The Struggles We Overcome

October 16th, 2014

It’s not often that I think about infertility these days.  With three little bodies running around and climbing and singing and talking and reading and playing, it’s hard sometimes to imagine the life before all this life was here.  It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I wasn’t a harried and happy mommy to three.

And then I went on Facebook today, and I saw HONY post this,

“We’ve been trying for a few years. We both want it very badly, but it’s probably been hardest on my wife. It’s her body and she’s been the one that’s had to go through all the treatments, so I think the failure hits her hardest….”
“Will you be OK whatever the outcome?”
“‘OK’ might be too strong a word, but we’ll definitely survive.”

And my hands started to tremble.  My heart started to pound.  And I felt that strange, strong, pulsing lump in my throat that only true stories of infertility can bring to me.  All of a sudden it wasn’t 2014.  I wasn’t in a room surrounded by my sleeping children.  It was a cold and lonely 2006, and my journey still had years to go.

I don’t go to that place often.  I don’t need to anymore.  But it is a part of me, and it is a vital part of my mothering.

It’s not always easy dealing with the remnants of infertility.  It brings a lot of guilt.  For years upon years I prayed for these blessings, and any moment I am not filled with bliss feels a bit like a betrayal of those yearnings.  Because I know just how easily all of this could not have been.

I’m almost positive it contributed to the postpartum depression I experienced years ago.  I didn’t believe I had a right to be tired.  Any time I wanted a moment to myself, I would berate myself.  After all, how dare I take a single breath of this beautiful life for granted.

And then there are the fears for the future.  We are pretty sure we would like another child one day.  Our last pregnancy came easily.  My middle one in less than a year.  But that doesn’t mean this time will.  Right now I sit here happy with my three little ladies.  It’s scary to open the can of what if.  Scary to get my hopes up.  Scary that they could be crushed.

But all of this, this whole journey, is a part of me and it is a part of our family.  Magoo knows just how long we waited for her.  She knows the story of when we found out — about how I almost fell down the stairs I was running so fast.  Of how we sat there and cried.  Of how the very memory of those tears can bring me to pieces to this day.

And these days, I’m grateful for those days.  I’m grateful for the pain and for the sorrow and for the lessons it taught me about love and longing and perseverance and hope.  Those years taught me who I was.  It taught me who we were as a family.

It wasn’t always that way.  When we were experiencing them, I would try so hard, but for the life of me, I could not imagine ever being grateful for that pain, ever embracing it, ever respecting who it helped me become.

And it’s those feelings that I think of when I think of Brittany Maynard, the woman who plans to use physician assisted suicide on November 1st because she faces a very terrifying diagnosis of terminal cancer.  Her story scared me when I first heard it.  It scared me to think of how fast realities can change.  How our lives could be gone in an instant.  How fleeting it all is.

And I totally understand her desire to avoid the pain.  Who wants pain?  Who wants their last experiences on this planet to be of unspeakable pain?  Who wants to have their loved ones watch them deteriorate and waste away?  I surely wouldn’t, and I can fully comprehend why Ms Maynard wouldn’t as well.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in euthanasia, but while reading through her story, I couldn’t quite remember why.

And then I read this story by another woman, a mother, who also faces a terminal diagnosis but who decided to fight until the end.  She knows cancer will win, but she isn’t going to give it an easy fight

I read that a few days ago, and all of these thoughts and all of these feelings have been swirling around in my mind, and the only conclusion I can come to is that the struggle matters.  The pain matters.  The heartbreak matters.  And the suffering matters.

As a culture, I think we have this idea that pain is always bad.  That suffering is to be avoided.  That there are easy ways out that won’t have an impact on our souls and our beings and our humanity.

But I’m starting to see some err in those concepts.  What if it’s the suffering that carves out our identity?  What if it’s the heartbreaks that soften us and mold us and make us more human?  What if bypassing all of that can lead to a life of ease but of shallowness?

We have so many choices and so many paths and so many opportunities to avoid suffering that we might not want to face.  And I’m not a masochist.  I’m not about to cut off my finger or go days without water.  But when the suffering is dealt to us, when it is in our cards and ours alone, maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of it.  Maybe we should dive in and embrace it, and find the rainbow through our tears.

Maybe things would look different.  Maybe as a people, we would be different.  And perhaps it just might awaken us to the suffering in those around us.

