2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

One Word: Review

My word for 2015 was Providence

Providence (with a capital “P”) is defined as divine guidance or care, God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.

When I picked my word for this past year I was being optimistic. My plate was full, so full, of things I had hoped and prayed for. I couldn’t help but be thankful and think God had a hand in all of it.

But I thought having God in my corner would mean that everything would be great and I’d have no problems at all.

Clearly I was more than a bit delusional.

I started making out my calendar for the coming year by looking over my calendar for this year.

No wonder I feel like I’ve been sleeping for the last few months, because on some level I have been.

I thought Providence would mean I would be happy, and well rested, all the time.

This year has been jam packed, which has had just as many bad points as it has good points.

I thought Providence would mean I wouldn’t have to choose between things that I love and care deeply about.

I thought Providence would mean no hurt feelings, especially my own feelings.

I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from this year that will serve me for years to come.

Have I learned about Providence? I’m sure I have I just can’t see it clearly right now. End of the year burnout now comes with an end of the semester near-nervous breakdown complete with lack of sleep & kicks my “screw you” attitude into a whole other level.

My brain doesn’t want to think so hard right now, and I’m happy to oblige.

That doesn’t mean the year has been completely worthless. In fact it’s just the opposite. I’ve been able to do so much this year I wonder if I’ll ever repeat it, never mind if I’ll ever do better.

I’ll tell you one thing. If I’m ever this busy ever again I’ll be better prepared (or at least I hope to be) because I seriously doubt I’ll be as lucky a second time around.

I have had a year of Providence. It just hasn’t looked anything like I thought it would.

Cupcakes, Old Podcasts & Touching Reliquaries

I’ve picked up an awful new addiction during this semester, listening to podcasts, well the listening to podcasts part goes back to after my 1st CNMC but I’ve acquired the habit of listening to podcasts that I no longer in production.

I’ve listened to every episode of The SaintCast & In Between Sundays, some more than once.

I’ve listened to so many podcasts in the last few months that the audio jack, where I plug in a headset, on my computer has ceased to function.

Anyway….

I heard that the body of St. Maria Goretti would be touring the U.S. & wondered if there would be a stop close to me, I wasn’t holding my breath but I knew I’d probably wish I had made the effort if there was the slimmest chance.

If I’ve totally lost you go listen to SaintCast episode 15 and come back later.

I emailed my cousin to see if he’d be interested in going with me.

“How can we NOT go?”

He was right; it was so close, relatively speaking, that we couldn’t not go. I’m not the biggest fan of dead bodies, but how many chances does a person get to see a real saint?

I made the decision to take my wheelchair because I didn’t want to think about standing in a long line (even though I knew full well I’d be playing right into the misconception that people with disabilities have a greater need for prayer and feel more akin to the Communion of Saints). Plus my cousin has 6 kids and I wanted to give him some “off time” from having to keep tabs on another person.

It ended up not being as busy as I thought it would be, but then again we were going in the middle of the week, and in the middle of the day.

We found a parking spot quickly and headed inside, through the handicapped entrance so I joked that we’d probably get to skip the line because we were using a different entrance than most people.

It’s a running joke in the family that going out with me means that occasionally you get surprise privileges, easier parking, and better seating at sporting events, no lines at Disney; although not everyone has had the joy of experiencing it firsthand.

I’m happy (and somewhat sad) to say this was one of those times.

We went in and surveyed the situation. I thought about going to the back of the line but I noticed a priest assisting people off to the side of the main line, and closer to the door.

“Let’s just go up to him. We can probably jump the line” Yes, I do realize how awful that makes me.

We were told to wait until the person in front of us was finished and then we’d be escorted to the reliquary.

I thought an escort was a little much since I wasn’t going to be getting out of my chair. But there are plenty of other times when I wished I had such a privilege so I took it.

We were taken to the front, and I made space for my cousin to be next to me. On the other side of me I hear, “Would you like to touch the reliquary?”

It then occurs to me that this is the closest I’ve ever been to a dead body EVER, so I guess it’s a good thing that the first time was for a saint, there was no way I was going to touch it. I’ve touched one casket in my entire life and that was good enough for me. I might’ve felt differently if there had been some prompting by the Holy Spirit but I think it/he/she knew this was a big day for several reasons & I can only take so many breakthroughs in one day before breaking down.

