The Matter Of Discernment

The matter of discernment puzzles me.

I was 20 before I even heard the word discernment, and then I heard quite regularly at that. It didn’t take long before “discernment” sound like the magic word for some secret society. It annoyed me to no end for a long time.

I’m not much closer to discovering what discernment really means ten years later. Although I have been told on numerous occasions that it’s not a “get out of jail free card,” so I should really stop treating it like one.

Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

It’s one of those necessary evils of life, especially if you’re Catholic, if you ask me.

There seems to be an implication that one cannot possibly find their vocation without some sort of discernment.

While this is more or less true I don’t think it can be expressed in such a cut and dry fashion if people are really going to understand discernment.

I understand that there’s no definite “right” or “wrong” way to discern.

However I’m not sure I’ve ever done it “right,” or at least the best way for me.

I have, however, done what everyone else has done.

I’ve gotten up for the sunrise masses and before class rosaries (mostly).

Gone to prayer groups and Bible studies.

Rarely ever, and I mean ever, missed fellowship or adoration.

Made every retreat possible, even a yearlong SEEL retreat that included spiritual direction.

I even joined a discernment group (albeit for other reasons, at least initially).

And they’ve had great success, although a different definition of success than the secular.

I have the dubious distinction of being a religious sister’s prayer partner for a few months during our junior year (during her final pre-nun years). Just to give you an example. I like to tell people that I helped facilitate her discernment process, because that’s how things happened in my head.

It took me a while to really get that discernment has no timetable. Although it eats on my nerves when people say they’re discerning something and you know for a fact that they’ve been doing it for years. Talk about using discernment as a “get out of jail free” card.

Let’s not even talk about the people who are so certain of their plan because they’ve discerned it within an inch of their lives and then after a day (or what feels like a day) they do a complete change of direction.

Because the mysteries of discernment go both ways, and every which way.

Discernment’s never been my thing, at least not in the same way swimming or encountering unpleasant people seem to be my things.

It would be awesome if God would just speak very loudly and very clearly after a period of prayer and self-reflection.

Unfortunately, discernment doesn’t work like that either, at least not for most people.

Discernment is important. It’s also becoming a lost art in some aspects. Just don’t ask me for advice on it, because I have no idea what I’m doing.

*A similar version of this post was written on August 6, 2014

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Something

It’s been a busy week for me, so busy in fact I thought I might go a week without blogging, because the previous post was written before its actual postdate. So, I have about an hour to come up with something before the rest of my week, weekend included carries me away in its wake.

Oh, course I have next week off, and seemingly all the time in the world. Why does that always happen?

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the car this week going from place to place, particularly yesterday, so I’ve had plenty of time to think in the midst of my self-imposed craziness.

It’s no secret that I’ve been doing a lot of reading these last few months, but even so the one thing I haven’t been reading is the Bible. There’s no excuse for it, it is sitting on the end table after all, less than a foot from where I sit to write, although I have been known to do a quick “verse check” now and then, thanks to the world wide web.

Although verses are still finding their way into my thoughts, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had quality Bible time.

Even though I’ve been so busy I’ve been taking time, or rather seizing opportunities, to get out there and make an attempt to step out of my comfort zone. Since having surgery, and even before that, I’ve felt the Lord had given me a special mission. For those of you who have read Sleeping With Bread I’m talking about my sealed orders here.

But is hasn’t been an easy process………
(Is it ever?)

I know I can’t sit and wait for things to happen. But what direction do I go in? What if I go the wrong way? What if I go in the exact opposite direction of where I’m supposed to go?

So I’ve been being intentional and thoughtful of how I spend my free time these days, beginning this week. I’ve been trying to get “me,” for lack of a better word, out there. I’m considering saying “Yes” to things I would typically say “No” to. Just to see what happens. Maybe saying “yes” when I would’ve said “no” will make all the difference.

It’s working out well so far, as far as I can tell anyway.

Here’s to saying “Yes” even when you really don’t want to.

*A similar version of this post was written on May 21, 2010

On Change

I’ve been trying to write something for more than a week. You’ve been there, right?

If you haven’t, lie to me.

May has been a challenging month. It went from being, “If I can just make it though these next few weeks” to “If I can just make it though this month.”

For those of you familiar with the spoon theory; I am out of spoons, almost.

I’m not sure where or when it started. At this point it doesn’t matter much. Life happens.

May (and a portion of April) has involved a lot of change. I have a love/hate relationship with change. It’s nice to break from the usual but the usual is the usual for a reason, because it works.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change. It’s a common topic of my life these days. I use to think I could handle change pretty easily, sure there were rough moments but they were manageable. And it was only one thing happening at once, usually.

