R is for Random Questions

r2Hello Readers! I’m gonna do something different in this post. I know it’s the end of the year and I’m probably supposed to be writing a post evaluating my last year and promising to keep resolutions, but I just don’t feel like writing about those things. So I’m just gonna answer a bunch of “getting to know you” kinda questions. Some are questions people ask on forums, some are questions I just thought of, and some are from that interview show called Inside the Actor’s Studio. Here goes:

 

1. What one thing could you not do as a child that you can do now?

I can drive a car. My family was very traditional and skills/chores were divided by gender. My brother mowed the lawn and got taught how to drive at an early age. I did the dishes and was expected to be a passenger. Now I can drive a car and I mostly enjoy it. Except when I have to drive in a major city; too many people drive like maniacs there.

2. Do you have a motto?

Other than “breathe”, not really. Sometimes I repeat after Dory in Finding Nemo and say “just keep

Image from disney.com

Image from disney.com

swimming, just keep swimming” but that’s usually when I’m frustrated with myself.

3. Favorite ice cream flavor?

Chocolate, of course.

4. Where would you like to travel and why?

I’d like to travel to every state in the US, just to say I’ve done it. I’d like to go to every country in Great Britain, because that’s my heritage and because I’m fascinated by its history. Finally, I’d like to go the Vatican and the Holy Land, because I’m Catholic!

5. Ever met a famous person?

Nope.

6. Favorite color(s)?

Purple and blue. Sometimes green.

7. What’s the weather like outside right now?

It’s winter and we just had a day of above freezing temps followed by one of below freezing temps after a few weeks of snow, ice, and below zero temps. So all surfaces are an unpredictable combo of snow and ice (both visible and invisible) and the air is cold enough to see your breath.

8. When you were a kid, what did you want to do (as a job) when you grew up? If it changed, why did it?

I wanted to be (in order) President, a nurse, a teacher, an actress, a dancer, a writer, an interior decorator, a Mom. I changed my mind about being President when I was told that “girls don’t become President.” I decided not to become a nurse because I was sick of hospitals from having to be there with my Mom so much. I decided I wanted to become a teacher cause I couldn’t think of anything else to be when I was in grade school. I decided I wanted to be an actor/dancer/writer in grade school. I dropped dancer in high school when I found out that dancers were skinny and usually started doing it professionally, if they were female, by the time they were in their teens, so I was too far behind. I gave up acting when I got to college and realized that I’d always want to kill myself more than I wanted to have a career as a minor character (fat, depressed gals are rarely the stars of anything). The writing thing has stuck around. I wanted to be an interior decorator in high school then realized I had a hard time telling the difference between shades of peach. I wanted to be a Mom when my internal clock started ticking in my late twenties, it stopped ticking in my thirties.

9. Sports?

No thanks. I do like watching figure skating though. And dog agility competitions, if I can ever find one to watch.

10. Last movie you watched?

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Bourne Identity. Matt Damon is my movie boyfriend.

11. What book(s) are you reading?

I’ve got two going on right now: The Holy Land: an Armchair Pilgrimage by Fr. Mitch Pacwa and And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake by Elizabeth Boyle. Usually I have three, one spiritual, one Romance, and one self-help or improving. I’m taking a self-help/improving break right now cause of the holidays.

12. If you had $5 million to spend in 5 days, but with the clause that you could not spend any of it on yourself or your family, what would you do with it?

Probably divide it into equal amounts and give it to various charities: animals in general, a cat rescue, mental health in general, depression research, the homeless, medical research, literacy, a couple of scholarship charities, international disaster relief, my local church, my local public library, my local mental health facility, and a couple of local food pantries.

13. If you had $5 million to spend, but with the clause that you could only spend it on yourself or your family, no saving it, what would you do with it?

I’d split $1 million in cash between various members of the family (my brother/sister-in-law, my nieces, an aunt and a cousin) for them to use however they wanted. Then with the remainder I’d pay off my brother’s house, buy myself a house, furnish said house, buy as many books as possible, then take a trip around the US and the world.

14. Were you named after anyone?

My parents decided that my Mom could name my brother and my Dad could name me. My Dad had a friend named Bonnie and always liked the name so that became my first name. My Dad’s family has a tradition where middle names are family names, so my middle name is my great-grandmother’s first name and an aunt’s middle name.

15. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yes.

16. Red or pink?

Pink, I hate red, but not baby-pink. I’m a woman, not a child.

17. Glasses or contacts?

Glasses. If God had intended we put things in our eyes our impulse to blink would be less pronounced.

18. What color is your car?

Red, but only because it was the only car in the model I wanted available in my area. Yes, I get the irony.

19. Hobbies, besides blogging?

Sleeping, eating, reading, crafts. I made a couple of ornaments for Christmas gifts this year.

20. Even or uneven?

Even. I hate it when things are crooked, even if it’s meant to be that way artistically.

Image from bravotv.com

Image from bravotv.com

And now, the Inside the Actor’s Studio questions:

1. What is your favorite word?

Peace.

2. What is your least favorite word?

Terminate. As in “we terminated the employee.” Really? You killed the employee?

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Possibilities. I like to imagine what would happen if someone had made a different decision.

4. What turns you off?

Inflexibility and rudeness.

5. What is your favorite curse word?

Sh*t. Because when people use it, it usually means exactly that.

6. What sound or noise do you love?

That inhalation that people make when they’ve experienced wonder.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

Engines, especially lawn mower and leaf-blower engines.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

This would be a better question if I had a profession. Umm, let’s assume right now my profession is something in customer service. I’d like to try, just once, to be a tour guide in one of those living history museums. Just to say I did.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Anything to do with garbage, picking it up, throwing it out, moving it around, etc. It’s just gross dealing with smelly stuff.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

I love you! and Great job!

new years

Happy New Year to all who celebrate!

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

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M is for Merry Christmas!

m xmas hollyFor those of my readers who celebrate (in any form): Merry Christmas!!

For those who are Christian (any denomination): Please join me in wishing our Savior a Joyous Birthday!! Also, we thank St. Mary and St. Joseph for being our Lord’s parents.

nativity birth

Image courtesy of New Line Cinema

For those who don’t celebrate and/or aren’t Christian: I hope you are having a wonderful December.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

R is for Religion (The Later Years)

r xmas fancyWhen last we left my spiritual self, I was identifying myself as agnostic or atheist and had a knee-jerk reaction of “eww” to any mention of organized religion. I was in this world during my twenties and during that time period I didn’t think much about my spiritual life; I was too busy trying to keep myself alive (financially and physically. Major Depression is a hard task master). Eventually, my life evened out and I started to think about the big pictures: why am I here, does God really exist, etc.

As I contemplated those questions, I had to admit that there was “something.” I wasn’t sure what, but I knew there had to be something above and beyond our physical existence. After all, if all there was was the physical, nothing in a spiritual plane, I should have been dead, homeless, friendless, family-less, and so on. There were too many instances in my life where I was pulled back from the brink of disaster for no particular reason. And it couldn’t have been luck, there were too many for it to be luck.

So I started to identify myself as “spiritual but not religious.” I figured that was a great way of saying that I couldn’t stand the thought of organized religion. Then I read an article about a new trend of people setting up altars in their homes. A home altar was something I’d never heard of and it sounded almost sacrilegious. Hence I was fascinated.

Not long after, I was in one of my favorite places, a bookstore, browsing and happened to wander into the metaphysical section. Usually, I avoided that area, as it was right next to the religious books that I wanted nothing to do with. I’ve no idea why I ended up there (God perhaps?) but I found a book about altars. As I paged through the book I discovered something new: Neo-Paganism. Now, I’d heard of Wicca and been told that it was witchcraft and evil (by a conservative Christian) so I wasn’t so keen on investigating it. But Neo-Paganism sounded intriguing. So I did some research and was fascinated by how different this “religion” was from everything I had had contact with. There was a Goddess, more than one for that matter, and it revered nature. From there I slowly started researching Wicca and found that it wasn’t evil as I’d been told but a nature religion that embraced the possibilities of the person.

I was hooked and read everything I could get my hands on about Neo-Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Goddesses, and

The Goddess Hestia. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Goddess Hestia. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Feminist Religions. I bought myself a necklace with a pentagram charm and wore it daily. I tried spells and chose a Goddess to worship (Hestia, Goddess of the hearth). But there was a problem. I felt disconnected from the spiritual (not to mention occasionally silly conducting rituals alone in my apartment).

