An Ignatian approach to Letting my Sons Grow

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

To those of you who have ever followed the suggestion to take a difficult life transition and pray over it: Have you ever done just that, only to be left with the feeling of being even more exposed and mixed up than when you sat down with your (now luke warm) coffee?

That’s what happened for me just now.
Morgan and Theo gift

Rather than the familiar: “golly gee, thanks God, that was a nice little hug” type of reflection, I ended up with an unwound ball of yarn pile of emotions. I started with an Ignatian reflection by Maryanne Rouse (Creighton University, College of Business) and followed her suggestion to imagine I am a part of the first reading in today’s Catholic Lectionary.

Here is what she wrote:

Can you imagine–40 days of face to face conversation with God? That is the experience of Moses, according to today’s First Reading. We don’t know who was speaking more of the time–God or Moses? The conversation transpired behind a closed tent. What we are told is that at the end of this time, Moses comes out with the “words of the covenant,” the Ten Commandments in hand.

This First Reading cries out to be addressed with Ignatian Contemplation prayer, that is, the form of prayer that Ignatius did not invent, but popularized in the Spiritual Exercises. Imagination is a key tool.

To enter into this form of prayer, you need to set aside thoughts that you are not imaginative, that God cannot speak to you through this tool as God does through other tools, e.g. thought, feelings, senses, to name a few.

First, read the entire text, Exodus 33: 7-11; 34: 5-9. 28. Next place yourself in the scene: What do you see? What can you hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Maybe not so much to taste in this story, though you may be aware that this entire time, Moses neither ate nor drank anything.

Then rewind the story in your mind after inserting yourself into it. When I have prayed this, I have found myself taking the part of a serving girl, totally left out of the action and not happy… Next step: what might God want to say to me through my place in this story?

I tried imagining myself as several different people – I was Moses, the wife of Moses, a pregnant mom, a too old to be pregnant mom…no matter how I read it though…I was a mom, and my son was going off to try to understand what instructions God was giving him.

Behind my closed eyes, no matter how my imagination sliced and diced the scenes, these plans involved travel for him and none for me. For days on end there would be no communication with my son the pilgrim. By allowing myself to imagine this as the time of Moses and young Joshua (an assistant to Moses) a good old-fashioned pile of letters wasn’t even coming forth.

It was me, a dusty tent, and a bunch of stars with no answers while the rest of the campsite snorted and snored the night away.

This all happened in ten minutes of prayer. Fertile imaginations are not necessarily something to envy if you struggle to let your mind wander.

After making some Eggos for our 11 year old, I went back at the reflection for another five minutes or so. It was like the maddening experience I’m having with one of our computers: we turn it on, it boots up, then boots itself back down…then, brrrzzsssuuuppt beePbEEp…it boots back up in an endless loop without ever actually starting up.

Same images, same tears, same not knowing where my kid is or what Moses is telling him to go off and do with his life.

Internet access denied, quick and easy answers unattainable.

On one hand, I didn’t need 30 minutes of tearful prayer to know that I am having trouble coping with the fact that my son, the one whose personality tends to mimic mine, is looking at colleges that are eight hours away. As in, he is waking up this morning in a hotel with his dad and is right now on campus with energetic and brilliant tour guides. As I sit here and type, a young Jesuit scholar is chirping away about how great life became as soon as he left his weeping mother, and for the first time in his boring life, he discovered the depths of his being and mind in the hallowed halls of the University of ForgetToCallHome.

I’m exaggerating. I could not be more excited for this kid. He is bored. He has been bored in school for a very long time, and I’ve been saying forever that college will be his time to shine and let that intellect of his go hog-wild.

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

So, that’s what I’m up to this morning. If you too are feeling jagged emotions that are about letting go, I’d recommend a beautiful song by Kate Rusby called “Underneath the Stars”.

It is making me feel better able to sit with the unknown. What choice do we have anyway?

