Returning to the Road
“When suddenly you seem to lose all you thought you had gained, do not despair. You must expect setbacks and regressions. Don’t say to yourself “All is lost. I have to start all over again.” This is not true. What you have gained you have gained….When you return to the road, you return to the place where you left it, not to where you started.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
As the birds quietly sing outside my window while I drink my second cup of coffee and Audrey Assad plays softly in the background, so many thoughts and emotions have been going through my mind after starting a transformational read. I hope I can somehow capture them and rope them into some semblance of coherency.
Last Sunday I went to my first in-person recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in a Cathedral which was such a beautiful experience, and adoration was a needed quiet time to talk with Jesus about my hopes, fears and desires. Afterwards was Mass which in the cathedral is always such a moving time for me. The music, incense, the voices of the choir and the Eucharist, the central part of the Mass, are just a few of the aspects which were exactly the spiritual rejuvenation my weary soul needed.
With this entry, my tentative goal is to write about my faith journey in a bit of a different way than I have in past posts. I love those mountaintop moments with God and my Catholic faith. Those times when I feel as if this is home and I am in awe to think at one time I willingly walked away from this beautiful gift which was planted as a seed when I was a child, however as an adult I did not nurture it into maturity.
The fact I came to this realization on Divine Mercy Sunday certainly was not due to my intellect, rather I believe it was a gentle whispering reminder from God that His mercy is new every day and free to all. It’s free to even me who at times is demanding, bitchy, ignorant, introverted, caring, a walking contradiction, socially distant and awkward at times, weak, resilient, depressed, cynical, jaded, joyous and sadly a self-induced perfectionist which has wormed its tendencies into a 20-year battle with anorexia.
Now here is where my love of my faith gets difficult and a bit complicated. I have never been one to like being placed in social boxes, because as a person with a visible disability, I always felt as a child I was labeled whether by professionals or my peers. The ascribed notations in my IEP were often I was to quiet, did not interact with classmates enough, I had “special needs”, some unknown learning disability and the list goes on. When I grew out of the formulized K through 12 system, I vowed to myself I would not allow myself to be placed in those nice little tidy square boxes with their bold identifying labels that I did not always feel fit my personality or aptitude.
Initially college was a time of slight individualization, however my faith at that time was mostly a predetermined rule book of do’s and do not’s, and if I crossed the line I would take the express elevator to hell because my catechesis did not include the wisdom behind the why. Even though my faith journey has been an adventure, and I would never change where I am for anything, what follows is where I sometimes become frustrated with social mores.
My faith has morphed into my moral compass, it’s a fluid relationship and healthy respect for God and His wisdom passed down through the Catholic Church. However, at times I feel as if because I am a practicing Catholic I am expected to fit into specific neat little boxes which I do not like. Politically I am a moderate, and on certain issues I could even say I can be conservative with a dose of liberalism mixed in for diversity. In my 33 years, I have learned life is not cut and dry, this or that or as simple as right and wrong. At times my Catholic faith and profession as a social worker nicely coincide, but then times do exist when the two fiercely clash and oppose one another. These two facets inform and influence my daily life, so I cannot have one without the other. My past, my status as a sister, Mother, daughter, friend, my love for books, writing, music and learning all somehow seemingly intersect to form who I am. I am working to find some balance between being myself but not compromising myself, but also as a person who craves respect, acceptance, stability, support, control, friendship, love and happiness, I know certain concessions must be made no matter how we think or feel. For instance, I can play the role of the good Catholic, but when I am comfortable with people if I can deduce it’s socially accepted, I admit I have a potty mouth which isn’t the most virtuous feature, but it is what it is and it’s a work in progress, but that is where I am right now. I am trying to figure out where do I fit in this world with its pushing and pulls toward one or the other?
My friend recently recommend I read Bad Feminism by Roxane Gay, and so far, I absolutely love the book because I can relate to so much she says as a minority and a woman who have felt marginalized by society.
I know for a fact as someone who is not considered able-bodied by the standards of our society, I often find myself setting up my own expectations whether they be realistic or irrational. I believe I can compete with my sighted or otherwise able-bodied peers and coworkers, but always in the back of my head I am always wondering if I am even where I am today based on my own merit? Could it have been out of pity I was hired for my job, or offered whatever general thing. It at times is a difficult balance because I long to be treated equally but let’s say it how it is, equality does not always exist. Related to disability rights we are forced to operate under separate but equal at times, but I am not at all denying the bounds and leaps we continue to make on a regular basis.
When will I be able to accept what I have personally, professionally, where I am spiritually without feeling the need to measure up, to keep up based on some scripted guidelines?
If you have made it this far, I thank you for being part of the community where I find peace and solace. Whether it’s being with my authentic friends near or far, the blog world, sitting in soothing silence during adoration, the comfort of escaping into a well-worn book or losing myself in the lyrics of a song which has changed the landscape of my life are why I embrace all these blessings from God.
I am not a super duper uber Catholic, rather I am a flawed sinner and has shortfalls that impede my progress, but this earthly life is not a popularity competition, and in the end God knows our vices, innermost thoughts and the desires of our hearts, so no matter where we are on the road toward our goals, dreams or the ultimate prize of heaven, may we always keep on moving forward, and if we meander, backtrack or need to stop and rest a bit, as we were reminded today in the account of the road to Emmaus Jesus is always walking beside us and when we resume our journey we have come a bit further than we were before, so all is never lost.
Until next time, one step at a time