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Showing posts from April, 2020

Sister Stress and Brother Blues

Are you a wildcat or an antelope? That is, in times of stress, are you more likely to react with fight or with flight? I can get feisty and I can walk out ... but I think, in general, I'm more of a rabbit: I freeze. I play dead, like an opossum. I'm like an ostrich, burying my head in the sand of endless rounds of computer solitaire. When I get really anxious, I tend to get paralyzed. I procrastinate. My good habits start to slide. I'm less careful about what I eat, and I don't want to exercise. I can't focus on reading, my prayer life feels sterile, and sleep is less restful. I'm very much aware of my prevailing reaction to stress, these days, because, you know, there's this  pandemic  going on. I stay away from social media and keep my consumption of the news to a minimum, but I'm not totally isolated, and the anxiety does reach into the hermitage. Add an extra special ingredient, like the spectacular demise of my 34-year-old stove (it's OK!  the

O Death, where is thy Sting?

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When I was 18 years old, a friend of mine died. This was one of the most significant incidents in my life, before or since. Or rather, not his death itself, but the "parting of the veil" that I was given some three months later, when I returned home from my freshman year of college and found out about his death. I wish I could tell you how it was. I don't remember anything about it, really, other than the message. I'm sure it was not a sleeping dream, but a waking "vision", or rather a "knowing". And it was totally convincing, deeply moving, life-changing. And this was it, all of it: Wilson, my friend, was at peace. He understood everything, everything made sense, and everything was OK.  Does "OK" sound underwhelming? But really, it's profound . EVERYTHING is OK. Everything  makes sense, from the other side, and everything  is fine. I promise to post separately, soon, a short account of my history of depression, PTSD, healin

Only say the Word

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Daffodil & iris leaves in lieu of palms This past Sunday (Palm Sunday), in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and watching Mass live-streamed from the monastery, I was particularly struck by the words the congregation says right before (in normal times) going up to receive Communion: "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. But only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." The reference is Matthew 8:8, in which a Roman centurion approaches Jesus, asking Him to heal his gravely ill servant. Jesus agrees to go with him, but the centurion says, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed." Jesus is stopped in His tracks by the man's humble faith, and He says (in effect): "Wow ... this outsider, this man who has no part in our religion at all, has more faith than anyone I've met so far. You're right! I don't need to go with you in person. Because of y

Spring Cleaning vs. the Noonday Demon

So how's it going so far in your social isolation? Are you feeling nourished by the peace and quiet of solitude? Does it feel restorative? Is it giving you the chance to re-think your life and prepare to return to a new normal, a different, healthier, happier normal, once the crisis is past? If so, congratulations! That's wonderful. Run with it! This post isn't for you, although reading it might give you more understanding of others who aren't doing so well. This post is for the folks who are still in their pajamas at noon, binging on scary news and Candy Crush, bored, irritable, anxious, simultaneously restless and listless. Are there projects you thought you were waiting for a break like this to tackle, but now you can't bring yourself even to look at them? Do you lack the energy and motivation even to keep up your existing good habits? Do you feel disgusted with yourself, with your environment, with the news, with other people? Yeah, oh yeah, I KNOW that feeli

Just say "No" to Rumination, Resentment, and Regret

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Paola, a 15th-century Italian hermit who founded the Order of Minims. He has very strong words for us in today's Office of Readings, on the subject of nursing a grudge:     "Put aside hatred and hostility. See to it that you refrain from harsh words. But if you do speak them, do not be ashamed to apply the remedy from the same lips that inflicted the wounds. In this way you will show each other mercy and not keep alive the memories of past wrongs. Remembering grievances works great damage. It is accompanied by anger, fosters sin, and brings a hatred for justice. It is a rusty arrow spreading poison in the soul. It destroys virtue and is a cancer in the mind. It thwarts prayer and mangles the petitions we make to God. It drives out love and is a nail driven into the soul, an evil that never sleeps, a sin that never fades away, a kind of daily death.      Be lovers of peace, the most precious treasure that anyone can desire."   But