Blind Faith and Driving

Do I actually believe?

I wish I could say yes. I wish my faith was blind because it would give me freedom.

I could live life in unwavering confidence. Fear of death would be vanquished, uncertainty would hold no power over me, and each breath would fill me with gratitude. My purpose would be God’s purpose and I would no longer torment myself in the search of my “true self.”

But, I struggle. I’m inquisitive, I ask questions, I wonder about stuff. It’s maddening in my mind and I wish I could turn it off sometimes. I seek and seek and seek ad nauseum and I am never closer to any answers.

The rosary has helped to calm my mind. I listen to it on my way to work. Every day, as I weave through traffic I contemplate the Sorrowful, Glorious, Joyful and Luminous Mysteries. It’s proven to be an anchor for my turbulent subconscious. It is God and Mary and Jesus. It is protection. Padre Pio called it his weapon, and I often wonder what forces it keeps at bay. What battle between Good and Evil rages within my own spirit?

What foundation do I build my faith? I think it all starts here, in prayer and contemplation of those mysteries.

Pray the rosary. For me, it has become a doorway for renewal.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Raising Them Catholic

I have two sons, I’m Catholic, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.

We were camping this past weekend in a little town not far from our own. On Saturday I returned from grocery shopping and asked if anyone wanted to come to church with me. I told my oldest he could make a wish whenever he goes to a new church and that seemed to do the trick.

“Besides,” I said, “it’s hot, so the priest probably won’t give us a long homily.”

Boy, was I wrong.

He had a soft voice and undulating cadence, and it wasn’t long before my head was snapping up at regular intervals. I chanced a look to my left, and my son was deep in prayer. I felt a little guilty about it considering I was the one who wanted to go and he was the one utilizing his time to communicate with God.

He must have felt me looking at him because his eyes opened a little. He leaned close to me and whispered, “I just made my wish. It’s a great one.”

I smiled and pulled him a little closer to me. We held hands to say the Our Father and whispered jokes about the older cantor’s unexpectedly powerful voice. “If God has a rock band this guy would definitely be the lead singer.” It suddenly wasn’t so bad sitting there in the heat on those creaky pews.

We got back to the campsite and when I put my younger son to bed we prayed. “Should we pray to Mary?” he asked.

I didn’t know what he meant at first; he has a cousin named Mary, but I suddenly remembered last weekend when he couldn’t sleep. I said a rosary and he listened and it must have made an impression because now he’s requesting Hail Marys.

The next day would be Pentecost Sunday, the day when the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ disciples the power to speak in tongues, to better communicate and understand the messages and lessons of Christ. Maybe the Holy Spirit came to me too. Maybe my sons do understand me.

“So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:13 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2011&version=NASB)

Or maybe it just whispered, “You’re doing fine.”

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Prayer for Cancer

Something is wrong. Something is happening. A loved one is missing. I can’t find him. He vanished or was taken and I am screaming.

I wake up with a gasp. My heart is pumping so hard it’s all I can hear in my ears, and it’s painful in my chest. I’m relieved it’s over, but somehow I still feel scared and alone.

My wife sleeps soundly, I can’t wake her, but I need comfort. I need to feel safe.

And so I pray.

It may sound strange, but praying after a nightmare is a huge reason why I came back so passionately to my faith.

I realized that there in the dark, in my most vulnerable state, I instinctively turn to God for help. He’s always there with open arms. Without Him I am alone and fearful until morning.

Cancer is a nightmare.

It attacks without limit, unfairly assaulting the healthy, the frail, the old, and the young. It creeps in slowly or strikes swiftly. It invades for reasons unknown.

How do you battle something so evil which exists internally? How do you strike the head of the serpent of cancer?

You listen to your doctor and you pray.

You pray your ass off.

Because where there is prayer there is hope and where there is hope there is salvation. To live without prayer is to live without miracles.

