Easter 2012

Well, I would like to think that misfit was writing about me when she complained about bloggers letting weeks go by without a post – but since I think I number in the months – I guess I will just let myself be inspired by her.

So, Easter … every few years it really hits me – there is something that becomes clear to me, a new direction, a new revelation of God. It does not happen every year. In 2002 there was an especially powerful year (I was on a retreat) when I realized how pride underlay so much of my life, of my fears and the pressures I put on myself, and how I wanted to be free of it. In the ten years since this was revealed to me I have seen even more clearly how pride ensnared me, and I do feel much more free from it now (though it is still there for sure). I just had a feeling that something big was ready for me this year. It was – but – it wasn’t what or how I expected.

Holy Thursday, the mass of the Lord’s supper, was so unlike what I expected. Even years where there is no big ‘revelation’ this is a special mass for me. I have celebrated it in many different churches, depending on where we were living or if I was on retreat or whatnot. As far as I can recall it has always been a celebration of how we should serve and love one another, ‘washing each others’ feet.’ I have seen members of the parish have their feet washed by the priest – men, women, old, young. I’ve had my feet washed and have washed the feet of others. Then there is the institution of the Eucharist and the love in that.

This year I felt unexpectedly, shockingly shut out – the door slammed in my face. Now this was a visceral reaction, which I have been trying to process. I don’t say that it is ‘right’ – but it is what I experienced.

Our new priest (Fr J) is, in many ways, more … hmmm … traditional. He’s from Africa so there is a difference in culture. He’s much different to Fr G, who was in his 80’s, steady, quiet, loving, and rock solid on what he thought was right and wrong (but always with love). Fr J has a lot of energy and is really into building community and has a lot of good points – though I don’t connect to him in the same way that I did to Fr G.

So, at thursday mass, he had 12 people up to wash their feet. All men. All older (youngest maybe 42 or so?) It was so different from what I expected that I had a strong emotional reaction of being completely shut out. There were none of the women who faithfully serve our parish up there – older, younger … there were no young people … there wasn’t anyone there I saw as ‘like me’ – it felt like I was seeing an old boys, patriarchal kind of club up there. (No disrespect intended to some of the really great guys up there, please understand!)

Anyway as you can imagine – no great revelation – but alot of frustration, resentment, stewing, sadness and loneliness for the rest of the service. I actually felt close to tears, like I had been kicked out of my home or something like that. It gave me an inkling of how perhaps some women feel about women being denied priesthood (though that does not bother me – I am at peace with that).

That night and over the next few weeks I did research and I think I know why this came about. I had always experienced this service as being about love, and serving others – even the most lowly. Fr G sees it as the celebration of when the eucharist and the all-male priesthood was instituted. So instead of it being about love and service to all, it was about Jesus preparing his male followers to be priests. That is actually, from what I gather, how the Catholic church wants it celebrated.

Thus, I think my reaction was because my expectation was so far different from what happened. I still haven’t talked to Fr J about it and I don’t know if I will. I may go to the other RC church in town next Holy Thursday though, to see what is done there. I feel that this shouldn’t matter so much to me, that I should just get over it, but honestly I am still upset about it. Part of me feels I should not be upset (because it sounds like this is what the church indicates should be anyway), and part of me really feels like the way I am used to it being bears such wonderful fruits of love and connected instead of isolation, why is it wrong?

Anyway. That did not get Easter going on the note I had hoped. I was quite happy to head 3 hours down the highway to the Home Town in time for Good Friday mass (previously I’d been wanting to stay in the town where I live until I absolutely had to go for family visiting – in my books, Christmas is the holiday where family has priority, and Easter it’s the religious part that should be top consideration).

Good Friday mass was good (but I was still roiling with upset from the day before) though no breakthrough moments.

But Easter mass – one line from the homily – and then suddenly all kinds of things jumped out at me. The priest was going through different things and mentioned that really, selfishness is at the root of many, even all or almost all, of our sins – of the ways we distance ourselves from God. That hit me between the eyes.