So I tried to connect with the larger Neo-Pagan community. I live in a largely conservative, Christian, community. There were no community centers or clubhouses where Neo-Pagans congregated. I turned to the internet where I found listings of gatherings within drivable distance. And I promised myself I would attend one.

But the big test, the one that declared if I was really going to commit myself, was if I could get out of my bed for this religion. And I couldn’t. I made note of gatherings, planned to go, but never did. Eventually, the very nature of Neo-Paganism began to bother me. Despite some claims that Wicca and other Goddess-worship/nature-worship religions had been around for centuries, passed down in secret, there was no real evidence that this was true. Much of what drew me to the religion in the first place, the ability to be a solo practitioner, to basically make up your own religion, began to make me uncomfortable. And gradually the various trappings of Neo-Paganism fell away from my life and I went back to “spiritual but not religious.”

During this time period, I was working at a job that required me to work at least one weekend day. Typically I was scheduled to work on Sundays. Since I wasn’t happy with organized religion, I didn’t mind this at all. Until I hit my late twenties and, seemingly out of nowhere, I’d get the impulse to go to church. I, of course, ignored these impulses, but they bothered me. Why should I want to go to church, I’d ask myself. Look at how organized religion oppresses women and homosexuals. Look at how narrow-minded most religious people are, how unforgiving, how hypocritical. I didn’t want anything to do with these things.

Then my brother got engaged to a cradle Catholic and began to take RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes in preparation to convert to Catholicism. Over the months he attended the classes, I watched him closely for any evidence that he was turning into one of those hypocritical people I hated. Didn’t happen. In fact, he seemed to become more like himself, more settled into who he was, more peaceful.

But it was his wedding day that was the turning point for me. My brother and sister-in-law got married at the local cathedral, a gorgeous building of stone and stained glass. I’d never attended anything Catholic before, so the entire ceremony (properly called a Wedding Mass) was new to me. And what I saw was nothing like I’d been told about Catholicism. There was silence in the church itself, a type of reverence I hadn’t encountered in a church before. The Mass was beautiful and included more Bible quotations than I’d ever heard before. And the homily given by the priest was eye-opening. Instead of a generic speech about marriage I’d heard in other wedding ceremonies, the priest talked about my brother and sister-in-law. He knew them, personally, and spoke about their relationship in loving terms. It was a joyful, yet reverent, speech. Not once did I flinch when the priest mentioned Jesus. Afterwards, I was hopeful that maybe I could come back to organized religion. That maybe I could find a place that would accept me without the restrictions of the churches of my youth. That maybe God wasn’t so far away.

Exactly one week later, my schedule, inexplicably, changed and I had Sundays off. Not quite ready to walk into a church, I did what I always do when I’m confused or anxious about something, I turned to books. I learned a bit about each of the world’s religions and decided that I had to give the religion of my youth a chance. I told myself that I’d give Christianity a year, and if it didn’t work out I’d start in on the eastern religions. A voice in the back of my head told me that I’d eventually become Catholic, but I ignored it, thinking it a remnant of my childhood fascination with the nuns in the musical Sound of Music. So I read a bunch of books on Christianity, the different branches, outlooks, philosophies, dogmas.

After a few months of reading, I started “church shopping.” Every Sunday I’d drag myself out of bed (big sign right there) and attend a service at a different church, including the Catholic Church. My community seemingly has a church on every corner, so it was quite possible to spend over a year and not go to the same church twice. Most churches were “nice.” Some were boring, others a bit too cookie-cutter. I even attended a “mega-church” service, which I hated. It felt like I was going to a concert, not a worship service. All along I continued to do research into Christianity, thinking about the various dogmas, the history, debating with myself about the veracity of it all. I began to read the Bible. And slowly, I started to accept that Christianity, with all its problems, was the religion I had to accept. It was the religion of my heritage, it was in my blood, and I could not turn away.

After six months of “church shopping” I was exhausted. So I began to narrow down my choices and after a month or two of prayer and consideration, chose the Episcopal Church (for those unfamiliar, Episcopalianism is the American branch of the Anglican Church). My local church was “high” Episcopalian (in other words, very much like Catholicism) and I fell in love with their Mass, the ritual and reverence was soothing.

