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

 

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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

“First Flight”

experience.  arts.  respect.  motivation.  leadership.  self.  risks.  confidence.  diversity.  creativity.  fun.  focus.  passion…

These are just a few of the many words which appear on the base of my uncle, Richard Taylor’s, sculpture: “First Flight”.  His sculpture was commissioned to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the First Stage Children’s Theatre in Milwaukee, WI.  The words were taken from testimonials written by the First Stage alums regarding their experiences of First Stage; some of the inspiration for Richard in the sculpture creation. 

First off…I’m incredibly proud of my uncle–he is a gifted artist really living out (I would say, “call”) his passion and talent to provide others with more beauty, serenity, peacefulness, and reflection all through his aesthetic media.  His art pieces are always accompanied by thoughtful and deep artist statements which allow (at least for me) people to take in the piece of art while inviting he/she to probe themselves to find a deeper meaning. 

Richard describes this piece saying:

…The sculpture soars with confidence, is diversified in its many shapes yet finds strength in their unity.  It proudly assumes a posture of leadership while it upholds values.  It is respectful of its surroundings while it passes on these life experiences to all who have found them…I have sought to compose a sculpture embodying the spirit of achievement and pride inherent in these tributes…”

 I so appreciate my uncle for these invitations. He is a model of humility, thoughtfulness, and passion to me. Way to go, uncle Dickie! 

On my way home from the dedication, a plethora of bloggable thinking invaded my drive home…the title of the piece, the descriptor, the words of inspiration…on and on.  Not only does this piece have special meaning to me because of my uncle and the reflective element of its meaning…it really spoke to me of my journey too.

First flights…what does it take for someone (somethings…i.e. birds?) to prepare for his/her first flight?  What supports does one need?  What unplanned events (yuck!) occur?  Where is the learning?  What are the outcomes?  (For those of you who are now rolling your eyes because I said “learning” and “outcomes” it’s ok…those are just as integrated within me as red blood cells and neurotransmitters)

You know what I came up with? (With a little help of course!)

experience. arts. respect. motivation. leadership. self. risks. confidence. diversity. creativity. fun. focus. passion…

It seems like I’m having first flights more often that I’d like lately.  However, I look at that testimonial list and I am inspired, motivated, joyful…  I don’t feel the sometimes present: stress, fear, dare I say…hurt and anguish which can accompany a flight or transition one does not wish to take.  Nope…no ma’am!  I get excited!  I am ready to jump/fly/swim/jig/…!  Bring it on world!

So how can I cultivate the positivity in reminding myself that there is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” while still acknowledging and owning the yucky stuff that is very much real, but not meant to stifle? 

I don’t have the answer to that…yet! (Ha!) However, I think it lies somewhere between “soaring with confidence”, allowing yourself to take “shape”, while “finding strength in unity” …throw in a little passion, fun, focus…and allow myself to be a part of the beauty that can be created with flight.  

Thanks, Uncle Dickie, for this thoughtful piece of art and the opportunity to continue to be inspired by and learn from you.

real.truth.experience.joy

day 5: mission possible

I’m home now…I have to admit I’m tired from the week and I have a lot to process, but I truly had a fantastic time.  I was sad to leave on many levels and yet, excited to be home (mostly to see kitty).  I hesitate writing a day 5 report because I really need to let some stuff slosh around a bit, but I can give some highlights of day 5 and after the sloshing is complete, I may do a cumulative review; we’ll see.

If you missed the other episodes…click here and follow the linkage…

day 5: mission possible (I so wish I could add audio to play when you bring my page up…)

If you’ve followed these days, I’ll bet you know what we talked about on the last day of the conference…ta da!  Of course, the Gospel of John!  Again, I have a confession to make…all this time I’ve been a Mark and sometimes Matt girl.  Luke is too wordy for me and John…well I just didn’t get into the whole ascetic Jesus as much as I like the down-to-earth (no pun intended), historical perspective.  And to sing the praises of Sr. Barbara Reid, OP a little more…my perspecitves on, well, pretty much everything Gospel related, study of Scripture, etc…have been flipped over.  The name of the conference was: Women and the Word: Preaching with the Mind, Eyes, and Heart of a Woman”…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read the Scriptures the same again–all for the better!  Seriously…she is amazing. 