After receiving communion I prayed about this. I told Jesus how I knew this was true of me but I didn’t quite know what to do with it. The answer was something like: ‘Haven’t you been asking, and seeking to find what gifts I would like from you? Give me your selfishness – this is the gift I desire.’ Ummm. I’d been thinking about giving GOOD gifts. You know, my hard work helping out a student who needs help … being the world’s most amazing mom or wife or friend or daughter … hm. Selfishness just doesn’t sound like a ‘gift’ kind of offering, does it.

so I prayed more over this, asking God if he was really sure this was what he wanted – and feeling quite convinced that it absolutely is, that this would bring him joy … and so that is the journey I was on.

For 10 years I’ve been offering up pride, and now I am continuing with that but also offering up selfishness. Not exactly the revelation I had hoped for but I do trust it is what I need!

I suppose there may be a connection between my reaction to Thursday mass and the underlying pride and selfishness that bring me unhappiness. But I am not convinced yet that that is all there is. It really felt like what I imagine it would be to be rejected from your family when you expected a warm and loving welcome.

I guess I have another year (or 10 months) to sit with it.

10 atheist quotes and my thoughts

I sometimes check in with the bel.la on.line forum, married no kids. I found this site when I was trying to understand the decision of my DSIL and DBIL. They really wanted kids and pursued the tx they were comfortable with, but ultimately decided that their lives would move forward without children. There was more tx they could have tried; they considered adoption but didn’t feel called to it, etc. etc. You never know, they could still experience a miracle pgcy – but after at least a year of heartache and prayer and lots of holding onto and talking to each other, this is the path that fit for them.

I had a hard time imagining this, and that is how I ended up discovering blogs and this bel.la site. IF is always near to my heart and just a part of who I am, and I suppose I have an interest in learning from the courage and heroism of ‘ordinary people’ facing all kinds of struggles – Child free not by choice; single with a strong calling to be married, but not having found their partner; those going through the agonies of IF; those who will always have a part of themselves grieving a baby(ies) lost …..

Anyway, a new thread caught my eye on atheist quotes. Now I am feeling more and more called to follow my RC faith, but some of the people dearest to me are agnostic (non-believers) – both my parents, my grandpa M, some of my friends etc. Interestingly, I would say I often see them being more ‘christian’ than some people who do have the official title of christian! Anyway religion is a topic that comes up with these very loved ones of mine, so I was interested in these quotes. Here are the 10 in the post, and my thoughts about them ….

“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.” – Ernestine Rose (Jewish feminist and atheist)

Very interesting! I wonder if this is true? Given that all civilizations appear to have some outreach to God, or Gods, I think that we have within us a kind of sense for His divine presence. We have eyes specialized to detect light, ears specialized to detect sound, skin receptors that detect touch … and in our development the brain learns to make sense of the information being received. If we do have something that detects the presence and movement of God within us, I would question the truth of this statement. Of course, I have not done the research on it to support my hypothesis either!

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” – Thomas Jefferson (Third U.S. President and principal author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence)

Sadly I do find that sometimes the most religious people (of any denomination, including RC) also appear to be the most hypocritical. Anyway, as I understand God, burning, torturing etc. is NOT the way to come to a greater knowledge of HIs love and tenderness. So why did this coercive approach hold sway? I would call it the work of Satan, playing upon our desire for power, riches, importance etc.

“It is convenient that there be gods, and, as it is convenient, let us believe there are.” -Ovid (Ancient Roman classical Poet and Author of Metamorphoses, 43 BC-17)

Hee hee hee! This one reminds me of one of my Dad’s favourite quotes: If God did not already exist, it would be necessary to invent him. (my Dad does not believe, or at least he says he does not, but I am hoping there is a bit of him that does!!! I pray for him certainly). Anyway a lot of people do believe that the raison d’être for claiming the existance of God is that this kind of belief has a socializing force. I really do believe God exists, however that has not been especially convenient for me personally. Every time I take another step along the faith journey, I find there are hardships and things I need to change that I don’t especially want to change, and also I end up facing truths about myself that I would really rather not face. HOwever the ‘fruits’ of these steps forward ultimately feel right – more like real life, real joy, real freedom … though there are always struggles (currently: struggling with the idea of fasting, of giving up red wine, at least my daily glass; of finding time – somehow, somewhere – to pray more often).

