Finally figured out what I am giving up for Lent

I am giving up stress.

OK, so this sounds a bit odd. I know. But honestly it makes sense, let me explain!

At church this past Sunday, the reading was about Jesus going out into the desert for the 40 days. I was holding that image in my mind, thinking about the past few days where I have been in tears or on the verge of tears many times, starting with last Friday. Part of me was crying in prayer that I was just feeling that I couldn’t handle all of this. I couldn’t do it. Note there are, thank heaven, no big crises here – it is just the rather extreme business of life right now, having DH working away for a long period, teaching full time, and having 2 much beloved children who still need a lot from me, and to whom I would like to give more … but there is only so much I have to distribute among all that I must do.

So, I was holding this image of Jesus in the desert in my mind, me being there also, tears flowing. And Jesus looks and me and asks why am I carrying so many burdens? He hasn’t given these to me; why have I taken them on?

Hm. The next image was of me getting rid of backpacks, bags, parcels – shedding them all as quickly as possible to feel light and strong again – and then to pray that I only take on those burdens that I am meant to do.

Part of this is to not be just in the nick of time for things, which is my usual m.o. As you can imagine it sometimes leads to being late, which is stressful in itself, and then I always feel rushed and stressed and anxious. My goal now is to be 5-10 min before the ultimate latest time I can leave, and when I arrive with those few minutes, to take the time for a quick bit of prayer or connecting with God somehow. This part of the resolution comes thanks to CM’s blog post (http://catholicmutt.blogspot.com/2012/02/lent.html), which mentions that the things we do ought to somehow give us more time, or more attention to God. So being on time or early and reducing my stress, while good, doesn’t seem as much for Lent as using those few minutes in prayer.

It’s early days yet, but I can tell you I feel so much better now than I did a week ago. All kinds of routines are being re-jigged (including having lunches prepared and ready the night before – hard to do when I am tired and just want to go to bed, but a godsend in the morning.

One step at a time, I suppose ….

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The world is random and unfair, yet I still believe in love, joy and God …

This post from http://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.com/ really struck a cord with me – perhaps I have a similarity with her interpretation of the world (although I have not followed her long and I don’t know what her beliefs are in terms of, does God exist, if so what is the best way to know Him/Her, etc). These words just really rang true for me.

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… I believe in the randomness of the world. This doesn’t mean I agree with it. It’s just the way the world works. It isn’t fair … …. And so when I see this randomness at work I don’t feel as angry, as aggrieved, as I used to. Yes, I feel sad that a child has to suffer. Yes, I feel angry that a child has to suffer. Yes, I abhor the behaviour of so many selfish or simply stupid parents who ruin/destroy/end the lives of their children. And even on a lesser scale, yes, I get frustrated at idiot parents raising a generation of adults who feel entitled, who can’t spell and think grammar is the old lady who buys them sweets, who think etiquette and manners are old-fashioned, and that being famous is the most important thing in the world. (OMG I sound old!)

But I don’t feel that strong emotion anymore, the need to scream against the utter injustice of it all, that feeling that I was being judged and found wanting and that that was the reason why I don’t have children. No, in fact, seeing idiot parents just confirms to me that in fact the opposite was true. I wasn’t judged and found wanting, anymore than they were judged and found worthy. It doesn’t work like that. Everything happens for a reason? Don’t ever tell me that! The world is random and unfair. I’ve learned to live with that.

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When I was in my “does God exist or not, and if He does exist, how can He allow such terrible things to happen” part of my search, I found that the book “When bad things happen to good people” by Rabbi Kushner was so helpful. This post makes me think of the book(as I interpret it, anyway – maybe I should go back and re-read it, as I am sure to have an additional perspective now) – the book helped me come to a belief that God exists and is all-loving. Humans are created with the capacity to love, but also with free will. Decisions by ourselves, and other humans, have far reaching consequences and there are innocent bystanders. (e.g. how sperm counts have dropped in many parts of the world, which I personally think is related to pollution … and I suspect PCOS and endo might also be, though I have not seen studies for that).

With that free will comes the possibility that some humans can enact terrible harm to others – as well as the possibility that some humans can do incredibly loving, good things. But I still puzzle about this, in terms of what damages the soul irrevocably, and would that be allowed by God? Because I do believe that He is all-powerful, but that he has set out “the rules” of our universe and to interfere in them would be to negate the very premise of our world, and of us as created beings.

