Your Whole Life is Worth Living, Not Just the Shiny Parts

Not Dead Yet is hosting a protest of the latest hot new pro-suicide film.  If you are unable to protest directly, at least share the information around social media, to let people know that you, too, think suicide is never the answer.

Meanwhile, on the question of whether life is worth living when it isn’t everything you’d always imagined, reprinted below is what I wrote two years ago today on the horrible expression, “I got my life back!”  Let’s just say that most people who use that expression didn’t actually experience the separation of body from soul.

PSA, if you get this blog via e-mail or feed-reader: All these links above I shared in my twitter reading-feed, which you can see easily, and any number of other good links, by clicking to through to jenniferfitz.com and cruising the sidebar.

***

5/28/2014

At this writing, I am the poster child for Better Living Through Chemistry.  If we were to rely on a drug-ad cliche to sum up the post-prescription transformation, one might reach for the old reliable, “I got my life back!”

And that would be nonsense.

I’m not ungrateful, I’m tremendously grateful.  I’m thoroughly enjoying this dramatic change in circumstance.  I certainly don’t mean to squash the happiness of anyone who’s experienced some similar reprieve.  Nor would I ever dismiss the genuine suffering — far greater than anything I’ve experienced — that others endure with no such relief.

But here’s what: My life has been here all along.

It didn’t go anywhere when I was at my sickest.  I was living my life.  And don’t understand me to mean, “I was finding happiness in small things!” or “I realized that time with my children was such a treasure!”  Oh please.  I’ve always been easily amused, and I have the bunny ears to prove it.  I wouldn’t choose to spend all day every day with my children if I hadn’t treasured them from the get-go.*

My life is bigger than a collection of accomplishments and abilities and happy moments.  Laying very still in a big machine in a cold room, praying abbreviated rosaries to pass the time because I can’t keep track of ten Hail Mary’s without beads or fingers,  but I can keep track of three?  That’s my life.  Part of it, anyhow.  Doing routine tasks with no music, no singing, because I needed every ounce of concentration to get the work done?  Life.  My life.  Walking oh-so-slowly 1/16th of a mile around the indoor walking track because the little girls want to go run during their sister’s volleyball practice, but no going up on the track without an adult?  Mine.  All mine.

When you divide your life into the parts that you’ll claim ownership to and the parts that you reject, you steal from yourself.  You miss out on a chance to be everything that you could be.  Some of the parts no sane man would choose, but there they are, unchosen but endowed all the same.  Are you going to live them, or are you going to waste them?

Bigger on the Inside than the Outside

It matters because we are formed by what we do and what we choose.  Given our fallen world, what our bodies do reflects our inner lives imperfectly.  The effort to pray, poorly, comes out like so much failure when your body is not cooperating. The effort to work, to think, to love, all of it looks like so much worthlessness.  And then one day — in this life or the next — suddenly your body behaves itself, and you discover your soul was growing stronger through all that effort.  Effort that seemed, like walking uphill on a too-fast treadmill, to be getting you nowhere but miserable.

The paradox of redemption is that every good is to be sought, but no evil is to be wasted.  We work, diligently, for what is good. For healing. For an end to poverty.  For peace. For the good of souls everywhere.  We become more like Christ the more we work for that good.  And yet, like Christ, an integral part of our life on earth is making even the evil be good.

File:Detail of Silver Processional Crucifix - Museo Nacional del Virreinato - Tepotzotlan - Mexico.jpg

 

*No aspersions being cast on parents who find their children are best treasured as they get on and off the school bus.  Lots of ways to treasure those darlings.  Mine do well at home.  Except when they don’t.

 

This post first ran on Patheos.com/blogs/jenniferfitz two years ago.

Artwork by Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

How to Find Me

This is a quick note for people who land here and want to find the treasure-trove of interesting:

All my current writing (Catholic punditry, mostly) is going on at my Patheos blog, “Sticking the Corners”.

