Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

They're Giving Me Powerful Drugs

I have been sick. Was taking Ambien and then began eating and then cooking in my sleep which is most distressing. I have no memory of eating ice cream, and candy and mac & cheese - it was great mac & cheese at the restaurant and since I added more cheese*, I bet it was even better.  And I gained weight! If I'm going to make myself fat, I want to enjoy it!

Now, we're switching to Restoril. I use "we" because my doctor muttered her way through several possibilities until she decided Restoril was the best choice. Actually, I'm trying Restoril. I've stopped eating in my sleep and haven't found any unexpected dirty dishes in the sink the next day. And I sleep. But, for the past week, I've been waking at 7.30 to take my a.m. meds, then I try to read morning prayer and a bit of Isaiah and a bit of something else but the next thing I know, it's 12.30/1. Except for days like today when I slept through my alarm and woke for the first time at 1. (I went to a party last night. It was quiet. Just a friend's birthday. And I was home by 11. But that must be past my sell-by hour. Que sera.)

Restoril keeps me out of it most of the time. Before, my friends thought I was always slightly drunk. Now, they think I'm significantly more slightly drunk. Yet maybe it's not the Restoril. I've had a lot of wooziness since having the chemo and have spent 3 of 7 days in bed since July when I had to take a break from work. Maybe the wooziness is just increasing and I will be woozier and woozier as time goes on. Has potential to be great fun. Imagine the things one could sleep through. And wooziness might be a defense for all sorts of accidents, like leaving Bergdorf's wearing amazing shoes.

I do have lots of stuff on my mind and a new photo of myself, if my friend ever sends it to me, looking like a deer caught in an SUV's headlights which I might post, if my friend ever sends it to me. So I'll keep posting whenever I can. (It's sort of an adventure.) And if you know anything about Restoril, please advise. This stuff is powerful. (Maybe my body will become accustomed to it and I will sleep less and less. I'm already taking the lowest dose so maybe that will happen soon.)

Meanwhile, here's one of my favourite Onion clips:

* more cheese always makes mac & cheese better

Thursday, September 24, 2009

They Work For Us

Where are the leaders we need right now?

In my previous post, I erred in asking, where are the leaders particularly since I was actually asking, Where are those who will take over the job of leading this country so I can get back to my life? Like most Americans, I am still learning to be an American. An education in this country has provided me with much misinformation. I am now re-educating myself so that I am an informed and fully participating citizen. Assisting me are friends such as Fallen Sparrow who pointed out that in the United States of America, we don’t have leaders, we have representatives. The preamble of the Constitution begins: We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union... We the people are sovereign. We the people are the leaders. Those we elect represent us. They are our servants.

Most Catholics (and I think most people) seem uncomfortable with servants. As Christians, we are taught to be servants. As Americans, we've been taught that we live in a democracy*, that "all men [and women] are created equal", that here, there are no servants (and therefore no masters). The very idea of having servants conjures up images of Cinderella, “let them eat cake,” and a level of wealth that translates into Scrooge's treatment of poor Bob Cratchit or the monstrous Simon Legree**. I get the impression that most Americans believe it’s immoral to expect someone else to be their servant. But in reality we have all sorts of servants. They collect our garbage, chlorinate our water, sweep our streets. But we don't usually feel that those who do such jobs are servants. We think we have become egalitarian. Actually, we have only learned to lie to ourselves better. We pretend that servants don’t exist and so pretend we have no role in regards to them.

Most of us think our primary job as citizens is voting, Many Catholics know we must also be informed so that we choose candidates who adhere to Church teaching or at least, natural law. Some of us vote to limit evil and/or for those who espouse sound economic and foreign policies. On the whole though, we vote and then believe we should be left alone to live our lives while those we elect get on with the business of running the country. But public servants merely represent us. They speak with our voices, carry out our decisions within the confines we set. They cannot and must not make decisions for us. Since we are sovereign, an integral part of living our own lives is running our country.

That is a great difficulty for many Catholics, for many Christians. The Church teaches us that we are to obey the state. That’s not a unique teaching of the Magisterium, scripture teaches the same. But in America, we the people are the state. In America, we the people must govern our own lives. In America we must set standards for ourselves and must teach those standards to our children. We must be the masters of this country, must be good stewards of the unique gift we have received.

I often encounter Catholics who tell me, when they find a candidate who adheres to Church teaching, they will vote for him/her. We have the expectation that others will present us with the right platform. But we forget, it is our job to set the standards, to tell our potential servants what they should be doing. In at least a general sense, we need to create the platforms, the policies and the positions that potential servants will flesh out and fulfill. To do so, we must be well educated and well informed. We must be involved in our communities: unmarried people must participate in decisions that involve children, married people must participate in decisions that involve those who are not married. And not only because those issues involve taxes but because the decisions made for others in our country affect all of us. We must encourage those in our community who can serve to run for public office. We must remain aware of what our servants are doing, of whether they are performing their duties responsibly. We must make certain they have what they need to do their jobs and pay them fair wages.

