A very Good Friday

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I had the privilege of serving as a Eucharistic minister at Holy Thursday Mass. Ministry has been a gift. I have difficulty forgiving myself for the sinful choices I make and I wonder if I will collapse on the altar someday. It is a blessing to be able to offer Eucharist to my fellow parishioners. Those intimate moments when we look at one another and sometimes share smiles are beautiful. I feel small and humble. I am reminded of my call to service.

All the Eucharistic ministers were asked to take part in a procession during the transfer of the Eucharist. It was a simple procession around the church. We walked in lines of two. I was so proud to show reverence. As we approached the Blessed Sacrament, I sensed my loved ones who have died: Brett, Don, Charlene, David, both of my grandfathers. They were there as all the candles were gathered around the Blessed Sacrament. As we knelt, I felt the love of everyone around me including those who have crossed over. It was a perfect way to end Lent.

I am truly grateful for these last 40 days. Despite my struggles, I gained so much. I recognize the blessing of being M’s mother and to model love the way God loves me. Listening to music that promotes spiritual reflection and speaking and speaking daily about my faith and experiences has been transformative. Writing for 40 days has changed me. I will soon be announcing a major change in my life. That would not have been possible if I hadn’t been in the middle of my Lenten journey. I’m more aware of who I am and of who God intends me to be. I am grateful to God.  This is a very Good Friday.

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Servant to all

I don’t forgive betrayal. There I said it. My struggles with resentment and self-righteousness are rooted in betrayals by those I have loved and trusted. I pray for an open heart. A few years ago, I served as friend and mentor to someone by sharing my experiences and advice.  I was betrayed when this individual compromise my safety and that of my child. (Betrayal blues) I still have not forgiven this person.  I pray for the open heart to do so.  I stay praying.

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On Holy Thursday, the Gospel and Mass call us to reflect on Jesus and the washing of feet.  Jesus’s act of humility  is met with resistance. Peter tells Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Peter has respect for his teacher. He doesn’t understand why he’s on the ground washing others’ dirty feet. Jesus tells them he is modeling how they will live.   Peter may be a potential leader but he has not learned that true leaders are servants. Jesus even washes Judas’ feet. Jesus knows Judas is his betrayer.  Washing his feet won’t change that.  Yet Jesus serves him in the same way he does for all the disciples.

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Caravaggio’s Betrayal of Jesus 

People will turn on me and disappoint me. I have to serve them. I struggle with being a servant for everyone. I will be civil and polite but I will bear a grudge. I pray that I can be a humble servant to all. I pray that I love those who are not equipped to love others or even themselves. May my love help inspire others to serve the world.

First step

 

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This week, I was blessed to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as part of the Lenten journey. I always come away humbled and motivated by the sacrament. My confessor was a priest I’m familiar with from one of the other parishes I frequent; he’s a great speaker so therefore he had great wisdom to share with me. I appreciated his kindness. Not all priests are warm when they give their advice or take on what you share.

No one is perfect. We all have sins and struggles. It’s important to not be complacent and to express and exercise a willingness to change. That helps in making positive changes in life. I know that I have areas in which I am lacking. I have reflected often this season. I want to see changes. It’s a day by day, moment by moment journey.

One example from real life and in real time is my problem with running late. While this isn’t directly one of the four challenges I took on this Lent or not necessarily something I discussed in confession, time management is related to my struggle with patient parenting. I want to do things differently. As an adult set in my ways, it’s difficult to be proactive. I have a desire for my days to begin differently. I desire to change my attitude. I am willing to change and that is a great first step.

With any negative action or attitude, we have the capacity to change.  We can choose to desire and do so.

 

10 in 10 seconds

Both Father Ron Rolheiser and Matthew Kelly have reflected on the practice of gratitude in their work. On the Monday of Holy Week, Matthew Kelly discussed gratefulness as a spiritual exercise, mindfulness practice and way of life. We were asked to list ten people, things, or situations for which we are grateful. If I were to spend the recommended five minutes writing, I would have generated a list of 100 instead of 10. I wrote my list in about 10 seconds: My life, my health, my daughter, shelter, food, knowledge, faith, work, my parents, and my friends.

