This I Believe

The reason this blog is titled “Attention Please” is because isolation and apathy has sucked at my life so frequently that I dare not count. I don’t want to know how many days or years I have wasted with a mindset that gets stuck on a groove that repeats: “Forget about it. This is all there is.”

On the other hand, during better days and better phases of life – I delight in being exactly who I am. “God don’t make no junk” is a catch phrase used by Glenmary Missioners – a Catholic Missionary group in America’s Appalachian region.

And, that deepest part of my being – that place where I feel like a five year old girl pumping her little Mary Jane shoes on a swing, full of hope and abandon that a girl can reach the sky – that part of me only surfaces when I pay attention to what is beautiful in my world. It is where Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit and the Communion of the Saints set up camp and without any condition, always, ALWAYS catches me when I fall.

And I fall. A lot.

And then I quit.

I get moody, I get anxious, I get depressed, I get cranky,

and I quit.

I isolate myself, I become unfriendly, sullen, forgetful. And. Guess what – when I’m ready to come out of these lonely patches – the world has moved on with its beauty, and I feel left behind.

So – by writing here I force myself to find beauty and faith and grace and the world. Amazingly, so far life has not been so cold as to not invite me back to its party.

There is so much goodness in the world, and I need help believing that being open to relationships and getting into the muddy waters of work and life really is what God expects of me. It’s not a calling – it’s an expectation. It’s pretty much same rule in every religion: “Go love each other.” So, that is where this blog is coming from: a tendency to live in isolation, and thankfulness that a am frequently given a new lease on life.

A friend of my challenged me to enter an essay to NPR that is themed : “This I Believe.” Maybe you have read or heard some of the other essays. So, this is what I wrote, and then soon after started this blog which is about paying attention to grace, and to each other.

Je ne sais pas

“Je ne sais pas.”

Last night, I said it no less than fifteen times to my thirteen year old son.

I. Don’t. Know.

At the time, I was trying to get rid of a headache by resting in his room with his younger brothers’ stuffed rooster on my forehead. He said: “Mom. You have no idea how weird you are.” I thought, “Surely I am not the only middle-aged mother lying down right now. Somewhere, another mom is trying to muster energy to find something to eat before getting a kid to his swim lesson.” He did have a point about the stuffed rooster though.

Just before his “you are so weird” comment, I’d been thinking about a young woman from Mass the previous Sunday. I didn’t recognize her but, when we exchanged a sign of peace, she said, “You’re Carol’s daughter, right?” I said yes. Calmly. Without huge waves of remorse, guilt, sadness, pain, tears, dry mouth or sinus pressure. Just, “Yes, I’m Kate and Carol’s my mom.”

Three springs ago my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in the following August. I’m fairly sure that this young woman was a student worker in my mother’s theatre costume shop. But then, they may have volunteered together at the soup kitchen. Je ne sais pas. I don’t know.

I’ll tell you what I believe at this stage of the game: There is little point in trying to control the effects of intense grief. My three sons have been a fortunate distraction from the pain of watching my mother suffer and letting her go. But nothing—no amount of busyness or radical love for my family – has succeeded in getting me to this point. At first, I thought of her nearly every minute of every day. I sometimes still see her, feel her, smell her at every turn. She is in her art, her handwriting, a bird in the yard, a song on the radio, the smell of pot roast – the list is long and often surprising and strange. Sometimes that stinks. Sometimes it feels great.

I think my mother would support me in saying over and over again: Je ne sais pas. There’s freedom in saying “I don’t know” to this whatever “this” is: “When can I get contacts mom?” or “Can I fix my godsons’ sadness?” or “Where in the world do I know that young lady from and how does she know my mother’s name?”

So, how am I coping three years later?

Je ne sais pas.

What I realized that Sunday a few weeks ago is that I finally arrived to this gentler type of grief on the wings of ordinary life. My mom taught me to trust everyday grace more than any other force in my life. So, I’m guessing that it’s okay to see the Holy Spirit in a muddy toad and pesky questions and, sometimes, faking sleep with a stuffed rooster on my head is as good a solution as any.


20 thoughts on “This I Believe

  1. Again! Very wonderful and it gives me a similar triumph feeling that comes after watching a good movie! Your writing is special!

    • You are so welcome alebold! I had a friend in college that often advised to not “should” on myself. No…so far from alone! Thanks so much for reading my post.

    • Jon – Merci NewvO (can’t find my french brain right now) ami. Only good memories from that school year. We had Mrs. Moon and learned nothing academically, just had a blast writing scripts and so forth behind her back.

  2. Lovely Kate, (oh this has 2 meanings!) and I agree it is more than all right to say I don’t know, especially in French. However, I would want to know how this young lady knew your Mom and perhaps have shared some lovely memory. Love you, Aunt MO

    • Hey Melinda, thanks for stopping by! The young lady that knew mom had been a student at Allegheny. She and mom had worked together in a community soup kitchen. Allegheny has a great service program and mom was part of a big push to expand the services and link service to academia. Good question. Yours as well, Kate

  3. Should I be worried that the rooster makes perfect sense to me? 🙂 Grief comes in so many ways…ways I would have never thought that it could be grief. Yesterday was a day of grief for me although I did not recognize it until today. I just had what my grandmother called, “the black bottom blahs.” So I just did or did not do whatever and let the day slide by. Emotions pass, the “good ones” and the “bad ones.” Grief is a gentle reminder that we have experienced great love (true, sometimes mixed with great battles). I would not trade grief for loneliness. You write well…I feel like we are talking over a cup of Brazilian coffee with their delicious little cheese rolls unique to here. Keep going, my friend, I am eager to hear more. hugs, pat

    • Pat your comments are so, so…generous! Worry about getting the rooster thing? Yeah, it’s a sign of…umm…well. Oh heck. No worries…everyone has rooster days…some of us just enjoy admitting it, right? Yup. I consider grief a gift too…easier said now that I’m not in the middle of a big goodbye…there will be others. Thanks for reading so closely!

      • Rooster day! I laughed out loud at that. Indeed, we all have rooster days. Have to remember that one. My daughter, as a teenager, said to me once, “Mom, couldn’t you be like other moms once in a while?” I thought about it a minute and said, “Nope, what you see is what you get!” lol hugs, pat

  4. Such precious moments we spend with our loved ones….too late it seems we realise there can never be enough. Thank goodness then that I realise their spark of life only illuminates more and never goes out.
    Blessings, love & light

    • Thank you for your comment Donna, and for stopping by my blog. Yes, it is hard to miss those we have lost, and it takes effort to appreciate what we have when we have it…family is often easy to take for granted.

      Thanks again for stopping by! Kate

  5. Kate… I like how you wrote “How I Write”, and yes, your words are felt when they are conversational and from the heart. And, congratulations on publishing “Je ne sais pas”, it’s a wonderful narrative.

    • Thank you Jim! It’s been great to meet you as I am flumoxed by all of the runners in my life, so your posts help me see the joy in the craft. If you ever need a non runner perspective – I’m there! Kate

  6. Precious memories. Alive and well in your words. And I enjoyed the chain smoking images from that post about beginning ugly… Sometimes you just can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it pretty, as my granny used to say as she leaned in over the bar she owned until she passed.

    • thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad that you enjoyed my post about starting ugly.

      Yeah, I find myself doing a lot of looking back when I write here. Thanks again for stopping by. I’m off to look your blog up now as well. thanks, Kate

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