Archive for the ‘Recovery’ Category

This sounds like one of those philosophical mind puzzles like theorizing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, doesn’t it?

Daniel Berrigan, S.J, poet, peace activist, and Jesuit priest was once asked this question, whether faith resided in the mind or the heart. He replied that faith is rarely where your head is and rarely where your heart is. Rather, he claimed, “Faith is where your ‘ass’ is at.”

What he meant by that answer is that it is really where we put our bodies and actions, not what we think and feel, that reveals our faith. You might substitute “gut” for “ass” in this quote… Have you ever just “known” something deep in your gut, even if it defied rational logic or scared you half to death?

My experience of my initial call to religious life was a bit like that. There I was, finishing up my Master’s degree, in a pretty serious relationship, only half kiddingly telling people my long term goal was to be Chairman of General Motors (gee, I’m sure glad that plan never came to fruition…) So when a simple question from a friend about religious life caused me to go weak in the knees, it drew me up short.

My mind told me, “But I’m an engineer, Steve and I have been talking about marriage, this doesn’t make sense!” My heart told me, “Yikes! What do you really want from me, God? The nun thing can’t really be what you want me to do – it’s too scary, and besides – I like to party and be on the wild side!” But deep inside, once I stopped rationalizing and running, I KNEW that this was what God was inviting me to. And it was my faith, that faith in my gut, that drove me to do what I knew I had to do, despite all the logical and emotional arguments I had lobbed at the very idea of a call to religious life. Yes, I did put my ass on the line, and it wasn’t my head or heart that led me to do it.

That was such a foundational experience for me, and the memory of it has served me well in similar moments of desperation or confusion, like realizing I had a problem with alcohol, or facing the truth about my sexual orientation. And every time I am willing to trust my gut, that place where God says to me, “Stay with me. I love you,” it leads me to a place of deeper integration and truth , often through chaos and pain, but isn’t that what the Paschal Mystery is all about?

Like C. S. Lewis said (from my previous post), “God’s compulsion is our liberation.”


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Looking back in gratitude…

At this time last year, I was a bit of a mess. A combination of season change, work stress, and brain chemistry conspired to catapult me into a rather intense and tenacious bout with anxiety and depression. One thing many religious communities have right is the encouragement and support for sisters to attend to all aspects of their health, including mental health. So when I realized what was happening, it didn’t take me long to seek help.

It took a while for things to get better, but I never doubted that God was with me and would bring me through. So when I look at everything going on with me now…possibly even more work stress than last year at this time, plus some other minor physical health issues, plus the coming gloom of winter making itself known in the weather… Sure, I have my cranky or blue days, but my general mood and outlook on life is remarkably brighter than it was at this time last year (and that was even BEFORE the election results of last week!)

So in the words of the “call and response” prayer in which we were led several times over the Call to Action conference:

God is good –
All the time!

All the time –
God is good!

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Honesty as Sobriety

Thanks to Amy over at “Crux of the Matter,” I found this essay by Fr. Ron Rolheiser. Here’s an excerpt:

Sobriety is ultimately not about alcohol or some drug. It’s about honesty and transparency. And, like honesty and transparency, it is not all or nothing, but has degrees. We are all sober according to more or less, according to the degree that our lives are an open book with nothing hidden in the closet.

At one point, Rolheiser says, “You can do anything if you don’t have to lie about it.” Interesting concept. And while one can think of exceptions to this perhaps oversimplified statement, for a person who is truly seeking to follow God, it rings true.

“We are as sick as our secrets,” is another saying I’ve learned in the recovery process. This is not to say that, for example, this blog should become an outpouring of every personal detail about my life and its challenges…there are some appropriate boundaries I’ve established that are healthy for me to have. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve read some blogs and felt a bit embarrassed for the writers.) However, I am always seeking to find/maintain a balance that allows others access to the real me without violating these healthy boundaries. So you see, this blog is kind of an open book on my life, but I only include the footnotes for those whom I choose. I do pay a price for my openness, as there some things about my story that make some people uncomfortable. But in many ways the alternative is much more costly.

What do you think about this?

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cross.jpgI heard an excellent homily today on the gospel of Jesus appearing to the disciples when Thomas was not present. Why did Thomas need to see the wounds in order to believe in the resurrected Jesus? Perhaps it is all about personal connection… I know it is true for me that my deepest moments of connection with God, myself, or another human being often happen at times of loss, pain, struggle, questioning, despair. When I meet a fellow person in recovery, there’s a shared appreciation for the blessing of sobriety and the journey to get there. When I am brought to my knees because of some physical or emotional ailment, it is then that I finally permit myself to receive the kindness of others. When I’ve struggled with scary insights into my identity, God blesses the struggle by transforming my fear and self-loathing into self-acceptance, and steering me to companions who have walked in my shoes and who love and support me in my journey of integration. I remember St. Paul saying that it is in weakness that we are strong…that seems true for me.

