Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Metaphysics of Plumbing Problems

I have been plagued with plumbing issues for the past month: the Great Sewage Affair that necessitated replacing flooring (and for which I got yet another bill, which was more than double the estimate), an upstairs toilet overflowing and today a leak under the kitchen sink.  Not to mention that the toilet in the office where I was yesterday kept running and running.

Since I do believe that what happens in our lives is an opportunity to learn a lesson, I've been trying to figure out what lessons might be involved in having plumbing issues.

Now some friends have suggested that the only issue is that the plumbing is old, but that's not the case with the kitchen sink.  It's relatively (less than a year) new.  So whatever lesson is to be learned has to applicable to both new and old plumbing. And clean as well as dirty water.

Water is symbolic of life and other things such as:

  • Transformation
  • Subconscious
  • Fertilization
  • Purification
  • Reflection
  • Intuition
  • Renewal
  • Blessing
  • Motion
  • The Feminine
  • New Life aka Baptism
  • Cleansing
  • Stagnation (if water is blocked)
 So what lesson is there in the broken, dripping, blocked plumbing that I need to pay attention to?
I'm honestly not sure.  But I'm willing to listen to the small, still voice within and see what answers might "flow" to me.  As soon as I have a clue, I'll be sure to let you know.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Aligning the Fulcrum

My son’s best friend’s older brother was a very precocious child and some of the things that he said would astonish me. When he was about 6, he informed me that I shouldn’t be letting my son and his brother play on a make-shift teeter-totter because “the fulcrum wasn’t centered.” He was correct; it wasn’t centered, but because I was older and a bit wiser, I knew that it didn’t have to be precisely balanced to be safe.

I often think about that when I consider finding the balance between work, personal, and family. It isn’t always a matter of having the fulcrum perfectly aligned, but it is important to find a safe balance.

Of course, that sounds very good when you read it, but it’s much harder in real life. People and projects have a way of taking as much time and energy as you are willing to give them. And the squeaky wheel really does get the grease a lot of the time.

Here are some the questions I've been asking myself this January:

Work: Can I separate your home life from my work?  Do I spend all my time either at work or thinking about work? Or conversely, do I try to get by doing as little as possible and cut as many corners as possible?

Personal: We are taught to be self-sacrificing, but sometimes we forget that we have to have something to sacrifice. Even Jesus went off by himself or with friends for renewal. He wasn’t always at everyone’s beck and call. Do you take time every day for myself? Even if it’s reading the paper with a cup of coffee or spending an extra 2 minutes in the shower, it’s important to give myself permission to have a slice of the day.

Family: This is a tough one for most of us because it never seems like we are giving our families enough time or enough quality time. I really struggle with this because my mother is in hospice and while she is slowly making her journey to the end of life, it is a slow journey. Nevertheless, I often fell that I should be with her 24/7, even though that simply isn't possible.
I wish I could offer you a neat formula for achieving these balances, but like the off-center fulcrum that I knew was still workable, finding that balance is something you have to do for yourself. 

Just like I have to do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Catching Healing

I came home last night to a cold house, two very hungry cats (who have continual access to dry food, but really only consider wet food worth eating) and a massive allergy attack.  At the time I wasn't quite sure if I was coming down with a cold, since I had the proverbial chills/fever/runny nose or just a very nasty allergy from something.

I had several things I had to do, like feed the beasts and cook some chicken breasts before they spoiled, so I wasn't able to head immediately to bed.  When I finally got upstairs, I was downright sick.  No SICK!!  I curled up in bed, feeling perfectly miserable and feeling perfectly justified in my misery.

But somewhere in the middle of the night, 2 a.m. I think it was, I remembered what a good friend,best-selling author Lauraine Snelling always says, "Never say you are getting sick.  Say you are catching healing." So I told myself, "You are catching healing.  You are feeling better.  You are feeling fine."

I didn't feel particularly fine and I didn't feel particularly healthy.  But I clutched my box of kleenex, put the cool cloth on my head and the hot water bottle on my feet and went to sleep.

This morning, I feel somewhat better.
I am catching healing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Patron Saint of my Year

Several people (forgive me if I don't name them all) recommended this Patron Saint Generator to me. Now I've spent a good deal of my career writing about saints and I have a few special favorites, but the idea of randomly being assigned a saint for the year appealed to both my hagiographic and my geek side.

So I'm writing this in one browser window as I get ready to click the button in another.

And the winner, er, patron is.....

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

She is the patron against In-Law Problems; against the Death of Children; against the Death of Parents; People Ridiculed for Their Piety and widows.

I almost chuckled when her name came up because in my upcoming book I write about her struggle with finances and this past year has been a financial struggle for me, as it has for a lot of people.
One of the things I wrote about her was:

A final lesson from Elizabeth’s life might be categorized as a cross between a warning and an encouragement. Earlier we talked about how sometimes our suffering can be self-generated. Even saints aren’t immune from this. At least some of St. Elizabeth’s financial woes were created because she went against her own better judgment. When the doctor suggested a trip to Italy might help William’s failing health, Elizabeth had her doubts, but she sold all their possessions anyway. Had she not done so, had they not made the voyage, her life might not have had as many financial stresses. However, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), and had she not made the voyage, she might never have converted, never have founded the Sisters of Charity and never have become a saint.
Her example can be a comfort to those of us who have made inopportune financial decisions; even in the midst of our trials and suffering, blessings can still emerge. We may have to endure the consequences and subsequent pain that results from our choices, but, in Elizabeth’s words, “We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty."

