investments, darkness, and gifts?

I’m pretty convinced that the songwriters of Mumford and Sons hired a private investigator to follow me around since 2002 and collect fodder for their songs.  They’ve made millions on my life!  I am also determined to write a blog entry on each song…

Today’s message is brought to you by poet Mary Oliver,  the letter “G”, the emotion “grief”, the song: Awake My Soul

The Mumford P.I.’s must have written this song while I was “self-emptying” myself in formation to become a nun:

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes…And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know…My weakness I feel I must finally show…Lend me your eyes I can change what you see…But your soul you must keep totally free…

All true…but, you see, I freely, enthusiastically, with my whole heart I chose this.  I entered into the process, I trusted the process; I invested my life.  Freely.  With an open heart.

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die…Where you invest your love, you invest your life…

Invest your love. Invest your life.  This is painstakingly my truth.

My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, has a poem:

Someone I once loved gave me a box full of darkness.  It took me years to realize that this too was gift.

Grief smacked me in my face today.  She’s sneaky…she comes in many forms.  You think she’s gone or at least leashed or sedated, but she’s still there; waiting patiently to envelop you with her suffocating presence   Today, she came in the form of love, kindness, and hugs…unexpected and overwhelming.  She also reared herself in a more reasonable, “logical” way: rejection and forgetfulness.  I hate her–her unpredictability; not knowing her place nor appropriateness or timing!

My love and life were invested.  My investments have also handed me a life-sized box of darkness.  My God…I pray I can find the gifts sooner than later.

real.truth.experience.joy

 

Sanctuary

sanctuary—safe haven—refuge—asylum—shelter—harbor—retreat—protection

 I’m visiting one of my “happy places”—Door County, Wisconsin.   I have been coming here since I was an infant with my family; usually camping at the beautiful Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek.  I’m not the most spontaneous person, but a couple weeks ago, I got it in my head that I needed to come up here for a few days.  (Now, some of you may argue that a couple of weeks is not being spontaneous, but for me…well…) 

I wanted just a little, tiny, cabin with a space to make some simple food and enjoy the wonderfulness that is Door County.  I couldn’t find the right spot.  Labor Day weekend in Door County?  The somewhat “last hurrah” for a Northwood’s vacationers paradise? Ummm…not only was it difficult to find a place…rates were through the roof.  I figured that my way impulsive and crazy ideas were just too plain crazy (yeah…going to Door County…sooooo crazy!) for this timing.   No big deal.  I did one more search and came across this website for a “retreat cabin” called Sanctuary.  It looked cute, simple, everything I needed, accessible to all my favorite things…and you wouldn’t believe the price.  Serendipitous! 

I don’t have it in my head that I’m on retreat; that was not really my objective.  However, incorporating some retreatish space comes naturally.  Today, I woke up (after sleeping until 10…thank you Jesus!) and had a curiosity to ponder why I’d be led to Sanctuary and what that might mean for me right now.  I don’t know that I’ve come up with anything (ha ha), but I thought it might be worth writing about…(my stream of consciousness/”not planned out” blog entries always end up interesting to say the least.)

I began reflecting upon that I’ve been pretty lonely these days; especially in my new place since when I moved in May.  The contrast which struck me is how I’m feeling “full” and content here in this place of intentional solitude.  I like quiet.  I like space.  What is it that makes this intentional solitude a place of comfort rather than a place of anxiety/loneliness when I’m at home? 

I don’t know…so if you figure that out please write to me…fast!  Have a nice day; until next time…

Ha!  Just kidding (although part of me would love to leave my readers hanging like that…).  I really don’t do feelings very well…but if someone held me down and my life depended upon naming one, I think I could name loneliness with some accuracy.

I’m just going to put it out there…loneliness sucks.  My image is this dead-like weight that holds you down while you walk around looking like a Neanderthal almost standing upright, but not quite.  It duct tapes you to the pity pot and forces you to think pitiful things.  Loneliness, schmonlieness. 

