Whatever you’re feeling angsty about, you have no right to. You don’t even have a real job! You don’t have children of your own to worry about. Is that why the unnatural attachment to pets and parents? How can you still be Catholic after…everything? And with a mouth like that. Wow, you’re a grandmother? I don’t check social media (eyeroll) but I did see your post about… Not to criticize, but. A boob job is not okay. I would never do Botox. But coloring your gray hair is? Nail polish is allowed? You’re criticizing the Facetune app but you literally got a facelift. You don’t look like any yoga teacher I’ve ever seen. There’s water in the basement again. And another mouse. We will have to pay someone to take this house off of our hands someday. But you don’t even try. You could occasionally DO something instead of going out to play. You say Namaste but your disdain for the local weather girl is public. Holier than thou. I wish I had someone to pay my bills all the time. Maybe if you work at it your house will look better…your face will look better. Stop complaining. My pet peeve is self-pity. I hate winter I hate winter I hate winter I hate winter. I can’t stand the grey. I remember my dad saying he was starting to wish away five months of the year and now I’m doing the same, but when you age you don’t want to be wishing away that much time because you realize it’s not an unlimited supply. I hate the hourglass. Always have. I love being alone but I hate never being alone, never having privacy. I can laugh that I have the body (and the shoes!) of a drag queen but the nose of a toddler. So much guilt about things I’ve said or done in the past. I scratched Bryan in first grade and Russ in 9th grade and I haven’t been as reactively angry since. I don’t even have enough anger to punch someone, or a wall even. That’s weird, right? I cry when I’m mad. Right now I have two moods, gentle anger or melancholy. And all the self-talk to cheer. You are the baby. You are not the favorite! You are the favorite. I miss my friend. You used to be the favorite aunt. Just when they were little. You lost it along the way. He didn’t mean it that way. Your husband was so nice. I’ve never been a cat person. Now I’m lost to this cat. He didn’t mean it that way. He’d do anything for anyone. Show-off. That mouth. I should be writing. It is all written in my head, so much, years’ worth. Like laundry that’s clean and even folded but never gets put away. You’ll die without that laundry being put away and no one will know anything. But who would care anyway, enough to read it? Who would read it? YOU don’t even want to read it. And then you do and and WOW that’s really good! Wait, you think that’s good writing? Who dressed this weather girl, seriously. Idiot. Hot yoga is a gimmick? Self-pity is my number one pet peeve. I just want to drive by myself. I just want to have once looked the way I dreamed. It’s only because of someone else that I got a degree, or a certification, or a license. Where is the me? Gluttony is a sin. Food, and stuff. You have always been overweight, even at your skinniest. Strongest person I know. Strong. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I seriously cannot believe anyone smokes. Alcohol doesn’t like me anymore. My intentions are always good. Jewel, as a really young person, once said publicly that you can control your own thoughts and so now I do. Back when I was up all night listening to her howl. Be better. It’s not fair that not everyone gets to see what I see some days, the squirrels, the heron. Fall makes me so melancholy. I hate morning. I hate awakening. I hate winter. I used to wake up with the window open and feel the breeze, hear the birds, feel the weight of his purring body on mine and smile. Now without the purring I don’t even notice the breeze or the birds…yet. Why was I born in relative prosperity when someone is waking up on a dirt floor, cold? I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it! Why do you always land on your feet? It’s not fair. You don’t deserve it. One of us is going to get sick with cancer and have to care for the other. One of us is going to die. That used to feel so far away. I miss Hap. I want to achieve more but I don’t want to work harder. I should walk today, but I might sit here and watch Bravo. Fast on Mondays. No TV on Mondays. Games people play. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you don’t deserve it. One of these times the mammogram will come back bad. I don’t want to stop eating, God I love food. I want to be a vegetarian. I don’t want to be a vegetarian. I want my hair longer, one last time. I want my hair as short as a guy. Am I too old for that? Am I too young for that? Am I too ugly for that? Pretty is as pretty does. That’s what my mom always said. I can’t see my own eyebrows very well anymore to do them. Just because you go to church doesn’t make you a good person. Why do you people put your kids through this? I wish I would’ve had a flat belly just once, even if it was when I was young. Younger was uglier for me. We just have different values, that’s all, not saying whose are better. It’s like Jedd Clampett’s yard out there and I wish I cared more or wanted to do something about it. You always think you’re right. Eye roll. I’m super cool because I drive a stick