Everything is Fine & Other Lies Principians Tell Each Other

I recently typed up a seven page post about how Principia failed to meet and recognize the needs to students, then I had a conversation with a close friend who asked, rather pointedly, how Principia was supposed to know anything was wrong and I’m sharing this instead.

In Christian Science we are to correct our thought, if we perceive something is amiss, we are to correct our thought. If CS are perceived to be behaving in any way that is less than Perfect, it is a Failing on our part and we must work to correct it.

This applies to mental issues as well as physical ones. I’d like to think some of the issues Prin failed at would be obvious in a different school, the physical ones, the reasons people went to Cox Cottage. The reasons people snuck off campus for medical care (yes, that happened).

Mental and emotional issues are a bit harder, most of the people were “working on the situation with Science” which gave them a free pass to ignore it, or stress-read the works of MBE late into the night.

Let’s be honest, most CS are pretty good at putting on a good show. Unless something was truly horribly wrong, they showed up for classes, meals, etc. and even if they didn’t, we were all so busy with our own lives we wouldn’t have noticed unless they were our roommate, and even then, with some extreme exceptions, there were no “red flags” — and even the ones we did see we didn’t know how to act on.

If the problem was really truly bad, they’d be disappeared in the night. Disappearances during the academic term are jarring, the ones that happen between breaks are more subtle. Some people just don’t come back after Spring Break, are they on an Abroad, were they asked to leave, is it Academic Probation, did they run out of funds, did they transfer out, is it some combination of all of these?

Eventually the missing fade into the background while you try and cope with the grueling quarter system (apparently this has since been changed) and stresses of trying to maintain a good GPA so you don’t loose your sources of funding. Really, there isn’t much time for speculation.

You (quite falsely) assume everyone is a good CS and everyone is getting their stuff done, and no one is having any problems. You’re too busy working at masking your own to notice anyone else’s anyway.

Given all that, I’m almost willing to give Principia a pass, but Prin heavily emphasizes community, and morals. Principia is the sort of community where people comment if you’re not in Sunday School or you miss a House Meeting. If people can notice you’re not attending Hymn Sing, they should be able to notice if you are struggling. Or should they?

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I’ve “done enough” and I’m going to do more

Another week, another meal train. More meals made for a family that is not my own. Another night of pasta and whatever vegetables we happen to have in the fridge for dinner so someone else can have a freshly made pot roast and veggies or baked ziti and a salad. Brownies for dessert, something chocolate is a must at times like these. Another bag of quick snacks and not-super-perishable goods put together in a reusable grocery bag that I don’t intend to get back, and a new box of super-soft kleenex, don’t forget the kleenex.

Kleenex are important, almost as important as the brownies. There will be tears. Plenty of tears. Theirs of gratitude, yours ugly-crying in the car later, after you’ve dropped off the meal. Tears of exhaustion, mental, physical, emotional. Acknowledging that there is so much more to do, and you can’t do it all, and you feel helpless, and slightly ill.

People asking how you’re doing, you’re doing ok, you still have a house. You’re not really okay though. When your phone pings from the police/sheriff updates your heart skips a beat. Your heart as skipped quite a few beats in the last few weeks. First the evacuation orders pinged out, then more, finally some re-entry updates, and then at long last, “this street will be blocked off for Halloween” notification. Doesn’t matter, the conditioned response is the same: panic, disaster, are we next?

There is more to do. There is always more to do. “Can you set up another meal train?” It isn’t really a question. It is coming from someone else who is also over-taxed and carefully balancing the emotional needs of many, including themselves. “You’ve done such a good job with the others, thank you, I really appreciate it.” So you set one up, and then start to feel guilt when no one signs up for food in the first week, or the second… The family needs support. So you make another meal (or two, or three) and email around the link again, reminding people: this family needs dinner!

People need dinner. They need nourishment. They need support. People don’t need anymore stuff. The stuff sits in boxes and bags around their tiny temporary living quarters. This isn’t where they’re going to stay for more than a few weeks, at most, if they’re lucky. They don’t want to get too comfortable, just comfortable enough. Besides, they may have to leave in a hurry, again.