I suppose my view boils down to the laws of the universe – God set things rolling (the laws of physics, possibly the Big Bang, evolution, and all), and I feel that I have seen His fingerprints as I have studied science and the breathtaking connections and characteristics therein. (others may have this feeling when they are in nature, or when they see art or hear music that transports them.)

When we develop a relationship with God, our suffering helps us to grow, helps us to help others, and can gain meaning. But then, there is suffering that I can’t even truly imagine, and really that I recoil from imagining – yet that suffering occurs all over the world. And (as the post above mentions) I think it is, largely, random. It isn’t that the worthy are rescued and the unworthy left to their own devices. Perhaps you have more resources to survive, more intact than otherwise, if you have a faith that gives you roots. But you don’t get a pass to be excused from the suffering. And so much of what happens seems to come down to luck: where you were born, what the resources are for you (loving parents? financial stability?) etc.

I don’t believe God makes a policy of going in against the laws of physics to enact miracles, and that “A” is saved from a terrible disaster but not “B” due to merit. I do believe that opening up to the love of God, and praying to discover what path He is laying out for you, offering up your suffering and asking to learn from it, is a way to find Him, as well as love, peace and happiness.

Sometimes we might find out that we think we want something when it is just that we think we ought to want that – it’s the logical next step that everyone around us is taking. Sometimes we might find that we truly desire something but circumstances make it really difficult, or impossible, to attain that dream. What then? Can that desire be channeled into something else that gives us peace? Will there always be a kernel of sadness for not actually reaching what our heart originally longs for, even though we may be able to harness that energy and desire to something else that is good? I think that yes, that grief may always be there – we have been denied its fulfillment by a sinful world – I mean, a world where evil sways the thoughts of ourselves and others, and those actions and decisions can affect us even as innocent bystanders. And possibly we have been denied that fulfillment just through accidents of nature (randomness, of the non-evil variety).

I suppose, something that resonated with me in the post quoted above, is that I do believe that the world is random and unfair.

Here’s a poem that is also going through my mind right now … if you have read this far, thanks for putting up with the inspiration generated by 2 glasses of wine 🙂

[Margaret, Are You Grieving] by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Adventures with Effexor

About 1.5 years ago, my doc felt I needed help. I was in a rough place with work (an administrator who was targeting me, plus me not being in a position that was a good fit anyway), and stress with our finances, selling the house, etc. DH was right in there with me, and I really needed his love and support, although obviously he was suffering too with our struggles PLUS seeing me going through such a tough time at work.

My doc and I decided that I needed to go on a medication to help with depression and anxiety, and effexor was the choice. Now I have an excellent doc, who is receptive to me being very involved in my own care. I hadn’t really researched this much before hand (something about being overwhelmed, perhaps?) so I went ahead with her recommendation. (Although I was not happy to hear that when you start on these meds, it is recommended you take them for at least a year. Stats show a much better result than if you stop them earlier.)

I really didn’t want to. I know depression happens to people – that there are ways it can be helped so you don’t have to live in that shell-shocked kind of state – that our brain works in a wash of chemical signals, and that an imbalance can drive you down deeper … I know all of this. Yet somehow it’s a bit like IF. You don’t want to tell anyone except your nearest and dearest. You don’t want to admit that you can be in this place. It happens to others, through no fault of their own, and you are ready to be unprejudiced and supportive and all … but it’s hard to admit it can happen to you. Thank God for my sane and loving DH, rock-solid friends who gave me their straight-up thoughts and support, and my mom. I went on the effexor.

Since I tolerate most medicines well, I didn’t really expect much in the way of side effects. I began right away, only to find that I had a bad headache, and was dizzy, nauseous, sleepy, and generally feeling sick for a few days after beginning. As things got worse at work, my dosage got ramped up pretty quickly, with these side effects noticeable but milder along the way. I could always tell if I missed a dose (even when I was on the smaller doses) because I would get a headache or start to feel a bit dizzy.

Things got better. I survived until June, then transfered to another location, and my new admin is amazingly awesome and wonderful. We have stabilized financially … living in an older home (which I love), and having rented out half of it as we finished the renos to make a duplex (and our tenants are great! except for the fact that they have 3 kids, all under the age of 3, a bit rough on a former IF … but theirs isn’t an easy path either). DH works away often, which leaves me in the role of single mama with the kids, but we are managing. Time to get OFF effexor.

Well, my doc didn’t want me to do this in December as it is the darkest time of year, with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and all. OK, makes sense. It is now Feb, so I decided to go for it last Thursday.