Here are the archives of my columns at:

I’m still holding down the 16th of the Month Gospel reflections at CatholicMom.com through the end of 2015, so look for those.  Or read them all in the 2015 devotional collection, which you can find by checking out my publications page.

***

I check my e-mail sporadically and don’t open anything that looks like spam, so if you write (see sidebar), make that subject line a good one.  Ditto friend requests on Facebook, if yours is languishing, it’s because I don’t know who you are, and either didn’t have time to check out your profile and determine we have something in common, or I checked out your profile and couldn’t tell you apart from Sir Spam-a-lot.

I am a hermit, I live in a cave, but I like people.  So don’t be shy, just be patient and forthcoming.

I’ve got a new book out! Me and thirty of my favorite co-authors, that is.

The general update on me is that I’m holding steady.  No particular news to report, and I’m still keeping up the torrent of punditry at Patheos.

But look .  . I accidentally went and got published again!  Here’s the scoop:

Now out from CatholicMom.com: As Morning Breaks, Daily Gospel Reflections.  It’s available as a Kindle book (very affordable – $2.99), but FYI if you want to get this as a gift for someone, it’s not necessary to own a dedicated device in order to read it. Any PC, tablet, whatever, can read Kindle books, just download the free software from Amazon.

 

What’s in the book?  A reflection on the daily Gospel reading for every day of 2015.  This is from the team at CatholicMom.com, so if you’ve been reading those Gospel reflections online, it’s that.  You can preview the first month, which lets you get a taste of each contributor’s style and the kinds of ideas that will be coming your way each day.  If you just want to see my name in print, scroll down to the 16th.

Why is this book better than a bake sale?  Because you can support a good cause without your kids whining over who got the bigger brownie.  All the proceeds from the sale of the book go to help underwrite the cost of keeping CatholicMom.com up and running.  FYI if you weren’t aware, CatholicMom.com is basically the largest womens’ mag in the faithfully Catholic world, brought to you free everyday thanks to the contributions of dozens upon dozens of volunteers who give their time and labor to make it happen.

It’s the place where aspiring Catholic writers are incubated, and it’s the place where established Catholic writers who get paid for everything else they publish still turn up to contribute their work pro bono.

It’s a good cause, and you get more than your money’s worth for what you buy.  Check it out.

Cat Photos & Other Reputable Pursuits

A kitten found us, which means we can finally use the internet properly.

I persist, of course, in my incorrigible habit of crowding perfectly good bandwidth with religion, public policy, and other punditry.  My hope is that by wielding the cat as a feline shield, the internet police will be stymied in their efforts to purify the web of non-cat bloggers.

Like the Internet Except in 3-D

1. My screen porch.  YouTube viewing has plummeted now that we have our hyperactive dancing cat.

2. Midlands Homeschool Convention.  Of interest to southeasterners.  Huge regional event, piles of top notch speakers, and also me.  Catholic writers guild will have a table, and there’ll be a rocking “Look at the Book” display of Catholic textbooks & materials from all the major players, hosted by Catholic homeschoolers in SC.  Also free stuff and some drawings for prizes. The teepee in the corner, dear parents, is for your children.  You sit on the chairs.  July 24-26.

3. Catholic Writers Conference. Following week up in Chicago, smart people will be turning out at the writers’ wonderland that is the combination Catholic Writers Conference & Catholic Marketing Network’s trade show.  This is the place where all the publishers and vendors of Catholic trinkets (games, art, music, etc) turn out so the Catholic book & gift shops can stock up for the season.  Most interesting bit is seeing what famous internet Catholics look like when rendered in 3-D.

(I will be rendered in 2D for that one.  Visit the Liguori booth if you go, and you can see my book.  The me-traveling-to-Chicago part is not quite back on the program.)

Since last I wrote, Patheos has been fixing things, which means you have to go here to get the July archives.

June still copies and pastes nicely:

 

Enjoy!

Return of the Organizational Skills

My ability to make lists and keep a calendar is back in full force.  Wow.  I knew my brain had been working on partial-capacity for a long while, but it’s dramatic to experience the return.

