TP spent last Thursday night in a dorm at the college which she will be attending in the fall. I dropped her off at around 6:00p.m., and with a hug and an "I love you", she was entrusted to a sophomore nursing student for the next 18 hours.
The next day, I picked her up, and we had lunch before our appointment with a financial aid counselor (ugh). She talked non-stop about the midnight snack run to a local home-made bakery for doughnuts, about meeting new friends, about how she announced the call letters on the student radio station, and how they stayed up to 3:00a.m. She was animated, and when she came up for a breath of air, I asked her "So, this is THE place, isn't it?".
She reflected for a moment before saying, "You know, Mom, when a place just feels 'right' - when you just know in your heart that this is where you should be? Well, this feels like I was meant to be here". Her confident answer spoke to my heart, and helped to allay my fears that perhaps this college wasn't where she should go.
I feel her inching away from me - barely imperceptible movements of independence - as evidenced by needing me less and relying on herself more. This tugs at my heartstrings - where did that little one go whose arms would encircle my neck and say "You're the BEST mommy in the world"? Then, I realize that she's here, right next to me, saying "Mom, when I get to college, can I come home anytime I want to for a home-cooked meal?". The transformation from that little 3 year old into this almost 18 year old is breathtaking. Her spirit and love remains the same, it's just "packaged" differently.
God bless my little princess as she continues on her journey without me there to help her in case she falls, without me to there to help kiss away the pain, and without me there to envelope her in safety and warmth. My job is almost done - and while I am sad, I am also so very proud of the young lady she has become.
There is a contest going on over at Bloggin' Outloud for the "Best So Far" blog awards for the month of January. There are six categories: January's Best Pet Blogs, January's Best Political Blogs, January's Best LinkFest Blogs, January's Best Religious Blogs, January's Best Humor Blogs, and January's Best Personal Blogs. I see where my friend Jeff at Think Sink has been nominated for the Best Humor Blog, and another friend Carol at Alabama Improper has been nominated for the Best Personal Blog. I took the liberty to nominate a few people in some categories (and no, I won't tell you who they are!). Nominations have to be in by tonight at midnight, and then voting is from February 1st to February 5th. Please go check this out at http://blogginoutloud.blogspot.com/2006/02/best-so-far-blog-awards.html Have fun with this, ok??
Hey, everybody! You certainly know how to make an old lady feel good again - I appreciate all of your comments about my picture. But I was ESPECIALLY touched by what was said about having "inner beauty", and it caused me to pause and ponder about what that phrase truly means.
Physical beauty is fleeting and is something over which we DON'T have control. As we age, the wrinkles begin to make their tracks, making a puzzle out of a once-smooth surface. Joints ache. The hair thins out and turns grey (by the way - my "true" hair color is brown, not the red which is apparent on my picture). We sag as gravity pulls us southward. Our memories aren't as sharp. Our hearing and eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be.
Inner beauty, however, can last forever and IS something over which we have control. It is something we all possess if we have invited Jesus into our lives. Our words and actions reflect consistency because we are doing God's will. During those times where we got "off track" and don't follow God, the inner beauty is somehow diminished. We experience angst and we feel conflicted. The inner turmoil, interestingly enough, often does show up on our faces - and we look pensive and worried, or aloof and unapproachable.
As I age, I must admit that I look around to see how I compare to other people who are about my age (now, admit it, folks - you do the same, too!). If I am to be totally honest, I get a certain sense of satisfaction if I think I look "better" than some other woman who is in her early fifties. Conversely, I get kind of bummed out when I see somebody else (like Christie Brinkley), whose my age and looks 35! What I really need to be concentrating on, rather than my physical aging, is whether or not I am leading my life the way in which God is calling me to do - so that the inner beauty I am capable of possessing is evident to others. I'd like to think that my "beauty secret" is my strong faith and doing God's will - so that the serenity I feel within my soul is reflected to others in my demeanor. It's not an easy "beauty secret" to follow all the time - doing God's will is not as easy as washing with Oil of Olay on a daily basis - but it IS the key to possessing that "inner beauty" which can last for eternity.
