Do You Want To Know A Secret?

So where was I?
Oh yeah, no one knows everything there is to know about me……

Shockingly I’m not shocked by this. You don’t accumulate close to (or over) 40 filled journals if you don’t have things you feel that you need to keep to yourself. I’ve never gone back and reread anything I’ve written in a journal. I have no desire to do so either. I’m almost positive there’s very little worth saving in any of them. I might have one journal’s worth of insights worth saving to reflect on at a later date. So why don’t I just throw them all out? Good question. The answer is I just can’t throw them out. It would free up a whole area in my already small closet but I just can’t throw them out. I feel sorry for the person who has to deal with all of them when I die. Out of respect for whoever that person might end up being I’ve come close to throwing a few of them out. But then I have a thought, throwing them out would be like ditching a friend.

When I can’t say it at least I can write it.
I can’t let that go that easily.

Most people would consider me a talker. O.K. EVERYONE who’s ever known me would call me a talker. It’s not something I’m really proud of believe it our not. Especially when someone says, “WOW you can talk a lot.” (By the way thanks to Bill for being the last person to point that out. I hate you and your stupid chicken hearts.) There’s a good reason why I’m “such a talker.”

It’s a major defense mechanism for me.
I’m sure you’ve heard, at least once, that talkers really have a lot to hide, although I prefer to say keep to myself. This is extremely true for me; especially with people I don’t know or feel I don’t know well. If I talk first, and keep talking you won’t have the chance to ask me anything too personal. You’d think it would be a good plan if you were the one doing the talking but honestly, I get to a point where I wish I would shut up. Yet I rarely will.

During my week in Portland I was mistaken as a major extravert, by several people. I had to laugh, to myself of course, when I heard this. No one knew that I sat in silence for almost a week before hand to prep myself for orientation. Very few people noticed that by Wednesday I keep finding ways to go back to my cabin just to have some quiet time. No one knows that I spent most of the trip to Spokane, which included a rather long detour, sleeping, or rather recovering from such a taxing week.

My “extroversion” is just covering up how introverted I am.

I come from a big family. (S)he who yells loudest might be heard. We have 6 different conversations with 6 people sitting at the table. Everyone easily goes into their own world while becoming part of other people’s worlds. We can have 6 conversations while playing a board game together, with one of us talking on the phone to someone else, while eating lunch, while swapping goods and discussing the remodeled bathroom. It really is a fun family dynamic, even if it does make an outsider want to run for the hills.
I have so much fun with my family sometimes that I do wish I could do it every day. Then I remember….
They exhaust the hell out of me.

I didn’t want to go to my prom. I wouldn’t have if certain people didn’t drag me. I did have a good time but I would’ve been just as happy sitting at home.

I went to the charity ball once in college, for all of the same reasons as my one middle school dance. I had a much better time than I did at the prom. Of course, appointing myself event photographer for my group certainly helped. It was one of the only times in recent memory that I didn’t think, “I could have just as much fun by myself.”

I went to only one dance in middle school. I only want because I thought I might regret not trying it at least once. I hated it. Going to the diner after was fun but I could’ve had the same meal any other day at the same diner. In fact, I have and had a much better time than I did after the dance.

Yes, I realize I just gave 3 very similar examples but not much differs in different situations. My point is I prefer to be around people I know. A small group of people I know. I knew most of the people at the charity ball and would call them friends (unlike the other 2 examples) but I still stayed with the group I arrived with. Small groups work best for me with people I know.

What about group projects you ask? No matter if I know my group members or not my philosophy is pretty much as follows, get out of my way, leave me alone, when I want or need any other input I’ll ask. Most importantly let me do the work I need to do,

I’m pretty sure if I didn’t think about the possibility of regretting something later on I’d never leave the house. I know if my desire to see different places wasn’t as strong as it is I would never leave.
But I wasn’t always this way.
So what changed?
I’m not really sure however the fact hadn’t changed that I’ve gone from being O.K. socially, maybe not perfect but I could get by, to being one step away from desiring to be a hermit.

Yes, the life of a hermit does have a certain appeal to me.

Everyone has secrets and things they want to keep to themselves. But there’s a group of people who let their secrets become bigger things. They let them grow into walls.

