A Life Filled With Flowers

Today I walked into work to find this beautiful bouquet on my desk.

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A student had brought them from her garden at home.  I almost started crying.

My father grew Stargazer Lilies.  They didn’t outlive him by much.  My mother has many talents, but gardening isn’t exactly one of them.  But honestly, even if someone in our household had been a fantastic gardener, I doubt anyone would have had the will to coax those plants along.  The lilies were doomed.

In August it will be the 20th anniversary of my father’s death.  Since 2015 started I have been so sad.  Not depressed, just sad.  I don’t know if I could even explain why I’m sad.  My grief has long since passed.  I do not live in fear that my father would be disappointed in me.  I am truly grateful for the events that have shaped me; that have given me a chance for empathy and understanding.  Yet, I feel dampened, my heart simply less full than I sense it should be.

And there this morning were these flowers.  Maybe a reminder that I don’t need to be sad.

(3 Years, 7 Months, 22 Days Sober)

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In Preparation

I stayed late at work today.  I made math packets for the next week, photocopied two vocabulary lessons, and finished up the pile of grading that had taken over my desk.  It was not that I was overcome with an excess of energy.  Rather the opposite.  We went on a field trip this morning, and no matter how successful the field trip (today was stellar) it is an exhausting activity.  No, even ready to climb into bed, I stayed at work, making sure that I had everything done for tomorrow that I possibly could.

I know I will be terribly sad tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my friends’ daughters, Olivia and Emma, passing from this life into the eternal rest of the Lord.

In relation to large historical events, the day of is the most memorable.  I will never forget where I was when I was first told of the events unfolding on the east coast the morning of September 11, 2001.  In contrast, with the personal tragedies of the individual life, it is the day before that occupies the mind.

I know what I was doing a year ago tomorrow.  I was staring at my phone constantly, waiting for an update that would ease my fear.  I was crying and praying in the school chapel, screaming at God that he would not let the worst happen.  I was taking in the news that two children I had held and played with and heard laugh were lost to their parents and family.  I went to see The Lego Movie with my roommate, simply because I couldn’t understand that news.  (I often go to the movies when someone dies.  It allows me to take in the first few hours of grief in a setting where you are not supposed to talk.)  I was standing with friends at 10 pm, smoking cigarettes in the parking lot in front of my apartment building, at a loss as to what to say, but unable to leave each other.  I don’t need to think about it because it is a part of my heart.

But what was I doing a year ago today?  I’m sure it was pretty much the same as today.  I’m sure I was planning, and prepping, and grading, and bitching about small annoyances that I felt were insurmountable obstacles to my success and happiness as a human being.  I’m sure I was frustrated with my students, and disappointed in myself, and generally irritated with life.  What was I doing?  How was I giving of myself?  Where was I looking for God’s blessings?  Why was I determined to be dissatisfied?  When did I try to imagine the world beyond my own petty concerns and appreciate the gifts I can never repay?

Time and again, the prophets, apostles, Christ himself tells us to be prepared, you don’t know when your hour will come.  I don’t worry about this.  Maybe I should worry about this more, but for the most part, I can take it in stride that God will decide when I am ready, and my job is to do everything I can to be ready.  I struggle with the fact that we cannot know when another’s time is at hand.  It would never cross my mind to wonder, “Is today the day when a family of five becomes a family of three?”  There will always be a day before; a day in which we live without fear of the day that will come, because we do not imagine what that day will be.

No matter what we are told, what we know to be true, what we have experienced before, Holy Thursday will always precede Good Friday.  The two cannot be separated.  A day before, that as years pass and time works upon our memory, becomes both a treasure of last moments of love and a veil of sorrow for missed opportunity.  A day before that forms into a pattern of how we are to approach a day of death.

I cannot stop the pain that tomorrow will bring.  But I have worked today to give myself the best chance of weathering it with as much dignity and charity as possible.  Math lessons don’t make a tragedy any less of a tragedy, but a heart open to the mercy of God makes a tragedy a transformation.

(3 Years, 5 Months, and 27 Days Sober)

I Can and Sometimes I Do

It’s not very often that I get to be the person that I want to be.  So of course, when I do have a day like that I’m too exhausted to enjoy it.  I go right to sleep.