Saw Dr. M early in the week.  He says come back in a year unless something crazy happens.  No reason at this time to think there is something other than mystery-model IST, but of course if bizarre scary nasty symptoms emerge, then we’ll realize we were mistakenly optimistic.  So far so good, and since I live in the present, “how things are now” is stretched out indefinitely in my imagination.  I like that.

Trying to keep the schedule pared down during self-rehab, and also in light of the boy starting high school this fall and me teaching two new-to-me courses.  (The one, French 1, I’ve taught before but not this particular course.)  Have some work to do to get all the materials together for that.  Re: High School, I came to my senses and enrolled the boy in Kolbe’s Online courses, which means I can stay on top of the homework-doing, but not actually be required to master the Greek classics myself in quite the same way it would take otherwise.

That’s all I can think of to report right now.  Everything’s good.  Busy, but not crazy busy, and my brain works again.  CAWOG’s pretty pleasant these days.  (It was never that bad, actually. Dramatic, but not bad.)

***

The catalog of blorging since last I updated here:

Three articles on the topic I hate to write about, but that keeps coming up:

Update: What is wrong with people?

The answer to, “How’s it going, Jen?” remains, “Pretty well, thanks!”  I resurrected the Nine Annoying Things Novena over at the blorg last week, and the pray-ers did well.  Hence today’s story:

So I go see Dr. Maybe yesterday, and they did the dreaded Six Minute Walk.  And here is the very, very, What is wrong with people? situation: I did almost as well as predicted.

Seriously?  Is this really all they expect out of pleasantly-plump 40-somethings?  You’re kidding me.

You do the walk with a pulse oximeter, which means you can cheat and watch your heart rate.  This is handy if you are the kind of person who knows at about what heart rate the gasping kicks in (see archives below for the secret), and thus you can maximize your distance by walking right at that special speed where you’re coughing a bit and your head feels like you just tossed back two glasses of champagne on an empty stomach, but hey, you aren’t going to faint, and even though death feels like the perfect next step, you can do it for six minutes.  Or at least, you can do it that long if a stern nurse in pink scrubs gives you a face like she’ll spank you if you quit early.

It appears the pulmonologists aren’t big believers in pedestrian transportation.

***

Anyhow, I like the new guy, whose brain jumps around so much I finally pulled out a notebook and made a list of all the tests and appointments he was rattling off, because I had a feeling one or two might get lost in the shuffle if no one wrote them down, stat.

Ruled out again this morning — for good, this time? — pulmonary embolisms.  Sent away three vials of blood — I’m not sure he’s quite to the point of looking for tropical diseases (I’ve never been to the tropics), but he’s almost there.  More interesting tests coming along soon, looking for weird variants on regular asthma and exercise-induced asthma, and also he’s going to see if he can get my heart rate up high enough (on a treadmill, not with those evil chemicals) that the O2 levels drop, or something else interesting happens that gives us a clue.

We’re having real problems with finding clues.  The trouble we’re having is that I’m dreadfully healthy for someone who’s sucking wind and coughing while ambling at grocery-store pace, minus the cart.

***

Blorging over the past couple weeks, for those who don’t subscribe:

May 7, 2014 Religion is about Reality – and so is the Black Mass  In which someone in the combox accuses me of “shooting off my mouth”.  What exactly is a blog for, if not that?

May 6, 2014 It’s Not Friendship if it Can’t Withstand Disagreement Because I have the coolest friends.  Yes I do.

May 5, 2014 What I Write, Why I Write, How I Write . . . #mywritingprocess  This is the truth, but I’m going to reveal more details at CWG later this month.

May 5, 2014 Tell Me About Your Favorite Homeschooling Conference @CatholicMom.com  Listen, if you know about a good homeschooling conference, go over the link in this post and leave a comment.  I can’t believe no one did this, even after I bumped the CMom post to two different conference-hosts that I knew about.  Sheesh.

