nothing can be possessed but the struggle (part I)

sometimes, especially lately, i consider becoming catholic. as i get older, my view of the faith tradition whittles down to catholicism a flavor of christianity (#ecumenism), thanks to thomas merton, fr. john eudes bamberger (whom i met last summer whilst on my silent retreat, only to learn he was fairly close to merton!), pope francis, fr. james martin, stephen colbert, and flannery o’connor. i appreciate how they uniquely emanate Jesus and His kingdom.

i bought a copy of flannery o’connor’s prayer journal last year and had kept the slim hardcover, along with anne lamott’s help, thanks, wow, in my locker — spiritual blankies, as it were — throughout 1L. i kept a literal blanket, the kantha i bought in india three years ago, in my locker, too.

for 2L, i switched the kantha blanket for a hooded sweatshirt, and brought flannery’s journal home. as i feel myself veering towards the law school version of the sophomore slump (perhaps “spiral” is more apt), i’ve been rereading her prayer journal the past few nights, and i’m convinced that flannery and i are kindred spirits.

i cycle through her prayers and it dawns on me, “is this what it’s like to pray through the rosary?”

previously, the practice appeared rote and, based on my limited knowledge of confession, peculiar — how does prescribing a parishioner numerous recitations constitute penance? the concept of prayer as punishment struck me as odd; perhaps the tedium of redundancy ad nauseum meets punitive goals?

i’ve learned that repetition isn’t necessarily rote and devoid of meaning. in biblical literature, repetition serves to emphasize. repetition is meant to bore: not tending toward boredom, but to bore down.

my wants and worries parallel hers very much, even now when one would think that the novelty of the striking resemblance between the two sets would’ve faded by now. to the contrary, what remains consistent is how striking and fresh the sense of kinship feels.

here, repetition renews and marvel at how i’ve yet to tire of sharing her sentiments so closely. i catch myself clinging to her turns of phrase, certain that i could have underlined and annotated her words with an ultra-fine point sharpie pen with confidence, the way i imagine one clutches the beads of a rosary.

a few hurdles keep me from switching to catholicism from the various strands of protestantism. for now, i hope it’s not sacrilegious to use her journal as my approximation of the rosary; actually, it seems fitting to turn her prayers into a personal variation on “traditional prayer.”

how could i resist when she prays the following, which resounds most emphatically with this law student halfway through her second year, days away from final exams?

How hard it is to keep any one intention any one attitude toward a piece of work any one tone any one anything. . . Dear God, let me work, keep me working, I want so to be able to work. If my sin is laziness I want to be able to conquer it.

what a strange lent it’s been (or, i think i’m doing it wrong).

i’ve missed sunday service even before the start of lenten season; i did, however, attend ash wednesday service. God haunted me gently, as He does not infrequently, through the liturgy (the lilting, melodic confession and adoration), the music (imagine a chamber orchestra + brass in a manhattan-sized living room, and the resulting groundswell), the homily (the truth tidal wave), the imposition of ashes–which i’d almost forgotten until international students from china (a guess) on the e train talked about ash wednesday.

thanks to my church-truancy, attending that service affected me like inhaling a multi-course meal when you’ve not eaten for hours. hunger simultaneously exposed and sated. i miss worshiping corporately; there’s something so special about the way God meets people and vice versa in such settings. more often than not, community is conducive to these sweet encounters.

so why have i been absent? why would anyone rob themselves of beauty to which they have full access?

there are so many things i could blame with varying degrees of legitimacy. like, the onslaught of snow that stilled new york city’s public transportation. and the chest cold that would’ve lingered longer in my lungs had i not limited my exposure to the elements. or the law school-induced sleep-deficit cycle that keeps me in bed until at least noon during the weekend.

but mostly, the buck stops with me. and i still [cue norah jones clip] don’t know why i didn’t come [end clip] to church these past few weeks.

suffice it to say for now that doubt hasn’t kept me away. does that not testify to the power of God’s word, that the mere daily reading of scripture (i’ve read through it twice in the past couple years) helped sustained me thus far.

it’s counterintuitive, but this impromptu hiatus from sunday service makes me feel like i can identify with Jesus a wee bit more. for lent this year, i didn’t set out to abstain from anything, given my low success rate with that. my attempts to approach lent proactively have been half-successful.

tangent: can i just say how prophetic a cry for mercy: prayers from the genesee by henri nouwen has been to me this season? maybe it’s the not worshiping in a corporate setting that has made me more sensitive. or maybe he’s just that legit. how did he articulate far more beautifully than i could that cries of my heart? (besides holy spirit, obvi.) i, too, hope to revisit the genesee abbey.