You see the stuff outside, piled under a tarp, scattered and somewhat exposed to the elements. Piles of good intentions. You feel overwhelmed on their behalf. If there was something more you could do to help, but what? You can’t fight everyone’s battles for them.

You want to help, but not overwhelm. You want to help, but you also realize the only reason you know them so well now is because you’ve been asked to assist them, and under every day circumstances you’d likely never exchange more than a polite “hello” or a brief conversation about the weather.

Is this karma or serendipity? Were our lives fated to be intertwined for a few brief weeks so I could help them through a tragedy, or is this merely happy happenstance that we both participate in a community that cares deeply for one another? I prefer serendipity. To suggest that this tragedy was somehow fate is too horrible for words.

Then there are all the other things, life does not stand still for tragedy, it goes on. There are birthday parties to attend, field trips to chaperone, work obligations to fulfuill, home repairs to make, events to coordinate, meetings to attend, another email to reply to, a text from the outside world intruding, someone who is wondering why I haven’t done some unimportant thing in a timely manner and I just want to scream at them, and in the midst of all that, there are still children who need love and support.

Things are far from returning to normal. My husband is out for work and will not be home until well past the children’s bedtime. The little one is anxious: “is Daddy somewhere safe?” He persists until he and Daddy can exchange selfies. Daddy is safe, or as safe as he can be in a car driving on a highway, but I don’t tell the little one that. Later, after the little one is in bed, I check my phone, he is still safe.

The little one has lingering anxiety issues from our evacuation talks. Several friends from the play yard at school lost everything. I’ve done a lot of reassuring and a lot of snuggling. I would not leave you at school if I didn’t feel it was safe. If it was unsafe, school would be closed. If something happened to make it unsafe, your teachers would do their best to make sure you’re OK. For Real. Thankfully the little one is sleeping through the night. I’m still waking up some nights, drenched in sweat, wide awake. There is the hum of the ceiling fan and sometimes some light snoring from my husband.

We are safe. I have done enough. I am doing to do more, but first I have to go grocery shopping, again.

banishing the darkness

We recently gathered together to celebrate the start of Advent at my children’s school. The adults sat in the gathering darkness as the children entered the room, careful to avoid stepping on the pine branches and stumps arranged in a spiral on the floor.

The teacher spoke a few words about our inner light of kindness, and compassion, then she went and lit the candle in the center of the spiral. The one candle did little to light the room, but from it, all the others would be lit.

waldorf spiral

One by one, each child walked the spiral, holding an apple with a beeswax candle in it. They walked to the center, lit their candle, and walked back, placing it on one of the stumps placed throughout the spiral.

Slowly the light from the candles grew, and when all the children had finished, there were around thirty candles lighting up the darkness. The teacher reminded us that together our lights shine more brightly than they would on their own, banishing the darkness.

My inner light is feeling pretty burnt-out right now, but I will continue to attempt to be kind and compassionate, in the hopes that it rekindles.


Martinmas Meditations

Our school recently celebrated Martinmas. As darkness fell, we gathered in the cozy classroom and were told the story of Martin, a young Roman conscript who gave half of his warm cloak to a beggar on the side of the road. Later that night Martin had a dream (vision?), an angel was wearing half of Martin’s cloak, and it told Martin that it had been the beggar on the road – Martin went on to convert to Christianity, but that part was left out of the story. The focus was on Martin’s kind heart, and willingness to share what he had with someone less fortunate than himself.

There was a mood of reverence as we walked from the classroom with our lanterns. In the dark, with only the quiet singing of the children, I contemplated the story. Martin did not give the beggar his entire cloak, he gave him half of it, this was not a story of total self-sacrifice, but of sharing what he could. Would Martin be cold with only half a cloak? Certainly, but the beggar would be warmer with half than if he had none at all.

The Martinmas Festival marks the middle point between Michaelmas and Christmas, the light of Martinmas fortifies the soul for the dark winter. I’m not feeling a lot of light right now, the darkness feels pretty overwhelming.

I have been struggling this past week with the election results. I feel both compelled to speak out, and compelled to withdraw and protect my family. I have been saddened by the news of attacks on people based on who they may or may not have voted for, their gender, the color of their skin, or their religious views.

