Introducing Sister Grumpy Cat

I'm Sister Grumpy Cat and I'm not impressed with anything you do or say.  Ever.

I’m Sister Grumpy Cat and I’m not impressed with anything you do or say. Ever.

We all have a Sister Grumpy Cat.  Probably well hidden, but everyone, including those of us in a Religious Order, has this inner voice which struggles to deal with how other people do things.  It’s part of the human condition.

This idea was one I’ve had for a long while, because I’ve experienced that as well as each one of us having things that irk us, in each community there is one person who embodies the idea of Sr Grumpy Cat.

Sister Grumpy Cat will have a variety of pet phrases.  They may start “It is custom…” in order to tell other people how she thinks it ought to be done.  Or “I was only just…” in order to do the same.  Or, when asked a question, merely answer by grunting.

Other things that Sister Grumpy Cat will do is things that she would never allow other people to do to her.  Examples may include taking up more than half of the space in the stalls in choir for book storage, or having no clue about other people’s personal space, or trying to examine someone else’s craft work that they’re currently working on without asking or thinking that perhaps it might be inconvenient for them for you to be pulling the work out of their hands.

One of our Sisters who had been carrying the “Sister Grumpy Cat” mantle died.  Since her death, a different Sister has risen to take upon herself this mantle.  I think there will always be someone who fills the role of the most annoying person in the community.

I have my own Sister Grumpy Cat moments.  The Votive Candle Stand in Chapel is one of the things that irks me – we have it filled with unlit candles, so personally I don’t see the point of keeping a box of candles under it, especially as I’ve actually seen people pick a candle out of the box to light, and then realise that there isn’t a free space for it.  So many people who come to us are used to churches (and shrines) that don’t have a pre-filled votive stand!

Another Sister Grumpy Cat comes when we’re singing at Office.  OK, I know my tuning isn’t always the greatest, especially when I have a cold, but at least I try to listen to what’s going on around me.  I’m aware that I’m expected to support the Sisters where I’m sat, but when there are Sisters who don’t sing and others who cannot hear, it is incredibly difficult and frustrating.  It also doesn’t help that there’s a Sister who seems to think that if I’m singing slightly louder, she too should get louder, and louder, and louder – which means the tuning ends up being flatter than the proverbial pancake.

Basically, Sister Grumpy Cat is all the petty little things that each one of us knows we ought to be greater than, but somehow aren’t able to let go of.

And when a Sister shows her Sister Grumpy Cat side, it may become a blog post, once I’ve calmed down enough to try to make it funny.

Ice Cold Parenting and Acts of Redemption

So, I finally saw Frozen in December (and several times since).  And I have to confess, I love the film and its music.  Several of the Sisters have also seen it, and both Sven and Olaf are great favourites.

When I really like something, I can get perhaps a little obsessive about it.  Frozen has definitely caught my imagination, for two things.

The parenting skills of the nameless King & Queen who are Elsa & Anna’s Mama & Papa, and how the redemption of the frozen hearts comes not from the standard fairy tale ideal.

I’ll start with the parenting skills.  They know Elsa has this amazing gift of being able to make snow and ice, yet they let the girls sleep in the same room, unsupervised.  Clearly they didn’t think about staff or nannies or anything, or even how it’s guaranteed that with kids, they’re likely to get up in the middle of the night, or sneak off and play, and there will be accidents.  Most parents find out what happened before apportioning blame, but it seems Kingy & Queeny are far too scared by Elsa’s powers and they just blame her straight away for an accident that actually wasn’t her fault at all – it was just an accident.

Younger siblings are always going to want to do what their older siblings do, or to be involved in some way.  Child No. 1 learns woodwork, or how to use a sewing machine, or to handle some sort of weapon (be it medieval sword play or modern-day rifle shooting).  Child No. 2 is going to want to join in and be a part of it.  Child No. 1, who has the knowledge, will allow it to a point, but will then try to stop Child No. 2 from taking over or getting too involved to prevent them getting hurt.  Child No. 2 will, by this point, be way too excited and will not listen.  So the result will be an accident, and hopefully nothing worse than a trip to A&E to get a few stitches, and Child No. 2 will have learned that when they’re told to stop meddling that maybe they should stop meddling.