“Nope. I’m good thanks.”

Yeah, I told a priest “Nope,” cause I’m full of politeness and class and all that.

After spending some time in front of the reliquary we parked ourselves in a nearby pew for some prayer, and if you’re me, people-watching-after-prayer.

I had been to this particular parish before, but I couldn’t remember when, or why. My cousin says we’ve both been there before, and together, so my guess is I was pretty young and passed to a bigger cousin or two.

After some prayer time we discussed whether we wanted to stay longer or leave. The conversation went something like this:

“Do you want to stay longer or are you finished?”

“Whatever you want to do, but if we go now we can get a cupcake.”

“Let’s go get cupcakes.”

There’s a reason why Catholics are referred to as practicing Catholics and not perfect Catholics, and even if that was a thing we’d both fail pretty miserably. And it’s pretty obvious that even though we’re technically both adults, we’re actually overgrown children.

I should also be noted that this is one of only a handful of times that my cousin and I have had one on one time. We both agreed that we had the best time and we should do stuff like this again (Are there any more saints touring the US anytime soon?).

About That White Cap

A few months ago my swim cap ripped, so I had to get another one. What’s the big deal right?

(Other than the obvious) The store only had 1, and it was the one color I swore I’d never wear on my head ever again. I seriously considered not getting it but given that it was at the end of swim season & it was half the price that I was used to paying I pulled it off the rack and paid for it.

“It’ll turn brown in a few weeks anyway, just enough time to find another one.”

You see I have an emotional history with swim caps. They were used at a summer camp I went to as a kid to indicate a level of skill, as well as what you could and couldn’t do during coveted free swim periods.

I was a “white cap swimmer” for all but one summer, 1 summer I was the color below the white caps.

A white cap represents being stuck, not being able to make any progress.

A white cap is failure in the form of latex (or whatever they’re made out of these days).

The only saving grace to the whole thing is that any white cap I’ve ever had has turned brown in a matter of weeks so I wouldn’t be wearing failure on my head for very long, or so I thought.

A few weeks later a happened to meet people from Adaptive Sports New England and talked swimming, basically did they have any tips for gaining better access to my current pool or any others.

It turns out I’m not the only one who has had trouble finding a lane to swim in, and safely. I’m still not sure if I feel comforted by this, knowing I’m not alone, or bothered, because it means more people than just the lifeguards aren’t doing their job.

I also mentioned that I’ve turned to Y0uTube for tips on better technique. Which I realized was a ridiculous statement; I didn’t realize just how ridiculous it was until the words came out of my mouth (and I’m pretty sure at least one person wanted to laugh in my face).

They suggested I get in contact with the head of an adaptive sports program that could put me in touch with a swim coach. Now I’ve had similar things like this happen to me before and none of them have ever worked out, so although I was excited I was pessimistic.

I went home and send an email, just to be able to say I gave it a shot.

I talked to the head of the sports program then traded emails with the swim coach, again waiting for something to fall though.

Suddenly I had committed to attending the first practice of the year. I say “suddenly” but really I’d been waiting for an opportunity like this for decades. And I was indeed still waiting for something to make this not happen, because after decades why would this happen now?

And there was one big mental barrier I had to deal with; I still had that white cap, because it hadn’t turned brown.

I practically ran to the store hoping to find another cap, any cap that wasn’t white. I couldn’t bring myself to go to a swim practice, even one that was billed as “nice and easy,” wearing a white cap. If this was going to turn into anything at all it was going to be all about progress, not allowing myself to be held back by unpleasant memories.

And lest we forget that if I got in the water and failed while wearing a white cap I would’ve blamed the cap, regardless of my abilities.

I needed to get the white cap off my head, for good, and bought 2 new caps, just in case.

But as the day approached I rethought my “anti-white cap” stance; actually I rethought it about 375 times. In fact I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to wear until I put it on my head.

I climbed into a pool of real swimmers wearing a white cap and waited to be judged on my lack of ability, just as I had during those summers all those years before.

I faced my worst nightmare.

I’ve been attending team practices since the fall and I love it.

