Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Self-Discipline and Neuroplasticity

Last night I watched The Brain Fitness Program on PBS. Well, I grabbed pen and paper and took notes! I'm in what I'd call "early middle age" (41), but already my short-term memory is appalling. I have always had a very hard time with concentration and self-discipline, a weakness which is making it really difficult to figure out and work my own monastic formation program, solitary life with no externally-imposed structure.

So the good news is that it is totally worth pushing myself, over and over again, because it WILL get easier. Yes, I may just be wired for inattention and acedia, but that wiring can change. It WILL change if I push it, if I don't give up. Step away from the computer games (delete the ones on the hard drive). Step away from the TV remote (it's for renters! I didn't have a TV for 4 years, what do I want one for now?). Get up off yer duff, go to the oratory and pray the Hours. Journal (here or on paper). Study -- just the other day I found some online courses at St. John's, Collegeville, in monastic spirituality topics. Work! The next time renters come, all I should have to do is change my own sheets and stow a few things, the rest of the beds should be made and the house clean, all the time.

There is a phrase in Karen Karper's book, whose title escapes me at the moment, that she wrote about her early experiences having left the Poor Clare convent to be a hermit. She took up quilting, with its very exacting standards of needlework, and as she ripped out imperfect seams over and over she learned to settle in and "submit to the discipline of [her] craft." I have adopted that phrase for my own! Whenever I find myself resenting tedious or difficult chores, I repeat that phrase to myself: "I am submitting to the discipline of my craft", the craft of eremitic monastic life. The Quotidian Mysteries, as Kathleen Norris calls them, subtitled Laundry, Liturgy, and Women's Work.

The PBS show was terrifically encouraging. I can get very down on the idea of fighting the dead weight of what Norris has me calling acedia. I tend to see it as my own personal weakness, something that is just wrong with me. I know that my family was going through some chaos during the years when I should have been learning self-regulation as a child, there were no rules, no routines, I never got in the habit of making my bed or picking my clothes up off the floor, I was an indifferent student ... never learned any kind of self-discipline. But what those neuroscientists said to me is that -- well basically, that it's never too late to have a happy childhood! I can still learn all those things, pushing against inner chaos is not pointless, it's not forever, the pushing will actually change me and I can train myself to live an orderly, productive life. I really am "wired" for undiscipline, but by practicing discipline, I will actually change that brain "wiring".

OK, God, that is my intention, then -- I choose self-discipline. I choose to grow and change. I know You will help me ... and thank You for the hope!

Regina Terrae

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My first renters left yesterday. It looks like this plan is going to work out, renting my house out short-term to travellers. It's a lot of work and worry, though. I worked so hard getting ready for this first group, the stress like to killed me -- and that's with paying people to help with cleaning, paint touch-up, and yard work. Even two days with the Trappistines hardly made a dent in the built-up stress.

Let me say this right now, in case anyone should mistake it -- I would rather do this a thousand times over than ever to go back to my old job, or ever be a bureaucrat anywhere in a big corporation. BLECH. Self-employment is hard work, mentally and physically, but I am ALIVE!

Of course, hospitality is a very appropriate activity for a monk, even a hermit. It matters very, very much to me that my activities be consistent with my values and my vocation (as I discern that vocation day by day!). But I guess it will be a lot easier when I have another place to live permanently, myself. Moving all my own stuff into and out of storage, and mooching rooms off relatives for a week at a time, is not ideal.

Although, the storage exercise, repeated often enough, might very well help me to SIMPLIFY my belongings. Already this first time I gave the cleaning lady a big bag of clothes and handbags -- she's about my size, and has a church-based charity to pass on anything she couldn't use herself. I need to lose more clothes, and coats, and shoes. And groceries! Man, my pantry is just -- back to that poverty and fasting thing. Variety is good, and healthy even (different foods have different nutrient balance, etc.), but I do not need so MUCH of it. I must have two dozen different grain products, between whole grains (rice, quinoa, barley, etc.), flour, hot cereals, pasta, etc. TOO MUCH. Simplify! Simplify, simplify, simplify, and then use up whatever's in the pantry, it is a SHAME how many expired cans I threw away in the course of packing away my groceries. OK, no more grocery shopping for a while, well unless I absolutely need something for Thanksgiving.

I'm going to have to get over the yuck factor. This first group was comprised of about 8 Ivy League grad students with their young professor, in town for a science conference. I think they were all men. They behaved themselves, they didn't burn the place down or like, mash potatoes into the living-room carpet or anything (I haven't found anything like that yet, anyway!). But they misunderstood about checking out at 10 AM, and when I got here at noon they were out but all their stuff was still here, clothes piled all over the pool table, pizza boxes on the kitchen counter, empty potato chip bag on the desk, shoes, laptops, ...... They didn't end up leaving until around 5 PM, so I didn't get the house cleaned up before moving back in myself. I still haven't taken a shower yet this morning, because I am just too grossed out. I have always thought of myself as something of a slob, not a great housekeeper, but I guess I do clean up after myself ... just, you know, toothpaste smears and ... toilets, and OK, I won't go there. Time to get up and work. Sorry to leave you on that note, but UGH.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pro-Life and yet ... Pro-Obama

Abortion is the poster child of election issues for Catholic voters. Just like the ragged kid with the haunted eyes on the Save the Children posters, the all-out modern assault on the unborn tears at our emotions. We are sickened, angered, grieving, and humbled by our impotence to protect so many innocent lives.

I am just a little cautious about basing important decisions on such strong emotion. I think about all the Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, even though many of them were very dissatisfied with his performance in his first term. Many people were motivated by the visceral fear and anger that had been stirred up on 9/11/2001, and that may have been magnified and exploited by the White House in order to motivate support for the administration and its policies. Many of the same people who let that strong emotion guide their decision now regret it. In the case of abortion, it's the guilt factor -- if you really cared about all those babies you'd vote GOP, no matter what!

It's not that I think we shouldn't take abortion into account in our voting decisions -- we absolutely should! It's just that I think we need to step back a little bit and try to look as objectively as we can at the concrete choice that confronts us. I feel a little bit as though the GOP has been telling us for years, "you're deathly ill so you need to let us bleed you! You need to take this magic elixir, because you're deathly ill!" We're deathly ill, all right. Our culture has become deadly hedonistic, utterly self-indulgent; sex on the first date is standard prime-time fare, and abortion IS used as birth control (take it from me, I've been out there single for a long time, this is something I know for a fact). But does voting GOP actually have any positive effect, or are they just pandering to our emotions and selling us snake oil? McCain's more anti-abortion than Obama, but he does not espouse a consistent respect for the unborn, either (supports embryonic stem-cell research).

And let's be clear, here. Obama is NOT the pro-life candidate, like a lot of my fellow lefty Catholics have tried to paint him, despite any fetal lives that may be saved by broader health care, and an expanded safety net in general. His comment about not wanting his daughters -- who have great health insurance and well-to-do parents -- to be "punished with a baby" if they should slip up in their sexual morals made it crystal clear. Given the chance, it seems that he will weaken any tiny margin of legal protection that the unborn have now.

But that's the crux of it, at least part of it: I am convinced that his or any other politician's impact on abortion is going to be very marginal, even if half of the Supreme Court were to turn over during the next 4 years. Reversing Roe vs. Wade would throw the question back to the states, and the fight there would be hot and ugly, and probably not very successful in very many places, and anyway how hard would it be to cross state lines for an abortion? Oh, a few lives would no doubt be saved, but the respite would be tenuous at best. The battle we have to fight is cultural, not legal. Legal restrictions on abortion will be meaningless, and probably unenforceable, unless they follow public opinion. We'd end up creating "martyrs" out of women with truly tough circumstances, and the whole attempt would backfire on us.

I recognize that Obama has terrific cultural appeal, as well, and unfortunately he may influence some young people in the wrong direction on this question. But again, so many people are already so far gone in the wrong direction, and so hardened in their positions, that I just don't think his impact, or McCain-Palin's, conversely, will be very great.

I've been a Democrat all my life, my family is all Democrat, probably all my friends are Democrats, nearly all my neighbors are Democrats (my county went for Kerry by something like 89%), and most of them are party-line pro-choice. Now, if you can radically lower the tone of the discussion ... maybe late in the evening, in a small close group, over the 3rd or 4th glass of wine ... thoughtful people will acknowledge that maybe the abortion-on-demand, no-questions-asked status quo goes a little too far. Maybe they would support banning late-term abortions, at least partial-birth abortions; maybe parental notification, with vigilance in case of abusive parents; certainly better informed-consent provisions (i.e., counseling of the mother). Maybe more, maybe they'd even support outlawing abortion except where the mother's life or health is really in danger. But they'd never admit any moderation in public! And they're really, really wary of that "slippery slope": they really don't want to give up their freedom, their autonomy.

And maybe they're right. Ultimately, God gives us free will, even though we misuse it daily. Ultimately, it's not about the brief suffering of the babies, it's about the everlasting fate of the perpetrators, the mothers and their doctors. It IS about choice, it is about conscience. No, I don't advocate abolishing laws. I totally advocate reversing Roe vs. Wade. I'm just saying that right now, today, until we can somehow restore the public's sense of horror about abortion, Roe vs. Wade is not the battle we need to be fighting. In fact, to reverse it now, as polarized as people are on this issue, would probably make it even harder to bring about the cultural change that will solidify pro-life laws, and really save lives.