These days every change seems to be followed by another, if not preceding another. It’s a lot. When I found myself “escaping” to my day job I discovered my “fill line” for change.

I keep telling friends and family that I feel things changing, and I wonder if they’re for the better, for the worse, or just time for it. My brain has been going through a category phase. It needs to categorize as much as it can as quickly as it can.

The thing that’s bothering me about all of this change, I think, is that 99% isn’t under my control, I chose very little of it. Change is exciting when you choose it or when you choose to accept it. I’ve had to figure out where I fit, if at all, in all of it. It’s not a fun process.

Change has a ripple effect. Even if you’re not the one changing the change can still affect you; hence the reason why I’ve had to figure out where I fit in constantly changing interpersonal dynamics with those around me.

To make matters worse, or at least it felt like it at the time, an opportunity presented itself that I wanted to take. It just wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

I had to write an essay. But it just wasn’t just an essay. It had to be a personal statement.

In an effort to lesson my mental anguish at the process people asked if I had something already written that I could just update. Under the advice of a high school teacher I’ve kept everything I’ve ever written, mostly, even notes. So it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that I had a personal statement somewhere, or something I could turn into one.

I did the math, for filing purposes, at least at first. The last time I wrote an essay, of any kind, was ’07 (ironically April).

A lot has changed since then. I’m not a completely different person than I was back then but a lot has changed. None of those most “recent” essays would do.

Change happens. How you handle it is where the real change(s) seem to occur.

In the meantime, does anyone out there have any extra spoons?

*A similar version of this post was written on May 30, 2013

When Dreams Become Anything But

By this time last year I was dreaming about what my life would be like without school.

I was literally dreaming of being able to pick up a book or watch a TV show without time constrains, journal, and look for more meaningful long-term employment with more intentionality.

Now that I have the time to fulfill this dream it’s more akin to a nightmare than a dream.

I won’t go as far as to say I miss being in school, but it did provide me with a certain amount of structure I’m struggling to create on my own.

The congratulatory messages have slowed down, but have not stopped completely, which adds to the complexity of my situation. The questions of “what’s next?” have followed, and I feel utterly stupid saying “I have no idea,” even if it is the honest truth.

I have an idea of what I’d like my “next” to be but that doesn’t mean it will happen, at least not right out of the gate. It would be nice if that happens but age has taught me to be more realistic than optimistic.

I check job sites every day and sometimes submit 3 resumes, complete with individually written cover letters. I have gotten interviews, so that’s one step further than I had been getting in the last few years, but nothing past that.

Nothing.

I knew looking for a job wouldn’t be dreamlike. I was pretty sure it would be pretty much the opposite. But I was hoping the other things I had on the back burner for years would give me a sense of balance, not getting a job would be offset by being able to read a book at will.

I see how ridiculous this sounds, but I believe it, well believed.

I have read a fair number of books in-between writing cover letters but it’s not as dreamlike as I would have thought. The reading books part, not the writing cover letters part.

It’s a weird experience to write about yourself. You become incredibly analytical of yourself, every shortcoming gets magnified and every strength gets minimized, at least if you’re me. Then you’re left wondering, “is this really me?” “Is this really my best self?”

It’s really not the best place for your mind to be in when you need to be on your game, but you make do.

Now instead of dreaming of what my life may look like a year from now (or even any shorter window of time) I’m managing my expectations, not putting all of my eggs in one basket and not getting my hopes up most of all.

Life isn’t turning out the way I thought it would in post-postgrad life but what does?

By this time last year I was dreaming about what my life would be like without school.

I was literally dreaming of being able to pick up a book or watch a TV show without time constrains, journal, and look for more meaningful long-term employment with more intentionality.

Now that I have the time to fulfill this dream it’s more akin to a nightmare than a dream.

I won’t go as far as to say I miss being in school, but it did provide me with a certain amount of structure I’m struggling to create on my own.

The congratulatory messages have slowed down, but have not stopped completely, which adds to the complexity of my situation. The questions of “what’s next?” have followed, and I feel utterly stupid saying “I have no idea,” even if it is the honest truth.

I have an idea of what I’d like my “next” to be but that doesn’t mean it will happen, at least not right out of the gate. It would be nice if that happens but age has taught me to be more realistic than optimistic.

I check job sites every day and sometimes submit 3 resumes, complete with individually written cover letters. I have gotten interviews, so that’s one step further than I had been getting in the last few years, but nothing past that.

Nothing.

I knew looking for a job wouldn’t be dreamlike. I was pretty sure it would be pretty much the opposite. But I was hoping the other things I had on the back burner for years would give me a sense of balance, not getting a job would be offset by being able to read a book at will.

I see how ridiculous this sounds, but I believe it, well believed.

