Sunday, May 13, 2012

WHERE DID I GO?



Dear God! I must say I have not been entirely well. I have been so far out of my normal routine and therefore "out of my comfort zone" (which, under the best of circumstances is about 5'5" tall and three feet wide) that I'm not sure what's going on.

You may or may not have caught my recent piece in The Fix: Under-earners Unite! That describes/explains at least some of my current upheaval, and it is all around something with which we are all semi-obsessed, but hardly ever actually talk about: money.

What I'm seeing is most of us so do not want to be horrible consumers and greed-infected Wall Streeters that we can go to another, in its way equally unhealthy, extreme. We can take Christ's message that "as ye do unto the least of these, so ye do unto me" to mean that we should choose our own martrydom and insist upon being one of "the least of these"--in the wrong way--ourselves. We all bring massive childhood baggage about money, holiness, success, fear, loyalty to our families of origin with us into adulthood. And we have very little guidance--not from our families, not from our schools, definitely not from our culture--as to how to manage money, earn money, think about money, relate to money. Thus many of us--okay, I--have shame around money, secrecy around money, a love-hate conflict with money, and an almost neurotic fear when it comes to money: of having too little; of having too much.

I could have gone along in my living-on-1500-dollars-a-month, no-health-insurance, no-vacations, no-separate-accounts-for-personal-and business way indefinitely, but reality jarred something loose and so, way WAY against my better judgment, will, and personal desire, I'm devoting a lot of energy and time to seeking help in this area.

It's going to be a long--in fact, life-long--haul. All my ideas about my spirituality, my progress, God's will for me are being upended. I feel very lost. I feel afraid I won't be able to write anymore because no matter which way I have tried, the truth is I have not been making a living wage from my writing (I live mostly off a "nest egg" I saved up from lawyering that in some sense has become my Higher Power). I see my resistance to change--I'm like the paralytic by the pool whining, "Nobody will take me in!" with Christ at my side patiently asking, "Yes, but do you really want to go in? Do you really want to leave your mat?"...

On top of it, my pore mother is fading. I was so grateful to spend last week with her, but there were of course many emotions as well, and leaving her was wrenching.

This morning I was cleaning my desk and I came across a little card a friend sent me years ago. It's a quote from Dorothy Day: "I always had a sense of being followed, of being desired, a sense of hope and expectation." I thought, Well I haven't. I've had a sense of abandonment and failure and pulsating, electric fear. I threw the card in the wastebasket and started crying.

And then I went to Mass.
DETAIL, ISENHEIM ALTARPIECE
MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD, 1506-1515

26 comments:

  1. If love and admiration were $$, you'd have all the riches you need..
    Rose

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  2. Heather, I am so resonating with your pulsing dilemma, and throw faith and 'what, exactly, is faithfulness' into the mix and I come up with panic attacks. I've struggled with shame and anxiety about money all my life - the thrift store shopping and terror of entering an actual high-end department store, and then at the same time terrified of a chunk of inheritance that weighs like a glowering bully, and terrified of the future and the certainty of living alone in a cardboard box at the end of it all. My dear husband brings me back to the center when he gently asks, "Yes, but if you were living alone in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere, could you still share the love of Jesus with the person next to you?" You know what, I think I could. Sincere blessings to you Heather on your journey with this demon/idol/wound/however you struggle. I believe, as always, Jesus has healing, peace and truth already laid out for you, and you are already walking toward it, holding his hand.

    And I wish so much for you that your books would hit the best=seller lists, as they deserve it.

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  3. Is it selfish to be aware of your surroundings and wonder how you are going to make it. I don't think so. God gave us reason and discernment. Failure to use these faculties would result in personal disaster. The fact that you struggle with proper proportions between your spiritual and physical being means you have a "right" conscience. Follow your shepherd. He will show the way.

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  4. I love the film clip. Being spaced-out is obviously trans-cultural and trans-gender. So is being angst-filled, or "Lost in the Universe" as Walker Percy(?) would say it.

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  5. Thank you so much for the video which made me laugh so hard as I saw myself. Thank you for putting out there what so many others of us feel together with you!! Yes, you might help save my sanity Heather - God bless you for being REAL

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  6. You know some of our story. Some people tell me what we did was a 'heroic act' sometimes I think I was a fool. My weekend was bookend-ed by hard news. Friday bad financial news. Mother's day, bad news about mom's health. I offer no advise but brotherly love in-Christ for what it can offer from so very far away and prayers and a lit candle.