You know, I read the Office of Readings every day. A lot of prophets. You know, before the exile to Babylon, one of the things the prophets condemned the people for was sacrificing their own children to a pagan god, Molech. What is amazing, though, is how little ink is spent on that particular horrific sin. Idolatry in general seems to be the number one issue, with child sacrifice and ritual prostitution being only the most outrageous manifestations of it. Social injustice, dishonest business dealings that impoverished others, covetousness and lack of charity, violence in general were all condemned. As horrendous, and as unequivocally condemned, as child sacrifice was, it was not singled out by the prophets among all the other sins of the people.

So ... Obama's attitude toward abortion is totally unacceptable. And yet, I am supporting him -- enthusiastically. I have the bumper sticker, I have the t-shirt. I get teary at the speeches. If I thought the next president would have more than a very marginal impact on the abortion craze, I would think twice about it. As it is, I pray for the heart-wrenching poster child, do my part to witness to the pro-life message among my friends and family, and then turn to what is really at stake in this election.

Other pro-life issues: Obama has worked effectively to save lives from capital punishment; and he opposed the war in Iraq, that was judged "unjust" by Pope John Paul II as well as our current Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger. McCain is on the wrong side of those issues.

America's image internationally, her relationships with other countries. This one, not abortion, is the number-one issue for me. We've had 8 years with a shoot-em-up cowboy, a playground bully. We do NOT need to go from that to an angry old man with a pit bull for back up. McCain seems to be haunted by our loss in the Vietnam War -- he talks and talks about how we can't quit in Iraq before we've won, but what would "winning" look like? We did win as the goal was originally stated, we deposed Saddam Hussein, but we did it so thoughtlessly that we threw Iraq into bloody chaos. What is the new definition of "winning" there? We need to be responsible about how we get out, but part of it needs to be to internationalize the stabilizing forces that support and train the still-new government there to stand alone. After Bush flipped off the UN and any ally who wouldn't accede to his illegal, unjust war, they have been understandably unwilling to send their troops into harm's way to help clean up the mess. McCain was for the war from the beginning, I don't see the allies helping him out there, either. But with Obama, they might. He spoke out against the war along with the allies, in 2003; maybe in 2009 they will come along and help him to pick up the pieces of the country that crazy cowboy broke. Did you know that 200,000 people went out to see Barack Obama speak in Berlin? He is extraordinarily popular overseas. If America's allies could vote, Obama would win by a landslide. Update: What this guy said

The economy. Of course, Obama's steadiness contrasts with McCain's erratic behavior. And on fundamental economic philosophy -- well, I never was a believer in the trickle-down approach. The gap between rich and poor has yawned wide open in recent years. Obama seems to be very rooted in social justice and the empowerment of marginalized communities and individuals. Poor working people can create jobs, too, if they can get a break -- there's just as much entrepreneurial spirit at the bottom as at the top, and and small, local businesses are in the aggregate (though not necessarily individually) a more stable and reliable base. Big business is not the be-all and end-all of "growing the economy", in fact it's a lot more likely to go chasing the bottom of the global markets for labor and other production inputs.

I was also never a big believer in rampant deregulation. I just don't have that much faith in the good intentions of the rich and powerful. Business has to be regulated; at the same time, regulations can't be so complicated, time-consuming and expensive to comply with that they create a serious lag on entrepreneurship. Obama has a record of consensus-building and creativity in crafting pragmatic solutions to real problems. A short record, granted, but his reputation both in academia and government is that of pragmatism and consensus-building. I wish I could cite the articles I've read to that effect, but I'm neither an academic nor a journalist, and I never think to keep track of that stuff. Sorry. Google it.

I have more faith in Obama's health-care plan than McCain's. He's "greener", more proactively supportive of clean, alternative energy -- Palin isn't even convinced humans are causing climate change. Oh yeah, Palin. The Couric interviews. Her ditsy performance generally. Comparing her years of experience with Obama's is just beside the point -- listen to them talk! Obama obviously understands the issues in depth. Palin obviously does not. Oh, she's a smart lady, I wouldn't call her a ditz if she were interviewing for some lesser job -- but well, doesn't McCain all of a sudden look a whole lot older? I mean, his age, his mortality, looms larger the more we see of his running mate. The thought of him in an ambulance and her all of a sudden at the helm ... oh no, no, no, no, no. No!

The way Obama has run his campaign is extremely impressive. Tons of volunteers all over the country, decentralized but perfectly coordinated, with a pragmatic strategy based on a perfect grasp of the convoluted electoral system. No, he hasn't been an executive, but this shows some serious executive talent.

There's something more, though, something indefinable. Obama really does inspire, he really does raise the level of discourse. It's as Ted Kennedy said, he makes us listen to "the angels of our better nature" (or something like that). Hope matters. Politics has been so dirty, so cynical and so untrusted, I guess ever since Watergate. We need someone to look up to. Someone who can lead, and make us want to follow. At least, I do, some of us do, some of us are tired of dirty politics and really want a change. You know, I am a Christian ... I believe in hope. Hope matters.

Obama/Biden '08

Monday, October 13, 2008


Today was a very good day.

Mondays I spend the morning at a hospice run by some very nice young nuns (I think it's their novitiate, actually). I've been struggling with it a bit. I wanted to volunteer to Bring Love and Hope to the Dying!!! To Share my Compassion and Empathy with the Suffering!!! You know, those lofty ideals. But what I am asked to do is to sweep and mop and make beds and hang laundry.

Well, once I had been there a couple of times, it dawned on me that these ladies are subjected to different random volunteers every day of the week, and half of us probably want to Love Them As We Love Ourselves. What, they're supposed to bare their hearts and cry on our shoulders just because we want to offer our shoulders to someone, any random suffering soul, to cry on? Uhhhh... maybe not. There IS time and opportunity, for a few minutes here and there, to sit and chat with one or another of the residents, but -- well, you know, they are grown, dignified women whose dignity is seriously under siege. Some space, please! Yes, it has occurred to me that perhaps after they have gotten used to me, seen me show up regularly to sweep and mop and smile and remember their names, not pushing myself on them, eventually I might become someone to whom they feel comfortable turning when they get down about their situation. Meanwhile, I mop.

And today I got 3 spontaneous hugs! This is out of about 11 or 12 women. 3 hugs! Wow! Even crusty J was congenial, and even A was polite! The first time I met A, she gave me the evil eye and told me to Go Away. Today she was perfectly respectful :-D

I also got told explicitly by a couple of them that they are very happy to be living there. Oh, the first few times I visited, it just seemed awful! They are told what to do and when to do it, what they are allowed to eat, when they have to get up out of bed in the mornings, there is even a dress code (no shorts or tank tops, same applies to the volunteers). You know, I'm not really good at obedience. I'm open to poverty, and chastity's not bothering me these days, but Obedience ... shudder. That's the big scary one. (I think I'm called to be a hermit, but I will not be surprised if God makes me face up to obedience of these days anyway! I hope not). But last week I realized that the residents are just like nuns themselves, living poverty, chastity, and obedience, and a life in community. In a religious house, in a religious context - e.g. they pray the rosary together every morning between breakfast and lunch. And although they are sick and all alone in the world, and maybe their options are limited, they do have the choice to stay or leave, none of them have been involuntary committed by family or anything like that. One of them did leave, over the weekend, and that's how it came up that G told me "they'd have to pry my fingers off the door jamb to get me to leave." Huh. I do live and learn.

Another thing went well today. One of the things that has bothered me about the place is that these perky young novices seem, in my middle-aged opinion, sometimes to fail to respect the dignity of the old, sick and disabled bodies. More than once I have walked past a door -- or even been told to go in and start sweeping a room -- where one of the ladies is having her diaper changed or is otherwise indecently exposed. I think perhaps some young women don't see very old women's bodies anymore as women's bodies -- but from the inside, well I betcha that old woman still feels the same shame at being caught with her skirts up. Last Monday I said something to one of the young sisters about it, and this morning she asked me and another volunteer (a teenage girl) to please leave the room while she washed one of the residents. I was so happy and proud! Oh, I hope she took it to heart, and does the same Tuesday - Sunday when I'm not there.

I didn't want to go this morning. But I do want to go next Monday! A very blessed day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Discernment: the Wild Ride

I've been reading back through this blog, and I just have to laugh. This discernment process has been up and down and around in circles! OK, so there are some essentials that have not changed: I want to live a life consecrated to God, dedicated to God, dependent on God. I want to live stability, conversatio mora, poverty and chastity. Obedience, not so much, LOL -- no, really, obedience to God as He speaks in my heart, absolutely.

But the particulars? The path? Ay, ay, ay. I'm sitting here sipping a glass of wine -- thankfully I haven't had any violently upset stomach since the one that drove me to all of about 3 or 4 AA meetings a couple of months ago. Who knows what made me sick. I said I would go to 30 meetings, but I didn't ... I just wasn't there, ya know? Anyway, I don't think I'm an alcoholic, even though I should quit drinking because of poverty, and fasting, and fattening, and depressing, and etc, and I haven't actually quit drinking. I don't think I am an alcoholic, I just think I am undisciplined and self-indulgent. I went to the wine store today to buy wine for my cousin's party, and while I was there I grabbed a big handful of Smarties candies. Ate them all -- must have been 20 rolls -- one after the other, on my way to the party. Oh, Regina! I have the AA insanity, it's just not particularly tied to alcohol.

