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Thursday, May 30, 2013

10 minute car ride

Sam's bus was 20 minutes late.  We only had enough time to pick him up and drive him to the halfway house. It was a lame start to ' the first  day of the rest of our lives'. Very lame. The kids are sadly used to disappointment when it comes to the BOP rules and were understanding that we had to forgo breakfast together.

Word of the day: Meh.

Here we go. ....

We're headed to the bus depot in an hour to greet Sam. We Will pick him up and drop him off at the halfway house.  Admittedly,  we'd prefer to bring him straight home but the kids are excited to see him even if it's only for half an hour.  I'm excited to see Sam free. He never deserved to be locked up in the first place. Not that this ordeal hasn't been profound and beautiful in  unexpected ways, but that's another story.  Anyway,  wish us a good half hour...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

T-4 and counting

I'm not sure if counting down is appropriate because it's not like Sam is coming straight home. His stay of undetermined length at the halfway house remains before us,  but he will be boarding a Greyhound in 4 days and leaving the FCI behind him. 

The kids and I wanted to pick him up but he refused to let us.  In the first place it would be 18 hours straight driving for me and if anything happened along the way and his arrival was delayed, he could be sent right back for the  last six months. 

So.  This Thursday morning,  we will meet him at the bus station,  feed him breakfast en route to the halfway house,  and spend all of 30 minutes with him. Doesn't seem like much,  but it's outside and I can't begin to tell you how much that matters.  Even for thirty minutes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Working for the weekend

Hi. My name is Abigail and it's been two months since my last post.

Kind of makes it sound like I'm breaking free of an addiction. If anything, I've been addicted to work since December and my minutes and days have disappeared into spreadsheets, phone calls, customer service, and tech support. I almost wish I worked the land for a living. It would seem so much more honest than trafficking in information inside the matrix of a modern world. 

What started as secretarial work has grown into a much more intense position that involves selling services. It's definitely not what I dreamed of becoming when I was a child. It is not "me".

I'm a writer. 
A teacher. 
A philosopher. 
A poet.
And a host of other things.

I am not a salesperson. I can sell. I do it every day. People are desperate for the product. They buy it at what I consider a ridiculously high price. And I close the deal, submit the paperwork. And follow up with them as they work their way through our system. The job is an uncomfortable fit, though, and it ties me to my computer and telephone for long ridiculously long days. I miss my children. I miss the sun. I miss long walks. But I like paying the bills. And so I keep at this.

The past six months have been an absolute blur. 

In retrospect, I suppose this has been a blessing. 

Sam will be leaving prison in less than a week for a halfway house. He'll be 15 minutes away and gradually will be given more and more freedom until he is at home with us again. I won't lie. I'm nervous. I expect his homecoming to bring almost as many changes as his departure. 

We have to learn to live together again.

He has to get to know his children who have grown into completely different beings than he remembers.

I have to learn to practice all of the principles I've learned in the last 5 years in a very real, very personal way.

It's no surprise I guess that God has been leading away from the strict bounds of contemporary Mormonism and toward a more introspective, reflective, Eastern mindset as I prepare for this pivotal life change.

Let me clarify. I've been drawn to the more tolerant (oft forgotten) principles of my religion in the last few years. Ideals we seem to have forgotten like universal salvation, the value of personal revelation (beyond finding lost car keys), and a glorious tolerance of heresy and heterodoxy. As God has widened my view and enlarged my soul, I've come to appreciate even more the powerful beauty of other paths back to His presence.

Like C.S.Lewis, I believe that all good paths eventually lead home. A man cannot do evil in the name of God or good in the name of an Idol. All good comes from God. All evil comes from the vanity of this world and its pitifully small-minded, fallen lord.

So when I say that I've been led away from the strict bounds of Mormonism, I do not mean that I have left the pews or that I have abandoned my faith. Instead I am more a product of my faith than ever and my faith embraces all truth, come from whence it may. (Joseph Smith said that, by the way.)

It shouldn't have been a surprise then, when in the last week or two, I've been drawn to meditation. A subconscious, almost instinctual need for tapping into the peace of the universe has overcome me. I've been breathing deeper. Smiling longer. Staying silent and finding comfort in the silence.

This has helped to stem the tide of work-relates stress and borrowed trouble.  It's helped me sleep and it's helped me release my worries and live in each moment.

I decided when I returned to meditation to focus with a mantra. I tried to empty my mind and allow my subconscious to define my need. Rather than praying and inserting my will, I listened and my subconscious honed in on a single word. And then a phrase. And then an image. It was as if my soul knew by instinct what I needed and provided it, like the solitary cure for a specific disease. Breath in. Breath out. Listen. Repeat. 