I’m one of those people that let their secrets become walls.
The walls became a fortress.
The fortress became the only place I can really be me.
But the fortress has a moat.
The moat doesn’t allow anyone else in, as reinforcement.
But here’s the thing about my fortress……
I want other people to know who I really am.
Too many people have let me down for me to do that easily.
If you hang in there you’ll see who I really am.
Hang around long enough to prove to me my walls can crumble.
You just might like who I really am, even more than you like who you think I am.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on October 28, 2008

Do You Want To Know A Secret?

I took part in a 9 month SEEL program (Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life). I wasn’t too sure about it at first. It sounded like a good idea but a commitment I doubted I could or would keep up. My roommates had committed to it so I did to, going against my many reservations.

One of the SEEL requirements was to meet with a spiritual director once a week. As much as I’d been interested in spiritual direction and had come close to organizing it on a few occasions, this was the part of the program I was the weariest about. What would I talk about? Would I be comfortable in such a situation? Would I be able to keep the commitment? Would I be forced to keep it up even when I couldn’t? Would I be able to have a director who I didn’t already have a relationship with? The last question was the biggest one for me. It almost kept me from the retreat.

Almost.

Towards the end of the year I sat down with something on my mind that I didn’t know I had even been thinking about. As I often did after I got comfortable with the process and it’s just one of the things that just speaks to how great of a director I had.

I told her about an outing I had with my housemates and how angry it had left me. It wasn’t a huge event, in fact now I don’t even remember what it even was, it was just an activity that had quickly turned into community time, not hard to do with 4 people really. Whatever it was I do remember having fun at whatever it was, so did everyone else. But feelings of anger overrode the fun, especially after the fun was over. Don’t you just love how life works like that?

As I kept talking I started to realize how angry I really was about the whole situation. In fact the outing wasn’t very fun for me at all just stressful. I just pretended to be happy so I wouldn’t be the downer in the group. And true to form I got louder and louder, most people cry during spiritual direction, I get angry and talk through gritted teeth, yes, I did leave her office with a sore jaw on many occasions.

I realized I was angry because I had been living with these people for almost a year, yet I still had to explain to them what needed to happen so I could be part of the fun. I felt that I should have to explain myself to people I was supposed to be so close with after being together for so long. And, I thought, at that point, I didn’t need to anymore. That was a point of my anger, but it certainly didn’t end there

The truth is this wasn’t the first time, nor do I expect it to be the last, for something like this to happen. But there was one very distinct difference about this time.

My best friend wasn’t there.

Now I’m not saying she’s always been there when I’ve been in a tough spot and needed help. We do have our own lives. When I say, she wasn’t there I mean I couldn’t talk to her. Every time I’ve gotten angry about this before I’ve vented to her, immediately after, and she’d provide common sense to my mania. I was mad because no one seemed to care that I was “left behind” in some capacity. I know now, thanks to my director expecting the same results from my housemates, or just one of them was unfair. My best friend has watched (and helped me) adapt to my surroundings for years. So much so that it’s become second nature for her to make adaptations as well. The extra thoughts and explaining doesn’t have to be there. It’s one of the gifts of having begun your friendship at 5 years old. No matter how close I felt to my housemate’s time was not on our side. Expecting less than 12 months of friendship to have the equivalency of a friendship of almost 20 years was more than unfair. Naturally I see that now, given the time to reflect.

During a pause in my rant one sentence blows a hole in my brain. “They don’t get it and they never will.”

As much as I knew this was true I must’ve been in lifelong denial, until that day. Maybe I thought that I could change things, because I’M different. I can make people know things that others can’t. I’M ME.

Can’t I do the impossible?
No.
I’m not God.
I can not do the impossible.
At least not on my own.

I have to take a moment here and say that my spiritual director can speak to my hidden aggravation. She herself has a neurological disorder; she might say condition or even blessing, which people just don’t understand unless they have it themselves.

Once I shut up, with her assistance, she went to work. The grand sum of her wisdom was this,
“Stop trying to get people to understand what they aren’t going to. It’s not within their capabilities to understand anything. They have no idea what it’s like to be you for a day and how much more work it actually is. If they knew they’d be exhausted and wonder how you do it every day. Stop trying to get them to understand, because they just aren’t, and that’s just going to leave you angry, and you have no time for that.”