We spent a lot of time on the Samaritan Woman.  You know the story, if not here are some cliff notes:  Women, well, Samaritan.  Jesus, tired, Jew.  Jews and Samaritans no talky talky.  Jesus thirsty, Samaritan woman bucket. They converse back and forth: 

I’m a Samaritan Woman!, J: Drink water of new life!, SW: What in the heck are you talking about?, J: I can’t believe you don’t know who I am…, SW: hmmm, maybe I am starting to get it, J: Uh Oh, my guys are coming; back go tell people, SW: Ok!  [runs to town] I’ll be right back with loads of people!

I’m quite confident that I’m not the only person in the world who thought this passage was about Jesus the “love one another” Jew who throws the law-book to the wind and talks to WOMEN and the OTHERS.  Jesus the model for social justice and humanity…I still believe that.  I never wondered or questioned the role of the Samaritan Woman though.  Isn’t it all about Jesus?  Well…she definately had something to say to us/me!

As in the other “episodes” of this “Katy visits the Dominicans” series, I’m not going to spend much time with the “academic” learning (although I could do that very easily), but attempt to connect the themes to my journey and discernment in these experiences. Sr. Barbara suggested we look at the Samaritan woman as a model of mission for us. Two key points I’ll reframe:  a) the dialog between Jesus and her was a “gradual self-revelation” that was mutual.  A quid pro quo, if you will; however, not in Latin and not with a sociopathic Anthony Hopkins.   b) As a person in mission–she experiences, goes back to the familiar, talks about it with her friends, and brings them back. 

Re-enter discernment, stage right…

Mission…this is important to me.  For me, it’s the “hutzpah” of a congregation (not to be confused with charism, which is a part of mission).  Why do a group of women, come together, choose to commit their lives together, and remain through the good, bad, and ugly for a life time, AND THEN…how does it continue on into the future?  That’s mission.  Each congregation has a mission to which the life, the energy, the membership, the fuel, the ministry…is born, nourished, grown, and moved forward.  If I can’t relate to a group’s mission or see myself entering into the mission with all my heart, then I can’t authentically commit my life to that group.  It’s an integrity/call/authenticity thing.  It’s a very important part of discernment for me…no matter what stage you’re in.  To what/to whom are you willing to commit your energy and passion to?  That’s the question I’m asking now.

Regarding the reinterpreted “model for mission”–this is classic Katy-now (I wish I could claim this process when I was a youngin’ looking at religious life, but alas…this wisdom is all new, uncharted territory) discernment.  It looks a little like this:

Katy looks at websites.  Katy tries to find mission statement on websites and is aware if it is prominent or not.  If Katy likes and can resonate, Katy moves on to experiences.  Katy returns home and will talk about it with people.  If Katy still experiences a nudge, a connection, Katy will return.

Sounds an awful lot like the woman in Samaria.  I know I write in jest often, and I do not  want to belittle the importance of her role as a model for mission–she risked, she entered into a mutual process transforming a relationship from perceived impossibility to friendship, and she returned after proclaiming the good news and brought more people with her. Her mission was to invite people to walk this journey of faith. 

Finally…the mutual conversation.  Dating (women, men, religious communities) is a lot like this conversation between Jesus and Samaritan woman.  It was a gradual process…they didn’t discuss “hot topics” right away.  Jesus wasn’t like, “Hey I’m the Messiah and you’re supposed to be a model for mission, I’m thirsty, give me something to drink and then go bring people back!”  They each gave a little at a time until the reached a comfort level.  The important thing for me was breaking open the mutuality of the conversation.

