Sunday, October 4, 2015

I have this problem when I pray...

And it is that I start totally worrying and fretting over the thing I am praying about, as I am praying about it.

It makes me a nervous wreck.

It doesn't make for a very good prayer life.

And I should really know better.


I am a 52-year-old Catholic lady. I have been praying for a long, long time. But, it suddenly dawned on me, a couple of months ago, that over the past 10 years, I have turned my prayer life into a source of constant stress.

I guess it kind of all started when something bad -- very, very bad -- happened to my family. I will not get  into all that here, but the stress associated with that event started to affect my prayer life. I didn't really notice it, but as I look back, I can see where it started. And over the past few years, my parents both passed away after long struggles with illness. My dad died of cancer and my mom died of complications associated with congestive heart failure and subsequent heart surgery. None of it was pretty. But, through everything I prayed and -- somehow -- prayer stopped being a source of peace for me and became, instead, a source of stress. I didn't really see all of this clearly, until rather recently.

This is now what I do when I pray: I sit quietly, I place myself in the presence of God, I thank Him for the many blessings I have received, and I begin to speak to Him about my concerns and intentions. And then my mind begins to wander down all the possible and terrible paths the situations I am concerned with might take. And I wonder if God will stop these situations from taking on these awful forms. I begin to get all upset with all the suffering people in the world and I wonder if God will send something good my way when He obviously didn't send something good the way of the Doctors Without Borders hospital. And then I start envisioning the carnage at the Doctors Without Borders hospital. And then I start thinking about the insanity of so many "Christians" these days, who are so mean. And then I get rather annoyed with God. And then I realize that it's really not God's fault, because God gives us our freedom, including the freedom to do horrible things to each other. And then I wonder why I am even praying, at all. And I become convinced that the worst possible thing is going to happen to the person I had been meaning to pray for at the beginning of my prayer. And then I'm like, "Stop this nonsense, Marla!" And I get up and fold laundry.

Now, before all you theologians start telling me all the faults in my reasoning here, I will just say one thing to you. STOP. Do not say anything to me. Because I am freaking good at theology, even though you might not know it from some of the things I write about. I know how to logically argue everything about God and free will and sin and suffering in the world. I know about the Economy Of Salvation. I sent my kids to three of the most conservative Catholic colleges IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. I am a damn good armchair theologian, damnit. I know how DESTROY the reasoning I used in the above paragraph. Somehow, though, logic is not enough. I have to look at God and myself and just sigh. And maybe that's okay. Everything is not clear-cut and clean. Even in the Christian life, there is a lot of murk and crap to wade through. If there wasn't murk and crap to wade through, there wouldn't have to be any "faith," would there? Sometimes shitty things happen. And sometimes they don't resolve well and you really don't know the why of it all.

So, this is what I have decided to do. This coming liturgical year is the year of mercy, as declared by Pope Francis. And I think I am just going to immerse myself and all the people and situations I care about into God's mercy and try to be merciful. Instead of sitting and explaining to God all of my problems and concerns -- thus causing my imagination to travel to the worst of the worst places -- I will just try to release things into His mercy.

Because when it comes down to it, I do believe in God. I do believe we are fallen.


Because -- to me -- it is the best explanation of why we all do the shit we do to each other and to our world. The shit we do is not really explainable on a purely evolutionary level. Now, I am not a Creationist. I have a biology degree and I respect the theory of evolution and believe it makes a lot of sense. But, it truly does not explain the shit we do. And The Fall does. Very well. And if The Fall is real, it affects me. It affects all of us. And this is why Jesus said, "Do not judge, lest you be judged." He was basically telling us that none of us has anything to brag about. We are all capable of enormous shit. Including me. And so the answer is mercy. At least for me.

And that is how I am going to attempt to rectify my prayer life.

Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner. Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hiking In Runyon Canyon -- A Comedic Blog Post

There is this place in LA where the "it" people, the wanna be "it" people, a lot of in-shape college people, and some "never get old never say die" middle-aged people go to hike. It is called Runyon Canyon.

I can't remember exactly where I heard of Runyon Canyon. Probably somewhere on social media.

But, anyway...

One weekend, this past Spring, my daughter Bridget went on a retreat with the young adults of St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica. That is a whole story unto itself, which I shall not tell right now. But, as you may know, because of health issues, Bridget doesn't drive. So, I drove her up to the retreat, which was at a beautiful retreat center in Malibu. And since I didn't want to make two round-trip drives to LA in 48 hours, I decided to just get a hotel room and amuse myself in this wonderful area for a couple of days. And one of the ways I decided to amuse myself was to go hiking in Runyon Canyon.

And it's a very good thing I can laugh at myself.

