In My Peace I Give You, Dawn offers her own experience of healing from a troubled sexual past with the help of the Saints. I didn’t find this book as helpful as The Thrill of the Chaste but I think that may be because of the way I read it, rather than a flaw in Dawn’s writing. A lot of the arguments flew over my head because I was flying through the pages so I do think it would merit a slower, more thoughtful reading.
Another less-than-24-hour read for me, Something Other than God chronicles Jennifer’s journey from confirmed atheism to the Roman Catholic Church.
I first came across Jennifer as an occasional rider of her blog ‘Conversion Diary’ when I was myself journeying towards the Church. She came across as intelligent, well-read and honest. In her book, she’s just the same!
This is a hard book to review mainly because of the Afterword by Cardinal Timothy Dolan who praises its excellence far better than I possibly could. However, if you’re wondering why an intellectually mature woman would choose Catholicism over doing her own thing for the rest of her life do read it. You’ll be glad you did.
I saw Vicki interviewed on EWTN over the Easter weekend and just had to get her book. I read it in less than 24 hours and have started to do as she suggests and get down to some serious spiritual reading.
Like me, Vicki read and read and read about her faith but without any real structure to her reading. She found (again, like me) that this meant she tended not to implement many (any?) of the good intentions she acquired from her reading so didn’t really grow despite being a very well-read Catholic. Let’s face it, there are so many wonderful books out there and I have a tendency to be blown from one to the next with very little thinking time in between reads.
How to Read your Way to Heaven offers a new-to-me approach. Instead of just reading freely during spiritual reading time, the book contains a plan. In fact, it contains three – a one-year, a three-year and a five-year plan. Each plan allows for about 30 minutes of reading, five days a week which isn’t such a huge commitment, especially once you learn to be a little flexible and not tie yourself up in the check-boxes. Vicki says herself that, although she broadly sticks to the program, the five-year plan took her longer than that to complete due to pressures of life, other reading projects, etc. The important thing is to read intentionally and to keep going through the inevitable difficulties.
I have begun the five-year plan as it is, obviously, the most comprehensive. At the moment, this means reading a chapter of Matthew, a bit of the Catechism and a bit of Rome Sweet Home each day. I’m making some notes and highlighting as I go and am enjoying my reading. It’s early days and Miss All-or-nothing would like to race ahead and start checking off all those lovely little boxes but five years is a long time. I’m pacing myself. And that means I also have time for other things 🙂
It has long been my custom to weigh myself first thing every morning and write the number on a calendar. When my focus was on weight-loss I found that very motivating. A bit too motivating when it was paired with attending a slimming club and I was restricting or fasting.
The scales are now broken as is the habit. And I won’t be replacing them. I won’t be re-establishing the habit even though it was gratifying to watch the numbers go down and down.
The number on the scales does matter. It’s a guide to health. It can tell me that something needs to change. But it can also be a tyrant. And I don’t need a tyrant sitting at the foot of my bed.
I do, however, need to know what I weigh. So I’m going to ask my CPN to weigh me each month when I see her. She’s offered to do this for me in the past and it’s time to take her up on her offer.
Oh, to be thin! To see my hips! To be size 8!
Really? Is that really what I want?
It’s not, you know. And it hasn’t been what I wanted for quite a while now.
I want to be healthy and strong. That’s what makes me happy. Being skinny … I don’t even find that attractive in other people so why would I want it for myself?
I can remember weighing nearly 16 stones (224lbs). My back hurt. I didn’t sleep well. I couldn’t manage basic tasks without pain and breathlessness. Today I weigh about 13 stones (182lbs). My back doesn’t hurt. I sleep well. I can manage basic tasks without discomfort (save for the Ankle of Doom which is improving). At 5’1″, I’m still obese and, therefore, unhealthy. And I still have my belly which I don’t much like.
I used to want to be thin. Skinny. Slender. I was aiming for 7.5 stones (105lbs). That’s what I weighed when I was a student. And then I was looking to shed another 7lbs. It wasn’t realistic then and it certainly isn’t so now. I was a wraith. I felt like the wind could blow me over. And I don’t want to feel like that again.
Instead, I want to be healthy and strong. The strong bit is important. Being strong means I can work a full day on the plot. Being strong means I can lift bags of compost. Being strong means I can do the things I want to do. And being healthy is kind of an added bonus – it’s something I’ve not had for a very long time.
So skinny is out. Healthy and strong is in.
My parish has recently set up a CTS bookshelf. CTS is the ‘Catholic Truth Society’, the publisher to the Vatican and their book(lets) are excellent. I’ve used them since discovering then as a cheap source of good information in the Catholic bookshop when I first became interested way back when I was too scared to set foot in a Catholic Church.
In this context, ‘vocation’ doesn’t mean so much what career one will follow but what one’s state in life is to be. So one might be called to marriage, the Priesthood, or single life, for example. A career would run parallel to one’s vocation.
I was hesitant to read Fr Wang’s booklet. It might tell me something I’d regret hearing. Because if God wants me to be a Religious Sister in a Bolivian orphanage … he’ll have a fight on his hands. And I know I might lose. Maybe it’s better to pootle along in ignorance!
But I knew I had to. I’ve drifted along for long enough and it isn’t really making me happy. So I took a deep breath and plunged in with a highlighter pen. Because if you’re going to fight with God, you need to do your research. I’m so glad I did. And I’m so glad I used that highlighter because now I’m going through it again and really thinking about those yellow highlights.
The good news is that I do not believe God wants me to be a Religious Sister, in a Bolivian orphanage or otherwise. Fr Wang is quite clear on this. Thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies – otherwise known as ‘desolation’ – which is a definite sign that this is not God’s will for me. If you think about it, that makes sense. God is good. God loves me. So why would he want me to choose a life the thought of which fills me with dread?
So I’m going to go through the booklet again, working with the ideas on discernment and decision making that Fr Wang presents so clearly and kindly. Some doors are closed to me – and I’m sad about some of them, happy about others. Some doors are open. I’ll let you know if I decide to walk through.
I think I’m done with diets. I hope I’m done with diets. They’ve done me a lot of harm over the years and I’ve lost more weight and, more importantly, maintained the loss over the past year without one. I’ve also not restricted or fasted which is what diets tend to encourage me to do. This is especially true when I become involved with slimming clubs and am weighed by someone else who’s likely to deliver a lecture if I’ve gained weight and praise if I’ve lost. I’m a sucker for a simple ‘Well done!’
The more observant among you may remember that I signed up to WeightWatchers Online a while back. I wanted a ‘brake’ on my eating because I was enjoying my food and not paying attention to my portion sizes. I only used the site for a couple of weeks and have since cancelled my subscription. I do sometimes need that brake but, in future, I’m resolved to calorie count for a bit instead. There are plenty of free sites around which will allow one to do so.
The way I eat now is definitely not a diet. It is simply giving my body the food it runs best on. My mouth likes it. My brain likes it. My stomach likes it. My muscles (I do have some!) like it. I have energy and feel well. The alternative is to eat according to someone else’s prescription. We’re not all the same. What works for me might not work for you.
Now would be a good time to declare ‘No more diets. Ever.’ I can’t do that. Yet. Even saying ‘No more diets?’ is a little scary. Actually, it’s very scary. I’ve had issues around what I eat and what I weigh for a very long time. I’m not feeling very confident, to be honest. There’s something very comforting about using a prescription even if it is someone else’s. But I’m a 44 year old woman. I’m not a child who needs to be told to eat her greens or there will be no dessert. So, no more diets. For now.