So far we have completed 3 sessions of the Internship in Spiritual Direction in the Ignatian Tradition. Three overnight trips from Milwaukee to Chicago—getting familiar with Chicago buses and trains. It is like a dream sequence. Forty years ago I traveled on those same bus and train routes to home, work, and school. As I look out the window now-scenes are superimposed on then-scenes. Very little seems to have changed yet it is all so different. I must admit that the platforms for the Elevated Trains give me pause. Could it be due to all those years in earthquake country?

As much as I love what I am studying I am also aware of the discomforts that accompany this adventure.  For example, there are the back-to-school anxiety nightmares; waking up in the very early morning too upset to sleep any more. (In one I was set to graduate when I got a call saying I still owed two papers but the staff didn’t know which course.) There is financial pressure. The homework challenges both my mind and my writer’s block. I feel anxious when I put out my ideas and insights in class or in a paper. Some of the stress is painfully akin to adolescent worries. Will I fit in? Will I be accepted? After all I am decades older than most of the students. Will I be able to cope with travel in a Chicago winter?

I ask myself: Why am I doing this? Why push myself? Why be uncomfortable? Why stress myself out?

Good questions! After all, there are so many cautions about the negative effect of stress and how to alleviate it, manage it, avoid it, be mindful of it, etc.

At this point I need to remember that it is crucial to balance those cautions with affirmations of how good stress can be for the mind/body/spirit. Adrenalin can be a benefit to the organism by boosting energy and mental acuity. Desire brings risk of disappointment but also focuses my concentration. Wanting something so badly wakes me up.

I am grateful that I absolutely want to attend this course. I am surprised by how powerfully I can desire something at my age. I guess I assumed that the capacity for desire dwindled with time, like hormones. Instead I am discovering that the capacity is still there but is fueled from a different source. If I stay with the desire the discomforts are irritating but not disabling. Happily I also get to feel the elation, at times almost euphoria, when I complete the homework and the overnight trip.