things. Now why on earth—in God’s Good Church—should that be the case? Why indeed? I have no acceptable answer, but it appears to be my problem.

I am a mass of painful memories, losses and lack of purposeful direction.

If you have a suggestion, please pass it on.

My prayer is very simple: Please help me.

13
May
10

addenda

Seven days ago Adopted Daughter and I came to terms. She spoke to me and I to her. I felt her presence. That evening I went to a Taize prayer service and lit a candle for her, for my sister, for Darling Daughter and for some other souls dear to me. It was a spectacular experience being in that church, bathed in beauty and feeling her presence.

My freedom from acedia lasted 4 days. Sometimes all it takes is for a well meaning person to say something a bit off putting and my whole structure comes tumbling down like a child’s tower of blocks. We call this phenomenon the last straw, or the straw that broke the camel’s back, or…that was just one too many! So that is what happened after 4 acedia-free days: one too many straws and I’m back slogging through the dense underbrush.

For the past 3 days I again feel as though I am moving about in a tent of gauze—layers and layers of gauze. In this gauzy tent I have added 2 more Kathleen Norris books: Amazing Grace and The Virgin of Bennington. I am now starting on The Cloister Walk, her account of becoming a Benedictine Oblate. I am looking for something…an answer to a question I do not know and cannot ask.

I have to balance carefully so that I do not slip off into depression. Now in my 7th decade, having lost more than I care to count, I no longer see an open ended future as I once did—as the young do. I see an ending now and time becomes a gift…no longer taken for granted. One day I will pass to the other side and I think it will be grand. I do not plan to leave any secrets behind—any stones unturned—any opportunities unappreciated, even if unacceptable.

07
May
10

what could have been

I’ve been reading a new book by Kathleen Norris called, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life. Ms. Norris is a highly acclaimed poet, and author. All of the words in the title of this book are appealing to me, even the word acedia, and that is because I had no idea what it meant. Acedia, I am told, is a state of spiritual listlessness, sadness, melancholy, apathy, carelessness, and lethargy—a pathway to sloth. Originally an affliction among the monastics and religious, it was considered to have the potential of undermining faith and sensibility. It differs from clinical depression in its spiritual orientation, but can be the precursor of depression.

After the first several chapters I came to see the funk I’ve been in much of the time since adopted daughter’s death, as acedia in varying degrees. This definition stops my free-fall state with a safety net of insight. Like a person ill for years and finally getting a diagnosis that it is not “all in the head”, I feel relief. The book is dense with messages for me on all levels of my life—from aspects of faith life, to matters of creative work, marriage, illness and death, I am infused with new insights to my own shadow side.

In the last few chapters of the book, Ms Norris shares the story of her husband’s illness and death from cancer, and her experience as sole caregiver, that got my heartfelt attention. I identify. That’s me in both places: cancer patient and caregiver. Her account of care giving, both during her husband’s illness and after his death speak loudly to me. I’ve been there. I know. I’m still there.

It has been 9 weeks since adopted daughter died. Not really that long in grieving terms, but my grief has a twist to it. As executors of the estate and caretakers of all things left behind, we have been stunned to find shelves and shelves of her life that she did not share with us—did not share with anyone. In fact, we see that she lived her life in serial compartments, like an old-fashioned rolltop desk. There is a quotation my mother would offer about not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing. This could be applied. The problem is that the original comes from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:3) and is a moral directive to giving, not hiding.

What I have seen is a person I loved dearly enough to call daughter, who didn’t trust me, or anyone else enough to confide the many truths of her life that would have made the executing of her estate a far less messy and painful affair. But more than this consideration is that the love and trust she did give me was the best she could do. That says volumes. Hidden until the end. Every time she called me mamacita, she did so with the half she felt would not be rejected. “I would have loved you anyway’, I say to her memory. ‘I would have loved you and helped you make the crooked as straight as possible in the few days and weeks that were left”. If she were anyone else, I would be speaking philosophically and with a bit of distance, but because I took her as a daughter, I speak with the pain of not having been able to do all I know I could have done for her. This is a tragedy to me. Although I witnessed God’s redeeming forgiveness to her in those last few days, and know Grace was given completely, I feel a mourning for what was left out between us. I would have liked to give her the human forgiveness she was sure she didn’t deserve. But maybe in her morphine altered days, she knew it was there, and maybe she made that transaction in the shadows of her heart and soul…maybe that’s what I saw in her face as I administered the meds hour after hour with more tender love than I thought I had in me to give.

So what is the problem? Why does acedia haunt me like a child playing hide and seek in dress-up clothes? I don’t know. I am beginning to think that acceptance, letting go, and letting be is my spiritual discipline forevermore.

I hoped that by the time I finished writing this post I would have pushed through acedia, at least for a time. The estate is not yet settled and my personal sense of mourning for what could have been is not over. I do not have the sense of adopted daughter’s presence as I did with my sister after she died. I cannot explain this except to say that she never allowed herself to belong to anyone. Despite her promise to learn to hover in our lives, she does not. Perhaps there is a learning curve in the afterlife. Perhaps we are connected by this curve…she over there and me over here. Perhaps there will be a happy ending when my soul finally floats free.

Postscript: The deceptions we keep in our lifetimes may very well come to light after the funeral when there is little that can be done to alter them in any way.




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