It wasn’t a long walk home after my session but I certainly did walk a little slower. I was also thankful for the fact that I had to walk home rather than drive. The walk had become so routine that I could get home with big things on my mind and have everything somewhat processed before I walked into the kitchen, depending on the speed I chose to talk of course.

I wouldn’t say that my session was some kind of breakthrough, although it did feel like it at the time, and somewhat heartbreaking as well. The shock and revelation was that someone, other than me, was able to put into words, and tell me, what I’ve felt to some degree for my entire life. Several family and friends will tell you I’ve always been articulate. However there are still lifelong thoughts I am still learning to articulate.
I’m pretty sure without that session I’d still be trying to articulate that particular thought.

Among friends I’ve been known for my boundaries, among other things too, I hope. Among family I’m known for my lack of. This I am more certain about than the previous statement since I get reprimanded for it often. As I’ve gotten older the word “boundaries” is being replaced with “walls” more often.

So, I start to think.
Is there a connection between my “walls” and my desire for people to just “get it?”
YES!

If that wasn’t a self-question to lead myself into denial than I need some help of the mental variety. Being that I was fresh of a spiritual awakening session I did myself a favor and cut the bull, or caught myself before I got too far into it.

I have so many “walls” which I will now refer to as a secret because in the most primitive parts in my brain I know people won’t understand. I keep secrets from everyone, friends, family, coworkers, my parents, even my best friend. Why? Because I know they just won’t get it. I know I won’t be able to stand explaining all the details so I keep most of them to myself. Life can get hard enough as is I don’t need to invite more mental stress into my life, which letting everything out will do.

Everyone feels the need to belong to something somewhere, and often with someone by their side. My reality is I need to make a place for myself to belong rather than put myself into an established group. I don’t belong (strictly speaking) in normal society because I have to deal with more than they do. I don’t belong with people “in my situation” because they do understand (to an extent) what I have to go through on a daily basis. The problem with my being with people “in my situation” (for me personally) is that things quickly become a one up contest. I express a problem. They relate and give it a twist. I try to make things clearer. Their interpretation with a twist follows that. The conversation can continue on like that for days. The problem with the little twists are that more often than not it’s “I have that too, but worse, listen to this….” It leaves me feeling guiltier for not making the best of the situation than feeling like I’ve been helped, supported, and more importantly, listened to.

There was a night in college that will always stick out to me. I had a rough day, for whatever reason, whatever it was it just pushed me over the edge. I’m a bottle it up and then explode kind of girl, in case you haven’t already picked that up. I was lying in bed crying when my roommate came home. Seeing me in obvious distress she dropped her stuff and got on the bed next to me. The end of the conversation came when she told me that maybe if I let people knew how I felt more often I wouldn’t end up feeling like I did at that moment (or any other moment like it before or after this one). I looked at her like she was clueless, because to me, in that moment she couldn’t be more so. “If you only knew…..” I thought. She meant well, and did help me out somewhat, but that didn’t lessen my urge to want to slam my head into the wall so hard that I’d end up in the apartment next to ours.

There have been times that I’ve let people know everything going through my head.
Not one of those people is my friend today. The minute I tell them everything, that they asked to know, I’d like to point out they turn tail and run. I can’t say I blame them but they did ask. You’d think they’d make an effort to hang around for a while. But if people did that divorce rates for people with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities wouldn’t be so high. It really does take a certain kind of person to hang around and they don’t hang around every street corner waiting for some who might need them.

I do try and make small efforts to let people in but the response it never what I thought it would be, even from people who said they’d like to just know what’s going on in my life. Typically, if I get anything in response to my “letting in” its anger or accusations of trying to get people’s attention or pity; in fact, I’ve gotten that so many times that it doesn’t even bother me anymore. If someone feels that way about my honesty than that’s their business not mine, all I have to do is live my life. The other most popular response I get from people is “I’m sorry.” More often than not it’s worse than getting people’s pity, although they have been known to walk hand in hand as well. However, “I’m sorry,” is worse than having to deal with people’s accusations.

What people don’t get is I don’t want “Sorry.” I don’t need “Sorry.” What I really need is your help. That’s what I really want to. If you can’t turn to your friends for help, then who are you supposed to turn to?

