How Fasting Works

Hey look, it’s time for Lent.

Amy Welborn has up a good post, with a sturdy dose of St. Francis de Sales to finish up, “What St. Francis de Sales Wants You to Know About Fasting.”  She made the cool meme at the bottom of this post.

If you are looking for some seasonal viewing Wednesday to help you feel better about not eating, the French documentary  The Science of Fasting is up on Amazon Prime.  The Amazon version has English voice-over and captions, but below I put the trailer to the original French version, since who wouldn’t want to see that just for fun?  Apparently about the time fasting was becoming the hot new non-diet in the US, it was already the hot new non-diet in France.  I was hoping the documentary would be a little heavier on the details of the physiology of fasting, but it’s more of a (pro-fasting) look at using fasting to treat this, that, and the other thing.

Crazy People Pay Attention: Even the pro-fasting Soviet scientists who exhaustively studied the medical uses of fasting made a list of conditions for which fasting was contraindicated.  It doesn’t cure all the things.  It makes some of the things worse.

In the quest for an explanation of the physiology that hit the layman’s middle ground between Buzzfeed and Biochemist, I found this nice slide show on “The Phisiology of Fasting and Fatty Oxidation Defects.”  I found it helpeful.  Also, takeaway point: If you are unable to access stored fuel in your body, fasting is not for you.

Here are some things that were a bit over my head at points, but I liked looking at them anyway:

That last one is a case study on a monk who undertook a 40-day fast under medical supervision.  Note that while extended, medically-supervised fasting was a going remedy for obesity in the second half of last century, it dropped out of popularity when people starting dropping dead (still fat at the time — the deaths were not from starvation).  Here’s a reminder from a physician who is one of the major voices in favor of fasting: If you feel sick, you should eat.

Which brings us around to the Catholic thing.

One Meal and Two Smaller Meals . . .

. . . and all the drinks you can stand.  That’s the USCCB’s instructions on observing your Ash Wednesday and Good Friday fasts.  There are more useful links to follow from there, go take a look.  The 1+2 rule is designed to make the fast manageable for the average working-age Catholic.  Not everyone between 18-60 is obliged to fast, though:

 Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes.  Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women.  In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.

If you need to eat, eat.

But let’s talk about the 3-eats-a-day approach to fasting.  Because here’s what: Even though the rule is designed to make it possible for more people to be able to fast, some people may find it easier to fast by not eating all three sessions.

I know!

But back up to that physiology thing.  When you stop eating, your body goes through three* major phases in its quest for fuel:

  • It works through the fuel from your last meal, if that hasn’t been depleted or stored away yet (instant).
  • It works through your stored glycogen (medium).
  • It starts accessing your fat for energy (longterm).

Each of those involves a biological switching of gears.  Depending on how you time your meals, you may well be almost to the point of using fat for fuel by the time you go to eat in the morning.  You may as a result find it easier, depending on what your body is like, to just go ahead and switch to using stored fat for the rest of the day (drink plenty of non-caloric fluids) and have supper in the evening.

That doesn’t work out as well for everybody. Some people do better with the 2+1 plan.

But I mention it because in my experience, eating a couple small meals just makes the hunger cycle more viciously unpleasant for me, because I happen to have a body that excels at quick packing away all calories from the current meal into longterm storage, and then loudly demanding another feeding.  It’s easier to just have a cup of tea or something to stave off the relatively more mild hunger that comes with not eating at all, do something distracting during the day, then eat well at dinner, done.

If you worry that I have taught you a way to suffer less and now your Lent might not be Lent-y enough, keep in mind you can always go scourge yourself or something if you find your fast days too easy.  Or give money to the poor.  Not to get completely wild, but if you wanna suffer, that is an option.

*The fourth phase is where you’re out of fat and your body starts tearing itself apart in a last-ditch effort at survival.  If you are already poorly provided-for in the fat-department, fasting is not for you.

***

Related: If you are one of those people who could happily be vegetarian all but two days of the year, or you could never ever happily be vegetarian, here’s my tutorial on thwarting the meat demon. Other past Lenten tutorials:

The main thing: Just do the thing.  A good Lent is unlikely to be a perfect Lent.   If all you can manage is a humble Lent, you’re ahead of the game.