Even finances.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lessons of Loneliness Part Deux

Yesterday I talked about how, in this past year, I have become, inexplicably and unwantedly (Not sure that's a word, but it should be...) visited by the spectre of loneliness and its conjoined twin, fear. Since I wrote that article, an interesting thing has happened. Nefer, the ever clever escape artist, has been right at my side.  When I least expect it, he reaches out his paw and pats me on the cheek.  Just a little pat, no claws.  As if to say, "How can you be lonely when you have MEEEE????"  I have to admit that it makes me chuckle just a bit.  But it also makes me wonder just how sentient animals are.  Certainly they can be empathetic, as Nefer is proving.

On the other hand, Basti couldn't care less.  "Food?  You gonna give me wet food? Or do I have to keep searching in these darn bags for something yummy?"

 Havng said that, because I both try to learn lessons from the events of my life as well as be aware of the synchronicities, the little miracles, that happen, I want to share one more thing from the past 24 hours.

During the GSA (Great Sewage Adventure), I had to dismantle a bookcase that I thought contained mostly lives of the saints and books on writing. (I don't know about you, but I don't cull my bookshelves nearly often enough and so sometimes there are books lurking that I don't know I have.) The books were stacked on a sofa and I decided that perhaps I could use the sofa to actually sit on, so I began putting the books back on the shelves.

As I did, I found a slender, brown book that I remembered from my childhood.  I don't remember my mother reading it, but since the copyright is 1954, it had to be hers.  I sort of vaguely recalled reading parts of it when I was in my 20s and going through a rough patch, but I had forgotten about it.  Now here it was again--My Daily Bread by Anthony Paone, S.J. Apparently it has been in print all these years and I just happen to own a first edition. (Woo Hoo!)

My Daily Bread is a set of daily readings on various topics intended to inspire and guide one in listening to and following the words of the Christ. It's divided into several sections such as Conversion, After Conversion, Temptation and Bad Habits.  Each section consists of a meditation written in the first person as if Christ were speaking to you, a brief reflection and a prayer.

The ribbon bookmark was still in place, so I decided to open to that section and see what it had to say.  I was a little surprised, but not completely, to see that it was on fear, loneliness's conjoined twin. In part it read: (Many) do not think with their intelligence, but with their feelings...they are slaves of their fears...." The prayer of the day added, "Let me not offend you by a lack of confidence. I trust in you. I will do my best to remedy whatever difficulties arise, but whatever be the results of my efforts, I will accept them as your holy will."

Somehow the message from that little book from my past seems very appropriate advice for my future.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Learning Lessons of Loneliness

I've never felt lonely.  Growing up as an only child in the country in Montana, I suppose I could have felt alone, but I never did.  I never felt lonely, even after my divorce and my son's going away to college.  I never minded going out to eat alone, seeing a movie alone, going to the theater, shopping, walking, traveling alone.

But in this past year, my year of debridement, I became acutely and painfully lonely. The spectre didn't just knock on the door.  It broke the door down, tossed its bags on the floor and camped out. I was continually aware that I was alone.  Day and night. Every day and every night.

And, concomitant with loneliness, came its conjoined twin--fear.  Things I'd never thought about before became frightening.  For instance, going up in the attic. Should I have an accident, I might not be discovered for days, even weeks.  Making sure I had my cell phone with me at all times suddenly became paramount.  At least I could call 911!

Loneliness penetrated other areas as well. It became painful instead of pleasurable to go to a movie and sit in the dark by myself. Same for going out to eat or shopping.  And a hike alone in the wilderness held no appeal.  Even going to church brought no comfort.  I would go Sunday after Sunday and not have one single soul speak to me.  Eventually, it became easier to just leave early rather than be constantly reminded of just how alone I was.

I have done all the "right" things to combat loneliness--become involved in activities, reach other to others, make connections, plan ahead.  But underneath it all is still the constant awareness that I am alone...and lonely.

Now this is the place where I'm supposed to tell you about some incredible turn of events, perhaps talk about how I realized that I was never alone in the presence of God. How I was overcome by the light. Blah Blah Blah. The fact is: No  miracle has occurred.  I'm not suddenly dancing in the joy of the presence of the Lord. For the first time in my life, my default position is to be lonely.

However, what has happened is that I am willing to sit and observe the loneliness. Recognize her for what she is.  Let her simply be a part of my life. Give her a name. Let her sit on my chair and drink my tea. Ask her why she has come. Listen for her answer.

Apparently there are still some lessons I need to learn...and loneliness is one of my teachers. I just hope and pray that I can learn her lesson and incorporate her wisdom into my life soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I am Grateful--Sunday Gratitude

What are you grateful for this Sunday?

I am grateful:
1.  For a flock of robins that hopped and pranced on my lawn, looking for earthworms.  I counted at least six, the most I've ever seen at one time.

 2.  For pumpkin spice latte.

3.  For a bargain matinee price to see the movie Hugo which, incidentally, is a mystical and magical meander through time, both literally and figuratively.  Well worth seeing.

4. For Words with Friends and especially for having finally won a round!

5. For being on the right side of the winter solstice, with the days getting longer minute by minute.

6. For a pellet stove when the temperature is below freezing

 7. For Nefer and Basti, even though they do drive me crazy at times.

8.  For chocolate.  Some things are always on the list.

9.  For Bach Flower Remedies. (I'll have to write about them soon.)

10.  For the promise of a new day, no matter how many struggles there have been in this one.