I was determined to think of one person who knew everything about me, not including myself of course, by the time I got back to the house. As I got closer I would walk slower and slower. It was taking me longer to think of someone than I thought it would.

There isn’t a single person on the planet who knows everything about me.

To be continued………

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on October 17, 2008

 

Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically, this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

fr-jack-greeting-card

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on October 8, 2012, October 22, 2014, September 30, 2015

Grad School: The Third Summer

This summer could have easily been titled “the summer of my discontent,” and school commitments played a big part in that, not just because it takes up a substantial portion of my summer either.

I learned a lot from last summer in terms of class logistics. It’s tempting to load up on courses since they’re readily available. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

One class a day is enough, because there are plenty of ways to fill your day; formation requirements, exploring campus, meeting people behind the avatars, and studying.

As much information you can get your hands on before class starts is good, but somehow it’s never enough. Thankfully it being my 3rd summer I had enough resources to pull together (read: friends) in the same situation so we made it work.

My days basically went like this:
-Breakfast in bed, literally as I didn’t pay for the meal plan this year, so I had some Netf!ix time then too.
-Class
-Lunch
-Library
-Back to my room to finish studying
-Dinner
-Shower
-Bed

For basically 2 weeks straight.

This was the 1st time I’ve had assignments due during the week other than “just” reading. Honestly I hope it’s also the last time, although that’s highly unlikely, because it made things more difficult. It’s hard to truly learn anything when you’re focused on the oral exam at the end of the week.

I’ve never been a fan of oral exams, like most people, they aren’t any easier as an adult.

I had it in my head that last year would be my “summer of suck” but I feel like I had two of them, for different reasons obviously but the feelings were/are the same.

I’ve never spent so much time in a library, ever. In an odd way I’m proud of how I stuck to much of what I had planned. Usually I say one thing and get caught up in the plans of others, however most of us where in the same classes so that had an effect on things.

I did have time to spend one on one time with a few friends, another benefit of not having the meal plan is that you have to get out of your room (and the library). As much as I have enjoyed having a sole focus for a week (in the past) I think my favorite moments from this summer are ones in which I spend time with classmates outside of class.

Many classmates graduated this past spring so they weren’t with us this summer, at least not physically, so I wondered how that would impact my experience this year. Thankfully, well not really, I was kept busy enough that I didn’t think about what was missing this year compared to previous years.

I also relearned what I love about this school and the community. Although I only spend a few weeks a year with people in person it doesn’t feel that way. It just adds to the feeling of community I have every day (even if some days it does mean being underfed, overtired, and stressed out; at least we’re in it together).

Becoming A Road Map

Since swimming reentered my life I can’t get enough of it, so much so that I spend far more time thinking about swimming than anything else. The first thing I plan to pack on any trip is a drag suit & pull buoy, just in case there’s a pool nearby.

A visit to my aunt’s place in the dead of winter was no exception, except winter in Florida is like summer in New England. Plus, she lives within walking distance of multiple pools, and we’re not expected to clean a single one, ever. So being asked, “Would you like to go to the pool?” has me in a suit and out the door as fast as my coordination allows.

I learned to swim in her backyard pool (& almost drowned a few times) as a kid so she’s used to my unorthodox methods of navigating in and around a pool. Rarely does she ask if I need help, in fact she rarely says anything, probably knowing how much joy I get from the water.

“You look like a roadmap.”

It’s hard to hide anything physical in a swimsuit. So you can see each and every one of my surgical scars.

The nearly 30-year-old SDR incision is well healed, but still one of my most noticeable scars. The bilateral scars on both sides of my legs from the tendon transfers, that at one point during my Catholic school days, doubled as dress code marker since skirts could be no more than 2 inches above the knee. Then there are the most recent scars that run along my outer thighs that look similar yet distinctly different from each other, proof that a surgeon does have a trademark style of closing an incision. Everything down to the scar tissue that marks where surgical probes were inserted during who-knows-which surgery that gave surgeons information they needed.

It’s not unusual for me to try and hide at least a few of my scars, especially for formal occasions. I want (and would rather) people look at me because I look good, not because they’re wondering why I have 2-foot-long scar along my spine.

