Peep!

I’m feeling a bit bruised. Last week, I tried to tweet, but as a newcomer to twitter it was more of a peep or cheep.

Nobody seemed to hear me. I squawked into the ether and the world of twitter went on as if I didn’t exist.

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I stared at the little heart button beneath the tweets and thought how nice it would be if even one person would click on it. Just one, that’s all I asked. My feeble tweets had cost me a lot of nerves, and I felt that I was owed a wee bit of encouragement.

Technology overtook me around the time that my first kid was born. All I could do was keep up with the feeds and the nappy changes, or rushing babies to and from childcare. Meanwhile, people began to connect with texts followed by smartphones which made them available at all hours of day and night. I didn’t want any part of it, especially since I was already available around the clock to several small people.

Okay, so it took a lot to cheep into the big, busy world of the internet. Maybe I was expecting too much if I thought anyone was going to take notice. Certainly that little heart symbol which remained stubbornly empty came to take on too much significance.

Just because the big, bad internet didn’t give me a thumbs-up, I began to think that maybe I was no good: an unemployed, middle-aged mum who can’t get the hang of this new way of communicating.

I felt like I was talking in a crowded station where no-one had time to stop and listen. When I realised how insignificant my little cheep was, I felt small and unimportant and it was hard to remember that this isn’t a measure of my value. Maybe God loves me despite or even because of my smallness.

I’m no good at networking, either in-person or online, so I think I’ll have to just accept that tweeting is not for me.

The other day, I read that even popularity is for sale. if your product or page isn’t getting enough likes, you can buy fake likes on the internet. However, I’ll give it a miss.  

Rather than tweeting or bellowing or lowing or howling or braying any more words into the ether, I think I’ll take time to listen and try to visit the pages of every person who’s been interested enough to follow or like my blog.

And please let me know in the comments line if there’s anything you would especially like to be read. 

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Honour

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Three temptations

Bishop Robert Barron in his book ‘Catholicism’ says that humans face three great temptations: sensual pleasures (including money), power and pride. He goes on to show how Jesus was tempted in each of these ways and overcame them, after his forty days in the desert.

I have recently been reading ‘Selfish Society’ by the parent-infant psychotherapist Sarah Gerhardt who identifies three very similar traps. She shows how babies who fail to develop a nurturing bond with a parent or parent figure in the early years of their lives will often try to compensate later on by pursuing material wealth, power or recognition.

She uses research on attachment in babies and the latest advances in neuroscience to show that small babies need a close, nurturing relationship in order to develop empathy and a genuine concern for others. Unfortunately, many parents struggle to develop good relationships with their babies due to the hurt that they themselves received as children as well as pressures from wider society. Sarah Gerhardt gives an interesting analysis of how society has developed to put pressure on parenting and family relationships.

I am getting a lot more from reading ‘Selfish Society’ than from the parenting handbooks which cajoled me into becoming a better, more efficient parent, and left me feeling inadequate when their advice didn’t ‘work’. It has helped me understand why I have struggled at times to build loving relationships with my children.

No longer the golden girl

Out of the three temptations, my weak point is seeking honour and recognition. I don’t like power (although I can sometimes be a control freak) and am indifferent to money as long as I have enough to pay the bills (which is perhaps not as indifferent as I should be). However, a substantial part of me wants to be admired and praised and throws a stooshie (creates havoc) when I amn’t.

Before having children caught up with me, I was very career-focussed. I strove for excellence in my work and received praise and recognition. Sometimes I received awards without even being aware that there was some kind of competition. I worked hard, and although I remained a smallish fish, I was proud of myself for swimming upstream like a salmon and with great effort flinging myself over the rocks into the big pond.

I took it all for granted, until I became a mother. Despite working as hard as I could, the honours and praise began to dry up. Eventually I exchanged an exciting career to become the family cook, bottle-washer and bum-wiper. I was no longer the golden girl, and on top of that I was getting wrinkles! My recent attempts to return to work, have meant retraining and starting again at the bottom.

You’d think that these experiences might have made me indifferent to honour, but, no, it’s still alive and kicking, like an ageing popstar who is past it, but still poses in a tight, shiny outfit that shows off rolls of fat.

