Posts Tagged ‘oblate novice’

It’s been quite an August! One which feels like it surely has been at least 90 days, not a mere 16.

I’ve had a good deal of reason in these 16 days to think about choices.  Currently, I’m paying a big physical price for some of my choices and have been on an emotional rollercoaster about others.  No more.  A simple quote changed all that turmoil yesterday, just when I was a broken-down tearful mess.  But, I’ll get to that – you know I never make this easy on the reader by revealing all right away!

Now, onto just some of the choices:

Early in the month, a loved-one was disappointed when I couldn’t dog-sit.  It’s a very nice little dog, I like her very much, and until I became too ill to give a dog what it needs, I’ve always had a dog. I miss having a dog! But, there was that key phrase “I became too ill to give a dog what it needs.”  In addition, my husband needed to be out of town for two days – yet another August choice and challenge that I’ll explain next – which meant the care of the dog would fall completely to me during that time.

I’d asked that the loved-one bring the dog over ahead of time to see if it got along with our cat. When we brought our cat home from a shelter in 2008, we’d accepted the paperwork which said he needs to be the only pet.  That was actually a plus since I was having trouble accepting that I couldn’t have a dog anymore; this way, I’d be prohibited from ignoring my own truth.  (Yes, I am an undisciplined person who frequently requires reality checks.)

Well, to make a long story short(er), there was a very good reason for the shelter to write down that the cat needs to be the only pet.  I could hardly bear to see our normally fearless cat in such utter terror for even the duration of that visit, let alone subject him to it for a week.  My loved-one was very disappointed and had to scramble to find someone else to take the dog for the week that they’d be on vacation.

I wanted very badly to be normal – to do this thing I was asked for someone I love so much.  I take disappointing people I love very, very hard.  I think most of us with chronic illnesses find that to be one of the hardest things with which to cope.


My husband was heading out of town to a wedding I had to choose not to attend.  Our nephew, my godson, in fact, whom I dearly love, was having his celebration about four hours from here.  My husband and I both knew that going would be a really bad choice for me.  We knew, in fact, that there really wasn’t a choice.  I can’t think of anything that I can do for four hours straight – not even sleep soundly – and that was just the first leg of the trip.  If the celebration had been right next door, I don’t know how I’d have managed it (the noise, the socializing, the sitting-up), but four hours away?  From my point of view, that’s about par with it being on the moon.

My husband booked a room in the hotel where the reception was held, but for me, that still doesn’t help much.  I don’t know about others, but I’m lucky if I can get some sleep in my own bed, much less a strange one.  No matter how tired I am, I never seem to be able to sleep (barring general anesthetic!) anywhere but home.  Now, before anyone suggests getting a sleeping pill for the night, let me say that sleeping pills and myoclonus, sleeping pills and any part of this disease, do not mix for me – at all.  It’s a really, really bad idea in my case and doesn’t even produce sleep.

It’s hard for people to understand how just sitting in a car can become an exercise in enduring torture. It’s hard for me to understand.  The usual response is along the lines of “You can put the seat back. We’ll stop as often as you need. You can rest all night in the hotel before you have to go back…”  Sound familiar?  I can’t blame others for having a hard time understanding what I can’t understand myself.

There’s pain, oh boy is there pain! There’s also a concerted effort by my immune system to go insane creating swollen, painful lymph nodes, those awful sores and other goodies.  Did you know that when the immune system goes into overdrive it’s making fevers and chemicals that, though miraculously designed to target invaders, also make us feel really sick? And the neurological glitches – over the top!  When asked if I need a restroom stop, I don’t know the answer because the nerve signals get messed up; so, I deliberately avoid fluids, skip my kidney medication, and hope I’ve gambled right or we’d never get there.

Then, of course, there is the price to be paid afterward – a price my husband pays, too.  Each time I’ve pushed myself to endure when I know it’s the wrong choice for my body; the disease has taken a more damaging hold.  So, my husband and I knew there really wasn’t a choice, though I felt I’d still made a very painful one – to leave myself out, again.

Since that weekend, the choices just kept on coming.  One of the monks at the monastery with which I am affiliated passed from this life, and in my heart, those men are my brothers – I needed to go there for a little while.  The emotional price of not going would be higher than the physical price if I went. With my husband’s help I was there for an hour.

Again with my husband’s help, I chose, 48 hours later, to push myself to keep my commitment to two hours a month of volunteer art instruction at a local gallery.   I chose to push some more to visit a sick friend afterward.

I chose to push to try to help someone who is thinking of suicide.  I may never know if I made any difference but not trying was unthinkable to me.

Yesterday, I chose to do what I knew was right, listen to my husband’s advice and let him deliver a grandson’s birthday present without me.

Yesterday, I chose to push in an effort to help my brother who is mentally ill and who depends upon me – a very upsetting situation had arisen.