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?” – Epicurus (ancient Greek philosopher – I have found evidence that this quote is usually attributed to be his but may not be so.)

What a great quote – it goes to the heart of why so many people find they honestly just cannot see the logic of God’s existence. I went through this struggle and found that the book ‘when bad things happen to good people’ by Rabbi Kushner was spot on for me. Everything just made sense after I read this book. The heart of the idea was that God created us (I believe, through evolution, but that is another contentious issue) with Free Will. We have to live the consequences of our choices. Other people’s choices also affect us. Why is there so much IF in the world today? I believe pollution – caused by the choices of humans – is a big reason. Why are some people ultimately blessed with children and others not – does God intervene? I don’t believe some are more worthy and others not. I do believe that bringing our situation in prayer brings us closer to God. I don’t believe he automatically dispenses the blessings we ask because we have said the right number of prayers.
so, for me, it comes down to the issue of God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful – but he created us with free will, set the laws of physics, and he isn’t going to start altering the law of gravity here and there, or it wouldn’t be a law of gravity. Part of how I connect with God is through the amazing beauty and logic of the universe – that wouldn’t exist if God played favourites.

“Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night “ – Isaac Asimov (author)

Um. I have to agree with this – creationism, as I have heard it, does not fit the category of a theory, as in something you can test. The scientist in me does not consider it a theory in the same way as the theory of evolution or the theory of matter, which can be tested, disproved (but never proved – you can only disprove a theory or support it, you can never prove it definitively, as I understand the definition).

“It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand” – Mark Twain (author)

I do understand where he is coming from. The Old Testament has some terribly disturbing parts in it. I think somewhere there is the story of angels coming to visit Lot, near the town of Sodom. Men in the village who want to force themselves on the visiting angels come to demand them. Lot offers them his daughters instead. (!) Or the story of David and Bathsheba. I find it extremely disturbing. Or how often the psalms totally do not exemplify love and respect and praying for the enemy, but instead give thanks for how many were killed and the like. Yes, I understand the context was different – women were more like possessions than people; God was seen not as loving to all but as vengeful, etc. I still find it hard to comprehend.

“Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense” – Chapman Cohen (atheist and Bristish Freethought activist)

I don’t agree with this. I pursued science as a study and find that it brings me closer to God, as you see such miracles in dissection or under a microscope. When you realize how the formulae for calculating the law of Gravitation attraction (think how huge planets etc are) and the law of electrical attraction (think how tiny electrons are!) … when you see numbers like ‘e’ show up consistently in the oddest places – to me it is like a clue or a fingerprint of God.

“If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul” – Isaac Asimov (author)

I have to agree with this also. I think many agnostics and atheists have done a lot more true searching and questioning about their faith, and are more honest in a way, then those who are afraid to delve into and explore their faith. Now this is a bias of mine and I am afraid I am overly critical here, just because I am the type of person that always has to know WHY. (it drives hubby crazy! He would like me to just do things his way sometimes, without me asking why he thinks that is better).

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further” – Richard Dawkins (Evolution Biologist and author)

Well, it is true that I do not believe in a faith that has many Gods. However I do think that the people who do are aware of God’s existence, they just understand Him in a different way. Of course I think that my way is closer to the truth, or else I would be with them in their faith … but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their beliefs. They may well understand some things about God better than I do. I just find that the RC path is the one that, when it comes down to it, seems the most accurate to me. Everyone who is a sincere follower of a different faith will re-state that with their own path in there. What if we all lived our faiths out of love (not the burning desire to be right, to have power over another, or to be better off materially)?

“To you I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the Loyal Opposition” – Woody Allen (actor)

I have to say I love this quote! I am not quite sure why. I guess because I do believe in the value of really questioning and probing, and I need to be satisfied on an intellectual level. However I do believe that the intellect can only carry us so far, and we do need to allow our hearts and our instincts, our spiritual beings, to be part of what guides our path.