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Eeyores Advice to the Gloomy: ‘Brains First, and then Hard Work’

I’m not the first one to think this, but let’s pretend, just for the day, that I am the first person to decide that Milne’s World of Pooh is an ode to friendship. I’d like to add though…that it is also all about cherishing quiet, and imagination. Is this not what the world sorely lacks in many of our eyes?

And, the lack of patience in every corner of the kingdom?

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“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.”
― Sylvia Plath (from Good Reads)

A quick read of some pages of The World of Pooh is helping me process how I feel about reconnecting with some of my best friends of my college years. I can’t decide which Milne character would have been who at the time.

Right now, with no question, I am Eeyore and am quite fine with remaining in that role forever more. If you don’t love and appreciate Eeyore…I ask you to turn your head and go play else where. This kind friend is the Abe Lincoln of the kindly woods of Pooh.

I am no Abe. or Molly Lincoln, but I do continue to plod along. With the gift of modern interventions, I am gratefully stocked with a lighter set of brain games and my load has lightened indeed.

The chapter I just reread is titled:

IN WHICH A house Is Built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore

On this “one day,” Pooh is wandering around as usual looking for someone to hang out with for a bit. Sound like college and young adulthood yet? Yuppers.

So he checked on his fiesty little pal Piglet, “…and the more he looked inside the more Piglet wasn’t there.’ “

Sound like waning connections to old friends because of the busyness of work, family life and “real adulthood?” Yes sirree Bob.

” ‘He’s out,’ said Pooh sadly.”

“That’s what it is. He’s not in.

I shall have to go a fast

Thinking Walk

by myself. Bother!”

whole wrld

My oldest son John, at three against the world.

That’s what two of my college roommates and I miss the most. I don’t even need to text, Facebook, snail mail or tweet to them to inquire: we miss going for walks together to our playground. The pace and stress of college often made no sense to any of the three of us. Nor does the current world of noise and rush make what should be very common sense amidst the buzz that we are plodding through that many years later.

Sadly, the cost of travel and the commodity of time stands in the way of “in real life” connection. Not so sadly, we manage quite well to keep in touch. Never enough, but we try. Not so much in person, yet the genius of the invention of virtual connection provides some fun in between gaps of “real” exchanges of voice and better thought out exchanges such as email or instant messages.

Now: Back to Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore.

In this part of the story, Pooh’s social dilemma increases as he decides to cheer Eeyore with a song and invites Piglet. Piglet is impatient as Pooh drags him through a windstorm to find Eeyore:

‘Pooh,’ he said at last, and a little timidly,

because he didn’t want Pooh to think he was Giving In,

‘I was just wondering.

How would it be if we went home now and

practiced your song,

and then sang it to Eeyore tomorrow -or-or  the next day, when we happen to see him.”

No go. Pooh dragged that poor pig through snow and sleet singing “Tiddley-Pom” the whole way through.

Meanwhile Christopher Robin is trying to talk some sense into Eeyore who won’t leave his “gloomy place” of no cover from the snow storm.

Eeyore justifies to his human friend:

” ‘I don’t know how it is, Christopher Robin,

but with all this snow and one thing and another,

not to mention icicles and such-like,

it isn’t so Hot in my field…In fact Christopher Robin,’

 

he went on in a loud whisper,

 

‘quite-between-ourselves-and-don’t-tell-anybody,

it’s Cold.’

 

‘Oh, Eeyore!’

Now. Here comes that attitude and thought process that I’ve yet to give up, which on one or two occasions, has driven my family to hysterics:

” ‘And I said to myself:

The others will be sorry if I’m getting myself all cold.

They haven’t got Brains, any of them,

only grey fluff

that’s blown into their heads by mistake,

and they don’t

Think.’ “

And on Eeyore discerns and plods about, in a snow storm, thinking about the snow on top of his very back. Meanwhile, not one, not two, but three friends are milling about the woods trying to resolve his gloom by rebuilding his house and trying to lead him to a more comfortable place.

