Post A Day: Back to Life

Today’s interesting challenge poses the question: what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

The preface establishes scenarios — a long flight, a grueling week. The suggestion that something has worn us out physically. The answer is rather dull: I take a nice hot shower. It feels good to be clean — to feel the grime washed away. There’s something to be said for the sensual pleasure of hot water flowing over me.

Nevertheless, I’d rather focus on the depth of the question: what makes me feel human? And perhaps of more interest, what could possibly have the effect of zapping my humanity?

I feel least human when I refuse to acknowledge the humanity of others. I can spend my day never making eye contact, never listening with my heart, never getting emotionally invested in the events happening right next to me.

I have become an expert in disassociating myself from the feelings of those around me. The sad part of that is that I lose a piece of my humanity along the way.

I have to allow myself to feel to get it back. I need to love. I need to love, not just those who love me back, but those who are difficult to love, too. The demanding family member. The obnoxious neighbor. The uncooperative colleague.

I need to learn to love like God loves.

And I need to allow myself to cry, whether it’s in grief or gratitude, joy or anger, appreciation or frustration. It’s an amazing catharsis to cry – to express through tears a multitude of emotions.

What could be more human than that?

a fan, and sleep

When I was a kid, visiting my grandparents in Hialeah, Florida was like going on vacation to a sauna.

Literally.

I could sit in a corner of the living room and sweat would bead all over my body. I didn’t know toes could sweat. Did you? This was a real discovery for me.

It tooks days and days to adapt to the heat and humidity, so I was treated to an oscillating fan at night so I could fall asleep.

It was an absolutely decadent sensual experience.

C’mon now, I was ten. The only other decadent sensual experience I had enjoyed was the sweet frozen goodness of a mamey milk shake. Both, I’ll point out, winners in contributing to relief from the interminable heat.

mamey

I just turned on the oscillating fan in my room and transported to the terrazzo-floored, jalousie-windowed guest bedroom in their home. I’m falling asleep even as I type.

a surprise poem

The best part of teaching literature is discovering new favorite poets. Here’s an excerpt from Gates and Other Poems by Sister M. Madeleva Wolff, C.S.C. You might recognize her name; she served as president of St. Mary’s College in South Bend in the early part of the 20th century.

Fare infinitely well,
You who have valorously dared
This last, unshared
Unending and all-perfect quest;
You who at length can tell
The things God has prepared
Are best,
Are best.

dirty dishes and happy tummies

china

I forgot to turn on the dishwasher.

Twice.

So tonight we used the good dishes. The Wedgewood set we bought as newlyweds when my husband was stationed abroad about a million years ago.

It’s a pretty set, with delicate blue flowers and a platinum rim. It doesn’t go in the dishwasher. I’m the dishwasher.

Anyway, these dishes have gotten a fair amount of use in the past 28 or so years that we’ve been married. When we bought them, John warned me that we’d worked too hard for the money to put the set on display behind glass and only take them out once a year. None of this saving for a special event nonsense.

I beg to differ on the “special event.” Any chance to eat with loved ones is a special event. Every night. Even when it’s just him and me. Especially if it’s just him and me.

We ate on them when they were delivered, and through the years for lots of special meals at Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and other milestones with family and friends.

Those dishes have also seen a fair share of homemade beanie weenies and delivery pizza.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Catholic Photo Challenge: Filial Trust

Well. It seems that having written this week’s Catholic Photo Challenge (thanks Steve Nelson, for in fact, guilting me into this on the air during Catholic Weekend), I’m going to be grateful that he pressed me into service.

I’ve been a little blocked lately, partly because my dad was very ill and then passed away a couple of weeks ago, but mostly because I let myself use that as an excuse.

For not writing. For not wanting to do anything creative.

It would have required that I look at the situation straight on because it was inevitable that I write about my father’s impending death. But who wants to face the page with that kind of raw emotion? Not I.

If I didn’t write about it, perhaps it wouldn’t happen. So I didn’t.

Because sometimes, still, I am four years old.

So back to The Challenge: Steve whined about how hard it is to come up with a topic, so I teased him about being lazy and randomly picked a number from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be the theme of the challenge:

322 Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 6:26-34), and St. Peter the apostle repeats: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (I Pt 5:7; cf. Ps 55:23).”

And then, perhaps too quickly, I sent off the text, focusing on the second part — to cast my anxieties on God.

But I didn’t give Steve the challenge word, so he picked the first part, filial trust.

The total trust of a child in her father’s arms. The kind of trust that is given freely, innocently, sure of the father’s benevolence and protection.

Here I am at four years old with my father:

kid

Once you get past the black socks and the Bermuda shorts, note the camera hanging around my dad’s neck. And me, also hanging around his neck. I knew he’d keep me safe on that dock, and together we were going to explore the world.

It is through this first relationship that I can understand our Heavenly Father’s love.

Here I am again, this time with my brother and sister, and I’m definitely not four years old:

fathersday

That was our last Father’s Day together, a time of bittersweet celebration as the man who had once held me up high off the ground in the safety of his arms now needed me to steady him.

Instead of a camera, he gripped a rosary.

photo by my sister Christi

photo by my sister Christi

He prayed the rosary fervently, but it was actually another devotion, to the Divine Mercy, that taught me volumes:

The total trust of a child in his Father’s arms. The kind of trust that is given freely, innocently, sure of the Father’s benevolence and protection.