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  7. "I fear I won't be able to write anymore ... "

    Our dear Heather. You WILL be able to write. I'm certain of it. It's His tender precious gift to all of us from you. It springs forth from your faithfulness to Him. He is ever faithful. You are faithful to Him. No worries. As my 13 year old daughter told me, "I'm going forward and not turning back". We all love you so much. Blessings to your Mom.

    Erin

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  8. Heather, I am there, also. The difference for me is that I am married and so we have my husband's income to fall back on. I left a job I had been at for many years (for integrity issues), never expecting to be without a full time job. I, too, agonized about what that might mean for our future. God opened the door for me to do work that I have done behind the scenes for years, but that will never pay all the bills. But I am becoming rich through what I do, and I do not mean monetarily.

    I have been in this position before; the first time it was much more dire because I was alone, and had nothing in terms of a nest egg. In my experience, God will be faithful to you because you are faithful to Him. He takes care of us, but it takes a lot of trust on our part. He will send you what you need to live on. The work you do in your writing is ministry, so I am sure He will take care of you to enable you to keep doing what you are doing in some form or fashion. He will open the door to what He is calling you to do, whether it is to enable you to keep doing your writing, or whether it is something else, with the writing as your "background ministry." Whatever you do, don't stop writing because you gift us with your insights!

    I understand what you meant when you said, "I went to Mass." That is indeed where you will find the greatest blessings for your present and future. I "get" what you mean. Count on my prayer when I go to Mass each day. I will meet you in the Eucharist. Peace!

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  9. Dear Heather, It sounds like you've hit a rough patch. Don't give in to discouragement. God has taken care of you thus far, He won't stop now! You will get your break, I know it. He has great plans for you! Maybe when we are consumed with worry and anxiety about things, especially financial matters, what we really are doing is distrusting God's providence. "All things work unto good for those who love God." No matter how much or how little money we have we still have concerns, that's normal. And go to Joseph, as Theresa of Avila advised. Maybe you could write about him too. There is so much material out there for someone like you who is so talented!And you could always get a job to supplement you income. My stock advice when someone is looking for a job or needs some extra income is to get a pizza delivery gig. My son has been doing it for five years, since age seventeen, and he's loaded with money. He worked through college, has his own apartment, a nice car, and is still in the black. Some weeks he makes more than I do as a nurse. Most people are very generous with tips.I think too that St. Joseph has taken care of him because I have always prayed to him. My son is named after him. What about waiting tables? A friend's daughter left college because she was making a thousand dollars a week doing just that. Not the best decision in the world but just to give an illustration. There are opportunities out there and God will show you. Please forgive the unsolicited advice,I'm praying for you first and foremost and have your best interests in my heart and mind! You have enriched my life with your writings and your best is yet to come. Love and Blessings to you and yours, Christine

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  10. Dear Heather,

    I admire you and your blog and your writing/contemplative vocation. I cannot imagine you abandoning your very good gift of writing. I will hold you in my prayers.

    I thank you for your forthrightness in this post.

    Standing By,
    Emily

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  11. Ah, Heather if only financial issues didn't clog our arteries, like some time bomb. I am in severe debt, work, have great health insurance( no raise for 3 years-aaargh) salary freeze and rent is high. There is a plan to move elsewhere-just, not possible now.

    You will be able to write. Seek out a reputable financial counselor. And, as hard as this might be- possibly some temp jobs? I know that would be out of the safety of spirituality; and yes, your Mom is worrisome. But, you have lived so long with Christ- this is a dark night of the soul. Remember": Keep it Simple and One Day at a Time.

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  12. Heather, is there a way that you could make more money from your writing if you (I hate to say it) didn't give so much of it away for free on your blog? Is blogging in some ways feeding into your under-earning? You're a brilliant, funny, deeply moving writer with three compelling and affecting books under her belt. You've had a gig with NPR; your writing shows up in Magnificat. You have "made it" in terms of achievement--but not money. Your blog is entirely ad-free, from what I can tell. Are there ways to make what you're already doing pay better? (I don't actually know. I'm an academic; my writing doesn't actually sell, but no one really expects it to!)

    There must be some way to do this. Whether you are being called to be a semi-active religious in an order with an urban ministry, whether a financial advisor or editor or financially successful writer will give you some "key," or whether there is some other way to do this, God will tell.

    I will pray for you. Your voice has been so important to me, as an adult convert. Your sharing of your own wounds, with the perfect balance of humor, hard-talking, and humility, has helped me to realize the beauty of suffering-- the "Christing of the world," as Caryll Houselander (whom you recommended) puts it, the sanctifying power of abjection. Through this wound, more graces will come, I am certain.