I am 52 years old. I recently lost 55 pounds, which means I can fit into a cute exercise outfit. That doesn't mean, though, that I am in actual "shape." Because I am not. I don't look too bad, for a 52-year-old, but my workouts consist mostly of walking up and down my stairs with baskets of laundry and strolling around the block with my two greyhounds. Greyhounds, though they may run VERY fast, walk VERY slow. No shit. On the plus side, I am rather tan, due to my Italian heritage. My tan, combined with my weight loss and my cute exercise outfit, gave me the courage to make my way to the hiking trails of Runyon Canyon. I figured that I could sort of blend in with the "it" people and the "in-shape" people, which I did. Other things which gave me the courage to go to Runyon Canyon were that I am, basically and in many ways, not very self-conscious, difficult to embarrass, and rather adventurous. And a little bit divorced from reality. Which is why I really love LA. There are MANY people there who are just like me.

So, early one Saturday morning, this past Spring... (Well, it wasn't that early. Because now that I am 52, I don't do early.)

So, late one Saturday morning, this past Spring, I activated Google Maps on my iPhone and made my way from Santa Monica to Runyon Canyon. And I discovered that Runyon Canyon is actually right smack-dab in the middle of a rather "edgy" LA neighborhood. The people inhabiting this neighborhood are all about 20 years younger than I and worth about 20 million dollars more. (Okay. I am exaggerating. A little.) And the neighborhood is composed of steep hills with practically no parking anywhere to be found. There really isn't a Runyon Canyon hiking trails parking lot. At least as far as I could find. And if there was, I'm sure it was all full. So, I drove around and around and around and finally found a parking spot MANY blocks from the entrance to the hiking trails. And did I mention? All of the streets leading to Runyon Canyon are on steep hills. And you don't walk DOWN to get to the hiking trails. You walk UP. UP and UP and UP. So, I was kind of panic-stricken, for two reasons. The first reason was that I was afraid I would never find my car again, because I was totally disoriented. I did have Google Maps on my iPhone, but this weekend was the first time I had used it without Bridget's help and I wasn't sure what I was doing. I had visions of having to call the LAPD for help finding my car. And I was afraid the LAPD would send hot cops to help me and I would be embarrassed in front of them. I figured that they -- being hot LAPD cops -- would be sophisticated enough to see through my facade of tan skin and cute-workout clothes to the poser that I really was. Secondly, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to walk up all the hills to get to the actual hiking trails without collapsing from exhaustion, let alone be able to actually hike once I got there. I almost got back in the car to go back to Santa Monica to eat fancy desserts.

But, I said to myself, "NO. You will do this thing, damnit. And you will use your Google maps and not have to call the hot LAPD cops." And I proceeded to walk up ALL THE HILLS to get to the hiking trails.

And I was successful.

Frankly, all the people on the trails were very nice. They smiled and said good morning and were generally cordial. I find that all the LA people are pretty nice to me. LA people have to be nice to every middle-aged person they see who is halfway decently dressed and has a good hair colorist, because that person might -- JUST MIGHT -- be an indie producer who could fund their next project. And do I use that fact to my advantage? Yes. Yes, I do. And I have funded certain indie projects, too. So, I don't feel horrible about it.

I greatly enjoyed my hike. It was a lot of fun. There were many cool dogs, who were happy to see me. I heard interesting people talk about their interesting bosses. There were some darling young couples on first dates. The view was amazing. All in all, it was quite a pleasant experience.


I got to the downhill railroad-tie staircase with the slippery gravel soil all around it.

You see? I have a bad knee. A REALLY bad knee. A knee that is not at all reliably stable on slippery downhill surfaces.

I took a couple of tentative steps down the railroad-tie staircase and started to slide, my bad knee giving me absolutely no help.

Thankfully, there were large rocks positioned around the railroad tie staircase, so I was able to artfully slide my ass onto one of them, acting like I did the whole thing on purpose in order to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the view.

So, I sat. And sat some more. Rather unsure of how I was going to get the hell down.

A few hot guys of varying ages asked if I was okay and if I needed any help. I said, "No. I'm fine." I don't really know why I said that. I really should have availed myself of the hot guy help. LA guys -- and gals -- really are nice people, you know? A lot of them come from the mid-west in order to become "industry" people, and they bring a lot of those mid-west values and manners with them. I really do love the "industry" people. I have heard that they can be rather cut-throat. They are never cut-throat to me, though, because I am not -- in any way, shape, or form -- their competition. That is very clear to them. So, they are just always really nice to me. And -- in return -- I love them and donate to their very cool Kickstarter projects.

Eventually, I did make my way down the staircase. I descended by scooting my butt from one rock to the next rock, all the time pretending that I was just stopping to enjoy the magnificent view. And once I was safely at the bottom of that evil staircase, I did an inward victory dance and proceeded hiking the rest of the trail. Which -- thanks be to God -- was all downhill from there. I was quite pleased with myself. In fact, I was so pleased with myself that I no longer feared having to call the LAPD to assist me in locating my car. I brazenly whipped out my iPhone and turned on my Google Maps and found it.


And then I drove back to Santa Monica and got myself a nice lunch. ;-)