I have read a fair number of books in-between writing cover letters but it’s not as dreamlike as I would have thought. The reading books part, not the writing cover letters part.

It’s a weird experience to write about yourself. You become incredibly analytical of yourself, every shortcoming gets magnified and every strength gets minimized, at least if you’re me. Then you’re left wondering, “is this really me?” “Is this really my best self?”

It’s really not the best place for your mind to be in when you need to be on your game, but you make do.

Now instead of dreaming of what my life may look like a year from now (or even any shorter window of time) I’m managing my expectations, not putting all of my eggs in one basket and not getting my hopes up most of all.

Life isn’t turning out the way I thought it would in post-postgrad life but what does?

Life In Boxes

Life likes to put people in boxes, sometimes multiple boxes at the same time. I tend to not fit in very many boxes easily and find it easier to live outside the box most often.

In my technical theatre course during college the professors (we had 4) constantly encouraged us to “think outside the box,” so much so that it became a running joke, to the point that during a group project we backed a presentation with a deconstructed pizza box (we weren’t planning that, but it went with the box motif).

I moved so often during college that I turned it into a game, how many boxes does it take to contain all my belongings, trying to use the least number of boxes possible. I pride myself on the fact that my friends who worked of the campus moving service called one of my moves, “the easiest ever.”

My course work is kept in boxes, which remain open or unopened depending on the circumstances of the semester, week, or day.

The majority of my swimming gear is kept in a box, made up of meet related essentials and back up equipment; old goggles and caps, extra suits, and racing gear. It’s kept in the closet, just in case I need to grab something quickly (caps rip at weird times). And it’s more convenient in terms of packing for a meet, because even a 4-hour meet involves more than you’d think.

I asked for a new tech suit for Christmas, hoping that I’d at least get one for my birthday. I wore a tech suit for all of my meets last year and learned all too well of the love/hate relationship swimmers have with them. Basically, they’re meant to be tight, too tight even, expensive, and tend to not last very long.

Knowing what I know now I set out to find a suitable option for my wish list, because my now old tech suit has been discontinued, I knew I couldn’t just go down a size or two and feel like I had done due diligence.

I decided to try and be as exact about this as possible, meaning this time look at actual size charts. It sounded easy enough, except it involved number conversions I wasn’t too familiar with (ahem, the metric system) which needed dealing with before I could continue.

Turns out I was wearing a tech suit that wasn’t just too big, it was almost 10 sizes too big, at least according to the sizing charts. I wasn’t going to go that small right off the bat, although I haven’t completely ruled it out eventually.

I found something close to what I was going for, within reason of course, and crossed my fingers.

I opened the box a few weeks later to try it on before my first meet of the calendar year.

The good news is it gets easier to put on a tech suit with practice, but it can still be a pain to do. The not so good news is it wasn’t as snug as I thought it would be, and for a while I thought maybe I had gotten used to wearing suits that are too tight.

I looked at the box (and rechecked my measurements).

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As it turns out that my actual size according to my measurements, as opposed to the size I wear, isn’t even on the box, which I had to laugh at.

It’s just another example of how some people aren’t meant to live within a box.

Grad School: The Final Semester

I’m pretty sure a lot of people never thought I’d reach this point, honestly, I had my own doubts at times.

As far as semesters go this one was fairly lonely, like my first one, except this time I was able to recognize the loneliness. I knew a few people in class but not well, and I really didn’t want to make any new friends (yes, I am that kind of person). I wouldn’t go back to last year if given the choice, but I missed comradery, much like last fall.

You’d think I’d have the whole studying routine down by now, but no, there were plenty of nights when I was clicking submit at the last minute. But there were times when I completed assignments a week ahead of time. So yeah, that time management thing went to both extremes.

Although there were times when I wanted to quit, no matter what semester it was, and return to life as a normal person now I don’t know what to do with myself.

I’ve caught up on Netfl!x, which didn’t take nearly as long as I would’ve thought. So much so that I’ve started and finished watching other things.

I’ve even read a book or two, which I swore I wasn’t going to do for 6 months, at least. And by book or two I mean I’ve read a pile or two of books.

I took a short break from swimming, but it was more of necessity than want. And I regretted it within 2 minutes of getting back in the water, the break from swimming, not the swimming itself.

People keep asking me “what’s next?”

Honestly, I have no idea.

Am I cut out to be a normal person anymore?

My face has been buried in books and writing papers for years. I’ve had to turn down more social engagements than I can count, I don’t care to, really.

School has been my excuse to not do things I don’t want to do, but didn’t want to just say no either, so it worked on a few fronts.

I’m sending out my resume again and seeing what’s out there. I’ve been doing it some in the last year but nowhere near seriously.