Lent 2016

Image courtesy of Amy Welborn, used with permission. Click through to see the original post where it appeared.

So How’s It Going, Jen? (Spring 2018 Edition)

I’m about a year overdue on a personal update.  Short version: It’s good.  Very, very good.

How good is it?  So good that if I don’t work and workout enough every day, I get restless.

And that’s about all there is to say.  About me, anyhow.

***

I thought I’d post an update now because the last of my homeschoolers is starting school next week, and that can make people think, “Something must be wrong,” or, “The mother must be burned out,” or stuff like that.  My close homeschooling friends are aware that L. & I were due for a change of format, and we looked into creating a multi-day hybrid school (which may yet happen a different year); both of us seem to do better when we’re working with a group of friends rather than just the two of us solo.  But I would have gladly transitioned that direction and kept on homeschooling.

What happened, though, is that A.’s 6th grade teacher got to talking about schools for next year (for A.). My 8th-grade homeschooler L. & I did the advance work scoping out a school the teacher suggested we look into, and L. loved the school.  It seemed ridiculous to tell a kid that she shouldn’t try a thing she really wants to do, that looks like it could be a good option for her in terms of her total formation, and which was a realistic option for our family.  Starting at the midterm in 8th grade (at the administration’s invitation) seemed like a wise idea, since it allows L. to give the school a try before the pressure of high school credit- and GPA-tracking kicks in.

Something fun: We were nervous about the school’s placement exams.  L. is a super-bright, extremely observant and creative kid, with an undeniable knack for problem-solving, but test-taking is not her strong suit.  She’s an outside-the-box thinker, and she doesn’t excel at working under pressure.  The school (small, church-operated) is not equipped to provide extensive learning support services, so they assess students prior to admitting them to make sure the students are coming in on grade level.

We were a little worried, because I grade that child’s math tests.  I know she can solve the problems (because she can explain how to solve them, teach other people, etc.), but her tests don’t always show it.  She sat through a day of 8th grade classes and said she was confident she could do the work, and I trusted her judgement on that — but wasn’t sure the tests would agree with her assessment.

Much to her surprise, even though she thought she did poorly on the math exam (and perhaps she did), she placed firmly at grade level.   Double surprise: She placed in a 12th+ grade level for reading comprehension.  (Spelling . . . not so much. But we knew that was coming.  Not a show-stopper.)

Sooo . . . guess that homeschooling thing was going okay.

She’s excited.  I’m happy for her.  And now I’m figuring out what my new occupation is going to be.

Here’s a nice hiking photo from France last summer.  By “Here’s a nice hiking photo  . . .” we mean, “Why yes, it’s going very well, thank you.”

March for Life 2018

Between the Metro & the March and a museum visit, we walked 7.5 miles today.

Turnout was enormous.  The column of marchers extended as far as you could see, filling the streets.

One of the things people do is come in groups with matching hats, or scarves, or t-shirts, or sweatshirts — and in one case, yellow ponchos. Many of them are very memorable.  The March is so big that you’ll see thousands upon thousands of people, and then when you are walking to a Metro station afterwards, you’ll see groups gathered waiting for their tour bus that you never saw the entire day until you passed each other post-March.

 

There were a couple marching bands along the route.  (Sound quality is my phone, not the band – they were super.)

The atmosphere varies as you go, but it’s always friendly and peaceful.  We prayed along with part or all of various Rosaries and Chaplets of Divine Mercy being led by participants:

As the roads widen and narrow, and people walk at different paces, you end up here and there, walking alongside all kinds of different people.

We ended up stopped for a bit next to this group in blue sweatshirts:

The baby on the back of the sweatshirt was actually on last year’s March, in-utero, then born prematurely, and now doing great.  The adult hand in the picture is the father’s hand:

The caption at the bottom is: No hand is too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

 

***

And something amusing . . .

.

.

.

.

All dogs go to Heaven.  All youth groups go to Air & Space.  US History gets its share, too.