Fear, Death, Beauty, and Faith

October 8th, 2014

I once heard an acquaintance say that she had come to a new realization that she didn’t need to plan everything out.  All she needed, she said, was to follow the next step and trust that God will show her the rest of the path when the time comes.

Hmpf, I thought.  Maybe that sounds good for her, but I didn’t even know what that meant.  Not worry about the future?  Not try to micromanage everything?  Not try to guess every possibility in an effort to control every little thing that happens in life?  Yea, not for me.

I didn’t understand this concept as it was so foreign to me.  For so long, I equated control with morality.  To control everything was to be good.  To have something happen that was out of my control or that (horror of horrors) I hadn’t anticipated was a travesty.  A crime against everything good.  A crime against purity.  A crime of neglect.

And if those words sound overblown and exaggerated, trust me, they aren’t.   Those extreme ideas about control led me down many a treacherous path in my day.

The problem is that human beings can’t live like that and maintain sanity.  The world is unpredictable, and our place in it is unpredictable.

There’s been a lot in the news lately about terminal cancer because of that poor woman in Oregon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is choosing (wrongfully in my opinion) to end her life on November 1st.

Every time I read about it or hear about it or read another opinion about it, I have to mentally block the emotional part of my brain off.  It hits too close.  It touches parts of me I don’t want touched.  It’s something I cannot control.  See, my fear is not of death.  My fear is of my children having to grow up without me.  That’s a concept and a fear too great for me to really put into words at this moment.  It is my single greatest fear.

So since this is all over the news and since it’s a huge fear of mine and since there is nothing I can do to control things and ensure that I won’t befall some horrible cancer-ridden fate, I did the only rational thing I could think of when I was no longer able to block it from my emotions.  I panicked.  My breathing got heavier, my hands started to shake, my heart started pounding more strongly against my chest as I imagined having to tell my children of a horrible fate we must all go through together.

And through one of the panic attacks brought on by these stories, Mae started to cry upstairs.  I went up into her room, and I started to rock her back to sleep.  I looked at her eyes fluttering under her eye lids.  I felt the warmth of her breath.  I felt the peace in her slumber.  And I remembered back to those words of wisdom I had heard all those years ago.

I can’t plan out every aspect of my journey.  I can’t shield us all from pain.  I can’t anticipate all of our potential heartbreaks and fend off their advances.

All I can do now is take the next step.  I can love.  I can forgive.  I can relish in gratitude.  I can make certain that if a tomorrow fails to materialize that the beauty of the yesterdays can live on eternal.  And I can trust that by one step at a time I can create a life of beauty even if it’s not one of certainty.

We aren’t promised tomorrow.  None of us are.  We aren’t promised stability.  But we are given the ability to stand strong in the middle of all doubt and uncertainty and live our life by the coinciding principles of love, faith, and beauty.

All we are promised is now.  All we must focus on is now.  And that can be incredibly liberating.


September 30th, 2014

Deep down, I think I’m a fairly selfish person.  It’s something I try desperately to fight.  Perhaps sometimes too desperately.  But no amount of fighting really changes the fact that when it comes down to it, I like my time.  I like time to be me.  I like time to do what I want to do.  I like space.

This is a challenge when being a mom.  Between Magoo and Goosie’s constant questions and comments and stories and tales, my ears and my thoughts are never my own.  Every time I try to think a thought, it gets interrupted by more questions about why the sky is blue or why cars are called cars.  And between Goosie and Mae’s constant need for physical assistance — diapers for the baby, drinks, food, clothing changes, toys — my body is not my own.  I am constantly using it in an effort to assist someone else in what they desperately want or need because at that age, the line between the two is blurry at best.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I adore my children’s brains.  As constant as the chatter is, I know what a blessing it is to be the one asked all of the questions.  The confidences they share with me are some of the greatest treasures of my life.  And with the physical needs, I know that what I am building is trust.  A feeling deep within them that when they have needs, they will be met.  And it is a pleasure and an honor to be that person.

But sometimes I just get so tired.

It’s a fatigue beyond anything I have experienced before because it’s not due to physical exertion.  It’s due to the mental stamina that is required of constantly being in service of others.  It’s born of holding my breath and waiting to exhale until all the needs of my little people are met.

And that’s where the selfishness comes in.  Because this does not come easily to me.  I would love to say that I am always willing and cheerful about giving every moment of my day in service to others.  I desperately pray that one day I will find it within myself to give of myself freely and cheerfully whenever I am needed because some times these days it feels awful reluctant and often exhausting.

