Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Griefwalking Visited

The Anchoress has a link to Terry Teachout's piece on his mother's death.  Today, my own griefwalk is close to the bone, so I will let their words speak for me.

"You know how I feel today?" I asked my wife. "Empty. Absolutely empty. Like my taproot had been torn out of the ground."

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


I just read a short book entitled Love Yourself as if Your Life Depends on It. It is just what the title implies--a book giving yourself permission to love yourself.

I was struck by one passage in which someone told the author he was wrong; that we must love others first and then ourselves. The author pointed out that was backwards, but it made me realize that statement was just another example of how we misuse Scripture to meet our own biases. (It's not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money.  Big difference.)

We are told that we must love our neighbor as ourself.  It doesn't say to love ourself as we love our neighbor.  The love of self has to come first, sort of like putting on the oxygen mask before assisting others.  If we don't love ourselves, we really can't love others.

 Now I'm well aware of this intellectually, but emotionally it's another story.  I've been so inculcated to focus on sacrifice and suffering (a theme I explore in my latest book, Facing Adversity with Grace, which is now available both as a paperback and Kindle!), it's hard for me to really understand what loving myself looks and feels like.

I know what it means to put others first, to sacrifice for them, because I've been taught well how to do that.  But me? I don't really know how to go about doing it.  I do things for myself, but is that really the same as loving myself?

So I'm starting by asking the question: Is this really the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?

  • Is eating that delicious and tempting cherry twizler the most loving thing or would an apple be more loving?
  • Is letting the dishes go another day because I'm worn out the most loving thing or would having a clean kitchen in the morning be more loving?
  • Is taking time to play the most loving thing for me right now or is doing the laundry?
  • Is visiting a friend the most loving thing or should I be praying and meditating?

The answers are usually quite clear, but they are beginning to surprise me, since I tend to assume the hardest, most difficult thing I don't want to do is always the right response. I'm starting, slowly, to have a bit more compassion for myself.  Which may be the beginning of learning what true self-love looks like.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Griefwalking Observed

A friend of mine asked me how long I had been griefwalking, but before I could answer, she said, "My dad has been gone now for four years and five months.  I know when people would ask me how I was I would just lie and say I was doing great because that's what they wanted to hear."

Very true.  It's been a little over four months and most people's tolerance for grief is over and done with. Four months is a long time; long enough for them to forget, but the reality is that I am still grieving, not as much as I did, but walking in grief is still part of my days.  Take Friday night. I was driving to a friend's house and without thinking I drove to the last place where Mother had been, the night she died. When I "woke up," I was startled to realize where I was and how I'd gotten there, but my mind had become so deeply engrossed in grief, my body just took over and steered the car on autopilot.

That incident is just one of a number of things that I've observed in myself these past months.  If I don't keep a firm focus, my mind will fly wildly, dragging my body along with "interesting" consequences. For example, some days it's hard to do much more than the absolute necessities of life. I find these days often follow a day or two when I think I've made great strides and am beginning to congratulate myself on how much progress I've made.  It's as if I  take three steps forward and then three back in a sort of stutter-step dance of body, mind and emotion.

I've also found that my emotions are much more deeply tied to the weather than they had been in the past.  A dark, gloomy day like today has a greater capacity to drape over my soul than before. As clouds gather in the sky, rain falls in my heart as well.  Conversely, a bright sunny day will lift my spirits, but oddly enough, sometimes the brightness is almost too much to bear. It's as if I can't bear too much light all at once and sometimes I find myself hiding inside, where the light is more filtered. Perhaps it is because the bright light casts too harsh a shadow and I cannot  to see the stark contrast between dark and light quite yet.

So I'm learning to be a bit more compassionate toward myself; to allow myself to have the occasional day when I really can't do anymore than make a cup of tea and go to bed. Because griefwalking, like life itself, is process and while I don't want to lose any more of my life to the process than I have to, I also want to honor the process itself by granting it the time it needs. 


From a piece I wrote on forgiveness in this month's issue of Catholic Answer from OSV.
We need to understand that forgiveness doesn’t eradicate the law of cause and effect. Forgiveness doesn’t erase consequences. Take for example, a husband who has an affair and brings home a sexually transmitted disease to his wife.  His wife may forgive him, but they still have to deal with the medical repercussions of his adultery and probably with trust issues and other emotional aspects stemming from the affair. 

 Just because a sin is forgiven, the effects don’t disappear, either for the person doing the forgiving or the one being forgiven. To understand this better, think of the Cross.  Jesus forgave those who crucified him, but he still died on the Cross. The mere act of forgiveness didn’t change the physical reality of the action.

This is precisely why Catholics believe in the concept of Purgatory. We may be forgiven our sins, but that doesn’t mean that all the temporal effects are removed.  We still have to live with and work through the cost of our trespasses.  Neither extending or accepting forgiveness can change that reality.  In fact, sometimes we have to live a lifetime with the consequences of our actions, a constant and painful reminder of what we have done.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Prayer Update for May 2012

I kept track of my prayers for the month of May, for my own edification as much as anything. I've decided to continue through June, since several things are still "pending," but the official May results are:
11 Yes
4 No
9 Unclear or unanswered.

As I've said before, the "yes" tend to be small and urgent, the "unanswered" are much more major and involve other people and complicated situations. However, of the 8 "unanswered" that I've moved to June, 5 of them ultimately have to be either a "yes" or a "no" without doubt.  One, well, it could be one of those forever not entirely clear things.  As for the other two, if I am changed, it may be that they would become moot, so we shall see.

I'll keep you informed!

Sunday Gratitude

It was a complicated week, as evidenced by the fact I didn't blog as much as I wanted. So here's to a new week with joy throughout.

1. For a new book that is out, even if it isn't available on Amazon yet like it's supposed to be. (Boo. Hiss.)

2.  A hair cut that is flattering...and some new blonde streaks that "miraculously" appeared to give it all a summery feel.

3. A dear friend who prayed with me and encouraged me on a hard day.

4. For some indication that a deeply damaged relationship might experience healing on some levels.

5. For Elijah, who fell in love with a pink piggie banks on his 6th birthday and reminded me that pink piggie banks are pretty darn wonderful.


My book, Facing Adversity with Grace was released on June 1,but it's still not appearing on Amazon. Hoping it will be truly available very soon.