May 5, 2014 Inside the Glamorous World of Religion Blogging – Parody for the 5th Blorgiversary, featuring a video of me making everyone else seem as glamorous as Jen Fulwiler.

May 3, 2014 Guns in Church: The Divide Boils Down to Subsidiarity – I don’t much write about gun stuff.  But when the Archbishop of Gunlandia does something to tick off all his redneck parishioners, someone has to get out some catechism quotes, right?  FYI – post includes a link to my A/C article where I say there, concisely, what I’ve said here, verbosely: This is a topic on which Catholics of good will can disagree, and catechists need to leave their agendas at home.

May 2, 2014 Pomp without Vanity: A True Story from a Parish Photo Directory – My kid is as cool as Fr. Longenecker, and much, much prettier.

May 1, 2014 Fun Stuff: Beautification Claws From the Case Files of DragonEye, PI – Free short story. Catholic dragon.

May 1, 2014 Tried and True Ways to Eliminate People With Disabilities #BADD2014 – Review of what I blogged for BADD here last year.  Because it’s still true.  Quit trying to kill the people who bother you.

April 30, 2014 Something Fun: Armored Combat League World Championship May 1 – 3 – Because I have the coolest friends.  Have I mentioned that?

April 30, 2014 Just Say No to Needy Busybodies

April 29, 2014 Heart Rate Training for Fitness in Chronic Illness – This is actually a useful post.  It’s how I managed to nearly pass the 6-minute walk, despite being seriously seriously not well.  And if I’d taken the walk two days earlier, I would’ve aced it out of sheer racing-preparation common sense.

April 29, 2014 Mid-Easter Evangelization: Time for an Egg Hunt! – Link to my column at NE, which got picked up as a reprint by at least one parish bulletin.  I can die happy now.  I have succeeded as a Catholic writer.

April 28, 2014 Trusting God When Life Isn’t Easy – Link to Pauline Media’s brand new, free, digital magazine.  I wrote one of the articles in it.

April 28, 2014 Midlands Homeschool Convention – Last Day for Discounted Registration – Your one and only chance to see me speak in 2014.  Turn out.  It’s going to be cool.

April 28, 2014 Classroom Management for Catechists – Spanish Edition for Fall 2014 – I do a happy dance.

April 26, 2014 Why is Obedience a Virtue?

April 25, 2014 Real Life Prayer Gardening  A picture of the dog who keeps my prayer life going.  And my garden.

April 24, 2014 A Deadly Faith – Gospel Reflection @CatholicMom.com – I had forgotten all about writing this, but then I read it, and it was really good.  Surprisingly good.  Follow this to get the link to the CMom piece, and yes pastors, you may run it as a reprint in your bulletin next time Holy Week comes around.  Or whenever.

April 23, 2014 Divine Mercy Sunday – What’s it all about??  – Relevant every day at 3pm.  Or other times you have 7 minutes to spare and your prayer life needs a little something.

Click to read my blog at Patheos

Very Up.

I’ve been doing amazingly fantabulously well over the past week or so.  Thank you everyone who has prayed.  Not cured, but enjoying a particularly good run of things.  Got a little bit of gardening done, trimmed smallish limbs and branches, drove a couple places, and slept like a normal person, neither more nor less.  I’m happy.

Went in for preliminary lung-function tests with pulmonologist #2, appointment to follow on a date TBD.  This round was much shorter — exhausting and left me with a mild headache-type thing, but nowhere close to the Pulmonology Circle of Hell.  I like this guy already.  (He’s the one that will, in theory, either dx or rule out exercise-induced pulmonary hypertension.)

***

You know who I like as a patron? Rafael Cordero.  Don’t let the nickname scare you, he’s a cool guy.  I want to learn more about him.

***

In blorging since last I wrote, and I see it’s been a while:

Happy Easter, everyone!

Up-ish Again. Yay!

