How do I know Thee, father?

As a former Catholic with a more naturalistic understanding of the world, I have long suspected that many Catholics, maybe most?, must have priestly ancestors.  There was a scandal in my own community that was kept hush-hush when I was a teenager.  A priest had become a real father with a girl from the church.  She was my age, +/- 1 year.  No one talked about it.  Years later my mom brought it up.  For some reason, we didn’t discuss these things as a family while they were an actual threat.  Ah, but that is the Catholic way.  We were kept ignorant by our own inability to speak about sexuality without feeling shame.

Now we have strong evidence that children fathered by Catholic priests is a worldwide phenomenon.  Thousands of people around the world have strong evidence that they were fathered by priests.  They are pressured not to speak about these things.  Why did I leave Catholicism?  Because the ideology does not allow for open and honest communication about things that matter.  Plain and simple.


Hitting a wall


I spoke about patterns in my last post, before sharing some resolutions for the new year.  I am the type of person who notices patterns.  I have a mathematical mind.  I analyze things.  Today I would like to analyze the physical collapse I managed to survive in the past few years.  I have rebounded enough to begin putting things into perspective.

Myotonic dystrophy is a slow progressing disease.  I noticed my first symptom 26 years ago.  But only in 2011 did I finally tell my doctor that I thought something was wrong with me.  Each year for more than a quarter century I lost a percentage of my strength.  But I had to reach the point of collapse before I cried for help.  Looking back, I can see the role that nutrition and diet played in hastening my collapse, and magnifying the entire ordeal for me.

I aspire to eat healthy.  So those periods where I did not eat healthy stand in stark contrast in my mind.  Looking back, I have to wonder, what was I thinking?  What the hell was I thinking when I began eating at McDonalds?  (True.  The first time, back in the 1960’s, it was a treat.  Probably more for my mom, who didn’t need to cook that meal.  She prepared all the others.  I can’t blame her for allowing it to become something of a habit.  I let that happen.)

When I was in my 30s, I abused fast food.  I allowed it to become a routine part of my diet.  I allowed it to become normal.  (What the hell was I thinking?)  Back then, it seemed at times I was too busy to bother with trying to eat healthy.  Sometimes, just trying to eat and keep my pace up was all I could do.  I had too much on my plate to leave room for healthy food.  I was very driven.  (Still am.)

Because I could burn through calories so easily in my youth, the first effects of this period of unhealthy eating did not show right away.   And so, the habit unwittingly became ingrained in my repertoire of coping and survival behaviors.  However.  One cannot forever ignore the consequences of poor nutrition.  They show up sooner or later.

A few years later, my weight ballooned.  I am a shade under 5’10”.  When I eat healthy, my weight stays around 140 now, less in my youth.  As fast food crept into my diet, my weight began climbing.  Imperceptibly at first.  My low point came in my mid-30s when I reached 195.  On some people of my height, 195 doesn’t look bad.  On me, it went disproportionately to my gut.  I resembled my junior high track coach.  A man – pregnant with basketball.  (I hope he rediscovered healthy food before I did.)  Thus began my battle with weight.

My 40s was a decade of marriage.  A am grateful to my  ex for all her wonderful meals.  She knew more about nutrition than I did.  She prepared healthy food.  But by this point, I was addicted to the flavors of fast and junk.  My problem wasn’t her meals.  My problem were the choices I made when eating meals on my own, and snacking.

We separated in 2010.  On my own again, I knew I had to eat better.  And this is where I will leave the tale for today.  One year before telling my doctor I knew something was wrong with my health.

For everyday, ordinary.

Writer’s block. I highly recommend three books. They were recommended to me. I’m just passing them on. I present them in the order I read them. These are the three classics, in my library of writing books. My hard copies are all on loan, and I don’t expect them back. Just keep them in circulation.

The first is Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. This book transformed how I approach my daily practice. In fact, I didn’t actually have a daily practice, prior to reading this. My first year of writing, I had a regular practice, but not daily. And, I focused on producing manuscripts.

Natalie completely changed my approach. She taught me to write from within a journal. Some people can produce lots of great books, just working up manuscripts. But, that’s not her approach. And now, it is neither mine.

The next is The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. A book to disabuse the aspiring writer that there is any short path to success. It is work. It can be brutal. Get used to it. It is a job, like any other. Grind, in order to succeed.

The last is The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I have had a funny relationship with this book. First, Wen Ling had to hit me over the head with it (only figuratively), to get me to read it. I wouldn’t. Then, I actually began this book before The War of Art. But, I finished the latter, first. Then, after my diagnosis, and as my last year of software-engineering played out, I ignored the title on my Nook. My symptoms had overwhelmed me. I could sense that Julia’s book would require more effort than I could provide, in that moment. So it sat waiting for the right conditions, before I would open it.

I came back to it naturally, as I renewed my creative effort. I had just spent the better part of two years writing, or, as I imagine it, thinking physically, about all the stuff happening in my life. Wen Ling and I had separated. Then, I discovered I had this health challenge. Followed by an adjustment period. Journaling helped me to come through all of this with an optimistic and accepting attitude. Somewhere around November/December of 2012, I began to think creatively, again.

Initially, I wanted to return to the book I had abandoned, before my symptoms had begun to dictate my days. I had already discovered the first of five principles for dealing with my symptoms. (More on this in my next post.) I had had just an absolutely great concept for a book. But, when I tried to pick it up again, something was missing.

I found it difficult to resume that relationship. Too much had passed in the interim. The story felt distant, to me.

I needed new inspiration. This is when I turned to The Artist’s Way. I have seen a number of reviews, by people who say it is just a bunch of ‘New Age Hooey’. I completely disagree.

Julia Cameron will ask you to do some strange stuff, in the way of weekly exercises. For instance, one of the exercises I undertook was to pray for creativity. Now, understand, I am an atheist. But, I did the exercise, because I was serious about unlocking my creativity.

The book contains Julia’s philosophy, in twelve lessons, each with exercises. These twelve chapters are intended to be followed, in order, one chapter per week. And, Julia tells people that the exercises must be followed. You can’t unlock your creativity just by reading about it.

Well, I had a deep burning intention to do just that. This atheist prayed, and did a lot of the other exercises, too. I even adopted the attitude that I would take on the all of the difficult assignments, to better challenge myself.

Somewhere in week seven, my creativity unlocked. I began my current project. I’ll go back and finish the The Artist’s Way, someday. I think the people who pan the book are just too stiff to be exercised.

Writer’s block is no match for honest effort, and these three books. I recommend them all. Julia asks the most of the reader, in terms of follow-along practices. Brand new writers, I might tend to steer toward Writing Down the Bones, instead. Natalie appeals to the youth in all of us. The War of Art most resembles a pep-talk. Sometimes we need a good pep-talk. This would be a great book for a newly crushed writer, after sharing their first bad work. Pick yourself up. Get back on that horse!

These three books are better, for blocked writers, than what I will share. Instead, beginning in my next post, I will spin a tale of what happened after I took all three to heart, and tried to write a book as my health continued to deteriorate. This past year was my most challenging, yet. But, by applying the idea that my disease was just a form of writer’s block, I discovered some adaptations that have allowed me to find the energy, and the mental clarity, to begin my book. I couldn’t say this, even one month ago. Back then, when I told people I am writing a book, I never hid the fact that I wrote everything in my journal.

Now. I am beginning my book. It is no longer confined to my journal. I am back to working up manuscripts. In addition to journaling. (I would love for readers to share their favorite books on writing, in the comments section below. Or, blog about yours, and share a link to your physical thoughts, as a comment/pingback.)