Dating religious communities can reflect this mutuality…you’re both trying to figure out if each other is a good fit.  Enter into the process with integrity and authenticity…it should work out the way it needs to for both parties.  Subtract that integrity and authenticity…people get hurt and quite frankly, why would you want to commit to something if one of you had a false sense of the other?

I’m not sure this reflection makes a concrete connection, but like I said, I’m still sloshing over the whole experience.  I’ll leave you with a few questions…feel free to comment/begin a dialog!

What kinds of “mission” taps your passion?  What do you look for when making a major commitment?  How do you engage in a risky relationship that still feels compelling enough to pursue?

Ah-ha…there’s my piece that’s floating around…How/Why would I engage in a risky relationship that feels compelling enough to pursue…that’s my discernment question right now.  Now I have to get to work too!

real.truth.experience.joy

day 2: the cross and the call

(if you missed the previous episodes in this series click here:  Part 1Part 1.5)

Today we looked at Mark’s Gospel (with a side of Matthew every now and then), putting into action our new lenses with which we can read the Scriptures through a woman’s perspective.

Now, I’m going to be honest here…praying with Scripture is not usually my thing. Too many words, I end up analyzing it instead of letting it enter me on a spiritual level. Give me images, music, nature, art, clay…anytime, but Scripture…mmmm I don’t think so. Well…one of the tenants of Dominican life is: study. Now, I love school. I love learning and I actually don’t mind studying most of the time, but to integrate that into my spiritual life/religious charism??? Hmmmm….maybe this Dominican thing isn’t for me. Enter, stage left…the voice of a few dear people who have walked with me: “make room for the spirit, listen, notice, experience…”. Oh, yeah! How could I let that slip?

Yesterday, we looked at frameworks (ok, she called them hermeneutics…) on how we might read Scripture in different ways, questions we might ask, imagine, etc. It totally made sense to me and I actually thought this studying scripture business isn’t so bad!

Today, we took learning into practice (sign of a great teacher, and Sr. Barbara Reid is an amazing teacher!) and broke open Mark and the women we encounter and the ones we don’t. I could write pages of what I learned and discussed today, but I’m sticking with relating my noticing and experience to discernment.

Call stories–

Who knew there was a framework for Biblical call stories (give me a framework and I’ll be happy!)?
So, it’s pretty simple for the New Testament : Jesus sees someone, invites them, commissions them, there are signs, Holy Spirit. Or my interpretation: “Yep, I want her”, “Hey you, come with me!”, “Why don’t you try…”, [person still doesn’t get it] “oh! A sign!” “hahaha…we got her!”

I was thinking about my initial call story in relationship to this pattern. Mine sounded more like this:

Nun I know: hmmmm she would make a good sister.
Nun I know (NIK): “Katy, have you ever thought about being a sister?”.
K: ” are you out of your mind?”
NIK: “Why don’t you come to this concert/program/over for dinner…you should really think about becoming a sister…”.
K: “ummmm…no.”. [go back and repeat over and over for several years…].
In Katy’s head: wow! I really feel at home here! Wow! I can be myself! Wow! I’ve never felt closer to God! Na?..none of these are signs!
FINALLY…Katy: “I can’t NOT DO anything else with my life…”

There were the initial thought, many, many, many invitations, many, many, many “signs”, finally an acceptance and awareness of letting the Holy Spirit fill me. It sure does sound like its following the framework! Much like discernment, figuring out your call, responding to it, and living it is a process, not something you check off your todo list.

So what does this mean for me in the here and now? I’ve learned a little since I started acknowledging my call nudges 14 years ago. That makes me happy! When I’m in the trenches or a dark space, I can’t always see the learning or the growth, that frustrates me. Just allowing myself to come here with the expectation of noticing and experiencing (as opposed to signing up and movin on the fast track) is a big step for me. I’m creating a space within for the spirit’s movement.

