Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton
A maple wood bowl filled with sweet fern and acorns.
I used to believe that happiness was a matter of intensity. I craved stimulation of all the senses, all the time. I needed to feel life in order to be sure I was alive.
Over the last year, I’ve had more stimulation of the senses than I could ever have dreamed. We all have. That constant onslaught makes you tender and sore. It makes you crave quietude. And it often makes happiness feel elusive. We forgot how to be happy in the storm that is trauma. Trauma is evil. Trauma steals all good things. It is hell.
And then Brian and I had a talk at a restaurant dinner table recently…
We were working through strategies for bringing back an abundance of peace and joy, hope and love into our home. I think we both started out thinking that we had to plan an elaborate distraction – a weekend away in a totally new environment with new adventures. But in the end, it was the small things that we decided would make the most difference – order and rhythm would restore balance and harmony.
The gentle, orderly rhythm that is provided by our prayer life and homeschool studies, the flow of the liturgical seasons, the joy of marking holidays and holy days with simple, joyful celebrations. That is what heals the soul, what brings happiness back to the hearth, what dispels darkness.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth
just as we were commanded by the Father.
But now, Lady, I ask you,
not as though I were writing a new commandment
but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.
For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;
this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning,
in which you should walk.
Many deceivers have gone out into the world,
those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh;
such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.
Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for
but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God;
whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. – 2 John 4-9
Although I’m here in my little bubble, I am not unaware of the violence and upheaval going on around the country. I know about the ugliness being meted out between friends and families.
Two salient points from yesterday’s first reading from the Mass leapt out at me. Perhaps they will speak to you as well.
First – we must love one another. We must will the good of one another even if we don’t have affection for one another.
Second – it is not love to preach that which is outside of accepted Church teaching. We must not modify or innovate the Gospel,we mustn’t torture it to seem to support viewpoints or behaviours that are either explicitly contradicted by scripture and/or tradition.
We must love the person. That doesn’t mean we can’t abhor the words, thoughts, or actions of another. But always we must love. We must take care of each other. We mustn’t do harm in body, mind, spirit, nor to that which belongs to another person. We defeat evil by filling that vacuum with good… with love.
Anyway, that’s what I try to teach my children. I guess that’s what you try to teach yours. I guess that’s what nearly all of us were taught and what we want to teach. Perhaps we could try to channel that anger, disappointment, entitlement, braggadocio into something constructive, something to build everyone up. I wonder what that world would look like? I suspect it would look a lot like Heaven on earth.
“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I find I’m becoming more introverted as I get older. Friends and family, who know me well, will tell you that I am an extrovert to a power of ten. I love people. But more and more, I feel I need to love people quietly. More and more, I feel I need to draw into my own small circle with those I love most and just be together.
I long for a time when I can visit long and deep with a good friend, maybe two. I long to meet with some of the wonderful men and women that modern technology has brought into my life. But so few. So very few. It seems, sadly, that the only place I can visit with those people is in a very bright, very loud café, constantly interrupted. I want to focus on the heart of my companion, to talk about meaningful things, to laugh together, or to sit in silent contemplation, joining hearts and hands, making memories that sustain us both.
I want to be far from the hubbub that is current society. It’s all too loud, too angry, too brash, too rude. I feel wounded and I need to make sense of it all. Here. In solitude.
“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” – Albert Camus
But I leave the door open to kind-hearted friends and acquaintances who want to come to call – through this space and in real life.
Today is one year. One year since we walked into that orphanage in a tiny Bulgarian village and our world changed forever.
For many families, the day that they arrive at the orphanage (or foster home) to pick up their child(ren) is a happy day to be celebrated every year. But when you adopt an older child – a much older child – it’s a day that is bittersweet to commemorate. It is the day on which they are rescued. It is the beginning of a new life, a second chance. It is a full ride to the School of Love.
But it costs them everything.
It is the day on which they’ve lost all that they know. Everything. It is devastating. They have lost their language and culture, they’ve lost all of their friends, they’ve lost familiar surroundings, and any adult they had come to trust. They’ve lost the possibility of being reunited with their birth family. No matter what we are to our children, how much we love them, how hard we try to keep language and culture alive, we are not replacements for those people and things they’ve lost. They are being saved from a life they (please, God) will never truly understand. But they won’t know that until they are grown, until they are themselves parents. Perhaps they will never fully appreciate what they have lost and gained.
It takes a great measure of bravery for these kids to keep their heads up and move on into a new life about which they know nothing. It takes enormous strength to leave behind little pieces of their hearts and give the rest to someone new. Some kids, particularly much older ones, can never give the rest of their hearts to their new families. They cling desperately to the remains. They don’t know that this act of preservation isn’t saving them at all. They slowly die inside. Only they can choose whether to love or not. Some never choose love.
We left pieces of our hearts behind in Bulgaria, too. One child in particular became very special to us throughout the process of adopting Nick and Olivia. We left the orphanage that day knowing that we might never meet again this side of Heaven. And we loved each other well. We smiled and we laughed, we hugged and we kissed. We held hands. And we wept. We sobbed as we tore pieces of our hearts off and handed them to each other. And it remains one of the most enduring and precious memories I have.
This day is a day to be treasured always for so many reasons.
For the work that God has done through us.
For the children we rescued.
For the love they’ve brought into our lives.
For their resilience, and their bravery.
For the strength we have gained through the difficulties.
For the wisdom and courage to follow our hearts.
For the desire to keep on helping those left behind.
For a daughter who is ever present in our hearts, if not in our arms.