Somehow the first time I went to DC for the March I imagined we wouldn’t be allowed into the museums during the March.  I guess I figured we were the rabble that had to be kept away from the innocent visitors.

Actually: As long as you comply with the rules & regulations for the museum of your choice, you are welcome to come inside.

And hence this year I confirmed that if you want tranquility, and a surprising number of Dominicans, go to the National Gallery.   You’ll spend $40,000 on lunch in the cafeteria (but it’s decent food).  But maybe also you will be able to personally identify the person in art who looks most like yourself.

This is me & my kids a few years ago:


It’s not so much the precise physical resemblance as the Oh my gosh, someone has painted a picture of my life.  And yes, we’re as tired as we look.  Here’s a version not from my phone:

The kids are little taller now.

 

 

All photos & video by Jen Fitz except that one you can find on Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Snowpersons for Life

What do you when the interstate becomes impassable on your route to the March for Life?  Pull over and make Phyllis, the snowperson.  Why yes, the pro-life movement is young — and happy to be alive.

FYI if you didn’t see it over at the Register, this is what happened at our state March for Life, when a non-denominational Christian tried to talk my son and his friends out of being Catholic.

Best Deals on Raw Water! – UPDATED

UPDATE: H/T to Erin Arlinghaus who observed that in some states there are legal restrictions on collecting rainwater.  You can read a relatively recent summary of the state of the raw-water union here.

Now friends, you who don’t live in a “Raw Water State” might be glancing enviously towards those of us who do.  You might be thinking, “Perhaps I should move to some ‘better’ state where people are allowed to just set out their water cooler under the eaves and gather all the hurricane water they need for flushing that toilet even if the floods break the mains.  You, the earnest raw-water enthusiast, envision the other states as some kind of survivalist paradise.  If only you lived in a Raw Water State, everything would be so much better, you say!

No, no, no.

Do not be fooled.

States where residents are allowed to collect their own water are terrible places. 

Put that thought out of your mind right now!  Surely if you traveled to such a state, you would be immediately molested by the lawless beasts who inhabit such wild lands.

No, my dear Raw Water Aficionado.  We must not allow that to happen to you.  Stay right where you are.

After all, can you put a price on human rights?  When we think about how precious “raw water” is, surely $15/gallon, or even double that, is not too high a price to pay!

Stay right where you are.  Do not, repeat: do not, even think of moving to a state where the rain falls from the sky for free.  Many dangers that way lie, and you must do the right thing and stay someplace civilized where all your viral, bacterial, and amoebic needs can be met in the safety of the whole-foods grocery store.

****

Original Post:

I hadn’t been planning on blogging today, but then my friends showed me this article from the Washington Post on the hot new trend of drinking “raw water.”

Well trendsetters, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: It is not necessary to pay $15/gallon for untreated drinking water.   It literally — get this — falls from the sky.

Right now, if you live on the East Coast it’s probably falling from the sky into your yard, in an easily collectible crystalline structure that automatically converts into a liquid when stored at room temperature.  In warmer weather, you’ll need to put out an open-topped, “watertight” vessel when it “rains.”  You may have heard of rain.  That’s God’s way of sending you free raw water.

Now not everyone owns a vessel for collecting water from the sky (though you should), or perhaps you forgot to put yours out when the free water was falling from the sky in your area.  In that case, you can collect raw water from naturally-forming raw water collection points called ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers.  These fascinating geologic formations can be found across the entire United States and most foreign countries.

(Tip: If there are humans living in a particular country, that country has a supply of “water.”  That’s a way for you to know whether it’s a country where you can acquire your water or not.  In some countries, of course, it’s very tricky, because the natives might dig deep holes into the earth called “wells” for harvesting their raw water.  Foreign travel can be so adventurous!)

Once you’ve collected your raw water absolutely free, here are some great tips from the EPA on how to make that water potable.  Do it right! Don’t let the protozoa win!

And for doing science experiments with your water, you’ll want A Drop of Water by Walter Wick, available at any self-respecting public library.

A Drop of Water by Walter Wick

Cover art courtesy of Amazon.com.

 

When You Need Christmas Carols

This afternoon we’re going caroling with our friends (and you can too)!  The way I buy out of the obligation to bring something good for the potluck is to bring the music instead.