shift but I’m tall and arthritic to sit so low in a car now. Seriously you’re not that old. I cannot believe you’re this old. When did it all get to be behind instead of in front of? We can suck it up, we can be the bigger person (people.) Let them do what they need to do. It’s okay. It makes me anxious when you act like an old person. Will I find you at the bottom of the stairs one day? Will it be fast or slow or dramatic? Can’t I just eat what I want and not gain weight. Does every menopausal woman cry once a day about absolutely nothing? What will I eat when I get home. What do YOU have to be depressed about? Must be nice to be you. What’s it like to be you? Fifty and to be honest I’ve never once for more than a day had a clean polished car or a clean polished house. I love the restful feeling of walking into the neat person’s house but I know they don’t often feel restful like me so how does this all work? Will I ever get it together? Obviously not and most of the time that’s okay. Laughter. Thank God for that, and now can some people not find that everything can be funny? Make me an instrument of your peace, send your Holy Spirit to bless my words, guard my words, inspire my words, actions, asana practice, and even my thoughts that they may glorify you God and best serve those you place in my path today according to your holy will for them. Help me to serve from humility and not ego and make me better. The other night I woke to the sound of a storm through the open windows, the kind of noise and breeze and bliss me and the Peeps would enjoy together, and as I lay there and cried I heard the big family of deer walking by under my window, just a different animal to keep me company. That friend that I love but is so bitter and negative and doesn’t know it. Its not THE BFF by the way. Wasn’t that a nice daily prayer tho, but the one that comes even more often is please don’t let me be such an asshole. Please make me less of an asshole. What’s my purpose here, anyway? Thanks for inventing ice cream, whoever you are. Suck it all up, buttercup. Everyone’s got stuff. All misunderstood.
I just made that up. It stands for “blog entry, no editing.” So here that goes:
Why am I a practicing Catholic? (IF I am a practicing Catholic.) I humbly submit that even professing myself to be a practicing Catholic feels like an overstatement, not because I don’t consider myself one but because humility (yes, humility) prevents me from feeling that I do enough successful Catholic-ing to boast the practice, although I’d be proud to say that I am trying.
But the priests fondling little boys! But the power and corruption and cover-ups! The hypocrisy, the money, the nuns with their rulers. Yes, all of that. But “here’s what” (as Andy Cohen might say):
I belong to a family. I don’t always agree with them, their behavior, their mistakes, their opinions, their rules and criticisms, the way they raise their children or treat their husbands or what they make for dinner. I am still a proud member of my family.
I work for a company. I don’t always agree with the owners, their choices, what they wear to work, what music they play in the lobby, the style of the product they sell, the tagline they stenciled on the front door, the color they painted the walls. I am still grateful to work there and consider myself a proud member of their team.
I live in a community. I don’t always agree with its leaders, the way they enforce the speed limit on my street, the poor business decisions that have led to the empty storefronts, the rusted fire hydrant in front of my house, the lack of responsiveness to complaints, the fact that bulk trash pickup occurs only once a month. I still choose to live here and support the local economy and am proud to be neighbors with the population.
You see where I’m going here, I’m sure. I don’t have to agree with the Catholic church leadership on everything. I am but one member of this body. So yes, that might make me an imperfectly practicing Catholic, but I still call myself Catholic. You may think the Catholic church doesn’t like gays because it will only marry a man and a woman. You may think it thinks poorly of women because they aren’t allowed to be priests. You may think many things about the many things you disagree with the church about. Understand that the church has very specific reasons for its laws. And I have been fortunate enough to be educated my entire life by Catholics, lay and clergy, from preschool through high school and beyond. I was fortunate that all of these influences, all of the folks who have been placed in my path to guide me in my faith have somehow imparted to me that MY personal faith is one informed by my religion, yes, but more importantly by my prayer life, my living relationship with God–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. My conscience is informed by my conversations with God. Which is not to say that I get to make things up, decide which rules are right and wrong for the Church, because that’s not the case. As a responsible person of faith, I read about and experience my religion, deliberately, to inform my conscience. I ask for help in prayer, and it is delivered to me in books, readings, human beings, nature, news, suffering, and joy…jobs, relationships, pets, vacations, athletic endeavors, illnesses.
