September 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

On my bad days, I think about all the strong things I’ve done in my life lately, all the things I thought I would never, ever be strong enough to do.  I think of them and remember how much I dreaded them, how the thought of doing them made me sick with fear, but they’re done now.  They’re in my past.  I survived.  I am okay with where I am in my life right now.  I got myself to this place, no one else but me.  Obviously I had help but the decisions and the carrying out of them were mine. So I think to myself: I am strong.  And that is a wondrous thing.

I had an old poster from when The Fellowship of the Ring was first released as a movie, and Frodo was on the front, holding the ring in his palm and staring down at it. It said “Power can be held in the smallest of things.”  I think of that poster, and I look down at my skinny little chicken arms, no biceps to speak of, and I laugh out loud in delight at the odd turnings of the world and the keenness of minds who find wonder in paradox.

Journal 9.3.15

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

September 3rd, 2015:

My prayer right now is for contrition, to understand more deeply how my sin wounds the heart of Jesus and to take strength from that, in order to not commit certain sins again. It seems to me that I get stuck in a loop, very easy to do when you’ve been born and raised with your faith like I have, and there’s really not a lot of major stuff going on in my life.  Loop: get frustrated, distracted, angry, sorrowful, commit sins, feel remorse, manage to make it to Confession on a Saturday morning, remember for a few days how good forgiveness feels, get distracted, frustrated, repeat.  But it shouldn’t be like that. I shouldn’t take it so lightly.  I think I’m struggling with futility right now as well. Just that horrible feeling that no matter how hard I try, I’m going to be stuck in this spot in my life forever.  Which is, in itself, a turning away from trust in God, from relinquishing control of my future to His care.  So, contrition and trust.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: my good friend Matt, who opened his own insurance agency and got me a better deal on car insurance!  What a grown-up thing to be grateful for.  Also, it’s my turn for a weekend at the beach!  I’m going to Longport to spend Labor Day weekend with my relatives there. Counting down the hours!

Today, I am not going to worry about tomorrow.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.

Journal 8.27.15

August 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

August 27th, 2015

My prayer right now is to come to a better understanding of my day-to-day vocation from God.  To find my balance between being in society, being a part of this crazy mixed-up world, and keeping my interior thoughts and heart focused on Jesus and the things not of this world.  Balance has been on my mind so much lately, as such a necessary part of life.  I know I feel better in every way when I spend time in solitude and quiet prayer with God,, but I also know I’m an extrovert and it energizes me to be around people, laughing and talking and staying up late.  The struggle to find the balance between these two ways of life is what I’ve been working on for a while now.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: a few days of quiet at the house for me and my dad… while the rest of the family is on vacation down in Longport!  I’m so grateful for my relatives who share their blessings with us, like the beach house.  My mom texted me that she’s saying her morning prayers on the porch of the beach house, with the early morning breeze and the sound of crashing waves for company.

Today, I am not going to worry about: money.  Ha.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.

Journal 8.26.15

August 26, 2015 § 1 Comment

August 26th, 2015:

My prayer right now is to take things one day at a time, to remember that Jesus’ love is stronger and greater than any human love, to be quieter, to focus more on my daily prayers.  To reach out to a sister more and be a better friend to her. To be more patient with people.  If I truly feel that God’s vocation for me right now is to be out among so many people, to be “all things to all men” (as Elisabeth Leseur said so many times in her wonderful book!), then I need to live up to that with everyone, not just the company it is easy to enjoy.  To not let my emotions sway my spiritual life so much. This has been one of the hardest lessons of heartbreak: realizing how focused on a human being’s love I have been. I always used to quote that one book (Not A Sparrow Falls) “the arms of flesh will fail you” and be so sure I wouldn’t ever be so focused on a person’s love that it would shake my faith in Jesus, but as usual pride goes before the fall, and that’s exactly what happened.  I know Jesus’ love is better. I know all the right things, I just need to figure out how to put them into practice.  Reading 2nd Corinthians right now, a chapter every other night, to give me time to think on the words.  (So grateful for the wonders of modern technology sometimes: the USCCB’s online Bible is handy to have around, because if I forget what I read the night before, I can pop on it and refresh my memory.)  Stab of pain in my heart when I read 2 Corinthians Chapter 3, because it has the verse about us being Paul’s “living epistles”… that we are the letter from God to be read by the world, and that verse has always reminded me of children, of raising children to love God and the Church, all the saints and angels and the beauty of Catholicism.  So I decided to offer up the pain at not having children yet for all the mothers considering abortion.  It made me feel a little bit better but I’m no saint yet.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: Getting to see friends from out of town… Veronica, when she came in for the wedding…. Callie visited for a few days and we all went to Knoebels… I hung out at Ron’s apartment last night and had a great heart-to-heart with him and Erica.  (It’s so funny to think that a year ago today, I didn’t know either of them, or Harry or any of his friends.  They have brought so much joy into my life.)  Ang is at the PNA Convention right now and was named assistant secretary of the convention!!  Hahaha I shouldn’t even be surprised.  Henry Rat appears to be the healthiest old man rat in the world.