If you or someone you know is battling cancer I offer the prayer below. It is a prayer to St. Peregrine, a man who turned to Jesus when he himself had cancer. I hope, in some way, it helps:

O, St. Peregrine during your lifetime you bravely endured the pain of cancer and turned to Jesus for assistance. Today you continue to turn to Him on behalf of others stricken with this devastating disease. We ask for your intercession on their behalf (list names), that they may find strength and, God willing, a miraculous healing. Please also pray that a cure for cancer might soon be found, too relieve future generations of this suffering. https://franciscanmissionassoc.org/prayer-requests/devotional-saints/st-peregrine/

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Good Confession

He sat on the left side of the church. A thick rosary hung from his hand as he prayed, eyes fixed on the crucifix above the altar.

I hated to interrupt him, but he must have sensed me staring. He turned abruptly as if awakened from a deep slumber and said, “Do you want to go to confession?”

“Yes, Father.”

It had been a year since I was in a confessional. I blamed it on COVID, but that’s ridiculous. I hadn’t gone because I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, I was embarrassed, I was self righteous. “It’s not like these are the worst sins, I mean God loves me, there are people a lot worse than me, I say the rosary every day…” and on and on and on. Maybe I just didn’t want to stop sinning.

Well, whatever, I finally manned up and went.

I had a whole speech prepared. I’d sort of slide my sins into a new faith-based-manifesto proclaiming my love for Jesus and preempting any admonishment from the priest with a, “…and that’s I why I will go forth and sin no more.”

Instead, I knelt there, spilling out sins and frantically trying to remember the Act of Contrition (FYI it was literally taped on the bench in front of me.)

It was over in minutes. I felt like I had rushed it or that I had forgotten some major sin, but I couldn’t remember anything, so I thanked the priest and went out into the church to say my penance.

By my second Hail Mary I was crying like a baby.

Why?

Was it finally being free of what I had been holding onto for the past year? Was I reveling in Jesus’s unending faith and forgiveness for me? Was I proud of myself for finally confessing? Was I ashamed for ever doubting God’s love? Had I, through confession, given myself a second chance to live the life I want, doing the things I know I should?

Yes.

I encourage you to go. Who knows what weight will be lifted or how loved you’ll feel.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

A Simple Prayer

“God, give me strength. Make the pain in my legs go away just for a little bit so I can run fast so I can help my team.”

My eleven year old son made this prayer before his last track meet. He’s in sixth grade and has been yoked with running the mile and half mile races for his team, his two least favorite events. He comes home every day with a heavy heart.

Recently, during a flag football practice he injured his foot and legs. The pain was bad enough to draw tears.

Before his last track meet I put him to bed and he was distraught. “My legs hurt, Dad, I’m not sure if I can run the race tomorrow.”

I told him he can play it safe and wait until he was closer to full capacity though it might hurt his team. But, if the pain was just pain, and he could push through it, wow, that would be awesome. Because, if he could run the two longest races while injured, he would know, deep in his heart and soul, that he had accomplished something, something no one could take away from him. If he could do that, there’s nothing he couldn’t do. “And,” I said, “Don’t forget you can pray for strength.”

I missed his two big races the next day, but I made it in time to see him get trounced in a relay. The loss did little to dampen his spirits.

“Dad, today before the race I was so nervous my stomach hurt. So, I went to the port-o-potty and prayed. I said, “God, give me strength. Make the pain in my legs go away just for a little bit so I can run fast so I can help my team.’ And you know what? He really did. My legs instantly felt better and I got my best mile time ever!”

In a life of consistently being proud of my son this was the greatest. He taught me the power of simple faith and prayer. He didn’t just pray for himself, he prayed to help his team.

Think about that for a moment.

God loves this stuff.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Memento Mori

Memento Mori.

“Remember Death,” is, I think, the direct translation from Latin, but, what does it mean to me?

Death seems a dark concept to meditate on. I think about it more than I care to admit, and it sometimes spirals me downward. What have I accomplished? What legacy will I leave behind? How will they remember me if I die today?

The message is threefold:

Am I prepared to die, spiritually?

The things that bother me today, do they matter when compared to death?

How should I live my life if every breath could be my last?

It dawns on me that this is my purpose in life. To enter Heaven is to serve Christ. To serve Christ is to serve the sick, the homeless, the naked, the thirsty, the hungry, the doubters, the incarcerated, the dying and the dead. A life of service, prayer and confession prepares my soul for Heaven.

