Leavin’ Me Breathless

Minor road leading to Żelechów, Poland.

Image via Wikipedia

Today I took a rather wonderful hour-and-a-half-long walk around my neighborhood.  It was gorgeous out, albeit a little windy, and I had a little skip in my step as the cool hint of Fall gently kissed my cheek.  The sun peeped out from behind clouds which seemed to threaten rain, but managed to restrain themselves.  Justin Bieber serenaded me in my own personal concert (baby, baby, baby, OHHHHH… don’t judge) as I marched along, left, right, left, right, breathing in peace and breathing out all of the pent-up anger and frustration I’ve been carrying with me lately.

At the beginning of my walk, I went at a slower pace to warm up.  Upon starting up my first big hill, my arms swung with a little more intent, my water bottle met my lips a little more frequently, and my legs began moving in power mode.  The hill was pretty large.  My breathing began to feel a little more labored and my side started to kink up a little, but still, I powered through.  Reaching the top was a welcome relief, though my hips were starting to ache and my abs were starting to make their presence a little more known.  My pace started to slow a little as Carrie Underwood sang to me about her cowboy casanova.  I mapped a route out for myself of possible places I’d like to go.  I had a general idea that I wanted to get up to the grocery store before eventually meandering on back home, so I turned down a street that looked familiar from a past bike ride and hoped for the best.

My pace started to pick up a little and steadied itself at a fast walk as I worked my way through the neighborhood.  My surroundings started to look less than vaguely familiar, but Bruno Mars started to sing about how I can “…count on me like 1, 2, 3,” so I kept on keepin on.  I surprised myself  by finding myself on the exact opposite side of the grocery store than I intended, which added quite larger distance than I originally intended on.  No big deal, though.  I just powered through the swarms of moms with their full shopping carts, making sure to smile and say hello once in a while.  Eventually I found myself down by my church and I realized that I wasn’t so tired anymore. My pace was consistently fast, my breathing even, my hips not as creaky, and my smile a little less forced.  I started to feel good about myself, good about the way my body was moving, good about where I was in life.

At that moment, I felt God’s presence just a little more than before.  I thought about the stages of my walk and what I could learn from them.  I thought about how lately things have been rather up and down.  There are days where I’m confident in where I am and where I am going.  There are days where my plan doesn’t work out the way I expected it to, and I am momentarily lost, but eventually wander back on the right path.  And there are days where I am climbing up hills with a cracking knee and splitting side and I wonder if I can even finish what I started.  But then I realized that had I stopped at the first tough hill I had to climb, I would have been left with pain.  The idea was that I kept walking and I kept pushing myself through it, and eventually I found myself in a place where I was experiencing some kind of “Walker’s High.”  Despite the struggles at the start of my journey, I found that my body adapted.  I grew a little more confident in myself and was proud of how far I had come.  And then I grew determined to finish with a bang, so I walked home the way with the other big hill. I knew I could do it, because I knew that God was with me.

So all in all, it was a good walk today.  A necessary reminder of the truth in the saying, “If you find yourself going through hell, keep going.”  It gets better, friends.  Just keep pushing through.  You will make it.

BINGO!

Sometime around finals week last year, I became addicted to Bingo Luau, a game at pogo.com.  I also got addicted to a couple other ones… but Bingo Luau was the one I always gravitated toward when I didn’t want to think about anything of substance after a long day of classes.  I also appreciated that it relied so much on luck rather than skill… because lets face it… I got no skills what-so-ever.  At least with a good game of chance I wouldn’t feel like a complete idiot, right?

Anyway. So I get myself good and addicted to Bingo Luau, and then I quit when summer rolled around, and tonight, I picked it up again.  And I remembered… gosh, I really hate bingo.  Seriously. I hate that I have just as much of a chance at winning as anyone else does. I hate how I can have a card full of numbers and the caller doesn’t seem to want to call any of the right numbers.  I hate even more how I can be so close to a bingo, I can be ONE number away, and someone else will win it anyway.  It’s a mini heartbreak every time.  I remember one time, in real life, I played bingo with my grandma. I could have won $500. I was one space away. And some old hag had the audacity to yell “Bingo!” before I got a chance. And what does some old lady need $500 for, anyway? I’m the starving college student, here.

Bingo is frustrating because you have to play the card you are dealt.  You have the option of switching cards, sure, but there’s no surefire way to pick a card that will have all the winning numbers on it, unless of course, you possess some kind of psychic ability, which the average Joe doesn’t.  Chances are that I have a higher probability of losing than I do of winning… unless of course, I’m the only one playing.

So if the odds of losing a game of Bingo are so much higher than the odds of winning… then why do I keep going back to play it?

For starters, in the case of the school year, I’m tired of thinking and need to mindlessly click numbers rather than ponder Heidegger’s metaphysics and how my daesin is always in flux.

There is also some kind of excitement with the game in itself… that maybe THIS time is going to be the time I will be a winner.  And as numbers get dotted off one at a time, this tension grows and grows until either I win or someone else does.

