Monthly Archives: November 2012

Halloween Riot

I taught first and second grade in a four room rural Catholic School. The principal was an elegant sister in the traditional Dominican white habit, which she gathered close around her whenever she entered my classroom. I was into nature and had pretty much filled my room with birds’ nests, rocks, weeds, feathers, fossils, pet insect-eating plants, and other dust catchers. This left little room for art supplies, which sort of spilled out of my “Fibber Magee’s Closet,” whenever I opened the doors. There was a small glass window in our door to the central hall and whenever the fire inspector came by, Sister would stand with her squared off headdress blocking the window and the fire inspector’s view of my room and closet.
On Fridays the parish priest would come after lunch and teach my class religion. Halloween fell on a Friday my first year there and since we were having a party right after Father’s class, I conspired with him to be prepared for me to come bursting in dressed as a witch, screeching scary things. I didn’t think to warn anyone else.
I do a very scary witch. (Perhaps some type casting involved?) When I slammed open the door doing my witch thing, it set off a panic. Some children dived under their desks, knocking a few over noisily in the process, others fought to get into the over-stuffed closet, and one or two climbed up on the windowsills. Every single child screamed at the top of their lungs.
Their older siblings immediately fought their way out of the other three rooms to come to the rescue of their little brothers and sisters, totally filling the central hall and leaving their teachers (and the principal) blocked into their classrooms. Bedlam reigned.
No one was hurt, order was restored, children were calmed and consoled, and the teachers called it quits on classes for the day.
I really am a well-intentioned fun person, but I’m pretty sure my principal considered me a mixed blessing.

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Suffering and Joy: Two Sides of the Same Coin

If we are open to the grace to embrace our suffering, it stretches our capacity for joy.  Suffering and Joy really are two sides of the same coin.

Whatever we experience contains the potential grace for our transformation.

The spiritual life is a process. We may be chosen, but we are not finished.

If it’s happening in this life, it’s temporary.

If we caused suffering, as soon as we are sorry, we have forgiveness, and grace and good can come from it.

When we suffer, we are not alone. Jesus has been there, suffered that, and now we are his tee shirt. Whatever is done to us is being done to Him.

Passion,death, resurrection should be one word. They are all part of one process. We experience many deaths and resurrections in our lives.

There is good somewhere in each experience, even if we cannot see it until we have eternity’s perspective.

There is no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.

Taking Criticism

Some of us react to the outside world straight from our feelings. It’s our personality.
We were born that way. We didn’t choose it. That makes us warm, caring, enthusiastic,
empathetic, but also sensitive.
We may be able to move to logic eventually, but our first response is emotional.
If we also happen to be perfectionists, this makes us very vulnerable, particularly to
criticism.
Those of us who express our inner selves through art, writing, music, photography, etc.,
are particularly sensitive to criticism of our creations. It’s as if our very souls are up for
evaluation. Any editing or suggestion for improvements seems like total rejection of whom
we are.
Sadly, since nothing and no one are perfect, often our inability to deal constructively
with editing, criticism, even teaching, can defeat us by preventing our developing skills to
enhance our natural talents. Often, we simply give up and put our energies into something
that doesn’t make us feel so vulnerable. Usually something that we either don’t value as much
or doesn’t expose our inner selves, so not being perfect at it doesn’t destroy us.
We can end up with boxes and closets filled with our creative output, either never completed
or never exposed to other eyes. Maybe we risk sending something off once every ten years, but
when the 99 % inevitable result is a rejection letter, we quit risking for another ten years.
I’m 75 and a lot of what ends up on this blog was written some time ago.
The sad part is that I had affirmation in college from teachers and later got several things
published, but in between received some rejection letters, at least partially because I
sent them to inappropriate publications. Each rejection sent me into years of either not writing
or at least not risking trying to get published.
I explore the world with my intellect. I see connections between ideas, implications,
possibilities. On the Meyers/Briggs Type Indicator this indicates that I process information
with my Intuition. I focus more on the conceptual, than the concrete.
However, as a Feeling type my first response to the world comes from my emotions
and values. I can think and analyze logically, but that will not be my first or strongest response
to experiences or ideas.
There are other aspects of personality that influence us, like Extroversion/Introversion, which
describe where we tend to focus, on the outside world or our inner world.
And Judgment/Perception which describe whether we tend to stay focused on gathering
information or move quickly to decision or action.
I am grossly oversimplifying personality type as described by the MBTI, but for the purpose
of this article, it should be enough to help us recognize that there are particular recognizable
differences in how people deal with life.
Another aspect I’d like to emphasize is that there’s a natural upside to each tendency, but also
a natural downside to each that present unique challenges to each type. This is both a shock
and a gift once we recognize this. It’s a shock because we tend to believe our way of being in
the world, if not the only way, is the best way. Recognizing that every personality type has built
in strengths and weaknesses, challenges us to reevaluate many opinions and to become more
humble about our limits and our need to listen to others.
No more than about 15 % of the population are like me. It was actually a great relief to
discover that. Do you remember the Sesame Street song, “One of these is not like the others.
One of these doesn’t belong?” Well most of my life that described how I felt. Type has
explained a lot.
However, it doesn’t excuse everything. We do develop throughout life and should find it
easier to become more proficient in our weaker areas as we grow older.
But knowledge is power. If we can recognize the aspects of our natural personality that are
creating road blocks for us, we can work on finding ways around them or team up with others
whose strengths are where we are weak.

For me blogging is a way around my weaknesses in handling details, taking rejection, and                                          persevering at one long task.

I probably need several different blogs: one humorous/serious one on aging; one humorous
one on moving to the country; one humorous/serious one on a fifty-four year marriage to my
total opposite in personality, a serious one on growing spiritually through all of the above.
But for now, just having an outlet for past and present thoughts on all of these, either as they
hit me or as cleaning out files brings them to light, is a great motivator. And who knows, maybe
I’ll live long enough to gather my materials into those categories and attempt to publish them.
I have also discovered that many writers share major aspects of my personality. Since many
bloggers are writers or artists, there’s a fairly good chance that there are a significant number
of bloggers who speak my language. So, it may be easier to find an appreciative audience.
I need to share one very relevant experience. Years ago, I applied for a three year lay ministry
program. As part of this, we were given a battery of psychological tests, including IQ tests.
Then we were given feedback about any areas that might cause us problems in ministry.
I was told that I had two areas of potential weakness. One was that I had a high IQ and
probably always thought I was right in conflicts of opinion, but no one was right all the time.
The second was that I was oversensitive to criticism, though he admitted he thought there was
possibly a gender skew to the tests, since way more women tested high in that area.
I realize that what I’m about to share, does not reflect well on the IQ part, but does
really illustrate the problem. I went home very angry. My gut level first response was, “If they
know I’m so sensitive, why would they tell me that!”
This eventually made me deal with my oversensitivity as my problem, not the rest of the
world’s! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.