Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Normal

I've been trying to figure out new normal today, which has included mopping the kitchen floor for the first time in some time.

So my brain is sort of stuttering and not wanting to be creative, so my gift today is a wonderful book I found online from what seems to be a South African writer who lived at the term of the last century.  Or the century before the last.  The 1900s.  The chapter on surrender is worth the read.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Another Statute Story and Praying for a Miracle

According to Correspondance Européenne  the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary present at the battle of Lepanto has been found.

They write: 
“The statue of the Blessed Virgin that was on board the royal Galley commanded by Don Juan of Austria, King Philip II of Spain’s half-brother, during the battle of Lepanto, has been found.  While Pope Pius V was back in Rome praying for the victory of the Christians, the fleet’s flagship took on the Turkish galley of the commander of the Ottoman forces, Ali Pacha, who was decapitated shortly afterwards.  The victory of the Holy League stopped the progress of the Muslim assaults in Europe, without putting an end to the coastal attacks and the capture of slaves.
“This victory won on October 7, 1571, is celebrated every year on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  The Virgin of the Rosary had been offered to Don Juan of Austria by the Venetians.  The statue of the Mother of God was brought back to Spain after this great military feat over which she had presided, and Don Juan of Austria bequeathed it at his death in 1578, to the Confraternity of the Galleys in the Church of St. John Lateran at the Port de Santa María in Cadix.  In 1854, the statue was transferred to the Academy of the Marine Guards’ Midshipmen’s College in San Fernando, the ancestor of the Spanish Naval School.  It was then passed from hand to hand and its traces were lost.  It has recently been returned to the Naval Museum of Madrid where it will be restored, then exposed to the public.  Although the statue has lost one eye, it has preserved all its supernatural presence.”  (source: CE – DICI#251, March 9, 2012)

I have to say that I think the statue looks pretty awful.  Mary appears to have a very bad case of leprosy...or something!  But despite the horror movie appearance, I am still intrigued that a specific statute from a specific battle could be found and identified after so many years.

The truth is:  I like statues.    I only own one---The Infant of Prague--but I love looking at statues in churches.

I think it began when I was a little girl during Mass at St. Francis Xavier church in Missoula, Montana.  The crucifix there was a life sized, realistic representation and I would look up into the face and pray that maybe, just once, it would show some sign of life.  I didn't realize that I was asking for a miracle, which is probably just as well. I'm not sure that I could have actually handled seeing a statue come to life. I'd probably have been terrified.
 I hadn't thought about that prayer for many years, until this Passion Week, as I stared again into the face of life sized crucifix, albeit a very modern, not very realistic one.  Nevertheless, as I looked into the face, I found myself praying once again for some sign of life.  Not in the statue, but in me.  In my own life.  In the years the locust has eaten. In hope for the future.

Once again I was asking for a miracle, but this time I knew what I was praying for.

And this time, I'm more afraid that the prayer won't be answered than I am that it will be.

Perhaps it's time to say a rosary to Our Lady of Lepanto.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Body and Mind Memory

Today is the three-month anniversary of my mother's death.

In many ways, it seems like I've been griefwalking forever and in other ways, it feels like it happened yesterday.  This time of life is very strange, with the hours and days become almost fluid, difficult to capture and hold.  Memories invade present moments and the present bleeds into the past.

The other thing that is very strange is that my body itself, the very cells, seem to be remembering the sorrow.  I am "off"--feeling vaguely ill, slightly nauseated, sort of dizzy.  Not exactly sick, but not exactly well either.

My mind is remembering, but so is my body.  And while I can force the mind to think of other things, the deeper memory, the memory that resides in the tissues of heart and stomach and liver and lung demands to be heard.

And I so I remember...and griefwalk one more day.