And that’s where I found myself this evening.  Overwhelmed and exhausted by a day of too many whines.

And I was in the car by myself (this only happens once a week) and I was listening to the rosary on Relevant Radio.  At this stage, I find myself a seeking Catholic.  I want to have full faith and full trust and full acceptance, and give myself willingly to it.  But it’s a struggle.  I envy those to whom faith seems to come easily.

But anyway, as soon as I turned the radio on, they were praying the mystery where they cast lots for Jesus’ garments.  And I sat there for a moment and thought about that.

Here Jesus was giving His everything — His life — for the sins of all of us, all of us who sin against Him and who turn away from Him, and while they were actually preparing to hang Him on the cross, they took even His clothing.  They left absolutely nothing left.  They took all He had.  And yet, He still kept on giving.

I’m not comparing motherhood to dying on a cross.  But I think the cross has more to teach us about sacrifice than I ever realized.

Giving means giving it all.  Giving and giving and then giving some more.  Even when we don’t want to.  Even when we don’t think we have any more to give.

To mother is to promise to be there for another.  Even at 3:00 in the morning.  Even when you have the stomach flu.  Even when you feel like your body might crumble from fatigue.  Mothering is about being there.

There’s a lot that I think I could have drastically improved on over the last six years.  I could have been more patient.  I could have been more Pinterest-worthy.  I could have been more inspiring.  But one thing I am enormously proud of is that I have been consistent.  To a perfectionist like me, consistency sounds rather lame, but when I think of what I have done for each of them throughout the span of their lives, I realize that the sum is much greater than the parts.

And I think perhaps that’s what we need to keep in mind when it all gets so overwhelming.  When we feel like we are failing.  When we feel selfish and inadequate and broken.  Yes, mothering is about some of the big things.  But it’s also about doing the little things over and over and over, and teaching a little soul that there is something in which to trust in this big old scary world.

The blessings found in one little chubby armed hug is worth every sacrifice I have ever made for my children.  But still, sacrifice is hard. And it’s supposed to be hard.  But it’s not in vain.  They may never thank us for or even remember us changing their diapers or cutting their grapes, but when they take those first tentative steps out into the world, and they trust that there is solid ground beneath them and loving arms to return to, we will know that it was not in vain.

Our work is hard.  It’s mostly invisible.  It’s often quite messy.  But it’s not in vain.

So this song goes out to all the mamas out there.

(If you are reading this through email or bloglovin, you might need to click through to my blog to actually view the video.)


Happy Girls

September 28th, 2014


Magoo is working on earning a religious medal for the scouting program she is in.  The first portion of the medal explores how she is special to her family.  One of the requirements was to make a mobile representing four different feelings she experiences.  To be honest, I was hoping she would have chosen one of the less craft-intensive activities, but it’s her medal, so I followed her lead, and we ended up having a lot of fun doing it.

Per the requirement, she drew pictures of what she looks like when she is experiencing these emotions, and then to take it a step further and really help her grow in understanding, we made a list on the back of each picture detailing some circumstance that trigger these emotions in her.


The four feelings we chose were happiness, sadness, anger, and fear.  She had an easy time coming up with things that make her happy.  Some were significant like family, and some were more trivial like rainbows.  The entire back of that circle was filled with things that make her happy.

She also didn’t have too much trouble coming up with things that make her fearful.  All she did was basically list every type of bug she could think up.

But when it came to anger and sadness, she had more trouble.  She ended up listing some annoyances with her sisters and time outs.  And that was about all she could come up with.

And that made me think.  She is a happy girl.  Her sisters are happy girls.  And this is amazing.


I worry constantly about my three little ladies.  I worry that I am steering them in the right direction.  I worry that I’m intellectually stimulating them enough.  I worry about their relationships and if I’m modeling healthy relationships with oneself and others.  I could go on and on.

But through all this worry, I don’t think I take enough time to just sit back and realize just how amazing it is that my girls are happy.

I know they will go through ups and downs in life.  Things won’t always be simple or easy.  But I pray so fervently that they are able to maintain this center of joy throughout their lives.  I can’t help but think that if they do, they shouldn’t stray too far from their chosen paths.