To find happiness is to seek it. The day to day aches and pains of life, act to test me, to wear me down. It is not to say these feeling and problems are not real or unimportant or insignificant. Instead they are a path to seek peace from God. I close my eyes when the pain is too great and I remember: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27.

It’s easy to think about what I would like to do if I knew I had one day to live. A cascade of sin, delectable in its temptation lays open me. But, when I contemplate those options I realize no taste of food, wine or woman would hold a candle to embarking on a great adventure with my family, to hear my sons laugh or watch them conquer some great obstacle. I’d spend my day reveling in their love. Imagine treating every day like that. Every single day seeking their happiness.

Pray, serve, and enjoy the good life. It’s not a bad purpose.

Memento Mori. Memento Vitae.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Flow State

There are fewer things more beautiful to me than the beach in winter. Maybe its my New England heritage, but there is something romantic about cold overcast days and steel-grey water. Shells, driftwood, even the mangled fish carcasses, harassed by seagulls, have a place here before the glittering ripples of the Long Island Sound.

Connecticut shores may not have the soft delicate sand of the Caribbean, but the coarse grit and craggy boulders make a unique playground for the brave souls who prefer hops and climbs to a leisurely walk.

It’s here, among these ancient rocks, I witness child and nature merge into a rapture of kinesthetic movement. My son plunges down and scrambles up. He bounds from peak to peak. I am immediately envious of his ability.

I step precariously onto the nearest boulder. My own shaky steps are riddled with thoughts of twisted ankles and skinned shins.

I’m transported back to age fifteen. I’m rollerblading miles from home, careening down a steep hill in the middle of the road without a helmet. I lean right and take the turn to my friend’s house at thirty miles per hour, eyes streaming tears and muscles warm with strength.

I struggle to remember my thoughts that day but I cannot. I can only sense an emotion of freedom and possibility tinged with fear, but it’s fleeting. I look back to my son and I feel a connection we share in that very moment, me at fifteen and he at age eleven, right now and right then, decades apart but happening simultaneously.

We are in the state of flow, the absence of thought and the total connection to the task at hand.

It is a state of bliss.

I am desperate for this flow as I watch him from afar. He is a consciousness devoid of worry. No future and no past exist when he is weightless and leaping. He trusts only gravity and his own depth perception. He looks, imagines what will happen next and achieves it. He never stops. He never regrets.

Soon, he looks up, surprised to find he has come to the end of his adventure. He takes a minute to enjoy his surroundings and send a wave back to me, safe on the path. I’m sad the end has come, because I feel it is a metaphor to my own existence. Have I come to the end?

Then he turns around and gathers his legs beneath him, and springs back the way he came. I am struck by a realization, and a smile comes to my face.

The way back home has just as many boulders.

Happy New Year.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Feast of the Seven Fishes and Unlocking Life’s Secrets

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The line is long and the smell is invasive.

People swarm the place, jostling for position at the glass counter. They wave their tickets and shout their orders. 

“53!”

“Here!”

“Whaddya need?”

“Three pounds of cooked shrimp! A fillet of cod, and six lobster tails!”

And on it goes. The workers hustle and push past each other. They argue amicably at the register, and a few spouts of laughter erupt intermittently throughout the morning. It’s a reminder to the impatient customers, we aren’t unfriendly, just busy. 

This is City Fish, in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the day before Christmas Eve.

I love it. It’s my favorite day of the year. My dad pays for the fish, we have a beer then I head home. Carols blast from the speakers and I start wrapping scallops,  making clam chowder, and sipping my way through some Christmas cheer.IMG_0967

I’ve shared this day with my Dad and brother for the past twelve years.

My grandmother was Italian, and invited us every Christmas Eve to her house for a traditional seven fishes meal.

It was always strange to my siblings and me. The house would reek of fish and bony shards of smelt would hide among the tangles of oily angel-hair pasta. We’d smile and chew and fill up on bread, but our distaste of seafood only grew.

When Grandma got too old to handle all of the preparations, the meals came less and less often, and I felt the tradition slipping away to a faded memory. I decided to take on the holiday, a passing of the torch I suppose.

She guided me through the first few meals, and after she passed, I became more determined to continue the tradition.

I know I am supposed to complain about this.