Well, and going back to how convinced I was that I would enter the convent, this time last year. That slipped away, even before I found out about Canon 603, that was just a happy reinforcement of the lifestyle I was already feeling my way towards.

And I haven't done that whole deep memory-dredging about my 20+ year-old sexual history. My spiritual director wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea, for one thing. And then I lost enthusiasm, too. Maybe I chickened out, took the easy way. Or maybe it was just emotion stirred up by a dream, and I took it too literally? Who knows.

In every case, a seed has been planted. I am not just zig-zagging, I'm circling. I come back to poverty & fasting over and over; the same with penance, and virtue, the same with sloth vs. holy leisure, the same with society vs. solitude. None of these "false starts" are really dead ends. None of them are even false starts! I get frustrated with myself because I make a commitment and then turn back on it (like 30 AA meetings). But then I think, maybe I am too glib about making commitments, given how my whole life, my vocation and my whole definition of myself is in flux these days. Take it easy, girl! All in God's time, all in God's way, no rushing, no pushing. Let it be, let it happen, let it unfold.

Ya -- it's past my bed time. Watch over me, Lord, I am in your hands.

Not enough solitude & silence

..... how to protect my private time? I keep thinking, "when I get out of town", when I get out into the country it will be different. But if I am to make any pretense at living as a hermit, I need to make some choices myself. I need to turn things down, even invitations to do good things with good people, family, community, even church. The new Chant Schola rehearses this morning. I want to learn more about chant ... I love to sing! ... I am the best and strongest singer in the group, and honestly, if it is to be a 4-part choir they really need me. But it rehearses every Saturday morning for an hour. No! Too much! I want to be nesting, building my nest. I want to go to the nursery and pick up some shrubs for the front border. I want to cook. I want to clean the chicken coop. I want to pack up the contents of the furniture that needs to be moved in order to furnish the rooms for paying guests, that will enable me to finally get out of town.

But this afternoon I am going to my cousin's housewarming party. This is a 3rd cousin, not a very close relative, but I very much value strong ties with the whole extended clan and it would be difficult to break that habit. And last night, there was a get-together of the "Ladies Auxiliary" (this is a purely social group) -- great community-building opportunity! Wonderful gals, it's the first time I've ever had really comfortable friendships with women, and I like it ... OK, last night there was a little too much talk about pregnancy and childbirth for this celibate to relate to, but there was enough other to be enjoyable.

Up until now I have thought of retreating into a hermitage as being a sweet indulgence for my introverted self. Going to work every day, in a very sociable office, was torment -- even having a private office I could shut the door to, not a cubicle like my poor mom has to work in. When I get out of town on occasion, away from the traffic and being constantly surrounded by people for a while, I can feel the stress fall away immediately.

But I am starting to see that if I am going to be a hermit, there will be some sacrifices. Some of the withdrawal will be painful, it won't all be sweet. I don't hate people, I just love solitude. There are times I enjoy being with folks, but as good as it can be, it pulls me away from the rhythm of the "cloister", and I feel thrown off. It's OK, all I really need is God, I know I can live with Him alone ... but it is going to be a learning process, an adjustment.

Meanwhile, I have a lot of work to do to outfit the house for renters, so I can get out of town once and for all. Good Lord, bless my hands, illuminate my mind with the next right thing to be done, and protect me from confusing your direction with the lures of the world or my own selfish will. Amen.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Yield Not to Temptation"

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin
Each vict'ry will help you some other to win.
Move hopefully onward, dark passions subdue
Look ever to Jesus, He'll carry you through.

Ask the Savior to help you, Comfort, strengthen and keep you.
He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.

Shun evil companions, bad language disdain,
God's name hold in rev'rence, nor take it in vain.
Be thoughtful and earnest, kind-hearted and true.
Look ever to Jesus, He'll carry you through.

To those that o'ercometh God giveth a crown.
Thro' faith we will conquer, tho' often cast down.
He who is our Savior, our strength will renew.
Look ever to Jesus, He'll carry you through.
I have been practicing piano by playing hymns, and I came across this one. I thought, how quaint! but faintly embarrassing! Gosh darn it, when did it get to be embarrassing to resist temptation, and strive to live a virtuous life? Ugh, I am so much a part of this cynical, self-indulgent, "me first" generation. Well ... doggone it, I am going to claim this hymn as my anthem. Sing it loud, sing it proud. I'll be a Christian yet! At least, with the grace of God, I can be a better one than I am now. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I am having a great time lately working on an horarium. That's Latin for schedule ... I could just say it in English, but then it wouldn't have that monastic flavor! I'm not just developing a schedule, I'm developing an horarium, a tool for ordering my day so that everything I do tends towards God.

I downloaded a sweet monastery bell ringtone, and plugged the Liturgy of the Hours into my cellphone. I rise at the first bell, 5:30 A.M., usually having been awake a bit earlier to quietly order my thoughts and ask God to direct my day. I get up, shower and dress and make the bed, then pray the Office of Readings. Throughout the day the bell ringing calls me back on track, to the Office and then to some productive work, from whatever I've gotten distracted with (usually something involving the computer!).

OK, so that's about as far as I've gotten. Trying to work out the best times for house and garden work, walking to the lake (which covers exercise + contemplation), errands, reading & writing, etc. But it's interesting and feels fruitful, like my life will actually be better the more I get this structure worked out.

Regina Terrae

Friday, September 19, 2008

Memories, or 4th stepping

I woke up this morning from a bad dream. I never remember my dreams, and this one left me with just one parting image: a young woman exposed in a public place, defenseless, degraded and vulnerable to rape. And sort of oblivious, on the surface, numb, like I was as a teenager.

I stayed in bed another half hour or so to reflect on the emotions the dream had stirred up, to place my heart in God's hands and His healing. Then I got up, washed and dressed, and went to the chapel for the Office of Readings. Ezekiel, Chapter 16. The image of Israel, the bride of God, turned harlot. My bible's footnotes pointed out that ritual prostitution was one of the features of the pagan religion the Israelites had strayed into -- along with child sacrifice. So the graphic imagery was not only figurative, but literal. Coming after that dream image, it was disturbing.

It's time to delve into my past. The rape, the twisted, painful, fearful sexual and emotional interactions with men, starting with adolescence, focusing there, perhaps, but not ending there. Of course, I will not be dredging up these memories on the blog!! Anonymous or not, this stuff doesn't go online.

I developed some effective defense mechanisms to keep me safe from the kind of violation I suffered back then, but evidently I am not healed. It's been a long time. This has implications for my religious vocation, of course. I know it's not normal to have next to no sex drive, but I've just taken it at face value, appreciating it as a grace God has given me to embrace chastity easily, at least, even if poverty is a lot harder and obedience just seems totally beyond me. One out of three's not bad, I think.

It's been almost 20 years since I realized that the fear was gone, the acute sexual fear I had carried around since ... I don't know, exactly, when, or what incident started it, or if it was cumulative. I thought I had healed -- and of course, I had healed, just not all. T tells me I have crazy barriers, not just nice healthy boundaries, but lead-lined walls that suddenly come slamming up out of nowhere. I guess I didn't totally resolve the sources of the fear -- I did, in part, but I guess it was too much, partly I just built some high massive defenses to be safe behind.

This is the time to dig ... I am safe, I have time and solitude and silence, I don't have to show up and be professional and cheerful and responsible to anyone. My relationship with God is relatively good, compared to past years, I feel fairly secure with Him. But then T won't let me alone so much to let me slip into depression, either. He is the most gentle, loving friend I've ever known, and I can trust him like nobody. I might even do the 5th step with him. Maybe. I will let God show me the right person when that time comes. I can melt down, now, rock and re-mother my poor inner child, my poor traumatized inner teenager. Whatever it takes me to get through this. One of those concepts I remember from some 12-step group from way back when: the only way to heal is to go through the pain, you can't go around it, over it or under it, and you can't turn back or go another way. The pain won't stop controlling your life until you go through it to the other side. Pain, or fear or any other negative emotion, suppressed still wreaks its havoc. This has been pretty deeply suppressed -- I resolved a lot, too, 20 years ago, but obviously not 100% -- I never think about the old, painful memories, but they are affecting my life in ways that I suspect will surprise me before it's over and done with.

For one thing ... it's not just trauma, not just what happened to me. Just like PTSD in a soldier, who has to come to terms with the psychology and emotion of killing, as well as of being targeted for killing. I was complicit in my own abuse, and I have violated myself, and others, too. Yeah, I know, that "blaming the victim" line raises red flags for me, too -- don't worry, my complicity doesn't let the rapist off the hook. But Al-Anon taught me to clean up my side of the street, and really, there's enough here to focus on.

Again, I won't be journalling these old memories here, on the blog. This goes in the paper journal. But please, hold me in your prayers.