And so perhaps Magoo learned a bit more about emotions through this project, but I think even more so, I learned more about her.  And I learned that maybe it’s okay to let go just a little bit and let them walk their course.  They are doing pretty well so far.


‘Tis Me

September 24th, 2014

I take pills to help me sleep at night.  It’s not anything crazy.  My doctor recommends them, and they are not habit forming.  I take them almost every night.

The crazy thing is though that I don’t suffer from insomnia.  I don’t lie awake at night for hours, restless, fatigued but awake.  My problem actually occurs before I fall asleep in the hours after the kids go to bed but before I do.  The jitters strike.  Well, I guess they are there most of the time, but they are most noticeable in the quiet hours.  I can’t get settled.  I can’t get peaceful.  I can’t shut the shakiness off.

Lately, however, this has started to bother me a little bit as it reminds me of a conversation I once had.

See years ago, someone told me that I didn’t have any armor.  He told me that most people have a protective armor around their hearts. It lets some of the good in, but it keeps the bad from stinging so much.  It’s a boundary between a person and the world.  It’s important.

I still remember the moment I was told that because I felt like finally, finally someone was seeing me.  Someone saw the pain and the wounds and the raw heart.  I felt like I no longer had to scream quite as loudly.  I no longer had to profess so strongly.  Because finally I was seen.

But on the other hand, I didn’t necessarily like this.  I didn’t want to be sensitive.  I didn’t want to be empathetic.  I wanted to be successful.  I wanted to be the person who put goals first.  I wanted to be the strong person who didn’t need anybody else.  And I surely, absolutely surely did not want to feel the pain and the anxiety that comes with living without a shield.  It hurt too much.

It hurt way too much.

I’ve been thinking about the Sandy Hook tragedy lately.  I’ve been thinking about the first responders who ran into the school not knowing if they would be sprayed with bullets.  I thought of the administrators who tried to stop the gunman.  I thought of their bravery and their sacrifice and their nerves of steel.

But then I also thought about the story of one teacher.  She had herself and her kids locked inside a bathroom or some other small room, and she said he just kept repeating, “I love you.  I love you” over and over again to her kids.  She said she did this because if they were going to die she didn’t want their last experience in this world to be violence and fear.  She wanted it to be love.

And then I realized, the world needs us all.  It needs those of us with heavy armor.  Those who are able to keep their cool and make solid, important, crucial decisions.  And it also needs those of us who are able to keep to our hearts.  Those of us who are able to experience pain, both in ourselves and in others.  It needs people who are willing to make space in their hearts to experience the suffering of others and to react to that suffering with compassion and with love.

For as long as I can remember, whatever was shot in my direction hit me straight in the heart.  Joy was glorious, pain unbearable.   And also for as long as I can remember, I have tried to muffle it.  I’ve tried to make the joy and the excitement and the pain and the fear and the love and the passion and the sadness all more quiet.  I tried to numb them so that I could live in a world that seemed just much too loud and much too scary.  I saw these emotions as weakness.  I feared the vulnerability.  I saw it as a pathology that needed to be stilled.

But now I’m starting to wonder…

If those of us who feel that we live with slightly less armor were to suit up, wouldn’t a bit of the glimmer fade?  Wouldn’t a bit of the kindness be hardened?  Wouldn’t a bit of the humanity be lost?

Maybe the rawness isn’t good or bad.  Maybe it just is.  And maybe it just is me.  And maybe I don’t need to hide it or apologize for it or run from it.

Maybe I just need to accept it.  After all, ’tis me.

Tiny Moments

September 21st, 2014


I do believe that the whole of the human emotional potential can be experienced during one Catholic Mass attended with two toddlers.

There’s worship and praise, tears and desperation, joy and giddiness.  And all of that is sometimes before the readings even start.

Today Mae was a mama’s girl.  She knows what’s going on.  If she wants to have fun and perhaps cause a little mischief during Mass, she goes to Daddy.  If she’s tired and wants some cuddling, she comes to me.

Well about halfway through, she decided she wanted to lay in my arms, so she fell to the side like a little baby does, and she laid in my arms for about ten minutes.  Her other little arm was draped over my shoulder, and she laid there peacefully, looking into my eyes as hers started to get droopy.

And I realized… this is life.  This is what it is all about.

We question and we wonder and we ponder and we analyze.  We struggle to make our way.  We struggle to find our peace.  We struggle to understand it all.

