Monday, March 30, 2020

Over at the National Catholic Register Today

The goal is to keep writing, keep churning through even when I don't feel it.  It's why I'm happy to report, I have a piece over at the National Catholic Register.  It's Now is the Time to Embrace the Mass even if it's on TV.

So today, I'm praying my way through the crisis as we begin the STAY at HOME part of this pandemic.    The rosary is a favorite means for me to do a litany of sorts, of petitions.

Because no one wants to be here...waiting...fearing illness.  Hail Mary.
Because no one wants to be sick and alone.  Hail Mary.
Because no one wants to be the one who keeps a mother from her child or a husband from his wife, or force an elderly person to die without the comfort of a hand holding them.  Hail Mary.
Because people fear what is next.  Hail Mary.
Because people long for a return of normal.  Hail Mary.
Because people worry they will fall into bad habits while home. Hail Mary.
Becuase people will lose their jobs. Hail Mary.
Because people worry about having to choose between going to work/paying bills and exposing their family.  Hail Mary. 
Because we miss commuity.  Hail Mary. 

Because people struggle with anxiety.  Hail Mary.
Because people struggle with underlying conditions.  Hail Mary.
Because people lack a means to pay for medical attention. Hail Mary.
Because Medical Staff are overwhelmed and overworked.  Hail Mary.
Because people worry about the unknown want.  Hail Mary.
Because school is stop gapped and people worry about what will happen next. Hail Mary.
Because people don't know they're contagious. Hail Mary.
Because people will blame each other if they get sick. Hail Mary.
Because some people will die from this virus.  Hail Mary.
Because some people will live through it with scars.  Hail Mary.

Because people miss parties.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss graduations. Hail Mary,
Because people will miss trips.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss lessons.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss boyfriends and girlfriends.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss Aunts and Uncles and cousins.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss Grandparents.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss friends, all the friends from the ordinary encounters of life.  Hail Mary.
Because people will miss families. 
Because people will miss priests and sisters and deacons and others who minister to them spiritually.

Because people miss going places. Hail Mary.
Because people worry about needing to get things.  Hail Mary.
Because every ache and cough and sniffle makes us nervous. Hail Mary.
Because we cannot clean enough.  Hail Mary.
Because all the days bleed into each other.  Hail Mary.
Because no one seems to have a handle on how to make it stop being impossibly hard. Hail Mary.
Because no one knows how long this will last. Hail Mary. 
Because we're used to having so much more liberty. Hail Mary.
Because we cannot play together or cheer for a team together, or go to a concert or a museum together.  Hail Mary. 
Because it's harder to recognize Sunday. Hail Mary. 

For all those who are sick with this virus. Hail Mary.
For all those who care for them. Hail Mary.
For all those who can't care for them. Hail Mary.
For all who await testing.  Hail Mary.
For all who want testing and can't get it.  Hail Mary.
For all who are called into service. Hail Mary. 
For all who shelter in place.  Hail Mary.
For all who need to shelter in place. Hail Mary.
For all who don't believe this is real.  Hail Mary.
For all paralyzed by the reality of it.  Hail Mary.

For all who miss the Eucharist, and all the sacraments we've grown so accustomed to receiving as needed, when wanted, because we want it, we now get to be like the apostles and disciples of the Early Church, who knew the experience of being in Christ's presence, and now had to go out and tell the world about who they'd met, and what meeting Him meant. 

Fighting the Virus of Mental Fatigue

Yesterday, I sat with the hardness of this pandemic. 

Today, I'm doing something. 

I conferenced with my colleague.  I called my mom.  We made a plan for getting some necessary fun equipment to make the stay at home orders bearable.   We went for a walk.  We read the rules for maintaining mental health while eating pizza, treated by my son. 

I read.  I watched funny videos, and encouraged two people who seemed down. 

And the day felt normal. Better. 

Three students reached out and I gave them assignments they needed to complete. 

The day felt better. Brighter.

I dusted off my blog. 

So what did I learn?

Every day...walk. 
Every day ...laugh.
Every day rest.
Every day make the best.

Every day...pray.
Every day...create.
Every day...relate.
Every day we do all of this, we succeed. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Normally Happy

I am generally predisposed to be positive, and as a friend says, I have natural prozac in my veins.

Right now, while I'm healthy, I do not think I am not doing well.  I'm angry. I'm scared. I'm easily annoyed and even more easily moved to tears. My heart is on my sleeve and fearful it's going to be broken.  It is breaking every day.  The news terrifies, and the visits to the store (sort of necessary for the things of ordinary life) leaves me frustrated and fearful, because every time one of us goes out, the clock of contagion restarts.  Can we make it the 14 days...more? Fourteen after that? What about after that? 

