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.

ND1

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.

ND2

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.

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

My Older Son Moments

Oh, friends, I am so excited for Sunday’s gospel reading.  We’re hearing about the return of the prodigal son this weekend, and I am so ready for it.

Obviously, this is a perennial favorite, and a parable I’ve known for a long time.  I’ve been reassured for years through the common focus of the exegesis surrounding this story: no matter what we’ve done, God will always be looking for us to come back to Him so He can celebrate.

prodigal_son

Thing is, I’m looking to this story for a bit more about now.  I’ve been experiencing a lot of what I call “Older Son Moments”.

I’ve been wrestling a lot with these the past few months.
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Rainy Afternoon

It’s raining outside.

After an overlong winter, the steady rain is a relief.  While it does rain a substantial amount in the fall, I somehow always associate it with spring and summer.  Maybe that’s because spring doesn’t seem to officially arrive until after the first thunderstorm.  Maybe it’s because of summer nights I huddled in the front seat of my boyfriend’s car when pouring rain drove us away from our bench outside the library.  Maybe it’s because the final days I spent at home before going away to college for the first time are punctuated with rain in my memory.

Maybe it’s just because fall isn’t as important to me as spring and summer are.  I was born in the spring, a season filled with tulips and possibilities.  My goddaughter was born in the same season this last year, and I wonder if she and I will share delight in new gardens as she grows.

If spring is the potential, then summer is the realization.  I fell in love in the summer, each and every time I fell in love with my boyfriend.  We held hands at the carnival and read to each other in the middle of the woods.  He first kissed me on a July evening.  It wasn’t raining then, and as the sun set, everything was bathed in my favorite shade of golden light.

I believe that summer will forever be my favorite.

I don’t like being cold.  I tolerate it, for I live up north, and snow has a certain charm, as do outdoor football games and Christmas light shows and thawing out indoors afterwards, with lots of blankets and hot chocolate.

I don’t like being cold, but I don’t mind being wet.  In the summer and late spring, it’s warm enough outside for me to go out in the rain and not be miserable.  Rain changes every activity, walking, gardening, swimming, listening, and every activity becomes something just a little bit different.

The light itself is different, and I find it healing when I’ve been overwhelmed.

I love watching water, water in oceans, water in rivers, water in puddles, water falling from on high.  I love feeling it on my face, I love listening to it, I love being close to it and being separated, warm and distant.

Above all, I love doing what I’m doing right now, sitting with a mug of tea, working on a small project of some sort, staring out the window, with my rainy day music playing softly in the background.

I wish you rain in your day as well.

Resignation

Today, Pope Benedict XVI steps down from active ministry.  This is my response.  It is the longest and most honest blog post I have ever written.  Thank you for reading it.

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On Monday, February 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign from his active ministry at the end of the month.

This news was met with waves of emotion from across the world.  I was woken at 6:00am by a text from an aunt announcing the news.  By the time I fully awoke for the day, I had heard from several others.  The first of the blog reactions were already posted.  I read messages of shock, confusion, sadness, abandonment and tremulous hope from the faithful.  The Church’s opponents were just as loud in their anger, glee and distrust.  The sheer weight of the world’s reaction caught me by complete surprise.

I myself felt only a profound relief.

It was a week to the day since I had resigned from my own position in ministry.

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