But here is the answer.  Sitting peacefully in the middle of my family, thanking God for all that He is and all that He has done for us while sitting smack dab in the middle of his greatest gifts to me.

We don’t need the answers to it all.  We don’t need to understand everything that is happening, and we don’t need to constantly be seeking out the whys.  Sometimes it is okay to just be and to just bask in the overwhelming gifts we have all received.

The next moment will come.  The stresses are around the corner, the fatigue will set in, the worry will start to creep on by.  They all have their time and their place.  They aren’t going anywhere.  To focus on them is easy.  To let them overtake us is even easier.  But to focus on the beautiful — that sometimes takes effort.

But when we can… when we can focus on what is truly timeless and exquisite and indisposable… that’s when the magic happens.

Prayer for the Broken Hearts

September 16th, 2014

Today my heart is sad, and perhaps that’s the only true thing I can say.  This world doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s filled with so much unbelievable beauty.  It’s filled with love and warmth and sunsets and spring flowers.  It’s filled with heroes and helpers and lovers and guiders.

And yet it’s filled with so much darkness too.  The wars and the murders and the thefts and the cold hearts.

But sometimes all of the darkness isn’t outside.  Sometimes it can seep into our souls.  It can change the way we view things.  It can make the light too difficult to find.  The darkness can take over.

Some souls just cannot withstand it.  They get lost in it all.  They have a vulnerability that sometimes proves fatal despite its beauty.

Sadness hurts.  Grief hurts.  But I’m not sure there’s really anything that can hurt more than the loss of all hope.  That’s a darkness that falls over your chest and its weight is so heavy it can suffocate.  It’s an inability to understand what hope looks like, to believe that a tomorrow exists, to believe that life is anything less than unbearable pain.  It’s a pain that leads you to seek an escape.  You run from it in the only ways you know how and sometimes that deludes you into believing that death is the only way to live.  That doesn’t make sense.  But it’s not supposed to for anyone not trapped in the clutches of despair.

But then there are so very many pieces left behind.  So many broken hearts and broken promises and broken souls.  So many questions that will never have answers.  And perhaps the greatest unanswered question is the life that is gone.  Where was it going?  How would it have healed?  Who would it have touched?  How would it have learned to soar yet again?

This world is filled with so much pain.  Ironically, there is always a hand reached out, seeking to help.  The problem is that the darkness is too thick.  It can’t feel the hand.  It can’t see it.  It can’t believe it’s there even if it’s right in front of its face.

There is nothing more blind than a soul lost in the darkness.

And so tonight I just pray and I ask you all to pray for the lost souls of this Earth.  The ones that are trying to break free.  The ones that need the light.  The ones who have lost hope, and the ones who believe solace can no longer be found.

Because despite all of its pain and suffering, this world is a beautiful place.  It’s worth holding on for.  It’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth suffering for.  And somehow, someway, we need to find a way to reach into the darkness that affects so very many and help them find that beauty that they are so utterly unable to see.

We are all broken.  We are all lost.  But we all have hope even if we can’t feel it.

But I pray for the souls, one very special one in particular, who left this Earth without finding her peace.  Who could no longer stand up against the suffering.  Who sought release in the only way she knew how.  I pray for her and her soul.

I pray for all those who are left to make sense of the pieces.  Those who must wake up tomorrow with a piece of themselves lost to the darkness.  Those who must ask themselves unanswerable questions and those who must come to terms with the answers that are out there.  Suicide doesn’t end suffering; it just passes it on to other people.  And I pray for those who must now start a journey of suffering, and I pray that their journey ends in peace and forgiveness and somehow and some way, joy.

May God have one more saint worshipping at his feet, and may all those left behind find a peace that she was unfortunately unable to find.

And should this message find its way all the way up there, beyond the clouds, please know that you were beautiful and you were kind and you were talented.  I didn’t know you as well as I would have wished, but I loved you nevertheless.  Forevermore I will pray that you have found your little slice of peace.

God bless you xoxo

What We Share

September 14th, 2014


I went to a Garth Brooks concert last night, and during his second encore, he pointed out a sign that someone was holding in one of the front rows.  The sign said that the woman had been to all ten of his Chicago concerts.  He asked her what she wanted to hear, and she said, “The Red Strokes.”

I was pretty excited about this because although I love most of his music, I am particularly fond of the lesser known songs – probably because they haven’t been played on the radio seventy million times.  But as excited as I was, this woman was beside herself.  Her face was plastered on the jumbotron through most of the song as tears streamed down her face.

