Brokenness and Presence

I am meditating on brokenness today.

Mostly, I am not feeling so broken myself these days. This is a nice change of pace. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself whole and thriving and totally peachy keen, but I’m honestly well. I am tired, because I have two jobs now, in addition to my volunteer work and my life, but I find that working with my hands is feeding me. I am calm, and I believe my life is okay and heading places I want it to go.

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Blogging is hard for me sometimes, because I have not always been okay. I have been so broken that I ran the risk of metaphorically cutting myself – and worse! others – on all my jagged edges. I started a blog because I love to write, because I was so interested in the warm & loving communities I encountered on this Internet, and because I believe I have insights and articulations worth sharing with others. I have a thoroughly developed self-censor. I didn’t mean for this blog to be therapy, and I am aware of an audience’s interests. I didn’t (and still don’t) want to inappropriately burden others, especially strangers, with my wild emotions. If every post I wrote was “Today was wretched, and I am so hurt and lonely, and I am afraid that I have failed in life and that things will never get better,” well, it may have been authentic, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t have done much good for my readers.

This morning, I am reconsidering.

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A lot has been said about The Facebook Effect, the curious way we all feel worse about ourselves in the midst of all the happy posts and photos and life achievements of other people. My own personal Facebook experiences are a bear, and grist for another post of its own, but I think the problem is not the site, but what we expect of it. Facebook is a muddle of photo albums, the local newspaper’s announcement section, and the overheard conversation of someone across the street. It has functions by which we can communicate, but it’s not a community. It’s not supposed to be where we have our communication. From its earliest days, through all of its many variations, and even now (despite what it might try to tell you), Facebook is meant to be only a door, not a room. It is a way to get a glimpse of someone, to help you make the leap to build relationships, but it won’t sustain relationships on its own.

People have always struggled with loneliness, and fear, and isolation, and depression, and worry about all manner of things. When we genuinely encounter people, we encounter, sometimes by chance, their struggles right along with their joys.

photo credit to James Souder

photo credit to James Souder

 

The people in my Facebook pictures are some of my favorite people in the world. We have been through so much together, that whenever we meet up, it as though we have never been apart, and I say they are as dear to me as when we spent all of our time together.

I am devastated that they are so far away, and I fixate on that. I see pictures of what they do now, who they are with, when they see each other without me, and I am lonely. I am jealous of their success and popularity and joy, and then, when we meet up, I am surprised when I encounter their struggles. I realize how much I depend on Facebook and memories instead of phone calls and letters and actual human contact to sustain these friendships, and I see it is no wonder I am lonely.

I wonder this morning, who knows more of my brokenness, these people I claim as my dearest, or the coworkers I never see outside of work, the acquaintances at Mass who see me cry through the Gloria, the people I wouldn’t say I truly know, but who do happen to be around to experience the wholeness of my experience.

I think we as people need more opportunities to experience each others’ brokenness, not to wallow in it, but to see that it is universal. The more we see our dear people and our just-happen-to-be-there people as complex, struggling fighters, the less lonely our own brokenness will seem. This means we need to be better about finding ways to encounter the friends we have chosen, even though they are far, and actually being friends with the people we may not have chosen, but who have blessed us with these encounters.

In the meantime, I blog. Now that I am feeling less broken, I find I can articulate this yearning for community, for shared brokenness and awesomeness and somewhere-in-the-middleness. Please take my brokenness, and know that I am still okay, and that you probably will be too.

I almost chose against it

It has been a long and crazy day, and when I got home at midnight from my parish’s school fundraiser, I was not really thinking bloggy thoughts.  I was thinking snowy thoughts, and gnarly thoughts, and tired thoughts, but I was not in the mood for writing.

I have an idea for a post, but it needs some actual thought and reflection and careful wording, so maybe you’ll see it tomorrow.

There’s really not much substance to this post now, but I wanted to post to say I did it.  I wanted to win.  I wanted to prove that I can post seven nights in a row, that I can meet my commitments, that I can dig deep and come up with something.