But it wasn’t until I accepted communion that I knew I was a Christian. From childhood I understood that communion was an important aspect of Christianity. When I began to fall away from God I started refusing communion, despite my family’s insistence that I take it on the few occasions I went to church. They told me it was just a symbol, a part of the community. But I thought taking communion, a fundamental aspect of a religion I didn’t believe in, would be hypocritical of me. So from my teens until my late twenties I refused communion.

Taking communion at the Episcopal Church, where it is believed that the bread and wine are God (not physically though, that’s where they differ from Catholicism), was an indescribable life-changing experience. For the first time, I felt I was accepted by an omnipotent being. That that being loved me, with all of my flaws.

wood rosary

Rosary

The next year or so was one of the most stable and life affirming of my life. I went to church most Sundays and began to make positive changes in my life. I started to pray the Rosary and set up an altar in my home. The fact that much of what I loved about the Episcopal Church was actually remnants from its Catholic past bothered me a little but I chose not to think about it. All I wanted was to be done with all of the pain and confusion of choosing a religion.

Of course, life doesn’t always give us what we want, and my life changed. An illness in the family prevented me from attending Sunday Mass and slowly I began to feel discontented with the Episcopal Church. I disliked the organization of the church, it felt unstable. And I seemed as if I was “stealing” things from the Catholic Church, despite the fact that many Episcopalians recited the Rosary and prayed to saints. With all my time being filled with taking care of my ill family member, I rarely attended church of any kind and stopped considering myself an Episcopalian.

After a few years, my family member died and my time was my own again. I considered returning to the Episcopalian Church but, since the things I loved most about that Church were the things that they kept from the Catholic Church, decided not to return. After a few months of religious aimlessness, I started attending Catholic Masses. I missed the familiarity of the Episcopal Mass, but knew that the Episcopal rituals were derived from the Catholic and found comfort there. And when RCIA classes started, I attended.

Attending RCIA classes was interesting, and occasionally confusing, but always fruitful. Over the nine months of classes, I learned a lot, thought even more, and eventually accepted that I was Catholic in my heart.

I found in the Catholic Church a place where my questions were answered, where people much smarter than me had debated the issues and made decisions guided by the hand of God after centuries of prayer. It was a church that welcomed doubt, loved and forgave without reservation, and accepted me as I was, confusion, doubts, reservations and all.

I was brought into the Church Easter of 2010. I have not regretted my choice to convert to the religion my (now deceased) mother once told me was evil incarnate. In the years since I have occasionally struggled with some of the dogmas of the church, but have never stopped feeling like I am Catholic in my heart, mind, and soul. Catholic I am, and Catholic I will be.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

R is for Religion (The Early Years)

r xmas lightsSince it’s Advent, I thought I’d tell you how/why I became Catholic. So, to quote Rogers and Hammerstein (Sound of Music): “Let’s start at the very beginning…”

I was brought up in a nominally Protestant household. What do I mean by nominally? I mean that we went to church, said we believed in God, had Bibles in our houses, taught our kids the same basic morals as was preached in church, but didn’t do much else. Not much praying before meals or bed. A “God Damn” was not followed by discipline. Missing church was not considered a sin. Basically, we were like most Americans. And we were comfortable in our nominalism.

My brother and I were baptized in a Lutheran church during the first year or so of our lives. But we rarely went to there. At least, that I can remember. Mostly we went to a Baptist church. Why the change? I’ve no idea. The only real reason I can think of is that more of my parents’ friends went to the Baptist church. I also remember my parents saying something once about attitudes toward the Deaf at the Lutheran church not being the best, but I could be mis-remembering that.

In any case, most Sundays we got up and went to church. There was Sunday school, if we made it there on time (it was held before services), pot-lucks, and choir. Yep, my parents were in choir. They called it the Singing Hands Choir. Basically what happened was a recording would play and an interpreter would lead the singers in the lyrics so they were together with the recording.

Sometime in my ‘tween years, my parents choir was responsible for the annual Christmas reenactment of the Nativity. For those of you who are unaware, the Nativity is the story of Jesus’ birth. Because I wasn’t fond of babysitters, I usually hung out at the church during the rehearsals for this program.