So, there are some thoughts for tonight. Long post! Can you guess I should be marking and getting report cards ready ??? 🙂

Childless by religious conviction ?

Thank goodness DH is a computer genius … we’ve had some major issues getting my computer to work properly lately.  I need to find all of my RSS feeds etc. again, and I will incommunicado next week – so please forgive me if I fall off the planet a bit until September.

This morning I heard a radio documentary that has been with me the rest of the day.  It is the story of how a bit of civil law and religious law interact in Canada, told through the story of Stephanie.  Stephanie and her husband divorced through civil law, but in Jewish law her husband had to offer her a release from the barrier of remarrying (and thus having children in the faith).  It was explained that the husband offers this release – called a “Get” – and the wife accepts it, in order to free both parties to move on.  If the wife refuses to accept or the husband refuses to give the Get, then they are not free.  I believe the Rabbinical court is involved in working it all out.  (I don’t have a background in Judaism, so I hope I’m getting the details right here).

Back in medieval times this (apparently) worked pretty well.  It gave the woman some power in the decision.  If the Rabbinical court found that the woman was religiously and morally in the right, and the husband refused to give the Get, there were ways they could persuade him to voluntarily offer it – since religion had more direct power & influence over a person’s life in the past than it does now, generally speaking.

So when Stephanie and her ex divorced, there was an agreement that he would offer her the Get – which he did not do.  That did not happen until the civil law was re-written in Canada to apply the kind of pressure for resolution that religion & society used to do.  It took 15 years for this to be worked out.

Meanwhile, Stephanie was a “chained wife.”  She could not marry again in the faith, or have children in the faith.  The magnitude of this struggle is not really detailed but that is what really stands out to me.  Let’s say she was 25 at the time of the split-up – 15 years later, she would be 40.   Those are years where she could not be married and building a life with a partner, nor could she have children (or try to). 

Obviously her faith was important enough to her that she wanted to do things the “right” way.  It was important to her to marry someone of her own religion, and to have children that the community would recognize.  It just speaks to me – the fundamental conflict between what you believe in your heart to be true, to be the right path for you to follow – and the yearning to have children, to be married …

Now, I don’t know if she met the love of her life and waited for 10 years hoping to get married.  I don’t know how strong her urge to have children might be/might have been.  Perhaps it was “sure, if kids came along I’d like that” as opposed to “I really want to have kids.”  But just imagining that the ex has this power to block your access to the rest of what you want in life, because your faith and beliefs are so strongly rooted in that way … it just seems to me that the ex has done incalculable damage here.

While Stephanie cannot gain back the lost years, the civil law in Canada was changed such that this should not be able to happen.  The gist of the wording is that no person may place barriers to a religious re-marriage for an ex if it is in the power of the individual person to remove them.  So Stephanie eventually got her Get.

She did sue the ex for damages.  As I recall it was $2 500 for each year that she was not able to remarry, and $10 000 for not being able to have children.  (not that money can replace it, but I guess it was the principle).  That last figure really stuck in my head.  It’s about the cost of an IVF, isn’t it.  

If you are interested in hearing the documentary, I believe you can access it here: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2008/200808/20080820.html

you’ll need to go part 2.

“So that others won’t have to”

(other people’s children mentioned)

A while ago I went to the dentist for my hygenist appointment, and got into conversation with her.  It turns out that her son has a kind of disorder I’d never heard of – something about not being able to make oils, so his skin is extremely dry & prone to eczema.  He needs to be slathered in a perscription lotion, have baths infrequently, and make regular visits to the children’s hospital about an hour away.  It sounds pretty miserable all in all. 

My hygenist mentioned that when her son questions why he ended up with this disorder – and the other things that affect him – she tells him “you go through this so that others won’t have to.”

Now, let me make the disclaimer that I know we are all different; we all find different ways of making sense of the world and our own situations.  The above explanation appears to work for my hygenist and her family, and I don’t want to minimize that.  I want to say, however, that it really doesn’t work *at all* for me.