For me at this point, loneliness feels like the scratch in the record (CD? I guess you can’t scratch an MP3…) that when it hits, the damn song starts over or running on a treadmill that has no emergency shut off cord.  It reminds me of where I’m not (living in community), what I don’t have (community, friends, etc), and what I deeply desire.  When I’m in that rut…all I feel is the same old pain, anger, and frustration.  Icky! Icky!   Enough already…own it, acknowledge, blah blah don’t stuff…but seriously…I’ve had enough.

I’m an optimist by nature (although, if you don’t believe me because of my  latest writings…travel back in time to www.onefunnunslife.blogspot.com and read some of the early writings…it’s true…it’s in me somewhere, still trying to find her!)—when I’m walking like the Neanderthal and duct taped to the pity pot, I get mad and frustrated.  Oh…those are two helpful things in this situation!  NOT.  Mad+frustration+lonely+duct tape does not = optimism or a catapult out of the rut.  Truthfully…I want to focus on where I am…what I do have…what I deeply desire, yes…and see it as possible.   

Maybe this is what Sanctuary is providing me right now.  A refuge and protection from duct tape and scoliosis—reminders that solitude doesn’t mean alone, my crushed dreams and annihilated inner self don’t mean terminal, and that Sanctuary is sometimes serendipitous and exactly what I need to find another starting point.

real.truth.experience.joy

day 4: mary, mary, quite contrary?

day 4: Mary’s not so sweet lullaby…aka Magnificat

(if you missed day 1, day 1.5, day 2…click on the previous episodes. If you missed day 3, I’m sorry, I wasn’t feeling well…so no day 3 for you.)

I’m learning some wonderful things: spiritual, personal, scriptural, practical… Allow me to share a few:
1. If you look younger than 35, no matter where you are, you become the resident techie and cell phone specialist.
2. I’m not the only one who has had a “biblical icon” crisis. (I’m currently in one with Sarah, Abe’s lady, but I’ve had my fair share of Mary confusion too)
3. Wearing tiaras at birthday parties are essential. (no matter who you are(even the prioress), what you do, or how old you are…you wear them! If you’re lucky, you get feathers!)
4. It’s ok to not participate, especially when you are choosing self-care (some people reading this should be applauding loudly…you know who you are)
5. Dominicans make the best cookies and lemon bars I have ever had. (Seriously, I should join for the life-time of these cookies. In fact one may have had an image of something holy on it and told me to become Dominican, but then I ate it, so I’m not sure. Hahaha)
6. Good preaching starts off with a story…I just so happen to have a few stories for you today! Yippee!

I’ve never been a Mary person. I mean, she’s ok…I’m not anti-Mary or anything. I didn’t get into statues, I had a couple rosaries over the years and didn’t really connect with that way of praying. I got to be the revered 2nd grader…the “chosen one”, if you will…to crown Mary in my communion dress. I didn’t really want to do it because my dress was so ugly (another funny story actually) and I didn’t see what the big deal was. But then girls were crying because they didn’t get chosen, so I thought I better suck it up and do it. Mary…momma of the big J…great!

When I got older I was more than disgusted with these frail, dressed in blue, hands perfectly folded gazing upward images. I decided she must be pretty boring and not much personality. I even went to a nun camp with a Marian order of nuns who love Mary more than anyone I’ve ever known. They even start all their prayers and meals with a Special Mary prayer! I thought I must be missing something.

Then when I became aware of women’s roles, treatment, impacts, etc in society…I perceived Mary as a strong woman and was irritated by those images even more so. I didn’t pay much attention to how she was written about in the scriptures, but I knew she wasn’t one of those “mouthy, renegade” women that we are warned about. I truly admired her faith and her ability to say “ok, angel…that sounds good”…or so I thought…

Then today, a newly inducted member on my “oh my gosh, you’re brilliant and an amazing teacher, and my hero/ine” list: Sr. Barbara Reid, OP gave us some new lenses and ways in which we could view Mary with the eyes, ears, and heart of a woman.

