Friday, May 25, 2012

What if you're already perfect?

I came across this passage in The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron and just had to share a little Buddhist philosophy to complement the whole Christian idea that we are loved unconditionally exactly as we are right at this moment, "flaws" and all, by our awesome God.  (I guess I'm channeling my inner Thomas Merton today):

"Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn't do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we're doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we're doing."
So your mission this weekend, should you decide to accept it, is to contemplate your juiciness, your spiciness, and your craziness, not in an effort to change or "improve" but in an effort to see yourself as a brilliant whole, wonderfully made by God. Can you embrace the good along with the slightly off kilter? Try that attitude on for size and see how it feels.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Remind me who I am

I love this song by Jason Gray. I happened to hear it on K-LOVE one day, and a line jumped out and grabbed me: "If I'm your beloved, can you help me believe it?" Sold. Watch it through, soak it in, hear the message. You are God's beloved, no matter how you see yourself.

Here are the lyrics, if you're interested:

When I lose my way,
And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see,
Is who I don't wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places,
When I can't remember what grace is.

Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.

When my heart is like a stone,
And I'm running far from home,
Remind me who I am.
When I can't receive Your love,
Afraid I'll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.
If I'm Your beloved,
Can You help me believe it.

Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You, whoa.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You.
That I belong to You.
To You.

I'm the one you love,
I'm the one you love,
That will be enough,
I'm the one you love.

Tell me once again who I am to You.
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You, oh.

Tell me once again who I am to You.
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Empty is the new full

My recent Life Lines column:

I can always tell when 6-year-old Chiara has had enough, or too much. She hangs onto my waist, cries at the drop of a hat, and, in the ultimate role-reversal, tells me she thinks she needs to go to bed rather than watch a TV show. You don’t have to be a parenting genius to figure out that her day was just too full.

Chiara needs her down time, even just an hour or so after school when there’s nothing to do but draw on the driveway with chalk, or swing toward the heavens in the backyard, or serve out some plastic ice cream in the play kitchen. She loves her dance classes and her Daisy troop and her karate, but when she gets a week where every afternoon is occupied, and maybe even a few evenings, the edges of her typically sweet demeanor start to fray. So why is it so surprising when the same thing happens to us as adults?

We go, go, go, always thinking we need to be doing at least two things at once, feeling like any downtime is a sign of laziness or, at the very least, serious lack of motivation. Even when we finally do sit down to “relax,” most of us bring along the laptop or iPod, the newspaper or crossword puzzle, a stack of bills or a work project.

When I recently finished one book manuscript only to begin another the very next morning, I found myself in the unlikely position of having nothing to say. I stared at my computer, not just for an hour but for a few days. The problem was not that I didn’t know what to write; I just couldn’t access it. It was buried too far below all the stress from the previous weeks. I had emptied myself out during the writing of one book, but I never filled myself back up before starting the next. I secretly wished I could just lean against the nearest person, à la Chiara, and whimper until someone made me a cup of cocoa and read me a book.

The emptiness I felt wasn’t just a professional emptiness either; it was a total emptiness. I felt physically drained and spiritually blank. I would sit in church and wait to feel something, anything, but I just didn’t have the emotional energy to get involved. In my heart I knew what I needed was a retreat, but my schedule – not to mention a silent retreat only six months ago – made that option unlikely. Rather than realize I needed to create a mini-retreat experience right here at home, I plodded along, trying to force my way back to normalcy despite everything that was screaming at me to find some chalk and just start doodling on the driveway, or some other equally silly but satisfying activity.

If we want to move forward in anything – professional life, family life, prayer life – we have to carve out time to be present in a moment, to do something totally unproductive and not feel an ounce of guilt, to act like a 6-year-old and maybe even whine and plead until we get that moment of pure joy we desire (and deserve).

As a retreat director of mine once said, “You are a human being, not a human doing.” Too often we forget that and lose sight of what it means to stop everything and just be.

I recently was doing a creative exercise that suggested I make a collage one day and write a poem the next. At first I scoffed, but then I went against my “better” (aka type-A) judgment and did it. Both my collage and my poem are now hanging where I can see them as I write, reminders that it’s necessary to take time out to recharge and relax.

Fly a kite, hike in the woods, cut up an old magazine and make your own collage. Find one hour to revel in doing nothing, and rediscover the joy of what it means to be a human being.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Catching up now that the storm is over

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity here. One book manuscript was edited, and a second book manuscript completed. I'm getting ready to head into the edits on the second one, so I figured I'd better show up here for an update before I disappear again.

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Jesuit Father James Martin, author of so many great books, among them My Life with the Saints and Between Heaven and Mirth. His keynote address was so unbelievably good. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time, and about faith and spirituality. If Father Martin is in your area, get a ticket and go. It will be a great experience. I promise. We need more joy in our Church, in our lives.

In other news, I spent time with Chiara and our Daisy troop at an "encampment" at Camp Is-Sho-Da this past weekend. Perfect weather for hanging outside with a bunch of energetic, twirling, dancing, giggling 6-year-olds. We made sit-upons and Memorial Day cards for veterans, decorated cupcakes, tie-dyed shirts, and sang silly songs. All the things Girl Scouts love to do.

Being let out of my basement office also means more time to get to know my "new" Nikon camera. I got it about nine months ago, but because of all my book deadlines, I haven't really had a chance to explore what it can do. Here are some shots of the lovely flowers blooming in our backyard right now. 
Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart



Spring in our yard
Super Moon

Friday, May 11, 2012

Selling magazines by exploiting moms

Originally I wasn't going to include the controversial cover of Time magazine because it doesn't deserve any more press than it's already received, but, if you haven't seen it yet (how could you miss it?), it's really a necessary part of the conversation.

I breastfed all three of my kids until they were ready to stop. With my youngest that meant nursing until she was about 2 years old. I have family members and friends who nursed their children until almost 4 years old. I am the biggest proponent of breastfeeding that you are going to find. Anywhere. I believe every child should be breastfed for at least a year, longer whenever possible.

But I was stunned and disappointed and disgusted to see this exploitative photo on the front of Time magazine in the name of attachment parenting. What a disgrace and a disservice to mothers everywhere. As someone who has received looks of shock and disapproval even when I was discreetly nursing my babies with blankets and coats piled on top to hide us, I can tell you that no one nurses a child like this, and no mother-child nursing scenario has both participants looking away in total disconnection. This is the most false photo I've ever seen, and that's saying something in this photoshopped world of ours.

Breastfeeding (and attachment parenting if that is your choice) deserve to be promoted and supported and encouraged at every single turn. This photo may have people talking about the topic, but not in a good way. In a provocative way. In a controversial way. In a maddening way.

Something as beautiful and natural as breastfeeding deserves so much better than this. Something like this much more realistic photo.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book #6: The Aftermath

You can always tell when I'm nearing the end of a book project. All the signs of a small bookcase explosion. Actually, this is what it looks like in my office right now, as I put together the resource section for Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Prayer, which will be released later this year. Still some finishing touches to go before the manuscript is complete. Stay far away until you've received further notice.