It’s too close to sentiments like “God only gives you what you can handle.  He knows your strength better than you do.”  In my view, God doesn’t dish out the pain, misery and tragedy in the world.  I think most of that is evidence that evil is at work in our world – sometimes in an individual, often because of the overall sum of how humankind works.  For example, I think alot of infertility could be traced back to pollution issues, pesticides, etc.  I do think that sheer random back luck happens.  I suppose God sometimes does send us trials, but I just can’t imagine a loving God planning and sending the most terrible experiences that some of us undergo. 

Much of my thinking for this comes from the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  That book was critical in the search for my own faith.  If I accepted the view that God is loving – which is what I felt to be true – how could I understand all the terrible things that happen in this world?  This battle with evil, affecting all of us, was part of my answer.  As I studied science, it was also important to me that these answers made sense with what I knew of the world tried by experiment. Thus came the idea that God created the universe, and set the laws of physics etc. in motion, and put the power of self-determination in our hands.  The theory of evolution makes sense to me; I really have a hard time seeing why people find science & faith to be opposite sides of the divide.  The more I study science, the more it seems to me I see God’s signature in everything.  Watching cells under a microscope still takes my breath away. 

But God isn’t going to contravene the laws of physics to make miracles happen just because we pray for them.  That’s not to say I don’t believe miracles ever happen, but just to say that I don’t think God is like a gumball machine.  Enter the correct number of prayers, out rolls the desired answer.  It isn’t that simple.  We are in the world as it is, as it has come to us from countless ancestors, and future generations will inherit the results of our decisions.  We are caught in that current.  I can’t stop myself from praying for miracles for those I love, and for myself too, but I also put faith in the decisions made by others that will bring light, love and hope into this world.  I sure pray for the scientists working on ways to help those with infertility, asthma, allergies, and many other things.  Perhaps the Spirit will give them a flash of inspiration that will lead to a great discovery – within the laws of the universe.  (and I do think prayer is very important, but more because it develops our relationship with God, than for deal-making.  Of course, I can’t deny I’ve tried making deals at times too.)

I also believe that no matter how grim the situation we are in, if we can offer it to God and come to Him(Her), it can be made better.  We can get through it more easily with His support – we can find peace.  He is with us in all of the most terrible times.  I believe He sheds tears with us, holds us when we are sobbing, and guides us towards the peace, hope and strength to go on.

If someone seriously told me that the struggles that we have are ours so that others wouldn’t have to deal with them – well, I’m afraid I’d return a pretty uncharitable response.  I did not choose to have these struggles.  It is not fair that we have them – it is not fair that others struggle with their health issues, watch their children starve, or suffer war crimes.  Instead of bringing me comfort, this kind of statment makes me angry and resentful.  How do you react to this explanation for the question of WHY?  Do you have a different answer?

What is my answer? I suppose, part of it is the wide-spread and often random effects of evil, and the randomness in nature too.  Maybe exposure to pollution, mass food production, and very different challenges to the immune system than what we used to have.  I guess we all have to find our own answers.  And anyway, I think the really important question is how do we move on, how do we cope?  For me, prayer and asking for help in the struggle is part of the answer.  Others perhaps find their way in advocacy, fund-raising, supporting other people.  All of these are life-giving ways to take a personal tragedy and help others and ourselves. 

I volunteered for about a year with a shelter for street youth.  Some of them were refugees from other countries, some were home-grown Canadians.  Many of their stories would break your heart.  One boy in particular had been forced to be a child soldier, and faced all the horrors of war, his family & hometown and everything torn apart.  He had escaped to build a better life here.  His determination, courage and perhaps even desperation really struck me.  I think about him sometimes and hope he has found his way.

But I would never have told him that he went through those experiences so that I, or anyone else, would be spared from them.

 

Searching for a way to let go of the familiar path

NOTE: This post mentions children ***** 

Does it happen for you – that when you’ve been on the verge of tears all day, they just come out when you are in your car?  I’ve had tears sitting just behind my eyes since 1 am and they flowed out today on a 40 min highway trip. 

