Tuesday, March 25, 2008

pain is pain

I remember when I was a social worker, a woman in my cube-area complained to me that she was annoyed to have to see a priest to talk about marriage. She wanted to know what that priest could ever know about marriage for crying out loud.
I reminded her that we were childless, yet our job was getting parents to raise their children better. I guess you don't have to experience everything to know the difference between what works and what doesn't.
I worked at a residential program long ago, with adolescent boys. One time an adult said to a kid "I know you feel this way..." and the boy, enraged, said "YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW I FEEL!!!" But the man who was confronting him said "listen- pain is pain! You have pain, I have pain, we both have pain. I know how it feels to be in pain. I can help you through it." I've thought a lot about that over the years- is it true that pain is pain, and joy is joy, and fear is fear, and our experiences of those feelings aren't so unique as we may think they are?
I have had a fairly easy life so far... more or less unscathed by serious tragedy, I still think I am a pretty empathic person. Do I have to have lost a loved one to know how that must feel to a person? I think that maybe we all react to pain in different ways- in whatever ways work for us- but maybe fundamentally we are connected by our similar feelings on a basic level.
I may have mentioned this before, but one Saturday we were listening to This American Life, and they played a piece of Julia Sweeney's one woman show, "Letting Go of God". One of the things that reverberated in my head from that show was Julia saying "Jesus had a pretty bad day for your sins." Her point was that since Jesus' suffering had been quick, lasting only one day, and hadn't, in her opinion, been as long or awful as her dying brother's suffering, that somehow it didn't really count. It wasn't good enough.
I've thought often about what I might say to Julia Sweeney if I ever ran into her. People write to her all the time trying to convince her back from atheism. I think I'd say that Jesus did a good thing by experiencing suffering in a most human way- physical pain and rejection and betrayal from those he trusted most- and that to me, his suffering didn't have to match mine, or whoever's, because pain is pain, and Jesus felt pain like I do. I appreciate him experiencing pain that he didn't have to experience, so that he'd know how I feel when I suffer.
That idea, that pain is pain, it should be something that unites us- and I think Jesus saw it that way. HOW we suffer isn't as important, overall, as how we deal with it- and because we all know pain, we can help each other through it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ahhhhlelu... almost!!!

Ahhhhh here I am! It's a quick moment of peace between Triduum events... which I'm taking advantage of by baking pie and boiling potatoes for tomorrow's feast day feast. I'm wiped out! My friend sent me an email last week checking on me, since I haven't blogged in so long. Sorry public!
Triduum is my favorite Church "season". I'm so excited to be at my parish this year, thankful to be here where I feel appreciated, welcome, valued, a part-of. It's my first Triduum here, and I'm overwhelmingly grateful to be here. The staff has been working hard, and I know that tonight's Vigil will be wonderful. I think that if you work on a parish staff, and if by Easter Sunday you're not exhausted, then you're not doing it right.
At home, I've been working hard to get everything ready for my guests of honor, which are Scott and myself. I've done all the shopping, cleaning, prepping, gifting... all so that tomorrow, our holiest of days in our little family, we will feel honored and comfortable and peaceful and joyful. At work, the same process- cleaning, decorating, preparing, making everything perfect for our guests on this holiest of holy days. The excitement is palpable. Hospitality is the Christian practice featured this week in our church. The honored guests there are those who join us for their one-time-a-year, and those who come every week. The mood is befitting the season, and even the somber nature of the Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies was tinged with joy... we all know what comes at the end of this process, and like cleaning the house for Easter, the hard work is fun, because we know how the story ends. We don't mind listening to the awful bad news of Good Friday because we are guaranteed a telling of the Good News of Easter. It's all good.
So, you can probably tell by my writing that I'm tired, but it's a good tired, an earned tired. I will sleep deeply and happy tonight- and maybe tomorrow I'll have a chance to catch up on some overdue blogging!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I felt it!!! I have been noticing the subtle signs of spring... the other day I saw a few little shoots of green coming up between the muck and garbage at the Dunkin' Donuts drivethrough. And recently we saw Robins! (I never seem to notice that robins are gone, until they show up again... where do they go?)
But the most important thing is, I felt it... I felt that little stirring of energy that tells me that Spring is on its way. It's no mistake that Lent happens at this time of year, beginning in darkness and cold and muckyness, and then, as we get closer to the time of new life in Christ, the world around us joins in the celebration. It feels like the whole world is readying itself for Easter.
I feel physically better when it gets warmer and brighter out. I feel inspired to grow and change and move more. It's a powerful feeling and I love to feel the first stirrings of it every year.
I can't eat another bowl of oatmeal. I made it for four whole weeks but I just can NOT go on. I had a hard time getting into suffering this Lent- I am too happy, I know the ending of the story too well, I have heard the Good News and can't pretend that I haven't. "Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast." (Mark 2:19)
Bring on Spring, bring on Easter!!!!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

My Social Profile has been updated...

Facebook sent me this uplifting message the other day:
"In total, you were reviewed for dating 5 times and no people expressed interest in you.
You are more desirable than less than 20% of 23,333,109 people."

Nice to know. I'm going to go ahead and assume it's because I'm married that those 5 people decided not to express their interest. It would be in poor taste, you know.

When I was a kid I knew for sure where I stood on the social ladder. I wasn't one of the popular crowd, but I had friends who were- and I wasn't a total loser, but I had friends who would have been considered that. I spent a lot of time in the music department and with the drama department, and I was a cheerleader. I dated some, and was single some, and had a lot of fun. I guess I'd say I was in the upper middle class, social status-wise, at my high school.

Now kids get actual rankings delivered to their email inboxes, thanks to Facebook. I wonder how that kind of news I got from facebook would have made me feel as a teenager.

Check out this hearing test- then tell me what you think!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's just that...

The other day I heard a great quote on NPR that I can't get out of my head;
"If God had wanted us to fly he wouldn't have given us the railroad."
It begs the question; how involved are we in making our own way? How much can we attribute to God's will? It's something we've discussed at the Church often- how people blame God for their sadness/hurt/disappointment. I have firsthand experience of people who glibly chirped "it must have been God's will!!!" when they heard of our miscarriages.
I am realizing what an easy trap it is to fall into- the blaming of God- especially since there's nowhere to look to find the answer to why-bad-things-happen-to-good-people. (except, I guess, the famous book... maybe I should read that?)
So what control does God have of our daily lives? I read a quote once that described God as a loving shepherd with a hole in his fence but who refused to patch it. That just sounds like a dumb shepherd to me. Is free will really that important? Wouldn't a flock of happy, safe sheep be worth patching the stupid fence?
I've heard a lot of great analogies for how it all works- my friend Paula describes God like a GPS unit that gives us directions (and it's our decision to follow them or not) and I like to imagine it's like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books. We choose what page to flip to, but ultimately, God wrote the whole book.
But hey, I don't know. Do we try to swim, or pick up our feet and float wherever God's current moves us?