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Wayward shepherd

 

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“’And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.’”  Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino

As I did exactly a year ago(An Advent first), I began my Advent fast after evening Mass. The morning has been one of silence: the silence of a smartphone used merely as phone and not social media device, the silence involved with a nutritional cleanse, and as hoped annually, the silence of prayer. I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for the first time in months.   It felt wonderful to be grateful and to be still.  However, soy realista and I own who I am.  This will be a struggle as it was last year(Ruining Advent.)  It’s possible that by tomorrow, my emotions will get the best of me and my thoughts will run ragged.  Como decia Cantinflas, ahi esta el detalle.

My biggest challenge isn’t my compulsion to be online.  It is my propensity for negative emotions and thoughts.
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Gossip, sarcasm, and shade throwing may be humorous and entertaining but they also allow me to give voice and free reign to anger, resentment, and meanness. As evidenced by this year’s Kermit meme of the moment(and I do love me some Kermit, My love of Kermit memes), everyone struggles with their dark side.
73291699 I’m not the only one who feels that the f@#*ery is too much at times.  But I’m the only person who can control how I act and think given the situations and people around me.

Recently, within hours of declaring myself unwilling to deal with negative online conversations about the election(Holding the door open,) I became engaged in an online debate about immigration with someone I’ve known since the eighth grade. In the past, we’ve been able to respectfully disagree.  This time, I couldn’t believe the angry tone that was taken. While I pointed out facts, my acquaintance responded with vitriolic statements. When I realized I couldn’t argue with logic and reason, I took the step of silencing the discussion by blocking my account.

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I flirted with the idea of sharing screen shots of the conversation or of composing a blog about the situation.  I’m glad I didn’t follow through on those actions. I would have gained nothing other than temporary satisfaction.  While I’m hilarious when I’m petty,  I do more good when I keep those cruel thoughts quiet.

The daily struggle will be one mostly within me.  I will have to be mindful and purposeful.  Every day, I will have the opportunity to be my best self.   Every day will be another day to sustain the peace offered by silence and compassion. May I fast from the noise of anger.

A Lenten miracle

As happens every Lent, my daughter’s school hosts the Stations of the Cross every Friday. An upper grade combines with a lower grade and the children read from Scripture, act out the scene, and help us to reflect. They charm us with the cuteness of the little ones and move us with the depth of insight of the older children. I have had to miss the last few events due to my work schedule.  Now that my daughter is an avid reader, she was assigned three stations to read with a 7thgrade partner. I’m sure I could have requested personal time in advance.  However, given recent developments, my boss and I now have a standing meeting with an individual every Friday.  Te puedes imaginar how I looked when I realized that I would be spending time with said person, rather than experiencing a Lenten tradition with my child. 
This Chihuahua is my spirit animal; I give this look when #icant
It’s not very Lenten or Catholic of me, I know, but I’m also the writer who brought you You’re Ruining My Advent. To make matters worse, my boss was unavailable to join the meeting and asked if I could handle it on my own.
Though I admit I wanted to say no, I couldn’t possibly handle it, I took a few moments to gather my thoughts before agreeing to move forward. So while my daughter took the microphone and read Scripture, I fought the urge to read this person.  
“Shade comes from reading…reading is the real art form of insult” Paris is Burning
I did not give out a piece of my mind. I conducted the meeting calmly and professionally.
Was it a Lenten miracle?  Grace?  Personal will?  All of the above.  I have the ability to choose how I act.  I have the ability to choose whether or not my emotions will control me or I will control them.  I choose to treat people with respect. I choose to leave another’s dignity intact.  In doing so, I commemorate the Stations of the Cross.  So while I would have preferred to be at the Stations of the Cross in person, I was with my daughter in spirit.  In reflection, I see how the Stations she was assigned speak to the situation I experienced.
The 3rd Station: Jesus falls for the first time
My faith journey has been one of struggle and failure. I have never pretended to be someone for whom faith and religious practice come easily.  I fall all the time.  Though I don’t fall quite like I did before I got my mind right, I have moments of weakness.  My anger against the co-worker or any other person who may have slighted me is a feeling with which I wrestle. I know it is not right to hold grudges or pass judgment. I am praying for those who anger me.  I am praying for a heart of forgiveness and compassion. 
The 4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
My faith journey has been shaped by those I love. My own mother taught me to pray. While her methods in doing so were not always gentle, they gave me words that have sustained during my most challenging trials. I wrapped a rosary around my arm when I went into labor with my daughter. I pray before every appointment, test, and medical procedure. I prayed before the Friday work meeting. Now that I’m a mother, I walk with my daughter in her faith journey. Together, we pray the rosary, attend Mass, read the Gospels, and talk about our faith.  When she struggles, I struggle.  When she hurts, I hurt. Love and faith are intertwined. 
The 5th Station: Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
Despite my personal struggles, I accept the call to serve others. I do so in my career. I do so in my personal life. I may want to decline sometimes. I may be angry, indignant, fearful, exhausted.  But I take up the cross. In doing so, I remember who I truly am. I am a person of faith and compassion. 
This struggle is Lent.  Lent is a time to accept our humanity in all its facets and to accept the call to love others.  Lent is a journey toward peace. 

