Every S-Town Has a Story

“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.”
David Searls

Hi there on this warmer than warm spring day,
It has been some time since I’ve felt the motivation to write an entry, and after finishing S-Town over a weeks’ time, the only way I can slowly sift through my reactions and thoughts about this podcast which seems to be spreading like wildfire is to write about it.
For anyone familiar with Serial, I’m sure you have heard of S-town, or Shit Town
which is a joint creation of NPR’s Brian Reed who is a producer on This American Life, and the team who started the Serial sagas which are vastly different from this seven-part real story which dropped on one day rather than bits and pieces over time.
My goal is to be as vague as possible as to not spoil the podcast for anyone who wants to listen, so if the illusive details seem disjointed, therefore.
This dynamic podcast is none like any other I have listened too. Serial sure outdid themselves, and while I have mixed feelings on whether this story should have been even told, I am not going to get into that in this entry. You can read blogs:
Like
S-Town is a stunning podcast. It probably shouldn’t have been made or this articulate entry which addresses concerns I did not initially consider:

S-town: The Anti-Bedford Falls (Podcasts, Privacy, and the Human Soul)

This account of a real life is unforgettable, profound and heartbreakingly tragic. An intellectually bright human light full of pain, passion and concern for the world extinguished way to soon. No matter the cause of the main theme of these episodes, the exploration of death shook me to the core and forced me to escape my head and seriously ponder the big questions of life. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? What scares me about death? How do I want to live out the remainder of my days, because every passing day brings me closer to my earthly ending.
Unique, brilliant, lonely people live and die in obscurity every day, however, it is rare we get to hear their story. We do not know what motivated them every day to get up and live their life, we do not have the opportunity to meet the various types of people who shaped their viewpoints of the world, and we never know what led to their demise.
I have often heard people say things like, “I had to binge-listen to this podcast it was that good.” For me, the central theme of death hit way to close to home, so I am thankful work forced me to get out of my head and provided some emotional distance from the torture which surfaced by the deep issues explored. I don’t even know where to begin to unpack S-Town, but I am hoping once I get out of my brain, I can begin to bounce back into some type of emotional stability.
These are just some of my thoughts, because I can’t keep mulling it over and confronting the dark places I have gone are too painful to revisit.
How is it possible to mourn someone you never met? Why can our world not empathize with one another and reach out to help and hold the hand of someone who is in mental anguish? I grieve for all the lives cut short before their time. I cry for anyone who believes they do not matter, because sadly after the fact the living reminisce on the memories left by the dead when it’s too late, so may we never forget time and life are truly valuable.
What pained me was to realize if it weren’t for the podcast, an online obituary would not have received the outpouring of love and sorrow that it continues to be inundated with, but those words are for our own human hearts and solace. The funeral that may or may not honor the deceased wishes are just actions, ceremonies and an attempt to provide people with closure after the person is no longer alive.
Shit-Town has taught me that no matter your town, big, small, shitty, or classy, life is a beautifully orchestrated masterpiece that is as complex as the maze referenced in this podcast. While during our short time on earth we can take many twists, and turns, and even backtrack, one inescapable reality is our clocks will one day stop, and we are not promised tomorrow. Using the maze metaphor, the biggest take-away I gained is the clue to navigate the troubles and mountaintop moments of life.
Living is complex, sharing our vulnerabilities, showing compassion, and caring about one another are not signs of weakness. These attributes embody being, loving, and living through the pain for however much time we are given.
If you feel alone, depressed, hopeless or as if life is not worth living, please do not keep these thoughts and feelings to yourself, because the pain of losing a loved one to suicide is unbearable. I beg you to talk with someone; share your burden; do not put a period where there is meant to be a semicolon. I wish I could formulate more coherent thoughts, however, after writing this for my own wellbeing I need to sit out in the sun, listen to the birds sing, breathe and remind myself why I am alive.
Until next time,
Anjelina

Abide With Me Lyricse

Rather than ramble about how recently spiritually enriching this song has been, I pray these lyrics and Assad’s lovely voice speaks to you during this Lenten season.