Story #2…I made a silent directed retreat right before I was received into the novitiate. My director gave me the assignment to write my own Magnificat. It was a great assignment! I was so happy…i praised God for EVERYTHING…just like Mary, in her innocent, frail, good girl way. Great…I’ve mastered the Magnificat….WRONG!

Sr. Barbara suggested that we take Mary from the perspective of her singing like a prophet. She helped us break open the Greek translation to come to the understanding that this was no “sweet lullaby” sung by a wimpy, blue veiled, child. Nope…now I’m intrigued and way into this.

Mary’s song could be interpreted as a counter-cultural ideology for her day. She urges, dreams about how life can be different for oppressed women in society. Naming God as “Lord” was sticking her tongue out at the emperor. It’s subversive, a dissent on the Roman Empire and treatment of women. Mary is basically saying “nan an nan an na na…you cant have me, I belong to Go-d, and I’m empowered…”. It’s her dream for new life…which coincidently is then taught to us in a more direct way by her son. As Sr. Barbara said, ” Well, when mom is singing songs like that at home, what political views would you work toward?” Now I’m in. Mary is awesome….and no wimpy Jew either!

So…relating back to my Kumbaya version of the Magnificat 5 years ago, I thought, what would I sing today, knowing this new lens and interpretation? That’s how I spent my afternoon, reflecting and composing my more historically accurate Magnificat.

Recently, someone asked me if I truly listened to God in prayer and in my formation. Um….yeah…that’s kind of a dumb question. She went on to tell me that she didn’t think I did listen or go deep enough because it was clear to her that God was not calling me to live religious life. I was furious! Let me be very clear…NO ONE, has the right to interpret and tell you how God is speaking to you in your heart. A vocation is a personal conversation with God that should be discerned with trusted people, yes, but no one can have the answer except you.

As if you can’t sense some of my passion for religious life…fire is an important symbol in my life. It speaks of me to intense passion and love. It is a God symbol for me. My Magnificat had to include fire. Between my rough spots the last couple years and trying to continue to move forward, frustrations with hierarchical structures, lack of integrity..etc…I, like Mary, stepped out of bounds to address God aflame in me today. Enjoy!

My spirit is ablaze with you, my God. All that I am, all that I will become, sings of the fire of your love in me.

God fires my life with love; Guides me to spread the fire among those who experience darkness, those who need warmth, the hungry. God persists with love beyond those who wish to snuff out my flame; from now on my spirit is ablaze with you, my God.

God loves through this and every moment, how blessed is the love of my God.

The fire of God’s love is a healing flame…sterilizing selfishness and greed, ego and ignorance; God torches misuses of power. Seemingly destructive, but not so, God blazes paths for new life.

God whisks away my abusers, fooled by the smoldering embers. With that same gentle breath, breathes me into a passionate blaze, recognizing the flame that once carried my spirit forward, responding to God’s call in me.

God’s flames envelop me and all those who walk their journeys with integrity. Fueled with this profound message, my flame rises. Today, her embers have transformed into quiet, gentle flickers in the night air. Trust provides her with the promises of blazing new trails again, raised up by those who are likewise impassioned to walk with integrity and passion in their hearts.

Only you, God, can light the fire within me. Fire my life with your love, my God. My fire has been lit and tended to by your love and persistence. My heart’s fire is not determined by ones who lack integrity and justice, nor those who use fire to destroy. Only for you and your people who burn for justice and with joy is this song being sung.

My spirit is ablaze with you, my God. All that I am, all that I will become, sings of the fire of your love in me.

real.truth.experience.joy

zip codes…a story of transition

Today, not unlike a usual occurrence, I was asked to verify my zip code.  It took me a moment to think and I responded.  Then, this strange foggy cloud came over me. 

I don’t mind change; in fact, often times I embrace it.  What I don’t like…one tiny bit…is transition.  It messes with my psyche, my routine, my homeostasis (I’m Type A…don’t do this to us folk!).  I’m tired and off-balance.  Confused and maybe a little lost.  I’m telling you…transition is no picnic…it messes with you, big time. 

