Category Archives: What once was

Discernment, coffee, and the occasional outburst

I wish I could say that me wiping tears while simultaneously running on the treadmill and listening to podcasts was a one-time thing…in the last couple months. Today, during the first of my 2 (yes, I have that much free time now) workouts, I had a fantastic realization regarding this weird period of my life. I was listening to a 60-year-old radio broadcast of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen talk about marriage. And yes, it made me cry.

Obviously this man has some inspiring things to say about marriage. And, the subject matter was obviously relevant to me now as Sam and I prepare for the exciting, amazing, terrifying vocation of marriage. But, the reason I was moved to tears by this and other speakers/writers/people to whom I’ve turned my attention lately was something entirely different. I cried because I can tell that, without a doubt, Archbishop Sheen truly lived his purpose in this life. And I’m coming to realize that there are few more beautiful things in this imperfect, peculiar life as a human.

When I hear Archbishop Sheen’s voice, I am immediately both astounded and honestly kind of scared. He speaks with such confident, powerful inflection that I’m pretty sure he could convince anyone of anything. Thank God he used that power for objective good. His voice was beautifully made for the radio and, made for speaking truth to millions of lost people through it. His voice was made to comfort, inspire, present, and rejoice in the truths of a 2000-year-old religion. And even to people like me–60 years later!!! His purpose on this Earth was realized and, even now, that amazes me to tears. It also begs the question, “Am I living my purpose?”

I’ve thought of that more than occasionally in this bizarre chapter of my life. I graduated with a Master’s degree at the ripe young age of 24 with the promise of brighter futures and influencing young people as a school counselor. I was (and still am) so proud of realizing that goal. I worked toward this purpose relentlessly for 2-and-a-half years. And, much to my surprise, I was left with very little to no prospects of a job. Instead, I was forced to jump fully into the ever-trusty coffee shop job that has accompanied me through every one of the 6 years I have been in college and grad school.

After my grandiose decision to make a life for myself in Washington state and then my other grandiose decision to bust through graduate school like my a** was on fire, I am living at home and working at a coffee shop.

As the prospect of a job right out of grad school became dimmer, my confidence began to plummet. My sense of purpose and drive was compromised, and I felt almost completely isolated. As a textbook extrovert, the lack of ample social interaction through school and internship left me depleted every day. Thoughts of losing friends from school over the years and facing yet another transition loomed and still looms. And, though there has been wedding preparations and small business matters to attend to, I find myself dealing with this cross of displaced purpose still today.

Thank the Almighty God for my fiance, my family, and my ever-shrinking group of true friends who carry me through when they have the time. But, I am beginning to realize, this truly unfamiliar period of too much downtime is mine to bear. And when I see it in context of the larger purpose for my life, it doesn’t seem quite as lonely or uncomfortable.

I have no busy-ness to be my crutch, my excuse, my comfort zone to remain in auto-pilot. I have no reason to brag or rely on outside accomplishments to boost my ego or make me feel important. I have no excuse to have superficial friendships. In fact, I treasure my smaller number of intentional friends even more now. I have no bureaucracy to contend with, no excuse to have one-too-many beers because “my life is soooo stressful”. My life has quieted. My pleasure-seeking brain hates it. But as I live it and even write this, I see how it is enriching my life.

My life was not balanced in the busy throes of school and work and relationships. It is not balanced now, and will never be perfectly balanced. But I really believe that it was for a divinely inspired reason I am being placed in this uncomfortable situation. I am “forced” to tell people “I graduated in December with my Master’s degree. No, I do not have a job in my field yet”, so that I can learn that my occupation (whether school counseling or as a barista) does not define my worth. I am “forced” to tell my friends “I am so happy we are meeting. I get lonely during the day when I am not working and have nothing to do. Thank you for being in my life.” I am “forced” to tell my fiance, “Thank you for loving me even when I’m doubting myself”. I am “forced” to tell my parents “You guys reflect what true sacrificial love looks like. I’m sorry for waking you up when I come home late when you have to be up early the next day”. In short, I am placed in this situation to get perspective that successful life and wealth doesn’t always have to come from money, occupation, or popularity. I am “forced” to see the good things that have always been constant, even when I haven’t noticed it. I needed that. Though it sounds trite, I’m not sure I truly understood that before this humble, more quiet period in my life.