You see (this is the children bit) at 1 am this morning my 3.5 year old DS was having trouble with breathing.  This appears to be the second asthma episode he’s had – the last one was in November.  I had been starting to hope that maybe November was a fluke, something other than asthma.  Now, I’d have to say that’s unlikely.  Thanks to help from many people, and especially Amy (she has an amazing asthma site), I was able to calmly & competently give him the right meds and calm him down.  I didn’t want him to see how upset I was.  And then when he was in bed, I didn’t want to let loose on my DH – he has been unemployed and job searching diligently since February, and he had a big interview today.  He is an amazing guy!  But I still didn’t want to bring out any extra stress just then.

 

This long-awaited, much treasured little DS just seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in some ways.  He has food allergies – egg, tree nut, and fish – and the last two are in the category of “most likely to be life threatening” allergies.  If you also have asthma, your chances of having anaphylaxis from your food allergy (ie. you die if you don’t get the epi-pen) are much greater.  Is it any wonder I’d hoped so much we didn’t have asthma too?  Food allergy itself takes such a toll in terms of stress and lifestyle.  In its own ways it destroys – well, I should frame it positively and say changes dreams.  Many dishes and foods are off-limits.  Going to restaurants or parties is stressful and limiting and can be isolating.  Travel seems like such a challenge.  I know there are solutions for all of these, and we’ve managed quite well.  But every now and then it just beats down my spirits and I have to bleed a little.  I love him so much and it makes me sad that things most kids can do – like go for ice cream – are just not going to be possible for him – or at least not possible at any time like they are for others.

And then DS also has lazy eye – so he wears an eyepatch 4-5 hours a day, glasses always, and hopefully he won’t need surgery.  It seems like he just got hit with a few difficult things at a young age.

I’ve noticed a theme in my life lately – through the prayer/meditation that I do, and through some of the comments coming through here too.  I have to learn to let go more – instead of clutching at my sadness, sense of unfairness, hopelessness, despair, self-pity – I have to try to let them go.  I did try last night, thinking instead of the many many things we have to be grateful for.  There are so many people dealing with even more devastating things – like me, 5 years ago when we were slogging through infertility.  I would have been overjoyed then if someone had told me that in 5 years time, these would be the things I am grieving.

This counting my blessings effort did help.  I was able to hold it together and calm down enough to function.  I think it helped me move from that feeling of “it’s just not fair” to simply grieving another blow, yet knowing that we will get through somehow.  Clutching on to the unfairness, the resentment of those who appear to “have it easy,” being bitter, even angry – these are all feelings from the time we were ttc and experiencing IF.   They are feelings that I seem to have nurtured and now it’s harder to let them go, maybe because they are so familiar.  It’s easy to walk in that well-worn path when I am scared of what the future holds.

I’m really trying to turn this momentum around too.  I’m trying to let go.  All of these challenges my DS will face – they will help him build character and resilience.  I’m going to remind myself to treasure every day with him, every hour.  Nobody knows what the future holds for any of us, regardless of having food allergy or asthma or whatever.  I wish he didn’t have such a hard road marked out.  I hope and pray for him to outgrow his allergies, for medical science to provide more and better answers (and be grateful for the answers we do have).  But people all over the world are walking their own difficult paths, and this just happens to be ours.  Please, God, help me let go of the spirals that deaden the life and joy out of me.  Help me to grieve cleanly, then get up and go on with courage, peace, and joy.

The song that really brought out the tears for me was “Let It Go” by Great Big Sea:

“Let It Go”

Hey man, you don’t know what you’re missing
You count your curses and forget about the blessings
Don’t you think you should learn a little lesson
What are you waiting for?

Hey man, what makes you so special
Can’t seem to find the angels for the devils
Don’t you think that if you learned to love a little
You’d live a whole lot more

[Chorus]
Let it Go Let it Go
This is smaller than you know
No bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road
Let it Go Let it Go
Got to leave it all behind you
Give the sun a chance to find you
Let it Go

.

.