Regina Terrae

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


In the last couple of days I have run into two people from my old job. I left the job a year ago, and until now I'd never met anyone from there by chance, there are just a couple of people I've kept in touch with deliberately. Talking with these two has reminded me how incredibly blessed I am to have been lifted out of that environment. One man came in late to church on Sunday and sat next to me. He had come to the Abbey because the newest postulant is a friend of his. He didn't recognize me -- we worked in different departments. We talked ... he told me things are awful there, extremely stressful, people feel as if upper management does not have any strategic vision or direction for the organization, they are expected to work much longer hours than they used to, supervisory relationships are poorly defined causing stress to both managers and line staff. Ugh ... the atmosphere when I left was terribly stressful. The restructuring was very badly managed, announced and then drawn out and studied for too long with everyone waiting for that shoe to drop, and then suddenly implemented all in a rush, no sequencing of the changes, no change management.

Yesterday as I walked around the lake I met another ex colleague, a guy who works in building facilities. His job hasn't been affected so much by the reorganization, other than the short-term crisis when everyone in the place had to move to new offices on the same day. But he told me that a dear colleague had been on a medical leave of absence since shortly after I left ... something stress-related, he thought. That's a shock -- she's a young woman, always seemed healthy -- well, certainly no more immune to the stress of the place than anyone else, but that's a long time to be on leave. I am going to look her up and try to get in touch.

I'd hated that job for years and years, long before the new president took over. I hated that job. But I felt so trapped. Stress does terrible things to a person. It paralyzed me, made me incapable of taking the steps I needed to take to clear my debts, save money, reduce expenses, and step out of the golden cage. That's what we called it, a golden cage. Generous pay and benefits, generous retirement, and ... somehow more than that. It was insulated, somehow. Jobs were very secure, it was very hard to be fired. Of course, for the international employees here at HQ, there was also the visa issue ... they couldn't just leave and take a job anywhere else, the visa was only valid to work in international organizations, and meanwhile they had houses, and spouses with jobs here, and kids in school. I could not even imagine leaving the corporate lifestyle, the conventional urban-office-slave way of life ... one of the reasons I never tried to leave is because I didn't know where to go. I had an e-mail subscription to Dilbert, to remind me that any other job would be just as bad. And it would have been just as bad in any other job of that kind.

I was so unhappy in that job, for so many years, yet I couldn't take the step to leave it. It was purely a gift from God ... the buyout offer that gave me the financial cushion, and at the same time discovering the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a secure and attractive goal that gave me the courage to leave the secure cage. I paid my debts with the buyout payment, all except for the mortgage on my house, and I am still (for one more year) depending partly on the residual income. I will have a small pension and, more importantly, health insurance starting at age 55. But still, a year ago, the prospect of making it on my own until 55 was terrifying. But once I was out of that miserable environment, it was only a matter of months before I found the peace and faith to let go of the security of a future in the convent.

Everything has changed since I left! I am so peaceful.... I know that my income is less than my expenses, today, and I am gradually depleting the last of the lump-sum payment I received from my contract. I'm not stressed out about it, though. This is all a process. I have given myself, my life, to God. I have invited God to transform me however He will. He is changing me, sure enough, and life just keeps getting better and better. The money, balancing books, will come in time. I am sure that learning to manage my income and expenses, peacefully and confidently, is one of the lessons to come. For now, I am learning to make my bed every morning, and gradually keep a cleaner and neater home; to spend time every day praying and contemplating; to spend less by wasting less (food!); the importance of walking by the lake as often as possible; and how to play the piano...... I am discovering my self, and my God, and the world around me that I was too stressed to see before. Life is amazingly good now. I am humbled, because I didn't make this happen, not in any way. I did not set myself a goal and take steps to get free of that miserable lifestyle. God just lifted me up, all of a sudden one day, at no particular time, just ... the right time, I guess, in His scheme of things. Just lifted me up and set me down in a new, sweet place. I will never, ever go back -- God willing!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

More on Poverty: the 7th Tradition

I just picked up the 12 & 12 (AA's 12 Steps & 12 Traditions), and opened it to a random page. The 7th Tradition: "Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions." I read it. The tradition itself, the one-liner, is read at AA (and other 12-step) meetings when a basket is passed for contributions to the group's support. But I don't remember ever reading the chapter in the 12 & 12.

It says that "A.A. must always stay poor", and that "at that moment ..., the principle of corporate poverty was firmly and finally embedded in A.A. traditions." At what moment? At the moment when they declined a gift of $10,000 that had been left in someone's will. Wow. There's a big difference between that and the way religious congregations (maybe not all, but as far as I know) practice corporate poverty. "Fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions." Convents live on contributions! Maybe not 100%, but it's like public radio, "listener support is our most important source of revenue." (some of them, anyway ... and I don't know of any that on principle "decline all outside contributions".) And as I discern my future, possibly as a consecrated hermit, this is very relevant to the question of my own vow of poverty.

Should I be "fully self-supporting"? Or should I accept help? On the one hand, I recognize a danger in being too hard-headedly independent -- I have a very hard time asking anyone for help, and that is not necessarily a good thing. I NEED help sometimes, I am no superwoman! On the other hand, just because I call myself a woman of prayer, people ought to give me money? What for, so I'll pray for them? No, I don't believe in buying indulgences, and I don't believe in buying prayers. I am choosing not to go back out and get a regular job. A lot of people would like to give up their jobs. So they should spend some of their hard-earned money supporting my life of prayer? No. I'm a Benedictine monastic (in spirit), and they at least originally were self-supporting through their own labor; not a Franciscan mendicant (the word literally means "beggar"), that's a charism that has never appealed to me. But corporate poverty is also a Franciscan innovation. St. Benedict allowed new entering monks the choice of either turning over their property to the monastery community, or donating it to the poor, and they certainly have always accepted bequests. Maybe that was a big mistake! Surely the relative wealth of the monasteries, later on, became an anti-evangelical witness?

The desert fathers wove baskets from palm leaves. The work itself did them good (I understand that), and they sold the product to support themselves. Understand: the desert fathers went to market to sell these baskets, they didn't refuse to support themselves because it would interfere with their self-imposed solitude.

I worked my entire adult life as a bureaucrat, all but the first year or so for one single employer. I don't know how I am going to support myself once the residual dries up in a year. I am hoping goat's milk, goat cheese, goat's-milk soap, eggs, and maybe some garden produce will net enough to pay the bills. The difference between this and my old salaried life is embracing the uncertainty: God will provide. That doesn't mean someone will die and leave me $10,000 in their will. He will provide by my own efforts, my frugality, and I guess a good dose of serendipity. I guess. I don't know how it will work! But oddly enough ... I do have faith that it will work out.

So what to do if I need help? And what to do if help comes, unasked for? How do I square that with poverty, understood as being "fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions"? Why do I ask this, why do I prefer A.A.'s definition to the way of my beloved Benedictines? Well, because for me, a great part of the attraction I felt to entering Regina Laudis was explicitly, the security. I am NOT an organized person, I do not regularly balance my checkbook, but I had a regular, predictable income for 19 years, and the thought of having to pay the bills without ever knowing what would be coming in was terrifying to me a year ago. I thought entering a convent, where there are other women who are good at the things I am not good at -- like being organized and detail-oriented -- was not a bad thing. Like the body of Christ, each one of us different, each one good, each one only a part of the whole. But it's not -- for me, for MY conversatio morum -- anything like 'consider the lilies of the field.' I think for me, this kind of more radical poverty will be more transformative.

So again: how should I handle needing help, or receiving unasked help? Should I refuse gifts? Donate them to the (involuntarily) poor? Should I accept help, but pay it back when I can? Or "pay it forward", giving to someone else the help that was given to me? What about non-monetary help? How to even account for it, if I think I ought to be paying it back, or forward? Should I, or should I just be grateful for it? What if I CAN'T do something alone (like pin up the hem of the skirt I started making MONTHS ago and got stuck on)? Where's the line between friends helping friends, and accepting "outside contributions"? Because as a hermit, the "corporate" is the same as the "individual", whereas both A.A. and the Rule of Benedict distinguish between the two in their rules on poverty.

Hmm. Food for thought, food for prayer!

Blessings to all who happen on this blog.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin

John McCain says that Sarah Palin will be a great "partner" for reforming the corrupt ways of Washington. I think he's right about that, and I greatly admire her crusade to clean up Alaska's government and its relationship with big oil. But I don't think that that is the core role of the Vice President.

The most important role of a Vice President is one most of them never have to rise to. It is to guarantee security and stability in an emergency, and competent continuity of governance thereafter. The most important thing a Vice President has to be able to do is to come on TV in the middle of a crisis, in the middle of chaos, and convince U.S. citizens, troops, allies, and most importantly, enemies, that there is no power vacuum. VP does not have to be inspiring, does not have to have a grand vision or far-reaching plan for the future of the country, as a President does. She or he needs to be a partner in governance, but that is in order to maintain readiness to take over at a moment's notice. There is a Cabinet full of partners in governance who should all be passionate reformers; the VP is not primarily that.

Sarah Palin is a strong woman, and I do not doubt that she has the nerve to take charge in an emergency. What I doubt is that she has the relevant knowledge to take charge effectively. I think she could make that TV appearance and show the necessary resolve and strength and coolness. But I, for one, would not be convinced. I do not believe she will be ready on day one.

