Author Archives: ravyngurl

Hope and Goals

Hope

I received a text from my wife earlier this week that simply said, “There is hope,” to which I responded, “Always.” There is always hope if nothing else, but hope is a funny, tricky thing.

St. Thomas Aquinas describes hope in this way: “a movement or stretching forth of the appetite towards an arduous good.” And I’ve read a lot about how hope is first and foremost predicated by our eternal desires, but I know people who don’t believe in any concept of eternity, who seem to have more hope than those who do have a sense of some eternal life.

My questions to myself this week, after that text, has been what do I believe that hope is? What do I feel when I feel hope? How does hope fit in with my four guiding principles: peace, grace, love, and joy?

What is hope? I’ve meditated on this for a bit of each day, as I rest, as I read, as I drive, as I work. For me, I think hope is a bit like St. Thomas describes it, but it’s more than just “stretching the appetite forward towards an arduous good.” Hope is visualizing that good and picturing yourself as a part of that good, as if it’s already happened.

For me, hope is a bit like competing in an endurance event. I visualize myself completing the course, putting myself through the imaginary rigors, and then finishing the test in an admirable way. I revel in the fictitious completion of the event, so I can then begin the event with hope that I will finish. I’ve already owned the success of it.

Hope is much the same. I have hope in a future event or a present moment, because I’ve already visualized the success of that event, not giving room for any other outcome. I hope good things into being by imagining them as such. My hope is not always related to my spiritual life, but also it is an integral part of my corporeal reality. My body and my mind need to feel hope to make it through each day. Many of my dark days have been comprised of a lack of hope, my inability to imagine an arduous good, to taste it, to see it, to imagine it into fruition.

What do I feel when I feel hope? Well, for me hope feels like standing in a field of yellow and purple wildflowers, near some pine trees, listening to the breeze come up over the hill, hearing birds sing and the bees buzz, and knowing that everything will work out for good.

The sun is warm on my skin, and hope burns my heart.

Hope feels like owning beauty and growth and goodness, even before they are completely mine. Hope is knowing and resting in the fact that whatever happens will be worked into some good, somewhere in the world.

How does hope fit in with peace, grace, love, and joy, as my four main guiding forces in my life? Hope is what ties them all together. Hope is what help me see peace where there isn’t any. Hope is what helps me gives grace and receive grace in difficult situations. Hope inspires love, and love is, ultimately, the arduous good that is hope’s appetite. Finally, hope breeds joy. How can I not be joyful or experience joy when hope is the visualization of an arduous good?

The tricky thing about hope is exactly what St. Thomas points toward in describing the desire of hope as an “arduous good.” There is nothing worth hoping for that is easy to attain, since hope, in and of itself, implies that the object of that hope is something difficult to attain. Are peace, grace, love, and joy easy ideals to attain? If they were, each day would not be struggle to live out those values. There wouldn’t be whole volumes of spiritual and religious texts written about how to have hope, how to think positively of the future, how to live a “happy” life, how to prosper, who to not lose faith, and how to live with an eye toward the future. Even religions that focus on the present, like Buddhism, have sacred texts that refer to hope as a positive tool for life.

Today in my life I feel hope. For a better future. For loving others. For changing this tragic world. For giving grace. For my vocation. For living life forward.

Goals

Veganism This is not going so well, and, at the risk of sounding like I am making excuses, it’s because I love to have dinner with my wife. It’s incredibly difficult to cook food that suits us both, and since she cooks most of the time now, I find it rude to ask her to cook special food for me. We’re strictly vegetarian in the meals that we share, though she does eat bacon for breakfast.

Volunteerism I got an email from 360 Communities about being a sexual assault advocate , and I really want to do it, but this time around conflicts with work. I’m waiting until the next round of training in October. I am volunteering in March to help pack lunches for small children, so that will have to suffice for now.

Prayer and Meditation I am enjoying an increased level of quiet time to contemplate spiritual things. I am trying to make the St. Francis prayer a morning ritual, thereby working to commit the prayer to memory. In its entirety, the prayer goes like this:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Exercise I ran the Winter Trail Quarter Marathon again this year, and my time was awful, but I finished. I then proceeded to get sick again, and I have only run once since then. Apple’s Wellness Challenge begins tomorrow, and I don’t want to let my team down, so I’ll be exercising daily for the month of February, starting with an hour-long swim tomorrow morning.

Alcohol and Caffeine This one really isn’t difficult. I’ve had a couple of beer and a couple of coffees, but, to be honest, I’m not really even tempted by either one right now.

Do good. Do no harm. Stay in love with God.

 

 

Smooth Swimming

If you’re not a swimmer, you might not get this post. If you are a swimmer, you’ll have your own story to add.

I woke up this morning, got dressed, and headed to work. I ate a banana on my way to work, followed by some trail mix and decaf vanilla soy latte at work. The whole time I was making coffee for other people, I visualized my self-imposed 5K swim time trial.

I calculated how many laps I’d need to swim to do an even-ish 5K, which works out to 107, if you were interested, and even if you weren’t know you know.

I imagined my breathing and stroke pattern. I focused on my form, imagining that throughout the entire couple of hours, my form never wavered.

