Saturday, June 14, 2014

Middle of the Night Musings

Last night, I was sad and went to bed early (at nine).  I woke up at 2 am and started to think.  It's now 4 am and here I am, writing.  I finished one post on JPII and Feminism, being vs. doing, and Martha and Mary which had been sitting in my list of unfinished posts for a few weeks.  But THIS post is why I was awake in the middle of the night.

I spent a lot of time yesterday reading a weird book called The Tapping Solution by Jessica Ortner.  Not that I'm totally sold on the whole concept, but I am reading it as a way to try to understand my own motivations and beliefs, and it's been pretty helpful... and painful.

So, anyway, I was depressed yesterday because the scale has ticked up again and is stuck.  I'm tired and frustrated.  In one of the meditations she offers, Ortner talks about the scale and how we allow it to be the thing that tells us whether we are going to have a good day.  She explains that the scale was not something that anyone even had access to a hundred years ago.  Bathroom scales didn't come into wide usage until the middle of the 20th century.  And here they are, these petty dictators that dominate our bathrooms and our imaginations.  This led to a discussion of the beliefs we allow to limit us.

So, that's the background.  When I woke up in the middle of the night, I started to think about my own limiting beliefs.  Several things popped into my drowsy mind and electrified me.  One of my beliefs was "I don't feel safe in my body."  And another one was "My body is not a prison."  This led me to think about my earliest experiences of my body --  THE BODY CAST.   I've written about it here and here.   Even though I don't remember it, how frustrating must it have been for a baby, at a crucial stage of motor development, to be completely encased in plaster from mid-chest to mid-calf.  I remember my own children at that stage and their constant movement. I look at my niece and nephew who are about 18 months old now -- they are constantly in motion. Could this be why frustration seems to be my base emotional state?  Really interesting.

While I would say that most of my childhood and adulthood was pretty normal, given the way things started, there are several things that have stuck in my mind and maybe have played too prominent a role in setting me up for all the "I Can't" stuff.
  • When I was sort of mid-childhood, I "caught a virus" in my hip.  I have no idea what that means, if it's possible, or if I am misremembering what actually happened.  (What do you know.)  What I DO remember is that I was not allowed to walk for what felt like forever (probably a week or ten days).  I could come down the stairs (on my backside) in the morning, go to the couch and lie down, and stay there all day.  In the evening, I could go up to bed.  I could get up to use the bathroom.  That's it.  Incredibly boring.  I mean, really awful.  I remember it so clearly because I was allowed to eat in the living room, something that was off limits in our house, and because my beloved godmother took pity on me and brought my older cousin, B., up to our house in the middle of the day one day (I don't know whether she took him out of school or whether he was off anyway), and he played Scrabble with me.  And let me win.  He was so sweet -- playing board games with a 9 or 10 year old cousin when you are a pre-teen boy is probably not high on your list of "want-to-do's", but he was so nice to me.  And I appreciate it to this day!
  • On our road, an older girl lived in an old farmhouse.  There was a root cellar built into the earth -- on the back, it was low to the ground, while it was high off the ground in front.  One day, all the kids took turns jumping off the front of the root cellar, a drop of probably 8 or 10 feet.  It was so much fun -- thrilling, even.  I remember how angry my mother was that I had done that -- not angry at my sisters -- just angry at me.  I couldn't understand why I was in trouble and they weren't.  There was a similar incident with our middle school bus stop.  Funny -- what's with country kids and jumping off of structures?
There are a couple of other things similar, but that's pretty interesting to me.  

When I was thinking, "I don't feel safe in my body," that was pretty interesting too.  I was thinking in particular of the terrible fall I took a few years ago when I dislocated my knee so painfully.  It was really scary because my body just sort of turned against me and it took me so long to recover and get strong.  It has made me really fearful of common things, although I was so happy to find myself stepping into and out of the baby pool easily and without fear, so I guess that is progress.

