Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Perception and Reality, Part 1

I haven’t posted anything with personal substance for a couple of weeks now. Mostly, that’s because I haven’t wanted to deal with the substance of my personal life. I’d forgotten what a mistake that is – discomfort in the soul is a lot like an ingrown toenail. You can try to ignore it, and maybe you can for a while. But a sore foot is a sore foot, and I walk on mine a lot, and they affect my attitude and outlook even when I’m pretending they don’t. Sometimes it’s a limp that develops over a few days. Sometimes, I drop something on my foot, and it’s blinding.

There have been many changes in my family in the last 18 months. Mum died. Our 20-year old niece moved in for the weekend, when I was off with Mum, because she loves our son, who was 24 at the time, and wanted to be there for him. And for me. She decided I’d be happier when I got home if they’d cleaned the kitchen while I was away. They cleaned the kitchen – including moving the heavy appliances and scrubbing floors and walls beneath and behind. Went to the supermarket and bought a kalanchoe for me too – it’s still on my kitchen window-sill. Different kitchen, that’s all. The niece has had problems living with her parents, and our marriage was seriously on the rocks by then – she just stayed for four months, and it made things better.

My Mum’s younger sister had been sick with breast cancer metastasized into her liver for six months by then – two weeks after Mum died we found out Jane’s chemo had worked. But the same week, my stepfather was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, into bones. In January, it turned out my aunt’s chemo hadn’t been that successful after all, and it had caused complications that robbed her of mobility and quality of life. It was important to me that I be in my own place by April 17th, and things worked out and I was to move on the 15th, Easter 2. On the 14th, my stepmother had a seizure. She died before the ambulance arrived; the paramedics restarted her heart, but her brain had died already. She was pronounced dead just after midnight on the 15th, and I went ahead and moved that afternoon.

I hadn’t considered the impact that not living with the kids any more would have on me. But by May, my aunt needed help sometimes, and in July she was in the hospital, and August, the hospice. I didn’t think she’d survive to her birthday the end of September, but she did and we had a party at the hospice. She survived my stepfather by a week. Now, Dad’s sick, and it’s spring, and I’m remembering what solace gardening used to be, and the birds that came to the feeders and the birdbath.

So, last week, I was entitled to feel bad. Wednesday afternoon I phoned my spiritual guide, and cried on the phone. He said, “You need to get out of yourself – pick up the phone and make some calls til you’ve listened to someone who needed it.” And I said, “I don’t want to talk to anyone.” It’d been hard enough phoning HIM, and he’s heard me cry lots of times. He laughed, and said, “What difference does it make, what you want?” I already knew he was right, and I made three calls – got two people and a machine – and I DID feel better. Until I stopped.

I work in a church office – Thursday’s midweek Eucharist, and there’s full coffee hour after; I take my coffee break with them. Someone said to me, “I’m going to the Mission to Seafarers for lunch today – will you come with me?” And I CRIED. Gee, I hate that. He said, “There will be people there, and I’ll know them, but it will be more fun if you come with me.” On the way back to work after, he said, “You don’t have to answer, but why did you cry when I asked you to come to lunch?” “Because I get so lonely.” That’s the night I went home and got the migraine, and spent two days sleeping around the clock.

The migraine was fading Saturday night, and I got back to e-mailing my spiritual guide. I told him, I want all these things, listed them – some were less self-serving than others – the list included, being able to show up and be loving and useful, and to be able to ask for things without insisting that I get them. Then there were things that I want because I want them. I ended up with, “So what the HELL am I supposed to pray?” Went straight to bed after sending that; I’m not always a reasonable person.

Sunday morning I woke up early and had the luxury of lying in bed, looking at the ceiling and listening to the birds. Wish I could identify more of them by their voices – I knew the mourning doves, of course. After an hour of that, I had a very good idea of what to pray. Just in case I didn’t, there was an e-mail. It said this, and that’s all:

“God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.”