There is also the general satisfaction of winning.  Losing really sucks… but winning feels great.  I love being the person to press Bingo first and look in that little chat box and see everyone write something akin to “AGHHH!!!!! SO CLOSE!!!!!” I love the “It’s my lucky day!”-feeling… that for that particular moment in time, the internet universe gave me… ME!… that winning card.

And the way pogo.com works… whether you win or lose, you still earn points. I’m not sure what to use these points for aside from making a nifty little avatar for myself… but the more I play, the more points I earn.  This way, even if I lose, I can’t get too disheartened, because I know that it was still worth my time to play.

So anyway.  To kind of shift gears slightly, I’ve felt a lot of heartbreak lately in regards to being disappointed at the hand I’ve been dealt.  It all kind of happened at once, and my most recent heartbreak was that I did not receive the job that I had interviewed for and wanted oh-so-badly.  Out of over 200 applicants for this position, I was one of four chosen for an interview.  My interview went REALLY well.  I floated out of my interview like I had just been kissed for the first time by the love of my life.  I thought I had it in the bag.  Today, I woke up to a phone call with undesired news… that I did really great and that they had a really difficult time making this decision, but they wound up picking someone who they felt was just a little better suited for the job.  Someone else beat me to the Bingo.

And it’s so frustrating, you know? It hurts real bad. I was so close.  But the card I was dealt was simply not a winner this time.  In the end, I realize the overall experience was something to be proud of. I was one of four, of 200, picked for an interview. I had prepared for that interview days before I had it.  I was confident in myself, and maintained a decent balance between staying hopeful of the potential outcome, but grounded myself by keeping another job opportunity open that I do want, but is only my second choice as it’s part time.

In the last Sunday’s second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Paul? Maybe? Probably some kid named Frances) writes about discipline, and seeing our trials and hardships as being “disciplined” by the Lord.  The author writes, ““My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.  Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons.  For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?  At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Like a rock in a stream, I am being smoothed over as I endure the crashing water and tumultuous conditions of life.  It hurts, and it sucks, but I am being made better for it.  My rough edges are being smoothed and I am growing into the young woman I was created to be.  God doesn’t give me these challenges because he’s a mean fat kid on an anthill on a sunny day with a magnifying glass. He doesn’t *want* me to suffer.  He wants me to be *better.* Sara 2.0.  Because Sara 1.0 is really not the right version for whatever is in store for me.  And when Sara 2.0 is ready, God is going to give me something really great.  It’s easier to say that than to believe it… but somewhere deep down inside, I believe it.

So this time, I didn’t win.  But there’s always next time.  And when my “Bingo!” comes… I will be all the more ready for it.

Can You Hear Me Now??

Do you remember those commercials for Verizon with the dude walking around on his cell phone saying, “Can you hear me now? Good!”  I do that a lot.  On my Verizon phone.  My phone only sometimes gets good reception.  A lot of the times it straight up lies to me.  It will tell me that I have 5 bars only to drop my call anyway, just because it feels like it. Sometimes the message comes in loud and clear… and other times it gets jumbled and I have to keep asking “What? What did you just say? Can you enunciate??”  I feel like an idiot a lot when I talk on the phone because I keep needing to ask people to repeat themselves.  It’s really beyond my control… obviously.   It’s my stupid phone’s fault for getting the message jumbled up.

I don’t think I ever had that kind of problem with my home phone.  When the phone is directly connected to the wall, it’s not an issue.  But if I have to get some stupid signal to go all the way out into BUFU space, and then expect it to bounce alllll the way back down to the right person, there ain’t no way I’m going to be guaranteed a clear connection.  At least that’s my personal experience with it.

In getting the convenience of a cell phone, we can potentially sacrifice the quality call received and transmitted.  And while cell phones are seriously a blessing when it comes to emergency situations, or being in contact with anyone no matter where he or she is located, it can also be deadly.  There are more opportunities for disaster with cell phones when it comes to things like calling/texting while driving, or walking across a street, or I don’t know, meandering in front of a train or something.  People just get stupid when talking on their cell phones.  And I’m one of them… I’ll be the first to admit it.

And so it got me thinking.  I’ve been waiting for God’s call for you know, 22 years of my life. I always think I may have heard God say something… but actually, I wasn’t hearing right.  Or sometimes I lose the connection.  Sometimes I think I’m in a place with great reception, only to move just a fraction of an inch and lose my contact.  I try to connect with God on my terms.  I try to figure out a way where I can do what I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it… and finagle God in there somewhere, wherever God can fit.  In all of this finagling… I forgot how to listen. I forgot how to create an opportunity for me to simply be still and pay attention.  Or sometimes I focus too much and forget to look at the grander picture unfolding.

I’m trying to connect with God on a shaky cell phone connection.  I’m too busy, I’m too impatient, I’m too set in my own dreams sometimes, and this causes my signal to break up a little.  And then I misinterpret the call, all the while God is on the other line saying, “Sara?? Are you there?? Hello??”  I think I’ll be able to hear God better when I plant myself down to a landline phone… when I remove those other distractions and find a way to focus on just listening with the ear of my heart (as the Benedictines would say!).  Maybe it means reading scripture once in awhile. Maybe it means just taking time to be still.  Maybe it means quit it with telling God what to do, and just be there with the active listening skills.