I don’t care about any of that, 99.9% of the time, particularly when I’m in a swim suit. My concern is following that black lane on the bottom of the pool, as many times as I can, as fast as I can.

I care more about executing turns and streamlined body positioning than if anyone is wondering about any (or all of) of my scars.

I do look like a roadmap. A roadmap that only tells portions of roads I’ve traveled. In reality they’re just visuals left up to interpretation. I’m sure people see me around the pool and feel pity, or sadness, or courage, or a sense of inspiration. I have no idea. Honestly I think I’d rather not know what people think of me.

I know what I need to know, that without these scars that have made me look like a human roadmap I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I wouldn’t have returned to the pool or found a sense of freedom I’ve missed out on in the not so distant past.

I’ve been asked why I would want to “destroy” parts of myself when I’m perfectly healthy. It’s a legitimate question but the same people who ask such questions don’t know the need for the so called “destruction”.

Each scar was created with the hope of a better future, and in the process I’ve been created to be a map with no known final destination.

It’s like the movies where the main character is given half of a treasure map and needs to find the other half before the story can be completed.

Sitting On Saints

Catholics have an interesting relationship with saints, we ask for their intersession, visit shrines, we may even stand in line to view their relics (which sometimes includes their actual body).

I admit that I don’t fully understand the significance myself. However, I also need to admit that I have also taken an already misunderstood relationship with saints to a new level.

I sit on them.

(Yeah, you might want to read that again and let it sink in.)

It wasn’t something I was planning on doing, but it just kind of worked out that way.

I made an offhanded comment about whether or not St. Joseph of Cupertino would intercede on behalf of the safety of my wheelchair during flight. Because every wheelchair user has at least one airline horror story that’s wheelchair related. He is the patron saint of air travelers, and I have admitted that I often refer to my chair as a person, so I didn’t think such a question was that far out in left field.

 

And before we go any further, my chair does not share a name with a saint, at least not from what I can gather. Besides, that would be a little too strange.

I had this idea to get a patron saint medal and somehow attach it to my chair. But it just didn’t work out. I might’ve had better luck if I was within walking distance of somewhere that has every patron saint medal under the sun, but that was so long ago now.

It the flurry of preparations for my swim meet the thought resurfaced, although I had no idea if there was indeed a patron saint for swimmers. I knew of St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes, but I wanted to find something a little closer, if at all possible. Because I really could use all the help I could get, even if I doubted it would make a difference.

There seems to be a saint for nearly everything, until you get specific.

It turns out there is a patron saint of swimmers/swimming, Saint Adjutor of Vernon, who, escaped, apparently swimming to freedom.”

Considering my history with swimming and my goal of not drowning during a race it seemed like a good fit.

I embarked on my original mission, with a different saint, get a patron saint medal and somehow attach it to my chair. However, finding anything on obscure saints is a challenge, and if it isn’t, it costs more money than you want to spend given one’s individual needs.

I got the idea of putting something inside my seat instead. Wheelchair seating typically comes in layers so it wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility to slide something under the cover and leave it there. But if the top layer gets wet it tends to seep all the way through, requiring a complete dismantle of the entire cushion, which is if nothing else, annoying.

I found a workable solution however.

Yup, pictures of saints in plastic baggies.

I slide them into my seat cushion and no one knows any difference (well now you do, because I said something).

There you have it, I sit on various saints, albeit in the spirit of intersession & reverence.

 

Let’s Get Spiritual

“Are you mad that God did this to you?”

 I don’t get asked this question a lot, but enough to make me consider addressing it. It’s a loaded question, so I’ll try to keep it as “light” as possible.

My simple answer is, no, I am not mad God did this to me.

However, in the interest of full disclosure there were a few years in my life that I did not believe in God’s existence & was very bitter about pretty much everything. But that’s a story for another day, if anyone is in fact interested in that period of my life.

I am not mad at God for doing this to me.

God may have intended me to have CP but He himself has nothing to do with the after effects from it, like how people react to it. I am not mad at God for other people’s shortcomings. It’s not His fault some disabilities are chosen, because if you’re curious I consider idiocy a disability.

