Saturday, January 12, 2008

Unintentional Hiatus

Gingerbread HouseI haven't posted in ages due to a combination of computer issues and Christmas-brain (you know, where everything is gingerbread and baby Jesus and celebrations and the idea of coming up with a post is just more work than you feel up to during a feast!)

But it's also because I haven't had any burning statements to make. I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the go-ahead to move forward. Or maybe it's more like I'm under the tutelage of a very exacting ballet master who wants me to perfect the basic positions before I can move on to pointe. This is the boring, humdrum, repetitive part of obedience and it's leaving me a bit flat.

I'd like to say that I'm making good use of this time to read up on stewardship and research the Church's position on giving, tithing, obedience within a marriage and care for the poor, but I'm not. I'd love to say that I'm using it to perfect my skills as a mother so I can more easily adjust to having three (or four) when we finally do adopt, but that's not true either.

Mostly, I feel "meh." Like I'm going through the motions. I don't want to read about stewardship because it just frustrates me to see so clearly what I should be doing when I so obviously can't do it. I don't want to reflect on the sacrifices I'm making because I start to get resentful and wonder if they're ever going to end. I'm always working on motherhood and parenting, but now every failure, every setback, every lost temper and raised voice just illustrates how ill-equipped I am for the challenge of adoption.

It's strange that at the times when I most need to pray, I feel the least desire to. I know that focusing my energies on God, reading His word, and praying for the intercession of Mary and the Saints makes an amazing difference not only in the way I feel, but in what I am capable of achieving. The other day I spent some time nursing the baby and reading "The Art of Catholic Motherhood." I came out of that experience feeling uplifted. So why don't I do more of that? Why is my first inclination whenever I have a moment to do something meaningless and escapist like watch a reality show or surf the blogosphere?

Even planning my weekly menu annoys me. It shouldn't be so difficult for me to keep the weekly bill under $100. People live well on much, much less. So I feel like an idiot when I have to put back the block of cheddar cheese or serve my pasta primavera without sun-dried tomatoes because we can't afford them. I simultaneously resent the sacrifice and mock myself for the resentment. Sun dried tomatoes? Could there be a less essential ingredient to do without? What's worse, part of me feels that it's a pointless torture to even bother with it all. So I save $25 a would take twenty years to match our debt at that rate. The simple fact is that my efforts to save and sacrifice aren't going to get us anywhere close to our goal. We have fixed expenses that comprise the bulk of our spending (mortgage, car payments, insurance, etc.) and outside those expenses we have very little wiggle room to actually save money toward our debt. We'll only achieve our goal through the generosity of others: my husband's bonuses at work, gifts from our parents, etc.

I don't mind being dependent upon others. We've been blessed with loving, giving parents on both sides. Their support does not chafe me. But then I wonder why I bother with anything. If I have no control over our finances, if my husband doesn't care about solidarity with the poor, and if the money I save goes no where, why not just get whatever I want at the grocery store?

More to the point: if these sacrifices don't help me and they don't help the poor, what good are they?

Well, they ARE good, inherently. It is right to sacrifice. Even if it doesn't feel good, even if I find it frustrating and difficult, it's still a good exercise for my soul. That's, to me, the most compelling reason to continue. It's only by action that we can train our minds and bodies to desire what's good for them. As far as helping the poor, well, that's relative. Does my going without sun-dried tomatoes physically feed the poor? No. But if it forces me to think about those who struggle to live within limited means, and if it increases my understanding of others' experiences, then that's better than blithely grabbing the jar off the shelf and tossing it in my basket without a second thought.

I've always tried to live under the axiom "Do what you can." Right now, I can make small sacrifices. I can say my prayers even when I don't feel like it. I can think about the poor. I can be silent when I want to scream "What is wrong with you! This is all total BS!" I can be patient. I can be hopeful. I can trust.

Even if that's all I can do, it's still something.


Caitilin said...

I have read your blog for a while, and I feel your pain on many issues. :) I wonder what your feeling is on family size generally, as a Catholic, and as a person to whom global inequalities as obviously vital concerns. We are expecting baby #6, and one of my sibs thinks that this is globally irresponsible--we, both personally and as Americans, ought to reduce our consumption of the world's resources. Do you have an opinion on this? I am not trying to be provocative; I have many Catholic friends, with many children, and I suspect that they would consider the question, let alone the answer, heretical. :) If you would prefer not to answer, I understand. Thanks!
God bless,

Tienne said...


God bless you and your children! I certainly don't consider that question heretical. And I'm happy for anyone to think globally, no matter the issue.

I remember reading a great debate on this very issue between a homeschooling Catholic mother of six and a concerned poster who argued that everyone should do all they can to reduce the strain on our world's resources. I wish I could find the link for you! I'm sure it would have plenty of great information for you to give your sister.

To start with, overpopulation is NOT the biggest threat to our sustainability. Our abuse of the world's resources is the problem, and it's that abuse that needs to s top. Yes, three people eat more than one person does. But even the anti-population sites agree that the US is by far the biggest waster of resources in the world. From "Next time you hear about a woman in India who has seven children, remember that she'd have to have more than 20 children to match the impact of an American woman with just one child. And an immigrant who moves to the U.S. is likely to consume far more energy just by moving here."

Your sib might consider moving to India as she's so concerned with this issue. :P

Obviously, it's not the number of people. It's what they're doing.

I would guess that the average "large" family consumes the same or LESS than a family of four for a few simple reasosn: #1 Their priorities are different. Large families are by necessity focused on themselves, not on keeping up with their neighbors, not on enjoying the best life has to offer, no on any of the things that encourage consumption and consumerism. #2 They have fewer resources and are adept at making things stretch. A family might have many kids, but there's still at most only two incomes going into the family. So there's a limit to how much they can spend. Thus, hand-me-downs, homemade items, refurbished items, etc rather than buying something new every four days. #3 They buy in bulk. An average family of four buys a pound of meat at the grocery store every week. It comes in a plastic package with a Styrofoam base and a label which gets tossed in the garbage. A family of eight buys four pounds of beef once a month at the grocery store. It comes in a plastic package with a Styrofoam base and a label with gets tossed in the garbage. Same amount of beef, same packaging, but the family of eight has actually made less impact on the landfill because they only bought one package rather than four. #4 They live in the country. Try to put a family of eight in an apartment in a city. Go on, try. I can't imagine how anyone could afford it. Cities are the biggest wasters of energy and city dwellers eat out more than rural dwellers. You can't compost in a city. You can't grow your own food. Everything has to be flown/bussed/boated/driven in and then flown/bussed/boated/driven out. Anything that gets people out of the city is GOOD for the environment.

Long answer to say simply: It matters most how you live.