December 31, 2014 § 2 Comments
The lessons of this past year were many, and most of them were a struggle. It’s been a year of upheaval and sorrow and loneliness. Changes, so many changes both good and bad, like that of a bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fierce east wind that blew through my life with reckless disregard for my love of the familiar. Two close relatives, my cousin Christin and my niece Cecilia, passed away within a span of a year. I ended my six-year relationship in February. I couldn’t pray. I cried in a lot of different people’s arms, in an embarrassing amount of public places, very much at the drop of a hat. But I also picked myself back up. I remembered how to pray through daily Mass. I healed, I laughed again, I took road trips, I dated a little bit. I can’t say it was a good year, but here at the end I find myself in a place familiar after all: waiting for God, desiring to love Him, trying to make sense of these lessons.
If there is anything this past year has taught me, it’s the intrinsic value of kindness. My post about baby Cecilia’s death was the second most-read post on my blog ever, and so many people came up to me and said they read it and told me how sorry they were and that they were praying for my family. Those kind and simple statements meant so much to me. I can think of no better encomium than to be described as a kind person. I went back to the foundation of who I am during 2014: the girl who reads, the girl who bakes, the girl who prays, writes, dances by herself, makes awful puns. These are things that will never change about me. In 2015, I just want to work on being kind. At the end of next year, I want to be able to say that kindness is a quality that will never change about me. Not my wit, it’s a fast & fleeting thing. Not my mind, which may one day fail me, nor my body, which will one day definitely fail me, but my heart. And I want my heart to be kind.
The things I want are good things, strong and true things: love that lasts, marriage, children. Wanting to know the future is a human trait, and although we know we can’t, we still yearn for it. I just want to know that my future holds more than this struggle, more than the selfishness of wanting what I do not have, the regrets of the past. I see my friends writing living epistles, reading their futures in the faces of their children, and my heart is lonely.
Bitterness & Regret
Yes, 2014 was the year I learned the truth about these things. I never knew how bitterness and regret could grow so entwined inside me, slowly and insidiously. It’s the memories, you see. The sense of what was unfairly lost to me. The simple joy of Red Barn. Family. Old and new friends. Certain songs. A future I’d imagined for years. But how do you regret the past without feeling like you’re wishing it away? Even if I wanted to, I can’t wish it had never happened, that I didn’t have these memories. How could I, when they and the people in them made me who I am today? Salt and earth. Regret and bitterness. At times they have seemed to me like a snake eating its own tail, coiled around my heart. Where did it begin? Where does it end?
Forgiveness & Strength
It ends at forgiveness, that mighty sword. It ends when the woman crushes the head of the snake with her heel, and what is her heel? Her Fiat. Her Yes, her humility, her obedience to the will of God. Mary is our shining example, our beautiful strong mother, and where does she get her strength? From all the things the world says we should despise. Meekness is not weakness, it’s strength in the form of sacrifice. To follow Jesus, I have to love others more than myself, and to love them, I need to forgive them, and to forgive them, I need to be strong, and to be strong, I need to be humble, because humility comes from stripping down to the essentials and strength is impossible without this foundation. Such is the paradox of faith.
People have told me a lot of good things about myself over the course of 2014, trying to be kind and to help me figure myself out, but the one that keeps coming back to me right now was something my brother’s girlfriend said to me after the guy I was dating in October and November broke it off. Christina was on the phone with me as I drove home from Phoenixville, and she said, “Rose, I know it hurts, because you have so much love within you and you want someone to see that. Give it to your family and friends right now. It’s not wasted.” It seems like a simple enough statement but it really hit me then. Nothing we do in love is wasted. It might not seem like it is doing much, just the day-to-day routine of being a good sister, a loving daughter, a firm friend, but love is like grace: invisible, intangible in itself, but made clear by actions. If I can, by the suffering and trials and roller coaster ride of this past year, figure out a little bit more about love, how to selflessly give it, and how to gratefully receive it, and how to grow in it, then 2014 will have proved itself beautiful.
What hold you, 2015? A bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fresh west wind, alive with hope. And my pet rats, of course.
December 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s hard to believe you’re almost 20 years old, and starting a new life out there in Michigan. I was ten when you were born, and it seems like just yesterday you were that cuddly little baby girl, sunny-haired and sunny tempered, and now you’re a beautiful young woman. You’ve always had a maturity beyond your years, and I admire that so much in you. When Jul & Daniel asked you to be baby Ceci’s honorary godmother, you didn’t even hesitate, because you knew what an honor it was. So often in our culture, life is demeaned- seen as a choice or a commodity- but you recognized the value of Cecilia’s life, brief as it was, in and of itself. Keep doing that, Cathy. Keep knowing that the best foundation in life is looking upon others as simply who they are, not what they can do, and you’ll have the keys to a beautiful future. Continue to hold Jesus as the first Person of your heart; start writing down your Adoration thoughts in those Taylor Swift notebooks! Keep on doing what you do best: being sweet, and funny, and always smiling, and bring others joy by your own. You have a strong personality, and a firm sense of right and wrong. Hold on to that, but be patient with people who don’t have your strength or convictions. Never underestimate the power of kindness; don’t confuse humor with mockery. Stay faithful and know that sorrow is necessary for a full life, and that strength comes most from picking yourself back up. Remember that forgiveness is the mightiest sword. I don’t need to be a fortune-teller to see your future: it’s full of hope, it takes delight in the Lord, it is a light shining in darkness.