And then I began to fall apart.


I mopped at my tears and painfully, slowly made my way out to the mailbox and back.  I sat down at the dining room table with the mail and lost it…just lost it…


Too much upset, too little care for my health, too much skewed perspective… Wait – what?

Yes, though it took something that came in the mail to put it all together that way.  A little booklet I thought I’d seen before – but which, if I had, I’d never really seen before – with a quote front and center on the first page.

“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry.” Padre Pio


I dried my tears (again) and read it twice.  I began to see clearly that I had, indeed, done all that I could do in each choice I’d made. I’d made no decisions without prayer, thought, and counsel. I’d achieved the best balance I was capable of between what others needed and what I needed.  I’d put resources into the hands of those who needed them and I’d put the situation with my brother into the hands of his expert team (for whom I thank God!)  What I hadn’t done was balance it with what I now see to be truth.

It is time to begin again to look after my peace, my health.  It is time to surrender.  Not to give up, but to accept that after I have done what is in my limited power to do, it is time to surrender the outcome. 


Peace is mine again.


May it also be yours.



For those who pray, please pray
for the eternal rest of Father Daniel Homan, OSB and the needs of the community
of St. Benedict Monastery.


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Sunlight lures
Swimmer can’t resist
Faithful air raft
Brought to assist

Water so cool
Dark and deep
Depths unexplored
Soul half asleep

Distance swimmer
Far in the past
Still that inside
But strength won’t last

Sky to depths
Tiny lives abound
Swimmer on raft
Kicks around

Cool water soothes
Memories form
Of freedom in water
Swimmer’s old norm

Hands still on raft
Does the swimmer dare
Try to feel again
The water like air

Memory beckons
In depths dark and cold
Swimmer yearns and aches
To be once again bold

Hands release
Swimmer set free
Intense desire
Becomes reality

New definition of distance
Staying close without fail
Raft offers safety
For strength far too frail

Swimmer remembers
Soul now awakens
Glories in freedom
In boldness taken

Trembling arms
Blissful smile
Swimmer grabs hold
Finds rest for awhile

Kicking slowly to shore
Swimmer and raft as one
Distance is different now
But the prize is won.


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Lately, I find myself thinking of the exhaustion from which I cannot escape as unspeakable. It is unspeakable in all its definitions.   Dictionaries describe the word unspeakable as unutterable, indescribable, inexpressibly bad, horrendous, beyond description and not to be spoken.

My experience of it is all of those things. It is as though there were an invisible gag stopping me from speaking of the exhaustion and if it were removed, I still could not find words for it – such inadequate things, words. Yet we often have only words with which to communicate, to try to convey to others any ideas at all.

Medical people, even those who sincerely want to help us, still use that completely inappropriate word: fatigue.  How I wish I could strike that word from the dictionary!  At the least, I wish I could strike it from the minds of doctors and from the name given this thing that is truly – unspeakable.

Recently, I was a patient in the cardiac emergency room of a major hospital.  People were so kind, so competent!  My gratitude for their care is immense!  And yet, I can still see how the intake person stopped typing when I had to name my overall diagnosis.  Her face well-schooled, only her fingers betrayed what must be policy.  Nowhere in that record will it say the name of the disease with which I have been diagnosed for over 20 years.  Only the measurable symptoms, including this cardiac issue (an electrical glitch) will be listed.

Inside, I became very small.

Inside, I felt a reflex of need to defend myself; “I did not diagnose myself!  Doctor after doctor after specialist after specialist have confirmed it!   I have documentation!  Do you think I want this label?  Don’t you know that every reputable agency has acknowledged that not only is this thing organic and real, but that they have compared the level of disability to people in end-stage renal failure and stated that patients are more disabled than those undergoing chemotherapy or even an AIDS patient 2-3 months from death?  Don’t just dismiss it!”

Inside, I remembered my brother, who, dying of AIDS in 1995, suddenly looked at me with sadness and understanding and said “Even I am less exhausted than you are.”  We had been talking about him, not me!  I hadn’t even been thinking about my own problems.  So, I have lived that comparison, and know it for the truth it is.

I’m just so tired of explaining.  I am so tired of trying to put words to the unspeakable.  I am so tired of taking care of the ramifications of this disease (even in the hospital several years ago, after major surgery) without the understanding of those who should understand best.  I am so far past the word exhaustion that it is truly – unspeakable.

YES – I know there are worse things!  Oh, believe me, I have seen some things that could have come out of the imagination of Edgar Allen Poe, and yet there are worse things than those!  But this thing, oh what a humbling thing…

…and therein I failed.  I failed in accepting as a gift, this lesson of humility, this opportunity to forgive.  After all this time, does it really matter if strangers understand what I go through? My Father knows what is suffered in secret.  My Father knows if I have made use of it and offered it to be made use of as He knows best.  My Father knows the gifts I’ve been given – the obvious and the hidden, the sweet and the unpalatable – and He tells me I must make use of them, make them grow, share them and account for them.

