Happy New Year

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I hope that 2019 is full of happiness and good health for you.

This week I’ve seen some memes on social media suggesting that one should disregard the passing from one year to the next on the grounds that time is an artificial construct. I think that time matters no matter how arbitrarily it is divided, and I am hoping for a better year in 2019.

I continue to work on changing my outlook on life to one that is more positive. The best thing that happened this year was my realizing that I had become so negative about people, situations, and challenges that my very perspective poisoned many dimensions of my life. My mindset made almost everything harder to do, and my sharp tongue undoubtedly hurt those closest to me at times.

Every New Year is a reminder that old habits can be hard to change. I strive to be more optimistic and ruminate less on the perceived faults of myself and those around me, but this process is not an easy one. For instance, why waste time at all anatomizing the shortcomings of someone else? There is only one scenario where such an exercise would be beneficial, within the creation of a fictional person whose imperfections shed light on what it means to be human. Which brings me to something I think is one of the great yet frustrating mysteries of the human mind and heart: why does it seem so temptingly easy to see what someone else is doing wrong yet so hard to see what role we play in our own problems?

I am devoting more time to prayer and faith because I crashed upon a rocky shore of misery worrying about the present and the future. Praying has helped me a lot, but I have a long way to go in deepening my trust in God. I worry less but still too much. I worry most of all about my daughter. Any prayers for her peace of mind and courage to do what needs done to finish her last year and half of high school would be appreciated.

What are your hopes for this New Year?

Communion

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Like a growing number of Americans, I am a lapsed Catholic. It’s not that I ever lost my basic Christian faith. Rather, I hit an invisible wall of sorts around the time I turned 18. For whatever reason, I could no longer face the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s not that I had cataclysmic sins I needed to confess. I could no longer imagine that there was a priest who could truly listen to my sins. The more time that passed, the more it seemed impossible to do a true inventory of my conscience; the sacrament would not be valid on the grounds that I couldn’t possibly confess all the sins. And without reconciliation and penance, there could be no Communion.

Until today, I’d been stuck in place since the early 90’s. I’d attend Mass very occasionally and think of going to confession so I could take Communion the during the next Mass. From time to time, I’d consider joining a Protestant church to circumvent this issue entirely, but then I wouldn’t go to a different church for fear that I’d be betraying the Catholic church by doing so.

Today I finally attended services at our neighborhood Methodist church. My daughter bought a Bible with her birthday money last month, and she has been reading it almost daily. I decided it would be better for us to attend any Christian church at all rather than remain stuck over the sacraments in the Catholic church.

I had such a positive experience at the Methodist church. The communion service had a portion in which forgiveness of sins was offered to the repentant, and the sacrament itself was “open table” and offered to all baptized believers. This solved my decades-long problem, and it was a relief to feel the grace of that sacrament again.

Happy Thanksgiving

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I hope that all of my readers are having a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Lately I’ve been contending with another bout of depression, a state of mind that does not lend itself easily to gratitude. Still, I figure that a recognition that my life does contain matter worthy of gratitude could be therapeutic.

I am thankful that I recently discovered the truth of why I am vulnerable to depression and chronic pain. I’d guess that this a rare privilege. Most often the mystery of why depression and pain return time and again is fodder for more rumination, a journey of blame in darkness. I am this way because I am a victim of so-and-so or because I am weak. And then there a million details to be found in that darkness that seems to support such self- or other-blaming theories of suffering, and this very exercise feeds the depression and pain.

In my case, there is no ground at all for blaming myself or anyone else. Through a brain MRI and its review with my neurologist, I have learned that I have old lesions from a childhood head injury and that such lesions are strongly associated with a clinical picture of migraine and major depression. Though the scan itself cannot date said injury, there is a head injury in my past that is the likely culprit. I can remember that spring afternoon in 1982, when I hit a rock with my bicycle and flew over the handle bars and landed head first on the street. I can recall the sound of screen doors slamming as adults ran out of their houses to carry me home. Then I remember nothing else of that afternoon but darkness and sentence fragments.

So the matter is quite simple really. My pain and depression are artifacts of an accident. I can’t change the past, but I can alter how I react to my down times. When my depression flares up, it arises from a damaged part of my brain that can’t possibly speak the truth. Its voice is like static between radio stations. This damage also lends itself to pain that is out of proportion to its cause or reality. The less I reflect on the pain, the faster it goes away.

I am grateful to know this truth.

I am grateful for my family, my home, and my job. Lately I’ve considered too often how little security is certain in our times. On Thanksgiving, I reflect that what matters most is today. I can depend on myself and the company of those I love today. Tomorrow is not promised, and that is a basic reality of the human condition.

Fall Photo Walk, November 11

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This morning I visited the same park forest I photographed last week. The sudden cold provoked drastic changes in those eight days. Last week I walked through a forest full of yellow-leafed maples, yet this week almost all of the maple leaves were gone, fallen and blown away in a mid-week wind storm.

I suppose I shouldn’t let the weather rule my moods so easily, but I feel so unprepared for the early start of winter weather. Just a few weeks ago I hid indoors as much as possible to escape summer heat that lingered too long into fall. What does it matter if it’s blazing or frigid outside if the result (i.e. staying inside) is the same?

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Last Garden Post, 2018

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I had hoped to capture more of the garden before heavy frost forced its end for the year. Alas, an early snowfall surprised us all this week. Maybe “surprise” is not the correct modifier in this case. Here in west central Ohio we live under the threat of early snowfall from Halloween to Thanksgiving, but snow seldom becomes a reality early in November.

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