Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thornton Wilder's Wounds

Without your wounds where
would your power be? The
very angels themselves
cannot persuade the
wretched and blundering
children on Earth as can one
human being broken in the
wheels of living. In love’s
service, only the wounded
can serve.

--Thornton Wilder

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Selfish People are Happier

I know, we are not supposed to be selfish; we are supposed to be getting better and more caring and we have to give it away to keep it etc. But really. This week I seem to have to learn again: When I take care of myself and take care of my needs instead of expecting someone else to or waiting for someone else to do it then I am happier. The past two days I have been pissed. I have been trying to take care of and be very accommodating to the man in my life who is sick. And today I am mad. I feel unappreciated and I can count—and name for you—all the supposedly selfless things I did for him—and I can tally also all the places where he could have done something for me and did not.

So I think selfish people are happier because at least they get their needs met and they are smarter because it’s way more efficient to say “I want…” and “I need…” than to do for others hoping they will reciprocate.

But here’s the clincher: I think selfish people are nicer because they get their needs met, and so they do not get all pouty and pissy and withdrawn and moody. They are easier to be around.

Friday, August 29, 2008


I was reading an old journal today and I found this. It was from a book about Jung and facing one’s shadow:

When you find yourself having a strong reaction to another person or their behavior use this sorting criteria:
If something informs you it is information.
If something affects you it is projection.

Ouch! In the course of a day I notice a lot about other people, and yes, I am often affected: “She is never satisfied” “He is so selfish.” “She is just trying to get everyone to like her.” “He must be thinking about another woman.” “She must really want to beat me at this.” Then I use the criteria above and I find I have all of that in me. Is it true that we are most bothered by other people who have the characteristics we do not want to see in ourselves?

Thursday, August 28, 2008


What I heard on retreat:

Willingness is showing up.
Willingness is leaving the door slightly ajar.
Willingness is freedom.
Willingness is a slight movement of energy, a shift inside of us, a softening of our attitude or position.
Willingness is a grace.

Become willing to not know.
Become willing to entertain the possibility that I may not know what is right.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Facing the World with My Real Face

I was at a retreat on the weekend and as happens when I have these times away I wore no makeup for three days. Day one I think I look tried or strange but by day three I think I look pretty and natural. I come home and decide to leave the make up off for a few more days. That feels more risky at work and in the day to day life in city and suburbs especially with people who know my made-up face better. Several people tell me I look tired even though I am more rested than usual. Concealer and mascara really do make a difference. But I want to know I can face the world with my real face so I go more days with no make up.

Can I face the world with my real face? Can I allow make up to be an option, an accessory that is not required? Can it be a choice and not a mask? I want to dress as me and show my real face to the world. Leaving make up off one day at a time is an experiment in facing the world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Relationship Notes

I wrote this in my notebook this weekend:

What good is preserving a relationship that doesn’t allow me to be who I am?
If I have to edit me or show less and less of me then who is it that the other one loves?
If I make myself smaller ad smaller to get love then I am not really being loved.
Can I be me and be loved?

I have to be OK without him to be OK with him.

I don’t have to minimize or demonize who I was to become who I am. The cocoon wasn’t wrong or bad or a misstep; it was part of becoming who I am now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Baseball and Our Spiritual Life

The first thing I learned about baseball is this: If you raise your hand a man will bring you food. I learned this at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and in my first year as a fan I spent most of the game facing the wrong way. Raise my hand, get ice cream, raise my hand, get popcorn, raise my hand, get peanuts. It was 1958.

Two years later I understood it was a game. On summer afternoons I’d beg my brothers to take me with them to the ball park. I was falling in love with baseball.

If baseball has taken hold of you too, you know it’s about more than your team winning. Sports, like religion, offer consolations: A diversion from our daily routine, heroic examples to admire and emulate and a sense of drama and conflict in which nobody dies. But even now, in the midst of watching Olympic sports on television, we know that one click away on another channel our truest cultural contest is being played out.