We also talked about the interpretation of “taking up your cross” from the eyes of women. Without over generalizing(that’s not my intent), often in patriarchal cultures this can be perceived by/about women as “embrace suffering…and suffer in silence”; the differences between denial of self/self-denial and service/servitude. We broke this open pretty deeply today.

One of the questions for reflection was: How do you understand taking up the cross in your circumstance? What came to me surprised me…for me, freely accepting the “cost” of being a disciple, and embracing myself in order to give myself to where God is calling me, said to me, ” Stay on the journey…”

Stay on the journey? Really? What kind of a cross is that? My journey of love (my vow theme, by the way) has paid the price of my heart…in the most joyful of senses and in the most agonizing of situations. It took me a lonnnnngggg time to acknowledge and respond to where I am being called, when I responded freely and wholeheartedly…I knew. I just knew. Then to be hurt, I questioned the journey. I was angry I responded. I ached. I still question the cost of my investment.

Here’s a creative piece I did a few months ago. The text says: she wondered where she belonged and if it was worth searching

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I think risking to continue on the journey with an openness to notice and experience is what I’m being invited to now. I won’t know the cost or the outcome or where I’ll land, but I’m choosing to accept this freely.

real.truth.experience.joy

the dating game…discernment 101

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I’ve decided to start dating again! After a painful break-up and some good ol’ grieving, it’s time for re-entry into the normal world again. Well, as “normal” as religious life gets…maybe I should back up a little and fill in the missing parts. Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor!

First, a little context…I’m sitting on the grass over looking a pond at Marywood convent. (You’re what?) I’m here at a weeklong (like 7 days! sun-sat!) spirituality conference with the Grand Rapids Dominicans (OPs). The conference is called: Women and the Word: Preaching with the Mind, Eyes, and Heart of a Woman.

Before I post about today’s juicy details…I think we need to take a gander at Discernment 101. In my other blogs: Nunspeak and Religious Life Rocks: The Adventures of one Fun Nun/Inner Excavation is some more information about discernment as well, I invite you to check those out too.

I’m writing this on my iPad which is not blog formatting friendly…

Discernment 101
Discernment–fancy schmancy nun-speak for thoughtfully, prayerfully, communally, entering into process to help make a decision or choice. Great…now that’s all cleared up! So what does that mean? I think the key words are: process, prayerful, and thoughtful (and if you’re married/partnered/parenting/or religious there’s the communal aspect too).
Discernment is not an impulse or a clear, concrete, correct answer. Discernment doesn’t start or finish…it’s ongoing, it’s a process. Discernment takes into consideration the whole–where am I being called? What are the needs of the community?(interpret that as you need to make it fit) what do I have to give? What is healthy for me? It’s (unfortunately ) not a flow chart (trust me, I tried this…nope, not gonna happen), nor is it a direct path. The serpentine road in this process is “inviting” you to walk gently…sometimes whether you want the invitation to this suare or not. The big “D” does however have stages in this process…now all of you flow chart lovers who just took a sigh of relief…guess again!
My image of the discernment process is more like playing the game Twister. Yes, you know, “right hand on green” “left foot on yellow”, then the times the caller keeps spinning, “right foot on red…right foot on red…right foot on red….”. Yeah…you know what I’m talking about! Sometimes people are in your way, sometimes you can look over at those intertwined people while you have one foot on red, sometimes you don’t have a spinner! Get your comfy clothes on and a pair of socks with no holes, because we can’t have this party without a little Twister! (I’m really jazzed about this image!)
Does all of this sound unsettling? Raise your hands if you think this is resembles a form of interior torture…If you said yes…My friends, consider yourself Discerners.

I’m going to try and blog my experiences this week as much as I can. I’m approaching this writing as I process what it means for me to be basically right in the very beginning of discernment AGAIN. I’ll be sharing my real, my truth, my experience, and my JOY as it relates to my discernment and journey.

Stay tuned….today’s reflections will be coming shortly….
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