[Bridge]
How can a man not see
It seems so clear to me
You’ve just got to live and learn
Smile at the simple stuff
This road ain’t long enough
To miss a single turn

Claiming Our Resiliance

Aha! As I read Margalit’s response to my question about what could be the opposite of pain, I think I can finally collect the thoughts about “resiliance” that have been haunting me. Here is Margalit’s comment: “The opposite of pain is supposed to be pleasure, but I don’t think that’s actually correct. I think it’s peace. When you’re in pain, or when your body is in some sort of destructive mode, you feel pain, but you also feel out of balance with your enviroment. So for me, it seems like the calm and peace of being pain free is about as good as it gets.”

Yes – peace – not just absence of suffering, but that feeling of being – existing in harmony, with a flame of joy or life within, an awareness of just – being – and knowing that somehow you have your space int the world, and you will get through wherever life’s journey takes you next. I can see that as the opposite of pain and lack of balance.

I’ve been wondering about our power of resiliance as human beings, and whether our society encourages us to be resiliant or actually encourages us to stay wounded and stuck.  Here’s a bit of the book that got me thinking – the book is “Against an Infinite Horzion: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives” by Ronald Rolheiser.  It references a story in the Bible where Jesus cures a paralyzed person and says “take up your bed and walk” whereupon the person jumps up, takes his stretcher, and is cured.

“Daniel Berrigan once wrote that if Jesus returned to earth [he would say] ‘take up your couch and walk!  You have skin to cover raw nerves; you don’t have to be that sensitive!’ … as human beings we have tremendous powers of resilience, and we owe it to ourselves and to our world to claim them.  Otherwise we will never come to comunity … to stay with each other … singularly the most difficult task that there is.  We cannot ever be close to anyone for long wihtout seriously hurting that person and that person seriously hurting us.  Hence community depends upon us having the resilience to fogive, forget, bounce back, and live in some joy and happiness despite being hurt and wounded.  And all of us are wounded … this damage … is permanent, but not fatal.  Today, however it is in vogue to live as if it were fatal.  So much … enocurages us to be hypersensitive … therapy itself can be good, however … it can also become an excuse for not claiming the resilience and toughness … without which we cannot live with each other … Sensitivity to our wounds and dysfunctions [takes us to a point where] we can no longer take the normal bump and grind that is simply part of all livng and relating … there is a time for claiming one’s hurts and licking one’s wounds, but there is also a time for claiming one’s resilience and to get on with the hard … task of living and working together – despite and beyond the fact that we hurt.”

Let me confess right away that I am still chewing over the difference between being resilient (ie. “bouncing back”) and new growth.  I doubt we can ever “bounce back” to being just who we were before the hurt – even if that’s what we’d like to do.  I think we become something different in the process of finding peace, joy, and balance again.

I also wonder if there’s some force in our society that has a vested interest in our not claiming our powers of resilience, or toughness.  Since I do believe in a force of good and a force of evil (God & evil are the terms I would normally use), that would be something I would speculate about.  But then it could be something like our consumerist culture.  After all, you’re not going to convince someone to buy your product unless you generate the sense that life is not complete without it, right?  I’ve heard that when people shop, it is like a fantasy about what having these clothes, this car, etc. will mean to them and their lives – how it will transform everything.  If you go into the store believing you have everything you really need, what incentive do you have to buy stuff?  (note:  this is coming from a woman who wants to pitch 90% of her wardrobe to go shopping for things that actually fit and that make me feel like I’m looking good.  I am also expert at buying tons of scrapbooking stuff that has not been used.)

And when I relate this to my own pain about the IF journey – well, while ttc,  I definitely crawled under a rock at pretty much every opportunity.  I was too sensitive to walk down the street or to take the subway some days.  I think that an increased awareness and recognition from society as a whole might have gone a long way to easing the pain.  Perhaps if there was a greater sense of a place for IF women and men, the childfree/less, etc – then going through IF wouldn’t feel quite as much like being a fish out of water.  The sense that it was a private, shameful thing may have kept it festering longer instead of allowing for healing to set in.  Perhaps these same factors are at play in other, major betrayals and pain that people suffer – sexual abuse,  infidelity in marriage, addiction – any experience or state of being seen as something “you just don’t talk about” – if these were more openly understood and accepted, with the realization that it could happen to anybody, I think healing would happen more quickly and naturally. (hmm – but does this put the onus on society to accept as opposed to the individual to claim the power of resilience??)