Today, I am not going to worry about meeting up with Danny.  I am not going to look back at all the mistakes I’ve made in the past year and a half and wish that I hadn’t. I’m going to pray and focus on the daily good things.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.


Ghosts, Gold, and Yoga

August 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

No one ever told me living with a ghost would be so easy.  I used to be terrified of ghosts, until I realized the true source of their power lies not in their unearthliness, but in the way they drag the past with them like rattling chains.  Ghost on my shoulder, ghost in my ear.  There is nothing scary in the whisper-thin memories that elude my desperate attempts to grab them midair and squeeze the life out of them.  They are simply my past.  I want to tell the ghost boy: give me my memories back.  Make it so I can stop hoping you return to life, full formed, like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus. Let me rest, let me sleep in peace and not wake up with a ghost in my head and a fist around my heart.

There should be a statute of limitations on heartbreak.  After a certain amount of time, you are no longer able to be pierced by sorrow at a moment’s notice.  You wait it out and then your time has expired, you can go free, there is no hold on you now.  “Yes, the defense rests.”

I rest.  No longer on defense against memories, I rest, and I get up, and I walk away. I am free. My statute of limitations has come into play and these feelings are gone. You have no claim on me now, prosecutor.

Life has no statute of limitations on memories though. You just have to work through them, every single day.

Even when it’s hard, I keep being strong. I feel like heart-strength is a habit, just like doing yoga each week has given me the muscles I never had for push-ups. Yoga has taught me so much about myself.  Like: you have to keep trying, even when everything inside is crying for a break. When your core is hurting, you have to push through it.  Or, when you want to cry over what was, pick your head up instead. Hold that High Plank pose a little longer. Don’t send that heartsore email.

Feel the burn? It means you’re getting stronger. High push-up to low push-up, inhale to upward facing dog, exhale to downward facing dog. Move through it, just go. Don’t pause for a drink, just keep going. Don’t cry over a boy, don’t be jealous when you see wedding pictures, don’t hate yourself for being so small and petty and weak, just go, just move through it. Breathe. Pray. One pose to the next. One more day. Move. Breathe.

I think one of the reasons I have fallen so deeply in love with yoga is because it is relatively new to my life.  I started this class with my friend back in January, and so it holds no memories, no ghostly reminders.  In the hard work (and it is hard, it leaves me sweating and spent every week), there is only a sense of getting stronger.  Of becoming better, pushing myself forward.  And so it reflects into my day-to-day life.  I try to do all the right things: going on a date instead of sitting at home watching Netflix, reading my book about Elisabeth Leseur and her love for Christ and her husband, being the World’s Best Aunt to my adorable niece and nephew, going to morning Mass at least twice a week.  Through all of it, I’ve learned healing from a relationship is best done through other relationships, because we are human and are made for each other.  Healing is found in loving all the other people in my life with all that extra love I have now because he walked away from it.  It’s in the road trips to far-away friends that I have time to take now. It’s in the late night coffee-and-dessert talks with my mother and the bright sailboat afternoons in Toronto and the goofy dance parties with my sisters in Michigan.  Healing is in my yawning efforts to wake up early for 7AM Mass, because even though all my private prayers are tears and anger, at least being at Mass is saying “I’m here, Jesus, and I know you are too.”

I am slowly (oh, so slowly) coming to the understanding that I can glean wisdom and strength from my struggle -indeed, that it may even be my duty to do so- and that to be refined into gold means passing through fire.  This understanding, I think, is what will banish the ghost in the end.

August Already

August 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

“You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord
And our hearts are restless until they rest in You”
– Saint Augustine

-I’ve been a little morose lately, and despite my best efforts, I can’t find the right words to write a deep, insightful blog post, so I will just say this quick summary: John and I broke up, not because of anything wrong or terrible, but just because we are, in our faith and beliefs, very different people.  It was not easy, even though we’d only been together for one month. It was hard and sad, and I’m really getting sick of the ‘right thing to do’ always being the hardest thing to do, but it was right.  He is a wonderful guy and honestly I have so much respect for him, even more so since he called me a few days ago to make sure I knew he didn’t hate me for ending things, and to tell me he wanted us to still be friendly and on good terms.  I was so sad and guilt-stricken for breaking up with him, and I cried a lot, even though I knew it had to happen.  So when he called me, it was such a sweet moment of grace and forgiveness, it made up for the whole past week of feeling like utter garbage for hurting someone’s heart. He’s a good man.  I feel like I can go out to Michigan this weekend with a lighter heart now.