I’ve been writing poetry again, guys, and composing song lyrics in my head.

But for now, tonight, I am just going to leave you with this song by Priscilla Ahn.

I almost chose against posting, but I followed through.

7I7: the Wednesday hop

I like my Wednesdays.  They bring a nice re-invigoration to my week.

Part of this hop, as I think of it, comes from having a stable schedule on Wednesdays.  I teach an 8th grade Confirmation prep class on Wednesday evenings, which means I don’t ever work after 5:00 on Wednesdays.  I know what my Wednesday nights look like, every week, and that’s not something I can say about most days of the week.  I also have a routine for Thursdays during the day, which contributes to the peace I feel on Wednesday nights.

What really gets me, though, is the class. Continue reading

7I7: Indignation

I was really going to do it, friends.  Seven posts in seven calendar days.  I’m pretty sure that’s what Jennifer Fulwiler meant for her bloggy friends to me doing.  I was swift and proactive closing up at work tonight, determined to get home with a solid fifteen minutes or so to pull a post together before midnight (Look, just because I was really going to do it doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to procrastinate and slide in under the wire.).  However, as I started to type this entry, the clock read 11:59.  I was held up a little, you see.

It wasn’t the dusting of snow that did it.  When I brought the trash out to the compactor, I had noticed that it had snowed again, but it was really only a dusting.  I might not even have to brush off my car.  Plus, at this point in this particular Michigan winter, what’s another inch between friends?  So, while I rolled my eyes at the snow, I really wasn’t negatively impacted. Continue reading

7 in 7: finding a balance

So, Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary is doing this thing where she’s writing seven posts in seven days and encouraging her readers to do the same.  Since I loved my Creative Week so much, but haven’t posted in the week since, I figure, may as well.

I’m going to start off by musing just a little about this blog.  I love it.  I really do.  I love redesigning it, and thinking of ideas, and watching as new countries light up on the map that shows my views.  I would spend all day tinkering with it, and writing, oh writing, nonstop. Continue reading

7 Quick Takes: How is it this late?

It’s the second link-up in two days!  But it’s also the second blog post in two days, so I know at least one of my relatives is probably happy.  Check out Jen at the Conversion Diary for the rest of the Quick Takes.  It’s her party and I’m just happy to be invited.

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I know I promised a picture of the barn in my backyard.  It’ll come.  But I completely forgot that when I get off work at midnight, it is too dark to take photos of my backyard.  I really want you to see the piles of snow that have been there since December, so I’m going to take a picture in the morning.

UPDATE: Here is a barn, a backyard and a bunch of snow.

barn

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Why am I even typing this up at all tonight?  Why don’t I wait until it’s Friday morning and light outside and everybody else is typing up their quick takes?  Because I have in my brain right now the things I want to say.  I know myself to know that when I get up in the morning, I will probably not be this mentally organized.  One of the big massive down sides to my current employment situation is that some days I work until midnight… and some days I start work at 8:00am.  It makes a sleep schedule difficult to maintain, especially considering how wound up I am whenever I get off my shift.

So I’m sleeping in tomorrow.  Maybe expect the barn picture in the early afternoon.

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Speaking of work and unfortunate aspects, the schedule comes out once a week (a week that starts Friday and ends the next Thursday), and if all goes according to the proper plan, it becomes available on Tuesday evening.  Very rarely does the plan come to perfect fruition.  This was an especially bad week due to weather, technology and other intangibles, and the schedule was not finished until about 1:30 this afternoon.  Another technological snafu followed, whereby every employee logged on to see his or her schedule online… only to find that he or she did not have any hours this week at all.  It turns out that the “let everybody see the schedule” button hadn’t quite been pressed.  I eventually heard the whole story.

But for an hour there this afternoon, I was pretty darn freaked out.  I cannot afford to take an unexpected week off work.  I don’t make a whole lot of money, and so the money I do make goes pretty quickly to cover some pretty specific things.

In order to calm myself down, I started thinking about what I would do with my time if, in fact, I really was being presented with a whole week without any work shifts at all.