By the way - as you know, we've had a rough couple of weeks in this household, but things seem to be calming down. I'll post more about that in a day or two - but thanks for your prayers and support during this time!
I've had a few requests over the past few months for my picture to be posted on my blog. I've resisted only because of the profession I am in - I felt the need to protect my anonymity. I changed my mind yesterday - and decided to go ahead and post it (thanks for your help, Darlene), if only for a brief time. Now, you have a face to go along with my words. . .
It dawned on me this morning that my posts about "Human Frailty" could be directly applied to a situation that is going on underneath my nose wtih my oldest daughter. Why I didn't connect the dots before this morning, I don't have a clue (other than old age creeping in!). As most of you know, my oldest (TP) was diagnosed almost two years ago with lupus nephritis. The physical aspects of this disease are horrendous - and the treatment protocol has side effects which affect the outward appearance of a patient. The steroids alone can cause weight gain, unsightly stretch marks all over the body, and a puffy face. You can well imagine what all of that can do to the tenuous self-esteem of a teenager. All of these physical "frailties" (as I mentioned in my recent posts) have caused her to become emotionally "frail" in the sense of becoming somewhat depressed, angry at times, and being self-conscience about her body to the point that she "hates" the way she looks. This emotional frailty has set her up to become vulnerable to some outside influences which decided to tempt her to make some decisions which goes against our values. She was "caught", the situation has ben "taken care of", and we are now living with a teenager who isn't very happy with Mom and Dad, but oddly enough, I think she feels relieved that she's no longer hiding her actions from us. This has given us an opportunity to discuss with her how you can't base decisions on "feelings", and that you have to look at your value system and Christian beliefs as your guide before you can jump into a situation. She's a mature young lady, but she's also very naive, so unfortunately, I think some of her naivetee got in the way of making good choices in this situation. I also think she was so vulnerable, and when a person is that way, other people sense that and try to take advantage of that vulnerability. After receiving Communion at Mass this weekend, I prayed for TP and all that she has been through the past two years. Then, I began to think of how much this disease has affected the WHOLE family. We are tired. We don't "play" like we used to. We tend to be less patient and understanding. Our energy has been so tied up in treating the disease that we haven't had the strength or energy to treat US. The realization of how much I absolutely HATE what this disease has done to us, especially TP, hit me in the gut. So now, I decided some changes need to be made within our family. I am not sure what they will be - but I know that we are emotionally frail right now. I am looking to God for some answers - and I am looking to you for your prayers. Thank you.
How does one get to the point when their spirituality becomes frail? What kinds of circumstances happen to cause a person to become that downtrodden that their faith no longer exists or is weak?
Like physical frailty can cause emotional frailty, I believe that physical and emotional frailty often leads to spiritual frailty. Physcial pain due to an illness or injury does cause a physiological response in the brain. Emotional illness or psychological trauma causes basically the same response. When a person's brain is assaulted with a constant barrrage of pain and/or anxiety, a person will become weaker to outside forces. A person becomes extremely vulnerable at this point. The situation is totally out of that person's control. So, how does a person respond?
I'd like to answer that question by pulling out some of my own life experiences. I can think of several times in my lifetime when my own spirituality - my relationship and faith in God - was frightfully frail. Probably the first time I experienced that rift with God was after my mother's death when I was fourteen. I spent years after that being angry with God for taking Mom away from me, as I was virtually an orphan. I lived with my Dad and a couple of my brothers, but they weren't very understanding or supportive of a girl my age. In fact, the opposite is true - if anything, I was ridiculed and put down and teased a lot. During high school and college, I immersed myself in extra-curricular activities - but in retrospect, I think it was my way of running away from God. I didn't want a thing to do with Him - all I wanted was just just live life MY way. Little did I realize that the frail relationship I had with Him left me very, very vulnerable to attacks from forces which led me even further away from Him. I was consumed with anger, bitterness, and rebellion against Christian beliefs.