My very first spiritual experience happened during one of these rehearsals. I was entertaining myself by walking up and down the pews of the church and straightening the hymnals. The choir, including my parents who were playing Mary and Joseph, were up on the stage/alter, in costume. Much of the time they were doing all the really boring stuff like determining when and where people would move around, so I wasn’t paying much attention, just looking up every once in awhile to be sure my parents didn’t need me for anything.

It was during one of those glances that I saw three middle-aged men, dressed as Kings, sing “We Three Kings” in perfect unison. Chills went down my spine and I got choked up watching their hands move. A quick glance around found my parents and everyone else reverently watching them. And suddenly I started to wonder exactly what it was about the Christ child that would cause anyone to follow him. I sat, afraid that I’d fall down, and patiently watched the rest of the rehearsal. Dumbfounded, I listened to rest of that familiar story, hoping I’d get an answer. I don’t remember if I got one or not, but I do remember thinking that my parent’s choir was the best thing ever.

A year or so later, we watched a performance by an Evangelical theatre group and I got scared that I’d go to hell. After the performance was over, I walked up to my parents’ Sunday School teacher and said that I wanted to “accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” She nodded, said something along the lines of “that’s nice”, and walked away. I kept waiting for something to happen. For that teacher to come back to me. To be filled with hope, or at least chills. Something, anything, to acknowledge the huge step I was taking. But nothing happened.

Not long after this, our family attendance at church started to dwindle. My mother was getting sick a lot and, in my disappointment with God, I was trying to rebel by refusing to go to church. By my teens, I’d stopped going altogether, at least with my parents.

My best friend since fourth grade was a Christian. A The-Bible-is-the-literal-truth kinda Christian, who was “on fire” praying_on_bible_redfor Jesus. This kind of Evangelicalism was, as you can imagine, a huge turn off for me. But she was my friend, so I let her drag me to youth activities at her church. There, between flirting with boys and gossiping with the gals, I learned quite a few of her church’s views. It was there that I realized that my family didn’t really “walk the talk.” Not that they were bad people, they just didn’t pray daily, read the Bible a lot, or quote verses all the time. By this point, I’d stopped believing in Jesus and the Bible, so it didn’t matter to me that our family wasn’t “doing” Christianity right.

I was about fifteen when the Mormons came to call. Now I should tell you that my parents were magnets for all kinds of religious organizations. We’d been given so many Bibles in so many different translations and sizes that they had their own bookcase. I don’t know if it was because the various Christian denominations targeted my parents for conversion because of their disability or if my parents were just unable to say “no” when handed a free Bible. It was probably a bit of both. In any case, the Mormons came, and came, and came, and came again. They knew sign language, were young and nice. So my parents smiled and nodded. They invited my parents to their church. My parents went. They invited my parents to convert. My parents converted. Complete with re-baptism and a long ceremony.

“We’re just being polite,” my mother told me. “We don’t really believe what they say, but it would be rude to say no. ” I just stared at my mother, eyes wide, mouth open. I think this was the moment I realized my parents were not like me. And, unlike most Deaf people, they were more afraid of hearing people’ perceptions than in living a life of integrity.

My best friend, however, wasn’t giving up on me. She constantly tried to talk me into becoming a Christian. When I told her that I had tried that and been brushed off, she told me that I must not have approached it right. That I should “accept” Jesus NOW. However, accepting Jesus meant that I also had to give up believing in Evolution and homosexual rights. I had to believe that every word of the Bible, even the contradictory words, was the absolute truth. Lit-er-a-lly the truth. Forever and ever, amen.

I just couldn’t do it. And I could never get my friend to explain why everything had to be so black and white. Why couldn’t seven of God’s days look like millions of years to humans? If Jesus was all about love, why couldn’t a man love another man?

There were times though that I wanted to say “yes, please, I want to be loved by Jesus. Please love me God. I want to believe. I’m so tired of not believing.” But each time I asked my friend if it was okay to accept Jesus even if I didn’t believe in everything, she said “No. You have to believe in it all and with your whole heart. Otherwise, you’re going to hell.” Well, I was going to hell, because I just couldn’t see why a loving God could turn his back on a human’s love just because the object of that love had the wrong body parts.

It was when I went to college (the first time) that I started calling myself, depending on who asked and how much debating I wanted to engage in, atheist or agnostic. I didn’t want to have anything to do with religion. I couldn’t believe in an institution that rejected people for the very thing it said it was all about: Love.