As a former Christian Scientist, it would be easy to revert back to my old ways, to “only see the good” and to “know all is harmonious.” That is not how things work. The question, could I be doing more haunts me. I know the answer is yes, but I’m not sure what “doing more” looks like right now.


More on St. Martin & the Martinmas Festival

Image via https://www.pinterest.com/taoofcraft/waldorf-lanterns-martinmas/

Misunderstood Dragons

Musings on Michaelmas, inner darkness, and dragons

This fall marks three years since I was first introduced to the festival of Michaelmas, and I find myself processing my feelings around the issue. My children love stories about dragons, and most of the books we have on their shelves come to a harmonious conclusion where the dragon(s) and people can live together, or at least have a truce.

This is all well and good, but the knight is good, the dragon is evil. Evil must be defeated, right?

Yes, but not all dragons are evil, let’s not make generalizations. Some dragons are good, some grow gardens, others come to the aid of princesses, some plow farm land, and some open BBQs with the knight that tried to kill them.

If dragons and knights (or angels in the case of the Archangel Michael) are used in stories to acknowledge that people have inner struggles between their “dark” and “light” sides where do the alternative stories leave us?

Instead of defeating evil lets have it over for lunch, perhaps we can work through the evil and come to realize it isn’t really that evil after all. Where do we draw the line? Is attempting to kill the knight an irredeemable offense? What about kidnapping a princess or torching villages? At what point has the dragon gone too far? What if the dragon isn’t really evil, what if it is merely misunderstood? It might be a good dragon.

Do good dragons do bad things? Does that make the dragon bad? Are dragons inherently bad, or just misunderstood?

How does this apply to us? Outside the zoo you are unlikely to encounter a dragon in your day-to-day so these dragons must be allegorical. In nature, light may triumph over darkness, at the Winter Solstice, but good triumphing over evil is far more subjective. Don’t rush to judgment, talk and try and work out your differences. Try to be guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience.

Maybe I’m over-thinking all this.

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today. It looked beautiful in the box, neatly laid out, it was everything my twenty-two year old self had dreamed of. It was strapless, with some beading, white. The first time I put it on, it made me feel like a princess, I felt amazing in it. My mother, who had poo-poohed all the other dresses said I looked radiant.

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today. I tried it on for the first time in nearly ten years. A lot has happened in those years: two children, three moves, losses, gains. Even though it had been sitting in a box for nearly ten years, the beading was coming loose. The polyester was scratchy, the tulle was rumpled. The dress no longer made me feel like a princess, it felt awkward and cheap.

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today. I had initially thought about donating it to a charity that turned wedding dresses into angel gowns, beautiful custom made gown for final photos and for burial services, for infants that did not survive. The polyester against my skin turned me off, I wouldn’t want to wrap a baby in it.

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today. I was going to put it into a plastic bag and donate it to charity, but that felt wrong. I’m still going to donate it to charity, there’s a local second hand shop that supports a hospice, it will go there, but not crammed into a plastic bag. I’ve carefully placed it back in the protective storage box instead, it looked like a corpse being neatly laid out in a coffin.

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today. It once brought me great joy, but I’ve moved on from being twenty-two, wrapped up in the mythical idea of a perfect wedding. Other things bring me great joy now, and far more often. I’d rather have a bouquet of dandelions from my children decorating the dining room table, and have the dress move, in the hopes that it brings great joy to someone else.

I took my wedding dress out of the protective storage box today. I have mixed feelings about this. Would it have been better to leave it there and let it go?

everything is always good

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Every one of them says “how are you?” And you always have to say “good,” even if you’re not good.

 

If you say things aren’t good, they’ll wonder — aloud — why you’re placing “limits” on yourself or the situation. All things are possible through God and enough prayer.

This does not stop when you grow up.

This does not stop when you leave Christian Science.

This does not stop when they know you’ve left Christian Science — this is just proof you need Christian Science more than ever before! Because logical fallacies

So you lie and say it is “good” even when it’s not, and it becomes a habit. Everything is good.

Everything is always good*.

 

 

 

*Except when it isn’t, and it all blows up in your face. Then it is your fault for not trusting God enough and not reading the Lesson, and failing to pray and have the proper understanding.