Yesterday was the science fair at my school.  I cajoled the middle school science teacher to let my class participate with informational projects, rather than experiments.  I’m not a great science teacher, and by great, what I really mean is not decent at all.  I loved science when I was younger, and I was pretty good at it, but I knew it took effort for me to be good at it, and that wasn’t really what I was into.  Art and literature came much more naturally (despite the fact that my brain is wired for the opposite to be true!), so my complete lack of discipline and followthrough were much less apparent.  I, like most people, like to stay in my comfort zone, so while I have learned to be a competent math teacher, science has always been a bit of an afterthought.

I wanted my students to have something science-y to show for this year.  And, I had a parent volunteer to run the project for me!  Score!  I just had to sit back and grade papers while she took care of my problem for me.

Wrong.

Wrong. Wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.

Within moments, my mistake was apparent, but I didn’t want to face it.  The parent who wanted to help me ended up creating a a huge mess.  I wasn’t clear about my expectations, probably because I didn’t have any.  I didn’t want to plan anything, and so she had nothing to structure her time by.  For weeks my students were confused, torn between who they should listen to, and growing increasingly bored with what they were doing.  I felt caught too.  I didn’t know how to step in and redirect the project without hurting the parent’s feelings.  I became increasingly frustrated, and the only two school day we had the week last before were a blur of anger and tears on my part.

I was so angry at myself.  I was so angry that I let my own laziness spiral out of control.  I told myself that I “can’t” plan science lessons and projects, when the truth was (and always has been) that I didn’t “want” to do so.  I hurl myself into that trap often; confusing my abilities for my desires.  I was so angry that my students were suffering because I felt like burying my head in the sand.

I started this week with only on goal in mind: find a way for my students to produce the best work possible for the Science Fair Friday after school.  I had to let go that I was going to achieve my plans (good-bye grammar!) and commit to spending all my time up to my eyeballs in animal kingdom and Google Image searches.  After school I took home rough drafts to edit.  Thursday and Friday were devoted entirely to construction paper, scissors, and glue.  My classrooms was a mess.  My back hurt from leaning our short tables all day.  My students got loopy from the glue sticks.  But they worked so hard.  They listened to directions, and communicated within their groups, and in the end they made beautiful projects that they were proud to display with all the other students at the Science Fair.

For two days I was the teacher that I want to be.  I was (for the most part) patient and encouraging.  We got to be creative and fun.  After we finished I put on electronica music and the girls danced around and pretended to be DJs with wet-wipes as their turn-tables.  (It was hilarious.)  I didn’t even mind terribly being at school for an extra two hours on a Friday evening talking to parents (and pretending to be way more extroverted than I actually am).  I was proud of my students, and proud of myself.

I didn’t please everyone.  One parent, angry at me from an encounter months ago, made it clear to me that she believed the work her daughter had done under my supervision was of poorer quality than the work she did at home.  It’s hard to be dismissed and belittled, but I hate to think that I’m getting used to it.  I spent most of my life as a non-people-pleaser.  (A non-pleaser of people, rather than a pleaser of non-people.)  I used to have a much thicker skin for criticism, and I’m encouraged to see myself able to brush off her incentive and ultimately self-serving comments without taking them to heart as a legitimate failing I need to address.  She can suck it.  I done did good.

Most Fridays I come home exhausted.  I stuff my face and fall asleep.  Yesterday was really no different, except there was a sense of accomplishment that I rarely feel.  I set my goals, I was willing to put in the work, and everyone came out with something that showed them in their best light.  But the cost was the energy on my part.  There was nothing left inside of me to care about sorting my laundry or cleaning up the dishes.  The thought of reading an improving book or taking a walk never even crossed my mind.  I was perfectly content and so I was perfectly happy to celebrate by going to sleep.

I had been thinking for the last two weeks about the person I could have been if I had made a different choice after high school and not gone to college.  I wondered about what if I were different; if I had been brave and gone exploring, looked for jobs and taken pictures of sunsets.  I found myself looking out the window on my bus ride to work thinking about who I would be if I’d never made it to the place where that was my bus route to work.  I thought a lot about those wants that we all have; the things we say we’d do if we had more time or more energy or more money or more something.  I thought about how we are surprised when someone reveals one of those wants to us.  When someone tells us what they would “really” do in some far of dream reality, it is usually something quite different than we expect to hear from them.