I think that’s where many of my frustrations with difficult discernment of my calling come into play.  The problem isn’t that God isn’t listening… it’s that I’ve got a crappy connection.

Do you ever feel like that?  In what ways can you create a better connection with God?

I See London… I See France…

There’s nothing like putting on clean undies.  The optimal situation is clean undies and clean clothes on top of the clean undies… but realistically speaking… sometimes it’s day two on the blue jeans.  So maybe not all of my clothes are squeaky clean, however, the undies always are.  Have you ever noticed how grimy you feel wearing the same undies for more than 24 hours at a time?  It feels like week old Chinese food dunked in sewer water.  It’s awful.  The worst part about dirty undies is that it makes the rest of you feel dirty, even if you aren’t all that unclean.  Undies are the foundation for our clothing choices.  Undies are the first thing we put on in the morning.  Undies are of absolute importance, unless you prefer to go without them, which, for all intents and purposes, is not where this conversation is heading.

On a seemingly un-related note, I hate going to confession.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I have ever been.  The first time I felt horrible after and like the priest could care less about my silly little problems, even though it took me over a month and a half to muster up the courage to go in the first place.  The second time was amazing… the priest was very open and listened intently and was very understanding and even offered me solutions which extended beyond a couple “Hail Marys.”  The third time, it wasn’t awful, but I didn’t walk out on Cloud Nine either.  For the most part, my experiences with confession haven’t exactly been stellar ones.

However, today I had an epiphany in the bathroom. I hopped out of an exceptionally delicious shower and was feeling great all over in my clean undies and clean clothes when I realized… a ha!  So this is what reconciliation is supposed to be like!  I have always struggled with the concept of confession to a priest for a long time.  No matter how many times anyone has ever tried to explain it to me, I’ve never understood the need to have a priest intercede for me and the Big Mac Upstairs… I always figured I could just go straight to Jesus myself.  After all, Jesus said Himself… I’m the Son, God is my Father, the only path through to the Father is through the Son.  Get it?  I got it.  But sometimes I don’t go straight to God.  Sometimes I skirt around the issue.  Sometimes I don’t actually confess what needs confessing.  And sometimes I just need something more… I need something physical… I need a hot shower of absolution with the soap of contrition.  And I need my clean undies. I need to *know* that my soul has been purified.  Otherwise, for all I know… I’m still sitting in year-old sin.  And who wants that?  If day-old undies make me feel gross, it’s no wonder I feel so passionless, so apathetic, so not myself sometimes.  I’ve got a kink in my soul.  I’ve got some dirty undies on my soul that need changing.

When I wear clean undies, I feel clean all over.  I feel like I’m ready to start my day.  I feel like I don’t smell all that bad.  The best way to start building anything is with a firm foundation, and the best way to assemble a great looking outfit for the day is with clean undies.  The same goes for your soul.  If there is something troubling you, that something is going to gnaw on you and affect everything you do, from how you treat others to how much time you give for yourself.  Going to confession is your chance to take a shower and put on some clean undies.  You know you’ll feel a lot better when you do it, and you know that you can do it as often as you want or need to.

So my challenge to you for the week is this:  go to confession.  If that’s too big of a step for you, take some time at the end of the day or at the end of the week and reflect how your day or week has been.  Really be critical of yourself.  Take your actions to heart.  Learn from your experiences.  Try a better way.  It can’t hurt.

Do be do be do…

Greetings, friends out there in the great wide somewhere!  My name is Sara, I am 21-years-old, a senior theology major at a legit Catholic institution of higher learning, and devout Catholic…  and I have a confession to make.

I am a back row Catholic.

There was a time in my life where I sat in the front row.  That time was my freshman year of college, when I was just starting to make my faith my own, and my friends at the time all wanted to sit in the front row to experience Jesus in “IMAX” (up close and personal!).  However, year after year, question after question, I found myself sitting further and further away from the altar until I finally discovered my little nook in the back under a giant cement column in the dark.  I sit there mainly because I like having a giant cement column to lean my head against when I get too bored to pay attention in Mass, or when I want to hide from people, or when I just want to be one of those people who has their unofficial “spot” reserved week after week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am sincere when I label myself a devout Catholic.  I believe in all of the basic teachings and I have a ton of questions and feelings of confusion and frustration towards my Church, but I don’t run away.  I like to tackle my questions head on.  As a theology major, I love to learn about God and spirituality, and how to apply these other-worldly concepts of God into a very worldly-world.  I love to look for God in the seemingly un-Godliest of places.  I observe, I digest, and I spew forth my abundance of wisdom unto the masses (aka–you, the reader).

This is my journey to seek God in the big and the little things.  Please feel free to comment on any post and offer your thoughts, opinions, philisophical ponderings, and whatever questions you have about the Catholic faith, or my faith, or religion in general.  I’m no expert, but I’d love to try… from one back row Catholic to the next.

Until then… stay safe, be well, and make good choices, friends.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” –Mother Theresa

Love,

Sara