Monday, December 26, 2005

Unforeseen Danger

Recently mom called me up on a Tuesday and ordered me to watch Oprah. Not being a fan of talk TV I said "what ever for?" She told me there would be a segment about a Properly Fitting Bra. Since mine tend to be holsters rather than foundation garments, I watched. I was also stunned to see so many women walking around on nationwide (and for all I know international wide) TV in underwear. Including Oprah herself.

Since the woman doing all the talking was from Nordstrom's and seemed to know what she was talking about, I called them. And discovered that they were having a special bra fitting day with videos and product demonstrations and did I want to make an appoint for a fitting. I did and I even turned up.

An hour and a half later after being attending to by an international committee of 3 women, I found myself wearing a bra that for the first time in my life, touched my sternum. More importantly, the most immediate result of the proper sequestering of these body bits, I felt an enormous relief of stress in my whole back and my shoulders were not as round as they have been. Extraordinary.

However, there was an Unforeseen Danger to wearing a bra that actually lifts and separates and touches one's breast bone. And that is found in making the Sign of the Cross. To my horror I discovered that at the "and the Son" bit my fingers, accustomed to encountering an improperly fitting bra that did not touch my breast bone, cupped my right breast instead of touching my heart. So there am I, groping myself in church.

Ladies, be warned. Men who are intimately associated with women who wear bras, tell them this tale. Tell everyone you know of the Unforeseen Dangers which accompany a Properly Fitted Bra.

Oh, the humanity.

About the pity pot

een thinking about this use of the expression 'pity pot'. Given as I am to episodes of major depression, I have often had this term applied to me and it has never felt anything but condemnatory.

I don't think it is my place to determine whether or not the person engages in self-pity or not, but to offer comfort and solace as best I can. An example. It is from my own life and so is full of the "I/me" language.

There is this wonderful woman in my church who is going blind. She is twice widowed, well up in her 80s, no kids, no family ties as far as I can tell. She is financially comfortable but she is going blind. When I first met her, she would talk about going blind constantly. Other people in my church would tell me she doesn't talk about anything else and they are tired of the subject. That they would say such a thing pissed me off, forgive my language.

When she started to talk to me about going blind, I heard her tell me how anxious she was about being alone, how often she is bored because she can no longer read and how fearful she is about aging and being alone. She didn't volunteer any of that. I asked questions, had answers and to sum up, I told her that her situation is the shits, again forgive my language, but it cheered her up no end to have someone validate the horror that she experiences.

The other day someone mentioned that she hadn't spoken very much about going blind recently. Had there been a change? And she said "No. I'm still going blind. But whenever I think of it I remember Sr. Gloriamarie telling me it's the shits that I'm going blind and that makes me laugh. And then I remember how many people call me everyday to see how I am and to offer to drive me here or there and I realize I am not alone."

To me the expression 'pity pot' implies a value judgment that Person A has leveled Person B that communicates it is Person A's opinion that Person B really has nothing to complain of or that Person A thinks that Person B is being x,y or z, fill in the blank with your pejorative of choice. And what it all boils down to is that person A thinks Person B is a nuisance and should go away and not bother Person A. Person A feels they have taught a valuable lesson and Person B feels like dying or something.

Now, I suppose there are people who are chronic self-pitiers, and I suppose I have exaggerated the above, but even so, there is some sort of reason behind it what we choose to interpret or perceive as pity. And for whatever reason, our society here in the USA regards pity as bad thing. I can't imagine why, because without pity how do we have sympathy, empathy, compassion and change? Of course, once we experience sympathy, empathy and compassion, we have to become involved so maybe that's why we dismiss it as the pity pot, so we don't get involved.

I guess what it comes down to, as I see it, is that when Person A identifies Person B as being on the pity pot, Person A is really revealing a very great deal more about Person A than Person B.

I don't think it is my place to determine whether or not the person engages in self-pity or not, but to offer comfort and solace as best I can.


I struggle a lot with validation. I didn't get much while growing up. Often when I did, looking back now, I didn't recognize it. In recent months though as I explored the possibility of a transtion from a monasticesque life style to that as a canonically recognized monastic, I have been experiencing more validation than I ever received in my life, from my clergy, spiritual director, bishop and from friends and acquaintances.

It is in experiencing this that i discovered a great big lie I had been believing, that I didn't need validation, that I had accustomed myself to living without it and seeking only my own or the Lord's and to heck with anyone else's.

I see now that I have been almost desperate for validation and often intemperate in my choice of words when I felt I was being invalidated. I also recognize that there are those who no matter what, will probably never validate me. It is surprising to me actually that there are so many men and women of strong personalities who react so negatively to mine when I quite enjoy opinionated people myself. I digress.

The point I need to make, is that in recognizing that there are those who won’t be sources of validation for me frees me from the need to be seeking it from them. Or to put it another way, I can stop repeating the relationship I had with my father who seldom had a kind word for me.

The other point I need to make is that only by screwing up most royally high wide and wonderful do I learn. It's not a particularly comfortable process, but there we are. It would appear that God doesn't want my successes or my strengths but my weaknesses and faults. And if that is what God wants from me then I need to be continue to be tolerant of the weaknesses and faults of others. And offer a whole lot more validation.