Such trains of thought used to make me very sad.  They were a way for me to mentally nurse my senses of hurt and deprivation.  I could conjure a whole life that had been denied to me, a happiness and freedom that should have been mine, if only I had known about it.  It doesn’t make me sad anymore.  I know now that in many ways the details of the fantasy are irrelevant, the desire is for accomplishment and wonder.  There is nothing glamorous about 3rd grade science projects.  No one complies beautiful photo blogs of animal kingdom reports decorated in construction paper habitats.  But for an evening (and still today) I understood the fulfillment of a job well done that I always assumed I would feel in the alternate realities I make in my mind.

(3 Years, 5 Months, and 24 Days Sober)

The Best Rosary I Ever Said

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People talk about the best meal they ever ate or the best sunset they ever saw.  Let me tell you about the best Rosary I ever said.

Margaret and I started out the day in Ranchester, Wyoming.  It’s not even a town.  It’s just a few shops, the shabby motel we stayed at (there had been a storm the night before, no camping for this girl) and apparently a great fishing hole nearby (or at least that is what I assume from the rest of the clientele at the shabby motel).  We were driving to Yellowstone.  We drove up into the mountains; into fog and a mysterious “Check Engine” light.  We came back down through a beautiful pass and on to Cody, where we stopped for lunch.  On past a damn, that admittedly created a beautiful river, and a few short miles from our goal.

It was snowing when we pulled up to the gate at Yellowstone.  Snowing.  In late June. Needless to say this was not what we expected.  Despite the snow, and the fear of bears, we kept driving toward the western-most camp grounds, hoping there would be a spot open for us when we got there.

It was beautiful.  Not just the scenery, though that was breathtaking.  The whole experience.  We listened to Vivaldi’s Vespers, talked about the pros and cons of being a small business owner, and drove slowly through one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  I have been to places that have humbled me; the first time I entered St. Peter’s, Auschwitz in the snow, an evening Chopin concert at St.-Chappelle.  But very few places, if any, have ever before made me think, “Here is where people want to stay forever.”  This did:

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But we didn’t.  In fact, we didn’t even stay the night.  By the time we arrived, all the campsites were full.  It was disappointing, but not devastating.  It was just one of the hazards of a federal system of parks that doesn’t take reservations.  So be it.  We drove out looking for a place to camp for the night.  We were both getting pretty tired by this point.

About 10 minutes outside the Montana entrance to Yellowstone we found the hands-down, no joke, most terrifying campground ever.  The “office” was closed, so we did self-check in.  The campground itself was across the freeway.  We were the only people there.  There wasn’t another tent or RV in sight.  There were a few dilapidated buildings from what was clearly a defunct ranch, but they look pretty abandoned.  The wind was insane, and it was pretty cold, so after we set up out tent, we decided to eat a cold dinner in the car, use the bathroom to change and brush out teeth.  It was using the slightly odd bathroom building that we noticed though we might be the only campers, we were not alone.  Turns out those abandoned building were occupied, by people as concerned to see us as we were to see them.  Scenes from every horror movie I have ever seen started to play in my head, but honestly, we’d already paid out 30 bucks, and I was in my pjs.

Our information packet for the campsite had mentioned a hot spring, so when we were done preparing for the night Margaret asked me if I wanted to go check it out.  I was willing to take a look, even if in my heart I was prepared for something completely terrifying.  What we found was this:

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The warm, sulfur-y water was amazing after a long and at points cold day in the car.  The view of the river and the hills and the valley was gorgeous.  And the quiet was spectacular.  See how happy it made us:

IMG_0999IMG_1002Okay, Margaret wasn’t the biggest fan of me taking her picture at that point, but she was happy, rest assured.

We hadn’t said the Rosary yet, and we tossed around the idea of saying it there.

“Are you sure?  Seems, I don’t know, not completely reverent…”

“I think it’s fine Margaret.  This place is beautiful.  St. Francis would approve.”

So we said the Rosary.  In our pajamas, our feet soaking in an outdoor hot spring, at a truly bizarre campground on the outskirts of Nowhere, Montana.