I have not heard an Audrey Assad song or cover that has not meaningfully touched my soul in a special way. Her openness to share her authentic conversion to Catholicism and the gift of her angelic calming voice have reaffirmed my faith in times of trial as well as strengthened my resolve when life is going well.

 

 

“Abide with me, fast falls the eventide

The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide

When other helpers fail and comforts flee

Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me

 

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away

Change and decay in all around I see

O Thou who changest not, abide with me

 

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless

Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness

Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if Thou abide with me

 

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee

In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me

Abide with me, abide with me.”

 

Until next time,

Anjelina

Lessons of Growth and Gratitude

“The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence; the past is a place of learning, not a place of living.” Roy T. Bennett

On this blustery, snowy, Stella East coast stormy Tuesday, wishing you a happy Pi (3.14) day. I have missed catching up on reading posts and often remind myself I want to interact more by commenting to your wisdom and beautiful words, but it seems as if whether it’s work, or life in general, time has its way of passing way too fast for my liking.
After rebounding from feeling down, in no order here are a mixture of gratitude gems and lessons which range from silly to serious that I am blessed to have been reminded of recently despite my stubborn tendencies. I pray in some way these realizations can speak to you as well.

•I am thankful for the communion of Saints. Because of a wise friends Google search, since January I have prayed for the intercession of Eulalia of Mérid, the patron saint of snow days and inclement weather, and thanks be to God this wintry mix has enabled me to enjoy a warm relaxing day at home.

•I am thankful for past romantic relationships with their unique chapters in this constantly evolving story called my life. Pain and brokenness have forced me to learn the strength of resilience, heartbreaks have emphasized the value of vulnerability and the beauty of allowing learned experiences whether good or bad to mold me into a stronger, riser woman.

•I am thankful for various genres of music. Pop, classic rock, country, contemporary Christian, etc. with their rich soul-shaking lyrics and melodies expertly express the at times topsy-turvy thoughts and fragile feelings I try to avoid.

•When down in the valley of depression or taking on the tiring struggles with eating disorder relapse along with the difficult daily dedication toward recovery, I am thankful for the lessons of worldly detachment with heaven as the goal and the recognition that God’s agape love is my one source of unwavering strength to keep on keeping on despite my fleeting feelings.

•I am thankful for the Catholic Church. With Her flaws, failures, spiritual successes, rich Biblical lineage, and the countless saints and sinners who have gone before me through modeling the freedom of living out the Christian faith gives me a tangible earthly foundation from which to build my life, decisions and future upon.

•I am thankful for Braille and the gift of literacy. The talented authors who use their words, literary excellence, wisdom, wit, real stories as a needed relief from our demanding over-stimulating world enable me to step back from noise and settle into the silence of imagination, intellect and adventure.

•I am thankful for the 4 years we have been blessed to have papa Francis as our Pope and look forward too many to come. As the earthly shepherd of Christ’s Church, I pray for his continued health and through his words and actions, have learned so many invaluable lessons about what it means to truly step out of our comfort zones to build a culture of encounter to dismantle the trend toward treating people as things to be disposed of or objects to be used. Through his profound displays of mercy, his real-world examples of being the hands and feet of Christ on earth, in our rat-race world his calm but firm voice reminds me even though I feel undeserving, no matter my past, my current mistakes or future faults, God’s unconditional love and mercy which are new everyday are precious priceless gifts of which I will always be eternally grateful.

“A genuinely Catholic life should feed the soul as well as the mind; should offer a vision of men and women made whole by the love of God, the knowledge of creation, and the reality of things unseen; should enable us to see the beauty of the world in the light of eternity; and should help us recapture the nobility of the human story and the dignity of the human person. This is the kind of witness that sets fire to the human heart.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Until next time,
Anjelina

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Wishing all who observe Ash Wednesday a blessed, spiritually enriching reflective joyous start on this pilgrimage to Christ’s Passion. After attending a super early morning Mass than I am accustomed to before taking on the day, I was reminded how peaceful it is to begin the day focused on our one true source of strength, love, peace and hope. As the ashes from the burned palm fronds were placed on my forehead in the shape of our source of salvation, those simple powerful words “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” brought forth an indescribable sense of calm which settled upon my soul. Anything in life worth having is never easy, and we all have our burdensome crosses to carry, but what is so beautiful about this season of prayer, repentance and almsgiving extends well beyond giving up or taking something on. It’s about being forever spiritually transformed from the inside out and answering the call to have a renewed faith in all areas of our lives. For me, it’s about recommitting myself to eating disorder recovery, it’s about self-care, it’s about getting out of my head when it feels nearly impossible to freely give of my heart and time to God and others’.
Being marked with an outward sign of who we are and what we believe is a public declaration of our faith, and as the ashes dissipate may over the next forty days we keep this beautiful universal prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI in mind.

“Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.
I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end.
I praise you as my constant helper, and call on you as my loving protector.
Guide me by your wisdom, correct me with your justice, comfort me with your mercy,
protect me with your power. I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
my words: to have you for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for you;
my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory. I want to do what you ask of me:
in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding, strengthen my will,
purify my heart, and make me holy.
Help me to repent of my past sins and to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses and to grow stronger as a Christian.
Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
and see myself as I really am: a pilgrim in this world,
a Christian called to respect and love all those lives I touch,
those in authority over me or those under my authority,
my friends and my enemies.
Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself and reach out toward others.
Make me prudent in planning, courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.
Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer, temperate in food and drink, diligent in my work, firm in my good intentions.
Let my conscience be clear, my conduct without fault, my speech blameless, my life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me, keep your law, and come at last to your salvation.
Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
that my true future is the happiness of heaven,
that life on earth is short, and the life to come eternal.
Help me to prepare for death with a proper fear of judgment,
but a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death to the endless joy of heaven.
Grant this through Christ Our Lord.” Amen

Until next time,
Anjelina

Body Image and Blindness

I preface this entry by apologizing for the messed up format. WordPress and my screen reader are not working very well together, so I will need to edit this in the near future.

 

“All of us are travelers lost,

our tickets arranged at cost

unknown buteyond  our means.

This odd itinerary of scenes

– enigmatic, strange, unreal –

leaves us unsure how to feel.

No postmortem journey is rife

with more mystery than life.

Tremulous skeins of destiny

flutter so ethereally

around me – but then I feel

its embrace is that of steel.

On the road that I taken,

one day, walking, I awaken,

amazed to see where I have come,

where I’m going, where I’m from.

 

This is not the path I thought.

This is not the place I sought.

This is not the dream I bought,

just a fever of fate I’ve caught.

 

I’ll change highways in a while,

at the crossroads, one more mile.

My path is lit by my own fire.

I’m going only where I desire.

 

On the road that I have taken,

one day, walking, I awaken.

One Day, walking, I awaken,

on the road that I have taken.”

Dark Rivers of the Heart: The Book of Counted Sorrows by Dean Koontz

 

This week is

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This year’s theme is It’s Time to Talk About It”, so let’s do just that!

Before you read my rambles, please visit this beautiful blogger’s

Valid thoughts on this year’s theme

 

I also encourage you to visit this well-written entry which discusses blindness and body image.

 

On Blindness and the Body

As an aside before I ramble, let’s be mindful eating disorders of all types, not just anorexia or bulimia, do not discriminate against age, gender, ability, race, socioeconomic status or any other factors. I have noticed struggles with body image aren’t as openly discussed in some blindness circles, and often I have even received comments from professionals who are baffled I could have an eating disorder because I am blind. Another reality is eating disorders go much deeper than the food, weight or rituals which are symptoms of unique struggles which vary from person to person.

 

We mark our life events, whether happy or sad by memorable dates and seasons. For me the beginning of March, especially when it coincides with the start of Lent evokes a mixed bag of memories. During a hospitalization, I distinctly recall the shame and guilt I felt related to the stark clash between the deathly grip of which I clung to the eating disorder while trying to grasp onto my Catholic faith which brought me solace as a child. While anorexia ravaged my body, mind and soul, I began to see glimpses of the contradiction I attempted to live, but so many years ago, for whatever reason I was caught in its whirlpool and have not quite fully escaped.

I remember the humiliation I felt after receiving medical clearance to attend an Ash Wednesday Mass in the hospitals chapel with the caveat my ever-present IV pole and feeding tube were primed and ready for the public event. I lived in shame then, and today these feelings were magnified even more.