Incidentally, this Assessment of the Secondary Losses of Grief has been very comforting to me. If you've experienced a loss that you think you think you should be "over" by now, you might find it consoling as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monkey Heart or Feeling Irritated is a Good Thing

Jeff Brown, who wrote a most interesting book on SoulShaping talks today on Facebook about Monkey Heart:
Monkey Heart: The state of inner tumult and chaos that emanates from an unclear heart. Flooded and overwhelmed with unhealed and unresolved emotions, the monkey heart jumps from tree-top to tree-top, emoting without grounding, dancing in its confusion. Often misinterpreted as a monkey mind (which is often little more than a symptom of a monkey heart) the monkey heart is often reflected in the unsettled mind.
Today I find myself unfocused and unsettled, jumping around, not making progress and feeling decidedly unwell  on many levels. While I'm not entirely sure, I think it's because tomorrow will be three months since my mother died, coupled with the fact that today is Anzac Day and my visit to the battlefields of Gallipoli was one of the most wrenching days of my life.  Just rereading my journal entries and posting yesterday left me drained. I think my body is already remembering tomorrow's anniversary, with the result that I'm experiencing a sort of spiritual and mental vertigo.

So I'm not surprised that I have a Monkey Heart.

However, as I stand outside myself and observe, I also realize that I am irritated with the cats for breaking things, frustrated with the messes in the house, and generally feeling sort of prickly on the inside.  Normally that would be a bad thing, but for these past few months, the only things I've been feeling are fear and her first cousin, panic, along with their friend grief.  So these emotions, while not exactly positive, are higher on the emotional scale...which means to the scientist within that I am actually getting better.  Being irritated and impatient is just one step below feeling hopeful and optimistic.

So I'm going to embrace the Monkey Mind today, and be grateful that it has arrived.  It means that, on some level, healing is occuring.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Battlefields of Gallipoli

Wednesday is Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing of troops from Australia and New Zealand on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, in World War I on April 25, 1915. "In the early months of 1915, World War I was raging in most of Europe, including the Ottoman empire in the geographical area that is now Turkey. Russian troops were fighting on many fronts, particularly against troops from Germany and the Ottoman and Austro -Hungarian empires. At dawn on April 25, 1915, forces from France, Great Britain and the British Empire, including Australia and New Zealand, landed at a number of places on the Gallipoli peninsula. The campaign aimed to open up new fronts for the Allied forces and a trade route to Russia. In the ensuing battle, many lives were lost on both sides and the Allied forces did not succeed in opening a trade route to Russia."

In remembrance of their sacrifice, here is a section from my currently being written book about visiting Turkey.

It was on the battlefields of Gallipoli that my heart broke. As we traveled down a long, lonely stretch of road leading to Anzac Cove, I began to cry and I couldn’t stop. I covered my head with the hood of my jacket so that the others on the tour couldn’t see my anguish and I buried my face in the crook of my arm, bracing it against the window. I hoped it appeared that I was merely fascinated with the scenery.  But I wasn’t looking at the view. I was struggling against the tears. They came in wave after wave, like the sea surge of young men who raced onto the narrow strip of beach only to ripped asunder under the unrelenting assail of gunfire. Unexpected, unbidden and completely unwanted anguish washed over me.  My stomach knotted, my mouth grew dry with fear and I was plunged into the depths of a full-blown panic attack.

When we parked at the Australian Memorial cemetery, I stumbled out of the bus, thinking that perhaps some fresh air would help.  It didn’t. As the rest of the tour wandered amid the stark white grave markers, I stood at the top of the hill, writhing inside, gasping for breath as the pain and panic of all those young men who died more than a hundred years ago pounded through my veins. As I looked over the bay, it suddenly turned red, and I could see the blood lapping against the rocks.  It was as if I were there.  I could almost smell the gunpowder, hear the artillery, taste the death.
Until that moment I had never even heard about the deaths at Anzac Cove.

I was not a student of World War I and I couldn’t have told you a single thing about Gallipoli except that it had something to do with a battle. In fact, had you asked me a month before, I probably couldn’t have told you where Gallipoli was. Yet on this dank November afternoon, under a slate sky with threat of rain standing on the top of an embankment overlooking the Straights of the Dardenelles, I was as broken with grief as I had ever been before, in agony for all these young men who died in the senselessness of battle.  