I firmly believe that everyone is created for a reason, for a purpose, and the only way we can find out our reason for being is to be who we were created to be. So if I were to be mad at God for “doing this to me” then I’d really be doing a disservice to myself more than anything else.

To address the “did this to you,” portion of the question, I always want to ask just what do they think was “done to me”? Maybe if they could answer that I’d be able to answer indefinitely if I am in fact mad at God, but I’m pretty sure the answer would still be “No”.

If anything gets me mad its how people treat each other, especially those who use their religious background as a reason to do so.

Jesus isn’t here to let us know just what He’d in fact do, but I’m pretty sure going around being hurtful to others isn’t exactly what He’s have in mind. So let’s just keep the predictions to a minimum and treat people with some decency.

I’m not the most religious person on the planet but I do believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. Therefore, those with special needs & disabilities aren’t mistakes. Anyone who believes differently is mistaken in their thinking; let’s not blame God for faults in someone’s free will either.

I am not mad at God for doing this to me. In fact, some days I would say I’d go as far as to thank God for the life I’ve been given. As often as I’ve had ups and downs in my life, CP related or not, I can’t imagine my life turning out any other way. For that alone I cannot be mad.

I think a card a friend sent me says it best:

smc

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 20, 2012

Why I: Don’t Suggest Giving Up Social Media For Lent

There are certain things I can count on as Lent approaches. Without a doubt, “What are you giving up for Lent?” is the most popular question to ask and/or be asked.

Now that social media has become such an important part of our lives it’s natural to consider whether or not to give it up for 40 days. I have several friends who engage in this practice, problem is most of them don’t use social media that much anyway. So is it really that sacrificial or are they really getting any benefit from it?

A point worth considering, but not the one I wanted to make right now.

As I write this there’s a snowstorm outside (I’m a write ahead & schedule blogging type). In fact at one point it was snowing so hard that it was snowing sideways. Thus my plans for the day have been canceled and I’m attempting to stay occupied indoors. In a way it’s going to make the point of this post much more poignant, at least I hope so.

The internet, and social media, has opened up everyone’s world. What I don’t think a lot of people realize is just how much it’s opened up the world for those with disabilities.

I wouldn’t be friends with many people if it weren’t for the internet, or at least I wouldn’t be as good of friends with people if things didn’t start on the internet. Let’s just say as an introvert with a disability it’s nice to get the “getting to know you” stuff out of the way when you only get to see people in person a few times in your entire life.

I can’t forget to mention Sara. If there’s anyone who taught me that just because you have physical limits doesn’t mean you can’t create solid friendships and an intentional community. Our friendship may have been short but it left me forever changed.

I don’t suggest giving up social media for Lent for one quasi-simple reason:

You may be part of someone’s community, and it may be the only community they have access to (especially in the winter months).

Giving up your social media routine for 40 days may seem like a good idea and in some ways it can be beneficial but if you do consider who you’ll be leaving behind for 40 days.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

How much can happen in 40 days?

Also consider your group of friends, do they also give something(s) up for Lent?

Do you all give up the same thing for Lent? If so, do you still have that same sense of community because you have other ways of keeping in contact or are you able to see each other in person?

Do you have one friend (or maybe more) that seems uncomfortable with your plan for a 40 day social media fast?

Have you ever stopped and really considered why someone is resistant to give up social media (especially if you “only” know them virtually)?

Lenten sacrifices are meant to make you a better person, but not at the expense of other people. If your sacrifice is harmful to someone else than are you really working towards a greater communion with the Body of Christ?

Alternatives to consider:

Cut back on your social media practices. Check in once a day or once a week.

Post the same thing on all of your social media accounts (idea borrowed from Pat Padley FYI).

Keep community connected through email or text, or an old fashioned phone call.

Make your intentions known early on, as in before today, so if any of your friends have reservations or objections you can engage in thoughtful conversation.

Have a way to contact you on your social media profiles and make it easy to find. Have you ever received an “out of office reply” with a contact email or number included? Like that.

I’m not saying that you absolutely shouldn’t give up social media for Lent.

I’m not God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit so I can’t say such things with absolute conviction. But I wish people wouldn’t make the decision as easily as they seem to. Virtual community isn’t the same as in person community but it’s still a community that needs nurturing, attention, and people to take part in it.

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?).

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.