As I was thinking about these things, I thought also about how I could reframe these issues:

-- instead of "my body is not a prison," I considered all the amazing things that this body has allowed me to experience.  I've looked at the Sistine Chapel, smelled the salt off the Irish Sea, heard the Poor Clares singing in Assisi, tasted food so good I wanted to lick the plate, felt my babies moving inside me.  I've spent hours walking in cities that I loved.  I've heard music that has made my heart sing.  I've seen beautiful works of art and natural scenes that bring peace to my heart.  I have felt my husband's touch and heard his laughter and seen his smile.  So this body isn't so bad at all, is it?  Thank God for it.  
-- instead of "I don't feel safe in my body," I could try a little tenderness.  For that baby encased in plaster.  For that child stuck on a couch while her sisters got to run around and play.  For the young girl who never felt good enough.  For the young woman who had so dissociated her brain from her body that it was kind of pathetic.  For the middle-aged woman who just won't give up already.  For the old woman who I'll become who needs me to be healthy now.  So have some frickin' compassion already.  

It's a start.  

Be Not Afraid

This is, in his own handwriting, Saint John Paul II's famous charge, echoing Christ's words to us:  Be Not Afraid!  I think it's especially appropriate given the title of my last post, "What's Your Greatest Fear?"  God smack, anyone?

I think of Saint John Paul II every day.  He was such a huge figure in my life.  I loved him so much and I bless the day I actually encountered him in person -- it's something I always treasured.

And today, in reading a column by Pia de Solleni, JP2 on the New Feminism, I was struck by her discussion of "being vs. doing" as the basis for feminism.  This is the crux, I think, of the whole debate over the role of women in the Church -- what we are allowed to DO versus what we are called to BE. Women's roles are not what define us -- no matter what those roles are. The priesthood isn't a job with an educational and vocational path to entry, duties and responsibilities, and a path to preferment and promotion.  If it were, then people who believe that it's unfair that women are not priests would be right.  Instead, the priesthood is not something that some men DO as a job, it's something they ARE.  Priests are sign of contradiction,
to use another phrase of Saint John Paul II.  They are in the world but not of it.  It's a lonely and difficult life, I think, and not one I'd choose, even if I could.  But I am glad that we have priests to be our signs of contradiction.

Back to doing vs. being -- maybe the whole women as priests thing gets back to Martha and Mary.  In the story, Jesus comes to visit the family of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.  Imagine, a whole group of tired, dusty, hungry men -- at least thirteen of them and probably many more -- one of whom just happens to be the Son of God -- show up on your doorstep.  There are no phones, email, or even postcards, so you had no idea they were coming.  Maybe for dinner tonight, you were just planning on reheating last night's spaghetti in the microwave or allowing everyone to eat peanut butter and jelly (oh, that's my house), but now you have to pull a decent meal out of your hat.  Hospitality in this culture was one of the most important things, AND YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL.  No wonder Martha was pissed off that her sister, Mary, WHO SHOULD BE HELPING HER GET DINNER READY, was just sitting around at Jesus's feet listening to the words that were falling like pearls from his mouth (the same mouth that would be eating cold spaghetti or PB&J on wheat if Mary didn't get her butt in gear).  No wonder she complained.

Jesus's answer has always kind of angered me -- because I'm a Martha too, and feel like my DOING is what defines my WORTH.  Rather than telling Mary to get off her ass and help her sister, Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part and that she won't be deprived of it.

The Gospel of Luke says:

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

If I were Martha, I would be angry and troubled by this.  Jesus didn't stick up for me -- he didn't take my part.  In fact, he gently chided me.  And, in fact, he IS chiding me.  Now.  "Colleen, Colleen, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing."

That thing is BEING, not doing.  BEING in the presence of the Lord, all day, every day.  Not whether the laundry is done.  Not whether the to-do list is finished.  Not whether my husband is happy.  Not whether the children are growing up decent.  No.  Just being in the presence of the Lord.  All else follows.  It's the better part.

How did I get here from women priests and feminism?  LOL.  #rambling, #uptoolate