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  13. Along the lines of my last (anonymous) post, I will note that your great post on "why I avoid the Catholic right and left" was well over 3,000 words. "Sheep and goats," minus the Gospel, over 1000. "Am I My Gay Brother's Keeper," almost 2000. Etc etc. I sure hope you're planning a collection of essays.... : )

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  14. Heather- like many of the others who have posted, I do consider your writings as a gift. They are both deeply human and spiritual. Your open willingness to share both your faith and struggles is so honest, it often gives me pause to more honestly evaluate my life and faith. So thank you. You'll be in my prayers. When I do struggle, I always find comfort in chapter 2 of Ecclesiasticus, Which starts with "if you endeavor to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal" and ends ,"let us fall into the hands of God...for as his majesty is, so too is his mercy". God bless you, Heather King.

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  15. Dear Heather,
    I return to your writing so often...I feel you are one of the few (far fewer than I wish there were in our dear, dear church) who "get" it: how to be beautiful without being sentimental. It is the highest praise, for this cineaste, to say that your writing reminds me of the best of Robert Bresson, in most of whose films nothing good ever happens, but at the end of which he is still able to say, like the protagonist of his film "The Diary of a Country Priest," that "all is grace." His, and yours, seems to me an aesthetic of the cross: it represents a long, hard look at a reality which, in your own words, is harsher than most would like to admit, but which in the end is still lovable and redeemed....which can be discerned to have something, everything, to do with love. Discerned, not through argumentation, not even through demonstration, but through the inarticulate art of grace.

    So what your writing has taught me, among so many other things, is to mark this grace in my own life and in others'. To see that in the pain of this last post and in the difficulty of your situation there is a deep meaning and dignity that can never be obvious, because they belong to the mystery of God...and that if you go silent on this blog, even your silence will speak of that grace. (The original Hebrew of Psalm 65, though translated differently in the Septuagint, reads: "Even silence, O God, is praise to you.")

    But I am not a genius of the cross; I am actually, at heart, a softie. So all I can say, and I really mean this, is that I hope that you are well, and that you can soon be happier (this is because I wish the best for you); that you will find a way to go on writing (this is because I love your writing so much); and that you and your mom are in my prayers.

    Thank you for everything, and God bless,
    Nicholas

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  16. Heather, it always seems that those who achieve the most feel the greatest sense of failure. You are such a star in every way, and just by being yourself, you give so much.

    I am sure that being in Mass that day reminded you of the things i want to say - that you have what is eternal, that you have what is most precious, and that you are so precious in His sight. What I see is someone whose will is completely turned towards God in every circumstance; who is so honest, so humorous, so captivated by life, so FULL of life, so fully aware of her failings, so ... so ... so many other things that we all love - and that in it all, your gaze is steadfastly at Him.

    He is taking you through something - a priviledge reserved for those who have advanced pretty far along the path, from what I can tell!

    And we all resist change, especially the change that's best for us.

    I read your piece in the Fix; I found it very interesting. Perhaps partly because I know someone with the exact opposite condition - having a strong sense of abundance, of ability to conquer, of certainty that he will always take the right path in life because of God's guidance. We're all so different, and have different gifts, that have nothing to do with our eternal salvation - one has this insight, another has that. You have so many other precious insights into God's workings with us. I am praying for you, like so many others (which does not mean I have what I am praying for you to have!)But just know that you have all of our prayers and support as God leads you forwards. Love and blessings, Jane

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  17. Dear Heather,

    Cash strapped as we also are but in light of one of the Anonymous comments above, 0I would pay to read your work.

    I've bought books but I mean I'd pay to read/subscribe to your work online. I'd 'put up' with ads. I'd click some if it would help though I can't buy.

    That said I am pleased you do not write for one of the big name Catholic outlets online on either side of the perceived orthodox-heterodox continuum. I am pleased you are not a part of the Patheosdotcom Catholic portal. Something strange happens when folks hire themselves out there.

    I listened to a remarkable podcast from CBC's Ideas until the title (and phrase you will know well) "Beauty Will Save The World." Not a narrow Catholic hyper Traditionalist idea that only art of a pre-modern, even pre-enlightenment world is what gives the world beauty but extends it to the kind of ideas expressed by our (Canada's own) David Richsrd's Adams in his body of fiction which finds hope and beauty in the souls who show the mark of the Divine in them in their personal dignity specifically in their own trials and how they rise above themselves to 'save' others because it is the good and right thing to do, honouring the dignity of the other.

    So, what I am saying, poorly no doubt, is your life, your opus Dei, your writing is a part of the beauty that saves the world. It's what I would like my art and my poetry, yeah even my life, to do.

    And again, I'll pay what I can to read and support your work.

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  18. I prayed for you as I fell asleep last night... When I woke up this morning a few thoughts sprung up. Have you ever considered doing workshops for wanna be writers? Or charging mega dollars to help other writers get their stories down... Just a thought.

