Monthly Archives: April 2023

No Even Though

This morning’s journal prompt was a stress check -in.

I wrote: I am happy, healthy, and out-of-town with Tim. I feel calm and at peace  … even though all hell is breaking loose with one of our kids.

“Even though” – what is that?

“All hell?” – toughen up Nance. 

“Even though” is life. 

Five years ago, incapable of verbalization, I told my mom that one of our adult kids had run away. She asked, “What did you say?” I gave it another go and found a few words. A few minutes later, she asked, “What’s new?” With a smidge more articulation, I told her again. A few minutes later, she inquired, “What new?” Stronger yet, I repeated the sentence. By the fifth round, I was no longer weeping. 

God works in mysterious ways . . . even through dementia. 

On another visit, I gave another update. My mom advised, “Don’t think about it. It’s not that hard.” Plain and simple. Humph. This was inconceivable to me as my loss seeped through my pores and permeated my soul. I could not get a grip.  

I cried for three years. I questioned the meaning of life, the purpose of living, the myth of the big happy family. Stark days were warmed by my other children and friends who pulled me into the light.   

Ghostbusters’ theme song took on significant meaning – “Who you gonna call?”

I called, and most family members and friends shared their flames. Loved ones phoned me, and I’d be amazed that I had light to share in their time of need. Some checked on me. Some sensed when I was going down under. Many miraculously revealed to me my lingering light. Such love made me cry – everything did back then .   

I consulted with professionals, read medical journals, devoured memoirs, and talked way too much about personal stuff. I got the sense that people were pushing acceptance. I fought that battle and am grateful to have lost.

I went to daily mass. Gospels about demons rocked my world. Where were these miracles today?

“Be not afraid.” 

“Peace be with you.”

“I will not forsake you.”

Mantras are miraculous.   

This spring, Richard Rhor’s Falling Upward course emphasizes daily meditation – “Be still and know that I am.”

I did not want to be still. I wanted some fixing. And I wanted it fast in times of panic.

There is no fixing. There is no even though. There is just what is.

I am not alone. None of us are. We all have suffering. 

Grief, confusion, and loss don’t have to take center stage. I stay with the lengthy monologues. I let them play out. Then I sing with the chorus. And I get back in the dance. 

All hell is not breaking loose. It is not new. It has always been around. And it always will be.

And God and goodness prevail, in you and in me and in everyone, and in everything (Richard Rhor’s The Universal Christ). Even in people with differing realities. 

We get to live Grace loud and clear . . .  even when expressing it is hard. When I can’t find my voice, I seek the lesson, the love . . . in the sensation. There is no shame in big feelings.  

In every moment, “God comes to you disguised as your life.” – Paula D’Arcy (from Richard Rhor’s Falling Upward)

You Spot It – You Got It

Jim Dethmer, author, coach and founder of The Conscious Leadership Group, says when something about someone bothers you, that something is probably within you. “You spot it – you got it.” After participating in a dozen of Dethmer’s online lectures, I still could not get past the judgment or unease or anger or intolerance of some people’s behaviors. 

I first came across this concept in 2010 when Brendan gave me Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga by Katherine Kenison and Rolf Gates. One of the offerings said that if there’s something you find irritating about a yoga instructor, the behavior is probably one that you don’t like about you.

For years, when I notice that something about somebody really bugs me, I have tried to identify what is happening within me and to reconcile it, to be loving. No go. I still judged: good – bad, like – dislike.

And I wanted to get past this. I want to be all loving, good, kind, joyful. Not liking is not part of my long-term plan.  

I took courses which introduced non-dualism taught by Cythina Bourgeaut, Richard Rhor, James Finley, Thich Nat Hahn, and Father Thomas Keating. Hahn and Keating are monks, Buddhist and Catholic. I am no monk. 

Richard Rhor often quotes Duns Scotis’ beautiful perspective on “thisness,” being with what is. I can grasp thisness, especially in the realm of the Serenity Prayer. The older I get, the more I know there is very little I can control. Thank God for God. I can trust in what is, and I can be where I am without bolting into future perils. 

Ram Das’ Be Here Now is quite the hippy masterpiece on staying in the present. The repeated mantra of being with what is grounds me.

In her Ted Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brene Brown relays her first interaction with her therapist and says to her, “It’s really bad, isn’t it?” And the therapist replies, “It’s neither good nor bad. It just is.” And Brown says, “This is gonna suck.”

My Aunt Aggie recommended I read Richard Rhor’s Just This, and the tiny text was my companion at my mother’s hospice bedside along with Rhor’s Jesus’ Alternative Plan: The Sermon on the Mount. 

Countless resources remind us to stay with what is. Don’t judge (Jesus says this umpteen times in the Gospels). But the stirring continues, the unrest, the desire to understand. Saint Francis said, “Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand.” 

I want to understand what is going on when I sense impatience, irritability, dislike. I am not trying to be a saint. I’m trying to figure this out.   

Then I read Holly Whittaker’s Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol. Whittaker’s book attacks patriarchal systems and Big Alcohol. I plowed through it, and then I got to Chapter 13: “Hell is Other People.”