I counted my strokes from one end of the pool to the other end. My stroke count is uneven, which is nice since my semi-circular canals won’t allow me to do flip turns. I’ve learned that turning to the same side on each length makes that one arm sore form leveraging most of the turn.

I remembered my baptism and was grateful.

I even imagined how I might feel at the end of the swim. I imagined I’d feel accomplished, sore, and exhausted.

When I arrived at the pool, the water was a perfect chilly temperature (if the water’s too hot, swimming can be very uncomfortable), there was no one else in the water (sometimes the lanes are completely full), and I remembered to bring my counting coins. Counting 107 laps is a daunting task, so I broke it down into 500 repeats. For each 500, one pile of ten quarters shrank by one coin and a new pile grew by one. Getting change for tips sometimes comes in handy.

From the moment I kicked off the wall, I knew this was going to be a golden swim. Everything just felt right. My stroke was on, my breathing was on, my turns were as on as they can be in this pool, my goggles didn’t fog or slip at all, and I hauled ass for the first 2850 yards.

The swim was beautiful. I might even say glorious. Magical. Perfect.

While the last 2500 yards wasn’t as pretty or as painless as the first part, my body still felt sleek in the water, and my ego was boosted by the fact that I was swimming nearly the same speed as two younger, thinner, potentially more fit men, who hopped in when I was halfway through. I was also able to slow down just a bit to keep my focus on my form, which I think still looked somewhat passable even on the very last lap.

Each of my last 500s gained a minute on the one before, but I didn’t care. I finished 5350 yards solid, in good form, and without having to stop for longer than a minute between any repeat.

Apparently, visualization is the key to success for me, because I was elated with the way the swim felt. My goal of finishing was met, and my time wasn’t even awful, like I had imagined it might be.

I’m sure I will sleep long and hard tonight. Just after I eat everything in the house.

The Real New Year; Epiphany

Generally, I mark my time through the Christian calendar, starting my year at Advent and progressing through the days in celebration, mourning, centemplation, or whatever mood the the liturgical calendar calls for, or at least I am cognizant of the expected mood of the season.

This year, the first Sunday of Advent came with me doing exactly what I’d been doing all year long, so it didn’t feel much like a New Year celebration to me.  Thanks, Retail.

Then New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day came along, and I still didn’t feel that rejuventaing new-year feeling that I love, because it signals a new beginning where I get to shed my old, dry skin and grow a new, pliable, vulnerable skin for the clean new-year slate ahead of me.

This year, I guess, I was holding out for Epiphany, the holiday we celebrate in most Western churches as the day when the Wisemen appear bearing gifts for the baby Jesus (though most Biblical historians agree that the baby Jesus was already two-ish by the time they found him).

But more specifically, I was holding out for Epiphany, because I celebrate a more Eastern Christian understanding of this day, as the day when Jesus began his adult ministry by being baptized at the hands of John the Baptist. I need this yearly reminder that I am, in fact, the Church no matter where I go; I am a priest at all times with my words, and more importantly with my actions.

Maybe this year I was holding out for the sky to rupture and for me to feel like I was God’s beloved child in whom [They] are well pleased.

As I was running today, with my lungs burning with ashthmatic wheezes and my eyes watering against the cold, dry air, I was reminded, yet again, that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I was reminded that I asked for this, for time away from teaching, for time to rediscover the things I love, for time to get back to well.

And I am getting there. I have fewer bouts with depression, and they are shorter and further apart, so I can recover from them in a healthy way, instead of just sweeping them under the carpet, like I did for too long.

In this regard, my New Year this year, 2016, starts today, January 6, on Epiphany, while I celebrate the beginning of new year of ministry, a new year of peace, grace, love, and joy, and a new year of being well. It’s only fitting that I spend a bit of time considering those goals I set for myself before the new year rolled around. It’s been a month, so here’s a fair judgment of how I”ve been doing with this.

Veganism- passable, still needs some work, but things are going fairly well
Volunteerism- this one will have to be put on a back burner for a bit, at least until we sell our house, because I’m picking up some extra hours at Caribou to help make ends meet
Prayer and meditation- passable, still needs some work, and I’ve been able to work in some meditation while running, but I still need more focus on quiet time
Exercise- passable, but I need to be more consistent, so I can make my two big goals for this year
Alcohol and caffiene- passable, the caffiene is really easy to give up, but the alcohol is a bit harder, because I find it really nice to have a beer with dinner, so I guess I should get used to having kool-aid with dinner instead

Do good.

Do no harm.

Stay in love with God.

Practice peace, grace, love, and joy.

 

 

Today: Getting Over Me

I am 41 years old.

I have been working since I was 15 years old in a variety of retail, food service, and educational jobs. My first job was working as a children’s librarian. At 15, my hometown library trusted me to manage evenings alone in the children’s section of the library and to help shape the lives of children who spent their time with me, reading books.

I graduated high school in the top 10% of my class. I have a bachelor’s degree (education), two master’s degrees (theology and literature), and an abruptly aborted attempt at a PhD (American literature), but I passed my comps, technically making me ABD. I never had a GPA lower than a 3.4.

