Wannabe Martha

Still trying to figure out which Martha

Life is a Highway Complete with Detours

One of the things I’ve learned is to not fear detours. Most of the time, we see them as road markers – and usually the route is poorly marked and if you’re not paying extreme attention you end up somewhere north of Outer Mongolia. They happen at inopportune times – you’re tired; you have a deadline and you’re late; the kids have morphed into monsters; you and your spouse are already at each other’s throats – and then the “detour ahead” sign comes into focus – if you’re lucky because sometimes there’s no advance warning of the change ahead.

Thing about detours is that they’re generally off that well laid out, lined-on-all-sides-by-safety-rails route, and you’re in unfamiliar territory. You have to think, concentrate. You see new things – things you would have not ever seen from the highway. Sometimes they’re scary – we end up in uncomfortable or unsettling places (and these differ for each of us, so I’m not going into any detail here).

But the fact remains; you’re off your highway, in an unfamiliar area and (if you’re like most of us) you don’t have a map. As luck would have it, your car has a GPS to help you along – except that your little detour takes place in an area not presently covered by the GPS, so you’re on your own.

But if I think back on it, the detours have provided some of the more interesting and even highlights of my life. The fussing kids stop because – oooo we’re somewhere unexpected. Spouses set aside whatever’s eating at them to figure out the best way to go (cos you know those detour signs are not going to send you directly back to the highway – there’s always an intersection missing one and then you have to choose). Detours also make us slow down a bit – the roads are usually back roads and you just can’t push 80 on them.

Life’s a lot like that too. We get detours off our highway. Sometimes they bring us an abundance of funny memories – stories that get told over and over again and we never tire of them.

Sometimes we end up in awful places and it feels like we won’t leave intact. My divorce feels like one of those detours; one I never expected on my highway. It’s taken me through some terrible towns– fear, pain, desolation, despair, guilt, anger, resentment, rage, humiliation. My passengers are all reacting differently – “turn back”, “drive faster”, “please stop”, “don’t worry”, “‘m sick”, “we’ll make it”, “good job”, “need me to drive?”

Many times I wanted to cave to that last one and just let someone else drive my life for me. Maybe someone could do a better job. Maybe we’d all be safe. Maybe it wouldn’t all be on me if something else happened. Thing is, I don’t do a very good job of handing over control to others and especially not when I have so much at stake. It’s hard to keep a steady grip through turmoil. It’s hard to tune out the noise and keep yourself aware of what’s going on around you. But, a lot of deep breaths later, I see signs that the detour is nearly over. Soon I’ll be back on the highway. Until the next detour.

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Nice Ain’t Kind

The girls and I attended the Easter Vigil Mass this past Saturday night.  Of course it was beautiful and uplifting in every way.  We sang my absolute favorite hymn,”O Filii et Filiae” (well, it’s tied with “Salve Regina”, but they’re both so beautiful, I can’t elevate one over the other) and Iseult managed to not catch her hair on fire (don’t ask).

Anyhoo, I found my mind wandering a little bit (I know…I know..) during the baptisms, to thinking about “nice” and “kind”.

You know what?  I don’t really care about “nice” – it’s just a bland synonym for “pleasant”, which is a far better word anyway.  Thing is, “nice” and “kind” are often used interchangeably with regard to people.  And that’s a mistake.

To be “nice” all you have to do is use your manners (or learn some if you don’t have any) and basically adopt a fairly milquetoast (or at least non-confrontational)  attitude and Voila – nice is done.

Kindness, on the other hand, is a tough quality to cultivate.  It is fueled by compassion, empathy, generosity, and often, forgiveness, as well as humility.  It also requires mercy, which I think is one of the single most underrated virtues and one of the hardest to live out – and therein lies the rub, because mercy requires an understanding and acceptance  of one’s own failings.

I really have no interest in being a nice person.  “Nice” is easy but ultimately barren.  Kindness, that’s something worth striving for because it affects others in a positive manner.  It’s a quality worth developing and I’m going work on that.