Battling the betrayal blues

“They smile in your face
All the time they want to take your place
The backstabbers (backstabbers)” The O’Jays
My dad likes to tell a story of my 4-year-old reaction to my first visit to Lima’s Plaza de Armas back in the early 70s(before the city and park underwent a necessary rejuvenation.) He said there were several homeless people, many of them begging for spare change, and one woman bathing in the fountain before the police grabbed her.  He said I looked around and told him I wanted to help each person.  He said I asked why we couldn’t do that.  I may not remember this incident but I know that my call to help others has shaped who I am and what I do for a living. 
I lose sight of my purpose now and then. Sometimes the people I have helped have disappointed me or hurt me.  This is especially hard when those I have mentored are the culprits. 
Julius Caesar
Macbeth
Frankenstein
I have weathered ingratitude and betrayal on many levels:  stifled communication, verbal aggression, attacks on my reputation through gossip and lies. 
All About Eve
My (trifling) relative still tells various extended family members how cold and aloof I have become towards her over the years even though I paid her debt to a creditor.  Sometimes, all the unnecessary drama makes me want to give up on others altogether.  Pero no pueden conmigo.  I can’t and won’t change who I am because of others.
Forgiveness doesn’t come easy to me. It takes me weeks, months, years, even decades of reflection and prayer. It takes all my strength to remain civil and calm when I see these few people who have betrayed my trust.  It takes a sense of humor and optimism. It takes a commitment to self-care.  I move forward and continue reaching out the way I always have.    

The continued adventures of Mujer and her Belly

Once upon a time, I was a suit and pumps wearing career girl, anxious to escape to the City or onto a plane to a different place, living to drink a cocktail, buy more shoes, dance to good music. These days, I’m much more sedentary, a homebody satisfied with feathering my nest and playing Sudoku on the new Nintendo DS Lite Blues got me for my birthday. My days consist of playing a video game)or four), reading both newspapers in their entirety, reading pregnancy books, and carrying on conversation with my daughter. We eat healthy, tidy the house, cook, watch the Food Network. I count kicks. And my blessings.

Enchanted by the desert vibe

The desert fathers and mothers sought God in the silence and solitude. My ancestors built mysterious shrines in desert sands for gods or extraterrestrials or to show off their artistic prowess. I have always been fascinated by the desert, its oven-baking-hot heat, the animal and plant life that basks in the sun. What better conclusion to my vacation back to myself than to follow New York’s chaotic hyperactivity with Albuquerque’s warm mellowness?
Here I feel at peace, whole, protected. The air is clear, the sky huge. Here I will be able to eat and sleep. No dream or doubt can shake me.

The worthwhile fight

The day my friend passed away, twenty-two of the school’s best students filled the room, watched by me, one of the school’s graduates. It was one of many days of national exams. The young people took part in an academic assessment along with thousands of others in different schools across the country and even the world.

My students were similar to me: people of color from diverse working class and poor neighborhoods, nurtured by a community of caring faculty and staff, shaped by our lives in this urban suburb of the East Bay. I watched them work that morning. Their eyes were fixed on the test booklet pages as pencils scratched answers. They would occasionally smile as the day got disrupted by announcements, phone calls, and finally, a loud violent fight in the hallway outside the testing room.

So many times I have stated that I stated my school. As an angry, depressed teenager, I vowed to never set foot here again, this place where young sharks attacked one another with bloodthirsty glee. But I looked at these young people and I remembered. I found the fortitude to step out into the turmoil outdoors, shouted for the crowds to part, and returned to my nest of safety and hope. It is a journey I take everyday.

Today is cold and gray. My anxiety has returned, prompted by a bizarre nightmare of insanity and death. I am helping to organize my late friend’s memorial service. But I have other work. Two boys, allied with opposing gangs, stand off after an accidental bumping. I could pretend I don’t know what happened, like my colleague does(a routine for him), but instead I meet with both of them. We talk. We make agreements. In those moments, I feel safe, hopeful. I help bring peace.