It was the best Rosary I’ve ever said.  I wanted nothing out of it.  I just wanted to be there, with God in this beautiful place he had made with a wonderful friend he had given to me.  There wasn’t any desperate wish lingering in the back of my heart, no worry eating away at my concentration.  There was oncoming dusk, and running water, and a peaceful acceptance of my place within Creation.

Not every prayer is perfect.  Sometimes I fall asleep while saying the Rosary and I have to wake myself up and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my place.  But once, and maybe it will only be once, I loved God with my whole heart, and my whole mind, and my whole soul.

(3 Years, 5 Months, and 13 Days Sober)

Texting About TV – A Lenten Suggestion

“Some days I really miss Legend of the Seeker.”

This is hands down one of the best texts I can ever get.

Every so often a friend of mine texts me this.  Sometimes the wording is slightly different, but the thought is always the same.  She is reminded of a show we both really enjoyed (I will say for myself “loved,” but I don’t necessarily want to say that for her), and that reminds her of me, so she reaches out to me.

It isn’t a deep conversation.  It isn’t a topic that encompasses the decade we have been friends.  It isn’t everything about the tragedies we’ve shared, the comfort we’ve given, the prayers we’ve said, or even the amazing time our senior year in college when she kicked over a hay bale at a school event because two freshman were obnoxiously making out on it.  (So funny, I think I peed my pants just a little.)

It’s just a sentence.  Just a sentence about something silly that we share.  And when one of us thinks of it, we think of the other.  It’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of our relationships.  We sometimes talk ourselves out of reaching out because we don’t have the time for a lengthy catch-up over the phone, or we think the other person doesn’t.  We feel awkward because maybe a great deal of time has passed.  (Or in my case, because so much time has passed I can’t remember how many kids that person has now.)  We don’t want to “bother” someone with the trivialities of our daily life and think we should save communication for life-changing events.  Every so often I see on Facebook people who are strangers to me making idle chit-chat with a friend I haven’t been in contact with for a while, and I think “hey asshole, back off, that’s my friend!”  But the stranger-to-me is trying, I am not.

So, if I may make a suggestion.  If you don’t know what to do for Lent you could make a concerted effort to reach out to people in a simple way.  A text with a funny story.  I notecard you think will make them laugh.  An email with links to shoes you think they should buy when Lent is over.   You might feel like a goober, basically saying to someone, “I was thinking of you, I hope you’re well.”   But remember, that person already knows you’re a goober.  Show them you are a goober who still cares, even if it has been a while.

I think I should start making a list.

(3 Years, 4 Months, and 27 Days Sober)

One Last Lazy Before Lent

My roommate is watching Season 3 of Luther.  I’m watching Season 2 of The Fall.

Clearly, one of us is going to murder the other.

Only kidding.

But winter is the time for grim murder mysteries.  And Netflix seems to have an endless supply.

The reason this raises possible concerns is the fact that we might be potential housebound for the immediate future.  Outside has begun what is predicted to be “significant snowfall” and, despite fears of Stephen King-esque violence, I hope that turns out to be accurate.

I’m going to be seriously pissed if I have to go to work tomorrow. Not because I am unprepared for work.  My lesson plans are done and I finished last weeks grading on Friday night.  After what felt like endless internet searching, I found the Lenten activities that I want to do with my class and I’m really excited about getting those started.  My desire to not go to work has nothing to do with work.

In fact, I have had one of the most productive weekends in recent memory.  Since I had a half-day on Friday, I had enough energy to finish up school work on Friday.  I had an appointment on Saturday, so I was already out of my apartment and therefore motivated to knock out the rest of my errands.  I knew it wouldn’t be about 20 degrees yesterday, so I knew I had to go to Mass on Saturday, and I did it, instead of telling myself I had to and then stressing about why I wasn’t.  Despite waking up late on Sunday, and a lengthy afternoon nap, I still managed to compile all my tax information, and as soon as I get one last form from work, the whole file will be ready to be sent to my accountant.  Today I finished a professional development book that I’ve been working on for weeks.