Vacillating between wanting everyone to hunker down, and wanting somehow to go out, I'm still here.  I also want people to live. So we stay, and take walks, long walks.   It is on the walks, that somewhere we articulate the real feeling everyone has, "I am not okay."  Not because of sickness or anything, but because this time, this place, this everything, is not okay.   There isn't a spin, there's a we're going to get through this, one day at a time, one moment at a time.  However, the not okayness is a constant because one needs a floor for okayness, and we haven't yet seen the bottom.  We are all still falling. There's not a stopping point to it, and that's what makes me anxious.

I'm going to have to be okay with this not okayness, and that means at least admitting somewhere, this is hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard hard. 

Sure, we are making bread.  We;re watching the mass.  I'm reading. I'm writing.  I'm praying. My family is here, and we are together.  All blessings abound. It's all true.  It's also true, we live knowing, we are not done falling, and that's scary.   That's what scares me.

Also, I miss people. I miss doing. I miss the ordinary of only two weeks ago.   Part of it is grieving what isn't.  Part of it is letting go of wanting the switch to flip and normal to return.   Part of it is a pity party I'm sure, and part of it is fear.  It's a bad cocktail of wants that can't be answered. 
The difference between surviving and thriving in this, will be persistence and leaning on each other spiritually, and deliberately choosing to count blessings rather than fears. 

Pray for me and mine, hunker down, stay safe, stay kind, stay clean, stay hopeful.  Know I'm praying for all of you and yours. Pray for me too. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What We've Lost

It is a season of loss, and I know it.  That's why I make my kids come up with something each night at dinner, because gratitude is easy when there's lots to be thankful for, it's harder when there is less.  I want them to practice while there is still far more.  They grieve even if they don't know it,is waht they are doing, over prom, over graduation, over friends, over trips to the store, music lessons, track meets, birthday parties, and yes, even mass with Mom and Dad.  They will miss all the people who filled their lives on a daily basis until March 13th.  

Reading the news and following what's going on in Italy, I worry about the far less we will face in the coming months.  

I miss work, and I know most of us do, and most of us are applying all our mental muscles to carving out some normal to make this new not normal less strange.  The losses must be acknowledged, it is part of the clearing out process.  So I will also ask them each night, what they miss and try to give everyone a means to remedy some of that via tech, via talking, via alternatives.  Knowing what they're grieving today helps too because the little things are going to matter more.   

All the comforts of ordinariness in our lives, of routine, of value through our own business, of community by mere proximity, and of entertainment substituting for joy, have been revealed as what they aren't by their absence.   This is one hell of a Lent but we have been kicked out of Fake Eden, and are being invited into a better one even in this time of social distancing.   

We must go deeper, and this unknowable desert we're wandering into, has a point.  It is to meet God face to face. Up until now, we could find Him easily, in the Sacraments.  Now, we must all seek.   
God has not been taken away.  We've just discovered all the ways in which we do not see Him. 
The other thing we've lost, is our capacity to use shortcuts both to distract and to see Him.  

We will have to begin responding to all His invitations into friendship through acts of the will.  We can no longer be organic in our responses, we must be deliberate. 

I used to donate to the Soup Kitchen when they held their annual drive, because someone reminded me, "They're doing that."  Now, it must be a willful choice. Everything is now a willful choice.  Writing, prayer, exercise, work, presence, all of it is now something which requires assent.  We cannot trust to the routine to make sure these things happen. We also know, it is hard, because we are still seeking to stay attatched to the way things were but won't be again for some time. 

Perhaps that's the real reality Lent seeks to teach us as a season, we should not be content with being comfortable with our relationship with God. We can rest in Him, but we are nto to rest in our seeking. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Some basic advice for Weathering the Storm in Place

How to avoid this unknown number of weeks becoming an ordeal and a trauma rather than a memory of simply a hard time.
1) Get up and get dressed. Make a list of things to do. Brainstorm with your family as to what they are.
2) Cook meals. Plan the meals.
3) Declare screen free time and reading time and outside time. and game time. Variety is key.
4) Tackle a project you've put off --like cleaning out a closet.
5) Exercise.
6) Group prayer, and private prayer.
7) Make sure everyone showers every night.
8) Have nail polish, face masks, etc. stuff you haven't used? Time to break them out.
9) Practice musical instruments/hobbies you've ignored.
10) Remember, the goal is not to either be exposed or expose others to the disease, so weeks without is a gift to your neighbors and your family.
Final rule? Stay clean, stay calm, be kind.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Love (Familial love) in the Time of the Corona Virus