To ensure that our home is well cared for. Before we ask whether a particular candidate can do the job, we must know what that job entails. We must know the standards for those jobs and make certain candidates have shown evidence that they will live up to them. We must approach elections as if we are reluctantly hiring someone to care for our fragile, infant children; we must not be frivolous in choosing public servants. And, as those of us who have hired staff know, when our servants don't do their jobs we must replace them. We must realize, here, to be a good Catholic, to be a good Christian, we must do the work of governing, we must be faithful masters – that this is an integral part of stewardship.

Our Constitution sets forth the laws by which America exists. All other laws must be in accordance with it. It is not scripture but it is a certain guide within which we, the individual citizens, are able to govern her. Within it, we are the masters. This is the grace God has bestowed upon us through American citizenship. The grace and also the job, because as masters, it is our responsibility to keep our eyes on our servants. If we are not diligent, the servants will take control of our home and they will behave no better than the servants in the parables Jesus told.

* Again, Fallen Sparrow reminds me that the United States is a Republic not a democracy.

** I highly reccommend Harriet Beecher Stowe's, Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is an amazing book that was instrumental in abolishing slavery and is most useful for self re-education. I wonder if modern works such as this one might help change hearts in re abortion.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Twitter Feed...

...I've added one. I have no idea what I'll do with it but here it is and we'll see what happens.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reworking of My September 18th Post

It seems my post yesterday was as woozy as I was, maybe it's not so bad that I am usually far away from my computer during my more lucid periods. Today, I'm still woozy but I've had input from a few friends so hopefully I won't degenerate into meaninglessness.

America, for many non-Americans, has always been the safe place, the haven. This is the place the poor and oppressed and desperate could come to be safe from destructive governements and economic systems. Many have found asylum here. This is where my parents sent me. And this has been a safe place even though very bad things can and do happen here. There is child abuse and exploitation and crime and all sorts of sin and misfortune. But this is also a place where one can build a life oneself.

Not too long ago, one of my roommates was a young Frenchman who was studying banking. In grammar school, he had been identified to study maths and though his interest was literature, he had been shuffled along the maths route until here he was at Columbia, fees and expenses paid, following an approved maths career. (He plans to make an enormous amount of money in banking and retire in ten or fifteen years.) That doesn't happen here. We choose our own directions, can and often do change course if we desire. In America, we build our own lives and that is a precious gift. If we fail we can try again if we are willing to do so. Our individual wills are the most important possession any of has in this country, the determinant of whether or not we will build lives for ourselves.

Most of us do. And many from other countries have come here and built lives for themselves. I think much of the envy directed at the US is because anyone with some talent, imagination, spunk and the willingness to work hard can create a place for himself here. That place might not be grand. It might not be expensive. It might not look the way magazines say it should. It might not even consist in things but rather in merely the freedom to be free - to be "king of the road." But it belongs to oneself.

Here we can build lives that are neither dependent on nor beholden to the state. Here community and society are freely chosen not imposed. Here, the family, the church or other religious institution, and our neighbourhoods are supposed to provide the moral development we need to care for ourselves, create new families and be good citizens. Here we are trusted to care for ourselves. To care for our families. To govern ourselves and our families.

We are at a time when many believe we can't care for ourselves. Actually, it seems many believe we ought to care for those who don't care for themselves. I am (or trying very hard to be) a faithful Catholic. I believe we have a moral imperative to care for those who can't care for themselves. But I don't believe the government is the best way to do that and I also don't think the Church teaches that caring for the poor must be the work of the government - particularly when the government has shown it can't do the job. I also believe we have a moral imperative to help those who could use a hand up or a shoulder to lean on. But I absolutely don't believe in taking care of those who will not work or those who do work and yet feel entitled to be cared for while they follow their dreams.

Right now, health insurance is the hot issue. There is a cacaphony about it these days. But there is also noise about welfare and "cash for clunkers" and stimulus money, and various community activist groups and so many other issues. We are in a time of noise and more noise. A time of being intentionally told that all is in disorder. 85% of Americans are satisfied with their health insurance yet there is a health insurance crisis. Well we're not stupid. We know there's no crisis. All it is is noise that distracts us from remembering what it means to be Americans. Distracts us from living our own lives. At the same time, there seems to be a paucity of leaders reminding us of what it means to be Americans too. Reminding us of the good that we have here in this country.