This chapter in my life is meant to prepare me for the next. This chapter in my life WILL help me realize my purpose in life, so that one day, someone can be touched by my passion for life the way I was touched by a late Archbishop of the Catholic Church.

Get On Your Knees

What you told me to do.

What I tell you to do.

Get On Your Knees

That which I brutally endured

is now for you.

Exchanges of oppression, yokes of history

now your gift, your curse while I’m out doing me.

Get On Your Knees.

I objectify me

flaunt my beautiful body

in the name of female authority, female priority

but you can’t like what you see

because of your [ASSumed] inability to see me

as little more than grade-A meat.

Get On Your Knees

As long as I’m in control

the casualties of your will can fall

in complete defeat.

Get on your knees.

I don’t want to defeat

except for the subtle Evil that speaks

of the Myth of Power and Greed

and Superiority.

Get on your knees

not in submission

In humility. In harmony.

I’ll meet you there.

Eye to eye, our misplaced wills can meet.

In empathy. In intimacy.

Get on your knees

with me.

We can pray

or hope

or kiss

for healing.

Together.

Living National Anthem

So I went to the Tesuque Pueblo feast day today and was so completely struck by the rich ancient culture that is still practiced today. And I wrote about it so here it is.

Nestled in the cradle of the mountains,

ushered by holy unwavering tradition,

lies the ultimate patriotic hymn.

Red burns fiercely in paint

adorning solemn faces of strength.

White beats quietly in moccasins

that massage the Earth in sacred dance.

Blue billows against long black hair

as hand-woven shawls sway in rhythm

with the women on whose shoulders they rest.

Drums and voices and stomping feet

undulate unity, power, grace, a spiritual force:

an anthem to a binding covenant

to stay true to the roots

of the land and each other.

This hymn refuses to fall victim

to changing times

to colonization

to stereotypes

to the ignorance and brokenness

of the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.

These people are dancers,

defenders,

artists,

protectors,

families

and testaments to a vast perseverance throughout history.

These are Americans.

And their song makes me proud to be one.

Take a Wild Guess at the Title after Reading This

I’ve been told lately that I’m…mean.

Ironic, I’d say.

That’s all I am trying to do

is mean.

From someone who meant

to apparently someone mean.

I became mean because I gave up a meaning

that I didn’t know was rented until

time was mean and made me return it.

I am mean because it gives me reason

to find meaning.

Someone has to be mean in this place

where meaning equals pleasure and pleasure equals

the end

and waiting for pleasure just makes everyone

mean.

Ashes

Rarely do we revel in rubble

or frolic through remains of thorough destruction.

But there is something level

about being leveled. And reduced to nothing but

ash.

Something so cleansing about being 

burned to the core. 

Ashes birthed from kindled chaos

are transformed from bright hot color

to a quiet peaceful gray.

The seduction of a beautiful fire

leaves little room for admiration of its bland casualties.

Or acknowledgment of their incredible importance

in the cycle of sterile rebirth and

hope. 

I have finished the race…kind of.

My last few posts have been pretty heavy. And some downright depressing. It would be an understatement to say that the last month or so has been a test to my strength and faith. I finished one chapter in my life. A chapter whose significance I had grossly underestimated until it was done and I had to say the hardest goodbye in my life. But now that I’ve been adjusting and refocusing my energy towards the future, I can look back at that awful month and at the last few months really and say that I have witnessed my own growth. And I just want to take a second to celebrate it. Because it has been a truly beautiful thing to see Victor Hugo’s words come to fruition in my own life: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”. And though it has been slow with and with more pain and tears than I thought were humanly possible, my sun is slowly beginning to rise. I am beginning to gather strength from this extremely difficult time. What a uniquely wonderful feeling. So I’m going to write about it.