anyway. lent is supposed to emulate Jesus’ wilderness period, right? which immediately followed his baptism when the heavens opened up and God the Father lavished affirmation and love over the Son. and during His time in the wild, He was mostly alone.

i could be, probably am mistaken, “Jesus paid the cost so i didn’t have to,” i get it. but i wonder anyway whether my hiatus from sunday service–being distant from the fellowship of God’s people–parallels his desert period.

photo from dough brooklyn website

a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

in any event, in the spirit of lent, i have thus far successfully resisted the impulse to trek to dough or any other artisanal yeast doughnut shops. of course, turning stones into bread after forty days of fasting = waaaayyyy more formidable temptation, but maybe in this culture of instant gratification, it’s no small miracle that i have not rushed to the subway to feast on this floury goodness. at least a baker’s dozen times i have yelped and/or google mapped the nearest doughnut places and long island city’s relative proximity to williamsburg/other hipster enclaves in brooklyn is almost (but really not quite) the same as turning stones to bread.

ugh, just writing about it increases my cravings… [sigh] [deep breath] i will wait until easter to eat delicious doughnuts… what better way to celebrate that Christ is risen, indeed, by eating a wonderfully dense yet fluffy ring of fried dough?

dear Jesus, thank you for doughnuts. give me grace to wait until easter to partake, and in the meanwhile, may my need and desire for you far outweigh the simple wants and false cravings of lesser pleasures. but i thank you that in your goodness, you give us the little goodies, like passion fruit dough doughnuts, too. thank you for grace you’ve lavished on me, despite how “far” i feel from you. you’re awesome, i love you. amen.

it takes a village to go to law school

in a seemingly risky departure from american cultural norms/values, i would like to recommend living with your parents as a thirty-something — with the following caveats:

  1. this living situation is ideal after having lived apart from your parents.
  2. this living situation is ideal for minimizing expenses associated with earning a professional/graduate degree.
  3. this living situation is ideal if duration is fixed.

by “all,” i mean, “my bathroom, and maybe my bedroom eventually.”

i’d been away from home for almost twelve years, with almost eight of them after undergrad. i’ve traipsed along the spectrum of self-sufficiency during that time, and even as i enter my second year under my parents’ roof, i exercise fair amounts of freedom and autonomy.

my friend gavin, who could possibly be my fraternal twin brother in a parallel universe somewhere, told me a few years ago that God would shed light on the meaning of “family” for me. i’m convinced that those dozen years i spent outside of my hometown was a season of revelation of what it looks like to be in God’s family; my spiritual family grew exponentially. now i believe that the past year and the next three years (at least) will be a season of recovery: both of vision for my biological family, and taste for the kingdom of God here in new york city.

living with mom and dad as a “grown” woman has been, in a word, enlightening. parental instinct is like the shelf-life of fruitcake: indefinite. the instances my parents have handed me cash — gas money, or just because — outnumber the times i’ve asked them for financial help.

i could, and hopefully will, in the near future, dedicate a post entirely to the fruit and fallout of being told, “you’re just like your father.” suffice it to say in this post that living as an adult with your parents proves that “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” i learned whence my massive sweet tooth cometh when i watched daddy-o help himself to some nutella, of which i thought i was the sole consumer. but also, why i enjoy watching jeopardy! as much as i do? #mymothermyself [gathering proverbial worms back into equally figurative can]

information about summer law institute (SLI) and pre-law orientation finally hit my inbox a week or so ago. i learned which classes i’m taking, and who’ll be teaching them (except for legal research). today, i begin my second day of SLI, aka bridge over nine-year gap from academia.

law school so far reminds me more of high school than university in that my law school is public, and that i commute via public transportation. thankfully, and more importantly, i enjoyed high school quite a bit. true to my contrarian/optimist tendencies, i believe that i will enjoy law school, too — thanks muchly to the motley crew that is our 1L class, i’m sure.

in addition to illuminating my roots, living with my parents offers the support i need for the next few years as a commuter law student. at a practical level, not paying rent, not worrying about grocery shopping, and not having to fish for quarters to wash my clothes will free me to grapple with contracts and learn three-word latin phrases and legal terms.

my spiritual family prayed me into law school, and i’m so grateful that the encouragement of said people will keep acting as grease to keep me going as i kick into high gear. but now, my natural family will play a key role in getting me through law school.

it’s a divine, counterintuitive exchange: by surrendering or postponing my declaration of independence, i get to trace my origins and said examination of my roots will help me better understand my identity. this in turn refines my sense of individuality in a way that i wouldn’t be possibly by myself.

in that light, sleeping in a twin bed and decorating my imaginary apartment only on pinterest and in my dreams for the next three years ain’t no thang.