My feelings were as inexplicable as they were bewildering. Why was I so profoundly affected by this place? Even as I struggled to put on a calm, I somehow knew that this was a significant moment. “Pay attention,” an inner voice warned.  “You need to remember this, all of this.”
I pulled out my now worn Moleskine notebook and began writing:
We just visited the cemetery at one of the battlefields where 240,000 Australian and New Zealand troops and 400,000 Turks died in World War I. I couldn’t crying and the pressure in my chest is crushing. The loss of life for no reason. I saw the graves of 22, 24, 25 year old men who lie here on shores so far from home. I can hardly breathe. I feel the sorrow like a palpable blanket. It seems like the land is saturated with the blood of young men here in Anzak Cove.
May we never forget.
‎My dear friend María de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda put this quote on her Facebook page:

"Someone once asked the artist Georgia O'Keeffe why her paintings magnified the size of small objects - the petals on a flower - making them appear larger than life, and reduced the size of large objects - like mountains - making them smaller than life. 'Everyone sees the big things,' she said. 'But these smaller things are so beautiful and people might not notice them if I didn't emphasize them.'  That's the way it is with gratitude and letting go. It's easy to see the problems in our lives. They're like mountains. But sometimes we overlook the smaller things; we don't notice how truly beautiful they are." ~Melody Beattie
 I have a lot of trouble with letting go...of things, people, events, ideas, hopes, dreams, desire, wishes, faults...I hold onto everything that comes into my life and give it up only under duress.  Today I was talking with a friend who reminded me (as if I didn't already know) that in the past few months I've been forced to let go of many things because I simply didn't have a choice; they were taken from me.

Just for the record, I haven't like it much.  As I've had to face enforced loss, I've experienced waves of panic, fear, and a sort of roaming anxiety that alights on things like finances, health, world affairs, the Mayan calendar and anything else that happens in my field of thought.

Maria's quote made me stop and think. I wonder if I'm magnifying all the problems in my life (and there are legitimate problems right now) and failing to see the beauty in some of the smaller things?

I think I already know the answer.  Now to get my mind to accept it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Money CAN Buy Happiness

According to a new study, money can buy happiness--as long as you make $50,000 a year or more.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. For one thing, I have little or no idea a) how happy the people I know really are or b) how much money they really make.

Money is the last great taboo.  I asked a few people I know how much money it would take for them to feel absolutely secure about their futures and I think I would have gotten a more positive reaction if I had asked them to run naked down the street. People will happily tell you all about their sex lives, their bowel habits, their medical problems, but money...nope, no way, not going there. 

To judge from the way the many of people I know act (and spend), none of them have any money issues whatsoever. No one seems worried about making the mortgage, paying for health insurance, putting food on the table, taking vacations or anything else.  Which is good.  I mean I'm glad that most people I know aren't in any financial struggle.

And yet I wonder.  I wonder if, in the secret darkness of the night, they lie awake and worry?  Despite knowing that worry does nothing, I've been there more times than I'd like to admit.  I've spend long hours in the dark asking God for direction, for employment and for income.  So far, he's given me my daily bread, but I wouldn't complain if he were to allow me to "buy happiness" in the not-so-distance future.

Do you think God knows about the $50,000 cut off number? :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Gratitude

What are you grateful for today?  I'd love it if you would share with me in the comments.

On this Sunday, my five gratitudes are:

1. The blossoms on the cherry tree that float like butterflies.(Yes, this is my tree.)

2. Sunshine.  Oh my, after months of grey and rain, sun is like a hug from the heavens.

3. Flip-flops. My little toesies are happy to be out of shoes, even if it is only for a day or two.

4. Movement toward restoration in a severely damaged relationship.  I don't know if a complete healing can ever take place, but just the fact that this person and I have been able to talk is a great blessing.

5. A few moments of peace. As I've been trying to adjust to what is "new normal" in my life, I have been visited by more anxiety than peace.  So even a few brief moments of peace are worthy of gratitude.