John Gregory Dunne wrote that, “Baseball is the couch on which we examine our psyches”. George Will said, “Baseball is the universe”. And catcher Wes Westrum said, “Baseball is like church, many attend but few understand.”

We have these sayings and many more because baseball is one of the greatest sources of metaphor in American life. And understanding metaphor is important because having and using metaphor is what allows us to talk about intangibles like spiritual life.

The historian, E.H. Gombrich, wrote, “Every culture has its favored sources of metaphor which facilitate communication among its members. Any cultures religion is what provides the central area of metaphor. The Olympus or Heaven of any nation will offer language and symbols of power and compassion, of good and evil, of menace and of consolation”.

Americans live so far inside the institution of baseball and so deeply in its metaphors that we can’t even see it. You say you’re not a sports fan? But have you ever said: “She’s always in there pitching”. “You can’t even get to first base with him.” He’s out in left field.” “She was born with two strikes against her.” Listen to people speak. We are talking baseball all day long.
Michael Mandelbaum, author of The Meaning of Sports says baseball is important to Americans because it comes directly from our agrarian past before the tyranny of the clock. Bart Giamatti, former President of Yale and former Commissioner of Baseball said, “Baseball has no clock and indeed moves counterclockwise, so anxious is it to establish its own rhythms independent of clock time.”

Baseball is one of the few sports that remain timeless. A game can be fast or slow. In this one area of our lives the clock isn’t driving; we surrender the clock to the event. But there is something else in this game that asserts the primordial and the spiritual: In baseball we begin and end at home. Home plate is not fourth base. The goal of the game is to get home and to be safe.

We all want that: Home is a concept not a place. Home implies safety, accessibility, freedom, comfort. Home is where we learn to be both with others and separate. That’s what baseball players are: individual athletes with distinct areas of responsibility but also and always a team. We crave this in craving baseball. That is why even while we watch the Olympics and celebrate those athletes we also change the channel and cheer for our team. We are keeping the faith.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Noche Oscura

Noche Oscura is The Dark Night. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross both wrote about the dark night of the soul. It has come into common parlance as referring to a bad time, a dry time and a hopeless time, often as a time when God is gone or not felt. But Richard Rohr writes about what Teresa and John were really talking about: the dark night of the soul as a necessary time. Not, in the “Life is suffering” Scott Peck way but necessary because the dark night of the soul is when God is actually deeply close, so close that he is working in us. These are the times God is so far inside us doing his surgery.

In steps 6 and 7 we ask to be healed, we ask to be relived, we say to God, " I am willing and I have tried and now if it’s ever gonna change it’s up to you". Then we ache. Often we say that surrender is painful, but thru the lens of Teresa and John of the Cross we can see this as the kind of pain that comes with surgery.

I have been taking care of a friend after surgery and see the healing pain. Get out of that bed and walk is the first thing the nurses say. You have to “ambulate”: Get up and walk. Or maybe like Jesus said, “Take up your bed and walk.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jim Collins Rules for Living

These are Jim Collins Rules for Living:

1. Show Up
2. Pay Attention
3. Tell the Truth
4. Let Go of the Outcome

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I don’t feel safe in the world. Can I find a way to feel safe in the world that is not dependent on John or on my ex-husband? Is that the God choice? Part of me knows that’s the answer but it makes me mad. I want to be safe and I want to be taken care of. Right now I am the caregiver but I want to say “No, you take care of me; somebody come right now and take care of me.”

Is this what faith is? I am unsettled and un-tethered. How do I get tethered again? And to what? It makes me mad because I know even as I ask that the truest answer is that safety is not in a person and it is not in a state but that I have to find safety in the unsettled that I have to come to be safe and OK in the very turmoil then I am really safe. I know this is the truth but I don’t want it to be.

God, please find me. I can’t find you right now and I can’t feel ground under my feet.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Genuine Love

Genuine Love

A major characteristic of genuine love is that the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved. The genuine lover always perceives the beloved as someone who has a totally separate identity. Moreover the genuine lover always respects and even encourages this separateness and the unique individuality of the beloved. Failure to perceive and respect this separateness is exceedingly common however and the cause of much suffering.