-Yes, that’s right, I’m visiting my favorite flatland this week!  Friday through Tuesday, I’ll be in the Mitten.  They’re having a memorial Mass and ceremony for baby Cecilia on Sunday, so I wanted to get out there for that, of course.  Also, Catherine and Matthew have made it clear we are going to make a day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park, and it’s going to be epic.  Those crazy kids.

-Yesterday night was Wednesday- okay, all day was Wednesday- which means hot yoga!! It really astonishes me sometimes, to see how much I enjoy this crazy killer workout every week.  Just once a week, though.  I’m still lazy as heck.  People don’t think of yoga as a workout, but the hot yoga class I take is intense.  You move from pose to pose within a few seconds, which means you’re constantly stretching your muscles to their limit.  I can do almost ten push-ups now.  (Generally I collapse after 7 or 8.)  If I ever need evidence that God puts things in our life just when we realllly need them, all I have to do is look at hot yoga, and my friend Erica, who introduced it to me.

-I splurged a little bit on myself a few weeks ago and bought a Kindle Fire 6.  My laptop was old and decrepit, but I didn’t feel like I needed to invest in another laptop.  I stare at a computer all day at the office, so the last thing I want to do when I leave work is stare at another screen.  But I wanted something, just for those times when I watch Netflix in my bed (hi, Firefly!) and write blog posts.  After a little research, I got the Kindle Fire 6 and I really like it!  It’s a perfect size for watching shows, and my brother has a wireless keyboard I can sync to it for writing.  You can also set up multiple profiles, which means I’m going to set one up for my mother so she can listen to the Toronto Maple Leafs games online no matter where she is in the house!  (Although one wonders why she willingly subjects herself to the agony and angst of being a Leafs fan….one truly wonders.)  It’s at odd moments like this when I’ll suddenly miss Danny: when I opened the Kindle Fire and started playing around with it, when I was browsing Amazon’s site to see which tablet would fit what I needed… he was so into stuff like that and it was always fun to hear him discourse on the pros and cons of a dozen different electronic items.  (I was just thinking… is it wrong of me to say I miss Danny still?  I’ve healed, I know that.  But I *did* miss him; I couldn’t help it.  It wasn’t a heartbreaking feeling, just a “man I wish I could ask Danny his opinion on this”.  A holdover remnant of 6 years of reluctant Best Buy visits and technology talk.  I think it isn’t wrong, because I didn’t miss him in a romantic way.  I missed him in a best friend way, which is totally understandable because he *was* my best friend, for many years.  All right, I feel better now.)

-Speaking of splurging on myself, have I mentioned me and Channing are going to Costa Rica in November!?!?  Yes, that sentence deserves all that punctuation.  Our friend Jess lives in a little town on the west coast of Costa Rica, and we’re visiting her for 5 days.  I found us a great deal out of Newark airport- non-stop both ways!- and into San Jose.  I think we’ll probably spend our last night in the city.  You can see the ocean from Jess’ apartment.  I cannot wait to just be lazy in the sun and sand all week long.  Okay, maybe I’ll do a little snorkeling or some ocean activity, too.  Please keep an eye out for all our pictures, which will be flooding Instagram and Facebook under the hashtags #tammytanlines and #sallysunburn.  (You all know which one I am.)

Well, I’m not really in the mood to wax all philosophical, but I wanted to post something.  I felt like I needed to write.  So this post is a bit more diary-like than I usually want my blog to be, but *shrug*.  They can’t all be Pulitzer winners.

The Girl at the Bar

July 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

The girl at the bar sat down next to me on a night when I really would’ve preferred to drink alone.  Not that I was knocking them back or anything so indelicate as that. No, I was just sitting there with a glass full of straw-colored wine, chilled enough that misty little pearls of condensation were rolling down the sides.  Because that’s what I do when I need to think.  I sip wine and watch my friends bartend.  But this girl sauntered in and kind of whirled her purse onto the bar stool next to me and sat down one over, leaving the gap that- for girls alone at a bar- always seems to announce I don’t know you but I’m willing to have a conversation, clear as day. (It’s very distinguishable from the three chairs away gap that emphasizes I’m good on the talking with strangers at a bar, thanks.)  She didn’t start talking to me right away, she ordered wine herself and then studied the menu for a few minutes.