I married when I was twenty one, right after my junior year in college. While my husband and I married in the Catholic church, neither one of us were "practicing" Cathlics per sae. I was still searching for an answer to take my pain away. I didn't realize that all I had to do was reach out my hand to God, and He'd be right there to help me. I wasn't as angry or bitter or rebellious over the next few years - but I was very sad and depressed. Again, that left me vulnerable to drifting even further away from God, and I felt all alone. My spirit and my soul were as frail as a tiny new-born kitten.
I decided to pursue my Master's Degree in Social Work when I was about thirty years old. This process allowed me to do some pretty intense soul searching. I began to pray, ever so tentatively, to ask God to make some sense out of my past life, to help me in my present life, and to guide me in my future life. And then, IT happened. I had a medical crisis where there was a question of whether or not I had cancer, and which required me to have an operation which would not allow me to ever bear my own biological children. Over the next several months, while I was very physically and emotionally frail, my spiritual frailty was transformed into a very strong faith in God. It was a metamorphosis of sorts. Granted, there were times when, once again, those forces tried to attack me to bring me back to being vulnerable once again - but I learned how to rely on God for my strength and my comfort. I had to let go of my intense need to CONTROL everything. He was the one constant in my life that pulled me out of the darkness and into the light. Without Him, I would not be here today.
All of my experiences - the painful and the joyful - have allowed my relationship with God to grow and get stronger. I am one of the blessed ones. Unfortunately, I think that other people don't ever allow their spiritual frailty to be healed by turning to God and accepting Him into their lives. It may be out of fear, or a need to "control" their own destiny, or anger, or a lot of other reasons which hold them back. I am thinking in particular of members of my own family who are still bitter and resentful and afraid. And I pray for them on a daily basis.
Well, I did it! I was able to switch the "Human Frailty - Part One" post from December 23rd to January 12th; AND I was finally able to figure out how to do my Blogroll. Thanks for all your suggestions and instructions! I am presently working on my second installment to the "Human Frailty" series. I am also working on finishing up DQ's story (remember last fall I wrote about her experiences of racism at a Christian school?) - I know I kind of left you hanging with that one, but other things got in the way (such as TP's sudden hospitalization and the holidays). Another avenue I want to pursue is the adoption theme, as I mentioned a few weeks ago. There is so much to write about, and not enough time to do it in. In the meantime, I am still working on scholarship applications and our taxes, and other things which are too boring to mention! TP remains healthy, but has recently gone through a "boy" crisis. DQ had exams last week, and is going to try out for the spring musical. Life is flying by. . .
Human frailty. We see it everywhere, yet most of the time, our eyes are closed to it because it is just too difficult to bear. We are afraid of our own frailness, our own feebleness - whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
My own frailty was brought vividly to my attention over the past few weeks. I was struggling with an infection and a painful medical condition which landed me in bed for days on end. I had been able to get around some, but it was painful to walk, and I would get exhausted quite easily.
This was the first time I had ever got a taste of what it must feel like to be OLD. And it's a scary feeling. It's like my body was turned against me and was no longer able to function properly. It was upsetting and frustrating, and I would get irritable and angry quickly. But what frightened me the most is the dependency one others which I had to learn - and I didn't like it one bit.
I was at a store a couple of weeks ago (when I was feeling better for a brief period of time), and I witnessed a son being verbally abusive to his elderly father. I overheard the first conversation in the entranceway of the store, and the way in which the son was speaking to his father sent chills up my spine. Later, when I was leaving the store, the son was helping the father into a car, and he kept on yelling at his dad. The one phrase he kept on saying to his dad in both places was "This just isn't worth it, man - it's just not worth it". I am sure his dad was taking that to me "YOU'RE just not worth it, man", and the look on his face was one of such sadness and pain.