Spent about a week feeling way, way worse.  As in: Light-headed verging on headache-y if a sat upright.  At all.  So I watched movies, because writing flat on your back is not so fun.  Interestingly (disturbingly?) the one thing I didn’t do was pray any better.  But SuperHusband & I did do some contingency pre-planning, and discuss funeral music, because, well, we’re picky about music.  Last night I pointed him to the Dies Irae, and he was alarmed no one had ever played it in church before. Makes you feel cheated.  I’ve never heard it myself, I just look at in the hymnal and know that I love it.

So whichever one of us dies first, the other one gets to hear good funeral music live, and the early-departer gets the remote version.  (Or, if we’re bad . . . let’s not think about that.  I know there’s suffering in purgatory, but our Lord wouldn’t stoop so low as to open The Gather and . . . we’re not talking about that now.  I’m going with those lines about pleading for mercy.)

So my kids have this weird notion that the way one faces serious illness is to give your spouse dating advice and watch movies all day.

And then I started feeling better again.  I won’t say I feel *normal* sitting upright, but at least I feel normal enough that I keep doing it, because: More interesting.

And definitely not feeling all funeral-planny this week, so that’s good.

Follow-up appt with cardiologist next week, in which we figure out where I should go next.

***

I started back writing stuff, and if you don’t subscribe to the blorg, you can periodically check the archives and click on the interesting stuff.  I’m trying to use titles that more or less tell you what the post is about.  Here you go, I think this is all the interesting bits since last I posted here:

  • March 28, 2014 Students Angry at Catholic School for Teaching Catholic Faith – UPDATED  News item out of Charlotte, NC, w/ prayer request for you to pray for Bishop Jugis, and also I rant a little.
  • March 28, 2014 Do the Ends Justify the Means? Blog catechism class, because some of my readers were unclear on how double-effect and don’t-do-evil-that-good-may-come-of-it work.  Also, now my all time favorite intro to theology book can be purchased on Amazon — that is, there were six copies, used, when earlier I wrote.  They might all be sold now.
  • March 27, 2014 How Can the Spirtually Flabby Be Helped? Link to my New Evangelizers column.  I was irritated by the people who say, “Lent is So Easy! Quit Whining!”, so I wrote about how they could quite whining about the whiners (me), and make themselves useful around their parish.
  • March 27, 2014 How’s that Religious Freedom Thing Working Out These Days? The Constitution.  I’m partial to it.  Blame my upbringing.  Interesting weird arguments going on in the combox.  Someone brought Rastafarians into it, as people will.
  • March 26, 2014 What Makes a Catholic Book Catholic?  Link to my column at the CWG.  Because the day before I said I really really liked Funeral Kings (movie), and I do like it, and you should be briefly scandalized by that that assertion, but I have reasons.  But no, it’s not Catholic  — at least, not the kind of Catholic that gets a CWG Seal of Approval.
  • March 25, 2014 St. Dismas Day, and a Movie to go with: Funeral Kings  More f-bombs in that movie than I think I have ever heard anywhere anytime, and that’s saying something.  And yet weirdly, it’s a good movie, in it’s way.
  • March 23, 2014 On Evangelization: Even People Like You are Missionary Material  Reprint from a few years ago, column from Amazing Catechists that coincided with the day’s Gospel, which was the Samaritan woman at the well.  You may remember it’s the one where we see how she evangelized despite herself.
  • March 21, 2014 Radio Silence = Please Pray  See.  I was sick.  Sick-Er.  Proof.

***

That’s all I know.  Some real life friends and I were thinking we ought to pick a reputable Servant of God (a “venerable”) who’s angling for a promotion to be our next invoked-saint.  Any suggestions?  Favorites?

psst . . . Jen . . . quit mixin’ up your holy-people terms.  “Servant of God” is the step before “Venerable.”  See more here, Thank You, Wikipedia!

Novenas! And other updates.

Larry asked for another novena.  Far be it from me to deny him.  I see the feast of the Annunciation is just around the corner, what perfect timing.  If you’re inclined to pray the for-serious way, EWTN has an annunciation novena here, and the US Bishops have one here (PDF).  I’m grateful for even the tiniest thing offered up, though, so please do not scruple.