I scrolled idly through Instagram on my phone, double-tapping my little heart on pictures of happy people and pretty clothes, plates of food artfully presented, babies with chubby cheeks grinning up at me. I wondered if I would ever have a chubby-cheeked baby.  I wondered why I always had to wonder about stupid questions that couldn’t possibly be answered without a crystal ball.  Then I drank more wine because I was annoyed at my own dumb, cycling thoughts.

The girl at the bar was looking at me.  She said, “You look like someone who is sad and happy at the same time”, and I just blinked and said I was, because it seemed like a decent enough summary.

And without me saying a word about why, she said, “I think people heal differently than we always expect them to.  You know, I went through a really bad breakup about two years ago and it took me a long time to stop wondering where I was in the ‘healing process’.” She made scare quotes with her hands.  “Don’t you think that’s a terrible word for it?  Process.  I don’t know about you, but to me, it conjures up images of a straight line, a mechanical assembly.  People don’t heal in a process.  They heal like the weather, like spring coming down into the valley after a long hard winter.  Little glimmers of sun and sky that scatter off the ice, that’s what you feel first. And you think, maybe this is it, the ice might be cracking. I’m going to feel warm inside again and not hurt all over and have these sharp jagged edges tearing rips in my lungs when I breathe.

But winter in NEPA has deep claws, and you don’t heal in just a day of weak sunlight.”

She paused to take a long drink of her wine and I stared at the bar top, remembering my winter, seeing ice and sleet and brown eyes like coffee.

“Then you get a week or two where it doesn’t hit below freezing, not at all, and you start to remember in your bones the idea of spring.  Slowly, slow as a hidden seed sprouting, the healing goes.  Your heart hurts as it happens, maybe because it happens, because the idea that you can laugh again is so strange. But you do,” she murmured, half to herself.  “You laugh at stupid jokes again and go on dates and inch by inch, you reclaim yourself, just like spring stealing pieces of the days right from the heart of winter.

Ah, there’s always that one day, you know,” she went on, and I knew what she was going to say before the words were formed. Everyone in this area knows those days.  “That one day in March when the sun just explodes and the air is warm and the breeze is so sweet across your face you’d think all the mothers in the world put their love into that touch.  I think that part of healing is like when you meet someone new.  You go on a really wonderful date, the kind where everything else is a blur but you’re focused on what’s happening between you and them, and it’s good and right. Those days are just like that: a good sharp focus on spring.  A spark.”

I laughed, because a few weeks ago I had been on a date just like that, and things were still going really well.  It was like spring inside my chest: sparks and sunlight.  I wanted more of it.  But the winter memories of a ghost still occasionally haunted me, popping out of corners late at night to rattle his chains in my heart.

I told her, “I know what you mean, but those are just a day, or two at best. They don’t stay.  Around here, you have one good day and then winter bullies its way in again.”  She nodded with a wry grimace. “No, they don’t stay. But-” she jabbed a finger in the air. “They come back.

“It’s not a process, remember.  There’s no one-step, two-step, three-step, four.  Maybe you meet someone and have this great connection and spring is coming- you can feel it, that glorious sunshiny day- and then boom. You hear your ex is dating someone else. Or it’s their birthday, or you see them out at a bar. Winter in Pennsylvania clings desperately to the remnants of his season.  He’ll throw a few more icy winds and early April flurries in your healing face.  But he can’t hold on forever, dear, and neither can you.  That’s just nature. Cycles. Gardeners know them; women know them.  Spring comes, every year. And time heals, every day.”

Suddenly she smiled and laughed at herself a little and shook her long blonde hair back over her shoulders.  “Sorry,” she said, “I always get a bit maudlin when I drink wine.”  And then she shot me one piercing glance from her blue eyes and said, “Be happy”, and she got up and walked out the door.  I hadn’t even realized her wine glass was empty.

The restaurant was humming with the noise of a busy dining room.  Glasses clinked and people laughed and the strong, spicy scent of rosemary and basil graced the air like a benediction. I sat there for a few minutes, enjoying the weight of sparks and sunshine inside me, thinking about healing and happiness.  And I knew that I was.  I am.

So I picked up my phone, and I called my boyfriend, and I said “hey handsome, how was your day?”

– – – –

Healing, like spring, is a gift of God and nature. But in the paradoxical way of all God’s gifts, it asks something from you in return.  You can heal without being happy. You can stare at the smooth scars on your heart forever, wondering how and why. Or you can smile, dance, drink cold white wine in the summer twilight, burn your fingers trying to eat meat straight off the grill.  And on those occasional nights when the stormy wind gusts and the sky is dark and troubled and something triggers your old heartbreak like an arthritic ache in your bones, don’t hide from the rain.  Go out and dance in it.  Make it good.  Make it beautiful.

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