I knew almost instantly… I would work on creative projects.  I have this notion that I am a creative person, that I am a seeker of originality, that I have gifts and talents that lend themselves to actually forming a Thing of Beauty with my brain and my hands.  An idea spun itself together in my mind, a way to keep myself inspired and involve my blog readers and social media buddies.  I was actually a little disappointed when the schedule came through properly.

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So I decided to go ahead with my plan anyway.

I am therefore announcing my first Creative Week.

What is a Creative Week?  It is when I undertake and complete one creative project every day of the week.  The media I use will vary.  I may write something, I may draw or paint, I may take a photo… who knows?  I may even sew.  The important part is one day will equal one project; each day will bring a new stretch for my creative powers.

How do you help?  You nominate a theme.  You inspire me.  What makes a good theme?  One word, or one short phrase, that is broad enough that I can interpret it, make it my own, and run with it.  Or maybe something that is even a little more specific, maybe a quote or an image you have in your head… but remember that you have no idea what kind of project I will create in response.

The results will be shared on this blog… maybe once a day, maybe in groups, maybe just at the end of the week.  I don’t know.  We’ll see how well I keep on schedule and make that call as it needs to be made.

So comment below with an idea or inspiration for me.  I can’t wait!

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This is a song I have been listening to a lot for the past few days.  Not sure why, but gosh darn does it stick in my head!

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So, Valentine’s Day is next week.  I really like Valentine’s Day.  I think it is a good excuse to show the people in your life that you love them, whether these people are your family, your friends or your significant other.  I will probably be working on the day itself, which is fine, I guess.  Yay movie theater.  It’s not like I have plans with my boyfriend, because at this point in time we happen to live in separate states.

Which brings me to the question: do you guys have any ideas on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day long distance?  I’m still brainstorming a bit here.

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I am so ready for winter to be over.  I have not seen the grass since before Christmas.  There has literally been snow on the ground for that long.  There’s not much point here… just some complaining.  I saved it for last so it wouldn’t take over the whole post.

So that’s something, at least.

Happy weekend, friends!

The Train Home

I spent ten hours traveling home yesterday.

If I drove myself for this long weekend away, it probably would have taken six hours, maybe a little less.  I didn’t drive, however, because it was cheaper to cobble together this Frankenstein’s monster of train rides, bus tickets and pick-ups from inconveniently distant stations.  It was pleasant, too, to spend the travel time on my laptop instead of watching the road, and heaven knows it was less stressful for my poor car.

The majority of the time yesterday was spent traversing Michigan, the state where I grew up and in which I now reside.  Most of the trip was undertaken after sunset; even if I had chosen to look out the window, there was not much I could have seen.  By the time my train hit its first delay, however, I had already lost interest in the view, one I had seen many times before.

Warrior Dash 033

To be honest, I’m really sick of traveling through Michigan.  I am familiar with I-94 from east to west.  I-275, M-14, US-23, I-69— sometimes, I feel like whenever I close my eyes, I will see one of these highways stretching out before me.  It seems that I have spent the last eight years ping-ponging back and forth across the state.  Planes, trains, automobiles (oh especially automobiles): I must know all the routes by heart now.

I know so many people who take immense pride in their home state, or at least the region of it where their roots lie.  I am not one of those people.  I was not born here, and I never expected to return as an adult.  My family— well, my parents, actually— are the only true roots I feel here.

When I was a student still at Notre Dame, I wouldn’t have said that Michigan was home exactly, but it was linked more closely with that concept in my mind.  It came with images of the library’s parking lot, the courtyard at my high school, the bookstore where I worked, the Denny’s around the corner.  Now?  I hear “Michigan” and think of this house where I grew up, the lake behind it, and little else positive that has that familiar shade of home.  My church is on Shady Avenue in Pittsburgh, my coffee shop is in downtown Racine and I write best at a fourth floor desk with a view of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

My heart is in so many place, but most of the time it just isn’t here.  Right now, “home” is a place I’m traveling through to get where I’m going.

this is the song I’m mulling over today