Things Keeping Us Alive, August ’16

Things Keeping Us Alive, August ’16 August 29, 2016

August 2016. This month had much fodder for brooding. And here at Sick Pilgrim, brooding is kind of our thing.

It's kind of what we do.
It’s what we do.

Contrary to what is easy for us, Saint Paul reminds us,

“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Phil 4:8

Fine, St. Paul, here you go: a couple things that remind us Sick Pilgrims that joy, and sunshine, and happy flowers exist. Once a month we blog about the things that give us a little bit of hope. Once every 30 long days.

It is indeed an effort.

Little victory?


One thing keeping me alive is from the aftermath of South Louisiana’s great flood, which I’ve reflected on again and again. Not at all to trivialize the heartbreak and devastation among my neighbors; one thing has stood out to me. Political discord lost its importance to me. In the presidential election, Trump will continue saying ridiculous things and Clinton will still seem untrustworthy. But not even the worst flood in 500 years can interfere with the unity of my local community. From a battered part of the country, I realize that political arguments, though necessary, are very insignificant compared to human fortitude.

Also keeping me alive, the existence of The Cajun Navy. No words. Luckily my roommate from grad school is Noel Marcantel, an awesome photographer.

I asked some other sick pilgrims what’s been keeping them alive. Here’s what they had to say.


Colleen Connell Mitchell has two goals in life: to write a book and to hug Lenny Kravitz. Her incredible first book is Who Does He Say You Are?: Women Transformed  by Christ in the Gospels. Your move, Lenny.

The words “Talitha Kumi”, my favorite in the Gospels and digging into a story I have read a million times and finding newness there. Plus this song based on that story, that beckons me out of bed on the days I’d rather play dead.

Private message chats with the Sick Pilgrims. Seriously. Snarky. Irreverent. Oddly mystic and cerebral. Life-giving. And funny as hell.
Elise Erikson Barrett is a former Methodist pastor, current Catholic mother, author of What Was Lost: A Christian Journey Through Miscarriage, and a singer-songwriter who recently released her second album, Valley: Hymns For Travelers…[And I feel accomplished when I remember to floss. –Matt]
My back porch. It’s screened and has my childhood porch swing on it, and I got one of those big long candles with porchthe two-inch-long wick that smells of woodsmoke and musk and I go out there after bedtime and listen to cicadas and frogs and drink a glass of something and breathe. I look forward to that moment all day long.
Also, Teresa of Avila and The Kraken spiced rum. I also can’t decide what more there is to say about either one. I pray with Teresa twice a day and am reading through The Way of Perfection (which Jesus put at the thrift store JUST FOR ME) and I ordered a beautiful little medal that’s all arts nouveau-y from Spain and I can’t wait until it gets here because then I will be a REAL CATHOLIC. As far as the rum is concerned: I’ve had a cold, and Jess told me licorice tea was good, so I tried this Throat Coat stuff I adore with a glug of Kraken in it, and it’s the stuff. My cold is much better.
Angelle Bollich is a definite part of the Sick Pilgrim family and is the heroine of her own story. Whether that means the drug or the champion is TBD.
Photo by Noel Marcantel Photography
Photo by Noel Marcantel Photography

The Great Flood of 2016 Aftermath- Personal anecdotes. Living in South Louisiana, it’s been hard to escape the Flood. Countless people lost everything and every time I go outside or get on social media, I’m reminded of it. It’s a tragic event that’s simultaneously uplifted and crushed me. I’ve logged onto Facebook this week much more frequently than I usually do because I’m struck by the goodness of my people. Strangers lay down everything for strangers. One of my friends got 6″ of water in her house and lost all of her shoes. I texted a few friends and received a trash-bag filled with shoes in her size. A friend’s friend lost everything and a secret Facebook group was formed to outfit his family with everything from furniture to clothes to basic household supplies and even artwork. A family I know suffered no damage, so they drove to a neighboring town, stopped at the first damaged house they saw, and helped that household for hours. These and countless other stories every day have filled my heart to the brim.

The Great Flood of 2016 Aftermath- My clean bedroom. During the Days of Darkness , AKA The Rains, I was restless, so I cleaned my bedroom. Typically my room is slightly messy and I don’t clean it often. I scoured it, did all my laundry, vacuumed, and steam-cleaned it.  I don’t remember the last time I cleaned it so well; I feel like I’m staying in a hotel. My squeaky clean little bedroom fills me with peace every night and morning. It’s made me surprisingly content.
Michael Fitzsimmons is a songwriter whose music can be found at He is an industrial and systems engineer and aspires to be in a boy band.

Lucid Dreaming, a song I am writing. It is purely an instrumental piece, no lyrics. I personally can’t stand the cookie cutter this-is-how-you-write-a-song-you-must-have-lyrics mentality that exists in popular music so I choose to rebel against the currently established norms. Also, I determined that I don’t even really care about singing and lyrics. A song’s meaning transcends just lyrics; what the composer is hoping to relay can be communicated through the subtle nuances in the music – this seems to be lost in modern pop music. Sometimes while playing the song I get lost in it…some parts of the song are repeated at different points which sometimes makes me forget what section I am in while playing it.

MV5BMjExMzA0MTUxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDk3MjMyMQ@@._V1_SY209_CR3,0,140,209_AL_Waking Life by Richard Linklater is a definite inspiration for the song; I love that movie. It blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, corroborating the ancient philosophical meme that life is but a dream (or dream wrapped in a dream- meta). In the movie there is a monologue exploring the possible origins of human language and words in general. I like that explanation of words juxtaposed to my song without any. Within the song, there are sudden changes – similar to the scenes in Waking Life of suddenly waking up from time to time only to regress back into dreams.



Toby D’Anna is a middle school English teacher in Tacoma, Washington. His biggest fear is being chased by a giant kiwi. Either the fruit or the bird. Both terrify him.

Margo Price’s album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter turns the hell-raising and heartbreak of traditional country and honky tonk music up to eleven. It’s filled with autobiographical revelations born from financial crisis, losing a child, questioning God, going to jail, and all of those scars usually reserved for male outlaws of the genre yet marked with uncommon defiant resilience. My favorite song off the album is “Desperate and Depressed”, an anthem telling off money hungry religious hypocrites who prey on the poor (a certain toothy preacher of the prosperity gospel from Houston immediately comes to mind), “but if I can’t find the money/ then I can’t buy the lie/ Oh, ten percent of nothing ain’t a dime.”

Mark Shea from the Patheos blog Catholic and Enjoying It! and the radio program/podcast Connecting the Dots, who I imagine is one Catholic pilgrim whose had his share of sickness over the last month. I won’t get any further into the controversy that’s just a Google search away other than to say I’m a longtime fan who appreciates his intentions and can commiserate with his faults. This blog post about grace in the midst of being broken is moving, and his book Mary, Mother of the Son will figure prominently in an RCIA class I’m teaching in October. His writing has nourished my faith, and I am grateful. Going to his page and ordering one of his books or talks is a good way of helping a man who’s hit the Dusty Rhodes level of hard times while improving your knowledge of the faith.



Help keep us alive! Email Matt with one or two small timely joys keeping you alive for this monthly post. Include any relevant pictures or links to what’s giving you joy and 1 or 2 lines you’d like me to include in your tagline. Email me at with the subject “Keeping Me Alive.”

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