I know how I feel about homosexuals, and immigrants, and bad guys, terrorists, orphans, the mentally ill, the imprisoned, Jews, Muslims, interracial couples, cops, criminals, the elderly, the unborn, the born-again, the agnostic and atheist, the current president of our country, the harassed and the rapist. Every time I need to make a decision about my words or actions about one of them, that decision is informed not by my family, my job, my community, nor my religion, but by my informed conscience. My conscience, my personal faith informed and fed constantly by my active, living relationship with the holy trinity through prayer and worship and works and participation.
I’m wrong, hell yes, all the time. I revise and reconsider, beat myself up and nod at myself in agreement. But I practice. Not just being Catholic, but being me, being human, being a person of faith and a witness to that faith. I ask for the help, and it comes. It NEVER FAILS to come, in fact. When I ask for the inspiration, the words, the thoughts to be right, the answers come. It’s miraculous, actually.
I’m not a practicing Catholic because I agree with every law of the Catholic Church. But it is this particular religion which has given me the people and experiences which have brought me thus far in faith, and I will proudly accept the challenge placed before me in prayer to stand with her in support–as I do with my family, my job, my community. I know that it is right to do so because conscience tells me so.
More than all of that, I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that it happened, and I believe that because it happened I am saved and forgiven. I really do believe it. And so I want a seat at that table. That table is only memorialized at every Catholic Mass with a consecrated host. I would never want to be without the opportunity to share in that promise. So, I am a practicing Catholic.
I am a practicing Catholic. And by the way, the Catholic church isn’t a building or even an organization or an institution, as a whole. It is all of those things, and I won’t even use this platform to explain the vastness of the social help given through Catholic Charities Association to people of all descriptions, but wholly it is the eyes, hands, feet, hearts, voices and strength of its members. Like me.
“Beam me up…
Gimme a minute
I don’t know what I’d say in it…
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there
Holding your face.
Beam me up…
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter
A minute’s enough
Just beam me up.”
She fell in love with the song from Pink’s “The Truth About Love” album as soon as she heard it. The dramatic instrumentation, the tender, heartfelt vocal, the melody soft but strong with those minor keys of angst, building the feeling. She shared Pink’s song and the lyrics with plenty of people, because the song reminded her of profound losses: her sister’s baby, eventually her own father (…in my head I see your baby blues.)
The only detail that didn’t sit well in a song so perfect it always drew a tear and required a replay was the part about a minute being enough. What is that about? How could a minute be enough when you long for and miss someone so desperately, and then you get to be “beamed up” to see them again? A minute could never be enough.
Her dad is in her dreams, sometimes. Fairly regularly, in fact, but never the focus. His presence there is purely incidental: it is a holiday at home, so of course he is in the family room in his chair, or outside with the grandkids. She hears his voice in reply to someone’s question, catches a glimpse of him from the corner of her eye smoothing back his shock of white hair the way he always did. He’s there, as he should be, but in the dreams she is always conscious of the looming dementia. In the dramatic irony of a dream, she knows about the dementia because it has come and gone. She knows everything about it, about what’s coming, but he does not. She awakens troubled and anxious, vestiges of her sleep-self worrying that he is still driving but losing his sense of direction, still talking but sometimes seeing things. She’s afraid he will mention a puppy under the table or a bug skittering in the corner. In the dreams, she’s stressed, holding it all together and not sure what to do. But some part of her consciousness always knows it is a dream, because she knows how all of this ends. She simply can’t stop it this time, any more than she could in real life. The dream isn’t about him, so it doesn’t matter. She’s just dreaming, and he is there. Just like the pets and the kids and the occasional former co-worker or high-school classmate. Like intricate puzzles put together with a few of the wrong pieces, forced in awkwardly, dreams are.
One September night, still warm enough to sleep with the bedroom window open for the sleek purring body of her black cat to somehow relax into the tracks of the frame, she understood what it meant to be beamed up.