She has a lot of experience with some aspects of one of the major issues facing our country, i.e. energy. Alaska is a major oil & gas producing state. I admire her independence in holding the oil companies to account, while still encouraging their activity in Alaska. But she does not seem to grasp the dynamics of supply and demand, in the sense that U.S. demand FAR outstrips any increase in supply that drilling in ANWR could provide. She does not seem to know about "peak oil", and scoffs at the long-term outlook that drives the need to diversify into renewable energy sources starting NOW.

Science, in general, seems not to be her strong suit. She does not believe that climate change is caused by human activity. She sued the federal government to try to stop it from designating the polar bear as an endangered species. She favors teaching "intelligent design" (creationism) in schools, and opposes any mention of contraception in sex education classes.

More worrisome, to me, is her complete lack of exposure to the world outside the United States. She first applied for a passport a year ago, in order to visit Alaska National Guard troops in Kuwait. Unlike Cindy McCain and John Bolton, I do not think that Alaska's geographic proximity to Russia means that she has a grasp of foreign policy issues (yes, they both actually said that ... go Google if you don't believe me).

My grandfather served in the Foreign Service, and now one of my brothers is a foreign service officer. Another of my brothers spent 20 years as a Navy SEAL; my stepfather was also a Navy SEAL, in Vietnam. I worked for 19 years in an international development organization. Obviously, international relations matter to me. Sarah Palin didn't have a passport a year ago.

Barack Obama has an American mother from Kansas, an African father, an Asian stepfather; he grew up partly overseas and partly in multicultural Hawaii. Of course that doesn't give him an in-depth knowledge of history, political and economic relations around the world, but it is important nonetheless. He understands how other people see things differently than Americans do. He understands that cultures are different, values are different, circumstances are different. It makes him a great politician, and it will make him a great President.

Joe Biden has the chops to take over in an emergency, and to run the country, if need be, even for four years if (God forbid!) Obama should drop dead on inauguration day. Sarah Palin as VP scares me, in this sense. Of course, McCain kinda scares me, too, but not for the same reasons .... at least he has exposure and experience!

another pro-life woman for OBAMA

Now I'm just pissed! The news just came out that her 17-year-old, unmarried daughter Bristol, still in high school, is 5 months pregnant. Sarah Palin knew, and according to the news reports, so did John McCain. Bristol, on the other hand, did NOT know that her mother was going to be running for Vice President, until it was a done deal. How dare she! How dare she drag her daughter through this! Wasn't it bad enough accepting this job with a "special needs" four-month-old baby? Naked Ambition. I hadn't written anything about her disregard for the needs of her new baby, not having children myself, with special needs or not. But I do remember being a teenager in crisis, and I Thank God my mother was there for me! I guess her husband was serious when he said she's "not wrapped right." What a nasty individual.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Feast of the Queenship of Mary

Today is my name day ... I was named after the Queen of Heaven, Regina Coeli.

And here's where I feel my inadequacy as a Catholic ... I just don't have a whole lot of warm mushy feelings about the Blessed Mother. I can tell you why I think she's awesome ... she lent her humanity, her body, to the Incarnation. Wow. Her young girl body, her womb, contained GOD, all the power and glory and infiniteness that is her Maker and ours; it is Mary's flesh that joined to His divinity when He wanted to become one of us. I think that deserves Queenship, and veneration. But it doesn't equal daughterly devotion. I think of her sometimes as mother-in-law: "Mother Mary, help me to love your Son better, to be a better wife to Him." But I've never felt like she's my own mother. I've never felt a whole lot for her at all, except awe for her role in the great love story of the Incarnation.

We Catholics often get accused of idolatry for venerating the Blessed Virgin and other lesser saints. I have to say, I think many Catholics DO cross that line between veneration and worship, and I think the Church is culpable for not teaching the distinction more strongly. A lot of people firmly believe in the saints' power to work miracles in their own right, rather than the more limited power to intercede effectively for us based on being closer to God than we are. Or am I wrong to make that distinction? Didn't the apostles work miracles in Jesus's name? No, but who worked the miracle, really? The apostle or our Father? Well, I think it was God working by their intercession, wasn't it?

There is a "communion of saints", of course there is. If one believes that life goes on after bodily death, then of course the beloved dead are still with us. They see and hear us, even if we don't see and hear them. We pray for each other, we ask each other to pray for us here in the face to face world. Why shouldn't the saints still pray for us 'over yonder'? God does see and hear them, and what's even better they see Him face to face. Honestly, though, I feel as or more comforted by the prayers of people here in my face-world, or even people with whom I have interacted online, who have shown real concern for me. Or my grandfather -- who was an atheist. I bet he's not an atheist any more! :) And well, we've already discussed my heretical unbelief in eternal damnation. My Abuelo is all right, I truly do believe it.

But mostly I just go straight to God in prayer myself. And I guess I think that's when crossing the "idolatry" line gets a little dangerous, when people pray to the saints instead of to God. Pray with me, brothers and sisters, but your prayers can't substitute for my own relationship with God. At least, maybe just at the very beginning, when I needed God but hadn't found Him yet, or maybe if I'm under a lot of stress and my own prayer life is lacking, then your prayers can carry me. But if I can find time to pray to the saints, I'd better have time to pray to God.

Seems a lot of people conceive of God as an angry old white man up there on His throne, and they go to Mary or some other saint because they find them less intimidating. But that's a problem, I think ... God is God, we can't go around Him! And He's NOT an angry old man, He's a loving spouse ... a baby boy ... a suffering one of us ... a mother who aches for us, her children, and nurtures us. That's GOD.

Mary is human. I already have a human mother ... so no, I don't really get the deep devotion to the BVM. I respect her, I look up to her, I call her awesomely blessed ... and I can talk to her as big sister, or as wise mother-in-law ... but I'm really all about her Maker and mine, I'm all about the divine baby who borrowed from Mary's humanity to join Himself forever to me and all of us.


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

So now I am addicted to the online recovery forum ... LOL
But did not go to the face to face meeting today. Will probably go tomorrow, because I have many open questions about the role of AA, or the 12 steps generally, in my life right now. Why did this come up now? What am I needing? I had never let go of the spiritual principles of the program, except that I seem never to have grasped the "We" part of it. Why was I drawn to meetings now? (that stomach-ache ... oh, yeah)

On the online forum they've got all kinds of "insanities" bumping up against each other, so I don't feel, so much as in the face-to-face meetings, the need to justify what isms I have ... am I an alcoholic or not? I don't know, and I'm not sure how much it really matters. I have always known that I have the same spiritual & emotional disease, because the 12-step medicine worked for me, it did restore me to sanity. Folks, I was truly insane, and my life was truly unmanageable. Whether I've also got the physical disease, or the potential to develop it, is not so important for me, today, because I can see that abstinence is conducive to my spiritual growth and sanity either way. I want to be a monk, and that, today, is enough motivation not to drink. And enough motivation to work the steps.

I also want to be a hermit ... but am open to that call developing differently than I had imagined, if God is trying to tell me to be less isolated. Solitude and silence are very good for me, but I do not yet know where the right balance is. The nice thing is that this "hermit" thing is pretty recent in the Church, and still pretty loose as far as rules and regs go, so as long as my bishop and I agree that my way of life constitutes a "stricter separation from the world" according to Canon 603, I think I can be a consecrated hermit.

Still looking for the intersection between my Catholic monastic life and my 12-step faith ...
Looking for a way to incorporate 12-stepping into my f2f life in an honest way, on the theory that f2f friends will not let me get away with b.s. I could probably get away with online....
I could look around for a 12-stepping nun or monk -- there are gobs of religious orders around here, bound to be someone local.... I do have a monastic spiritual director, but he doesn't know so much about AA or its offspring ... at this point in my life I am comfortable with my celibacy, have good boundaries, would be fine with a mature male sponsor, especially if he is also celibate ... though a woman would be preferable. Though it is nice to be able to do 5th step with my sponsor/spiritual director and get absolved, sacramentally.

So ... glad to be here. Cross posted pretty much this same on that forum.....

Regina Terrae

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

10th Step or 4th Step?

I had titled the last post "Ongoing Conversion", then today's AA meeting topic was the 10th Step: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it." Cute. OK, that was a good place to be today. I realize that I never really gave up on "the program", although I stopped going to the meetings many years ago. But I think I could use a little kick in the pants, as far as my spiritual progress is concerned ... so there is something here for me.

I never did a really systematic 4th step ("Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"). I have, of course, examined my conscience and been to sacramental confession. But it would probably be a good thing to set aside some substantial time to do a really systematic, "searching" moral inventory. To really take some time with it.

On the other hand, seems like my main failing, the center of all my failings, is self-centeredness. Too much navel-gazing? Maybe I can find a way to balance the two? I still need to do the self-examination ... but this whole past year and a half has been all about looking within, one way or another, hasn't it? Maybe I should find some volunteer work to do, or something, concurrent with the "4th step"? Well anyway, going to AA meetings takes me outside of myself in some sense.

Fr. H wants me to start thinking about a monastic rule for myself. To include a certain minimum period of daily contemplation! Yay, Fr. H, I like that! I get so worked up with guilt at not working diligently enough, but a monk also has to practice holy leisure. I end up doing neither, just wasting time......