Only in this case, it appears no-one told these parents this senario.  Maybe they were both only children, and have no cousins, which would explain a lot.  They blame Elsa, they take both girls to see the Trolls, and decide that the best course of action is to separate the girls, to keep both of them hidden from the world, and to ignore the warning from Grandpappy Troll that Elsa’s greatest enemy will be fear.  In short, they let their own fears rule the lives of the family.  They allow their own fear to rule.  Their fear teaches them that for Elsa to be accepted, she must control her gift by not using it at all and that keeping it hidden is the way to go.  In other words, they teach her to fear her own gift – as if she wasn’t scared enough because of the accident with Anna!

So for something like 15 years, Elsa is shut away in her own room, only ever seeing her parents who get more and more anxious and fearful about her power increasing.  It’s actually pretty amazing that she’s as well balanced as she actually is.

There’s a verse from the first lestter of John (Chapter 4, verse 18) which comes in the middle of a discourse on love, and says:

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made in perfect love.

Of course, all fairy tales are love stories and there has to be love in there somewhere, but there’s only two out of the main characters who seem to show any understanding of the concept of love and in particular unconditional love.

Which leads into the acts of redemption.  Traditional fairy tales have the handsome prince rescuing the princess from the evil witch or dragon and breaking the spell with true love’s first kiss.  Only in Frozen, the handsome prince turns out to be rather more of a toad.

The true act of love comes from Anna, who saves herself by sacrificing herself.  Her conviction that her sister is good, is not dangerous, is worthy of love, is what saves both girls – even with Elsa doing everything she can to keep Anna away from her.  Anna cannot conceive a life without Elsa being there – which is why she reacts so strongly to Elsa suggesting she leave Arendelle, setting off the chain of events which results in the kingdom turning into an over-size icebox.

So for Anna, although she can see Kristoff in the distance, on hearing Hans (aka Prince Toady) drawing his sword to kill Elsa, can think only of the one person who has been her whole life, and despite the fact that she is turning into an icicle, takes the risk to save her sister – and in doing so, saves herself.  Which puts me in mind of another Bible verse, again from the pen of John:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

That’s John’s Gospel, Chapter 15, verse 13 if anyone wants the reference.

All through the Bible, there are references to how the best way to live and treat others is through love and showing acts of love.  Anna has that to a tee, and so does Kristoff (once he’s given a chance).  Through Anna always looking for her sister, Elsa too learns the freedom of a life lived with love.

Now, if only the rest of the world could learn this lesson…

Carl Jung’s Words of Advice for the Depressed

Originally posted on Beyond Meds:

By Jason E. Smith

Carl Jung was a prolific letter writer. Much of Jung’s writings can be very difficult reading, particularly when he digs deep into complex subjects like alchemy. But his letters are often poetic and reveal his humanity and his passionate engagement with the struggles of living an authentic and meaningful life.

The following letter, to an unknown woman, is an example of the poetic Jung. It offers words of advice for the depressed individual that go beyond our contemporary penchant for eliminating depression through medication. For Jung, depression is a messenger, an angel to be wrestled with until it reveals it’s secret blessing.

Being Forced Downwards

Dear N.,
I am sorry you are so miserable. ‘Depression’ means literally ‘being forced downwards.’ This can happen even when you don’t consciously have any feeling at all of being ‘on top.’ So I wouldn’t dismiss this hypothesis out of hand. 

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I stand quietly

faithhopechocolate:

Reblogging because just too many people are unaware of the difficulties faced by all those who live with Autism – the person with the “label” as well as their family.

Originally posted on Dirty, Naked and Happy:

I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty, you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.

I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer…

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Time to Talk Day

I’ve seen this on several friends’ updates on Facebook today.

It links back to the Time to Change website.

As this post will automatically link to my Facebook account, I thought that perhaps it would be an appropriate day to also take the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Pledge.

