40 Day Journey’s End: Examen

40 Day Journey’s End Examen 1: Reading of this post.

I finally finished my 40 day Journey with Julian of Norwich on Shrove Tuesday, just in time for the beginning of Lent. While the time since then has certainly been very full – I have left the classrooom and I am setting up as an online tutor – I have been pondering the Journey in the back of my mind. Here feels like the suitable point to make an Examen of my journey and the fruits that it has borne. I began the journey on Thursday 5th December 2019 and in that time, completely filled the prayer journal that I had started at the beginning of the third week of the Spiritual Exercises, and I finished the journal with the last entry of the Journey, the day before the beginning of Lent! A strange convergance: endings an beginnings. It had been my intention, in preparation for writing this post, that I read through my journey and summarise it all here, in a nice tidy blog post, a beautifully wrapped package; a wonderful display of the glory of God and the graces He so generously gives. And then I read my journal entries for Day 1 of my 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich. I realised immediately how impossible it would be to do that – there is too much. Each day warrants its own post. I will endeavour to do that as I continue posting on this blog. So, I closed my journal and decided to write an Examen here from my memories of this time on the Journey.

40 Day Journey’s End Examen 2 : Reading of this post.

Gratitude

I am grateful for all of the graces that I have received in this journey: the intimacy with God and the deepening trust; the fulfilment of the conversation about my working life which began during The Exercises and the courage to take that path. I am grateful for the affirmations of my work received through the people I am directing, through my guided prayers with Radio Maria England and through the retreats I have led. I am grateful for the friendship of Bill Stebbe, which grew in the time of that retreat day where I bought the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich and made the decision to make this pilgrimage. I am also grateful that I was able to accompany Bill in his dying, and for the grace of humility which I received during that time. And as Julian herself lived in the time of plague, and the current pandemic was an event waiting to happen at the time I picked up the book and began this journey, I am grateful for the relative safety in which I have been able to live and work throughout, and continue to be able to do so, even as I am weary of it.

Grace

I ask God for the grace to see my journey as He sees my journey.

40 Day Journey’s End Examen 3: Reading of this post.

Account

The predominant image I have from the Journey, and also from The Spiritual Exercises, is of myself as a child: not the memories of me as an actual child, but of my inner free child, Sunflower. I described her in the post All Things in a Hazelnut, where I picked up the book. This child is always open and honest with God. She says things as she sees and feels them, without dressing them up to make them palatable or acceptable. Even when she is restless and fractious, refuses to be held and wriggles in His arms saying:

Put me down! put me down!

He does, with some amusement, and watches over her tenderly as she does her worst and comes running back to His open arms when she realises her trouble and her need. And God loves and adores her, and regards her as precious. This is where God has been for me in this journey, and how I have turned away to those inordinate attachments that are self destructive to me, and then turned back again when I recognised that I had messed up again. As always, my tender loving God has picked me up and held me close once more.

Pardon

The free child is also open and honest when she recognises her mistakes. She does not try to justify or explain. Moved by her sorrow, her desire is simply to repair the relationship that she sees she has hurt by her behaviour. Asking for forgiveness is her expression of that sorrow. He listens and forgives.

Resolve to Amend

From here, the world is different. Things have changed.

And they have – I have been writing about the changes taking place in my life throughout this last year. It is not to say that these inordinate desires have been vanquished – they most certainly have not. I am still wrestling with the same distractions and resistances that I was dealing with at the beginining to the Journey. Sometimes, I am that little girl planting sunflower seeds with Him in the garden, full of wonder and awe. Sometimes I am still that fractious child, wriggling in His arms, trying to break free to do those naughty things that are not good for me and cause me, and perhaps others around me, pain and harm. To me on a bad day, it may feel that I have not made much progress, but to Him, well, maybe that Sunflower stalk is just a little bit taller as it reaches for the sun.

Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God

by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn, Miranda Francisco (Illustrator)

Diary of a Sunflower: 21 July, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Sunflower continues to oscillate and to question her relationship status and her disordered attachments within it.

I mustn’t let myself become dependent on him for anything – nor let him become dependent on me. I need to keep myself separate and be careful of making myself vulnerable – I think. It contradicts the understanding that I have that to love somebody unconditionally, you need to let go and be completely open to them. The ideal, I guess. All this up and down and the extremes that I am beginning to feel again. It’s no good. It’s not who I want to be. This tired out, put upon old dragon: resentful and always feeling criticised. I don’t want it. But he is an addict. He exhibits all the behaviour that goes with it and there are certain things that I need to accept about that. 

  1. I am powerless over his habit and him, and my life is unmanageable. 
  1. I cannot (at the moment) change my desire to have him in my life, so I must accept that the living situation is staying as it is. I need to accept that and live with it, so I must work on my own serenity. It is my responsibility to myself. 

“God grant me the serenity 

To accept the things I cannot change, 

Courage to accept the things I can, 

And wisdom to know the difference.” 

Diary of a Sunflower: template

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

I don’t know what was going on with me. A combination of tiredness and being emotionally drained with the aftermath of the death of a student. I did express my feelings and we talked about him moving out. I was able to realise what I actually do want – the happy ever after. I want all the barriers to that to be out of the way and perhaps what is distressing my subconscious is the idea that they never will be. The trust issue will always kick in. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 3 July, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Hey! It’s like being married to an alcoholic! Except I’m not. What have I done wrong? I didn’t give him a big pat on the back because he’s given it up again, as of today. Does he really expect me to believe him? When will I have had enough? 