But that’s not the part that freaks me out the most, although it is daunting.

What will I do with my free time?

I’ve had projects on the backburner for years, but is it time to give them more attention?

That would require some shifting, for sure.

Should I pursue a career based on filling someone else’s shoes or should I continue to forge my own path?

12 Days Of Christmas, Kinda

There are so many reasons why I hate the start of the Christmas season, at least the commercial version of it. I’m not sure when it started but I was ecstatic in college when I was given an Advent calendar that included the Christmas Octave.

My cousin says it’s because I know too much, that may be the case now, but back then I think it was just an annoyance.

I hate having to buy Halloween decorations in early September, that Christmas movies run 24/7 on some TV stations from October 1st through New Year’s, and the supposed “war on Christmas, among other things.

I look for anything for an escape, at least until Gaudete Sunday, so imagine how I felt when my coach told the group about the “12 sets of Christmas” challenge.

I’ve heard stories about swim practices during holiday breaks, “Grinch week” or “hell week” are common terms, although mostly in younger groups. Usually time around the holidays is devoted to fun games that happen to double as technique work or some sort of cross training, so I thought the sets would be like that.

No.

It was going to be unpleasant, to the point where I would probably hate it.

I tried making the argument that it was Advent and not Christmas, at least at the time. I threw out the “Catholic card,” knowing it wouldn’t get very far but it was worth a try. It wasn’t totally bailing on the challenge, just putting it off. Anything that would buy me a few more days without time trials makes for a better practice.

However, the “12 Sets of Christmas” was to be completed in December. Thus, covering both the Advent and Christmas seasons, more or less. So even if my argument had held up it wouldn’t have been for long.

It did get me to focus less on Christmas and more on what I was actually doing, which is a good thing, and an essential for a 400-yard Individual Medley, for time, among other things associated with swimming well, or at least well-ish.

I survived Advent and Christmas, and the associated swim sets, actually, I think the swim sets helped take the edge off the intensity of the holiday season.

Although I think it’s weird that the Valentines paraphernalia made an appearance during Advent.

One Word: 2018

Build. Chance. Providence. Transition. Endurance.

Now?

Flux.

Why?

It just feels right.

It sounds better than “blank”, which is really how I feel right now.

I was going to class it up with “transition,” but been there, done that.

This time feels less formal than a transition, like taking a deck of cards and throwing it in the air kind of formal (as in there’s no order to it, at all).

I’m not completely lost, but things are more or less wide open in terms of my next steps.

It’s not like I wake up every morning wondering what to do with myself, at least not every morning.

It’s more of a discernment thing.

One of my most favorite things to do.

(Not really)

I’m not on the verge of existential crisis or anything, at least not yet, but it can easily go that way, based on past performances.

I’m not in any particular predicament either, but again, it could easily go that way.

I do have a tendency to misjudge situations, like staying in temporary jobs too long or not staying in a position long enough to make it a solid life decision.

Do you see why I chose “flux” instead of “transition” (again) this year?

Similar situation, but far less structured, less direction, more questions that will need answering, at some point.

(I’d like it to be sooner rather than later, but God tends to have other ideas)

One Word: 2017 Review

Endurance

There were a few obvious reasons:

-Attempting to become more of a distance swimmer, because although a 50m doesn’t seem like a lot of work it can be just as hard as swimming a mile. I need the endurance, literally.

*I’ve been focusing on 100s & 200s. It requires endurance but if I pace myself I don’t find them to be as difficult as 50s, mentally or physically.

-Although I’ve made it through the bulk of my degree program I’m really just getting to the hard stuff. I won’t be pushed out of my comfort zone I’ll be blasted out of it, no matter how much I prepare.

*I survived, give or take a mental breakdown. Enough said.

The not so obvious reasons were:

-Starting a search that would lead to an actual career.

*Can we talk about how unfun the searching and applying processes are? But I’m making some progress, it’s better than nothing.

-Basically become better at “adulating,” because I’m (hopefully) going to be an adult for a longer period of time than I was a kid.

*What does “acting like an adult” really mean anyway? How does one measure how “adult” they are?

-The older I get, even though I’m not that old, the more energy I need to get things done. I’m not just talking about physical energy but mental and emotional energy, probably even more so than the physical aspects.

*I love naps. The older I get the more I like them. Ironic considering, I was that kid that never napped in daycare or pre-school. I appreciate being able to go to bed (and fall asleep) early. I’m not envious of people who get to wind down their day at 9pm.

-Developing endurance will give me the opportunity to have more time to devote to one thing at a time, hopefully.

*I don’t have the slightest clue what I meant by that. I’m not sure I’m wired in such a manner than would make that achievable. It is a nice thought though, I’ll give myself that much.