The booklets I put together back in 1998 for our first caroling party are starting to get a bit ragged.  This is our year to refresh, and I suspected CCWatershed could help, since they were my source for Advent music a few weeks ago for the dread homeschool music-minutes.*  For those who were in on the Advent Music brainstorming session on Facebook, the answer is that I went with “Creator of the Stars of Night.”  Some people I live with were skeptical that young children could be counted on to quickly learn such a thing, but my class of monkeys had the hang of it by the third verse.  So I maintain that one is a great choice for kids who can read words — simple tune, easy range, repeat repeat repeat.

But for the neighbors, we need Christmas Carols.  CCWatershed did not disappoint.  I searched around and found their link to ACollectionofChristmasCarols.com.  If you go to that site you can choose the format that works best for you.  If you’re going out caroling on short notice, what you want to do is download the free PDF and print out just the pages you plan to sing from to make your booklets.  If you want the whole shebang, you are way better off to purchase the book version from whichever of the several options best meets your needs.

So You Want to Go Caroling, You Said?

Let me give you a couple tips on how to organize your music.

When you ring on someone’s doorbell, you don’t want to make them stand there forever.  You also want them to have a vague idea of what it is you are singing, so your ragtag bunch needs to choose wisely.  Here’s the formula:

(1) Pick out six or seven carols that everyone and their brother is likely to know, and which are easy to sing. If your neighborhood has many people who do not celebrate Christmas, include some generic winter-season festive music in your line-up.  You do not win hearts to the Gospel by irritating and offending people.

(2) Choose two or three verses to sing for each song or carol.  For slow songs like “Silent Night,” make it two verses. For quick, peppy songs you can do three.  Decide ahead of time and make a note.

DO NOT TRY TO SING MORE THAN ONE VERSE OF “THE FIRST NOEL.”  Why yes, I am shouting at you.  Trust me: Nobody in your group knows how to match the words to the melody in the subsequent verses.  It will be a disaster.  Don’t do this.  “The First Noel” is a great song to not ever ever ever sing with your friendly neighborhood carolers.  Just never.  Leave that one at home.

For “We Three Kings,” sing the first and last verse.  You may sing all five verses at home with your friends.  The police will be right to issue you a citation if you pressure your neighbors into standing there listening to the entire saga king by king.  First and last and no one’s gonna hunt you down and egg your house.

(3) Make yourself sets of three-song combinations.  #3 is always “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”  #1 will be something lively, and #2 is where you can put “Silent Night” or any song that drags out a little.  As you go from house to house, rotate through the combinations.    If someone asks you for more than three songs, you can always throw in another one.

(4) Use common sense when assessing whether to ring the doorbell and what to sing.  If lights are off, don’t ring.  If there are Christmas decorations up, it’s reasonable to assume the residents celebrate Christmas.  FYI,  the full lyrics of “Let it Snow” plus one verse and refrain of “Jingle Bells” is about the right amount for your non-Christmas houses.  And my apologies gentle reader, I live in the Bible Belt, I don’t have a second secular-set to propose, because we don’t usually need even the first set.  I’m sure your kid’s school Winter Concert playlist includes some suggestions.

(5) If you are clever you’ll order your music packets so that the carols are in order and you can just keep cycling through the packet and inserting “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” from memory.   (Stick it on the last page in case the Chinese exchange student shows up and needs the words. You can separate out your “Christmas” rotation from your “Secular” rotation as well.  A post-it note in the packet could help.)

(6) The We-Wish-You finale (or “Jingle Bells” for non-Christmasers) is important not just because it works well for signaling to the neighbors that their time of redemption is at hand, but also it means that your toddlers will always have something they can sing at each house.  Little kids do pretty well just dragging along and humming about Harold Angel, as long as they can belt out We-Wish-You with gusto for each song.   “Away in a Manger” is good for little ones who’ve been made to learn it at Sunday School, and “Angels We Have Heard on High” works well because the pre-literate crowd can join in on the In Excelsis Deo.

(7) Pack flashlights.

 

Enjoy!

