The Brood: In the Throes of It

by Holly Mohr

I’m having a hard time getting in Brood mood today, which is kind of a funny thing. Our series is predicated on digging into sometimes-uncomfortable territory, but today (for about a week and a half, really), I have just been far too emotionally uncomfortable to talk to you about being emotionally uncomfortable.

It’s more accurate, I guess, to say I am in Brood mood—I’m just not in the mood to tell you about it.

It’s a lot to reveal yourself over and over, measuring out what’s appropriate, what’s too much, what will heal and what will wound (self and others). You know that feeling of wanting to hide under your desk in a little ball, shaking back and forth? #mood

I feel it in my body. My chest has been constricted for days; my shoulders are hunching in on themselves whenever I don’t consciously straighten my posture.

My body remembers how to hide, how to scrunch up and make itself smaller, more hidden, until the storm passes, a skill I learned decades ago.

This is not how I like to live my life; it’s not how I usually do life (thank you, God!), but sometimes something triggers the preservation reflexes enough that I start to burrow.

When I remember to have the courage to straighten my posture, to engage the world head on, I look to my left, and I see the turquoise Corita Kent plaque next to my desk. It nudges me back to life. A little.

A friend gave me the plaque after a recent trip he made to California. I literally jumped up and down as I unwrapped it. The plaque is a reproduction of “The Rules,” ten ways of “governing life” within the Immaculate Heart Art Department in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

I love rules. Especially when I make them. They place a reassuring finitude on what could become a quicksand of choices, expectations, fears, projects, etc. I have rules about everything, from the ridiculous (ask me how I get dressed in the morning) to the practical (I have a system for how I plan every single day and get each category of work done).

Corita’s “Rule 9” is the one I’m trying to remind myself to internalize this week: “Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.”

I love that she knows it might be hard to manage that. It gives me some kind of permission to let go of the pressure, the seriousness (even of my propensity toward pressure and seriousness).

 I come from a people drowning in emotion. Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate the capacity to feel. But not everything is so heavy. My default is heavy; my gratitude is with those who make the yoke easy and the burden light.

When Corita says it, I trust it. This is no Instagram-generated pep talk. We’re talking about a woman living and working during the Civil Rights Era, the pre, during and post-Vatican II decades, an artist and religious sister whose work made real contributions to social justice, the Church’s self-understanding and Pop Art. Nothing about her place, time or work is simple. She isn’t peddling optimism: this is hope.

I believe in hope. I believe that the God Who Makes All Things New, the Creator Who Is Love, is working all around, and within me.

As I write, my chest still feels pinched, my shoulders are still hunched over, I don’t have an answer to my soul-sucking dilemma, and I can’t imagine how I’ll handle extroverting at tonight’s work event. I may even genuinely crawl under my desk at some point today. But that is not the end of the story.

I have seen joy bloom out of darkness before, and I have watched third ways sprout from binary systems. Light is on the way.

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