Off to walk around the lake ... holy leisure for today.


Ongoing conversion

Or maybe the lesson I need to learn is detachment. Yesterday I was laughing at myself, "So, sister, you want to be a monk? So you're willing to give up sex for life, and you're balking at alcohol? You do know that's not normal, right?"

Just then an e-mail from Fr. H:
"In today's gospel Peter says to Jesus, 'We have given up everything and followed you.' 'Followed'. Insight: the following is all and everything."
Just that, no more. Ha, ha! He didn't know then that I had been to AA, because he has been in retreat. But we will meet this morning.

So maybe it's still not about alcohol for me, but I do need to be willing to give it up to follow Jesus. Maybe my old 1st step, 22 years ago, is still good, because I sure did feel powerless then, and my life was sure unmanageable. Maybe what I need to do now is a systematic, thorough 4th through 9th step. I did go to Confession way back then, as I was also coming into the Church, and let go of the really big stuff, the major sources of shame and guilt. But as a 4th step it wasn't systematic, and I haven't really done an 8th step. I guess if I have harmed people it's mostly been through sins of omission ... excessive introversion, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, being unwilling to be involved with people. Case in point: I worked 19 years at my old job, and a lot of people wanted me to keep in touch. It's been a year now, and I have kept in touch with all of about 2 of them. I've blown off even the people I was pretty close to, even the people I really liked. Just can't be bothered.

But all this is a little confusing for a potential hermit. How much and what kind of involvement with people is right for me? What do you want of me, God? How available shall I be, how involved, how interdependent? Where is the healthy balance between hermit-monk and self-absorbed?

I kind of wish it was alcohol bringing me to my knees. AAs are the only people I know who are really willing to confront their character defects intensively and throughout their lives. They're the real monks, more so than any of the church monks I know. I wish I could find, or maybe I could found, a 12-step program for ordinary seekers of God. Then again, as long as I'm willing to not drink, maybe the AAs will let me stay a while and work it out with them, even if I don't say "and I'm an alcoholic."

Anyway ... 3 days in, 3 meetings done, 27 more to go before I even feel like I have anything to base a discernment on, and that's a bare minimum. I am setting myself that 30 days (no, 30 meetings -- I might not be able to go every day) threshhold for a first evaluation of whether or not God might be trying to tell me something, whether maybe I should keep going back for a while longer. I think that's fair. I have also signed into one of the online recovery forums, and I guess I'll have to call one of the local women on the phone, too.

That's me for now, signing off............

Monday, August 18, 2008

AA cont'd

Did I say the great lesson I need to learn is to need people? Ha ha, I went to the noon AA meeting, and the topic was ego. Yes. Well. OK. I still don't have the first step down, but I will go to some more meetings......


I went to an AA meeting yesterday. Not happy about it. Why? I go on and on about how wonderful the Program is, how it saved my life, gave me God, yadda yadda yadda. 20 years ago. But back then, it wasn't about alcohol for me, and I don't want to give up alcohol. I like alcohol. I like wine, I like vodka, I like gin, I like scotch. I like caipirinhas and mojitos. I like beer sometimes, and I like hard apple cider. I like champagne and I like mimosas, for special occasions. It's not that I like getting drunk ... beyond a warm glow, I find drunk unpleasant. I like to drink the stuff, I like the flavors of it. Especially red wine, which has to be the toughest one of all on my stomach.

My stomach won't let me drink any more. My body rejects the stuff. Not, unfortunately, at the time when I'm drinking it, but the next day. Not because I drink more than I used to, in fact I get sick from drinking a lot less than I used to. I could probably load up on antacids and Excedrin and survive it, but that just doesn't seem like a really good answer to me. It's an allergy, like AA says, but for me it's really like a physical allergy. I can eat hot sauce all day long and feel just fine, but a bottle of red wine, over the course of an evening, even with a meal in between ... nope, not any more.

So.... Well, there are other reasons to quit. Alcohol is an expensive habit. Even without buying expensive wine, good quality relatively cheap stuff is still $10 a bottle. I can garden all I want, grow my own veggies, cook from scratch, and I'm still spending money as if I were eating dinner out every night. I do not want to go back, EVER, to the kind of job I would have to have to support an expensive lifestyle. Never again. I want to take a vow of poverty, which I think of as a vow of simple living. Of course, I'd love to establish a cider orchard and make my own.... Sigh.

But then there's another reason, which is that I am lazy and depressive by nature, and alcohol is, duh, a depressant. It is not doing anything for my energy level, right? And it's fattening, too, of course, which is not good for my energy level either. That simple lifestyle requires manual labor; I don't need anything that saps my energy.

For all those reasons, I have resolved in the past to give the stuff up, and I have failed. I didn't even make it through Lent last time. I guess I am an alcoholic. I am self-indulgent and impulsive in general ... but my body is reacting to alcohol, specifically, like an allergy. So I guess I am an alcoholic. Why do I feel such resistance? Such resistance to going back to AA? I don't want to need other people. I don't mind needing God! God is great, God is good, God is there for me right here in my living-room. I don't have to go to meetings to find God. I don't have to interact with people. Thank God, at least they don't smoke in (most) meetings any more. Of course, I smoked myself, back then ... it would probably be just enough to keep me home now, though. But think about it -- I want to be a hermit! I want to be alone. I don't mind needing neighbors, mountain old-timers, to teach me how to can, or to garden better, or to build or shoot or gather wild mushrooms or do whatever it takes to live alone in the mountains. But I don't want to need people for my faith life. That's just between me and God, right? I am un-directable, and I am a contemplative, a solitary by nature. Right?

I wish! Fact is, my prayer life, my contemplative life, my relationship with God is not what I want it to be, either. I remember the honeymoon years, many years ago, when He was so present to me all the time..... When all I had to do was to turn my thoughts to Him and there He was, He would just come flooding in..... When everything I thought and said would call to mind some Bible verse, or something from the Mass or the Office or the Rosary. I used to pray the rosary and find insights, learn things about Mary or about myself and God.

So to hell with alcohol, I am thinking that the lesson I need to learn today is to need people. How to need people. Tough lesson for someone who wants to be a consecrated hermit.... It's one thing to go out once a week for Sunday Mass, but if I really make a decision to do AA I'd have to go to 2 or 3 meetings a week (no requirements, but I think it's what it would take to really do it well, and there's no point in doing it half way). I guess I should have ordered Merton's No Man is an Island from Amazon last week, instead of his Thoughts in Solitude. LOL (yes, at least I can laugh about it).

Actually, thinking of it this way is making me feel better. After all, more than anything else, I want to devote my life to God. I want to grow in my relationship with Him, and I don't feel like I have been growing too much lately. I have been crying out for some help to pull me closer to Him. Surprise, surprise, if that help is supposed to come through other people. I know very well that that's a popular spiritual principle that has never made much sense to me ... it's a gap in my spiritual understanding. I am woefully self-centered.

OK, God, I will make a leap of faith. I want nothing more than to grow in You, to be liberated from my limitations, to be all that I can be, at peace, confident, fully alive. I'm ready to try AA. I'll go to that noon meeting today, with a better attitude, and maybe even ask around for a sponsor. Hopefully someone Catholic, but it doesn't have to be. I liked A, and she gave me her number (these people are so good ... they gave me a Big Book at my first meeting yesterday, and all the women at the meeting wrote their phone numbers in it. God bless them). I was one of only two white people in the group, and the ones who talked didn't sound like the upper-middle-class professionals I used to be, but at least they were somewhere in the vicinity of my age or older. Last time I tried going to an AA meeting, a few years ago, they were kids, and I didn't relate too well. (Wow, it makes me happy to know that age feels like more of a difference than race. Yes, go Obama). Anyway, I'm exaggerating, yesterday one person in particular stands out in my mind as having sounded like a middle-class, educated woman whose background might have something in common with mine, even though she's black & I'm white. I don't care, no I don't even want everyone there to be like me, but it does help having something other than drinking in common with at least some of them, speaking the same language. I'm sure I'll find some Catholics, too.

New twist in the path. God help me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the AA 4th & 5th Steps, Examination of Conscience and Confession

Today's office of readings features an excerpt from On Perfection by Saint Gregory of Nyssa (note: this is the reading proper to the date; has opted to show the reading proper to the saint of the day, Maximilian de Kolbe. Both options are correct). I am struck by how closely he reflects the AA Big Book and 12 & 12's discussion of the 4th step: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" and the 5th step: "Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

St. Gregory quotes St. Paul,
"'He is our peace, for he has made both one.' Since we think of Christ as our peace, we may call ourselves true Christians only if our lives express Christ by our own peace. As the Apostle says: 'He has put enmity to death.' We must never allow it to be rekindled in us in any way but must declare that it is absolutely dead. Gloriously has God slain enmity, in order to save us; may we never risk the life of our souls by being resentful or by bearing grudges. We must not awaken that enmity or call it back to life by our wickedness, for it is better left dead. No, since we possess Christ who is peace, we must put an end to this enmity and live as we believe he lived. He broke down the separating wall, uniting what was divided, bringing about peace by reconciling in his single person those who disagreed."