--M. Scott Peck, MD

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Slips and Slipping

One of my very favorite AA sayings is this one from the –really—old timers:

“Under Every Skirt’s A Slip”

You can just hear one AA saying that to another when a gal walks by.

The best definition of a slip is this from Sisater Maureen:

“A slip is the willful ingestion of the substance of my addiction.”

The keyword is willful. So that rules out picking up the wrong glass and getting a surprise mouthful, and it may rule out communion wine, depending on your beliefs. But it rules in the chocolate chip cookie or following along when you see the gal or guy walk by.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Far Down The Road

Yesterday at the end of a meeting a woman I know through business asks if she can speak with me as we walk to our cars. Somehow I know right away what she needs to say. She asks me, “Was John in your life before you separated from your husband?” She is having an affair.

What has been a source of shame for me becomes valuable to someone else. She is suffering. She is afraid and confused. It’s a very lonely place to be. I talk with her for an hour. I tell her the process and the stages of our relationship. I tell her about my struggle and the to and fro. I tell her about breaking up, going away and coming back. I tell her how I prayed and wrote and prayed some more. I tell her all the ways I felt and the thoughts and feelings and grief of the year before we “came out”. I suggest ways to discern what is right for her. I have no idea what that is. She asks me if I am happy now. I say yes. She asks me if I love my husband and again I say yes. She asks if I had doubts when I heard about the cancer and I tell her that truth too. Yes, of course.

In Alcoholics Anonymous one of The Promises is this:

“No matter how far don the road we go we will see how our experience can benefit others.”

It has been and is a bumpy, painful road. I’m grateful that something of this pain can benefit someone else.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Baseball as Spiritual Practice

Sports, like religion, offer these consolations: A diversion from the routine of daily living; models of coherence and clarity; heroic examples to admire and emulate and a sense of drama and conflict in which nobody dies.

In baseball we begin and end at home. It’s important to note that home plate is not fourth base. Our goal in this game is to get home and be safe. Home is a concept not a place. Home implies safety, accessibility, freedom, comfort. Home is where we learn to be both part of and separate. The object in baseball is to go home, and to be safe.

When a runner charges home we lean forward to see the home plate umpire slash his arms downward signaling that the runner who has crashed onto the ground in front of him is safe. I want that. Most of us want that. In my daily life I want whatever is bigger than me and whoever is judging me to see how fast I run and how precariously I slide and to say definitively, “She’s safe”.

Those who believe, whose faith is good, can accept that umpire at his gesture and stand up relieved. Some, like me, despite wanting it , are afraid to believe or do not trust. I do see him signal “safe”, but I am unbelieving. I run the bases again, skidding and scuffing. Again he signals, “Safe!”, but again I go to bat. I am bleeding by now, wanting to be home and wanting to be safe.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

If it's Hysterical, it's Historical

That pretty much says it all. This is a handy diagnostic tool. Someone upsets you and you can’t let it go. If you find yourself going over and over the slight, the insult, the rebuke. If you cry about the way someone looks at you or the fact that they did not invite you. Her tone of voice. His call not returned. You may even hear yourself say, “I don’t know why I’m making such a big deal of this after all it was only….and I’m an adult. But I feel like…”

At that moment remember: If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.

And then do what you need to do: Call friends in recovery and blab it out till you cry; start writing some inventory about this kind of issue from your childhood or call your therapist.

Or all of the above.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dog Dependent

Today on the news a feature story reports that a Golden Retriever is nursing three Bengal tiger cubs. The picture confirms it: A yellow dog on her side and the three black and white striped tiger kittens are slurping and sucking away.

This tells us something we have intuitively known about Goldens: they are the MOST codependent creatures in the animal kingdom. This is the caregiver dog. Nursing the babies of one of the biggest, scariest CATS in the world. Yep, a dog is nursing a CAT. Only a Golden would do that. Yes, the mantra of the Golden Retriever: “Yup, yup, yup, Do you love me now?”