I practice gratitude on a daily basis. As someone who has taken part in various therapeutic approaches to mental health, gratitude is a key practice to overcoming anxiety and depression. Being grateful builds your strength, health, and faith. I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for my good health; que bonito no tener ninguna operacion this year. I am grateful to move my life forward and to care for my health.  I took  my health for granted for many  years; without life and health, I could not enjoy the many blessings like my daughter, my family, my friends, new  professional opportunities, basic necessities like food, shelter, running water, clean air, human rights including freedom.

On the same day as the gratitude reflection, my staff at work took part in staff development training on burnout and self-care. It’s a theme we explore consistently. As folks in a helping profession like education, we preach self-care but do not always follow through. Our trainer went over major areas that indicate burnout. One is cynicism. That may be more damaging than the physical or emotional symptoms of burnout.  Cynicism taints your worldview and your daily attitude and behavior. I’ve reflected in the past on my failure to understand those who seem to be negative in every moment I encounter them, (My choice). Pero no es que no entiendo; it’s that I have rejected that way of being. I spent many years operating from a pessimistic view of the world. I lost many opportunities. Those losses taught me to enjoy my blessings. I will not ever live my life that way again.

It’s difficult to curb my self-righteousness. I empathize but I judge those who have chosen to live with negativity. As someone who has learned to manage anxiety, I fall prey to judging those who cannot or choose not to heal. It’s a vicious cycle. If you engage in negative self-talk and you are not working towards healing through professional help or spiritual direction or family, you continue to create situations that make you feel depressed or anxious. I know because I lived it. By shunning those who suffer from these issues, I protect myself.

I’m grateful that I overcame depression. I’m grateful I can manage my anxiety. I’m grateful to be able to change my mornings.  M and I are collaborating on a daily behavior chart which will assess how I’m doing with my tone of voice.  I’m grateful for faith, discipline, and for the lessons I’ve learned to help me become the best version of myself.

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A parent’s lament

I hate feeling and acting like a terrible parent. Yelling.   Making statements like “I’m not letting you go to the birthday party if you don’t do x, y, and z.” Being angry with my child. This Lent I challenged myself to work on my patience. I feel like I’ve failed. I have had great moments.  There are other times I feel I don’t communicate with M anymore.  I feel like a failure.

I’m grateful for my parents. But they made mistakes. It wasn’t easy for them. It’s not easy for me. I compare myself to other parents and think that they are doing it right.

Parents are responsible for so much. With each year that passes, it’s not easier. When they’re babies, they depend on you for everything. As toddlers, they fight for independence and often fight you about everything. But at the end of the day, toddlers love you. I know M loves me but I don’t know if she always understands me. With each passing year, communication becomes more challenging. The irony is that I’ve spent over 20 years working with teenagers yet I feel at a loss with my own child. I worry that I’m hurting her, letting her down, setting her up for future failure. I want so much for her to have a great life. I know it can’t be perfection but I hold myself to those high expectations.  On the other hand, I hear parents say “I was too nice. I did too much.”  So I’m often unsure of how to parent.

I don’t want M going to school sad, worried, upset, or confused. I don’t want her sitting there trying to concentrate on schoolwork while worrying that our relationship is at stake.   I’ve prayed for patience. I pray for her forgiveness. I want M to forgive my faults, my inability to take a deep breath and shut up. I want my silence to speak.  I wish there were a mother-child retreat when we could pray the Liturgy of the Hours and do Adoration together and pray for each other.

Earlier this week, I reflected on Holy Week being made holy by love(Love as key to holiness.) If only M could see how much I love her. If only I could show her my love instead of talking constantly. I’m at a loss.  This has been the most important and most difficult Lenten challenge. I pray for the ability to make changes for the sake of my child.

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St. Monica, pray for me and for us.

Love as key to holiness

For Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), my parish priest gave a homily about Christ’s Passion in the Gospel of Matthew. It was one of the shortest homilies he has ever given, approximately two minutes. He explained that Holy Week is not made holy by Jesus’s suffering but by his love and by the love we have for one another. It was poignant and important.