The Big Book says
"Resentment is the 'number one' offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick."
And again,
"It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison."
Gregory says,
"In the same way, we must be reconciled not only with those who attack us from outside, but also with those who stir up dissension within; flesh then will no longer be opposed to the spirit, nor the spirit to the flesh. Once we subject the wisdom of the flesh to God's law, we shall be re-created as one single man at peace. Then, having become one instead of two, we shall have peace within ourselves. Now peace is defined as harmony among those who are divided. When, therefore, we end that civil war within our nature and cultivate peace within ourselves, we become peace. By this peace we demonstrate that the name of Christ, which we bear, is authentic and appropriate."

The Big Book also equates remorse with resentment, the dissension within: "Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves." More to the point I guess is the 3rd step: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." It is by this step that we "subject the wisdom of the flesh to God's law," and "end that civil war within our nature."

St. Gregory goes straight on to the 5th step: "When we reject the deeds of darkness and do everything in the light of day, we become light and, as light should, we give light to others by our actions." St. Paul says to the Ephesians, "
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light."

The Big Book says this about admitting our shortcomings:
"We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience.... We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe."
Bill Wilson didn't use mystical language like that easily, glibly. He meant it. I know, I have been there myself. The 12 and 12 uses similar language: "The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement, and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed," and "this feeling of being at one with God and man, this emerging from isolation through the open and honest sharing of our terrible burden of guilt...."

The paradox is the same one that St. Paul saw, that St. Gregory saw, that AA sees so intensely: as long as the "deeds of darkness" remain hidden, they are "shameful even to mention"; but "everything exposed by the light ... becomes light." Confession transforms shame and guilt, makes them light. There is more: once our guilt has become light, it also sheds light for others. Self-satisfied piety does nothing to enlighten one's neighbors; what is enlightening is a humble awareness of one's own flaws, along with slowness to anger and quickness to forgive, and humble gratitude for the grace and mercy of God.

Whether you're an alcoholic, a teetotaller or anything in between, I highly recommend reading the Big Book (actually titled Alcoholics Anonymous): full text at and the 12 & 12 (Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions): as far as I know, not available online, but both books can be purchased from Amazon and many other sources.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hermitage Retreat Report

The week in West Virginia was wonderful, but I am having a hard time putting it into words that can really convey the experience.... It was about Silence and Solitude, a suspension of words, writing about it seems almost to negate it.

Oh yes, I could live like that, happily. Hidden away in a little house in the woods, out of sight from the road and neighbors. With chickens and goats and garden, a dog and a cat or two, deer and songbirds, the trees and a good flowing creek. Lots of God's creatures, but none of them wanting to have a conversation ... at least not about TV shows or hairstyles or politics or any of the other vapidity of modern material culture. "Pilgrims" and genuine seekers are always welcomed by a monk, even a hermit monk.

Not that there weren't some mundane distractions, with living conditions a little more rustic than this city girl is used to. Oh, but it was beautiful. The delicious stillness -- there's a different quality to the quiet of the woods. It's not the sealed-off quiet you get when you shut the house windows and doors against the world. It's full of singing birds and cicadas, the breeze in the trees, a bubbling brook ... a far-off tractor droning, a crowing rooster away down the holler, a dog barking in the distance.

I realized how liberating it is to have a very small house and minimal stuff; that manual labor (even for an INFP) is good for sanity; that God chases off "demons" (temptations, boredom, bad moods, apathy) if we but ask Him to; and that those demons always come back to try again. I read and read and read: lots of Desert Fathers; the book Seeds of Grace, by a Catholic nun about the spirituality of AA; my breviary and Bible, the beginning of Walden. Wrote lots in my journal. I sang and prayed the Office. I went hiking for hours with my field guides, learning to identify some of the different trees, butterflies, flowers.

I spent part of a couple of days with Sr. J, sharing and canning produce, and went to Mass at the local parish a few times. Sr. J also has the Blessed Sacrament available on-site, so I was able to commune without going to town. Sr. J is a gem. She is not so much a hermit, compared to the solitude I would like for myself, but nonetheless she has many years of experience that would be priceless to me if I end up settling nearby. The parish is also wonderful, a real loving community, with a pastor who is down to earth and deeply grounded in prayer. Sr. J and the pastor both promised to keep their eyes & ears open for a quiet, solitary place for me to live.

Meanwhile, I have e-mailed the diocesan representative for consecrated life, asking if there are other hermits who would be willing to be contacted by a discerner like myself. I will keep you posted.

What it means to NEED God

Last night I found myself remembering a little bit of what it was like to be me as a teenager. Adolescence is hard for everyone, that's unfortunately normal, but mine wasn't normal. I had suffered from major depression since the age of 9, and by the time I was 15 I was a real mess. I was drinking and getting high, skipping school, and in a whole lot of pain. When I was about to turn 16, I think I lost my virginity, while more or less passed out drunk. A month or two later I ran away from home. I picked someone up at a party so I'd have a place to spend the night, and I was so debased that I thought I could support myself by turning tricks on the street. I knew I was smarter than that, but I would have been psychologically incapable of holding a job. The next morning the guy I had gone home with raped me on a park bench. A few hours later the miracle happened, my stepfather tracked me down and took me home.

I got some counseling, quit drinking and drugging, and started hanging out with a different group of friends: the immigrant kids (that's when my Spanish went from classroom to fluent). Some of those kids had suffered horribly, this being the era of the Reagan wars in Central America. We didn't talk about it, but things would come out sometimes, and there was a certain gravity that held me much better than the privileged middle-class ambience of my "gifted" classes (God bless the school administrators who never booted me out of the "gifted" program -- I was intellectually gifted, though I was way too messed up to actually do the work those classes required, and being included there was a little consolation to my battered self-esteem).

That was not the last time I hit bottom. It was a reprieve, but I fell again afterwards and had more traumatic experiences before starting my long-term recovery at age 19. That's when I started going to AA and its offspring, especially Al-Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings. My parents are not alcoholics, I actually have a wonderful, loving family. I don't think I am an alcoholic, either, really. But it seemed that growing up with my own mental illness, depression, had deformed my emotional and social development in very much the same way that my ACOA confrères had experienced. At any rate, none of them ever questioned my right to be there, God bless them, and the program worked for me. They taught me to pray, they taught me courage, they taught me to hope. I met God and fell in love with Him. Then I found the Catholic Church and made it my home.

It was still years before I got medical treatment for the depression, and my path has been anything but a straight line since then (like a ladder climbing to Heaven? not), but I have always known what it means to NEED God, to need Him desperately, and I have never entirely given up on Him. Sometimes I have been very Catholic and sometimes I have drifted from the Church, miffed or unreconciled to some teaching that I just couldn't adhere to at that phase of my recovery. Sometimes I have lived immersed in prayer and contemplation, and at other times I have "acted out" and strayed from His friendship, but never have I entirely renounced Him. I cannot. I NEED Him, and I know it as surely as I know I need air. I rarely think about those bad years, and more rarely still do I remember so clearly how I felt back then. But Christ reached down and pulled me out of Hell.

My experience makes me an indifferent "evangelist". I do not know what to say about God to people who have not suffered. I would not know Him if I had not needed Him desperately. Life with God is hard. I can't see Him or touch Him or hear His voice. He speaks with this still, small voice, that can't be heard over the TV and the radio and constant mundane interactions with people. Following Him requires constant recollection, faith, trust, and great skepticism toward popular cultural values. I don't know how to tell people about the peace, the bliss, the love, the grace that He gives me, when they can't follow the tortuous path He brought me by.

Then again, my experience has given me an unorthodox perspective on sin and grace and punishment. I do not believe in eternal damnation. I guess I'm a heretic ... but my belief is grounded in these experiences. When I was 18 years old, still in Hell, a high school friend died. He died drunk, and breaking the law, not in what you would call a state of grace. When I found out, I was blessed with a "parting of the veil": I "saw" (not visually) my friend, in God, with God, deeply happy, deeply peaceful, no longer crazy. He was healed of the "sins" that had characterized his earthly unhappiness and caused his bodily death. When I first started to go to Mass, a year or two later, that is what I took from the lines "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed". Our unworthiness -- our sinfulness -- is not something God punishes us for, but something He stands ready to heal us of if we will just permit Him to. Sin carries its own punishment -- I know, I have tested all this out. I have sinned and suffered, and I have surrendered to God and known bliss, even risen above suffering. And it is only God's grace that makes it possible for us not to sin. And it is only our willingness, the surrender of our wills, that allows God's grace to enter. The only requirement for membership in AA, that great program for the healing of hardened sinners, is the desire to stop drinking. All we have to do is want to change, ask Him to cleanse and heal us, and then get out of the way while He does the job.

In great suffering is great blessing. No way would I ever change places with people who live conventional lives, with conventional little happinesses and little sadnesses, who know neither Hell nor Heaven. It seems that it takes a crucifixion to experience a resurrection ... and it is worth it! I guess that's why I have always loved to sing for funerals: grief opens a door for Consolation to enter, and once He is known who could ever throw Him out again? And that "parting of the veil" after my friend died, 23 years ago, also means that I do not fear death, I look forward to it!

