“Fasting from shame and feasting on goodness”
At four I was a confident little girl, happy to show off my birthday umbrella and pose in my party dress. I was surrounded by my friends in the neighborhood and played freely across several back yards.
Shame sets in for all of us, I think, for various reasons at various times. Shame tells us that there is something fundamentally wrong about who we are. Shame also encourages us to send our shame out to shame others. We subconsciously want them to feel as bad about themselves as we feel about ourselves. So we reinforce each other’s shame about body size, income, gender, physical characteristics, intelligence, decisions, partners, children, houses and jobs. Most of us have a little insecurity about at least one of these things, and shame is ready to cling onto it and whisper that we really are not all right.
Shame thrives in the dark as we compare ourselves(always unfavorably)to others. The good news is that it evaporates in the light. Twelve step groups know that sharing secrets kills shame. So do simple actions such as saying “This is hard for me. Can you help?””I struggle with my kids.” “My real life is nothing like Facebook.”
May we come out from the shadows of shame and let our goodness shine. I was able to do that at four, after all.
“Fasting from conformity and feasting on diversity.”
Thanksgiving Day in November is a chance for my family to embrace its differences and eat together in peace. We have broccoli and rice for the Alabama native. I prefer the English mashed potatoes and green peas. The gravy includes giblets which gross out my grandchildren. Half of the family is vegetarian, which accounts for the Dutch oven with a roasted Tofurky. The other half likes Butterball turkey with its injected salt. Cranberries are whole berry, having won over the one who likes cranberry sauce out of a can complete with the ridges from the can.
One of my favorite exercises when I taught English at the community college was asking students to tell me what they absolutely HAD to have to make it Thanksgiving. What dish would be immediately be missed by their grandmother? The whiteboard filled with an astonishing array of foods from ham, to goat, to turkey, to pulled pork, to fish. The starches were from all over the world. My students were amazed by how some foods they disliked were very important to some of their classmates.
What they all agreed on was that having those particular foods eaten with people they loved made it a feast. None of them felt compelled to change their dinner plans after hearing about other choices. Nor did they belittle one another as they realized that they each had deep emotional connections to very different foods.
May we look around at our neighbors and in our community and be equally grateful for the many ways human beings express their unique identities. May we stop and realize how blessed we are to have this bounty of difference.
One of our Friars, Fr. Tom Gallagher O.F.M, has challenged our congregation with a series of seven fasting and feasting suggestions for Lent. None of them involve food, cell phone use or Facebook. Each day for the next week, I will highlight one of these and share my thoughts about how I am responding to the challenge. I especially like that these are all applicable to all people, not just Catholics, since I know that a majority of my followers aren’t Christian.
“Fasting from apathy and feasting on engagement”
I treasure the curiosity I exhibit here as a friend of my grandfather’s introduces me to a baby porcupine he has rescued and is hand feeding. While I am naturally cautious, I am responding to the invitation to approach and engage. There are many prickly issues right now, and I am surrounded by them in the U.S. I certainly recognize my desire to ignore the turmoil. Sometimes I even surrender to the apathetic stance of “what can I do, anyway?”
I am encouraged instead to engage with the cultural dialogue. I can risk offending gun advocates, for instance, by sharing my views on the accessibility of guns here. I can assert that there is such a thing as truth when some tell me everything is relative. I don’t have to do any of this with the motive of changing anyone’s mind. I just need to engage.
May I have the courage I had as a little girl when approaching today’s “porcupines,”
Lest anyone in New England breathe a sigh of relief and imagine that Spring is around the corner(that would be me!) please read the above. Yes, you got it. We are about to get hit with another round of snow. Well it has been known to snow in April, so this isn’t too unusual. However, it had reached 50 degrees F yesterday, so I had actually switched my heaviest jacket for my second heaviest jacket. And I actually wore shoes instead of boots. Fortunately the snow blower is operating. My windshield wiper which broke in the ice has been replaced. My boots are still in the front of my closet. My heaviest jacket, hat and gloves are still easily retrievable.
If you are enjoying Spring, keep it to yourself!!!
I have a dental checkup every six months. The hygienist cleans my teeth, the dentist examines my teeth and I get back on track with my home dental care. I know I should floss. Who doesn’t know they should floss? But I get forgetful and eventually realize I am about to see the dentist and furiously try to make up for lost time. Which, of course, is impossible. Fortunately, my dental team never shames me, just reminds me of good practice and says they will see me in six months.
Lent is like that for me. I know I should focus on God, pray, help the poor and focus less on me,me,me. I should quit seeing people with opposing political views and my President through hate-filled eyes. I should take time to be quiet and really appreciate my life. I should remember that that woman on the street could be me without the gift of medical care I have received. But I forget. I get preoccupied. I get angry and demonize the opposition.
Fortunately, once a year the Church has 40 days set aside to remember these things. God isn’t interested in shaming me any more than my dentist is. God just wants me to remember good practices. Lent is a yearly opportunity to do just that and I am grateful.
At last night’s Ash Wednesday’s vigil Mass, we burned last year’s palm branches in a bonfire outside the church. We were enveloped in a cloud of smoke as they burned. When I sat in the church for the service after the fire, I smelled strongly of smoke.
I was taken back many years to the 1970’s when we and most of our friends heated our homes with wood. In the country, we burned old pallets that had been discarded by the pallet factory next door. Others used wood from trees on their property. The wood was free, so it was an economical way to heat our homes. I always loved going into the city to work smelling like a wood fire. At the time, many of my students also had a hint of wood smoke about them.
Last night was the first time in years that I had that scent permeating me and my clothing. But it connected me to something deep and warm. A time in my life when most of what we used or ate had come to us for free or for very little. Frugality was necessary since we usually had little money. But we didn’t feel impoverished because we were warm and fed.
The blessing at the service was “Repent and believe the Gospel.” Put in Franciscan friendly terms, “refocus your life and remember the Good News. ” Last night, surrounded by good people and the smell of smoke, I did just that.
I have mentioned before that I only participate in a small way in the awards available for blogging. I like to answer the questions and also thank the people who nominated me. I don’t, however, use the image nor do I keep the cycle going to 5 or 10 others. Since it is often, though not always, newer writers who do this, I do like to support them.
The first nomination comes from aaalyolly.wordpress.com, “Random Writing of a Promdi Girl.” She cited the two questions in the Blogger Recognition award. The first question, “why do you blog?” is easy to answer. It turns out I like an audience for my writing. I am satisfied with one reader, and I don’t need a large audience or hundreds of followers. I do like the chance that someone will comment and that we can establish a connection through writing. I am less fond of journaling since I only interact with my own thoughts in that format. The second question is “what advice would you give for a new blogger?” I would urge her to avoid advertisements cluttering up her posts. That is a personal dislike, and might not bother other readers.
The second nomination for the Mystery Blogger comes from a newer writer Vivien Ayinotu at viviensvoice.com. 1. I enjoy most about blogging the chance to interact with people around the world. 2. I blog most days. 3. I do not have a favorite book beyond the one I am reading at the time. 4. When I am stressed I either work out of play solitaire while listening to music. and 5. If I had the ability to change the world, I would have everyone spend a full day with someone completely different from themselves to have an active experience of empathy. I would start by pairing our president with a low income single mother working two jobs.
Thanks for the chances to write a little more about myself, Yolly and Vivien.