Sunday, May 30, 2010

quick Doula update

Dear readers, I got an e-mail this morning from Sarah, the Doula I was going to be training with next month. She will not be able to to do the training at the time planned and rescheduling is not clear. I am still registered with a Doula network but am considering taking a some time to consider the track I want to follow before committing to another training (including considering a different trainer). That said, I am going to remove the donation gadget on this page and withdraw my request for support. This stage of the process (reading, talking to people, etc) requires very little financial investment and I don't want to collect funds for an unknown future workshop. Thanks so much to those who have already contributed, I will be refunding you, either through paypal or by sending a check.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Amy the Doula?

Hello dear readers, you may or may not have noticed the presence of a new gadget on the upper right hand side of my blog. I'm referring to that gold button inscribed with the dubious word, "donate." I feel a little foolish having it there and would like to explain the reasoning for it. The following is an excerpt from a letter I've composed for friends and family. If you have already received my "Where I am, Where I am going" letter, save yourself the trouble of reading any further!

June 21-28, Doula Training Workshop

Dona International describes a Doula as “a knowledgeable, experienced companion – who stays with them [mothers] through labor, birth and beyond” ( I’ve recently taken an interest in learning more about and possibly becoming a midwife. The first step for me is becoming a certified, practicing Doula. When I consider where this interest rose from and why, the rationale seems simultaneously obvious and vague. There are several reasons that this trade appeals to me and I will attempt to enumerate on a few here:

When I contemplate what I am most passionate about, what I value and would risk my safety and lay aside my comfort for, I think of Life. Granted, this is a rather broad. I have a friend who is a great admirer of Albert Schweitzer and through him I picked up Schweitzer’s oft used phrase, “reverence for life,” adopting it as a guiding principle for how I engage in encounters with people, animals and the earth. What a beautiful thing it would be to be trained in a practice that would allow me to be involved in what may be the most essential process of human life, for both a mother and child, to participate in birth!

I am motivated too by a frustration with the way that this natural, beautiful, process is often relegated to the realm of being a medical condition. Women are filtered through hospitals, treated as if they have an illness. I become frustrated too that despite pregnancy being so often relegated to the medical realm, there is still such a high rate of infant and maternal mortality. This is especially true of women who, whether because of income, culture or color, find themselves in marginalized social groups. My imagination wanders to a place where I have the training and the connections that allow me to be present for women who too often go without the assistance and empathy of someone trained to companion them through what would ideally be a joyful albeit challenging experience.

I am attracted to this field, also, because it is complementary to the lifestyle I find myself drawn to. Doula training, volunteering on the border, Catholicism; these are all facets that stem from and strengthen what is an ever deepening desire to live responsibly, with reverence for life, with great intentionality and care. Thanks to remarkable parents, and wonderful siblings, friends and relatives, I have always been well-loved and encouraged toward being loving. I am keenly aware that my experience of life has been an exceptionally blessed. For the past several years I have been trying to learn how best to act out of my gratitude. My time living and working in Kentucky did much to challenge and refine my thinking, particularly with regard to how I understand and respond to others, and to being mindful of the consequences of my choices which effect far more than just me. Living in Chicago has led to deeper paradigm shifts. It has also been a catalyst for my becoming more practical and intentional about implementing my convictions into the way I live life on a day to day basis. I have often described integrity as “honesty with legs.” I want to walk in alignment with what I say I believe is right and good. Namely, to practice what Jesus preached about giving food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick and the prisoners—essentially, loving God and my neighbor--living in unity with those around me and sharing the burden of living in a broken world.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Clarification of Thought

May 14, 2010

This week I was stuck on the thought, “I can never be of service if I am not rooted.” Not a new thought for me, but an uncomfortably persistent one of late. It comes in company with the thought that if I pursue all my plans for the summer, I will have very little time here with my community. I may be off learning, collecting experiences, “doing good,” but what will I be building?

There is the thought of being in formation, and I believe that is a healthy and necessary thing. But what is the goal? Am I aiming towards it? Right now I am thinking it would have made a lot more sense to stick with interning at the LA CW than going to Africa. Dear God, lead me in my discernment. Please help me to not squander resources in seeking fulfillment. Please help me to not neglect the best in dividing my attention between various goods.