It was an awesome moment.  I love seeing people so caught up in a moment that it takes their breath away.  ”The Red Strokes” is a song about passion and love and the feeling that all of that is about to burst out of your chest.

As I watched this, and I thought about the song and the thousands upon thousands of people who have lined up for weeks to see his eleven shows, I started to think about what it is that draws us together in such a way.  Why were so very many people willing to pay their money and park half a world away to hike all the way to the arena past their (or at least my!) bedtime to watch a middle aged man sing songs?

And I realized that it is because the myth is wrong.

The myth is the part of ourselves that tells us that we are different.  It’s looking at people who speak differently than us and us assuming they are different.  It’s the part of us that sees people dressed differently who worship differently and assumes that their experience of humanity feels different.  It’s the newscasters and the photographs and the sensationalism that pits us versus them into an ever widening vortex of hate and misunderstanding and judgment and closed minds.

The myth is the part of ourselves that sees bombs dropping and thinks that it must not hurt them as much.  It’s the part of ourselves that sees poverty and injustice in our cities and turns the other way thinking that they are different enough from us that we don’t have to worry our hearts about it.  It’s the part of us that can close our eyes because we feel safe and thus we assume that the world is as it should be.

But then you see someone lost in the sentiment of a song and you realize that we are all the same in our humanity.  The hand that penned the lyrics and the ears that created the melodies and the musicians who bring it to life and the woman who is moved to tears by it were all brought together in that moment because they shared something much deeper than their external situation.

We believe that we are all separate and that our bodies keep our souls inside, locked away from the outside world.  We feel alone, yearning for a communion we don’t believe we can achieve.

But then we do achieve it.  In brief moments of transcedent grace, we realize that we aren’t alone.  Our pain is his pain, and our joy is her joy, and different though we may all be, we are united by a humanity that is stronger than all that separates us.

If only we could all reside permanently in that moment, our world might become a kinder place.

But we don’t live there; the best we can do is experience glimpses of it.  Until one day, on the other side of the moon, we find ourselves home in the final communion we were created for.


Fear and Prayer

September 11th, 2014

So I have an anxiety disorder, and with that comes a lot of fear and also a lot of overblown anxiety.  A lot of what I obsess about wouldn’t even be a thought in another person’s mind.  If they did think of it, it would probably flit away with a million of the other thoughts they had in that day.  But my mind is a bit more sticky.  Those things don’t just flit away… at least not without a lot of work on my part.

In general, the things I worry about are unlikely to come to fruition.  Sometimes it is virtually impossible that they would come to be, other times they are merely highly unlikely.  But sometimes, every now and then, a real worry will pop into my head.  Something that could possibly happen.  Something that isn’t a concoction of misfiring neurons deep inside my skull.  Some fear will occur to me that is within the realm of possibility.

And that’s where I find myself today.

Ordinarily on the anniversary of September 11th, I find myself sorrowful, sometimes almost consumed with memories of that day and grief for all of those who lost all of their everything.  But this year is a bit different.  This year I feel fear.  It probably stems from all of the atrocities that have been all over the news over the past couple of months.  Some of us just shouldn’t pay so much attention to the news, I guess.

But for the past week or two, I have found myself getting anxious whenever I thought about today.  I would think of all of those who mean so very much to me.  I imagine their suffering at the hands of evil.  I think of my potential losses, and the grief I would feel.  And most of all, as a mother, I imagine the losses my children could endure.  And that, to me, feels unbearable.

And when I find myself imagining such sufferings, and I feel my hands start to shake and my heart start to pound, I don’t know quite what to do.  Those things are possible.  It doesn’t help to dwell on them, but still, they can’t be dismissed as frivolous or impossible.

And then I was listening to Relevant Radio this morning which is a Catholic talk radio station.  I only caught about five minutes of it, but there was a priest on there who was talking about prayer and how it lifts us out of our Earthly perspectives, and it directs our gaze up and unites our minds with God’s.

And from that perspective, things look a bit different.  The future isn’t seen as tomorrow, it is seen as eternity.  Death isn’t seen as an end but rather a transition.  Suffering isn’t seen as tragedy but rather as something that can lead us to a place much greater.  And we have an access to that perspective through prayer.