I moved a week ago.  I’m inhabiting an absolutely, fabulous apartment, in a hip and trendy, young and vibrant, community-active neighborhood, two blocks from Lake Michigan.  This move was for my ever-continuing process of self-care and growth (ugh.)  Simply put, I needed to get away from my nun-life.  I needed a new space, a fresh start; not constant reminders of my deep aches and grief.  I was semi-excited, semi-anxious, and semi-sad–I’ve lived in the same zip code for the past 13 years, until a week ago. I didn’t really make that connection until this afternoon.

So what is it about transition?  Well, I can start with Captain Obvious flying into my blog: uncomfortable, inconvenient, messy, illogical reactions…do I need to keep going?  No…that’s not it…there’s something more…something underneath those things…hmmm… I contemplated, I walked, I journaled, I tarot-ed (for those of you tarot fans at home: princess of cups…3rd time!), I ate chocolate…nope, nada, at least nothing to describe the connection between transition and my zip code grief. 

Then my friend Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, jumped off my bookshelf.  This is one of those books that I received as a Junior in college, 11 years ago, and have read it several times when I am at a “what-the-hell-do-I-do-now” moment.  Without fail, something new speaks to me every time.  I opened the book up randomly and this is what leapt off the page:

[regarding pilgrimage] “a transformative journey to a sacred center full of hardships, darkness, and peril… challenges…

Ok…I’m listening…

…largely beyond our control, can strip the ego of the illusion that it is in charge…

Pfft…great…just great…

 …and make space for the true self to emerge…

And…here’s the nugget.  That damn nugget of knowledge that makes me squirm, roll my eyes, and attempt to deny the truth of it.  Shucks.  Thank you very much, Parker Palmer.

Not to belabor the darkness of my journey (although, in a blog that’s subtitled: real.truth.experience.joy…this is where I’m at people…this is my real, my truth, and my experience…and for God sakes, it better be leading toward JOY!)…but…this is so painfully true and speaks to me of zip code grief and transition. 

As much as I was sick of sitting in my yuck pile–surrounded by things that remind me of my grief–and know I need to move on psychically, physically, emotionally, moving forward also meant moving away.  I moved away from my grief, but also the things, people, relationships, commitment, etc that brought me the most joy.  Changing my “space” to create space for the new to emerge.  That sounds honkey-dory, but seriously people…it is not a fun, rainbows and butterflies, lets-go-sing-kumbaya kind of process.  You want me to do what??  Embrace the “journey”, give up the illusion of control, and trust that this, thing, this me, will emerge?  Seriously…what a ridiculous idea! 

And yet…my zip code still changed.  Moving away? No..moving forward…5 numbers at a time. 

real.truth.experience.joy

Washing Feet…not mine…not now…

Wash my feet? Mine? Now?

Sorry, they are rough and tired.

Profound gesture, thanks.

(Haiku.  Holy Thursday, 4/5/12.  KML)

It’s Holy Thursday…my “tied-for-first” favorite liturgical feast (the other?  Pentecost).  I find the story, the reflection, and the profundity of washing feet deeply touch me.  My tied-for-first  feasts are so closely related in meaning.  They both are about commissioning, service, mission…values embedded deep within me.  Values that led me to consider and pursue my call to religious life.

A short story insert to help with context:

Once upon a time there was a college freshman named, Katy.  Katy’s family went to Florida every year for Easter and unfortunately, because Katy’s college schedule didn’t allow for that, she was stuck at home.  Katy had to vacate the dorms for Triduum–Easter Monday so naturally she went to the convent to hang with the nuns.  Now, Katy, although growing up mostly Catholic, never went to a Triduum service in her life.  Not only was she churched that weekend…when she woke up on Easter Sunday (to get ready for more church), the nuns had the 8 o’clock MASS on the RADIO.  Katy hadn’t been to this much church, in consecutive days in her life…let alone listen to it on the radio. (although there was that one time she tried to convince her mom watching it on TV was legit because it was the Pope…)