I have that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.  I don’t have this very often.  My “should have” is routinely much longer than “finished.”  I would love to be able to translate this feeling of ease and lightness into a day of coffee, knitting, and binge-watching Agent Carter.  Fifteen hours of steady snowfall should do the trick and get school canceled for tomorrow.  I won’t say I “deserve” an extra day in my already long weekend, but …

You see for the first year in my entire life, I am looking forward to Lent.  I want it to be Lent.  I have a concrete, tangible goal for my spiritual development that I desperately desire to achieve.  I have a plan; sacrifices to make and actions to take that I believe will give my heart the best chance to make a home for Christ at Easter.  And I know it is going to be terrible.  I know that I will hate almost every moment of it.  But that doesn’t make me any less determined.

Even so, or maybe therefore, I would love one last lazy day before Lent starts.  A last day to approach showering as optional and sitting as mandatory.

(3 Years, 4 Months, 26 Days Sober)

Happy Valentine’s Day

The cookies I just baked are so amazing, if I had a boyfriend, he would propose to me.

Seriously, my baking skills are wasted on being single.

I’m warm and cozy and alone in my apartment.  My roommate is at work.  The sky is pouring snow and because of the insanely high winds, it looks like those pictures of enormous schools of fish swimming in the ocean.  The coffee just finished brewing.  I’m immensely content.

I went to confession today.  The priest asked me to say a prayer from the sincerity of my heart, asking for God to provide me with what I need.  I had no idea what to say, or pray as it were.  What do I need?

I have ideas about what I want.  I want to live where it snows consistently.  I love the snow, despite the cold, and the muck, and the laundry, and the aches.  I want to have a house, with a fireplace and a wood-burning stove.  (Clearly, I just want to burn as many trees as possible.)  I want a huge, claw-foot bathtub.  I want to have projects to do, like walls to paint and furniture to refinish.  I want a whole drawer full of wool socks.  I want a dog.  I want a husband and children to share this home with me.

But what do I really need?  What do I need that I don’t have?

So that’s what I asked God.  I asked him to tell me what I need.

I’m interested in what he’ll have to say.  Maybe it will be something I didn’t expect.  Maybe it will be something so obvious I won’t be able to do anything but laugh.  Maybe it will be the opposite of all my desires.  Maybe it won’t.

But for Valentine’s Day God gave me snow, and safety, and sugar, so that’s more than enough for me.

(3 Years, 4 Months, and 24 Days Sober)

Sharp as Cut Glass

Kate and I are at a wedding reception.  I’m not sure who has gotten married.  It isn’t either of us.  The reception is outside, in a wood.  There are lights in the trees and a band playing somewhere.  We pass a cluster of tree stumps where a group of golden illuminated beers are set.  Kate picks up a beer.  She turns to me.

“Come on French, it won’t matter.  It’s just a beer.”

I grab one of the beers and waltz off, following Kate into the woods, laughing.  Why am I stressed about a beer anyway?  Haven’t I been good enough?

I stumble into another clearing.  There is no one there.  No lights, no music.  I’m dizzy and feel sick.  I bend at my waist, holding my hands cupped under my mouth.  Into my hands begins to fall shards of glass.  I want to stop and look at the glass.  I want to yell for help.  But the glass is falling out of my mouth faster and faster, bright pieces of light streaked in blood.  Suddenly, I am throwing up huge mouthfuls of glass.  It’s pouring out of me, tearing me apart from the inside.  My lips are gone and my arms are torn to ribbons.  I can’t stop vomiting glass.

I woke up in tears.

And needless to say, it’s been hard for me to sleep the last couple of days.

I dragged half my pillows to the opposite end of my bed.  It’s a copping mechanism that seems to happen without my thinking about it.  Usually for about a week in the winter, when anxiety is high, I end up sleeping with my head at the foot of my bed, on the opposite side from where I usually sleep.  Last week I knew that closing my eyes would mean seeing my hands bloodied and full of glass, so it has helped, somehow, to be at the opposite end of the bed.  I don’t pretend it makes sense.

I also don’t pretend that I am an ancient Israelite in service of the Pharaoh.  Dream interpretation isn’t my strong suit.  Now, I usually only have vivid, memorable dreams when I am intensely stressed out.  (Writing my senior thesis in college, I had a two week long series of dreams in which a friend tried to murder me and I escaped and he chased my through 1970s San Francisco.  I was writing about William Faulkner, so it didn’t even thematically fit.)  I hadn’t thought that I was particularly stressed; not any more than the usual work, family, weight, money, basic necessities of life crap.