Coming next post: Paganism, church shopping, and the Rosary.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

N is for Negative Self-Image

n xmas fancyYesterday a friend tried to get me to tell her why I refuse to allow myself to “get better” mental health-wise. I couldn’t really answer her. Not in a way she accepted anyway. She refused:

I’m a bad person.

I’m cr@#.

I don’t deserve to be better.

If you really knew what went on in my head, you’d understand.

I screwed up a perfectly good life.

I threw away everything God gave me.

The truth is, I didn’t want to admit why I have a negative self-image. I think it might be because I’m not perfect. Or at least, I’m not the person I think I should be: a sinless person.

I just can’t forgive, or like, my adult self for my imperfection. As far back as I can remember I’ve been told that I have a lot of “potential.” My friend said it moments before she asked me why I won’t let myself heal. Here’s what I did with my “potential”:

Potential: I could’ve gone to any college I wanted.

Throw away: Instead of the private school with the great arts program I wanted to go to, I got scared. I went to a state school close to home.

Potential: I could’ve graduated in four years with no debt and on the honor roll.

Throw away: I got no treatment for an episode of suicidal depression and went from the Dean’s List to Academic Probation in four years.

Potential: In my very first “real world” job that I hated, I could’ve gotten promoted to management after three months.

Throw away: I was consistently late or absent (due to the depression that I still wasn’t treating) and the company couldn’t promote me (union rules).

Potential: I found a job that I kinda enjoyed and was given a promotion within the first year. I was offered a management position, despite my ongoing lateness and attendance issues (still not getting that depression treated).

Throw away: I refused the management position and stayed in a lower one for six years longer than I could have before transferring to a different department.

Potential: I made decent money during a time of economic recession.

Throw away: Instead of saving that money, I spent it on food and entertainment.

Potential: I had a decent apartment with the cheapest rent in town.

Throw away: I lived in squalor. See this post for more information.

Potential: I had good insurance with full mental health parity before it was mandated by law.

Throw away: I didn’t take full advantage of it.

Potential: I had a job when the unemployment level was over 10%.

Idiot.

Idiot.

Throw away: I quit my job without having new employment lined up.

Potential: I went back to school.

Throw away: I chose to study something that I knew required that I go onto a Masters Program and that I may not have been healthy enough to go onto that program.

God has been very good to me. I’ve been blessed enough to be a white woman in a country that reveres white people. I’m allowed to practice whatever religion I want. I am not beaten for being raped or forced to marry my rapist. I live in a city that is relatively safe. The only thing I get harassed for is my weight (which is something I can do something about). I am unemployed in a country that has unemployment insurance. When I was homeless, my brother let me sleep in his spare room. My current landlord renewed my lease, despite the fact that I am still months behind in rent. When I broke my arm and had to have surgery, I was given that surgery despite my lack of insurance. When I was too depressed and suicidal to be safe with myself, I was taken to a hospital and treated, again without insurance. I live in a state where it’s illegal for the electric company to turn off my lights for non-payment during the winter because my heat is electric. I even get most of my prescription medications for free (a $200 value) so I don’t fall back into a suicidal depression.

I have been blessed with so much in my life but I have done nothing with my blessings.

My counselor has pointed out that many of the things I have thrown away have been because of my mental illnesses (both the Depression and the Eating Disorder), but I don’t buy it. I know better.

Even before I was diagnosed with Depression, I knew better. Before I studied psychology, I knew better. I was educated in the signs of depression and eating disorders at sixteen (it was part of a Girl Scout activity. Don’t judge. I was a Girl Scout long after I stopped being a girl. It was fun and there were cookies!)

I knew at seventeen when I got my first failing grade that my behavior indicated Major Depressive Disorder but I didn’t do anything about it. I knew at twenty-two when I dropped out of college on Academic Probation that I was suicidal and needed treatment. But I didn’t do anything about it. I knew throughout my twenties and thirties that just taking medication wasn’t gonna change my life. I knew I had to change my behaviors, but I didn’t. I knew at thirty-eight when I chose to study psychology that I’d have to go to Graduate School and that I’d have to do something in order to handle those academic rigors. Did I do anything about it? No.