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

In addition to this, I also pledge to be there for the bloggers I follow.  I will read your posts and try to comment in an appropriate and supportive manner.  I will care.  And I will also then take you and your situation into Chapel and light a bunch of candles for you.

My mental health is currently mostly OK.  I’m one of the lucky ones, because my mood is affected by my hormones, and by going on the Pill, that has balanced that out.  I know I can’t stay on the Pill for ever, but for now it works.  But I have also found that if I start the break for my period when I am in a retreat that is longer than a day, my mood will plummet.  I am still a sensitive soul and someone snapping at me can easily upset me at times.  However, I am learning how to get perspective and not take things too personally.

There seems to be a family history of depression and other mental health issues through my mother’s side of the family.  As I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.  And I pray that it will continue that way.

bfmh15-4-copy

First Profession

As I posted previously, I went into my 5-day retreat on the evening of Saturday 24th January.

The theme for the retreat was the above song, which links very nicely with the three vows of Poverty, Celibacy and Obedience.

During the five days, I had plenty of time to think and pray, and also knit!  I also spent some time organising some of my things, as there were papers to be thrown out or destroyed, and things to tidy.  Also, when a Novice makes her Profession, she moves cell (bedroom) and once professed, no longer has free access to the Novices’ study room (called the Noviciate).  So I wanted to make sure my things were as organised as they could be to help with this moving.

Thursday 29th January was my last full day of retreat, and it was also a day of celebration for OHP, as 100 years previously, the very first Sisters had received the students from St Hilda’s School into Sneaton Castle – a continuing of the school but a founding of the new order.  We had a special service at mid-day, followed by a celebration dinner.  I ate the dinner but not with the Sisters, as it was a talk meal and I was in a silent retreat!  We had also woken up to a light snow-fall that morning.

Thursday afternoon brought with it the rehearsal for the Profession service itself, which was nicely straight-forward, but it also brought the news that some of my friends had telephoned to say that with the weather forecast for snow in Cheshire, they didn’t want to risk travelling to Yorkshire and getting stranded.  I was given the instructions to contact the folks I knew who were coming and warn them.  A phone call to my parents followed my supper, and all seemed hopeful.

Friday morning I woke up early, having been awake for at least an hour and a half in the night.  I was joyfully awake all through corporate quiet time, but perhaps not thinking coherently because at one point I wondered why there wasn’t a cloth on the altar, before remembering that the Profession Service takes place as part of the Eucharist.  (Normally on a Friday, we have a said Eucharist straight after Lauds/Morning Prayer.)

Breakfast, then preparing for the guests to arrive.  I vacuumed the Noviciate and was then ordered out of the way, which meant that I spent the best part of three hours kicking my heels.  Fortunately I had a book to read which helped.  Then, at about quarter to ten, both the Prioress and Sub-Prioress appeared outside my cell.  One to deliver to me my Profession habit and girdle, which had been on the altar overnight, and the other to deliver the news that my parents weren’t going to be able to make it after all, having set off and travelled all of 40 miles in an hour and a half.

That was a bit upsetting but I’m glad that they took the sensible decision and stayed put.  I finished reading the book, and then at about 11, decided to change.  Oonce dressed in my new habit and the girdle (rope belt) I was taken to Chapel and to my place for the ceremonies to begin.  It was lovely to see so many people who had come for the occasion.

The service itself was pretty straight forward, and the Spiritual Advisor to OHP preached as well as presided and received my vows.  He managed to have everyone in giggles, as he described how he’d once had to deal with someone in immigration and explain to them about the vows of Poverty, Celibacy and Obedience.  The moral of the story: “ask a nun”.  Then it was time for the profession ceremonial itself.  Liturgically it’s not long and the person who does the most talking is the priest!  I was told afterwards that I was loud and clear so all could hear.

After that, I spent the rest of the service grinning like an idiot, apart from a few brief moments when I was trying to not cry with an odd combination of joy and happiness, and sadness that Mum & Dad weren’t there.