For the first time ever in my life, I was able to fully put myself in the elderly man's shoes. He was just so physically frail. It is such a frightening feeling to actually feel frail. Words can't begin to describe it until you experience it. The hopelessness of thinking to yourself that you are always going to be frail from now on. The loss of respect that you get from not only strangers but from other people (including sometimes family members) begins to become noticeable in the way in which you are treated. The dependency you have on others to help you do things that once you were able to do without a second thought. All of this physical frailty can then lead you into emotional frailty, and it is at that point which you become most vulnerable. For then, the people around you begin to talk to you as though you are an object rather than a person with feelings - much like that son was talking to his father - and a lot of time, you don't want to say anything to the other person out of fear, because you are so dependent on that person for your care.
I wanted to rush up to that son and just ask him, gently, if there was anything I could do to help him. But, I didn't. I wondered if, when he was a little boy, his father was impatient with him and said "this just isn't worth it, boy". All I know is that the scenes I witnessed were so disturbing to me. And I pray that I never experience the kind of extreme disdain that was displayed from one human being to another as I did on that day.
In a way, I am grateful that I was recently been sick enough to get a "taste" of what physical frailty is all about. It makes me appreciate my strength and energy as I have slowly recuperated. It also makes me realize, once again, the impact that the spoken word can have on another; and how RESPECT for others needs to be taught to our kids when they are very young, or they will never respect us.
I've touched on the emotional and physical aspects of frailty in this post, and I plan to devote my next post on spiritual frailty.
My brain is absolutely fried! I spent a large majority of the weekend, and a small portion of today working on scholarship applications for TP. I have come to the conclusion that the reason why there is so much scholarship money left over at the end of the year is because, by the time you've filled out the fifth application, you begin to feel like you're the scum of the earth asking for financial help, so you just stop filling out applications. The amount of information they require from an applicant is almost worse than applying for a mortgage. I take that back - it IS worse. And some of the questions they come up with make you shake your head and want to say "it's none of your *)@ business!". Of course, that would be counter-productive, but still. . . I have been spending at least four or more hours a week researching scholarships on the web since October. There is so much info out there, but only about 5 to 10% of it is useful. The problem is the amount of time it takes to find the ones which truly apply to your own personal situation(s). But, I was being a smart little lady by saving it in my "favorites" category, in the "scholarship" envelope. And wouldn't you know - two weeks ago, my laptop crashed, and with it went almost three months worth of information. Now, I don't have the time to go back and try to find the same information again, so I am stuck with only about 25 applications to fill out, wherease before, I probably had at least 75 places to apply at. Do any of you know of any scholarships available out there which might fit some of these criteria? Adopted, has lupus nephritis, 3.89 GPA, female, nursing profession, physical disability, Catholic, leadership skills. . . you get the idea. We have to look more for merit-based scholarships rather than financial need scholarships. Our income is such that it looks good on paper, but when you add in all the medical expenses due to TP's illness and other variables, it shrinks considerably. Anyway, I did want to let you all know that I am still alive, but I may not be blogging much over the next few weeks as I work on this and other projects. If there's a patron saint for scholarships, please pray to him/her for a little bit of help for us, ok?
Well, the kids are back in school, my husband is back at work, and I saw a couple of clients this morning and I'm trying to get caught up with correspondence this afternoon. The holidays are over.
I am reminded today of the pain and suffering in the world. My sister turns 58 today, and she struggles on a daily basis with Parkinson's Disease. The news reports about the miners who died in West Virginia, and how devastated their families are. The fires, the floods, the suicide bombers. The families torn apart by addictions, or lies, or anger, or illness.
It can be very overwhelming, and depressing, and even cause one to give up on hope.
Where is God in all of this pain and suffering?
My belief is that He is there, right next to the ones who are suffering. He is offering them comfort and strength to get through the next minute, the next hour, the next day. He cries when we cry, and he rejoices when we are full of joy.
So, yes, the holidays are "over", but the Christmas message still rings true.
I have two college age daughters and a precious granddaughter and a husband with whom I have shared my life for 35 years! I am a pscyotherapist in private practice where I counsel individuals, couples, and families.