Pope Francis should be proud indeed of the humble scene in which Eeyore returns to the house that he thinks he built:

” ‘ There you are,’ said Piglet.

 

‘Inside as well as outside,’ said Pooh Proudly.

 

‘It’s a remarkable thing,’ he said.

 

‘It is my house, and I built it where I said I did, so the wind must have blown it here.

 

And the wind blew it right over the wood,

and blew it down here,

and here is as good as ever.

 

In fact, better in places.’

 

‘Much better,’ said Pooh and Piglet together.

 

‘It just shows what can be done by taking a little trouble,’ said Eeyore.

 

‘Do you see Pooh? Do you see Piglet?

 

Brains first and then Hard Work.

 

Look at it!

 

That’s the way to build a house,’

 

said Eeyore

proudly.”

I was thankful for my college friends then, but I am more so now. Communication gaps or no, they mean a lot to me.

 

 

Lucky Girl am I

family 005

Psalm 96:7-10
New International Version (NIV)

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.

The next couple of weeks mark a couple of important anniversaries for me. The first one is that today is my mother’s birthday. The other is that our youngest son was born eleven years ago, as of this month.

This youngest son asks frequently which ancestor he is more “like.” He has so many great shoes to fill, so I try to down play the question when I can and apply the “Free to Be You and Me” values that my brother and I were raised by:

(Hedging what I’m really thinking) :

 

“Well, let’s see. When Uncle Mike was your age he would have been complaining just like you did a minute ago about only having a hand full over friends over to play rather than the entire dah – gum neighborhood. Go get dressed, we’ll talk about this later”.

What I often think when this one

behaves, misbehaves, entertains and confounds me is:

“Good Lord this one reminds me so much of mom.”

Here is where I’m coming from: outlandish, outspoken, gregarious to a fault most days, ready to debate to the death if it is an issue they value, and expansive at a minimum. They both are, and were the kind of smart that frustrates a kid because he is, and she was the type of child who stays in constant motion. I don’t mean hyper energy as often as the kind which is about finding a personal dance groove while the rest of the world is saying “line up time.”

As a matter of fact just yesterday after school he was relieved about the ending of another school week and was doing a little shimmy in the front seat of the van and telling me to watch, but not really watch. (“Like it or not mom, I’m a preteen now.”)

Payback for having gained those sort of “watching while not watching” skills with his brothers was that after we got home, out there kind of guy that he is, he called me aside to showed me the exact dance move that he used in gym yesterday. I was impressed actually. He also said that they are currently doing basketball, so I said a quick Hail Mary for his young gym teacher and went back to wandering in circles around unfinished chores.

Just a minute ago, while grabbing some food for same said kid, I got to thinking:

Maybe it’s not that they are so much alike, although they are…

maybe it’s that this youngest son and my favorite mom draw me out of myself in the same way.

 

Both of their high fives tend to be all enthusiasm and not very critical. When they feel successful in getting me out “there,” wherever “there” may be – they tend to have a party of their own in the wings so I get a quick “woo hoo” and off they go.

I like that.

The photo above is of me and our neighbor. Pretty gal isn’t she? Lucky girl was, and still am I. Agreed?

Am I a Mean Mother if I Make My Son Laugh?

Ouch.

I’ve handled living far away from our oldest son quite well for the past few months. Being away from him while he has a 24 flu is tough though. So sonny boy…assuming you are back at work and toughing things out…, here are some laughs and pictures to come home to rather than a plate of comfort food.

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart I’ll always be with you.
Winnie The Pooh

Looking back, you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life, and that person was you. It is not too late to become that person again.  Robert Brault

You have a cough? Go home tonight; eat a whole box of Ex-Lax – tomorrow you’ll be afraid to cough. Pearl Williams 

Warning: Humor may be hazardous to your illness…
Ellie Katz

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.

John Wayne