Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Saying Yes

Well, the weather is bipolar. As soon as I griped about how sweaty I was, the temperature lowered several degrees (though not without a final shout of rebellion on Saturday and Sunday that burned my cheeks and lips and probably scalp, which means really awesome dandruff is on the way)*. Now it is pleasantly cool to chilly here in San Juan, and Laura informs me that it is foggy and cold (por lo general) in Miraflores. Hrm.

I learned last Thursday that our family's golden retriever, Reilly, has a very short time to live due to a tumor. He's been in our family for a good 9 or 10 years. I can't express how grateful I am to my very own fuzz therapist for all that he's given me in that department. It makes me sad (like, tearing up now) to think that I when I return to the States, there won't be an 80-pound dog convinced he's a lap dog forcing his muzzle between my hand and my leg in order that I pay attention to him. It's sad to think that I won't have the excuse of walking him to go on hour-long jaunts through Portland and Beaverton Suburbia. It'll be bittersweet to see apples actually growing on our apple tree because Reilly hasn't jumped up and eaten them as soon as they started growing. Who will clean our plates before we put them through the dishwasher? It is sad to think that that individual who is so obviously welcoming, friendly, eager, and enthusiastic will be gone. I won't need to jealously guard my ranch dressing, we won't need to worry about leaving pans of brownies out anymore for fear of him eating them, and it will be peaceful when people walk by the house. It's a rough thing to think about.

I'm not sure if it's more difficult to be completely unable to come home to see him through to the end or if it would be worse to be there and watch and feel powerless regardless. I've stopped thinking about that particular "Would I Rather" because the decision is made and there's not much I can do. Regardless, I'm still very sad sometimes thinking that the walks will get shorter and shorter until he can't even play in the yard.

The timing in learning this was rather uncanny. I had been thinking about the future and how it's truly a roller coaster, and I decided to get a bit of my "Screw you, fear," attitude and say, "I'm ready for the future...I'm ready for change." I have learned from the past to not say, "Bring it on!" because Fate laughs mirthlessly and says, "Ok," and then gives me a huge dosage of unfortunate events. But, in reflection, how beyond-coincidental that the dog that has been in my life since my adolescence, now is quickly waning away as I approach 23 and the advent of adulthood in the tangibles of higher education, employment, total financial independence and responsibility, life vocation, etc.

That and a billion things have induced, much to the disadvantage of the blog-reading community at large, a thoughtful mood. The day I found out about Reilly, I had a good cry and spent some time in the chapel. I like going into the chapel at night, when it's dark and the pigeons' wing-fluttering seems to echo more dramatically and the electric light next to the Tabernacle fake-sputters and it's really the only source of light that's there.

The invitation I've been getting every day--what my talk about Confession and "Stay With Me" and a life without fear holding the helm have really all been about--is one to trust. I remember thinking years ago how being ready for things like the future, for being a priest, for being married, for being a parent, stepping out into the unknown, isn't so much measured by how much preparation one has had (though certainly that is a part of it), but also by the amount of trust one has that things will be all right. The Christian can't live without hope: it would make them a functional athiest, bandying about theological platitudes and living a rough and jagged life that is impressive, perhaps, but punctuated by bitterness.

I can't figure it all out, but...well, hope springs from a faith in something. The Christian hope ultimately springs from a faith in God's undying and unflinching and immeasurable love. On occasion, it's been hard for me to believe in that. When things seem so hugely unfair, confusing, painful, or otherwise counter-intuitive, how tough it is to trust that it'll be okay! When wounds from the past still sting or shame still haunts us, letting go, opening our hands, and letting someone gently grab them and lead them onward toward what will ultimately be the greatest joy seems the most difficult thing of all. But...how much more difficult it is to NOT trust, to say that there isn't that love out there, that wisdom, that hand that's willing and WILL grab ours, provided we attempt to meet it halfway and attempt to unclench our fists! I've been tempted to do that in the past, but something inside just won't let me ignore the feeling that I'm covering up the truth, silent and persistent, with a bunch of flimsy noise that melts away if I would just be still for a moment. And in the end, the acts of faith are acts of trust.

