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October 29th, 2017


When I was a child I remember sometimes complaining to my mother that I had nothing to do.  Sometimes she had suggestions.  Other times she found some task for me to perform. Usually, therefore I would find something to do myself.  This was before TV, of course.  We got our first TV with a 7 inch screen the year I was married. We did have a radio but it didn’t have the same fascination as the “window to the world” that TV presented.

As an adolescent one of the things I loved to do was read.  Every two weeks I’d walk, a considerable distance, to the library and take out as many books as were allowed.  When I wanted companionship all I had to do was go to Irene’s house and yell “Yo, Ireeene! and she would come out or I would go in.  A lovely family, the Marcinkos.  Wonder whatever happened to them after I moved away,   There was a group I walked home from school with. At that age menstruation was a big topic of discussion.  There was another group of kids for sledding down Tudor hill after a snowstorm.  Idle summer days were for exploring the fields at Hillside Home, finding new wild flowers, looking for the “ideal place” where I could just sit and enjoy nature and aloneness.  I raised rabbits in the backyard and grew flowers in my garden.  We had been given a piano and someone taught me Chopsticks. I taught myself one song from an actual music book.  I guess there wasn’t much native music talent as that pastime went nowhere.

What im getting at with all these rememberings is that we found “something to do” or someone to be with in our spare time, unplanned, spontaneous.  In those days, before TV, before smart phones and iPads, we found friends and actual things to do on our own.  They were real things to DO, and real people to do be with.  We were not entertained by TV all day.  We were not entranced by one thing after another on Facebook when TV grew tiring.  We would not spend time in a room with four other people, each on their own electronic gadget.

Today, in 2017, children are privy to a constant flow of electronic input.  INPUT!  It is fascinating, novel, intriguing, gripping. And never-ending,  There comes no time when there is “nothing to do.”  No time to just hang out with someone.  No time to just “wool gather.”  No clue as to what wool gathering might mean.  TV was turned on at awakening and went to sleep with it.  If we awoke in the middle of the night our first thought is to pick up the phone or the iPad to see what is happening out there.  No thought that something might happen “right here” if given half a chance.

“According to Victoria Prooday, Occupational Therapist & writer at, “There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children… Researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:

1 in 5 children has mental health problems
43% increase in ADHD
37% increase in teen depression
200% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old“
She goes on to say that “Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood:

Emotionally available parents
Clearly defined limits and guidance
Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
Movement and outdoors
Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom
Instead, children are being served with:

Digitally distracted parents
Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
Sedentary indoor lifestyle
Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments”

How true… and how sad.”

The article goes on to say that it’s not just teenagers, it’s also young kids- in elementary school. “Counselors like Ellen Chance in Palm Beach say they see evidence that technology and online bullying are affecting kids’ mental health as young as fifth grade, particularly girls.

Who would ever think that the absence of  “unstructured times” and “dull moments” would become a problem?

Years ago I was struck by a quote from philosopher Mortimer Adler who said  (paraphrased)  “We need idle time so that things can occur to us.”

It’s something to mull over, to muse about, if we can ever find the time.

Mostly, the uninterrupted, all-the-time input shuts out God.

“The world is too much with us, late and soon…”




October 12th, 2017


I used to have a file folder on agoraphobia but recently threw it out, thinking we have Google now.  Anyone who wants information on the subject has only to type out the word to get pages and pages of relevant material.  What I intend to post is simply my own personal experience for whatever it may be worth.

The day it all began is crystal clear.  I was a young mother of several children with a husband that couldn’t seem to hold a job.  After a period of unemployment we  had reached the point where I was checking pockets, looking for loose change.  When I noted a sign in the window of a nearby herb supplier for a part-time typist I went in and was hired. When I told my husband that I started Monday he said he couldn’t watch the kids because he had an appointment.  At that point something went “snap” in my head, and in a strange hoarse voice that I didn’t recognize I said, “What are you trying to do, drive me crazy!”  A few days later in the local store I felt uncomfortable and uneasy, as if I might become unglued.  This feeling of not being at ease in places where there were other people was to be with me for 25-30 years.

Etymologically, agoraphobia means a fear of the agora, which in Greece was a forum or place where people could gather.  I’m thinking the word has morphed to mean a enclosed place containing people to include a store, church, bus, meetings, etc.  It is typical of agoraphobics to sit in an aisle seat in the back of a church, for instance, so they can make a quick exit if they can’t stand that feeling anymore.  That the problem was mental was obvious when one felt just fine once outdoors and free.  When I’d go to the supermarket shopping with the kids the very worst part was waiting for my turn at the check-out counter.  I’ve read of people who ran off leaving a shopping cart full of groceries behind!

Eventually I saw a Catholic doctor for my problem, thinking he was Christian and had to love me even if I was crazy.   I’d take the trolley to his office, envying the other people on the trolley who seemed quite comfortable while I was just holding on till my destination.  I remember the doctor prescribed phenobarbital and I knew so little about drugs at the time that I feared I might become addicted.  This was the beginning of years upon years of Librium, Valium, Xanax, etc., to take the edge of the anxiety and help me to function.

At one point I recall my Catholic doctor said that I had despaired. Reflecting on this diagnosis I feel it was accurate.  Though I was a Catholic, trust in God was minimal.  When I made a last ditch effort to fix things by getting a job and found myself frustrated something snapped.  I knew how to obey and ended up with seven kids but trusting in God when I couldn’t fix things myself never occurred to me.  Later in the course of my agoraphobia  I remember in particular a day in church when I felt I was going to just dis-integrate, to fly off in a million pieces.  I said to God, “OK, if you want me to go crazy, I’ll go.”  I guess He didn’t want me to go crazy because I instantly felt perfectly well and went up to Communion at peace, as in the olden days.  Maybe it was something in the surrender, I don’t know.  I felt better for a few days, then back to the usual.

We moved with the seven kids from Chicago to Connecticut where we ran my parents’ motel for a year.  I learned to drive and seemed to function, agoraphobia and all.  When I got  a job at a hospital as a medical secretary I couldn’t handle the full day and switched to part-time.  I saw a psychiatrist and actually started to work for him as his secretary, all the time phobic and medicated.  When there was a shortage of school teachers a friend suggested I take a 6 week teaching course for college graduates and make more money teaching.  I did it, got a job teaching fifth grade in a local school.  I have to wonder how I lasted three months, medicated, always uncomfortable, never at ease in front of all those kids, barely hanging on, finally giving up.

And life went on.  Back in the 1980’s I joined a charismatic prayer group that started in my church.  The charismatic renewal was a nationwide movement with prayer for an infilling of the Holy Spirit as occurred when Mary and the disciples were gathered in the upper room waiting for the promise of Jesus (“you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”)  Acts 14.  Read your Bible, see what a difference the baptism in the a Holy Spirit made in His disciples.  If you are a follower of Jesus I cannot urge you too strongly to ask for more of his Spirit!  God forces nothing on us.  ASK!

I don’t know exactly when the agoraphobia left.  There were many healing masses, many prayers by many Christians.  A phobia, after all, is a fear.  My thinking is that as I grew in trust the spirit of fear was gradually edged out.  It is now gone.  For this I thank and praise God!

As a postscript I’d just like to add a word about being judgmental about others.  You cannot know their interior self well enough to be anything but kind.  Only God really understands and He is always ready to forgive and cut some slack.  Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  A simple, and time-honored, rule of thumb.