Welcome! I’m Barbara and one thing I want to make clear straight away is that I am determined to live a full, generous, and creative life, one filled with love and laughter, despite chronic pain and disability. This is a good time to plug in one of my favorite quotes, by Joseph Campbell:
We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
It has taken me decades to get here, but I think I am finally–it’s a process, and painful and wonderful process–beginning to arrive at the place Campbell writes of.
Four (?!) years ago I graduated with a hard-earned Master’s in Theology and planned to work as a hospital or hospice chaplain. My dream for…oh, about twenty years, ever since the first time I tried to get my Master’s and did a chaplaincy internship. Back then I had to drop out because of my fibromyalgia. I had thought, after intensive treatment at a pain clinic, that I was fit enough for graduate school,,, and I was until I was in a mild fender-bender that led to whiplash and neck surgery and chronic migraines. And then there are the dizzy spells that make me back out and fall down. In October of 2015, I fainted and broke my foot in several places, which (naturally) required two surgeries to repair. And there is the myofascial pain syndrome too. So, the chaplaincy is not happening. Actually work, in ministry or not, is not happening.
While I adore my husband (patience of a saint, and a sense of humor too–absolute necessities for a life with me) and I love being a doggie-mama, both George and I had hoped for a few children of the less furry kind, that (hopefully) could walk on two legs instead of four. Alas, that was not to be, but after much weeping after baby showers as well as the baby and toddler clothing section at Target, I’m coming to accept that God has other plans for us, adoption and fostering both not an option because of my health. I’m not sure yet what they are, but I’m learning the virtue of patience, although it’s not my strong point.
But I digress. In one way I am lucky: my two passions are words and images. Writing and photography. Journaling, blogging, writing, shooting with my camera, playing with editing my photographs. I can express myself, explore my world, find God’s fingerprints, search for grace, for beauty, for love. In between migraines, when I’m able to write, I dig into stories of discouragement and heartbreak, of contentment and joy, of love and grief and what it means to be human. And photography is all about finding grace in the little things–like flowers (always, lots and lots of flowers!) puppies, and sitting on the rocky shore of Lake Superior and, old letters written by my grandmother in the 1930s…
I have experienced a lot of dark places but often I find that grace shines through, although it takes me a while to see it. In my hospital room, in the dark of night, in my struggles with childlessness, in my worst nightmares, when I buried my parents…all of these are places where I have experienced God’s presence in special ways. And more and more, I have come to think that the people who love us, whether friends, family, teachers, neighbors, etc., show something of God’s love for us. And I am blessed to have experienced a lot of love!
It often requires a conscious effort on my part to notice these everyday wonders, and tell the truth, there are days I can’t see them at all. I’m not a saint, pain makes me irritable and gloomy and bitter and resentful (on my worst days, and I have many of them). It’s been years since I have felt “well” or had a day without pain. Sometimes I feel as though my entire youth was stolen from me…and then I remind myself how much fun I’ve had in spite of it all, and how blessed I was to meet my husband, to have a circle of supportive friends, to find a fantastically awesome parish that has represented the best of the Catholic Church to me.
This is my life. This is my one life, the only one I will ever get. As a favorite poet, Mary Oliver asks, “…tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?” In the final analysis, I refuse to live an unlived life. Let’s be real here. I have many bad days, when I’m trapped in bed and unable to write or do anything else because of a migraine. There are times I get so lonely from being stuck at home all of the time I want to grab the first stranger I see walking past the house and drag them inside, tie them up, and force them to talk to me.
Yet, I still make a conscious, deliberate choice to seek out the blessings in the chaos and the pain, the small miracles, the graces. And there I have not been disappointed. I’ve also found activities that nourish my soul, my mind, my heart–photography, writing, nature, reading, gardening occasionally, long walks with or without the dog, prayer and meditation.
So I’m writing this blog for you, my fellow spoonies of all sizes, shapes, and ages; and I’m writing this for you, my darling photography friends who keep me going with your encouragement: and most of all I’m writing this for you, my beloved friends and family and friends-to-be, because I love you, and I want to share my world of grace with you.
Updated February 21, 2019