Instead, we've got leaders who create noise and unrest and calumny. They shovel issue after issue upon us and insist, "We must pass legislation now!" All this activity just distracts us, is aimed aat filling us up with chaos so that we aren't focusing on living our own lives, on taking care of ourselves. All this noise puts us in a defensive stance ready to fend off the next blast, caught up in the chaos. Some have hailed at least one of those leaders as a messiah. My first question is, Does the real Messiah bring noise and unrest and calumny and distraction? Does He bring chaos?

And my second question: Where are the leaders we need right now? The ones who will remind us that this is America? The ones who will remind us of the ways we have addressed issues in the past? And we have addressed many issues - independence, slavery, the dust bowl, going to the moon, segregation, child labour. We've addressed issues that seemed utterly intractable. Where are the leaders who will remind us of that?

I don't want leaders who will solve everything for me. I want leaders I can trust, leaders who know what it is to be an American, leaders who will encourage the citizens of this country to find answers to the needs of our time. I want leaders who will trust us, the American people. Though we can and will get things wrong sometimes, we've proven trustworthy in the past. We are trustworthy now but we need leaders who will provide calm direction in the midst of this chaos.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Excuse Me, Isn't This America?

Seems I was woozier yesterday than I realized. Stay tuned...

Today is one of my very woozy, in pain, totally out of it days. Much of the time these days, random thoughts about what I've heard or read run through my mind. Conversation with friends who know that I'm usually talking about several subjects at the same time are most helpful in separating the strands and tying the related ones together. And sometimes clear thoughts just come to mind. Usually I forget them until someone reminds me - but then I am away from my computer. Today, they just happened to come while I was showering and I have enough time to write them down before leaving for my physical therapy appointment. You see I, like so many Americans, am concerned, troubled even. There is so much about this healthcare debate that makes no sense to me: why aren't we remembering that this is America?

Isn't this the oountry where entreprenurial doctors have developed Urgent Care Centers to provide for the sick who don't need the emergency room but do need medical attention? Isn't this the country that creates not-for-profits to enroll the poor in Medicaid? Isn't this the country where brilliant folks, ordinary Joes, entrepreneurs and just plain anyone with a good idea and the willingness to put in some hard work can come up with answers to problems? And isn't it true that those of us who don't have the talent to find answers can work for or invest in the ideas of others? Isn't that what we have done in the past? Why do so many of us insist that health care is a zero-sum game?

Why are we listening to anyone compare the US to Canada or any other nation? When did we stop being the gold standard? When did we stop being the country to which immigrants (legal and illegal) flock and long to flock so that they can build a life for themselves? Maybe even develop one of their own good ideas? Isn't the opportunity for people to build a life for themselves and their families one of the greatest strengths this country has? Isn't that all we want? Not someone to do the work for us but just the opportunity to take care of ourselves? (This "you need the government to fix things for you" attitude is just fucking insulting!)

I really don't get it. The incessant clammouring makes no sense. Is that what a messiah brings? Noise and more noise? Distraction after distraction? NFW! And we know that.

It seems to me that we desperately need leaders who remember what America means. Leaders who are not out to control (another part of being American is being the people who refuse to be controlled), but out to do the job of leading us. Right now, we need leaders who tell us the truth even when we don't like it. We need leaders who point out consequences and trust us to be responsible. Leaders who know we're not stupid but that we could use some direction sometimes and need someone doing the things we can't do - like defense and certain aspects of trade - those things outlined in the Constitution. I don't care if they're Republican or Conservative or something else. I only care that they remember who we are and that they be trustworthy.

PS - I can't find the spell check button and I'm too tired to look for it anymore so please forgive me any mispelled words and other mistakes too. Thanks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Riffing On a Theme

I am about five. Actually, I'm an adult woman and sometimes I even present myself as a sophisticated, refined, beautiful one. But most days there's not a great deal of difference between five-year old me and five-plus times five-year old me. I have a drawer filled with baseball caps. Another is filled with neat little t-shirts. I wear comfy pants or full skirts so I can tuck my feet up or sit sprawled out. Most of my shoes are flats. Many of them are beautiful but could as easily be a child's dress shoes as an adult's. Even my hair is little-girl fine and when allowed to air dry forms itself into a mass of little-girl ringlets. Recently, as I waited to meet a friend for lunch, I saw my reflection in a plate glass window and realized all I needed was a lunch box to complete the ensemble. (My friend offered to get me one for my birthday but I declined.)

Watching 50s and 60s classic TV takes me to a time when girls grew into womanhood. Wearing stockings was a rite of passage as was wearing lipstick (lip gloss did not exist). The clothing women in the '50s and '60s wore was not suitable for a little girl not because it was risqué but rather because it was mature and not appropriate for rushing about with flying hair and skinned knees. Something happened to girls so that they were not only interested in boys but also interested in taking their places alongside other adult women; girls wanted to be women like their mothers and dressing like them was an integral part of the something that happened.