Come to think of it…I think it was Holy Thursday that weekend of Nunning it where the universe united and I began considering religious life as an option.  After (you guessed it…) Mass, Srs. Toni, Guisselle, Kathy, and I sat in Toni’s room and somehow started looking at Toni’s ceremony pictures.  Then I slowly started to ask questions…and I still have the journal entry somewhere…but something changed within me.  That night my heart heard something different…

Fast forward…14 (ugh…) years…

I’m disinterested, not moved, not inspired…I don’t want church, hell…I don’t want faith, prayer, spirituality…any of it at the moment.  I love God and I know God exisists…that’s about it.  It’s painful to think about going to church.  It’s painful to think about a feast which represents my call…my vocation.

Selfish…probably.  Feeling guilty…yep.  Taking care of me, despite my charred insides…you bet.  (My spiritual director says that I’m allowed and I don’t need to be interested in God for God to be interested in me…hmmmm.)

So here I sit…on my favorite feast day, blogging.  I wrote the Haiku above this morning.  I have had many profound experiences with the feet washing ritual.  I’ve had the Jesus–“Hey…I gotta do this to be an example…”, the “Peter”–Wash mine? I should be washing yours…”, the “Collective”–we wash one another’s as communion, etc.  I’ve never felt the–“Disgust and the need to hide my feet (or self)” mode, like I do today.

My feet; they are rough and tired.  My feet have been on a hard journey–over hot coals, thistles, sand, dirt, rocks…you get the point…  They have been beaten up, they have been soothed along the way, yes; however, need to heal a bit more before exposing them again.

This self-care stuff, I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, in a deep way.  It’s hard!  It doesn’t feel right…especially when you feel called to pour out your love for others.  Tonight…I need to care for my battered and blistered feet…and humbly bow before my spirit and let myself be ok with this (and know God is too…). Not easy. Not comfortable…but what journey is easy and comfortable?

real.truth.experience.joy

molting…for the birds?

I live in a great lower flat with a lot of architectural charm (HWFs, leaded glass windows, built-in china cabinet, etc), I have the best land”people” who live upstairs (whom I adore), I’m in a familiar neighborhood where many of the people I love are…sounds great doesn’t it?  It is…it truly, is great, but…I’m moving.

Here’s the problem…I need to reinvent my life; start all over, essentially.  I did a lot of this discerning, searching, and finding once before…started when I was 18 and I found my niche/calling and followed it when I was 24.  Fast forward 6 years and I found myself having to start over (not by my choice either).

Now, I’m 32 and don’t have a freaking clue…all I know is that to reinvent, I’m feeling the need to divest myself of all things clinging to, reminding, taunting, and shaming me of what I devoted my heart and self.  This is excruciatingly painful (Hey, my blog is not named “Land of rainbows and elves” for a reason…) and sometimes down right maddening.  Everything around me in my physical space is attached to my former life…including my silverware!  I mean, c’mon… who eats a bowl of pasta and tears up because their fork reminds them of their broken heart?

So…I’m molting.  I started with finding an apartment, in a neighborhood where the median age is 37, there are fun things to do, beautiful Lake Michigan is 2 blocks away, and my nuns (whom I love dearly, truly) won’t be beeping the horn and waving when I’m out running off rage from my situation.  Ha!  New space/location…check.

Then I did the first grown-up house like thing–I bought a new living room.  It’s my style, my colors, my design…plus they all match and didn’t come from 3 other convents before.  Begin to get rid of nun-household items…check.

I also refinished two of my dressers (knowing I couldn’t afford new everything…how do you turn nun dressers into Katyesque Chic?  Spend hours on Pinterest and rehab them yourself!)  Begin to have own style…check.
.