For anyone who has gone through the anxiety-producing process of a medical check-up with a weigh-in, I can easily say this is like a whole different layer of hell. Some people dread root canals, well I dread medical check-ups at the eating disorder clinic.

After an emotionally draining, mentally exhausting morning in which the reality of either getting fully on board with recovery or simply self-destructing slapped me squarely in the face, I feel mixed about what to even write. Do I write about how defeated I felt after meeting a sweet teenager who was there for an intake and when she began to ask me questions about how long I had an eating disorder, and the relief I felt once she was called back before I could even attempt to formulate an answer? I was ashamed in that moment because I am so thankful and blessed to realize I am further along than I was so long ago, but I am not yet where I want to be. It’s as if there are steps forward and then an unexpected quantum leap back. What follows are just realizations I have learned today, and for me writing helps solidify ideas, so prayerfully I keep them in mind.

I remind us to never forget everyone’s recovery journey is unique, and while it may be a circuitous route, one size does not fit all, so we are not in this marathon alone, rather we can help each other win this race. Rather than attempt to project into the future with its unknowns or look to the past with its relapses, and mixed starts and stops, what matters is today, this next moment, or even the next meal.

The final icing on the cake, (it’s interesting how many literary references revolve around food), was when I allowed a harmless comment about my dam BMI by a medical staff to worm its way into my disordered brain and gnaw at my emotions and resolve. It flung me into an emotional funk which include turning up the volume of the proverbial thoughts that quickly whisper beneath the surface of supposed “normalcy” somehow reappeared with a vengeance accompanied by the twisted, warped, illogical justifications for just not trying because right now I do not feel strong enough to fight against myself. I do not feel equipped to take on this renewed round in my head about where to go from here. But this is not where I am left.

What I am realizing is I must look past how I feel. I must choose to try again. To put to rest what I know is not true even if this requires enlisting support from friends, and for anyone who can relate, you are not alone in this battle.

As shitty as this day has felt, I am realizing no matter what our struggle or vice may be, it is always there lurking in the background, and whether we are ready to confront it or not, even if we keep busy, keep working or avoiding it, it sure somehow, someway will make itself known.

During this Liturgical season, I pray especially for those in recovery we remember Lent is not just about giving up something; it’s about deeper prayer with Jesus and a sacrifice could be making a renewed effort to follow a meal plan, keep appointments with your treatment team despite the thoughts or feelings ultimately is the whole purpose of Lent.

Lent is about detaching more from this world and drawing closer to our source of strength.