Everyone is home, so the clock of social distancing starts.  
10) Day 1, have a family meeting and talk about how we're going to read books, practice music, organize closets, exercise and make homemade bread.
9) Day 2, sleep in, can't find book, everyone complains when you practice because it's interfering with the Netflix marathon of the Great Brittish Bakeoff. Microwave lunch, and pizza via take out for dinner.
8) Day 3, everyone oversleeps. Public service announcment that we won't buy anymore cereal as it uses two resources to make one meal. Feel virtuous serving poptarts.
7) Day 4: Attempts at outside sports turn into a massive brawl with all pent up passive aggressions becoming...less passive.
6) Day 5: No one wants to eat anything in the house, and no one wants to watch television and no one wants to read books and no one cares if anything is due, be it bills or anything else. Everyone is practicing social distancing, but more as a means of not killling each other.
5) Day 6: Rebellion ensues. We feast on pancakes, use up the last of the butter and syrup, and have a barbecue for dinner. No one complains about any of the food, we hug and promise not to let things get too bad again. Feast concludes with the last frozen apple pie.
4) Day 7: Reality resets in, as the dryer stops working because it's overloaded with towels. Hang them outside, kids are prowling the grounds and taking turns on the scooter, to go to Exodus and back --just down the block a mile or so. It's curious how many come back with what look like items from 7-11.
3) Day 8: Everyone knuckles under, there's no alternative. Breakfast is oatmeal, lunch is soup, and dinner is pasta. Everyone eats and it doesn't matter because that's what's for dinner. The kids watch a group movie, popcorn is served, and peace seems possible.
2) Day 9: The governor announces, it will be two more weeks. All emergency chocolate is eaten. Alcohol is served with dinner to all adults. (Dinner is Eggs, frozen waffles and heated sugared berries --defrosted) and whatever carrots are leftover.
1) Day 10: We look back at the past week and a half, at our first day goals and there's a mad scramble to catch up on all the work we avoided, on the desperate hope normal returns soon. The momentum last through lunch, fried spam and grits and onions  Drinks are the orange soda left over from the Superbowl, three different brands of root beer and one diet cream soda.  
Day 11...deer in the back yard, all children grabbed anything they had on hand, a spade, a rake, a wooden sword from the Renaissance festival, and a trombone. Not sure we'll have venison for dinner, but they've united and that's a vast improvement.
Dinner includes rice, beans and the frozen popsticks we forgot about from last summer.  

At the Standard Today Proving Yet again,

I am not good at clearing my own spiritual debris. 

God Alone Suffices.

Friday, March 13, 2020

What's Going On 3/13/2020

A friend of mine texted me yesterday asking if God maybe decided, "I've had enough. Go. To. Your. Room." and it's a funny but legitimate question when the whole world seems to be on the brink of simply imploding, both fiscally and systematically, because disease that infects through contact means community becomes very difficult indeed. 

However, as we all know, it is when it is difficult, that community is most needed.  The isolation of the lepers in Christ's time, is part of what Jesus healed when He offered the ten begging, His healing, His connection, His friendship.  We all know (intellectually), that love unwilling to sacrifice, is not love, and that what proves our love to anyone, to any person, is presence over time, even when it's hard.   Right now, it's hard to love a society that seems crazy.  That's when society needs it the most.

Society will need every bit of love, humor, mercy, discipline, patience, forbearance, generosity, gentleness, courage, humility and charity we can muster.  I think God is really saying, "Go into the desert of your soul, even if you haven't had a good Lent up to now, and begin." and pray for this world. 

What we do now, will have consequences far beyond the moment. 
There will be a temptation to be angry and rage.  Don't. 
There will be a temptation to be impatient.  Don't. 
There will be a temptation to weep and despair.  Don't. 
There will be a temptation to be selfish. Don't.
There will be a temptation to give into fear. Don't.
There will be a temptation to horde.  Don't. 
There will be a temptation to dismiss.  Don't. 
There will be a temptation to refuse to help.  Don't. 
Pray, hope, and as Saint Padre Pio says, "Don't worry." not because these aren't worrisome times, but because God can give us the calm in our souls to weather this if we ask, and we will to cooperate.

These times will be a testing of all of our spirits.  May we be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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