There is a God. He (and She) are out there. But there is a god inside you as well. A divine spark. And if you are still, once and a while, you can hear them both speak.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mental Health Sunday on the horizon

About six weeks ago, I had a heart warming experience as I sat in a pew on the right side of our cozy, little chapel. As I listened to a fellow congregant share personal experiences and thoughts about an assigned gospel topic, I glanced around the room. Young parents were busy trying to entertain small children. Older couples leaned on each other for support. Teenagers tried to appear attentive and some smiling adults, were clearly making conscious efforts to make eye contact with the speaker in those few instances when he glanced up from his written remarks. It was a sweet scene and I felt completely at home. I was overwhelmed with the peaceful assurance that this people is my people. This congregation is my tribe. I didn't look around the room at strangers or acquaintances. I saw friends.

I haven't always felt that way. I have attended other Mormon congregations where I felt like a stranger in a foreign land. And even here, mostly due to my own insecurity and Sam's circumstance, I have dealt with the anguish of alienation. Real and imagined.

In spite of these growing feelings of inclusion and the profound sense of love and respect I feel for my fellow congregants, there are still some bridges I have yet to cross. My family and I have had experiences that are, by their very nature, isolating. We've endured something that most Mormons simply can't relate to. And I'm not just referring to the depths to which we've descended. There have been  heights that came only through our particular grief. There are lessons we've learned that would have eluded us without our suffering.

Last Sunday, I realized just how out of step I still am with so many others. Comments in each of the three meetings were poignant reminders that I have changed in significant ways through the experiences of the last five years. Things I once believed, I now know. Things I once "knew", I no longer believe. Things I never before imagined are now central to my faith. And I sometimes feel as though I speak an entirely different language than the rest of my tribe. Intellectually, I know it's not true. But sometimes, I still feel like I'm standing outside the the tribe. Maybe it's more like I'm that eccentric family member every loves but no one understands and who most folks wish would just sit down and be quiet.

When I start to feel this way, I need time off.

I need distance. 40 days in the desert or 40 years in the wilderness.

That's hard to accomplish when you are single parenting. Your children need you to be their stalwart, predictable example. You don't get days off. What's more, in our particular case, my children need the support of their tribe. They need the support of their community. And our congregation has given them that in spades.

Thankfully, we are going out of town for a long weekend in 7 days, so we'll get, what I call, a mental health Sunday, just by being on vacation. The Sunday after that is pajama Sunday, one of our annual conferences which is broadcast over internet and satellite. Two weeks in a row to step back, breathe deeply, and worship in solitude. Next Sunday, the earth will be my chapel, the waves and gulls will provide prelude music, and sun will soak into my skin, a healing sermon to be sure. In two weeks, I will spend two solid days  with my children, listening to discourses as they come from church leaders far away. We will play board games between conference sessions, plant our garden as is our tradition, and cook on the grill. It is our official start of Spring each year and this weekend, too, restores my soul.

I love my tribe.

But I am thrilled about my upcoming holiday.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

i love mankind. it's people i can't stand.

I used to say, when describing myself, that "I've been a Christian all my life, in theory if not in practice." I thought it was a funny way of admitting my already obvious humanity. This week, though, I'm feeling more "human" than I have in some time. I'm beyond disgusted with my boss for the abusive way he treats the other employees and I got frustrated with another fellow earlier in the week for something that wasn't worth getting upset about. In the wake of two uncomfortable incidents this week, I'm having to fight my natural instincts to run from relationships that require work or involve confrontation. 

I could be such a powerful disciple of Christ if I didn't have to deal with people like this!

In case you missed it, that last line was meant to be very tongue in cheek. Being a disciple of Christ is all about dealing with people in whatever condition we find them. It's about loving them when they don't love themselves and loving them when they are decidedly unlovable. It's precisely about making relationships eternal even when they require an infinite amount of work and require repeated confrontations. It's about sipping from the very cup we wish we could refuse. And it's a kind of work that can be utterly exhausting for mere mortals. It's also the kind of work that, if we are humble enough, shapes us into useful vessels and gives us glimpses from God's perspective.

I guess I need to take a few deep breaths and just get about it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

the women

Heard this line in the 2008 remake of a 1930s movie, The Women:

It feels like someone kicked you in the stomach, feels like your heart stopped beating, feels like that dream you know the one when you are falling and you want so desperately to wake up before you hit the ground but its all out of your control, you cant trust anything anymore, no one is who they say they are, your life is changed forever, and the only thing to come out of the whole ugly experience is no one will be able to break your heart like that again. ~ Catherine Frazier

That jogged some pretty rough memories...