 

Artwork Courtesy of acollectionofchristmascarols.com.

 

*Dreaded no longer.  That class is going great ever since we switched formats.  It turns out some of the wild monkeys are shockingly happy studying Tantum Ergo.  And speaking of CCWatershed: I noticed the Cathedral in Charleston is using the Saint Isaac Jogue Pew Lectionary and the Pope Francis Hymn Book.  Both of them look great.  Recommended.

 

Which Saint Should You Put Your Shoes Out For?

File:Paul Seignac Christmas Morning.jpg

I received nothing from St. Nicholas and find his obvious indifference to me to be much more unsettling than finding a rock in my shoe.

-Fr. Steve Gunrow

The difficulty here is that Fr. Gunrow put his shoes out for the wrong saint.  You can avoid this problem by carefully matching the needs of your soul to the saint who can best help you.   Here’s a quick guide to which vigils you should set out your shoes in order to receive what you need in the morning:

St. Zita . . . Your lost keys.

St. Therese . . . Roses.

St. Juan Diego . . . Roses; painted tilma.  Both if you’re extra good.

St. Michael . . . Swords.

St. Vincent de Paul . . . Canned goods to donate to the local food pantry.

St. Catherine Labouré . . . Miraculous medals.

St. Catherine of Alexandria . . . Wheels.

St. Catherine of Siena . . . Fraternal correction; extreme penitence.

St. Dominic . . . Rosaries; improved homilies.  Both if you’re extra bad.

St. Stephen . . . Rocks.

St. Lawrence . . . Steaks for your feast day BBQ.

St. Philip Neri . . . Joke books; small dogs; counter-reform.

St. Genevieve . . . List of all the conquering armies who are not in your living room this morning.

St. Paul . . . Thorns; shipwrecks; writing instruments.

St. Peter . . . Keys; fish; perpetual documentation of your chief failures in life.

St. Augustine . . . Book-length explanation of what your roommate did with those “borrowed” items.

St. Jerome . . . New Bible; scathing critique of your sorry attempts at theology.

St. Anthony . . . Maps; organizational tips; parking spaces.

 

Obviously this is the abbreviated version.  To add your suggestions to the list . . . the combox is here.

 

Artwork: Paul Seignac via Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Solemnity on a Friday!

December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to being a holy day of obligation (translation: Go to Mass!), its status as a solemnity means that on years when the day falls on a Friday, the usual obligation to do penance on Fridays is lifted:

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Let the bacon be served.

If you live in the US, your bishops already gave you the bacon-option, but it’s penitential bacon:

Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

Way back in 1966, the US bishops determined that if abstaining from meat isn’t penitential enough for you, outside of Lent you are free to substitute some other penance:

28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God’s people.

The whole document is worth reading.  But not tomorrow!  On solemnities, we feast.

Other Immaculate Conception Links

In 2015 I wrote What My Dog Knows About the Immaculate Conception.  Get the whole story at the original post, including the bit about why my dog, when she wants to go outside, comes to the one person who is not going to get up and let her outside.  But here’s the thing:

My dog and I, therefore, are no typological figures of Marian intercession, get that idea out of your head right now.  Yes, Jesus would let the dog out if Mary told Him to.  But no, Jesus isn’t too busy showing St. Joseph the Russian Priests with Cats Calendar that he fails to notice the dog needs to pee, that’s not what it’s about.  There are other reasons asking Mary to intercede for you is a good, noble, worthwhile part of a healthy Christian lifestyle, and we’ll leave it at that for now.

The Immaculate Conception, which we commemorate today, is about this:

“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Ineffabilis Deus, Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854

The Immaculate Conceptions is about the order of things.  It is about the re-ordering of broken humanity.  For the new Adam we have a new Eve.  Curiously, the new Eve isn’t the wife of the man about to fall, but the mother of God-made-man who’s going to save you from your fall.

Humans, fallen as we are, tend to overlook the order of things.  We have a picture in our heads of how things stand, and when reality doesn’t match that picture, we tend to elbow aside reality and stick with our imaginary world, the one we made, not the one God made.  The one we prefer, because we’re at the center of it, little gods with our little fake worlds.

