Keeping my balance in an off-kilter world

The deacon who preached the homily at Mass this weekend used a story told by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to make his point. It was the story of a prophet who, of course, preached what people needed to hear but what they didn’t always like to hear — repentance and reformation and righteousness — and little by little his audience disappeared. Some even turned on him.

One day someone asked the prophet why he continued to preach when it was clear that no one was listening. He replied that although at first he preached in hopes that he would change others, now he preached in hopes that others would not change him.

Whammo! That got my attention. That’s exactly where I feel I am these days. Much of my “preaching” feels like nothing more than the conversations I have with myself in my own head or, on many occasions, in my own office or kitchen as I’m padding around checking emails or washing dishes.

I try to share my journey here whenever I can. Sometimes that means photos of kids doing silly things or close-ups of my latest cooking creations, but often it means divulging a little piece of my soul, which is never easy and always scary. I feel a bit like that fuzzy caterpillar in the photo at the top of this post, inching his way along the gravel road of a horse farm. Talk about putting yourself out there. But sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do.

Like over the past two weeks. Several times I inched my way out into a sometimes-hostile world to talk about my political position of “independent” and what it means to me, to discuss the obvious connection between vegetarianism and being pro-life, and to “let my pro-life freak flag fly,” the most scary of all my posts because I knew how much some would hate it. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Squish.

And I have to admit there was part of me that wondered why I would do that to myself. Why open myself up for the inevitable backlash — whether through nasty comments or the silent treatment? What’s the point?

When I heard our deacon tell the story about the the prophet (And, trust me, I know full well I’m not a prophet, so, please, no nasty comments about that!), it really hit me like a ton of bricks because I think that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been preaching my message, letting my freak flag fly in order to keep myself from being changed by the world around me. Even if I am preaching for no one but myself, I guess that’s enough.

So I’m willing to take the occasional criticism, silence, or outright unfriending if that’s what it means to be true to myself and to remember what it is that guides my core and keeps me centered in a world increasingly off balance.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5

An independent voter weighs in

So, I’m independent — politically speaking — for lots of reasons, mainly because I don’t want to be aligned with or beholden to either major party. I chalk it up, in part, to my libra-esque personality. Always weighing, always considering both sides, never wanting to give any side unequivocal anything.

As an independent, I find the goings on related to the current election season beyond comprehension. Although I have strong opinions on this or that policy, I can readily acknowledge that both candidates, even when they don’t agree with me, are smart men, good people, politicians with the best interest of our country at heart. Is it really possible that so many people on the extremes of this conversation — and from what I can see there are lots of people firmly planted on the extremes, at least on Facebook — are unable to look at the opposition and see decency, common humanity, differences in opinion but sameness at the core? I find it mind boggling, really, that we have come to this place of total disregard and disrespect for those who don’t share our exact opinions.

I’m saddened by the fact that I now dread signing onto my Facebook news feed because I know it will be filled with name calling, angry rhetoric, and outright insults. Good people seem to think nothing of pronouncing friends on the opposing side idiots or worse simply for looking at things from a different perspective. How did we get here? Was it social media that led us down this path of intolerance or something else? What does it take to return us to a place where good people can respectfully agree to disagree? Can we ever go back?

I find I refrain from all political commentary, on Facebook in particular, not because I don’t have political opinions but because I have come to understand that if I don’t hold the “right” political opinions I will be demonized by one side or the other. And, to be honest, I just don’t have the energy to waste in an argument with someone who will never see my point of view anyway. So I have opted to keep quiet, even when I have something to say, and that’s a very sad commentary on the free speech we hold so dear. Or should hold so dear, even for those who don’t agree with us.

I know who I’m voting for in November. That doesn’t mean I hate the opposition. It doesn’t mean I think everyone who votes for him is an idiot or some other unmentionable name. Every one of us has the power to direct our future. That’s the beauty of the voting booth. Go in, pull the lever (or whatever it is we push or pull now), and vote for the candidate of your choice. And, if by some chance your guy loses, have the decency to give the new president the respect he deserves, no matter what his party.

But whatever you do, between now and then, stop assuming everyone who doesn’t plan to vote with you is a moron. Tolerance is an empty word if it only applies to people who think like you.

Cardinal Dolan’s closing prayer

In case you  missed it (as I did because I just couldn’t stay up that late), here is Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s prayer to close the Democratic National Convention (this link will take you to written version, if you prefer that over the video).

Politically homeless in a political world


As we roll toward Super Tuesday here in New York, I feel a slight pang of political guilt over my inability to pick a party and participate in the big event. The truth is, I am a political vagabond, which is probably the case for a lot of Catholics, even if they do eventually pull the trigger and align themselves with one side or the other. We just don’t fit into anyone’s preconceived notions of what a Republican or Democrat must be. Abortion and stem cells and euthanasia on one side; death penalty and war and poverty on the other.

At various times in my life, I have been a member of both major parties and a few minor ones. The Independence Party wins the award for most unusual and entertaining door-to-door visits. But mostly I have been independent (with a lowercase “i”) because I cannot pledge my allegiance to any party that doesn’t really want someone of my ilk. I know, I know. There are feminists in the Republican Party and pro-lifers in the Democratic Party, but when was the last time you heard any of them stumping for the candidates. In their respective parties, they are considered the lunatic fringe.

My husband, Dennis, was pushing for me to pick a party, any party, so that I could vote in Tuesday’s primary. A while back I requested the form necessary to re-register. I stared at the card, moved it from one pile on the kitchen counter to another, and eventually tossed it and decided I’d rather not pull a lever on Feb. 5 than identify myself with something I cannot support. I’m considering moving to New Hampshire where people like me get to vote in the primary of our choice.


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