Thankfully, my Father also forgives and helps me get up when I fall down. 

Thank you for helping me learn from the unspeakable, Father.


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After a very difficult few days of identifying a new health issue:

A Grace of Herons
At long last intensity lessens,
drawn to still water and silent recollections,
a plastic kayak sets me adrift,
through tangled days and thoughts to sift.

Skittering clouds in sun filled sky,
dazzling reflections stun the eye.
Two herons startle and hurry to hide.
Thick brush holds secrets deep inside.

Embracing silence for safety and life,
their young grow strong away from strife.
One comes out to watch me there.
From opposite sides we watch, we stare.

Understanding forms and passes between,
those who see and the one unseen.
I’ll guard the peace and cause no fear,
I have been blessed to find them here.

New life on the pond hidden in brush,
My soul fills with peace deep and lush.
Silence reigns blending with me.
That which was bound now is free.


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Here I go again, trying to give voice to the struggle for balance amidst feelings that do not flatter me and gifts that bring me some level of peace.

There is no aspect of life which this disease will not alter – none. So, get used to it, right?

I try. I really do. Sometimes though, it’s easier than others to accept what comes. Oh, never forget please, I have said many times and am deeply aware that there are worse things! Far harder situations than my own! I have enough experience of life to have seen people suffer the unimaginable and enough knowledge of life to know there are worse things even than those. So though I may sound self-pitying, and I admit I am guilty of that, I will say that I think that knowing that there are far worse things still doesn’t make this thing an easy thing.

Now, forward with what brought me here today. (Did you think I’d never get to it? Yes, sometimes I wonder about that myself!)

I’ve been struggling a lot again lately with feeling marooned. In my spirituality, I am increasingly aware that I am intended to live differently and that it is both grace and blessing. That doesn’t make it easy – this feeling of being left behind.

As I stand here at the edge of my world, on my shore, friendships drift into the distance. Caught by other currents, destined for other ways of life and sailing for distant lands I can barely remember exist; they embrace lives I cannot have and for which I often ache. Ever greater expanses separate us and though their signal flares can sometimes yet be seen, I cannot quell all pangs of sadness as I stand with my feet planted in the shifting sands of my shore.

I look over my shoulder at this place where I stand, there is great beauty here and much to be discovered, but it comes at a price and I get so weary of paying. Sometimes supply ships come to my shore, my happiness to be among them mixed with challenge to my peace. They bring things I need and also tales of larger life that can be hard to hear, fanning the ember of longing into dangerous flame. One ship’s crew, a frequent visitor in the past, asked me how I manage here and when I said “I pray and God helps me” they left with laughter. Oh well, they asked and what was I to do, lie? I did not preach, only answered a simple truth.

Some of the ships arrive less and less frequently, more fulfilled at busier ports of call. Some, I suspect, will not return, and though difficult to accept – it may be for the best. I can do nothing to change it anyway.

As the ships make for the horizon, the pain grows too great and so I turn inland, away from the shore, to my familiar camp. I build my fire and take my place seeking calm as day turns to night. As dusk deepens to darkness the leaves whisper, and this place that graces me in my solitude awakens. Frogs begin to call and make me smile, a prelude to the magic for which I hardly dared hope; fireflies begin to dance, sparkles high and low, increasing in number with every passing second and then, like the breathtaking pause of an orchestra before the sublime, a moment given to one who thought herself left out, a sound unlike any other – a song beyond a song – a chorus whose meaning I need not understand in order to be awed and swept up, first one voice, then before it reaches its last note, many others – soaring, sweeping, lifting higher and higher from many directions – an aria of coyotes reminding me that there are finer things than those for which I ached.

I am experienced; I know the ache will come again and the ships will continue to sail to ever more distant ports.  I also know that there are arias for those who stay and listen.


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In recent times, I’ve found myself reflecting on the gift of hearing.  I don’t take that gift lightly.  Having grown up with a father who was profoundly hard of hearing due to a genetic, inheritable disease, and seen his struggle when good jobs and simple conversation were denied him, I do not take lightly the gift of hearing.

When my own hearing changed many years ago, tinnitus, I went through a time of fear – had I inherited the thing that caused my father so much anguish?  So, no, I don’t take being able to hear for granted.

A few days ago, when I began to reflect upon all that I have heard and all that I have gained from the gift, the list of what I cherish having heard overwhelmed me, especially late one night as I listened to the frogs sing me to sleep.  The next day, though, was a challenge to that reflection; it seemed every neighbor had machinery to run and I felt driven nearly mad with the noise.  Hearing?  Hmmm, I remember my mother-in-law quietly switching her hearing aid off when she’d had enough…

…and then I began to think once again about balance, the things I’ve wanted to hear, the things I haven’t.  Though very much distilled for simplicity, I offer this reflection:

I’ve Heard

I’ve heard,
Hard words and great words,
Sweet songs and bitter cries,
First breaths and last sighs.