Sounds so glamorous and exciting doesn’t it?  I wish.  Today, I started packing by going through my boxes and bins to get rid of stuff…I have way too much crap.  Goodwill here I come!  Part of this cleaning out stuff is actually quite cathartic and meditative.  I was all good until a few things happened:

1.  I came across all of my ceremony photos and memorabilia.  I wanted to throw it all in the trash; wait, I did throw it all in the trash, and then one of my little voices said that might regret that in the long run.  It went in a bin that I hope I don’t open for a very long time.

2. I began getting rid of all of my nunny books and Franciscan memorabilia.  G’bye Francis and Clare!  G’bye San Damiano!  G’bye Joyce Rupp and Joan Chittister!

3.  I realized that no matter what I divest myself from, how I change my space or aesthetics…what I “molt”, I grow back the same feathers.  You can’t get rid of you or pawn it off on a charitable thrift organization.  I dissolved right then and there amid the boxes of books/paraphernalia ready to be moved on.  Boo!

Simply…I spent ~6 years discerning where I’m being called and then another 6 “integrating” and “transforming” to live out that call to end up unjustly discarded…unfortunately my heart and belief and faith don’t follow suit.  This life, this call, is in me…in a real way.  It brings me back to “Ignite or be gone” post…it was my “true and perfect joy”…I fell in love…I committed my life…ARGH!

Changing my physical enviornment…exterior molting, if you will, is an important part of my healing process…indeed.   Internal molting…it’s going to take a lot more than a box of Francis’, Clare’s, a Joyce Rupp prayer-book, your community’s history book, and the omnibus of Franciscan documents to settle this.  A new exoskeleton may look great, but they sure do come at a price.  What do they say…pain is beauty?  Hmmmm…

real.truth.experience.joy

Be ignited…or be gone…

Tomorrow is my birthday–32 years old! I like to post an annual b-day post because I see it as a great opportunity to reflect on the year past and the year ahead.

I hesitated starting a new blog until I was in a “good space” again…where people could enjoy and be joyful about what’s coming from the inside…out. My real.truth.experience.joy creed burned through me and reminded me (oh so often I receive this reminder) that it’s real to have pain, speak your truth, grief is an experience of life, and joy…well “they” all tell me it’s there somewhere.

And that, folks, is where I am on the afternoon eve of my 32nd birthday…in pain, grieving, searching for my joy, and speaking my truth (as opposed to my preferred method of not speaking…anything)

Oh…you’re still reading? I haven’t scared you off yet? Way to go trooper! My 2012 b-day reflection begins with a poem by my FAVORITE poet, Mary Oliver:

What I Have Learned So Far

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining world? Because, properly attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion. Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed. Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of light is the crossroads of–indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

(Oliver, Mary. New and Selected Poems: Volume Two. 2005.)

Oh geeze…where do I start? Let’s move backwards…shall we? “Be ignited, or be gone…”–If you know me…you know that I have a fiery passion. If I had to sum up my life’s call in 5 words or less it would be these words. Ending this poem in this way I find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. For me, it connotes that I still have enough to be ignited again. I need to find that which allows me to burn again fiercely and with sustenance. Or be gone…I couldn’t agree more…use it or lose it people.

It was this line: “Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so…” that pulled me in with gusto. As a passionate person, who just so happens to be ignited by justice and idealism for sure…sublimity…hmm, I supposed if I thought of the synonym transcendent then yes…my faith, my belief in God…sure I can be passionate about the sublime.  “Commit to no labor…” that phrase sits like a lump of mashed potatoes in my esophagus. 

Passion without an outlet?  What in the hell is that?  How do you respond to a call when the wires have been cut? (an aside…I can’t believe I just used an analogy of a wired phone line…LOL!)  How do you trust this so called “process” and believe that your energy, spirit, passion will be tapped and used for good in this world?  Be ignited or be gone…commit to no labor…I don’t think so. 

On the afternoon eve of my 32nd birthday, I struggle with not being able to commit to an outlet to which/whom I belong—at least one with integrity.  I identify my fire…it may be burning embers, but it still has energy potential.  I’m stuck though, ignited or be gone…more work to do…Happy 32!   real.truth.experience.joy