She dreamed, and this time it was just her and her dad. There was no context, no preface. They stood outside in the darkness facing each other, as suddenly as if they had both been dropped there like a slide from an old projector. Outside of what or where, she didn’t know, couldn’t tell. A place, a building maybe? They were a mere few strides apart, facing each other in the almost-blackness. In a fraction of a second she understood that this dream was different: he had already died, and he knew it. The dementia had come and gone again, and he knew it. And he knew that she knew it all. Revelation was instantaneous. They rushed to approach each other with arms open, no time to waste. He wore a shirt she didn’t recognize, the only thing that wasn’t familiar to her. They hugged, and her dad was once again the right size; the right height, a bit shorter than his youngest daughter in adulthood (he had introduced her around the dementia ward as “the tall one”) so her face was over his shoulder at the crook of his neck, the right density. His back and shoulders were smooth and strong and bullish, the way their dad had always been. Robust, immovable in a hug. He smelled like dad, the cloud of soap and toothpaste and shaving cream that had always breezed behind him as he rushed down the stairs, the last one to shower in a houseful of females. Somehow she could even see his tan in the darkness, sense rather than see the glossy blue-against-white of his mischievous eyes. They hugged strongly—tightly, but not hard, he was so staunch and she gripped the muscles of his back for emphasis. She knew this would be brief, and she rushed her tearful, joyful words, “oh, we love you and miss you so much!” And because she had always joked with him, added, “we don’t want to, but we do!”
He chuckled, still in the hug, unable to see each other’s faces except in mind’s eye, and said, “I know.”
Then they pulled back, still linking forearms but facing each other in this unnamed night-place. His smile was perfect, lighting up his face in its familiar jocularity, and he said to her, with just a trace of disbelief and humility, “I really love it here.”
Her heart spilled over to hear those words. She had already believed he was in a better place, THE better place, and it was what he had believed too. But to see him, feel him, smell him, and recognize the same wonder in his voice that she had heard him use in the past to describe a mountain, or a golf shot, or a talented child, or a great meal, convinced her down to her soul. She grabbed him again, sliding her arms around his shoulders and squeezing his meaty clavicles with her fingertips.
“I’m so glad,” she choked out near his ear. And she meant it. And she wanted him to know that she meant it. She was so happy for him, and she was desperate to impart the whole remaining family’s love and joy to him in what she inherently knew was a very brief opportunity. She squeezed him tighter, burying her face in him. He squeezed too.
She woke up.
Just like that, she was back in her bed at around three in the morning, her husband asleep next to her, her cat curled up and humming, the sounds of the night falling softly through the screen. The whole thing had taken no time at all. A hug, a few words. But now she could feel her dad in her arms. His voice and scent and warm, living skin lingered. She hadn’t hugged her dad that often when he was alive; she would be more inclined to chuck him on the shoulder, while he would have yanked a piece of her long hair from behind and then dodged her retaliation. She felt, for a moment, what she supposed could be called bliss.
The vestigial flavor of that dream lingers, and she deliberately goes inside her thoughts to enjoy it from time to time. She had her dad back, her real dad, tangible in her arms. And then one day, a couple of weeks later, her earbuds delivered that beloved Pink song while she was walking to one of her sister’s houses, to collect the mail or let out the dog, on a sunny, end-of-summer day. Now, it all made sense, and the lyrics didn’t leave her frustrated any more. A minute was all it took.
A minute was enough.
A conversation today with my sister prompted me to post this poem. I haven’t thought about it for a while. I wrote it in 1996, when I sat down with paper and pen and it flowed out almost in its entirety, fully formed. I definitely felt like a vehicle or a channel, because I did not have a hand in creating this–it came straight out in the pen. It was made into a framed print, a photo of which I have included here, and I no longer had it saved as a document anywhere. When I sat down today to “copy” it down, I still knew it by heart. Rachel’s spirit, or the Holy Spirit–but I humbly admit, not my own. I hope it comforts someone else out there.
From Rachel, on her first birthday
It is okay
To hurt, this day
For things I’ll never be…
But don’t forget,
Your world holds things
You’d never want for me.
Disappointments I will never have,
Pains I’ll never suffer
I will not fail
I will not fall
And we’ll never hurt each other.
By today, I may have walked
But would I have ever run?
By someday soon, I may have talked…
Would I ask of you, “how come?”
So there are many childish words
You never will hear spoken…
No, my heart was never whole…
But my heart was never broken.
I may not get to be with you
But I’ll never live in fear
You’ll never get to see me smile;
But you never saw my tears.
I lived from warm & loving womb
To a castle in the sky…
And there’s no need to wonder how
There is no reason why.
I paused here, not to hurt you
And not to say goodbye…
But just to put my angel face
Before this family’s eyes…
So now you have an image
Of the girl who would be me
For you are still not ready
To blindly set love free
Until the time when you believe
The things you cannot see.