* * * * *
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends”
(Jn. 15:13).

For the first time, this saying of Jesus has struck me with a new depth, one that hits close to home. To lay down one’s life for one’s friends does no always mean to “take a bullet” on their behalf. To lay down one’s life can be a daily, lived sacrifice. To lay down the life you had planned, to lay down ambition, to lay down travel, to be present. Community is what is essential to demonstrate love.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

That someone puts all else aside and says, “I am going to be here for you.” The gospel reading from the Daily Office is John 15:12-17 and I just keep reading it over and over and though I don’t fully understand, my heart is pounding:

“You are my friends if you do what I command you…you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…these things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

You cannot bear fruit unless you are planted, least of all food that abides. How can you feed the hungry unless you bear fruit?

“These things I command you…”
“Greater love has no one that this, that someone lay down her life for her friends.”

As I consider these things, my thoughts keep turning toward Mary and Martha, toward the one thing…

“Martha was distracted with much serving…”
“’Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but only one thing is necessary…” (Lk. 10:40-42)

I felt like crying when I read this.

I think the time is right for me to intentionally and intensively learn to live by my convictions; here and now. I am fresh in commitment to God and to the Church and to community. How do I live that with integrity? How do I enter into the depth of that? Not by lingering online, skimming the surface of relationships. Not by stuffing myself with news until I am too full to process any of it. Not by committing myself to such a variety of events that I am distracted from the one thing that is necessary.

* * * * *

I read an article that I friend has written in another Catholic Worker’s newsletter. It was one more thing today that stirred my heart. He wrote about the things he was renouncing and I was moved and convicted. So much of what he wrote resonated strongly, I have spoken these same renunciations and yet I look at my life and see little movement beyond the small ripple of words. Where is the lack? It is all in such remarkable harmony with a conversation I shared in a late night chat with two dear friends at Gino’s the other night. What are the things—material items, habits, relationship patterns--in life we desire to renounce and yet continue to hold on to?

Here are a few for me:

 overuse of the internet
 unhealthy food and over-eating
 working toward being pleasing more than toward being honest and understanding
 seeking entertainment more than relationship
 doing something halfway and then moving on to something else
 criticizing others (non-constructively)
 speaking before considering the meaning of my words
 listening politely instead of lovingly
 waiting to be told what to do
 avoiding intimacy where it is relevant and seeking it where it is not
 wanting new things

May 15, 2010

I just got back from “Haunted by God,” a one woman play about the life of Dorothy Day. Initially, I had some reservations about the way the actress was portraying Dorothy and a few of her life’s events. But I had to admire the courage and energy of her performance. It was good also to remember that my perception of Dorothy is not the only one. It was good too, over the course of two hours, to be afforded the opportunity to revisit my initial reading of the Long Loneliness and Krupa’s class. Funny too, I saw K. last night at the White Rose roundtable where we were discussing the Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker.

The actions and discussions of this week have been so remarkably complimentary. Even tonight’s dinner with L. seemed perfectly placed. We talked about our plans for the summer and for the third time today I spoke about Africa. I feel that each time I talk about it, I am coming closer to an understanding of what I want, closer to a sense of what seems right.

It would be inaccurate to say that I don’t want to go. I do want to go. What is more appropriate is to say, I don’t want to be gone. The four weeks I have planned for Arizona and Los Angeles are already so much time to be away.

I don’t know what my job will be or where I will be living, but I am feeling like I want to be here because this is where my home is. This is where I am learning to be grounded and “rooted in love.” Before I go off to serve, I want to know where I am coming from and what I am bringing to offer. What is significant about being here is not that I have found a place to live, but a Way. A way of Being: being awake, being compassionate, being in community, being of service, being genuine, being bold, being humble, being the Body of Christ.

Here I am, Lord.

* * * * *

It is a lovely thought to me that amidst all this existential sowing and reaping, I have been planting physical seeds in the physical earth. Larry used to say, talking the trees in his yard of which he was so proud, “to plant a tree is a declaration of hope.” I think the same can be said of planting a garden. I think along with that hope there is an indication too of faith, and of commitment, and—if the fruit the garden bears is to be nourishing—it is an act of love.