I’ve heard,
Whispered fear and shouted triumph,
Shaking storm and quiet breeze,
Lawn mowers and shuffling leaves.

I’ve heard,
Chain saws and bird songs,
Words of wisdom and ceaseless chatter,
Endless worries that do not matter.

I’ve heard,
Precious gift of calling owl,
Assurance of a loved one’s breath,
Strength of faith in life not death.

I’ve heard,
Buzzing jewel of hummingbird,
Rattling glinting dragonfly wings,
Wordless answers seeking brings.

I’ve heard.


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Every time I think I will never be moved to write again, something ends up presenting itself, forming slowly into thoughts that nag until I let them out.  This time, it was a chair.

Those who’ve spent precious time giving me the gift of reading what I write may remember that I’ve written often about the place I live.  Thanks to great blessings and the decades of dedicated hard work of my husband, we moved ten years ago to a semi-rural area where we live down a dirt road in what many in the US would think a modest home (though to me it is a palace!) on what I like to think of as a three acre park.  Trees and wildlife abound, filling me with awe, with peace, and with many chuckles.  I never imagined I would get to live in a place like this. 

Please, make no mistake, I do not mean to boast!  Nothing I have came by my own efforts and I am deeply aware of how fortunate I am!  I merely wish to set the scene.


Toward the back of this land is a very deep pond, roughly three-quarters of an acre in surface, at a guess.  It is fed by deep, cold, spring seep water, home to many creatures and watering hole to many more.  Whoever built this place over 40 years ago and caused the pond to be dug gave us the gift of using the dug earth to create a large hill on the farthest bank.  They planted many trees in addition to one that was truly ancient even then.  Since all this was done decades before we came here, the trees are very large and of many varieties, the hill well protected against erosion and wild enough to lure much wildlife both large and small.  I am so thankful for the choices made by the person who built this place!

 My husband, in his unending generosity toward me, has put a small park bench on each side of the pond, including the top of the hill, so that when I make my way out there I have somewhere to rest.  I make good use of those benches.

So, now the scene is set and perhaps the reader is kind enough to see that I only mean to share, not to boast.


The weather growing slowly but steadily more pleasant after the long winter, I could not resist a sunny day and decided to make my way out to the pond, hoping to have enough strength once out there to get up the hill to my favorite of all benches, say my prayers, and rest with Him awhile – enjoying the new spring palette of nature and the delight of being near His creatures. 

Taking up my cane, I began my walk.  Mmmm, the sun on my face, the feel of the air, the sounds!  Oh, I am so grateful to be able to hear!  I can see a fruit tree in blossom and am tempted to go closer but my destination beckons.  I pass my husband’s newest plantings (Did you know there are kiwi that grow in cold places?  I didn’t until he found them.) I make my way to the stand of tall pines that stand to one side of the pond; passing them I come close to one of the benches and see the unexpected –

A simple white plastic chair sits on our neighbors’ side of the property line facing the pond.

What’s the big deal about that, you ask?  The habit of this neighbor is to leave the rear part of their property fairly wild, preserving a small, treed wetlands in the process.  They very rarely venture out there except to cut the part of the grass they keep low.  (We deeply appreciate their care of the natural world in this way – many people around here eschew keeping everything manicured, preferring the surprises of nature and are able to do so because of the rural nature of the area.)  Now, these neighbors are also busy people, running a business, involved with the community, their youngest child is still at home, sometimes they entertain family on the weekends – all good and necessary pursuits but busy, always busy.

So, there sits that empty white plastic chair near the property line, facing the pond.  It makes me pause and smile.  Just when I think that this disease has made me useless, I am faced (not for the first time) with evidence that we are all valuable to others in ways we may never see – today I see it in an empty white plastic chair.

You see, someone dragged that chair over there – from a fair distance away, in fact.  Someone needed some time alone, sitting where they could watch the pond, resting.  Someone needed the same thing that brought me out of the house.  How does that prove my value?  Ahh, if my husband and I, as caretakers of this land, had not chosen to keep it a place of serenity – it would not have been a gift to the person who sat in that chair.  That decision which I thought only affected us, was valuable to someone else and, by leaving that chair there, they gave the gift back to me.

It doesn’t take a three acre park – that flower pot in a window, the exhausted smile, who knows who will see it just when they needed it most? 

There is potential for everything about us, no matter how small, to have value – just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

And in the act of leaving that chair where it was, not only did they give us the gift of knowing we’d given someone something they needed, they caused me to think about the One Who is always with me, even when I am unaware – just by an unexpected chair.



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