Does this mean I’m about to turn in a dour old sourpuss, incapable of appreciating inappropriate T-shirts and delete the Eminem tunes from my MP3 player?

Uh, not!  But I’ve been wrapped up in a hard cold battle, full of resentment and pain and anger and hurt for a long time and it’s taken a terrible toll on me.  Sure, I’m still nice enough.  That’s nothing to be proud of.  I can do better.

 

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Different Year; Same Dilemma

Do I watch it or don’t I watch it?

“It” would be “The Passion of the Christ”.  For the last I-don’t-know-how-many years I’ve been promising myself that I would watch it on Good Friday before going to Mass.

Haven’t managed it yet.

I have the movie and I have the time.  I just don’t think I have the stomach.  As a cradle Catholic, I’m well aware of the facts surrounding Christ’s death.  Have watched it played out at more Friday Night Stations of the Cross than I can count.  But I can’t quite bring myself to watch the reality of that death.  And I feel badly about that.  I feel badly that I can’t bring myself to watch something I know.

Maybe this year I will.

[Edited to add – so, not this year.  At least not this Good Friday.  But there’s still time.  Easter technically lasts until Pentecost.]

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His & Hers

It’s hard to divide up your household and remain dispassionate.  Not that I was ever all that dispassionate, but I had promised myself that there would be no outward evidence of inner turmoil.

I guess I’m doing OK with that.

Still, it’s a struggle to see things that marked milestones in your relationship leaving their places.   I’m finding that, in way, the memories are being packed up along with the items they accompanied.  A painting we bought my first visit to Charleston; a table and chairs we saved for so long to buy; pictures of us; the living room furniture we bought our first Christmas in this house.  Some things are leaving.  Some are just getting put away – maybe our daughters will want them some day.  But they have no place in my home anymore.  Now I just need him to hammer down a date to take away all of these things he wants.

Once, I thought that we could not have a home without him.    But that was fear talking – because just last night this house was brimming with love and laughter and optimism and hope .  It’s definitely a home and I’m not afraid any more.

 

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Trying to Give Myself a Reason to Look Forward to Next Month

April will be a challenge for me. Going to be one of those “take a deep breath, and suck it up” kind of months. I’ll get through it, but it’s going to be rough.

However, a new month brings new tasty celebrations, so with that in mind, here’s a sneak peek at what’s going on in April:

    • National BLT Sandwich month (I’d like it better if it specified no mayo though)
    • National Grilled Cheese month (yay!)
    • National Soft Pretzel month (have never made them, but might try this year)
    • National Garlic month (this almost makes up for the rest of what April is to me)

Also, the first Monday in April, in this case 07 April, marks the beginning of National Bake Week. I’ve sort of given up baking for Lent, but I might – maybe – bake something on Sunday. If I do, it will be something I haven’t baked before.

So there you have it. And I’ll be updating the blog with more tasty things to celebrate in April.

Bon Appétit

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Weaving Tangled Webs

A million years ago I was in graduate school studying to become a teacher.  I remember some bits and pieces of various classes, but there was one particular class which has stayed with me.  The professor was conducting a lesson about writing – specifically how to teach writing skills to high school aged kids.  The lesson employed an excellent exercise to illustrate the following point:   “When you write something and send it out, you are not there to explain what you meant.  You must, therefore, take great care with your choice of words.  If you leave room for interpretation, expect that many will impose their own  and will come away with some message other than the one you intended to convey.”

In this day and age of blogging and commenting and twittering and facebooking and texting and e-mailing  – an explosion of often spontaneously WRITTEN conversations – such advice should be ferociously embraced.  All too often we leave our words open to interpretation and our meaning, our intent may become irrevocably lost.  That first reading is much like a first impression – lasting and nearly impossible to overcome.

There is a place I like to hang out where conflict has erupted.  It is ugly and painful to read and it is fundamentally that several individuals are misinterpreting each other’s words and digging in their heels.

I will need to take greater care to heed my own advice.

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