Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Waiting Game

So, I turned in my annulment application in today, and now it is a matter of waiting on what they say. While I don't know the ins and outs, my understanding is that I should hear back from them sometime next week whether they have accepted my case for review or not. Then, it can take up to TWO years before I hear a verdict. I suspect that at least some of it is that they will have to wait on paperwork from my witnesses, but it could also be that they are that short handed. In spite of this, I am still hoping to hear back from them before I begin my Camino, even though I know that it is unlikely.

In the meantime, I will take the advice of my favorite psalm:

"I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!"

(Psalm 27: 13-14)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Running From or Running To?

Since I began running seriously, I have had more than one friend/colleague/family member mention that they would never run unless someone was chasing them.  While it is a very lame attempt at humor, I have been pondering the significance of this idea, running away, and especially as it pertains to me.  Indeed, it reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in The Bells of St. Mary's...The clip I'm thinking about starts at about the five minute mark in this YouTube video.

The point is that, whatever our vocation is, it is a running TO something, rather than a running AWAY from something.  As I continue to heal from my failed marriage, I have to wonder whether the idea of having a religious vocation was just me running AWAY from the possibility of being hurt by another human being or even being the hurter of someone else. I'm still not sure about that one, to be honest with you, and I've kind of put discernment on hold until I have my "declaration of nullity" in hand...Most of the orders that I have contacted have done that for me anyway when I tell them that I'm divorced and don't yet have my annulment.  To my knowledge, I'm still slated to go to a "come and see" weekend in April, but I'm even wondering if I shouldn't put that off as well.

Even so, I also wonder about my backing off--am I running away from what God wants of me because I have always wanted children, and I'm not yet ready to give that up completely?  When I was married to my ex, I mourned the fact of not having kids multiple times--I thought I had made my peace with the idea of never having kids of my own, and I know that children are not a possibility as long as I am single.  But there is also part of me that really craves that moment when you hold your own little one for the first time--does he/she have ten fingers and ten toes? What is it like to breast-feed?  Can I be the kind of mom that I want to be?

I must also admit that I am really enjoying the freedom that comes from being single again--it is kind of nice to be able to have popcorn for dinner occasionally when I don't really want to cook, but don't want to spend the money on going out to eat; to use some of my grocery money on a race entry fee if that is the only way I can afford it; to be able to stay up all night reading or watching movies without disturbing anyone; to be able to hit the snooze button twice (confession time: or more) each morning if I want to; to be able to go running at 9 pm because the whim hits me.  I know that all of this freedom probably isn't all that good for me, but I still revel in it from time to time.  But that, too can be a running away--an escape--from the day to day stress, the compromise that is integral to a marriage relationship, from the responsibilities of life, from the pain I still occasionally feel because of the disintegration of my marriage.  Where does normal stress relief end and shameless escapism begin?

Right now, the only thing I can truly say I'm running TO is healing.  I want to be better, less damaged, less needy, and more on an even keel emotionally.  Every day, I thank God for the fact that He is helping me to become less damaged, even though I sometimes despair of ever being truly healed.  It is like training for a half-marathon.  You run, you rest, and you cross-train in regular intervals--and sometimes, if you are lazy or you get a cold, you miss days.  But, you keep picking up the training schedule again because you want that medal, that PR, those bragging rights.  And, as time goes on, your body changes and begins to crave the exercise--you begin to feel icky when you DON'T Run or when you eat too much junk food.  As I heal, I'm able to notice more when I think disordered and damaging thoughts, and I'm able to see where I need to heal more, just like I'm more able to see areas where I need to work on my weaknesses as a runner ("Heel-Toe" "suck in that gut" "shoulders back and relaxed" as Pru would say) now that I have some miles underneath my belt.     That is where I want to be spiritually as well--I want to crave the good things and let go of the bad things.

Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. --Phil. 3:13-16, RSV

Monday, March 11, 2013

Attachments, Wonder, and Presence

“For if a man resolve to submit himself to carrying this cross — that is to say, if he resolve to desire in truth to meet trials and to bear them in all things for God’s sake, he will find in them all great relief and sweetness wherewith he may travel upon this road, detached from all things and desiring nothing. Yet, if he desire to possess anything — whether it comes from God or from any other source — with any feeling of attachment, he has not stripped and denied himself in all things; and thus he will be unable to walk along this narrow path or to climb upward by it”

--St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, chap. 7, 7

 Yesterday, I went with my sister, mom, my sister's mother-in-law, and a couple of nieces to see Our Town, and there were 2 scenes in the play that are related to the transitory nature of life...the first is, "you have to love life to have life, and you have to have life to love life."  Right before this, the Stage Manager talks about how the two moms have cooked close to 50,000 meals between them in their marriages.  In some ways, it is like he is implying that, because they have just skated through the day to day of their lives, they haven't really lived.  The thing is that this quote in question is embedded in the scene where the two moms talk about traveling to Paris, and they are talking about how Mrs. Gibbs wants to see something beautiful and exotic at least once in her life.  At the end of the play, we find that Mrs. Gibbs never gets to see Paris, but it just points to the fact that we often let the day-to-day of our lives get in the way of truly living life.

I know that, for me personally, going through the process of my divorce opened up some possibilities that I never would have thought about beforehand, as well as allowed me to pursue some opportunities that were formerly closed.  While I was married, I remember often straining against the constraints that my marriage brought--I gave up personal goals for the good of the marriage more than once, and lost other goals and opportunities because of the spottiness of my ex's work history/lack of follow through during our marriage.  While some of this is natural and right in a marriage, life can be a monochromatic monotony if one gives up too many of those goals and dreams.  A corollary to the above quote is that, when you lose the love of life, you lose life.  So now, I sometimes feel like I'm just waking up to all of the possibilities before me...It is overwhelming, scary, exhilarating, and exciting all at the same time.  I hope that I don't squander this opportunity like Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb.

The other scene in the play is from the last act, when Emily's spirit and the Stage Manager are having a conversation about what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead:

Emily: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?
Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

 (italics emphasis is mine)

I think that this particular scene carries with it a sense of being present--we often are busy doing other things, like texting or emailing rather than living in the moment that we are in. In the process, we lose some of that realization of life.  The funny thing is that this play was set in the early decades of the 20th century, when phones and cars were not ubiquitous.  I believe that what was true back then is even more true now! I admit to being guilty of a lack of presence, as I always have my email with me on my smart phone, and often have my iPad with me as well.  I must admit that this is one of the things I am looking forward to most about my walk on the Camino--I'm going to spend most of my time totally unplugged from technology.  I think that I'm going to need to learn how to live without the electronic tether again.  I know that we used to do this all the time, but most of us can't imagine living without our cell phones anymore.

And, I think that is what St. John of the Cross is getting at too--we need to be willing to be present with the situations God gives us, no matter whether it is a good or a bad situation.  When we can do that, understand that the situation is passing, and not grasp tightly to it, then we can use the situation to grow closer to the Lord.  When I clutch anything, good or bad, I have removed the ability for God to give me anything--my hands are clenched around what I already have.  This looks like bitterness, when it is a bad thing I have clenched my fist around.  It looks like wistfulness, nostalgia, and pining after the "good old days" when I have clenched my fist around a good thing.  Neither help me to become the person that the Lord wants me to become, though.  When I can open up my hands and let go, I then have room in my hands and my heart for the Lord to move in, and to fill me with Himself.

This is why I love reconciliation so much--it is a way to help me to let go of the sins in my life, the bad situations, and to un-clench my hand from around them.  This is also why I love lent, for all my moaning and groaning about eating fish on Fridays--it is a way for me to evaluate the good things in my life and to learn to hold them with an open hand as well.

I want to be among the poets and the saints Thornton Wilder talks about--one of the people who really realize the wonder and the weightiness of our life here on earth.  Won't you join me on the journey?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Learning to use my camera

I got my camera earlier this week, and I have been playing with it for the last few days.  In the process, I'm finding that I'm really not that good at taking pictures.  Below are a couple of the pictures that I took that first evening...

My nephew is quite a cutie--he is pretending to be shy.
 I forgot to turn on the flash, and the above picture is really dark.  I also didn't center him all that well in the frame.  At least I didn't cut off part of his head.

My niece as she studies her least favorite subject--the reason why she is frowning!
 This one is better, but I think it would have been better if I had used a different angle.  maybe more head-on so that we see her expression better, or from the side, so that we see her in profile.  I've been reading about photo composition, and I'm beginning to understand it a little bit, but I'm not there yet.  Besides, I'm probably going to have a lot of pictures on the Camino that are not people, so I've been trying to be better about framing still-life's.