I am only now beginning to experience the desire to take my place in the world as a woman. Partly, that includes dressing as a woman because I am one. Whereas I have always loved fashion, I have done so as if I am dressing paper dolls and I am the doll. It's a most interesting place to be: I have put together a wardrobe of beautiful clothes and shoes. I can go to that closet and put together an outfit for nearly any occasion. People often compliment me on what I am wearing. I have worked in fashion, am an expert seamstress and have even designed clothing for myself and others. And frequently, (in fact, as often as I can get away with it) I dress as if I am a child. Donna Reed and June Cleaver always look like women, even wearing old clothing to clean the attic. I often look like a kid even when I'm dressed for a formal occasion.

I would like there to be a difference between the way I present myself today and the way I did when I was five. It seems fitting. I don't know what I will look like - attractive, I hope. And though I love vintage pieces, I don't want to become a costumed throwback to the '50s or '60s. But I do want to grow up; it's time I became a woman.

UPDATE: 17 August 2009 By the way, this is my first embedded picture. It's so exciting (hugging myself with joy). (See, I really am five.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

He Remembered!!!!

During my detour through the Anglican Communion, I seriously considered entering religious life as an Anglican nun. For reasons I shall not try to explain now, I came to the decision that God was not calling me to that vocation. Several years later, I became friends with Fallen Sparrow who is, in many ways, the brother I didn't have until I grew up enough to believe I didn't need one. I soon decided that if someone like him could be a Catholic then there was hope that I could be one too.

My detour into the land of Anglicans occurred partly due to my own pride and partly due to bad catechises. I had fought my Southern Baptist minister foster-father's denunciation of Catholics, had even kept a child's version of the catechism hidden under my mattress and read it over and over. At 11, I began sneaking out to go to Mass. By 13, a paperback copy of Franz Werfel's, The Song of Bernadette joined my hidden catechism and Bernadette became a dear friend. But while preparing for confirmation in NY at 16, I discovered that sin seemed to have been degraded to bad feelings and attitudes, to misunderstandings; it wasn't really my fault. Pre-marital sex was not a sin as long as both parties were "honest" with each other about being "ready" for sex. So much that I had thought clear was suddenly very confusing. And when I encountered priests who ridiculed and belittled me (even shouted at me) or told me a particular work was "over my head", I began to ask myself, Is this what I worked so hard to hold onto? After university while looking for a new parish, I wandered into St. Thomas' Church on Fifth Avenue and by the time I realized it wasn't Catholic, I was mid-way through the class to prepare for reception into the Anglican Communion.

In the late '80s, I found greater orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion than I did in the Catholic Church and more kindness. Not that I conducted any sort of search for either among Catholics, I thought the Church was the same everywhere. Besides, I wasn't being asked to stop believing anything I already believed. The only real difference was that Anglicans believed that the Pope, as the bishop of Rome, was first among equals rather than the head of the Church. But they deferred to him, there were even classes for reading Papal encyclicals; education is taken seriously in high Anglican parishes. And worship was taken so much more seriously, as it was when I was a young child sitting at Mass between Marmar and Papa.

At first, I was simply awed by the amount of sheer knowledge available to me and I imbibed as much of it as I could. During that time, I began to seriously consider becoming a nun. The All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville attracted me. I spent time with them and actually began the daunting application process. And though I did not join them, in the short time I knew them, I came to love the All Saints Sisters precisely because of their desire for holiness.

Eventually I realized that learning was making me able to comment knowledgeably about all sorts of churchy things but was not helping me to love God better. I saw that holiness was impossible unless I returned to the Catholic Church, that I just couldn't do it on my own. And though I had been taught by Anglicans and Catholics that the Church is run by old white men who are out of touch with current reality, after many conversations with God and with FS, during which I insisted that I was an Anglican and had no intention of returning to the Catholic Church, I woke one Sunday morning to the proposition, What would happen if I went to Mass? So I went to Mass and nothing happened except that I knew I couldn't go back to the Anglican Communion. And I didn't. But since my return, the conversion of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor has been in my prayers because it has been obvious to me that they are Catholic and Catholics belong at home.*

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my return to the Catholic Church. I had forgotten. At brunch, several friends told me that nearly an entire convent of traditional Anglican nuns in Maryland had become Catholic and I knew of whom they must be speaking. And so it is. As a friend told me yesterday, whether I had joined them or not, it was God's intention that I come home. And it was His intention that the All Saints Sisters come home too, and that I receive a lovely, lovely anniversary gift: ten of the All Saints Sisters and their chaplain (the only Anglican confessor I could ever find) - how awesome! Doesn't God give such lovely gifts?

* Now I can look forward to all the others I'm asking Him to convert, like the President and his family. Praying for conversions is so exciting!