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Friday, April 21, 2017

Random Thoughts on a Friday

I have kept some sort of journal since I was around 11 or 12 years old.  Most of those old spiral notebooks I still have, squirreled away in a safe place where no one will find them.  I doubt they would be of real interest to anyone but I have left strict instructions to destroy them when I die.

Most are filled with the kind of random goofiness - an attempt at a first novel when I was 11 for instance, which reads suspiciously like The Outsiders - one would expect from an over wrought and extremely dramatic tween and teen.  Some of it, however, is really sad and really dark.  The fact that I kept writing during the depth of my alcoholism is amazing to me.  I am, however, very glad I did.

I got sober in 1992.  The program I use to stay sober emphasizes the concept of 'one day at a time' - in other words, don't act all happy over something that has not happened yet because anything can change in a split second.  I agree with that philosophy.  I am, after all, a woman who hung up the phone at 4:15pm after telling her husband she loved him and then found him dead an hour later when she got home from work.  I know how fast life can change and I appreciate that I am not going to celebrate something today that did not happen until it does - and it did not happen back in 1992 until 12 days from now.

What I am celebrating today is the journey that took me on the last big bender, the giant drunken rage and tantrum that, by all rights, I should not have survived.  I think back on why I decided that 'those people' didn't really have the answer and were too mean for a delicate flower such as myself.  I wrestle with the emotions - gratitude, shame, dark humor and outright amazement - I feel around this time of year.  It is a tough time for me.  It is one of those things that I love and I hate. 

I am sad because today a woman's body - naked and abused - was found in an alley in Modesto.  Someone's daughter is dead.  It could have been me.  I do not know what killed this woman, but I know that it could easily have been my mother mourning my death 25 years ago because of the way I was treating the disease of alcoholism.

I love that I found the answer.  I hate what the disease did to me, the time I wasted and the relationships I destroyed.  I hate that the answer to the disease did not make me so wonderful that I have not destroyed other relationships while being stone cold sober.  I love that I found my way Home to Rome.  I hate that it took me so long.  I love the life I have today....I hate how much I had to shed and change and give up but in all honesty?  The reward has been infinitely wonderful.  I wish I could package it, give it to everyone.  I know so many who are lost - including those who don't know it - and I weep that I can do nothing for them but pray.

Gratitude cannot begin to describe the way I feel when I think about where I am today and where I was on April 21, 1992.
I am overwhelmed.

Now if only Madbum had stayed the heck off that dirt bike.....

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Finding a Subject worth Blogging About

This morning on Facebook I spotted this in a friend's status post:

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

I was intrigued enough to offer an opinion by posting, in the comment section, my kind of convoluted idea that one should try to have the kind of reputation that matches their character. In other words, the two should not be so different as to make what other think you are diametrically opposed to who or what you are as a person.

That being said, I get where the post is going - who or what I am (a good Catholic) may not be what the world designates as either good or Catholic.  What I may be might be labeled according to the standards the world holds dear. 

What I need, therefore,  is the strength to accept that the majority of people might reject both  (character and reputation) as unacceptable. What I see as good may be seen as bad.  Light may be considered Darkness.

Which, of course, brings me to my character defect of wanting to be loved by people more than I want to be loved by God.  This is not a good thing.

The unyielding problem that I experience as a Catholic is the acceptance of the promise by Jesus Christ that the world, which rejected Him, will reject me.  I mean, look, I get it and I understand it intellectually but that understanding does not preclude my wish for a universal Leslie K. Fan Club.

Why do I have this need and why is this so darn difficult to be free of despite all the evidence I have that the need for love and acceptance by the world can be unproductive at best and damaging at its worst? 

The simple answer is concupiscence.  The effects of The Fall have damaged human nature so that what was meant to be a need and yearning for communion with God is perverted to a singular  need for acceptance by my fellow creatures.  My love for my fellows should be rooted in, and secondary to, my love for The Father. What is meant , therefore, to be a loving extension of my need and yearning for communion with God grows to be a focus for recognition and love from my fellow creatures.  My own fallen nature shifts my focus from Him to you...or it....or stuff...and inevitably that shift causes me trouble.  It makes me lonely, angry, hungry when I am full and tired when I have had enough sleep.  It makes me worried and depressed and anxious.  It causes me to be overly confident in my ability to fix everything and it drives my need to control those around me so that my life will be settled and happy...if only they would listen to me, they would feel better and therefore so will I.

What is interesting to me when I examine my conscience is the discovery that I can completely skip over the entire 'Love your neighbor as yourself' part of the commandment.  In fact, to be honest, I change that to "Receive the love of your neighbor FOR yourself" - in other words, enough about me talking about me....let's talk about what YOU think of me.

And it better be good...or else.