She's staring at a moth that is hovering around the bulb of our lamp....she caught it about 30 seconds later.
 I think this picture would have been better if I had gotten at least part of the lamp in the picture.  Instead, you see her staring at something and you wonder what it is.
"You will get this computer only after you PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!!"
Again, I think this might be a better picture if I had used a different angle.  This picture is OK, but it just isn't really anything spectacular.  If I'm going to be going on one of the most important trips of my lifetime, I want to have pictures that people can see and feel what I feel.  I can't do that if I just do mediocre photos.  One of the websites I have been reading says that I should FART (Feel, Ask, Refine, Take) first, and I've been trying to do so since I have read the advice.  That being said, I am also taking a lot of pictures in order to get a feel for what different angles do to the composition.  I've also read about the Rule of Thirds, and have noticed that the pictures that I really like tend to follow this already. 

This was an accidental picture--I was trying to view the pictures in my camera and hit the shutter button.  It is an interesting picture, though, and it follows at least some of the principles of the rule of thirds--both feet and ball are on the horizontal axes of the rule of thirds.

I don't know that this necessarily uses the rule of thirds, but it does use the principle of light and movement.  I really like this picture, mostly because I really like the way that the light bounces off of the bars. 

I really like this picture, too.  This does follow the rule of thirds, and it also uses light pretty well.  It is amazing how a different angle can change the very same object!

Another picture that follows the rule of thirds.  I saw this from the third floor balcony, and thought that it would make an interesting picture.  Unfortunately, the picture isn't as bright as I would like, mostly because my flash didn't reach to the first floor.

This is a picture that one of my friends from work took to show me how the Rule of Thirds makes a camera more interesting--his point was that having the bookcase in the background allows the viewer to create a story from the image.
This is a pretty boring picture.  For some reason, when I saw the bike rack, it hit me as something interesting to take a picture of, but the picture itself isn't all that interesting.  I'm still not sure what would make it more interesting, but will try again tomorrow. 
One of my colleagues, who is a graphic designer told me that I shouldn't need to use my flash at all--that it can ruin pictures.  She also said that I should play around with angles of a subject.  Of course, this is probably true of a more sophisticated camera, but I'm just taking my little point and shoot camera, so I want to work within its limitations first.  Some of my pictures are coming out really nicely, but I want to be consistent with this before I leave, instead of the hit or miss that I'm working with.
My boss through his window.  I meant to have him being in focus, instead of the window, but I'm still learning.

Glare because I had the autoflash on.
The shot I was trying to get...Some pigeons on a window sill.  They look cute, don't they?  I find it interesting that the university has those spikes everywhere in order to keep them from roosting, and they still manage to do so anyway!

The plum trees outside of my office building.

I was trying to get a picture of the bees buzzing from flower to flower, but couldn't seem to get them into the frame.  The flowers are pretty, too, though!

A niche in the botanical gardens.  I just liked the way the rocks and wall framed it.

One of my better shots today.  I can't quite decide why I like the picture--I think that some of it has to do with the fact that the doors frame the pylons so well, but also the feelings it evokes from me.  It is an invitation to walk through!

The sunset from my driveway.

This is the best angle I have of this particular bush.  I took several pictures of it, but really like the way that the bridge above and the drainage channel below surrounds the green of it against the rocks.

The thing I like about this picture is that the sunset reflecting on the parking garage gives it a much richer color palate than I normally notice.

I like how the ladder and the crane are leaning in opposite directions.  I think I want to go take some more pictures of the construction, as I think it will make some interesting pictures.

My 13.1 sticker.  I couldn't resist!
 I'm still working on being better at taking pictures, and I won't inflict all of them on you (I didn't today, as I took close to 100 pictures since I got my camera), but I wanted to show some of the pictures that I've been taking lately.  If any of you have any pointers for taking better pictures, I'm open to them, especially since I really want my pictures to be interesting.  Who knows?  Maybe if I get good enough, I can enter a few photo competitions with my pictures!  If I get good enough, I may buy myself a little bit better camera eventually.  The one I have will work for my Camino (especially since it is so lightweight), and learning how to be good at using this camera will give me some basics that I can use with any equipment, so it is worthwhile. And, it will mean that I will actually have a camera at family gatherings, since it's place will be in my purse for the foreseeable future!