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Living in the traumatic past

We all know someone who "lives in the past." Maybe it's a high school friend who is constantly bringing up those "glory days," as Bruce Springsteen put it. Maybe it's an elderly relative whose memory of breakfast is weak, but can recall the most minute details of her First Communion.

The past, as good as it may be, is not a place to live. Being mentally healthy means, in part, that we visit the past, but we don't stay there.

Unless you've suffered trauma. Trauma - when it's not fully integrated and successfully treated - drags us back to the past, over and over. (We generally call this PTSD.)

Last year, I lost two jobs. I couldn't do all that was required well. I was constantly making mistakes, and being told the same thing over and over didn't help. I was, for the first time in my life, failing miserably at work. Why?

As a recovering perfectionist, I told myself all this was my fault. For some reason, I was not remembering details of t…
Recent posts

Unsettled

I read "Pioneer Girl," the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder about 2 weeks ago. Her life, as reflected in her work, was pretty unsettled. She was young enough to remember the last of the Sioux Indians being driven from their own land.

Her Pa started getting itchy feet whenever he would feel hemmed in by people in what many saw as a vast prairie. (He apparently tried to talk his wife into moving to Seattle in their later years. Ma put her foot down.)

As a reader, you don't get the sense that Laura felt unsettled. Every outing was a new adventure, a new place to explore, new people to meet. She may have moved a lot, but Laura never felt unsettled.

I am a "settler." I like the familiarity of a place, the curve of the ground in my backyard, the knowledge that my neighbors are the same today as 20 years ago.  I lived in the same house for the first 19 years of my life, and watched the world blossom, bloom, die and fight back to life out of the same wi…

Holy Week: not so holy?

Generally, our Holy Week is very structured. Our relationship with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist makes it so. And of course, we try to participate in the Triduum liturgies as much as possible.

Except this year.

This year, our Holy Week is a scramble for boxes and tape. (And who has the markers??)

This year, our Holy Week is counting pennies, so that we can pay everyone who needs to be paid as we move.

Our Holy Week this year is a reflection of God's will in our life, which has been pretty tumultuous lately.

Holy Week is finding that space to ponder the Holy Family. They had to move when they didn't want to, either.

Holy Week right now is being thankful for all those who are praying for us.

Holy Week 2018 is not going to make anyone's Top Ten Catholic Holy Folks list. Instead, it's just going to be quiet moments stolen in between filling boxes. It's going to be short and sweet prayers. It will be that journey to the tomb, going not where we want but where…

"My God, my God; why have you abandoned me?"

This is the mournful refrain of today's psalm, one that will echo through Good Friday. We are a people bereft, wondering how it is that Jesus is not only taken from us, but murdered. If that is not abandonment, what is?

Clearly, I've been away from blogging this Lent. There are a few reasons. First, I'm unemployed (again.) This time, it seemed like a matter of life or death. Every day, wracked with stress, going into a job for which I was totally ill-suited, I thought, "Is this the day I'll have a heart attack?"

If that wasn't enough, we have to move. Our current apartment complex decided to not renew our lease. I reacted as if it were a death (anger, denial, bargaining, etc.) And I was good and angry at God. Once again, I believed I'd followed the rules, and I got punished anyway. What good is friendship with God if you don't benefit from it?

I stopped making Lenten plans many years ago. It became obvious that God always had other plans anyway, …

"Beat Down" and in the company of ostriches

In their introduction to the Book of Job, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops explains that this Old Testament book is "an exquisite dramatic treatment of the problem of the suffering of the innocent."

What this means is: "This is great to read, especially if it's not about you."

No one, of course, escapes suffering, but one person's suffering is never the same as another's, even if they are going through the same experience. These differences - after a few rounds of suffering in our life - begin to strike us as "unfair."

It's unfair that our child has cancer, and yours does not. It's unfair that my husband lost his job, and yours just got a big fat promotion. It's unfair that my health is so poor, while you're out running marathons.

Of course, we can turn each of these situations around. I'm so sorry your child has cancer, but mine's a drug addict. It's terrible that  your husband lost his job, but mine is a phi…

A work in progress. Just not THAT work.

My work life has been spotty at best the past two years. My job at Company A (which I adored and would go back there in a heartbeat) got budgeted right out of existence. I was totally bowled over - never saw it coming.

That meant months on unemployment and serious financial pinching.

I was hired by Company B (alas, no bugle boy), an organization who's business plan was written by blind and deaf chimpanzees. It was unpleasant, in the way that diarrhea is unpleasant.

I was having some issues with the way things were done, and my understanding of processes that I had not been hired to do. My tenure there lasted 2 weeks. Good-bye.

Then, a round of interviews for a job with the local diocese. Sure, it wasn't what I was looking for but I could easily do the job.

Or so I thought.

My last two jobs have taught me something: my brain does not function the way it used to. Oh, I'm not saying I've got a serious medical condition having to do with my brain. No, it seems as if the t…

Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.