Good works may not get you into heaven or insure your salvation but we know they are necessary for both or Jesus would not have clued us in that our actions will be the criteria for whether or not He recognizes us at the end of the world.  In fact, He makes it pretty darn clear that there are actions we better be taking - we better be a member of His Church, we better be eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, we better be visiting Him in prison and feeding Him and making sure He has clothes and a place to live.  More importantly we better be acknowledging His authority and to whom He gave it before ascending into heaven.

What I have to understand and discern is my reason for following His commandments.  Wanting to avoid hell is a good start but my reason, if I am growing as a Catholic, should ultimately be to please Him, to be in communion with Him, to be like Him as much as I can.  If my reasons for doing what is right remain rooted in selfishness (to avoid the pain and suffering of hell or because I really, really want to be seen as a good person by the world) I miss the point.  I become someone who does the right things for the wrong reasons and that makes me vulnerable to attack from the evil one.

While I understand the sentiment expressed by my friend's Facebook post, I am held to a different standard.  I should have a meeting of character and reputation.  I need to have my actions reflect who I am and who I am needs to be in alignment with the Will of God, and not the will of the government or the latest political craze or the ideas expressed on Fox News or MSNBC.  I have to be willing to proclaim the Truth not just because it is the right thing to do but because it IS Truth...not subjective but objective and real...not something but somebody.

And I need to be a part of that Body.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Final Countdown!

What are my plans for this week?  So glad you asked!

On March 30th I will get out of bed at 3:15am, slide to my knees and say my first two prayers of the day.  I will then turn on the light, take a vitamin and head to the bathroom.  As I start the shower I will hear the coffee pot start up from the kitchen. 

Fifteen minutes later I will start to dress.  By 3:45am I will be heading downstairs with my sleepy Scottish Terrier, Robbie. We will release the alarm for the house and head out to the backyard so he can do morning 'Scottie Patrol'.  Back inside he will head for his downstairs kennel and settle back in for another snooze.

I will make my bullet proof coffee, pack up the lunch I put together the night before and then let the two cats in from the garage.  Both of them will acknowledge me in their own way - Peanut by demanding I turn on the water faucet so she can take a drink and Elizabeth by asking plaintively if I had reconsidered my opposition to feeding her right then and there rather than insisting she wait until 7am for breakfast.

Once all the animals are set, I will head for the garage myself, backing out the car and then resetting the alarm system before putting in my Rosary prayer CD.  It will be 4am and I will be headed off to the Bay Area for work.

It will be my last day...the last day I get up that early to drive to work...the last day I get there before anyone else in the building so that lights will be on and a friendly face will be there to greet people as they stagger in from their traffic plagued trips originating from what should be a 15 minute trip into work. 

Thirty years ago, not yet sober and about to be married, I started my career as a Beginning Level Clerk for county government.  I have made so many mistakes.  I was such a horrible employee for such a long time.  I have grown so much over the years, often complaining right here on this blog about the perils and injustices and the horrors of my job.  I leave as a low level manager - a Clerical Supervisor - and I leave with a clear conscience, a full heart and a feeling of accomplishment.

I am leaving at the right time.  The job is changing and I don't think it is a bad thing that it is - but it is no longer for me.  I am not able to give back to the community in a way that is meaningful and I just resist becoming one of the 'people in grey' that Ray Davies once sang about with such derision. 

I work with good people.  They are not government drones.  They care about their clients - oops! customers - and they want to do a good job.  They have good benefits but they work hard for those benefits and take a lot of abuse from everyone.  The clerical class in particular are the ones that keep the wheels turning on this bus and they are the first ones to get yelled at if upper management forgets to fill the gas tank.

The past ten years my Catholic Faith has helped me be a better supervisor.  I normally have little patience for fools - especially if the fool in question is me - but because of the Sacramental Love of The Church I have been able to perform my duties with grace and dignity (for the most part).

I will miss my friends.  I will miss my unit.  I am grateful for my time here.

I am ready for my new adventure.

Thank you, God, for my life today exactly as it is.....


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dominican Spirituality

I am read a book by William A. Hinnebusch, O.P. entitled Dominican Spirituality Principles and Practice.  I have been reading this book for a month and tonight I finished Chapter I.

That's right.  Chapter ONE.

Being a member of the Order of Preachers is a daunting and fulfilling  life even for a tertiary like me. I am asked to be like the Apostles, to converse with God or, to use the classic phrase of St Thomas Aquinas, "contemplate and give to others the fruit of (my) contemplation".  

And I am not just supposed to contemplate any old thing.  Nope.  As a contemplative Dominican, I must 'pursue evangelical perfection'.  I must imitate the life of the Apostles.  I must engage in 'constant study' lest I jeopardize my very vocation as a Dominican.  If the study of Truth was not enough, I must be willing to devote myself wholeheartedly to pursuing truth in every aspect of my life.  I must do my best to be the best at whatever it is I do, not for my own glory but only for the salvation of souls.