I have taught every grade, except kindergarten, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. I was responsible for helping to educate preservice teachers. I taught college classes for fuck’s sake.

Now. Today. In this life. I am in an entry level position, but I work for an amazing company (I would argue one of the best).  I wouldn’t give away my career for anything.

I struggle today with this: one of my favorite coworkers who has the same job title that I have now is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate.

I struggle today with this: why did I waste 25 years of my life with higher education to find myself here?

Today I’m finding it difficult to deal with this.

Today I am having a hard time making sense of how this is fair.

Today I am feeling duped by the American Dream.

I followed all the rules in the educational and vocational sectors of our culture. And each time I have to start over. At the bottom. In the entryway. Even out on the doorstep, if you will.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my job. I love my life. I love my coworkers.

Why can’t I just be happy here? Why can’t I just let this feeling rest?

Because I can’t reconcile who I am with what I’ve been socialized to think I deserve, or what I have been socialized to think is owed to me, because I did it “right.”

I am perfectly happy on most days with who I have become and who I am becoming. I am perfectly content most days to be joyful and blessed that I am loved, respected, challenged, and fulfilled by my work.

But today. Today I struggle with being 41 years old. And being here.

*

And I think what bothers me the most in all of this is my ongoing struggle with entitlement. I know I am blessed to have all I have. I know I am privileged in so many ways. I know I sound whiny and ungrateful, when I am so grateful for so many people, experiences, and opportunities. I know I just need grace. Grace. More grace.

2016: Dream Casting and Goal Setting

Every year at this time I start thinking about how I can make the world a better place in the coming year. I reflect on the last year, both my accomplishments and shortcomings, and I envision the coming year and the possibilities it holds. For 2016, I am dream casting and goal setting in similar, but more realistic ways.

My biggest goal is to become an Expert at Apple and to help my store continue to be the best with an eye toward becoming better. This goal is certainly attainable, and I feel as if I am well on way toward it. I know what my strengths are, and I’ve named for myself a few areas of opportunity. I’ve begun working on those areas with the help and support of my colleageus, and I am confident that some time within the year, I’ll attain this goal.

I have five other goals that I will be focusing on for this year. Seeing as how I overshot my goals last year and fulfilled a grand total of none of them, I’m being a bit more realistic this year. And, quite frankly, some of my goals are the same as last year, because they are things I really need to do in my life, but I didn’t succeed at last year.

Goal: I will be vegan in my own kitchen this year. For my friends’ convenience, I am going to simply be vegetarian when it comes to going to other folk’s houses or out for dinner. I continue to desire to leave a less violent footprint on our world, and I continue to be pro-life in all regards. One way I can live out a peaceful and life-fostering ethic is to minimize my consumption of animal products. If you want to know more about why I am chosing this lifestyle, here’s a well-written article about ethical veganism.

Goal: I will volunteer one day a week. Going along with the focus on life and peace, I have requested to switch my availability at Apple to have Thursdays off, so I can volunteer at 360 Communties after I work at Caribou. I filled out my application for volunteerism on their website yesterday, and now I am just waiting to hear back from them about where they can use me, or whether they can use me at all given my limited availability. I plan to participate in some other volunteering opportunities with my colleagues from Apple, and I’ll still raise money for other causes like Polar Plunging for the Special Olympics and dedicating some of my bigger sports events I’ll be participating in to causes like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals or Mile in My Shoes.

Goal: I will to continue with prayer and meditation as an integral part of my spiritual life. These two practices center me and enable me to practice peace, grace, and love in a way that I can’t do without slowing down my brain to focus on my breathing or to focus on God. By doing either of these practices, I am allowed the time I need to be away from this world, transported to another place where I can just be.

Goal: I will exercise my body. I have two main goals in regards to this goal: Big Shoulders 5K Open Water Swim (September) and Afton 50K Trail Run (July). I enjoy swimming, biking, and running, and I’ve previously killed that joy by making an unattainable goal for myself of exercising every day or of trying to get in my two or three workouts of each type each week. This year my goal is simply to keep the joy in moving my body. I want to do each sport enough to be in shape, and I want to pepper my weeks with hiking with my love. I don’t want training to become a chore. Incidentally, my far-reaching goal is to finish Ironman Wisconsin in 2017.

Goal: I will abstain from alcohol and caffeine. This will perhaps be my most difficult goal. I’ve (nearly) succussfully abstained from alcohol and caffeine since October 10, drinking caffeine three times and having a couple of beers in that time. Those beers showed me, though, and I ended up hives both times. I am attempting this abstinence for no other reason than both alcohol and caffeine are powerful drugs. I’ve noticed in the time that I’ve been abstaining from them that my moods are more even, and that my sleep isn’t nearly as messed up. I can get on board with all of that.

Finally, though I don’t consider it a measurable goal, I want 2016 to be the year I live with grace, peace, love, joy, and kindness in all situations, in all ways. This year I will be more Christian, and more specifically more Wesleyan.

John Wesley said that Christianity could be boiled down to three simple rules:

  1. Do no harm.
  2. Do good.
  3. Stay in love with God.