Today I felt as though I had a belly full of glass, while waking.

One of my students had a really terrible day.  She cried and cried and I had to hold her and rock her until she calmed down.  She had had a disagreement with her friends, and she has been having some trouble controlling herself lately, so she just became overwrought.  She told me that she had wanted to tell me for a while that she was sad, but that every time she tried I acted like I didn’t have time for her and didn’t care how she felt.

It was awful.

I felt the same as I had in my dream: helpless, alone, trapped in reaction that I couldn’t control.  When I drank I threw up a lot.  I was rather talented at vomiting.  But it terrified me.  Sometimes I would throw up so much, and for so long, that I wouldn’t be able to breath.  I would feel as if my whole body was filling up; that what I wanted out of me so desperately was going to invade every space and cut off any chance I had of escape.

When it was alcohol, at least I knew what the immediate poison I wanted to expel was.  Now, I’m not sure exactly what is inside of me that has consumed me to the point I fear harm from inside, that I am distracted into indifference.   What have I taken into myself that needs to be taken out again?

My friend Mary drove me home after work.  She listened to me babble about how upset I was.  Before I got out of the car, she asked me, “What are you going to do now?”  I told her the truth, I don’t know.  I don’t know yet exactly what’s wrong, so I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know what I need to change.

I don’t know how to free myself without being sliced to pieces.

(3 Years, 4 Months, and 19 Days Sober)

I’m Not Curious, But I Am Bored

Last week watching the Super Bowl, I was subjected to the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer for the first, and I hope only, time.  I couldn’t help laughing.  That was what people have been waiting for? Seriously? What crap. How can people not see how stupid this whole thing is? Three years ago I chose to forgo the whole craze.  For some silly reason, pornographic Twilight fan-fiction just didn’t appeal to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Twilight plenty.  Cheesy teen-romance with decently funny secondary characters?  I’ll take it.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with guilty pleasures.  No one advocates for a life of Shaker-like austerity, or at least, I don’t.  But on first reading about Fifty Shade of Grey I couldn’t help but think about my mother telling me about when Deep Throat was released.  She told me about how many people she knew bragged about seeing the popular pornographic film.  It was a way for middle class suburbanites to assert their sexual sophistication by participating in an activity that was previously the realm of dingy theaters and men in trench coats.  So the act of rebellion was … following the crowd.  All over again, people were desperate to show just how enlightened and experimental they were by doing just exactly what everyone else was doing.  No thanks.  I’m not worried about liberal women who write for The Atlantic calling me a prude.  My sense of self is not dependent on the high opinion of people I have never met. Honestly, I can’t wait for the reviews of this movie to come out this week.  I can’t wait for people to be shocked when this movie is BAD.  People are going to pretend to be surprised that the dialogue will be cliched and derivative, the acting wooden and campy, and that the plot will be well…the plot it has.  Through intense delusion, people have attempted to elevate masturbational material into literature worthy of cultural attention, and now they have to live with that decision.  It means making a lot of excuses for a terrible movie version of a terrible book.  It means continuing to lie to yourself about the value of something.  To be spared the embarrassment of admitting that they were conned into proclaiming their admiration for low-brow smut, people will have to double-down on their self-indulgent ignorance.  It will be amazing the moment someone says “the movie was bad because it wasn’t true to the book!” I am curious about what happens after.  Since I don’t live under a rock, I read when Charlie Hunam was originally cast as Christian Grey.  I was so sad for him.  I was so sad to see his career ruined.  This is it for Jamie Dornan.  There is no way for him to go back and not have been in this movie.  Same goes for Dakota Johnson.  She should read Ruth Wilson’s recent comments following season one of The Affair about the disparity of female and male orgasms in television and on film.  And, wait, this book is part of a series, so does that mean we are going to be subjected to two more of these shitty movies?  Do the rest of us, who don’t care, have to live with this for years to come? I’m happy to let those who advocate for abuse victims and who warn about the societal dangers of pornography to make the serious arguments against this movie.  I agree with them 100%.  A few weeks ago mass hysteria demanded that UVA be razed to the ground and all fraternity members be rounded up and summarily shot over a story that seems to have been invented whole cloth.  Now here we are with another massive media campaign on our hands, this time telling women that being manipulated and abused is what they really want and should be celebrated as a “lifestyle.” For women and men who buy the lies that physical pain is an expression of emotional devotion, that wealth and social position are an excuse for manipulation and abuse, and that pornography aids in fully formed sexual development, you have my deepest sympathies.  Fifty Shades of Grey, and its like, has painful and long-term consequences for those who don’t recognize it for the set of lies it is. But the first step is for people to admit just how asinine it it. (3 Years, 4 Months, and 18 Days Sober)