What about for you? Let’s keep talking!

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Quote to ponder…

90733-35.jpgFirst, Happy Belated Valentine’s Day…it was almost gone before I remembered it. A friend and I went out to dinner, and I was wondering why there were so many people out on a Thursday night…DUH…

I’m up to my eyeballs in conference paper acceptances and rejections…and am leaving tomorrow (or should I say today, since it is almost 1a.m.?) for the weekend, with almost half of that task unfinished – oh well – it’s not my fault that the staff changed one date without shifting other deadlines… It will have to wait until Sunday, even though the authors were told they’d hear by the 15th… How can I let them know whether or not their paper has been accepted, when the peer reviews are not even due back until 5:00p.m? Let alone reading the reviews and in cases where there are conflicting reviews, the actual papers. OK…enough of my rant…I have to let go and just enjoy the friends I’ll be spending time with this weekend.

The following quote I found on the blog of a friend…I’m shamelessly stealing from her, but in return, I’m placing a link to her site (Obfuscating Preponderance, formerly Open to the Possibilities.) Anyway, I really like the quote.

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experiences and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who believes she is good.
A woman who trusts and respects herself.
Who listens to her needs and desires, and meets them
With tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past’s influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body
And life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

Patricia Lynn Reilly (http://www.imagineawoman.com/)

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I may have mentioned earlier that my CLC community is making the Spiritual Exercises in a communal format this year, and our guides have planned our journey so that the past couple of weeks have been spent contemplating the birth of Jesus and the events leading up to that. In the whole picture, I found myself growing closer to Joseph.

For one thing, it occurs to me that Joseph is not the sophisticated type. After all, there are no quotes in the scripture that are attributed to him. Not the type to draw attention to himself…just a simple down-to-earth man trying to do the right thing. It seems to me that I’m most open to God when I can stop trying to figure out my relationship with God and just live that relationship from the gut. As they say in AA, K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid.)

I also found myself looking to Joseph for conversation about disturbing images and dreams, for dreams seem to play a central role in Joseph’s contribution to the salvation story. And in my own healing, I have a sense that dreams and images are playing a significant role in making me more whole.

Earlier this month, while reflecting on who we are as a Congregation, I had a rather disturbing image come to mind…it was of a pregnant woman who was carrying to term a baby that had died in utero, and she had to go through labor and deliver it, knowing that it had died well before. I shared this with the sisters I was sitting with at our meeting, but was unable to tell them what I thought it meant because I needed some time to reflect on it. After some prayer and reflection, I shared what was on my mind with one of the sisters whose wisdom and insight I trust very much. I found that she shared my concerns about some of what is happening among us, and concluded her e-mail reply with the following invitation: “I think this is one for prayer and fasting – fasting from despair and hopelessness and praying for wisdom.”

Now I know from my own experience that I am often on my worst behavior when I am on the verge of being given a profound grace. So I choose to interpret what I perceive to be crankiness and other fear-based (in my estimation, anyway) reactions among us as resistance to a profound communal grace that God is inviting us to receive. Could it be that the stronger the resistance, the closer God is to breaking through it all? That is my hope, anyway. And that hope, I realize, is a great gift! It’s like the optimistic child who, when given a great pile of manure instead of a more thoughtful gift, gleefully exclaims, “There has to be a pony somewhere!”

So my Christmas wish for you is that you will have the grace to always be able to see the pony behind the manure.

Christmas Blessings!

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First, I have to wish a happy birthday to my Mom, who turned 75 today…I’m a quarter-century behind you, Mom, and I never seem to catch up…

The end-of-the semester push has had me hopping, but I finally submitted my last set of grades on Monday, and then took the afternoon off to have lunch and see a movie with a friend. Then joined some fellow AA-ers to go to a holiday potluck and gratitude meeting at a group I don’t usually attend. A long day, but good!

My journey of recovery from depression continues. I’m experiencing a lifting of the depression, and my energy is slowly but steadily returning, thank God! I actually cooked dinner for myself tonight, taking a step away from my recent bad habit of fast food ingestion. I need to get to work on losing the 5 pounds I put on over the last 6 weeks.

My hope is to return to the more thought provoking posts on this blog that have always been my intent. Thanks to all of you for hanging in there with me as I’ve had to draw back a little to conserve energy. I hope you’ll come back to this blog a little more now that I’ll be posting a little mre often.

I hope you are all having a blessed Advent!

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