After sitting in the chapel, looking at that little light bulb that barely illuminates the Tabernacle, I left feeling a bit more at peace. Being able to see that Sacrament amidst the darkness, being able to see the Tau, a symbol one can take as a cross or as the sign of renewal to God's people or both (or the Greek letter, but shut up), strongly outlined in the wood and made bolder with the contrast that shadows provide...that's what one needs, isn't it? That is the stable future to help me through a tumultuous present. Love. And while I know that I'll be foolish enough to not trust on occasion, I think I'm still able to say, "Yes, I am ready. Or, I mean, I will be, when it (the future) comes. So...yes. I'll trust."

*I am aware that that was too much information

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Sans Showers

I think I have gotten even more sweaty during this month than I was during the peak of the summer. Maybe I should consume more electrolytes. Anyway, Easter was a lovely affair, but I can't really go into too much detail, because my arms are fairly sore at the moment. This is SUCH a welcome change. The last time my arms were this sore was when I decided it would be a good idea to see how many crates I could fill with eggs before muscle failure. Okay, that never actually happened, but I did look at egg-collecting as a great exercise. Sadly, I see no promise of the hens coming back to the Ciudad. There's still time in the year, I suppose, but I'm still...well, you know, sometimes I hated that job. I guess I just miss the consistency of it, and I do miss feeling tired at the end of most days. Except the days when they made me clean up the sick chickens' quarters. Those days I just was bitter.

Enough about chickens! I have sore arms because I have been moving boxes upon boxes of books. When we first arrived here, our apartments already were occupied...by libraries. Shelf upon shelf of random book. It had its charm, don't get me wrong, but it can get mighty claustrophobic, and I don't know the next time I'll need to know how to perform Thorax surgery with the help of an outdated Spanish text. I refer to that particular book a lot. There's also about 10 million copies of Princess Di books. We might burn those, not out of spite for the late celebrity, but out of spite for the books themselves. Whatever. Anyway, we packed up the books in Alyssa's and Tania's apartment and moved them over to the computer room. It truly was a joyous day. Of course, it leaves the question of what we'll do with MY books...because I am farily sure that there are more books and shelves in my room than in theirs. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Anyway, life here is very good. I've had some struggles in maintaining my spiritual life, but I'm getting back into that. I'm able to understand people who used to fall into the category of, "I'll listen to what you say and make noncommittal noises to show you that I'm listening, but in reality I have no idea what you're saying and therefore cannot contribute meaningfully. Or at all." This is nice, because it makes me feel like I have managed some amount of progress. Though I can't really pat myself on the back for that, as I have no control over what, how, and when my brain decides to absorb information. I'm just...here. Thankful. More comfortable with myself than I have been for a while, but also getting more driven to be better than I have been in the past.

Okay, before total muscle failure, I would like to talk about Hermano Polo, supervisor of the pabellón San Juan. He was in the military, is naturally gifted with music, is short, has gigantic hands, and used to really intimidate me. I'll still use the formal "usted" as opposed to "tú" with him, because I think that he functions better in that capacity within San Juan, but I can just get along a lot better with him as an almost-peer these days. Part of this has to do with his Harry Potter glasses that make it almost impossible for me to be scared of him. He is one of very few people who can really pull the look off, but I'm glad he can. Anyway, he's a bit of a joker. On Tuesday of Semana Santa (Holy Week), he told me as I was walking to the meeting room before being sent off to do work in the afternoon: (Though he said it in Spanish) "Michael, the Sisters called and wanted some help taking measurements for the Altar of Repose they're going to make and put in the chapel for Holy Thursday. They were looking for somebody tall, preferably lighter-skinned, and handsome. I told them I didn't have anybody like that, but I had you, so I'd send you over." He was very proud of this joke, and rightly so.

Then, last week, he was teaching kids some new praise and worship songs, and one of them begins: "Jesús, el más hermoso de los hombres," or "Jesus, the most beautiful of all men." Hno. Polo took a moment to have us reflect on this line. "Yup, most beautiful guy. Nobody's prettier. Not one of you in the Ciudad can beat him. Not even Michael." And then as the entirety of the population of the Ciudad broke into laughter, he stood there grinning, evidently very pleased with himself. Now the ladies on staff call me "Pretty Boy."

Life in Ciudad has been tumultuous, trying, lovely, and fun. This is a lame update, but I figured I should write something so that people don't think I'm dead. Though speaking of death, my left arm has given out, so it's high time to publish this post. Chau for now, folks!