This involves being willing to be open to others’ pain, to be less eager to see “winners” and “losers” and to not have a vested interest in seeing ourselves as winners.  And the funny thing is, the stress it creates within us to constantly be able to claim we are a “winner” takes us away from peace and towards stress and imbalance as we try to find a way to be a “winner.”  If I’d begun by accepting IF as a medical issue, and a big challenge to making my dreams come true – instead of something that made me a “loser” – I bet that healing, resilience, and moments of peace would have come more easily, and sooner.  Instead, even now bitterness can come over me at times.  Maybe I just need to figure out how to claim this gift of resilience.

 

Building Character

 

I took up running in the fall, and discovered (to my surprise) I really enjoy it!  The coach and leader of the run club had us out in weather where I would normally be staying cozily at home.  She would say things like “we’re not out to set a personal best on a day like today – today is all about building character!” when it was raining, snowing, windy or cold. 

 

The book “Against An Infinite Horizon: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives” by Ronald Rolheiser said something similar that I’ve been thinking about.  “it is not our strengths that give us depth and character but our weaknesses … we grow first by falling apart … almost always deep growth takes place through … our deaths, our losses, our dark nights of the soul … our souls, precisely insofar as they have depth, strength, compassion, and hold interest for others have been shaped by [times when we experience powerlessness].  It is not that these are good in and of themselves; it is just that when we listen to them we grow deep.  These inferiorities, these humiliations, are not things to be cured from, things to be solved, things to be ignored, things to be buried as private and past shames.  They are to be listened to.  They are entries into the depth of our souls.”

 

Hmm.  I can see this at work in my own life in one example – in elementary school when the popular girl (L) of our class didn’t like me.  I don’t remember details particularly but I was often on my own, and came home in tears a lot.  I did have some other kids to hang out with, but I’ve always been a bookworm so I found a lot of friends in books too.  My family & my mom were just wonderful – I remember a conversation with my mom where she said “I wonder what is happening in L’s life, that she needs to try to tear another person down so that she feels better?”  It’s a question I’ve often asked when I’ve seen this kind of behaviour around me at other times.  Because of the love and acceptance of my family, I got through this experience and became a stronger person, more self-reliant, less susceptible to peer pressure, more confident and resilient.  I wouldn’t trade that experience for a happier school experience at that point, because I don’t think I’d be who I am today, and I like those things about myself.  (as a side note, L ended up alienating a number of people in the class by these behaviours, and in gr 8 it had all balanced out).

 

But, take the experience of IF.  I suppose it brings certain gifts with it – perhaps a deeper relationship with your spouse/partner, certainly more compassion for others and a much greater appreciation of what a precious gift a child is.  I can see how a person might say “even though it was hard, I’m glad I went through IF”  if they do eventually achieve their dream.  But what if they don’t?  What if no tx work, or there isn’t enough $$ for adoption or more tx, or the window just passes and the couple knows that CF is the best decision for them?   I’m guessing not everyone would say “I’m glad for the experience of IF.  It has enriched me so as a person, I wouldn’t have missed it.” 

 

And what about other tragedies – like natural disasters, accidents, poverty, disease, war and violent crime.  I understand that bad things happen, and there’s only so much we can influence that.  I understand that how we respond to something beyond our control is really the key.  Maya Angelou, Victor Frankl, Harold Kushner, and even my grandparents and mom show great examples of responding in a “life giving” way.  But one could easily respond with anger and bitterness.  And even if you find a way to respond positively, can you really say you’re grateful for these events?  Maybe it is, and I just can’t see how at this time.  Maybe something needs to help us transcend these tragedies.  I would call it God’s grace, but I’m sure it has other names to other people. 

 

On the other hand, maybe we just tell ourselves we’re building character in an attempt to find a positive throughout all the negatives.  Perhaps it’s that little white lie that helps us persevere and survive.

 

If you have thoughts to share, I’d love to read them.