It looked pretty much just like that too, including the red type – we’ve had this conversation before, more than once … He's been very patient.

For those of you who don’t know it, that prayer appears in the AA literature as The Third Step Prayer. The Third Step being, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God, as we understood Him.” I got out of bed and started my prayers as I always do – with the Serenity Prayer. I usually have to do that one several times, to get into the place I need to be when praying. Then the Third Step prayer. Then the Francis of Assisi prayer – the one that starts, “Make me a channel of Thy peace …” Then I prayed for people I love, and as an old friend used to say, “and especially for the ones I don’t.” After that, I told God I still would like the things I’d said I wanted the night before, and patience, and the ability to hear the word No too.

After that, I got dressed and left for church – it was beautiful out, sunny, magnolias and cherry tree in bloom. There’s a quartet at church, sings, guitar accompaniment – highly controversial but I love them and I hadn’t known they were playing Sunday, or I’d have gone earlier for prelude. My favourite homiletics professor is a member of my congregation – he recently finished a book on Paul, and was asked to preach Sunday to tell us about it. I told him before I took courses from him, “I rarely agree with you, but you’re always compelling – that’s why I’m taking your course.” He had a message I really needed to hear; and we talked after.

This is long enough for one night – things have been getting better since then. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow or Thursday. What I’m seeing in all of this, is that my perception of reality doesn’t always line up with the rest of the world’s. Famous last words -- "Of course, I could be wrong ..."


Roland said...

You are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
I am glad you have friends around you to help you do it.
Two things.
One, its a shadow. I bet you knew that. :)
Two, you have to walk through. If you stand in place and look busy, it doesn't count. It seems as though you stopped a while.
That isn't always bad.
I'm glad you are going through.
May your cup ever be overflowing.
On secondary note, have you heard of a song by Sanctus Real called 'We need each other'?

Oh, oh, we need each other – so what’s the fighting for?
Oh, oh, we need each other – please don’t close the door
Oh, oh, we need each other – through all the high’s and low’s
Oh, oh, we need each other – ‘cause no one’s meant to be alone

Here's 15 second clip

Oystercard said...

My dear Kate - you have been one of the people that I look up to - I see so much growth and recovery in you. Thank you for trudging this road along with me.

Kate Morningstar said...

Roland -- standing in place and looking busy!! That's brilliant -- it's EXACTLY what I've been trying to do. And you're right, it's a shadow. I hadn't thought about it that way before, but I'm going to. The next installment will be about the overflowing cup -- there aren't any enemies (except in my head -- they're the worst kind) to set a banquet table in front of. Interesting to think about the fact that they'd show up, too.

O.C. -- you've been constant and loving for the last few years, even with an ocean in between us -- I've been able to tell it all to you, and I wouldn't have got to here without you.

FranIAm said...

Oh my dear Kate - you have had so much going on, really so very much.

And yet here you are.

I am reminded of how the most lovely flower sometimes springs up unexpectedly between the cracks in the cement.

You remind me of that flower - determined to live, even if it feels impossible at times.

Peace to you my friend and great light.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Kate, you've been dealing with a a great deal of illness and loss in a short period of time. I'm amazed and admiring that you're as functional as you are. I went through a period like that, and I was devastated.

How lovely of your niece and son to give you the gift of a clean kitchen.

If it's any comfort to you, my perception of reality mostly doesn't line up with the rest of the world's either. I will pray for you, my dear Kate.

Kate Morningstar said...

I've been aware that, although I would happily have gone through the last two years without most of those experiences, I wouldn't give back the changes in me for anything, Fran. I was Messengering away with OysterCard yesterday, and I said, "You need to have Good Friday to get Easter." That's true.

Thank you for the prayers, Mimi. What I'll post about next is finding out how wrong I was. I've FELT alone -- I have new friends, family of choice, a great many of new people in my life in the last year. And they love me, and DO show up -- when I ask. The last thing my aunt said to me was, "She promised -- you will never be alone."