Monthly Archives: February 2024

Lent and Love

I was in downtown Chicago today, and I wanted to start my day with ashes. Not flowers, chocolate, or heart-filled cards. Ashes.

I checked the schedule at Old St Pat’s Church and saw that they were going to distribute ashes at Union Station from 7:30-9:30am. Cool, I thought.

Being from the southside, I only know the LaSalle Street and South Shore Train stations in Chicago. I logged into Google Maps and ventured on my walk toward Canal and Jackson.

As I entered into the gorgeous, nearly 100-year-old train depot, I had flashbacks of our trip to Ellis Island in New York. The massive open space holds such promise for those arriving for work, job interviews, jaunts to the big city, visits with friends, explorations through museums, walks along spectacular Lake Michigan.

The difference is that these travelers aren’t leaving their families, homes, and roots forever. Well, maybe some of them are.

People hustled in and out of deep tunnels and glass doors while I roamed and marveled and sought out somebody in a black and white collar with an urn. No luck.

I opted for 12:10 mass at Old St Pat’s. The Broadway-esk cantor moved me as she sang about how our shared journey makes us one. Father Pat Mc Grath hit the homily out of the park, and I was left sobbing at the final hymn asking God to take me as I am, monkey mind and all. I wonder if God caught me admiring haircuts as women returned from Communion.

Mass. Ash Wednesday mass. Reminders of who we are plastered on our foreheads. I really am dust. Dust thinking about my next hairdo.

The homily was about how Lent is a time to pause, and Father drew parallels between our Covid experiences of loss and gain and the collective pause many Christians take in the next 40 days.

Lent – prayer, alms giving, sacrifice – all on Valentine’s Day, all in the name of Love.

Father McGrath reflected on how during Covid, the priests would linger with each other in the evenings, grateful for human connection during a time of isolation. I am not so hot at lingering. I’m afraid of wasting people’s time. I usually do what I’m supposed to do and scram.

Linger. Stay with that feeling – to linger. My imagination went to moments with my grandchildren when I just want to linger, to stroke their faces and be with them. When I want to linger over dinner with Tim. I don’t want the evening to end, so I order dessert. Or I linger by my car with a friend after a walk in the Dunes because I don’t want our time to end. I linger over passages in a novel, or scripture, or poetry, or songs.

I’m going to linger more this Lent. I want to soak it in – the love, the learning, the feeling, the epiphany – like a hoarder, but not like a hoarder because I want to give it away.

I struggle with this. I want to listen really really hard, feel it, grasp it, hold it, write it (when I can hang on to it long enough), share it.

I walked back from church, lingering in the big city life, the architecture, the amazing creativity, the engineering feats of criss-crossed highways, the old and new bridges, the people – everywhere.

I thought about lingering in love, not shying away from it, not ducking out when someone’s compassion feels like too much to bear, someone’s depth of beauty too deep to grasp – to stay with it. Maybe then it will build inside of me and spill out somewhere and remind us that we are not alone.


My mom passed away a year ago. There’s so much I want to ask her, especially this week. Why didn’t I ask her when she was alive? I ask her now while I’m out on my walks, but the answers are pretty unclear.

When I first started training with Presence-based Coaching in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2016, the cohort read The Mindful Coach: Seven Roles for Facilitating Leader Development by Doug Silsbee. Silsbee explores mindfulness, awareness, and seven basic voices used in coaching: the Master, the Partner, the Investigator, the Reflector, the Teacher, the Guide and the Contractor.

During one of the activities at my first coaching conference, the trainers Sarah and Bebe placed placards displaying the names of the different voices in parts of the room. They reviewed the basics of each modality and asked us to move toward the questioning voice we use most often.

My peers gravitated in different directions, some with conviction, others with uncertaintly. I stayed still.

Sarah asked me why I stood in the center of the room.

“Because I can’t use any of these voices.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s none of my business.”

“What’s none of your business?”

“People’s lives. I was raised in a culture of MYOB – Mind Your Own Business.”

Sarah was speechless.

That evening, I journaled about whether or not this leadership coaching thing was for me. MYOB never bothered me. I was good with it. I was safe. Questions can get a little dicey. I knew I needed to address this fundamental sense of my place in the world.

I am sensitive to the dances between intimacy and privacy, connection and autonomy. In the context of coaching, I freely ask questions. It’s expected, necessary, and enlightening. Growth and discomfort don’t sit in the same room.

When I talk with a friend, I am careful. I prefice inquiries, “Do you mind if I ask a coaching question?” as if to emphasize that this is not really me asking, it’s me acting as if I was a coach.

After eight years of extensive training, I admit that I am a coach. I am slow with identity shifts.

Most people will ask, “What sport?”

That safe question that does not violate the MYOB rule. Kind of like asking about a restaurant, or a recipe, or a good book, or a beautiful park, or a deal at Marshall’s or the price of blueberries at Aldi.

Few people ask about what really matters – love, loss, mental illness, faith, terror, lab results, pain, parenting, purpose, joy, awe, eternal life.

With my mom gone, I sit with a lot of unknowing, just like I did when she was alive. She did not like questions. She was private. And that is something that is really cool about her. Hence my tug-of-war with my new life’s work.

Last year, I asked my mom what it was like to be married to my dad.

She paused, reflected and replied, “He was quiet. He liked a good time.”

I didn’t ask for more.

Each moment is a chance to start over. I feel aquiver, I ask myself what’s happening, I take a deep breath, accept that I don’t know, and . . . feel better.

The “what’s happening?” intervention is based in neuroscience. To over simplify, It makes my brain flip from the right side – emotional, scared, apprehensive – to the left side – logic and reason. My brain doesn’t hang out long on the left, but the brief reprieve from the turmoil on the right works wonders. It provides a fresh look at the upheavel in my mind.

Sometimes I look around at all the people I pass on my walks, and I wonder what is going on in their brains. Who are they praying for? What are they fretting about? What are they planning? What furniture are they rearranging in their heads? (I do this a lot.)

This week has been a rough week. The shit hit the fan. The fan is unpredictable. I try to make sense of patterns. It is related to last weekend’s full moon? Trying to find patterns is a way of shifting from right to left, from despair to figuring it out – even though I know there is no figuring anything out except math. And I stink at that.

We all have stuff that could break us down, but we don’t let it. I think of friends fighting debilitating disease, parents with ill children, homeowners with major water damage, renters who can’t pay the rent, adults witnessing the deterioration of parents, workers losing their jobs, people lost in isolation, poverty, homelessness.

We can live in the swirl and spin constantly. Or we can settle into this moment of what’s happening – life.

A friend said this week – “life is life.” And it is blessed.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a tilt-a-whirl, and I have friends who serve as my focal point so I don’t fall down. If I do, they pick me up.

When I pull my head up out of grief, sadness, fear, uncertainty, tension, disagreement, despair, I see light, love, Grace, and Spirit – in community. We are indeed all in this together.

Remember the Hamill Camel in the 1976 Olympics? Dorothy Hamill’s amazing spin (and incredible hair)? Like her, we come out of it!

We are indeed “having the time of our life” in each moment, regardless of what it brings.