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  19. Dear Heather,

    Both the video and your post have been on my mind since yesterday. I have nothing original to add to the mix other than wondering if maybe you are your harshest critic; that you are harder on yourself than you ever would be on anyone else. On the other hand, your pain is real- you are the one who is feeling it the worst, BUT you are listening carefully to what is causing the angst you are in right now.

    It is no small feat that you have been trusting in God to take care of your needs as you write in what sounds like obedience to an authentic call. We often read or hear of the ways in which God graces those who are utterly dependent on Him. What I have come to observe is that often, those people will be blessed with "enough". (I have pondered the wonderful saying "enough is as good as a feast" for a long time. It remains a powerful truth!)
    I wonder if God is leading you to a place of something new and different not because you are "underemployed" but because He is taking you to some place of grace that is still this authentic call. I guess the other thing that just hit me is that perhaps God is leading you to the collective wisdom of your online faith community as a source of listening for His word about your work. I say this as someone who thinks that I must come up with all the answers about tackling a challenge with my son, when asking for the collective input of others in his life *always* yields new and surprising results! As I was reading the comments, I thought how very thoughtful and encouraging the posts are, and perhaps therein lie some nuggets for you to run with.

    I know you commented on Dorothy Day saying she always felt God's presence and encouragement. Well, think of it- St. Therese felt no presence of Jesus during her last months, nor did Mother Teresa and many others.

    I have been discouraged lately at these saints who have been so much in the pits, and I struggle with why God would do that to someone who only longs to do His will. So I don't know what the heck to add other than God knows and hears the longings of your heart. I believe that He will answer them. How, I dunno!

    Prayers for you, dear Heather, as you juggle some difficult things right now. But God has given you a consolation with your readers. Go to that well when you are discouraged!

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  20. Oh, and one more thing- I had just made a list of things that needed doing today and as I began the very first one, I found myself off-track in about four different directions. I laughed as I recalled the video. I don't know about calling it ADD, but it is something I'll bet a lot of us can relate to. Good one!

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  21. Oh people! So much wisdom, so much tenderness, so much insight, so much faith, so much love...I have just sat down to read these incredible comments over again, in sequence, and I could write a whole long letter in response to each one.

    Instead, I'm going to let them sit for a bit and do a whole post Friday in response.

    For now, I CAN say:

    1. Yes, the blog itself is "under-earning" the way I've been doing it...that doesn't mean I need or God forbid want to stop--just that I need to find a slightly different way...

    2. I SO want to deliver pizza! Omg, imagine the book I could write about THAT! Unfortunately, however, that is not quite commensurate with my education level and "talents"--so while it is truly good to be reminded that there are all kinds of ways to make money (let's not forget I was a waitress for years), I'm feeling my task at the moment is to earn money at something that IS commensurate. But I just loved the whole idea and that is unbelievable your son made so much $$ at it, Christine! Bless you. I also think St. Joseph, who I've never prayed to, is key.

    3. Owen, so so sorry about bad financial news and your poor mother's health. I'm thinking any of us could read these comments, apply then to our current dilemma/situation, and get sustenance and consolation. You have been such a faithful commenter/reader/friend, I can't help but think they are in some sense for you as well.

    As Rose said, I have all the riches I need. I have known that all along, but there is something...some block or resistance to feeling I deserve them; some fear that something bad will happen if I get too "big"...

    Anyway more Friday, but for now, you are so good, so kind, all of you! I cannot tell you how much I am buoyed up, reassured, encouraged, just to know you exist and that you would take time out of what I know are your own struggles and sorrows to write. My absolute conviction is that when the dust settles (inasmuch as the dust ever "settles"), I'll have more joy and more to give.

    I have got on a sassy red dress and my friend took me out for lunch today! So I have not rolled over and died yet!! LOVE to all, and profound thanks...

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  22. Heather I'm sorry to hear about the money problems and anxieties and your mother's health. Your writings have been life-changing for me, for real, such a blessing.

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  23. Heather-hang in there. I don't think God takes away pain, he permits it and uses it for our greater good. Blahblahblah, I know..but it's true. At times like this it's good to look outside yourself for help, to another person who will help you get through. It's happening....
    Peace to you

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  24. Hi Heather
    So glad you liked the video and others as well.
    I just read your post and was struck by it. First, don't worry about your progress spiritually, that's God's job. Second, writing can still be done if you take work on the side to pay rent. Third, you have accepted God's love, you are trying to help people with your talents,you are richer than you know. Now, being single and poor is scarey I know, so I am praying for you.You are not alone, Love Cyndi

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