Yikes, what a week. I expected withdrawl symptoms similar to what I’d had when I began, and I had all of those (the nausea and dizziness weren’t as bad, but perhaps because I anticipated sleeping alot and just stayed in bed alot of the time). What I found weird was some floaty, out-of-body feelings – followed by something that felt like a brain spasm, like a surge of electricity through the brain – not painful but strange. I would be walking down the hall when the floaty feeling came on, and I was aware of what was happening and it would pass – I could function – but really strange.

I did some research for tips on coming off effexor, and found that there are others out there with similar experiences. I also got the tip that an antihistamine was helpful to some, so I started with Benadryl. No more brain spasms at least! I didn’t take the benadryl today and had only minor episodes – and it has been a week since I’ve taken a dose. I think it takes 6-8 weeks to clear the system entirely, but I think we are on our way.

If I ever need to go through this again, and I hope I don’t … I will ask for Prozac instead. (And I will not go for Paxil if it is offered, based on my internet research.) The people I have spoken with who have taken Prozac had a much better experience going on and off of it, and it worked well for them. But I hope I will not ever need it again – still I have learned to never say never 😉

One thing through all of this – I have a slight insight into how it might feel for those who are physically addicted to drugs – how strong and debilitating the things like headaches, nausea etc. can be. Even the relatively mild stuff I went through (am going through) – is not fun, and makes you realize how much our biology influences, and even masks, ‘who we really are.’

At least I did this after AF’s visit, so we don’t have to pile PMS on top of things! Timing is everything ….

Q’s asked and answered: angels and prayers … also Prayer Buddies for Lent

I have missed blogging, but have put in a lot of typing time doing student report cards! I am into the last lap now, just needing to proofread, adjust, and give the OK for final print. Then admin will look them over and hopefully I won’t have any major changes.

So, I had a chance to meet with my parish priest a week or so ago. I have been going through some new stages along my faith journey, and (being Catholic) have started praying the rosary regularly, reading books about Medjugorje, and alot of things have me on fire with all of this! But I had some questions. I thought I would share the 3 burning questions and answers I asked.

1) When I pray, there are so many people and things I want to pray for. So, if I am saying a rosary or doing a bread and water fast (note: I have not managed to do a whole day on this yet, I usually eat a good supper, so I don’t think I’m doing it effectively yet!)- can I offer this for many intentions or should I narrow it down to one?

A – offer it for all the intentions in your heart. When we pray at church, we pray for all kinds of intentions (he pulled out a typical Sunday missal and supports his point). So if there is an intention in your heart, pray for it. – My concern had been wondering if it ‘dilutes’ the intention when there are so many things I want to bring forth. Some of the tops on my list: ‘conversion’ for all of us – meaning that we all have parts of ourselves that are not fully in God, so we still need help – and there are so many people in my life I love very much, who are not believers or don’t know or whatever, so this prayer is for them too! the souls in purgatory (I learned more about this from the Medjugorje books); my own personal stuff (DH to get a job closer to home, family, kids, my students, friends, neighbours, etc); healing; peace; for leaders and those in positions of responsibility …. well you get the idea. I am praying for lots and lots.

Q – What is the deal with angels? (this also comes from the Medjugorje books). I have read that we each have an guardian angel, and there are other angels too, and they like to be given projects and asked to do things. (one of my first thoughts was, what the h&!! kind of project do you give an angel!?) – A – our angel is like a partner, who is with us in all our good times and bad, and we can choose to greet them in the morning and say good night, and ask for help throughout the day. It isn’t like we are praying TO them, but more like partnering with them. They help us figure out right from wrong, etc. When dealing with a student or a situation that is tricky, I am sometimes taking a moment to ask my angel to help me figure out what is this really all about, what does the student need, how can I help them here? I have also asked my angel to talk to my students and family’s angels for particular things, etc.

Hmm, I know there was a 3rd question but I can’t remember it. I am just about falling asleep here, so if I remember it I will have to put it in another post. OH! It was about a scapular that a friend brought me from Medjugorje about 9 years ago. What does it really mean, what kind of commitment does it entail etc. I decided to think this over some more as I am not sure it is for me.

Also, if you are interested in participating in Lenten Prayer Buddies, Mrs. Henderson is graciously organizing again this year: http://thehendersonstory.blogspot.com/

On her post is a link for the prayer buddies that are specifically for those in the throes of infertility, adoption, etc, if that is a better fit for you.