After the Eucharist concluded, there were photographs taken, and many people decended with cameras.  I don’t have a decent shot of myself with Fr J and the Prioress, sadly they’re very blurry, but I’m hoping that other folks do and I can then snaffle a copy.

Just professed and grinning like an idiot

Just professed and grinning like an idiot

Then was the standard buffet celebration lunch, which was very, very, very nice.  I just about managed to speak to everyone.

After all the excitement I got out of clearing up by entertaining the last of the guests to depart, and grabbed half an hour to myself to open cards and gifts, before afternoon tea with the Sisters.  This is an age-old OHP tradition whereby the celebration cake is cut and shared, and everyone gets a chance to look at the cards and items given to the person whose celebration it is.

So, half for me and half for the Prioress, is that OK with everyone?

So, half for me and half for the Prioress, is that OK with everyone?

Once we’d finished looking at the cards it was time for Vespers (Evening Prayer) and by this point I was yawning my head off.  Supper and then Compline, and I was in bed with my light out by half past 8.  It’s a rock-and-roll life, this nun business!

“Normality” resumed the following day with the wind band rehearsal and my being on portress duty – and of course, mucking out the donkeys.  I’ve nearly moved everything out of my old cell now into the new, there’s just one item to properly move and then some rubbish to throw out, the bed to strip and some cleaning to do.  It’s going to take a bit more work to get my things out of the Noviciate.

My new cell is technically a bit smaller than the old one, but it feels much better equipped for storage.  It has a nice-sized bookcase, and the chest of drawers has much bigger drawers in it.  All of my underthings have gone into one drawer, instead of one and a half.  This feels like a big improvement and will hopefully make my life a lot easier to keep tidy (although I would strongly recommend that people don’t try holding their breath on this one).

Pre-Retreat Musings

I started writing this last night, but didn’t have time to post it before Greater Silence.

So, this time tomorrow I’ll be in my pre-profession retreat.  I’ll have addresses from the Prioress on three of the days, and plenty of time for prayer.

This time next week, I’ll be going to bed in my new cell.

Between now and then, in addition to the retreat addresses and prayer time, I’m going to be sorting out Stuff.  My clothes, my craft things, my notes from my classes, my stationary.  Anything which is in my cell (bedroom) now or in the noviciate.  I’ve made a start on the noviciate already, by moving bookcases to vacuum behind, and I haven’t really unpacked my clothes from being on rest with the family.

Other random thoughts are about how people see me.  A friend is currently living out of their car, having left the community they had been in.  They were staying with OHP recently, and we’ve been exchanging emails, and while they were here I gave them a few bits & pieces which I knew they would be able to use, which are surplus to my needs.  To me, this isn’t anything to write home about.  To my friend, you’d think I’d given them a winning lottery ticket.  (I may be in a Religious Order but if I got hold of a winning lottery ticket, there’s no way I’d give it away.  I’d claim it and let the Order have most of they money.  What I’d keep, I’d give to my parents and my sister to make sure that they all are mortgage free and have any home improvements costs covered for the foreseeable future.)

I guess what it really means is that my normal, my ordinary ideas of practical help, for some people can really mean a lot.

***

It struck me this morning, as I was tidying up a few things in the noviciate before breakfast, that it’s like packing my whole life up to come to OHP all over again, although this time I’m not actually physically going to another place.

I’m not going to run out of things to do, what with sorting my cell, the noviciate, and the knitting that I wish to crack on with.

I’m going to have to sort my cell this evening, as I’ve dumped a whole load of stuff on the bed.

I really hope that the power doesn’t cut out again this week.  The last two mornings I’ve been in the shower when it’s gone off, which is an inconvenience.  I’ve discovered that it’s almost impossible for me to keep my balance when trying to dry my feet in the dark.  I might start taking a lit candle to the bathroom with me just as a precaution!  (The cause of the power going off is our system becoming overloaded when people wake up and start switching on applicances.)

I want to finish the socks I’ve been knitting for the last two years (or thereabouts) so I can wear them on Friday.  They’re almost done.

So, here’s my random musings ending.  I’ll see everyone after my Profession!