I see that the bishop’s have titled theirs, “A Heart Open to God’s Will.” Chuckle chuckle.  I love being Catholic.  We have the punniest spirituality going.

Edited to Add: Please keep Larry D.’s intentions in mind this week.  His family’s going through the wringer.

***

So how’s it going, Jen?  After being silly tired all week, I had a great Saturday daytime.  It turns out the SuperHusband sometimes gets this weird not-quite-right head thing when he’s on a really intense hike in the mountains.  It’s not dizziness, and it’s not lightheadedness like you’re going to faint.  You might say ‘fuzzy-headed’, except that you can think clearly.  But you would be inclined to use one of those words.  Anyway, I did a pile of laundry and cleaning stuff up, paced so that I didn’t cough once, not once.  It turns out that if you persist for enough hours, this unnamed phenomenon turns into a headache.

And then later the shortness of breath was back on the slightest exertion.  Fatigue, huh?  I’m fascinated by all this.  It’s like race training at a microscopic scale.

***

Busy blorging week. A handful of linky-link posts, and a couple serious columns:

  • I really wasn’t trolling for Atheists when I wrote about free will and suffering, but I guess the title doomed me. Second in the suffering series, and the combox discussion is, well, enlightening.  I shut it down because I was tired of moderating and it was starting to degenerate.  I so did not mean to provoke that conversation.  Cringe.
  • Paging Dorian Speed . . . Christian Leblanc wrote a very good, helpful, encouraging column at Patheos in reponse to a struggling catechist.  I ranted and raved.  But every time I think, “Yeah, I was too mean,” I go back and re-read my post, and I think, “Yeah, that needed to be said.”  But I feel for the poor guy who wrote the letter.  I get the frustration.  I do. I really do.

Elsewhere, maybe I was nicer?  At AmazingCatechists.com, a post with thoughts on changing your course to meet the needs of your students.  Don’t hate me because I had smart kids this year, it works both ways.

(What are the Apologetics for Kids students doing while I’m on sick leave? Watching Steve Ray videos, of course.  Footprints of God.  Google it.  You want the whole collection. They are great for kids and grown-ups both.)

And at CatholicMom.com today, I’m the Gospel-reflector.  Once again, my spirituality could be summed up as, “Just like St. Peter, Before Pentecost Edition.”

Happy Sunday!

Well-Plumbed Hearts

A friend gave me a green scapular last week, about which I was stoked even before I googled and figured out exactly what it was.  It came pre-blessed, which thrilled me to no end, since I’m so shy about bugging priests for stuff.  (Certain priests would not believe this.  But it is true.)  I felt like the people in the pre-blessed foods commercial.

Tomorrow Wed 3/12 is heart cath day.  I find that thinking of it as a teeny tiny plumbing snake being fed through my blood vessels to be oddly comforting.  In a terrifying sort of way*.

I’ve been wicked tired today (Tuesday) and this is, if I guess rightly, a good thing.  But it’s also my excuse for not doing that thing you were hoping I would get to.  Sorry.  I’ll catch up or drop dead or something, and you’ll be happy in the end, it’ll be okay.

Blorging this week:

  1. Papal Economics Book Club: Democracy, Capitalism, and Morality. Julie Davis told me once that she wished I wrote more on economics topics. Now I am. She probably regrets saying that.
  2. Pope Francis on Same Sex Unions and the Case for Regulatory Reform. I didn’t mean to write on this again so soon, but it came up.  It’s my least favorite topic, but there it is.

No telling when I’ll be back at it, but you’ll see me then.  Have a good week!

 

*I am not really terrified. Being a writer, I’m capable of imagining all kinds of gruesome scenarios with cardiac procedures gone wrong. But being a *Catholic* writer, there’s always that happy ending.  Small things with great drama, isn’t that how the saying goes?