The chapter begins with words from Cynthia Occelli (I have no idea who she is):

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

My synapses fired to the idea that a grain of wheat has to fall and die in order to bear fruit (John 12:24).

All of this stuff is connected, somehow. 

Whittaker quotes, “There’s something about that guy I don’t like about myself” (Unknown source).  

She describes interactions with a colleague who does not like her, and she tries everything to change this. She works it. She digs deeper and deeper into her need to be liked, her dislike of this guy, and his dislike of her. She wants to be a good Christian. She’s sober and has come a long way on her journey, and she cannot figure out this obstacle to inner peace. (Whittaker swears like a truck driver, and her booze-driven behavior is beyond. Just sayin’ in case you pick it up.)

Then she has the revelation that in wanting to be accepted and liked by this guy and in wanting to like him, she was “denying [her] humanity. . . . He was a mirror of the parts of me I couldn’t stand. In other words, he was my shadow, embodied. The shadow – a concept in Jungian psychology – represents the things present in ourselves that we disassociate from because we deem them bad, ugly, dark, or inadequate. . . . The more we judge others, the more likely we are judging our own shadows” (271).  

“The answer was to use the things I saw in him as unlovable and intolerable as a blueprint for how to love and forgive myself. . . . It helped me to see that the things I can’t stand about other people are little nuggets of treasure in plain sight” (272).

Most of us have learned that when faced with someone who is difficult and challenging, we are given the opportunity to learn and grow. There’s a saying that “comfort and growth don’t sit in the same room.” People can be tough. That’s life. But when I’m triggered, I am curious about what is happening. I have not thought of it as being frustrated with something I see in me – annoying tendencies – or behaviors I wish I could adopt but feel restricted by who knows what.  

Stay with me. I’m quoting a lot. I know. But Whittaker really nailed it for me, and maybe this will mean something to you. Or maybe I’m completely wacky. 

“When we condemn a behavior in someone else – and recognize that it is simply a reflection of us – we empower ourselves to make peace with what we find unacceptable in ourselves; to remember we are not made only of good parts, that we are all of it, and therefore we must try to love all of it – in ourselves and each other. . . . When we recognize ourselves in others, we discover our capacity to truly love and be loved.” 

You spot it, you got it, now love it. I can’t change others. I can change me. Thank God.

Big stuff. Big insights. Big love. 

It’s hard to love others when you don’t love yourself or when you’re irritated with yourself. Maybe when Jesus said to take the log out of your own eye before you make a big deal about the sliver in someone else’s, he was inviting us to love the log. 

Productivity is Overrated

I just subscribed to Fabulous, a productivity habit tracking app. 

I want to be somebody else. I want to be productive and accomplished. 

I went through the initial steps on the app created by brilliant folks at Duke University. The first big milestone to conquer – based on the scholars’ recommendations – is to drink water. 

I clicked that I drank water – I got a flash of fabulous on my screen. 

When I scrolled for more positive behaviors (like writing daily), a warning popped up: 

Slow down! Don’t push it. Research indicates doing too much too soon does not work. 

I had already had my mug of hot lemon water – a new tidbit I started this week because I read that it is good for your liver, so clicking done felt like cheating. 

With impatience, I wondered, “Where in this app am I going to get the big shove to organize the dozens of chapters of Let Me Tell You: Lessons in Love and Life based on What Not to Do?”

Next, Fabulous asked about exercise. My book does not exist because I exercise. It is my thing and has been for forty years. Working out is my procrastination preference. I get on the Peloton (or do some other heart-pumping movement) 350/356 days a year. And I’m game for a walk anytime. 

Walking is my ticket to fake productivity. Ah, I should write. I think I’ll go for a walk and think about it. Poof! Time to get on a Zoom call. Where did the time go? 

I journal often, and according to Fabulous, this fulfills my creativity goal. Why don’t I feel, well, fabulous?  

This week, I also started meditating for five LONG minutes a few times a day. Today was easier. Maybe day four is the deal maker in feeling at one with myself and the universe.

After feasting on chocolate Easter bunnies and Swedish fish, I quit sugar three days ago. 

Fabulous warns I’m headed for failure. Better to commit to one thing at a time.  

Screw that. I want time to speed up and be the new me, the productive lady (yes, lady) who lives in the house on the hill who daily seeks and spews inspiration. 

Fabulous says – hold your horses.

I say – my stable is full.

The app prevents me from advancing to the deep stuff – like being really . . .  I’m not sure … but it is something big that makes a difference – that helps others know they are not alone in their fear, heartache, and sense of inadequecy and failure. I want others to embrace that life is so worth it, so quirky, to fascinating, so God-filled. I want to share the perspective that mistakes are God’s way of pointing us to happier paths.   

I think if I hurry up and adopt a bunch of productive, life-enhancing habits, I will create a new me. And then I’m curious about the outcome. I want it to be next month, so I can see a different Nancy in the mirror. Time feels sluggish.

And then, suddenly, I am grateful in the peace of the present. Tick slowly, clock. This is enough, this moment. I’m blessed.

And my “butt is in the chair” as Anne Lamott says about writing.  

And being right here is all I got, Fabulous or not. 

Ironic, isn’t it?