Happy nineteenth birthday, Cathy!
December 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Sometimes I hate books. Even the best books, my favorite ones, the books with words and phrases that echo in my heart, that make me cry because they’re written so well. Sometimes I hate them, and it’s only ever at times when I’m lonely. Because no matter how well-written a book is, no matter how good the author is at capturing human emotion on a page, no matter how deeply you can immerse yourself into the world within a book, they don’t give the proper sense of time. Even for a devoted reader like myself, it’s impossible to lose time when you read a book. (I’m not talking about getting really into a book and then looking up and realizing you better throw your shoes and coat on because you’re going to be late for Mass because you read for 30 minutes that felt like 5. That happens to me almost every Sunday morning.) It’s because you can get to the end of a book. You can see it, and feel the thinning chunk of the remaining pages between your fingers. And even more than just the ending, it’s that time passes in a book between the turn of the page: the end of one chapter is summer and the beginning of the next is autumn. It doesn’t work like that in real life. You don’t flip the pages of your days, saying “the trees in Pennsylvania are crimson and orange and gold” and then “the snow is drifting gently down outside my bedroom window.” Oh, I can’t explain it well enough; I’m trying to write about why you can’t write about it! It’s the minutes, the minutiae. I know you can’t put them into a book; I wouldn’t want to read about them. But you lose that sense of the long, slow passage of time. Now, don’t stop reading just because I’m about to reference Twilight. Because I’m about to reference Twilight. If you’ve read the second book, New Moon, you saw the way the author tried to convey the way time dragged on for Bella after Edward left her: the pages had only the names of months on them. November…December…January…February…March…April. But you don’t get it. You flip the page and think it’s a powerful image: the blankness, the single word. But when you’re lonely in real life, the pages don’t flip. They flow- the pages of your life- slow as molasses and not nearly as sweet. They don’t move from month to month, but from day to day, hour to hour. But this isn’t a critique on novel-writing, I have absolutely no leg to stand on in that regard… it’s just my thoughts about how I hate books when I’m lonely. And I am lonely. Even though that’s probably the most horribly selfish thing I could say: me, lonely, with so many friends and my family and my big social whirl, and the two best rats ever, and my faith. Maybe I am just horribly selfish.
This might come as a surprise to some people, but there’s times I’m really afraid I’m becoming a bitter person. I wrote a long post about bitterness and how it terrifies me to see it within myself, but the post ended up being really depressing and a lot more, well, bitter than I’d intended. So it’s probably just going to stay in my Drafts folder. This Advent season, I’ve been finding out just how thin the line is between yearning and bitterness. Between longing for something with your whole heart and being too caught up in your own sense of personal injustice. You start with a sad resentment- an “if only”, something that seems so unfair- and end being eaten alive inside the cold and sullen maw of bitterness. It might not seem like these emotions are closely related, but in my heart, it scares me how intertwined they are. Actually I’m going to stop now, before I start writing the whole thing again that I just said I didn’t want to post. I don’t want to lose my joy, but I don’t know how to hold on to it either.
December 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
Here are the things to remember about myself. When I am unsure, when I am unsettled, when the struggle seems endless and my heart is sad. Here is what I am:
I am strong. I broke up with Danny. I did it, I brought it about, I made it happen after six years. I was the strong one.
I am healing. I am okay by myself. I like myself.
I have my family. I will always, always, always have my family. There will always be a place for me in the house. They will always be able to make me laugh.
I know how to offer it up. I know that suffering means something, that hurt and heartbreak are valuable.
I am Catholic. The indelible mark of Baptism is on my soul. The commission of Confirmation is within me. The rock of Peter is beneath me.
I can write. I wrote through heartbreak. I wrote through loneliness. I wrote through confusion.
I am strong. I know that true strength and true knowledge of self come from unselfishness, for it is far harder to put others first.
I have friends, good friends and true. The best kind of friendship has been gifted to me. Some people never experience a true, beautiful, unselfish friendship… but I have them, more than one, and that is a treasure.
I am kind.
I will never stop noticing the beauty of the world: a soft and dark green fir tree, the rolling mountains, a tangy scent of wild grapes in autumn air, the endless play of light on water.
I am strong.