It’s too stressful, we need to stop using food to celebrate, it’s too much money, it’s too hard to keep up the tradition…

But then it’s 11 o’clock at night the day before the party and the only sound in the house is Elvis crooning Blue Christmas and the sizzle of bacon in the pan. The house looks incredible and I am alone in the kitchen too focused on when to add the cream to worry about anything else in the world. My heart and soul is the space between stove and counter and fridge, and my religion is bathed in olive oil. 

Father: Celery

Son: Carrot

Holy Spirit: Garlic and onion

This is the secret to life my friends. I have unlocked it for you. Immerse yourself in the kitchen and cook for people. Find what makes you happy and use it to make others happy. You will never be disappointed.

The next night and the house is filled with love. Cousins chase one another IMG_0970and cheeks are red from the fire and wine. Music plays and I watch the scene unfold from behind my apron. 

As the last hors d’oeuvres is slid into the chaffing dish I stand on the hearth to make a toast. My youngest son runs to me as I start talking. He is my shy one, but now,  he looks out at the faces with me.  

I didn’t prepare a speech. My mind reels with what to say. How do I capture it? I want to say to everybody how much this night means to me. How this year has been eye-opening to me. How I struggle everyday to discover my purpose, how I fear for my future, how self doubt and self loathing threaten any progress I make in my new career if not for their support and for the morals and tenacity passed down to me from them and those now gone. I fear for my kids’ safety and for their own futures. I struggle and I worry and I eat and I wonder and I freeze. But this night and the days leading up to it I am who I most want to be. I am decisive and creative, and I have family and tradition on my mind. I am happy and relaxed and finding joy in the little things like watching my son scrunch up his face at the smell of fresh garlic, or the intoxicating aroma of food and coffee, or the refreshing sting of cold night as I run barefoot across the driveway to the garbage can. How I worry about our country,  not for what I see on tv, but for the unrealized potential I see in all of us, and how when family gets together like this, like this night, we feel happy and loved and this is how we will prevail as humans, by remembering our traditions and ancestors and keeping their spirit alive, by staying together and progressing from what they taught us…

But fish gets cold quickly and the smelts are burning, so instead I say, “Thank you all for coming. I love tonight, and I love all of you. Now let’s eat.”

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

 

 

 

Scattered Rainbows

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Freedom.

I think it means something different to all of us. 

I remember hearing a story of a man who had been wrongfully imprisoned. Twenty years later he was released and set free. The interviewer asked him what he wanted to do now that he was out.  His response?

To swim in a pool of water.

It touched me on some level. It gave me a glimpse into rigid imprisonment. The simplest  desire, to swim in a pool, always out of reach, stopped by men and concrete and iron bars.

I often think of that man and his dream. I imagine that moment, him standing on the side of the pool looking down into the depths of pillowy liquid.

Does he cry when he sees it? Does he dip in a toe? Does he take a moment to breathe in the chlorine or listen to kids splashing? I hope not. In my mind he stops on the way home, finds the nearest pool and cannonballs in, fully clothed, with a whoop!

Because who knows when opportunities arise? Who knows when something will come up that will stop us in our tracks and imprison us in some way?

I scheduled an overdue preventative medical procedure this morning.

I had put it off for years. I was too nervous to call. Too nervous to go. I’m overweight, I have high blood pressure, what if I’m not a good candidate for anesthesia? What if they find cancer? What if this will start the downward spiral of health? Doctors appointments, hospital stays, uncomfortable conversations…what if?

The nurse on the other end of the line runs down a list of health issues. I am supposed to stop her every time I hear one that applies to me. True I have to stop her two or three times, but I hear all of the things I don’t have and I start to feel better. I hang up, with a scheduled appointment a month from now, and hop onto the scale. Hmm, ok not bad (well getting better anyway)! I head downstairs to make myself a tea and start writing. 

I lean across my counter, blowing across the top of my mug, watching the steam mix with the sunlight streaming through my window. A rainbow near the fireplace catches my eye. I see two more on the fridge, and one on the door to the basement. I see short blocks of color strewn across paper towels and old homework. Blue sapphires dazzle my eyes and impossibly straight lines of green and red race across the ceiling and walls.