To be honest, perspectives like that don’t come easy to me.  For me, it’s more like I find a moment of peace and then instantly something will snatch me right back to my fears.  Fears aren’t an easy prison to break from.  But it’s possible, and it is doable, and it’s in the moments when I can do it that I find the most peace.

I used to always think religion was about Mass and doctrines and not eating meat on Fridays during Lent.  Now I’m finding that those things do have a place, some of them an indispensible place, but I think that it’s also about so much more.  It’s about constantly striving for that unity with God.  It’s about trying to live in prayer.  And it’s about failing time and time again, and standing up time and time again in the hopes that one day we will be united forever.

That perspective isn’t easy for me today.  I find my mind being drawn to evil dressed in black hoods and burning buildings and blood and weeping, but I find that in order or my spirit to survive, that mindset must prevail.  Living in fear does nothing but make us fearful, and that makes us impotent.  And we can’t afford to be spiritual or emotional impotent.  We have one life and we must live it with as much compassion and passion as we can find.  We must savor it and be grateful for it and understand just what a blessing it is.

So I guess I’ll just keep praying for help and guidance and for the hope that someday that mindset will be my home.

The Many Faces of Silence

September 2nd, 2014

Up until I was about thirty years old, I was absolutely terrified of silence.  Silence was where anxiety lived.  And because of that, I avoided it at all costs.  I never wanted to be alone.  If I found myself alone, I would manically try to find someone to fill the void, and when I couldn’t, I would turn the television on loudly, shut all the blinds, and lie on the couch in absolute stillness, trying not to make any waves or think any thoughts.

Silence was when the beasts would come out.  Anything could cause an overwhelming gush of anxiety that once activated could take weeks, months, or even years to overcome.  (Truth be told, I still haven’t overcome them all.)  For years I wouldn’t go to bed until I was so dizzy from fatigue that I had to hold on to the bed to keep from falling because if there’s one thing that’s silent, it’s sleep.

It was a crazy life because, as I’m sure you can imagine, no one can always be around people.  Silence must come.  Thoughts are a necessity of life.  I was trapped.

But this story, at least for now, has a happy ending.  Now I can be in silence.  I now know how to handle some of those anxious thoughts that come to me.  I know that hiding isn’t the answer, and that we must face the silence or else it will overcome our lives.

And ironically enough, now I have no silence.  My silence breakers come in the form of three little girls.  I’m sure there has to have been a sixty second break in their chatter at some point over the last few years.  I just can’t seem to remember when it occurred.

Now the noise is deafening.  And sometimes I feel lost in it.  Sometimes the noise mixes with all of the chaos that I feel circling around me, and I get dizzy trying to make my way through it.  Sometimes when that happens, TJ is home, and sometimes he takes the kids out on an errand or two.  He did that yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon, he decided to take the kids to a park and to get ice cream.  I was exhausted, so I opted to stay home, and I sat on the couch knitting the entire two hours.  And the silence was golden.  Yesterday, silence was peace and deep breaths and space to move around in my life and become me for a couple of hours.

Sometimes silence is very, very good.

And then there’s the silence of now.  It’s not even silent – Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is playing on television, and Mae is right by my side sipping her milk rather loudly.  No, the silent of today isn’t auditory.  It’s more of a space left empty.  A hole.

When I dropped Magoo off at preschool for the first time and left, I remember barely being able to get out of the parking lot.  It was so hard leaving when a part of me was still there.  Now, I’m used to that feeling.  I’m used to pulling out of that parking lot with one less chamber of my heart than when I pulled in.  But what I wasn’t prepared for was the silence

As those of you who know her know, Goosie can fill up almost any room.  She’s the giant person in the miniature body.  And she surely fills up our home.  And now that she’s gone, everything is just so… still.  And calm.  And quiet.

And I start to wonder if once you become a mom, silence is ever the same again.  If silence ever signals anything more than a lack of what used to be here.  Sometimes that hole is okay — like yesterday when I was relaxing.  And sometimes it’s painful and terrifying — like today.  But regardless of the response, it’s always a hole.

I don’t know the answer to that, and I presume I won’t for many years.  But I do know that my favorite part of the holes my kids leave when they are at school is the joy I feel as they fill back up.  Then as I look around my disaster zone of a home, and I hear the whining and crying and screaming and laughing and joyous raucous, I smile, as I pull my hair out, because chaotic as they might be, there’s no place I would rather have my kids than right in my arms.

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