It isn’t what I expected. It hasn’t been easy. But what I’ve been able to accomplish in just a few weeks is pretty amazing, not perfect, but amazing none the less.

It turns out I’ve had more fears to face besides not being a total failure while wearing a cap of a certain color.

It’s all been done wearing the dreaded white cap, which has slowly turned a suspicious shade of orange.

I have no idea where any of this is going to lead because I don’t have any feasible long term goals at this point. Frankly I think I’m still waiting for someone to tell me to get out of the pool because I’m not supposed to be there.

When Normal Is Nice

If you asked me 6 months ago if I thought I’d want to be in a celebratory mood when December came around I would’ve had some kind of major emotional response, and it wouldn’t have been pretty.

The last year, particularly the last 6 months have been almost unreal. Aside from my (un)usual course load and near insane travel plans there has been a lot of navigating uncharted territory, and little of it was pleasant, or good.

I tried burying myself in work and school but it didn’t always work. There were sleepless nights, lots of questions, and even more tears.

One of the more notable things being sitting next to someone’s hospital bed rather than being the one in the hospital bed, normal people would consider that a good thing but coming from the point of view of a professional patient it was uncomfortable.

I was in uncharted territory.

I’m much more comfortable being the one in the bed than next to the bed. I think family, friends, and medical professionals would prefer it that way too. I’m pretty much a pain in the ass when I’m the patient but I’m insufferable when I’m the “family support” (and the fact that I can recognize that should tell you something).

I’ve had those uncomfortable conversations that people like to avoid, all over again, because if I’m ever back to being the one in the hospital bed. I want everyone within a 20 mile radius of my room to know what my wishes are, right down to how I’d like to be dressed, in the event I cannot speak for myself.

Then things changed, again.

What started as relief turned into a whole other series of questions, in the end I had to recognize that this was “the new normal” that people talk about so often; another uncharted territory that required exploring, and then accepting.

I thought I knew where I stood on a multitude of issues, but I was forced to reexamine my motives and change my position on more than a few things.

For example, I never understood how people could say that a loved one was “still there” after suffering a stroke or being diagnosed with dementia. Now, I’ve read My Stroke of Insight and many other books on neuroscience. Intellectually I understand that someone isn’t completely gone but I couldn’t grasp it on any other level, until I encountered it up close and personal.

And it’s amazing to witness (although, admittedly, not always easy).

Like so many others I’ve focused on the quality of my life over the quantity of my life (and then proceeded to project my thoughts onto others silently as well as out loud). It’s not so black and white. There’s a whole lot of grey in the in between that needs to be acknowledged, questioned, processed, and then accepted.

Allowing yourself to able to live in a normal, even if it is a “new normal” is nice, if you let it.

An Obligatory Advent Post

Recently I asked my dear friend Tiffany if she had any ideas for blog topics. With Advent around the corner she suggested “Advent prep?” Which I quickly replied, “I have that covered.”

Well the joke’s on me, because I don’t. I mean I did, but if you were to go back and read what I’ve posted on a previous blog during previous years, well, it just doesn’t work anymore.

Add in the facts that the semester is almost over and I can’t stand the Christmas season starting before Halloween and I’m at “Christmas burnout” around the 1st week of November.

I put up with it, begrudgingly, but I certainly don’t like it and make every attempt to avoid anything out of my comfort zone.

Yes, I’m the person who says “No thanks” to office Secret Santa projects and grab bags because I can’t pull it together to buy a gift for someone else, not even with the benefit of online shopping.

I’m the person who says they may attend the work Christmas party and then back out, sometimes at the last minute.

I can’t deal with any of it; I don’t even want to try to.

I’m more of an introvert by nature, but the holidays make me want to crawl into a hole and never come out.

That being said I will tell you that I like the time of Advent, not as much as I like the Christmas Octave, but still. I like the idea behind it and I wish more people took it more seriously, yes even non-Christians, even just for the sake of Christians.

We all complain that the world is moving too fast, yet we buy into it.

If you want the world to slow down, slow down your world.

Maybe others will catch on.

I hope things reach a tipping point and we won’t be watching White Christmas while waiting for tick-or-treaters.

PS. If you’re looking for a good talk about Advent Greg & Jennifer Willits recorded one of their talks as a “podcast extra.”