There are many chances, every day, for me to pursue both perfection and Truth. It would seem to me that not taking advantage of these chances is what could be sinful for me.  If I am in the grocery store, I have the opportunity to shop in such a way as to shine the light of Christ in the 15 items or less aisle.  If I am in line for the Sacrament of Confession, I have the chance to bring Jesus to the priest who is there to hear my sins and absolve me, in persona Christi.

After reading just the first chapter of this book I am a little overwhelmed with my own unsuitability for the Order.  I cannot help but think that there might have been a mistake, that call I thought I heard,  and yet I can also tell you that I cannot think of any other place someone like me belongs.  I am drawn to the study of Truth, not because I want to be the best apologist or even the most learned Catholic.  I want to study, I want to learn and I want to share so that I can help others study, learn and share...I want to help them find the love I found in the arms of Holy Mother Church.   I want to contemplate, and share the fruits of that contemplation because maybe another sinful and sad woman might find her way Home once they hear what I have found.

Marie Joseph Lagrange, OP, wrote of his intention to die a member of the Catholic Church and to do so obedient to his vows as a member of the Dominican Order.  I intend the same.  It is lovely and comforting to me to know I stand on his shoulders and the shoulders of other giants in this order.  It helps me to know that others trod this path before me and that I can walk the same one even if I can never match their strides.

I intend to die a member of the Catholic Church.  I intend to live until that death trying my best to be a good Dominican.

St Dominic, pray for me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

God'sTime, Not Mine

Trusting in God is probably the weakest aspect of my relationship with Him.  Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I can find myself lost in the worry about my future and in potential despair of ever finding a way to serve God and support myself.  I want to trust Him....He has never let me down...but it would be so much easier if we could just have an agenda planning session once a week.  Maybe after Mass on Sunday.

We would sit at my kitchen table, sharing coffee and some pastry.  God the Father would lay before me His plan for me for say, the upcoming week.  I would review it carefully and make some suggestions.  He would consider those, perhaps make some changes to the plan that incorporate those suggestions, and we would smile at each other.  Both on the same page, I would then turn my will and my life over to His care, in complete confidence.

And of course I know it does not work that way....and of COURSE I understand that His plan for me is always going to be better than my plan for me and YES, I get it - God does know what Happiness Is for Leslie.

But still....

Lack of trust in my Higher Power is hardly a character defect particular to me.  Most human creatures have this same defect and while I hear us say out loud that we trust Him and know He has our back, I also know that often, when we speak those words, we are doing the equivalent of whistling in the dark as we walk past the graveyard.  We are warding off our fears.

Sometimes we are not even subtle about it.  I have said a variation on this:

I know that God has someone in mind for me and if I just do His Will and work on me, He will put that person in my life and I will fall in love with Mr. Right.  We will live happily ever after....I know this...because I trust God.

Of course, we do not want to entertain the idea that God's Will for us may be for us to remain celibate and, that could not possibly be right.  Even when we SAY we believe this we usually qualify it to make ourselves feel better....or we try to comfort someone by saying, "Oh I know....the minute you just put that part of your life into God's Hands you will feel better...because He will put the right person there...."


Maybe not.

Maybe, and I have written about this before, trusting God is being willing to accept that His Will for me may not look even remotely like what I dream my life should be ....  it may be that, instead of what I want, I get to live a life that is what HE wants me to live and therein find my own happiness.

For example?

I have been trying to get a job closer to home for the past two years.  I have interviewed over and over and over again.  Over and over and over again I have been turned down for jobs I am immensely qualified for that pay good salaries and allow me to live in relative splendor in terms of financial security.

I kept trying, but I had pretty much given up.  I surrendered to the idea that God had something else in mind for me and I achieved the inner calm I needed to protect my sobriety and deepen my relationship with my Higher Power.

In the past six months things have changed.

A job opening appeared at my Parish.  It pays about 1/2 of what I make now but it is 10 minutes from home and it is working with Catholic Curriculum for children.

I applied for it...just for fun.

My boss reneged on her promise of letting me work flex hours.  I was told I would have to go to a regular 8 to 5 schedule and there was no recourse for me to appeal this decision.

I looked at the possibility of retirement and got the numbers.  I knew it would mean a pretty meager existence but I also knew I could not live my life and travel two hundred miles in a day to my job working the hours they now demanded I work.

I was offered the position at my parish.

I added the gross amounts from pension and my salary together - and I will be making about 50.00 dollars more a month.

Today, I understand what God wanted me to do all those months and what He was preparing for me.  I will say that, for the first time in my life, I surrendered faster.  The fight was shorter, and it did not hurt as much.

Today, I believe that God knows what happiness looks like for me.

I can forgo the Agenda Planning Session.

Jesus, I trust in You.