For the last forty years, I’ve acted as if somehow all my problems would magically disappear without actually doing all the work I was supposed to do. I knew that God forgave me when I confessed my sins of arrogance and laziness in the confessional. Somehow I forgot that part of that forgiveness required that I work to change myself so as not to fall into those sins again.

And I haven’t been to Reconciliation (the preferred term for Confession) in almost a year because of this. I can’t like myself with these sins weighing on my heart.

How could I allow myself to heal with those kinds of sins? How could God?

What I don’t know is why I won’t make the changes that I need to make. Why I cling to my sins and my negative self-image.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

A is for Advent

a xmas hollyGrowing up, my family didn’t have any pre-Christmas formal traditions. Yes, there was the preparation for Christmas pageants at church. We even had a Christmas Choir Concert at my public school (this was before everything got PC and they started calling it a Holiday or Winter Concert). Our Christmas tree went up sometime before Christmas, usually the week or so beforehand. We went shopping off and on, mostly off since we didn’t have a lot of money (and my paternal grandmother worked retail. She got the best bargains!) But there were no rituals or traditions to help us anticipate the coming of Christ (just the coming of Santa Claus).

Somewhere between that childhood of Protestantism and my conversion to Roman Catholicism, I discovered Advent traditions. And fell in love with them. Honestly I wish we had these kinds of traditions for all holidays. It seems to enrich not only the holiday itself, but daily life. It makes life seem special. More beautiful. Sparkly even.

I’ve only been Catholic since Easter of 2010, and it’s been a hard few years, so I haven’t really created any real traditions of my own. This year I’m going to change that. I’m tired of the sameness of my life. And I need something to distract me from my anxiety over being unemployed. So here are the Advent traditions I’m going to try to implement (in no particular order):

  1. artificial_pine_advent_wreathAn Advent wreath. I’d had one in 2010 but it got killed in a move, so I’m making a new one for this year. I love the symbolism of the wreath and how it creates a daily pause. Click here for more info on Advent wreaths and their symbolism/use.
  2. Advent prayers. I bought an inexpensive booklet with special prayers to say at this time of the year, usually when lighting your wreath. I’m horrible when it comes to scheduling time for prayer. Normally I pray at random times throughout the day, usually when I need something. I think it’s time for me to start praying for something other than help.
  3. Advent calendar. I love the wooden calendars but can’t afford them. I don’t like the inexpensive kind that are made of cardboard or felt. So I’m making one of my own from gift tags. I’ll only use it for this year. Hopefully I can get a wooden one on clearance, or be able to afford one next year. Why am I doing it? It’s yet another way to pause in my day and think about something other than myself. And it helps build the anticipation for Jesus’ birthday.
  4. Decorations. I don’t always decorate for Christmas, or most holidays. Sometimes I don’t have the time or I’m purple-ornament1.jpgtoo tired. Last year I was suicidal and the thought of anticipating anything other than death took way too much energy. Since I’m feeling better this year, I’ve gone as all out as I could on a dime. I’m determined to make my tiny apartment as glittery and festive as possible.
  5. Entertainment. Instead of only watching the shallow, incipit, shows you usually get on TV these days (I’ll still watch those too. They’re fun and frothy, kinda like cotton candy for the holiday brain), I’m gonna make an effort to watch TV shows and movies that go a bit in depth. In other words, I’ll be watching a lot of religious-type programming. Nothing wrong with that, I could use some depth.
  6. Books. I don’t consider books entertainment. For me, books are like breathing. If I don’t read, I don’t live. I’ll still read my typical stuff, but I’m gonna add in some holiday type reading that isn’t about shopping or generic “family” themes. Probably lots of history and spiritual type books.
  7. Mass. For those who are unaware, mass is the name of church services in the Catholic Church. I’m gonna try topriest_holdingup_chalice_red go to as many as possible. This is a problem because I have trouble getting out of the house sometimes, especially in the morning and if I have to go somewhere where there are a lot of people. If I can’t physically go, I’m gonna listen to one on the radio or watch one on the internet. It’ll be good for my soul.

I know that’s quite a bit, and I’m gonna do my best to do them all. The hardest part, I think, will be to not yell at myself if I don’t do it perfectly. At the very least, I’m gonna try.

And that’s more than I’ve done in quite some time.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.