One voice among many

Writing a blog is another temptation to seek honour. A part of me wants to collect likes and followers and readers, and thinks that I have failed when I don’t. Another part of me, knowing what the first part is like, has wondered whether it is wise to venture onto the internet at all. All the thoughts I had about becoming a Catholic threatened to boil over if I didn’t do something about them. I wrote the first draft of this post early one morning when I woke up with thoughts turning round in my head. Sometimes I have no peace until I write them down.

Instead of seeing the internet as an online space where I jostle with other people for a little bit of attention, and possibly praise, I’ve begun to turn this on its head. The internet is a way for many people to express themselves, including those who might otherwise have no way to share their thoughts and feelings. The apparent randomness of internet search engines and WordPress readers allows one voice to momentarily be heard and then sink back into the crowd.

When I thought about blogging in this way, I felt relief. I don’t want to stand out, at least, the deeper, wiser part of me doesn’t. All I really want is to express what I am thinking, and if that makes a connection with someone else, well and good, and if it doesn’t, that’s also fine.

I’ll end with a quote from Thomas Merton’s autobiography, ‘Seven Storey Mountain’ in which he describes his first impression of the Trappist monastery which eventually became his home. Oh, and by the way, please don’t like this post (even if you do)!

The logic of the Cistercian life was, then, the complete opposite to the logic of the world, in which men put themselves forward, so that the most excellent is the one who stands out, the one who is eminent above the rest, who attracts attention.

But what was the answer to this paradox? Simply that the monk in hiding himself from the world becomes not less himself, not less of a person, but more of a person, more truly and perfectly himself for his personality and individuality are perfected in their true order, the spiritual, interior order, of union with God, the principle of all perfection. Omnis Gloria ejus filiae regis ab intus.

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!

Why on earth do I want to start a blog?

When I first became aware of blogs about ten years ago, I wondered why on earth people would waste their time writing open letters about their lives on the internet. Blogging held no appeal for me even though I have always liked to write. I was busy trying to figure out what to do with small children and didn’t have time to even read blogs never mind write one. During my children’s pre-school years, I went from being able to write computer code and design web pages, to becoming someone who struggles to send a text message. My phone is ten years old and I am afraid to update it in case I can’t figure out how to actually use it. Okay, I know. All I have to do is hand the new phone over to the kids and they will have it sorted within minutes. However, they may also download games, redesign the background and set the ring tone to rude noises.

My attitude to blogs has changed. Over the last year or so, I have found myself surfing the web and reading about other people’s experiences on blogs and other sites. I was faced with a difficult decision and by searching the internet, I was hoping to make a connection with others who might have been in the same position.

I had heard a still, small voice suggesting that I should become Catholic. This was not easy to deal with as I had been brought up in Scotland in a very reformed Protestant tradition. For a while, I did nothing and told nobody. After six months, the thought still hadn’t gone away, and so I told my husband, a cradle Catholic. After that I told the parish priest. Apart from a handful of close friends, I told no-one else until I had made a definite decision to be received into the church.

There were no RCIA classes running in my parish, and so I had no opportunity to meet other prospective converts although the local priest was very good about making time to answer my questions. Unable to talk to anyone in the same position or who had recently gone through the same thing, I searched on the internet, looking up the blogs of recent or prospective converts, or reading the many sites which gave conversion stories. Whilst these stories were often helpful, the problem I came up against was that most of these people were living in the United States and came from quite a different culture and outlook even if they had also started in the Protestant tradition. It was very difficult to find stories about people who had come to Catholicism from a Scottish Protestant background.

That little thought about becoming Catholic wouldn’t go away, and I was received into the church very recently. Since then, I have felt joy about this great gift, confusion about what to do with it and loneliness. It’s a difficult thing to talk about. Perhaps these things are easier to share in a reflective way in writing. I’m starting this blog because I want to communicate what happened and what is happening in my life as a new Catholic. Maybe there are a few other people out there who will see some connections with their own experience.

Let’s get started

I have never blogged before. I’m starting this because I’ve had a lot going on in my life recently and want to share my thoughts. I am a new Catholic, so new that if I was a baby I would still have red skin and a squished nose. These blogs will just be me trying to come to terms with how I got to this point and what it means for me now. I have no big plans. I can’t promise I’ll still be blogging in six months or a year, but it seems to be what I need to do right now. Here goes. Let’s get started ….