One of the students in school died last week of a brain haemorrhage. Quite suddenly. 

I feel like I did when I was a teenager at home. God, how much longer will I put up with this? I am not happy. But I am not trapped. It’s important to remember that. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 11 June Year 4.

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Why am I such a difficult person to love? I don’t understand why he is on my case so often. I’m not sure if I’m very happy in this relationship anymore. I love him, I really do, but I seem to elicit this anger in him – just as I did with my ex. Maybe I’m just an impossible person to live with. Maybe the negatives are beginning to outweigh the positives. There has always been some excuse since he moved in, but maybe we can’t, really can’t live together.  

I want serenity in my life, a certain peacefulness and lack of conflict, and the knowledge that God is there. I yearn for this. Yet, I recognise that yearning for romantic love and oneness too. Maybe this is my dichotomy that can’t be resolved. I can have serenity or love, but not both – maybe I have to choose. It’s not just about me, but there are certain patterns that repeat themselves. One of them relates to emotional dependence (or independence). At the weekend I needed some support, but it wasn’t forthcoming. I can be emotionally independent, but does that mean I always have to be? 

The other thing is living up to expectations – being put on a pedestal. Still the anger comes when I don’t live up to it, and how can I possibly? Is it like this for all women, or is it just me? Am I so full of myself and my rights that I’m unreasonable in my expectations, regardless of what I might think? Things were so much easier when I was young and insensitive to men’s feelings. Maybe I need to be like that again: Just “This is the way it is, and if you don’t like it…” I don’t know where we go from here, but I can’t see it continuing.

Diary of a Sunflower: 6 June, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

I feel really sad today – melancholy and withdrawn. I woke up in a bad mood yesterday morning and it’s just carried on from there. Today I’m tired and weary and I’m not altogether sure why. It occurred to me earlier that I had a sense of loss, like grieving. Except I’m not sure what for. Two things happened the night before last: 1. I finished Phillip Pulman’s trilogy, The Amber Spyglass and 2. I started on a diet. Don’t know if either is related. Maybe it is the book that had disturbed me so much. I can dismiss Pulman’s perception of God as shallow and naïve and devoid of any significant understanding of what it is that he is attacking; I can feel superior, or even just better, that he had to denigrate God to an angel, a lesser being – even almost as one made of flesh – just so that he could kill Him off easily in his book. And that he chose to make Him old and helpless, like a baby. Maybe it’s the description of a world without God – where people have the responsibility to create a republic of heaven – maybe it’s that idea that has depressed me so much? And in what way did Mary Malone tempt Lyra? And did he really perceive that “original sin” was sex? Please! And how was Lyra like Eve? Because she could choose the right or the wrong thing? And Will’s responsibility in the choice? His concept of God was seriously lacking, but would you expect an atheist to understand God – or anything about God, for no-one can really understand God. Could you really expect anyone to have any understanding of God and still be an atheist? So, I should not really be surprised at his naivety regarding God, nor that he should have to bring Him down, so to speak, so that he can destroy Him. The concept of God even seems to be an idea that Pulman can’t get his head around. This book could only have been written by an atheist; I think. 

I also wondered today if it was about my relationship with Sedation; if I’d become aware and was grieving for something this relationship would never be? I was thinking a lot about trust the other day and whether it was right or wrong to be holding something back. The conclusion I came to after talking to Sedation is that it might not be the ideal, but it is necessary. If you don’t give it all up though, it will never be a marriage, and maybe that realisation is the source of my grief. I don’t think I will ever marry him, because I don’t completely trust him. I know that I can’t. His addiction gets in the way of me doing that. So, I have to hold back; I have to protect myself and my children, and maybe it is that knowledge that has made me so weary. Sometimes I don’t like sharing my space with a man and I wish it was just me and my children. I don’t know where to go from here. Maybe just be that Samaritan woman at the well and accept that he is not my husband, nor will he be and while I love him, I should remember that he is not, and that my children are my responsibility. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 3 June Year 4.

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Life can be quite lonely sometimes. What do I want? Serenity, I want serenity. Do I have that with Sedation? – sometimes, in the sense of being, just being, in a quiet, tranquil sort of way but that deeper sort, knowing that JC is there, that’s more elusive. Meditation is difficult to get into, although the tai chi is doing me a lot of good.  

Serenity – that’s what I want in my life. I don’t believe it’s possible all the time – and maybe that would be boring? 

Diary of a Sunflower: 28 May, Year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

I’m doing tai chi and getting really into it. I’m not being all that successful with meditating though. I tried to do the cross-legged Buddhist posture, but I keep getting pins and needles in my foot. I need to get the position right or give up trying that one. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 20 May, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

The hot and cold turmoil of Sunflower’s relationship with Sedation continues in the same vein, with her oscillating in her reflections about the relationship. Here, she has spent the evening with a friend, Hunger, who has an eating disorder. The evening has not gone very well. 

Addicts! Who needs them? Not me anyway. Right now, I’ve had enough of it. Who’s supporting me? My diary. I feel the need to withdraw from them all. Reassert my independence emotionally. Bloody addicts. They’re quick to draw on your resources but they can’t do it when you want/need something. It always has to be on their terms. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 8 May, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

God, is this relationship worth it?