Thursday, February 23, 2017

HERE COMES LENT!

Here comes Lent, a word coming from the German, meaning "springtime." It's good to know what the heck we are getting in for, as in--you may think it's about springtime, but it is way, way more than that.

I have trouble with Lent. I rebel against giving up anything, except colonoscopies and visiting my oncologist. I want an endless stream of goodies from Amazon.com arriving in my "Santa Box" at the foot of our drive, or, as I sometimes call it, "My Prize Box." When you have chemo Brain I suspect we travel far back to the reptilian brain, that squishy part of our head which pops out moods, feelings, and desires. I'm down with moods, feelings, and desires, as in--I want, I need, last year was the pits, I still need bandages over the cancer wound.

But I need to do more than just vibrate with wanting. How can I honor Lent in a way that is hopeful but not full of scratchy deprivation? What can I give up and what can I give out?

--Giving up fasting this year. At the age of 71 I am released from this directive from the Catholic Church. I'm not sure what it says about feasting on chocolate and wine, but I'm guessing those are good things to give up. Sigh.

--I am giving up fear. It is a thorny companion and does me no good at all. With this current administration and my own somewhat wonky health, fear has taken up far too much room in the head, heart, and body. I am going to meditate, then picture balling all of this fear in my hands and giving it over into the hands of Jesus.

--I am going to give up controlling others. How often do I do this with my fabulous husband, pointing out parking spaces, telling him to turn left NOW, and more? And for why?

But what about giving out, like that woman in the Gospels who scooped expensive unguent from a jar to anoint Jesus?

--Keep donating to the ACLU which does so much for people currently threatened by this administration. I can't attend town meetings to protest our government, but giving money helps.

--Donate monthly to the Sierra Club, because our government wants to do away with the EPA and seemingly does not believe in Climate Change. (Could it have anything to do with unregulated business and raking in the cash?)

--Keep bringing diapers and food to the Survival Center. They need it.

--At Mass, practice my "Ministry of Kindly Chat" and reach out to people I've never spoken to before. We are meant to be a community of believers!

--Persist in writing my blogs and telling the truth about our country.

--Be a Trans-ally. This is especially important now, as protections for trans folks are being stripped away, and as the parent of a trans young adult, I need to do more.

--Elect to walk as a healing companion to people who are facing cancer again--you know who you are. And walk with their loved ones who face their own demons. You know who you are.

All right. I am getting breathless and feel as if I might have to make a strong cup of cappuccino with chocolate grated on top. Then lie down and read trash, because, the good news is--IT'S NOT LENT YET!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

FINDING JOY IN TIMES OF FEAR & UNCERTAINTY

If you are at all like me, you are probably eating far too much ("I NEED 4 cookies!"), drinking too many glasses of wine, doing retail therapy, and lying on the couch watching reruns of "Scrubs" because SNL is too close to the truth to be comforting.  Also, you may be spending far too much time on social media, Facebook, Twitter, and obsessively reading breaking news from the NY Times. Then bursting into tears or hitting a pillow. When I die of stress I am going to sue the Times. Ah, maybe better to sue before I die.

This administration is downright scary. Terrifying, illegal, unconstitutional, breaking democratic institutions, and flirting with autocracy. As the daughter of Marxists, I find it hard to keep a level head these days.

So, I am thinking of ways to keep joy alive during these times. Joy is different from "happiness" which is the feeling you get when things are going well; you just dropped 4 pounds; your partner brought flowers and Chinese take-out; and your child learned to read. Joy is not so much a feeling as it is a choice.  As in--I choose to be joyful because my life is rooted in God. I choose joy because I belong to a faith community which engages, supports, and strengthens us. I choose joy when I stand on my deck as the flakes spin down, holding my tongue out and wondering which geometric shape this flake has.

And that reminds me that the entire world, heck, the universe, is held in God's hands--snowflakes, pigeons, cranky children, poor refugees, hustlers, fat cats on Wall Street, all are held.  

It's just that right now I am a little nervous about those hands and wondering did God foresee the damage that's being wrought? Was he on a bathroom break or searching for his cell phone which he--like me--is constantly misplacing?

Who knows? But back to our discussion and how to keep centered in the current maelstrom of bad news. I choose joy when:

--I watch my Jack Russell terrier sail like a bird in flight over the snow, chasing squirrels.
--I kneel in church and the communion hymn is "Here I Am Lord." Kneeling invites joy as our thoughts settle and a way opens for the spirit to speak to us.
--I see millions of women in pink hats showing up for the biggest protest march in history. We are not alone! We have power! And darn, but I love those pink hats.
--I see pictures of my cousin's new grandson, called "Mr. Cheeks," for obvious reasons. The generation continues--new lives are coming into the world.
--I listen to anything by Bach. Music thrums through my body, lifting my spirit. At times, music feels like the hand of God.

This is my list, and yours will probably be quite different. Making lists is a wonderful way to resist, sure to lift your mood and help you
see that all is not lost. Those horrors will not have the last word. We are on it!