The dog, in contrast, lives in no such imaginary world.  She needs to be let out at night, so she has a pressing interest in understanding the real order of things.

I’ve written about the Immaculate Conception at least one other place: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.  At this writing, Google Books is including what I have to say in the preview-pages for that book.

When I was searching for “Jennifer Fitz Immaculate Conception” two other links came up that caught my attention:

If you know a catechist who’s about to quit in despair, you might consider investing a few dollars in my purple book of how not to die in agonies teaching religious ed to a room full of hooligans.  The publisher gave it a more formal title, but you can call it that.

File:Crivelli, immacolata concezione.jpg

Our Lady of Visible Forebearance is my preferred image for this week’s feast. Via Wikimedia, Public Domain. Her whole life she never ate bacon, and now she rejoices in heaven with many crowns, and presumably also all the bacon she wants.

Which of Your Friends are Going to Hell?

Someone both lovable and known-to-be-sinful died recently, and a friend posed this question: What does the Church teach about so-and-so?  Is this person now in hell?

This was my answer:

The Church will very occasionally confirm that someone is in heaven, but never makes a judgement on who is in hell.

We can know that certain sins will mortally wound the life of the soul if they are freely chosen by someone who understands their gravity. We cannot know the inner life of another person, and therefore cannot know how culpable they are for a given sin, nor whether they repented (if necessary).

Heck, we barely scratch the surface on our *own* inner lives.

We can, in contrast, appreciate all that is true, good & beautiful in the people around us.

***

On that note . . . I wrote a long rambly post back in August on the complicated lives of us sinners.  There was a relevant section to my friend’s question, so I’ll share that again:

Mercy is the thing that makes us see the part of our friends that must at all costs be saved.

Yes, yes, we know about the immense weaknesses and deplorable lapses and insufferable habits — but we know the other side! We have seen selflessness to make your mouth gape, and virtues so indelibly marked on our friends’ souls that they track in purity and joy on their shoes even when they try their hardest to wipe their goodness off at the door.

Some people get so despicable that it’s hard to see the parts worth saving. God can see those parts though. The question of salvation isn’t how much nastiness needs to be removed to get down to the person you were created to be. The question of salvation is: Are you willing to be saved?

Happy Advent, everyone!

File:Longinuskreuz 1.JPG

Detail of a Cross of St. Longinus.  If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for you.  Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Longinuskreuz_1.JPG CC 3.0

One Weird Trick for Understanding Homeless People

Over Thanksgiving the topic of services for the homeless came up at dinner, and last night the subject again resurfaced.  In my experience, there is no such thing as a “typical” homeless person, because people are complex and their stories are unique.  You can speak of common factors among this or that sub-group (mental illness, lack of a personal social net, etc.) but the intricacies don’t satisfy.  People want to “understand homelessness” as if it were a tricky lock in need of the right key and combination.

Finally I told my husband that if he wanted to understand why someone would be persistently homeless, despite the many social services available in our area (which help!), here’s what you do:

Think about something that you, personally, absolutely stink at.  The part of your life where you just can’t seem to get your act together.  Other people manage to do this thing just fine, but you don’t.

[In my husband’s case: Keeping the garage clean.  We could say the same about my desk and my inbox and let’s not even talk about the state of my refrigerator.  Other people might struggle with family relationships, or road rage, or over-eating, anorexia, compulsive shopping . . . whatever.]

You persistently, year after year, struggle with this thing that ought to be simple.  Sometimes you make progress, and other times you fall back into the pit.

Other people who have this problem are sympathetic; those who don’t have this problem wonder why you can’t get your act together in this area.  You’ve got so much else going for you — what’s the big deal?

Think about that problem.  Think about all the things that contribute to that problem.

Some of things might be outside your control: Your health, your work schedule, your family dynamics.  Some of the things that contribute to your problem are just your own personal collection of weaknesses and foibles.  Many things are a combination — your circumstances work against you, and you work against you, too.

Be really honest about acknowledging your problem and all the many things that make it so persistent.

***

And that’s it.   Now you know.

 

File:OldBeggar1.jpg

Artwork via Wikimedia, public domain.