I look behind me. Owl, sphere and porcupine.IMG_0860

They were my Nana’s. I took them when she died, and they sit on the kitchen window sill watching the comings and goings of our family. I wonder if they feel imprisoned. They sit there motionless year after year, under appreciated and barely cared for.

I look again and see the dozens of rainbows sprinkled through the house. They reach the entire length from kitchen to living room.

I see those rainbows and I feel the weight of my worries dissipate. Years of fear and guilt for not taking better care of myself suddenly seem ridiculous to me. Why did I wait? Why did I imprison myself, why…

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is now. Today. Right now. This very second.

Do it. Whatever it is do it, and take care of yourself. Seek the freedom missing in your life.

Do it then find the rainbows scattered around you. Don’t look too far and don’t wait til after the storm is over. Sometimes they’re right there in the kitchen, from small pieces of glass, that catch the sunlight just right. 

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

Defrost? Maybe not

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The 4:30 alarm is terrifying. I did what I could to soften its power. The piercing tones have been replaced by Edvard Greig’s “Morning”, and the volume is as low as I can get it.

Still, soothing oboe or not, the first notes assault my eardrums and I throw back the covers, dismount from the bed like an aged gymnast finishing a pommel horse routine, and fumble with my phone lest I wake up my wife or children.

It’s a heart pounding, breathless, confused three seconds of terror, but it’s effective.

It begins the morning routine. I’d like to say, after a few minutes I am energized and ready to face the day, but that never comes. I start the laundry, stand in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do next, and ultimately decide to go back to bed. I repeat the process at 6:30, much to my wife’s delight (insert sarcastic tone here).

But 6:30 is really too late. I am in charge of breakfast, lunches, backpacks, clothes and transportation, and we have to be out the door at 7:09 or the Universe will crumble; my universe anyway.

Seventy days into the school year, and you’d think it would be smooth sailing, but it isn’t. Something always seems to get overlooked, and I am too frantic to notice. 

“Oh yeah, Benny has lace-up shoes now, that’ll be five minutes.”

“Wait, Mike, you forgot to do the other side of your homework, get started.”

“Wait, we’re out of bread? Now what am I making for lunches?”

Extinguished pilot lights, resetting of mousetraps, lost keys, lost homework folders, lost shoes, lost lunch boxes-each eat away valuable minutes and no matter what I do, we are running to the truck ten minutes behind schedule.

And now…Winter.

Frost shrouds the windshield.

It isn’t completely icy yet, but it requires more than a casual wipe of the wipers.

Ugh. I forgot.

“Ok, everyone back in, gotta let the truck warm up.” (Translation: Screw you New England.)

We wait. I have another cup of coffee and the boys dance to music on “Alexa.” Soon enough our break is over and everyone climbs into the slightly warmer cab of the truck. Leather seats creak and the sound of seatbelts buckling is more pronounced in the crisp air.

“Look Dad, snowflakes are on the window!”

I hit the brakes and put it in park. 

Snowflakes are on the window.

He’s right. There it is. The ice isn’t a hassle or hardship. It’s a reminder:

Slow down. Stop. Take a breath. What do you see?

Crystals form and stretch over glass, yet heat billows inside the truck. We’re together and warm and if we concentrate, and listen to a four year old, we can look at something beautiful and fleeting.

What else am I not appreciating?

Months ago  my morning routine was much different. Stormy clouds weighed on my shoulders, and a job that was negatively impacting my outlook on life closed in around me.

I would hold my face in my hands as the water cascaded over me in the shower, wondering where I went wrong in life. I dreaded everything. Sunday evening blues set in and sleeping more seemed better than thinking about work. Little could break through my negative attitude. What difference was I making? Why am I not more grateful? Where’s my passion? What am I doing? How can I get better? I’m trapped.

I would mutter good-byes and give half-hearted hugs and kisses. I’d stare out the window and ride along the highways rushing towards unhappiness, head on the headrest, thumbs on the steering wheel and cursing the sun for making me squint. 

I’m not making that commute anymore.

Mornings are tough. Winter is cold. Time waits for none of us. I’m not sure how to unlock it all, but I think the first step is gratitude. Live an intentional life. Find the beauty in a frosted windshield.

A mile down the road and those snowflakes will vanish.

-Mike Sposito

Owner Spowerks LLC

 

 

 

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