Stop Telling Me That My Life Is a Vodka Ad

When I got home from my staff meeting today I went into my room, laid down on my bed, and cried for about an hour.

My week was long.  My students were really demanding and needy.  Not in a horrible way, just in a childish way.  I haven’t slept well this week.  I wasn’t in the mood to go to a staff meeting in any event.  But I doubt there would be any circumstances where I would be in the mood to hear the following:

“Of course, this isn’t possible for those of us with kids.  It’s not like having no commitments, flying off from date to date in the evenings.”

This comment did not go uncontested by another single faculty member, but I was done.

I am subjected to comments like this all the time.  Last week my very ability to perform my job was called into question due to the fact that I have no children.  Now apparently I not only have no children, I have no commitments.  As each individual instance occurs, I can say to myself “it doesn’t matter, they’re not thinking about what they’re saying.”

So let me give you something to think about.

I am not married.  I do not have children.  But do you know what I do have?

Showers to take.  Bills to pay.  Meals to cook.  Garbage to take to the dumpster.  Carpets to vacuum.  Floors to mop.  Clothes to launder.  Friends to check in with.  Family to care for.  Books to read.  Walks to take.  Appointments to keep.  Trails to face.  Anger to calm.  Fears to face.

Does this sound familiar?  Is it possible that my non-child-having life has the same fundamental requirements as your child-having life, only on a smaller scale?  You see, there is a horrible strain of thought that insists that because I don’t have a husband and children to care for that I do not have to care for myself.  That somehow being single means having escaped the general responsibilities of being a semi-competent adult.  And that is simply not the case.

I have a ton of help from people I love (and sometimes from people I don’t even like).  But for the most part, the basic functions of my life are solitary.  This requires a particular disposition.  No one thanks me for the meal.  No one offers to clean the dishes for me.  No one makes the bed just to make my day easier.  (Okay, I don’t make my bed that often, but it’s because I like to sleep in a big messy disaster of blankets.)  No one hugs me before I go to sleep.  There is no exchange of love that sustains the home life.  There is the simple dignity in a life well lived.

Would you like to know what I am?  I am, to the best of my poor ability, a witness to living life in obedience to God’s will and not my own whim.  Where someone to ask me if I preferred to be married and have children, or to carry on as I am, I would choose the former without hesitation.  But that is not what God is asking of me at this time.  He is asking me to be patient.  And to give another perspective.  I know that there is easy sex and indulgent distraction available to me should I choose it.  I have times when I feel like a complete sucker for trying to hold my head up and live a life of purpose as a single devout Catholic.  But I think the world needs women like me just as much as it needs mothers.

That picture of single-hood you get from pop culture may be a reality for some women, but it is not my reality.  And that is by choice.  I choose to be responsible.  I choose to be restrained in my desires.  I choose to be of service to others rather than to reduce other human beings to vehicles to be used for my pleasure and discarded.

Maybe the next time you’re inclined to brush off my existence as an endless string of suitors and cat-naps between drinks and dancing at the club, just stop.  Stop and really look at me.  Ask yourself who packs the lunch I eat everyday.  Ask yourself who washes the blouse you just complimented.  Ask yourself who hugs me when I have had a long day managing children, stumbling through math lessons, and replying to the incessant emails of over-eager parents.

Ask yourself what life I am actually living, instead of joking about the life you think you would be living if you were me.

Maybe my example could show you something something worth seeing.

(3 Years, 4 Months, and 10 Days Sober)