Saturday, October 3, 2020

Fall 2020 Check In- Neediness and The Little Way- Also, Quarantine Week #30?!

 It has been a minute since I have written. As I've summarized previously, the first couple of months of this year were "normal". I was out and about with friends and family, visiting galleries, flying on planes, going to bars and restaurants. 

Then the shutdown happened. From March until about July, I was trying to find things to do with my time at home. I tried to visit outdoor spaces, have small outdoor gatherings with friends, and find new and old hobbies like podcasting, blogging, using virtual and social media to catechize and connect with others...I even made some more art. 

Here is some of the weird art I made during quarantine. I took a virtual class and we used modern artists to take inspiration from - my attempts at Picasso, Kusama, and Kehinde Wiley above. They aren't great, but it was therapeutic to connect with a class I used to take in Arlington virtually.

Then August came and it was time to head back to school. I had reservations and Teacher Work Week this year was unlike any I had experienced in my 11 years of teaching. Though, by the end of the week, I grew more confident in my school's plan to re-open and it was good to be surrounded by my colleagues again. 

September seemed to fly by, though I began to see the fruits of some of my labor. The podcast I had started in July was in full swing. I started to feel almost "normal" again. Even though teaching and gatherings looked different with masks and distancing, I almost started to feel like myself again.

Setting up my distanced classroom.
Exploring an outdoor art installation. 
My friend's art show opening. 

Making pierogies to remember a year since Babci entered eternal life.

Then this week hit. Just as I had started to feel normal, I was reminded this week that it is still 2020. 

The presidential debates were embarrassing to me. Our president who has been downplaying the virus that has been shutting our country down and killing thousands contracted it, right before the election. Heavy rains burst through Richmond and into my classroom. I came into school the day after the debates to water everywhere. I was discouraged by several other things this week at school and beyond. I was quickly humbled that things are still not "normal."

I love fall, but when the days start to get shorter and the weather starts to get colder, my mind and body know that winter is coming and there is a shift. I definitely suffer from SAD- seasonal affective disorder- and it seems that every year I experience that shift. 

Luckily, this time of year is also the time I am reminded of God's faithfulness by a great saint. 

My girl- St. Therese of Lisieux 

Ever since I read her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, my attitude towards this saint known as The Little Flower changed. I had previously wondered how I could ever connect to a saint who died so young and knew from a young age that she wanted to serve God as a nun and who came from a whole family of holy people. 

In reading her autobiography, however, I related to Therese's openness about her selfishness and being spoiled as a child. She recognized her neediness and turned it into generosity. 

During this week, when my neediness started to seep in, I was glad to have the reminder of this saint's Little Way. She committed to doing small things to step outside of herself- to be kinder to those in her convent that weren't kind to her. Her attitude of humility was exactly what I needed during a time when I start to turn inwards on myself because of the weather, because of the cultural climate, because of whatever this time of year tends to bring for me. 

St. Therese is also said to show signs of flowers or roses for answered prayers. I have documented in blogs past the signs that she has given to me. I always tell my students about the novena that I pray to her and they want to know if I've received a flower from her. 

I have yet to receive my flower this year, but on her feast day- Oct. 1- I went for a much needed walk to get out of my head and I felt her and God's presence with me. There weren't signs of flowers, but the sky was unique to me that night- with the clouds looking like mountains- and I felt like Therese would find some kind of analogy for mountains in the clouds as a way to draw us closer to God. 

I feel a little calmer today as I continue to battle my self-centeredness with gratitude. It seems small, but that was what St. Therese was about- finding the little, small things as a way to unity with God. I was also struck by the readings for today, too. The Old Testament readings this week have all been from Job (and we all know how things went for him, yet he remained faithful to God) and Psalm 119 really got me today. The whole thing struck a chord with me, but this line in particular:

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes."- Psalm 119: 71

I want to be clear- I know that I have not been that afflicted. My afflictions are very small compared to others. St. Therese reminds me of my littleness and to take gratitude as the antidote to any sadness that I may have. 

I am grateful for the health of myself and those close to me. I am grateful for a job I love. I am grateful for shelter. I am grateful to be able to live a comfortable life. I am grateful to have people who love and care for me. I am grateful to be able to share gifts and time with others. 

As we enter into this time of short days and harvest, our thoughts can shift to what is dying or disappearing, but it also is a time to reap from our labor of the summer, and I do feel that, too. 

I have to continue to be hopeful and grateful. It is the only way- The Little Way. 

I hope that you all continue to stay safe and healthy and may you reap the fruits of your harvest as well.