Until next time,

Be blessed and stay well, Anjelina

Reflection on The Four Loves

Reflection on The Four Loves
By
C.S. Lewis

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis, The four Loves

The following is not a review, rather it’s more of a reflection of what I have gained from this read, and I strongly encourage you to check it out.
I have been pondering what makes life worth living when overwhelming day-to-day struggles at times erroneously can lead a weary soul to a place of social isolation and spiritual desolation. What are the foundational facets which enhance our existence along with bettering the lives of others’ who are strategically part of our unique journey’s story, even if we are unable to appreciate these contributions?
Being authentic and risking exposing my vulnerabilities about who I am, flaws and all, where I am no matter my state in life is something I have been striving to achieve in all relationships. What is at the core of being which allows ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable with our trusted friends, family or even strangers? It could be intuition, friendship and its various forms and stages, commonalities, whether superficial or on a deeper level all describe some type of “love.” Life lessons have taught me human love is quite a tricky concept which I still struggle to wrap my heart and mind around, however, reading the “Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis has helped further clarify what love really is in all its shapes and dimensions. This beautiful timeless book is such a rich, wise resource worth revisiting time and time again for all no matter if you are single, dating, widowed, engaged or married, because ultimately the universal vocation is holiness.
Before I reverted to my Catholic faith, when in a romantic relationship, I equated love as simply being a feeling, or falsely believed the words one said or engaging in fleeting physical signs of affection could be taken at face value, however, with life comes lessons and I eventually began to learn this skewed perception of love were not at all healthy features of authentic love, and thus I was often left with the gaping wounds of rejection. Whether it’s the trend in our society which espouses the feelings first mentality or our indulgence in the money-making, mind manipulating empire of unrealistic so-called romance novels which are based on infatuation or pure lust, that both revolve around seeing the other as an object to be used and discarded when the thrill is gone and the high has dissipated sure paints a bleak picture of whether risking to love is worthwhile. I will be the first to admit I do enjoy an occasional Nicholas Sparks read, but as I’ve matured and read similar stories, at times I finish the book and feel more alone than I did when I started. I think it must do with the realization that while initially any relationship can be built on the shaky pretenses of commonalities, attraction or desire, we all have experienced the reality life sure is not always sunshine and Skittles. It’s sadness, heartache, brokenness, loss, mistakes, joy, pain, hope, peace, which all require a strong foundation of love no matter the type of relationship.
The truth is in any state in life, we will fall short of loving others as we are called to, but we are always presented with the option to continue and use the communion of Saints as our role models of humility, self-sacrifice who exhibited through their earthly lives it’s possible to carry out the difficult task to die to our desires for a greater good. The ultimate goal is to help one another get to heaven, so why not authentically love even when it’s not easy or popular?
In the Four Loves, C.S. Lewis expertly explores and assists the reader to discover through a thought-provoking format the four types of love. We are first encouraged to consider the power of the words we use related to what we “like” or “love”, which in the English language are often used interchangeably. Often I say in no particular order I love coffee, I love learning, I love sleep, I love my daughter, I love a good glass of Moscato, I love books, I love God, or I love my family and friends. The list sure spans the trivial to sincere, however, the love for my daughter is not the same love I have for chillaxin in soft warm socks and comfy clothes with French vanilla coffee and a book on a cold day.
To my surprise, yesterday while journaling in the silence of adoration a startling reality I came to after reflecting on this mind-shifting read was unexpectedly related to my last romantic relationship. Contrary to how I initially felt after the breakup and even years after the loss of my best friend, I was nearly brought to tears when I confronted the truth that even though the relationship ended, he never lied when he said he loved me. I know through his decision to move on, along with prayer and discernment, he loved me enough to be honest and say we were not meant to be, which Lewis reminded me love is doing what is best for the beloved despite having to lay down one’s heart in the process, and as Christians we are called to love selflessly. I am realizing to more freely love others’, I need to first embrace the unconditional love of God and make more time for Him. My faith relationship is not simply about tacking on yet another thing on the to-do list, rather it could be seeking His presence at Mass, basking in stillness during adoration or engaging in silent prayer while walking down the street.
As a side note, I will always be thankful God placed many in my life for a season or reason to teach me unique lessons about faith, friendship, authentic love and letting go. This entry is dedicated to those who I had the honor to love and who reciprocated authentic love even when I was least deserving or when I was to blind to see past my feelings of rejection or betrayal. I highly recommend this transformational read, and pray we live out these lyrics

by loving all who are placed in our life no matter the reason or season.
Love always,
Until next time, Anjelina

The End Of The Road Is But A Bend In The Road

Hi there,

As we approach this Leten season, (how is it nearly March 1 already), no matter our current burdens or vices, I pray we can take a respite from life and its demands for quiet reflection and contemplation for spiritual growth. Since my rambling words are not sufficient, I hope the below poem speaks to you in some meaning ful way.

 

“The End Of The Road Is But A Bend In The Road

by Helen Steiner Rice

When we feel we have nothing left to give

And we are sure that the “song has ended”—

When our day seems over and the shadows fall

And the darkness of night has descended,

 

Where can we go to find the strength

To valiantly keep on trying,

Where can we find the hand that will dry

The tears that the heart is crying—

 

There’s but one place to go and that is to God

And, dropping all pretense and pride,

We can pour out our problem without restraint

And gain strength with Him at our side—

 

And together we stand at life’s crossroads

And view what we think is the end,

But God has a much bigger vision

And he tells us it’s only a bend—

 

For the road goes on and is smoother,

And the “pause in the song” is a “rest,”

And the part that’s unsung and unfinished

Is the sweetest and richest and best—

 

So rest and relax and grow stronger,

Let go and let God share your load,

Your work is not finished or ended,

You’ve just come to “a bend in the road.”

Until next time,

Anjelina