I do want to share what I know with others, as they are able to receive it. That's why I love to see D at the food co-op: this man has suffered violently, and he is reaching for grace with a fierce need. I think he can see that I, too, have been down and am now up, and he is very receptive to the little words of guidance I try to offer him. I don't care that he doesn't reach for God in the Catholic Church, or in church at all. I know that God doesn't need the Church to save sinners, since He actually saved me in the 12-step meetings, before I ever entered the Church. I can share the beauty and truth that I find in Catholic doctrine and liturgy, and the tools for living my faith that I have gleaned from Church traditions and practices, but the visceral experience of having been saved, of having been snatched out of Hell, happened before ever I darkened church doors.

Thus also, this little blog. I don't know if anyone will read it; so far no one has posted any comments. It is deeply personal, but as it is and will always remain anonymous, I dare to share my story in case someone still in Hell might read it and find the courage to reach for Heaven. My sister, my brother, it is open to you. No matter how far down you have fallen, no matter what terrible, shameful things you have done, even if you do not believe in God, even if you've cursed God, but don't know where else to turn, it's OK -- just ask Him and He will touch you and heal you. He doesn't even have to forgive you, because He was never angry: you haven't hurt Him, you've only hurt yourself, and He wants to make you whole.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vocation and Personality Type

I am an INFP. If you don't know what that is, please google MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator); I won't try to explain it here. Anyway, I'm an INFP, with a strong tertiary T but a very weak fourth S. I actually scored "0" on the S scale once (that's rare); it's a little more developed now, but still weak enough that it is starting to dawn on me that I may never be a good "homesteader". I may never be the kind of person who can grow her own food, make her own clothes, and build her own house, with her own two hands. Oh, how I want to be that person! It kills me. I believe passionately in Wendell Berry's world: I believe that it is a poisonous lack of humility and a grave sin of our modern culture, to refuse to sweat for one's meals and insist on buying them with money instead. I so want to be the person who can cobble together leftover materials and make something beautiful and useful out of them, making do with less. I want to take a sewing pattern and adapt it, effortlessly, to actually fit the contours of my body. But it's not effortless. It's painful. I finally broke down this week and paid somebody a whole lot of money to do an amount of yard work that shamed me and left me speechless. 3 guys, in 12 hours, managed to get done -- not what it would have taken me all summer to do, but what I never, ever would have gotten done. Yard work is like dishes or dusting, it is never finished. You can't just weed out one bed and then be free to focus on another one. The stuff grows back! I don't keep up with the dishes and dusting, either, and it makes me miserable -- not living in a messy house, but seeing myself failing to be the kind of person I wish I were. I am endlessly mentally creative, but not the least bit physically creative.

I knew all this, but I have been trying to shove my round self into that square hole until I am black and blue around the edges. So what do I do now? I adjust my expectations and my goals, I guess. There are a few places this epiphany is sending my mind. One is that I have to work on my interdependence skills. I am really bad at needing people, and asking for help does not come naturally. For one thing, you will remember I am an INFP, not an ENFP. But people are, surprisingly, ready and willing to help. T has been my teacher here: he's an introvert, too, but he has a wonderfully open and generous heart. He says he has hundreds of friends, all of them really friends. People are not always available when I want something done, nor will they always work exactly to my specifications. But aha, there is another opportunity to exercise evangelical poverty: I don't have to get everything I want, exactly when and how I want it, to be happy. Instead of convenience and control, I get friends. What a concept. The flip side is, of course, being willing to be inconvenienced myself sometimes, stepping out of my introversion when someone else wants help. Living in this town -- a small municipality within a large urban metropolis -- has also taught me about community. It is a genuine community, unified in diversity.

This self-insight also, of course, has some implications for my future, my vocational path. Not having the aptitude to be physically self-sufficient doesn't mean I can't be a good and happy hermit. A hermit is a member of her community, albeit not a very visible or vocal one. Julian of Norwich,e.g., was entirely dependent on her community for her sustenance. In exchange, the hermit-monks provided spiritual direction and inspiration that grow out of their more focused contemplative and prayerful lifestyle. I can do that! People tell me I write very well, probably well enough to generate some income. To begin with I should probably change this blog as A suggested; keep this jotting journal as a sort of back page, a notepad, but use the public front page for more thought-out, polished essays. I loved leading the Spanish RCIA program at my former parish, guiding people through their spiritual development into full-fledged Church members. People kept coming back, so I guess I wasn't too incompetent at it. Even Fr. H, my spiritual director, last week wondered what I am getting from our meetings, since it often feels as if our roles are reversed. (It often feels that way to me, too, but I don't think that's a bad thing!) And I have been very much enjoying my interaction with D at the co-op, and from the focused way he makes eye contact just when I throw some piece of guidance at him, I think he is listening and taking it in. (sometimes that is 2nd-hand guidance: yesterday it was a suggestion to read about the AA 8th & 9th steps in order to better support his neighbor, who seems to be teetering on the threshold of willingness to make much-needed amends to his kids). I have self-knowledge, personal relationship with God, empathy and compassion, and an ability to express myself in words; spiritual direction is something I can do, do well and enjoy doing.

Then again, I can still keep my kitchen garden, and just accept that it may never be as lush and tidy and productive as the one in my imagination. And if I have too many cucumbers, and I don't get around to pickling them, I can give them to the poor (why haven't I done that yet this year, with all these city soup kitchens around??). If I give my excess to the hungry instead of letting it rot, then surely my Father in heaven will not let me go hungry, either. I can still keep my chickens and goats, too. Animals are harder to neglect, I think they are good for me. Maybe I shouldn't stress my weak "S" function too much, but I will still benefit from developing it, gently and self-compassionately, and animals help with that.

Today I leave for a week in West Virginia, visiting a consecrated hermit of some 30-odd years. I will be taking my paper journal with me, and I hope to do a lot of discernment..... I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about when I get back. Pray for me!

Regina Terrae

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Warrior and the Pacifist

There is a young man who works at the food coop with me, I'll call him "D". Last week he told me way too much of his life story for having just met me: I want to tell him not to cast his pearls before swine, not to throw what is holy to the dogs. But that's a different subject. This morning I want to write about the path of the "warrior".

D told me he was violently abused by his father until the age of 12, when he was rescued by his mother (from whom his father had kidnapped him), with the help of his father's sister. His father was habitually violent to women as well as to his son. D says he once saw a woman jump from a 2nd-story window to get away from him ... and then come back for more. Parental violence is nothing like parental discipline, and D said "there was a special seat for me in the principal's office." When he next saw his father, as a young adult, he prepared for the meeting by getting smashing drunk.

He told me all this after I expressed surprise at overhearing him, a guy who just exudes peace and love and gentleness, talking very enthusiastically about a boxing match the night before. He was discussing the match with a friend, at length, in terms that made it clear that he was a great follower of the sport. So he said it's no contradiction -- he's all about being a "warrior". I also asked about the tattoos on his forehead, and he said one represents his "third eye", and the other a martial art form that he is developing (a warrior discipline).

Now, I've heard of this concept of the "warrior" as related to a spiritual path, but I confess I have never paid it much attention. I have always been a rather radical pacifist. I'm too young to remember Dr. King (born in 1967), but nonetheless his sermons seem to have shaped my view of what is right and true and good. I've always thought, if "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies" -- and Jesus's own example on the Cross -- means anything at all, it means that even self-defense is not a valid motive for a Christian to react violently. I know the Church has a doctrine of Just War, but I've ignored it because it just seems wrong to me. Is it really possible for a Christian to defend herself from violence violently? King and his disciples suffered violence, not to mention Jesus and His disciples, how many holy martyrs? What does that martyrdom mean, if we say it's OK to strike back in self-defense?

Now before I go any further, let me make it clear that I have not spent my life pondering this question from the safety of some walled enclave. On the contrary, I have lived in some pretty dangerous inner-city neighborhoods, heard gunshots from my front steps multiple times, been personally in-my-face threatened with mugging. Then again, when I was raped, it was out in the "safe" suburbs. It seemed the mugging didn't come off because the guy was so taken aback by my serene, fearless smile -- I was on the way home from some 12-step meeting, my spirit was strengthened, and I was communing with my "Higher Power": nothing could touch me! I must have been glowing. Those 12-step programs formed the rock-solid foundation of my faith in God, and in them I met in loving communion with some of the toughest, baddest, meanest and dirtiest, most humbled sinners you'd ever want to know. I used to live in fear, but by then I had lost it in discovering God -- it was a honeymoon time for me with God -- and I also knew the heart of street thugs and addicts. There was nothing to fear, because nothing, not mugging nor even murder, could separate me from the love of God as I had come to know Him.

Then what is this "warrior path" about? It is obviously genuine, a legitimate spiritual path. D, in particular, is as I have said a loving, gentle, peaceful man, who strives to be a "warrior", to cultivate a "warrior spirit". Then again, I have no doubt that I am capable of killing a man, in anger or in self-defense, as upsetting as it was when I had to kill a chick that had been mauled by a raccoon. I don't know. I still believe in radical non-violence, but ... I don't know. I want to understand the other side of this, how violence can in some way be even sacred. I will work at the co-op again tomorrow, and maybe I will ask D to tell me something about it.

Blessings to you, and to D, to all victims of child abuse, and conversion for their abusers, and for all those desperate, broken-hearted street thugs and addicts. If you come across this blog, please pray for me, too.