Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Keep Calm, and Catholic and Write On

It started with reading a piece by a favorite Catholic writer and fellow mother of ten, Is Catholic Publishing Sexist?  I can't speak to that reality, but the discussion of women having to be "sweet," hit a nerve. 

Wrestling with joy isn't that what having a faith is? Isn't that what we're called to be?  To Live with hope despite all the proof over prof of our great and seemingly constant fallen nature?  I thought, "H
ave I become a Parody?" The charge that women's literature in the Catholic realm had to be 90% sweet/affirming I admit, scratched my own soul.  
There is always a danger when writing narrative memoirs or blog pieces or articles infused with Faith of sounding either Sound of Music sweet without the trials, or like a white hot mess who needs serious intervention. 

I know, if we don't write works which are infused with blood, sweat, tears and more than a few bruises, psychological and otherwise, we fail to present the reality of any faith life. We lie to ourselves and set others up to fail if our testimony is anything but true. The trial and the question for a Catholic writer, for any writer, but particularly, one writing about one's beliefs is, how to write of a faith infused life without sounding like a parody of one's self? 

The Small Success Thursday series I write every Thursday at Catholicmom.com is designed to uplift, to remind us to remember all is grace, all is a gift, and for all, we should give thanks.  Had I become a sugar version of myself?  Had I failed to give an honest account of my reality or of living the faith, either in an attempt to amuse, or to enlighten?   Had I become a Kinkaid version of my own faith life in my writing, light without purpose?   

I pushed myself to ponder, was I being too sweet?  Was I somehow giving off the whiff of not being not real by seeming to be too kind or too prayerful or too whatever.    I understood the concern.  A witness who seems too much like only dessert  is not a healthy model for the spiritual life.   We need the balance of meat and vegetables, water and want, to appreciate when we receive the grace of feasting.   Did I do enough, was I examining enough?  Had I failed?

There are over 250 Small Success Thursdays I've written for Catholicmom.com over the course of many years.  I read through some across the years.  They affirmed life and faith.  They also read true. In the course of the work, I acknowledge fatigue, clutter, craziness, frustrations with fights, lost shoes, schedules, adolescence, finances, lack of sleep and the constant churn of homework and housework and everything else.   In short, one can't write about counting blessings without recognizing the reality of when the dog bites, the bee stings and I feel sad. 

I'll say to anyone who asks, I don't remember my favorite things. I feel bad.  I struggle.  I crumble. I fail.  I shout.  I complain.  I grouse.  I resent.  I overspend and overeat and under exercise. I use the TV as a babysitter when I don't want to deal.  I order fast food.  I leave dishes in the sink. I pretend I'm too busy.  These were just the physical trials of the day.  We haven't touched homework or melt downs or remembering to fill out the seventeen bajillion forms each child needs done two weeks ago but I didn't get to it.  We aren't mentioning the basketball or the CCD or the meeting on Thursday I'm going to skip because I won't be in town. We hadn't discussed the nine light bulbs which need replacing in the back basement which serves as my oldest son's room or the reality, we need to repaint the upstairs and re-carpet because my daughter decided to paint in her room on the carpet.   Christmas is coming and we've already spent too much and have very little.  There is too much in the house and none of it fits.  I need to give away and give away and give away and still, we need to do wash and fold and put away and sort.

There are a thousand reasons in each room of my home and my interior life to  either rage and/or despair. I can find them all if I want.   I can refuse to see them all if I want.  Neither answer is correct.  Count the blessings why?  Because I sin and I sin and I sin, and if I don't count them, I won't see them, I won't see beyond my own failings. I'll only find the clutter. Everyone writes their own version of Confessions, of messiness, of dealing with the knives and the scrapes and the swearing and fighting of the will to respond to grace internally and externally. 

What does it mean? It means keep at this mess and ask for grace and respond. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

On Point

Today I took my kids to see the Nutcracker.  I remember seeing it almost yearly and almost yearly making a silent promise to myself that next year, I'd somehow try out.  I didn't because 1) I'd forget,  and 2) The studio which put on the production was the competitor to the dance school I attended and 3) I wasn't so much a ballerina as someone in love with performing. 

Watching the performance, I wondered what my kids thought and looked admist the perfect dancers for the ones who persisted on sheer determination.  The kid just slightly off, but giving it everything, that's the dancer for me. 

The girls knew some of the vocabulary from a movie about dancing they've taken to recently, Leap!   One asked, "Is that a grand jette?"  "Nope. Just Jette." "Is that a piroette?"  "Yes."  "How many did she do?" "Seven."  "Is that a lot?"  "Yes."  Whispered discussion about theatre ettiquitte earned me another five minutes of asking "Why?" 

I'd love for one of my girls to love dancing like I'd loved it, to want to do it even when it isn't for a performance, to love recitals.  So far, six girls, no ballerinas. 

At intermission, we perused the gift tables. Anna wanted a rhinestone tiara.  Regina wanted a sword with a scabbard or a snowglobe. (We got the snowglobe), and Rita wanted a souvenier coffee cup (though I suspect for the chocolate inside).   I looked wistfully at the toe shoe ornaments.  No one in my crew would want such a thing.

After the show, the dancers took questions and introduced themselves.  Most began dancing at four.  None danced fewer than seven years by the time they reached twelve.  The girls loved the show for the most part, they liked the costumes and the experience. 

When we got back in the car, I overheard the girls saying how grateful they were, they didn't have to do something every day.   "Yeah, like the villian's daughter in Leap! where her mom makes her dance all the time." They can't ballance on point, but they have ballanced lives I thought.   "Thanks for taking us Mom!"  "This was awesome!" "Thanks for going out with us." They enjoyed it for enjoying it, and for no other reason, and that was sufficient. 

In truth, it was the reason I got the tickets, to give them a memory.  In dance, to do a turn, you must fix your eyes and return to the spot, and not forget in mid spin where you want to go.  In parenting, the issue remains the same, stay focused, and you'll stay on point.

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