My faith, though a constant, has been in such turmoil lately. When I said goodbye to a three-year relationship, another young man with whom I fell harder than I intended, a cushy network of friends and daily routines, and a whole life really, I fell into a certain hopeless mindset. It was a mindset that was convinced that everything and everyone I will ever fall in love with will be ripped from my hands the same way. Couple that with the guilt I had been feeling from years of emotional and physical infidelity in my romantic relationship, and I truly felt like I deserved the misery I was feeling. I was so mad at God for making me be the one to have to say goodbye and transition into a life of isolation and uncertainty AFTER it was me who did the brave thing by building a life at Gonzaga in the first place. It was ME who had to suck it up and be away from my family during holidays. It was ME who had to take a taxi by myself to go to Easter Mass in the middle of a city I knew nothing about. It was ME who was the only one who missed the passing of my grandfather to be at school 1300 miles away. It was ME who had to be at home with my super-Catholic family after graduation without the alcohol or social life I came to depend on so heavily at school to cope. All of these thoughts left me sad and mad and bitter as I unpacked what was left of my life at Gonzaga in my childhood bedroom. Even writing about them now tugs at a scar on my heart that is just now starting to heal. What my broken heart didn’t realize is that I was just looking at everything the wrong way. And it took some serious spiritual turmoil to realize that.

This past weekend during mass (to tell you the truth, I’ve been dragging myself. I haven’t wanted to go at all), there was a reading that proved that there’s a powerful spiritual force at work to help me heal from all the brokenness. It’s one of my dad’s favorites and, now, one of mine. It’s from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy and the verse that God kind of yelled at me said,

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

I think about where I am today, at this very moment, and it is absolutely amazing to me how clearly God speaks to me sometimes. I got my diploma in the mail today. My college diploma and my transcripts with every grade from every class I ever took in college. As I held those things in my hands, I thought of a lot of things. Every test I failed. Every snow storm I walked through to get to a 50-degree house. Every time I dejectedly went to the bank to dip into my savings to pay my utility bill. Every friend that ever betrayed me. Every time I went for a run just to get my mind off of homesickness and stress and surviving on my own. Every time I went to confession after making a horrible decision because I was in over my head. Every time I sprinted through crowded theater lobbies because everyone was talking to their parents who came to see them perform in a dance concert when mine were across the country. Every time I sat in front of the beautiful grotto of Our Lady and sobbed, not knowing how I would pay for everything or what the next day would bring. All of these and more came to my mind when I looked at that simple piece of paper today. And then, I thought of the verse. I have finished the race. I did it. At least this part. During this chapter, there were SO many people who told me, “I don’t know what to tell you”, or “I’m sorry, I wish I could help” but I somehow figured it all out. On my own. And graduated. What a mind boggling thought. I did it.

And then I did something else unthinkable. I left it all. I left it and came home to a life I abandoned 4 years ago. With minimal peers, too many ghosts of the past, and a gut-wrenching nostalgia for my Spokane comfort zone. I had come to depend so heavily on alcohol to help me deal with it all before graduation, and leaving it made me realize how unhealthy it was. So I gave it up completely for awhile. I dove head first into my work which, Thank God, kept my mind occupied on the days where it took everything I had to even get out of bed. I reforged a couple of old friendships. And I reconnected with my family who has been desperately trying to help me get through this. There was a lot of fighting and bitterness and attempts on their part to understand what I was going through. But I just got up every day and somehow made it through. And today, with 15 days left of my countdown to go visit my Spokane, I look back on this journey more content than I was yesterday. And the day before. And a HELL of a lot stronger. I did it. I made it through the hardest month of my life with no help from the crutch of alcohol. I. did. it.

I’m not naive. I know that just because I got my diploma today and we finally have running water in our house again (that’s a whole other story) and had a hell of a 4-mile run, doesn’t mean that the hardships of transition are over. I’m probably going to wake up one of these days and feel pangs of that awful dark place I was in. But I’m noticing that as time goes on, those pangs get less frequent. And less ruthless. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to look back at old pictures and not feel heartbroken. It’s a good thing to look forward to. But until then, I’m just going to sit here and celebrate the days that I feel like this. The days that I feel I have truly “competed well, finished the race, and kept the faith”.

 

Soundtracks

A peculiar home of steady bass and lazy melody

lulls me to order

sings me grounded through altitude change

when my mind can’t see nary a footpath.

Walking through and past

in and out 

of my collection of strange thoughts

seems bearable with a beat.

The beats march me through borders and barriers

dance me through road blocks and security lines.

Empty minded ambles, endless stints of intellectual exhaustion

Confusion, boredom, nostalgia, heartbreak, euphoria 

STOP. There’s nothing you can do or say. 

Life packed up and put in a suitcase

in the air between identities?

Headphones go in and suddenly

the music is the ironic eye in Hurricane Transition

The hums and syncopation 

seem quite a peculiar home

but the only one that unifies

the only one that reconciles

all of me.