This Lent for me has involved my struggle with forgiveness, loving my enemies, loving myself, and fully expressing love for my child in the way she deserves. So often, dealing with other people or my own demons or as a parent, I get focused on all the sacrifices I make.  Given my self-righteous streak, I’m quick to say, “Look at all I’ve endured and done for myself, my child, and all these people.” I focus on the sacrifices.  Sacrificing for self and others is hard work; it is much more giving to sacrifice rather than be apathetic and walk away or to be angry and attack. Yet I lose sight of what motivates me to give of myself.

My best friend recently had her second child.  We were discussing how traumatic and horrific the birth experience can be. I know many women and families who were fortunate enough to have a positive birth; for the two of us, birth was painful, tiring, overwhelming, long, and difficult.  Because as mothers we love our children, we somewhat block out those bad memories.  Despite the 34 hours of labor and the two years she never slept through the night, M is my greatest love. The sacrifices involved in being her mother I would gladly do over again.

I have reflected often on the hard work it has taken to love and appreciate myself. It took years, effort, pain, and sacrifice. I want to love others in that same way.  I’m praying for more love in my heart so I can forgive my enemies. It’s easy to forgive my loved ones. I have to forgive those who have injured me. During Holy Week, I’m praying on and for love.

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Running rabbit: Get Out review

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Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie…. “Run Rabbit Run” by Flanagan and Allen

The other day at boot camp, our trainer had us outdoors several times running. At one point, I had a strangely increasing feeling of fear. I had seen the #getoutchallenge on social media and not understood it. I had avoided reading reviews or watching parodies because I wanted to see the film. Yet the image of the running had stuck with me. As I ran, different thoughts came into my mind:   invisible minority/majority, the cockroach people, the sleeping giant, His Panic.  I thought about Oscar Zeta Acosta and how he disappeared.  I thought about Ruben Salazar and how he was killed. I picked up the pace which is unusual for me. I may be a half marathoner but I lope along at a comfortable pace. I don’t push myself for personal records; I run because it’s therapeutic.  That evening, I ran faster than ever. The image of running from Get Out which I hadn’t yet seen provoked anxieties I have about racism in America.

I finally saw the film. It exceeded my expectations. I have always been a horror movie fan. Horror books and movies have had tremendous impact on me as a person and as an artist. (My Masters’ thesis in long fiction was a horror novel.) It’s a genre that I gravitate towards both as a fan and creator. As a horror film, it was brilliant and terrifying.  I have had nightmares and strange dreams ever since I saw the movie.  I can’t get the song from the opening scene out of my head.

In terms of social commentary, Get Out is daunting. I know it’s film and fiction yet so much of what was captured was real. While Latinos are absent in the film, the various scenes were relatable. The film feels like a Twilight Zone episode (or several) about racism. There was one particular scene when I finally understood what was happening. I whispered to Rambo, “I’m about to burst into tears.” I put my face in his shoulder and took a deep breath. I meant it because the conclusion I made was so overwhelming in its/my sadness, indignation, and disgust. I didn’t feel shock.  None of the events in the film are shocking; Rambo says “it all seems plausible.” At the end of the movie, I turned to Rambo and said, “This is what I’ve been talking about. I’ve been telling you this about these places. I know this!” Then I made a statement which seems funny but also sad and spooky. “They are lying in wait.” That statement speaks to the fear, paranoia, and acceptance of reality.

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As people of color in a racially divided and divisive society, what we experience is also what we try to deny. Like Chris, the protagonist, we are constantly having to say “it’s fine.” It is never good. We say that as a means to survive.  We can sugarcoat these realities by saying the Geneva “No, no, no,” or the Chris, “It’s okay.” We can choose to stay silent when micro-aggressions occur.   We can accept subtle racism without fighting back.  We can act like it’s our lot in life and it’s still not right. It never was and never will be.  Y ahora que?

Get Out is one artist’s take on complex, deep-seated truths. It’s an important film in what it says about the myth of post-racial America and has deservedly received critical acclaim.  It has resonated with me and will likely haunt me for a long time.