Sunday, October 31, 2010

God bless the broken road

Wow. So next week will be the one year birthday of this blog.

This seems like a good time for a post I was thinking of doing. I've recently gone on a few dates that I've really enjoyed. Before the first date, I talked to the guy on the phone, and afterward I was thinking how different I felt than when I first started dating in January, and how very very different I felt from when I started this blog, back in November. Just looking at my regular array of weekly (or thereabouts) activities causes me to stop and appreciate how much I have grown and healed since last fall. I made friends, found new interests, and rooted my faith in a stable and reaffirming community. (To read more about any of these, click the "read more" link below. The entry just got too long for the front page!)

These are just a few ways in which I was healed and even began to grow quite a lot in the last 12 months. There are many others (traveling, for example- I've been to more states this year than I have been since my family drove to Florida when I was 5) as well as professional accomplishments (3 publications and 3 conferences in one year!). However this entry is horribly long already. The point is, I've redefined myself. It's not even that I'm someone different from who I was before. The potential for all of these things was hibernating inside my heart the whole time. I just glossed over them, blinding myself by my own conviction of who I was. (Again, Ignatious had it pretty much figured out what the important questions are... maybe we should all try to get hit in the leg with a cannonball more often). Part of the problem was that as far as I could see, I could only be who I had been. Every funny story I could think of, every striking memory I had, contained someone who was essentially no longer part of my life. The only way out of the hole was to have the courage to brave new experiences for new memories. As scary as this was, walking into a void without anything to attach to, I took small steps, holding onto the wall of the swimming pool and kicking my feet, until I was able to venture into the pool, and finally swim the length on my own. It's easy to stay near the shallows if it worked in the past. But the entire length of the pool begged to be explored. The new me formed as my experiences formed memories which I judged as good or bad and subtly shaped who I am.

It's funny because my last relationship began when I was still hurting from the one preceding it. Now I'm not and everything in dating feels completely different. It's the whole, real me, and it's fantastic, no matter what happens next. And if things don't always work out, I'll trust the broken road to lead me on.

Rascal Flatts- Broken Road
I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

Burning Hearts
Let's start with Sundays. I am a Eucharistic Minister at my parish. I've meandered between parishes and gravitated towards attending regular mass at school. It was a small and personal community and the priest always gave enlightening and culturally, politically, or historically relevant sermons. I felt that it was my responsibility to be part of this community, since it was so small and there were so few EMs, and I knew that I have many things to share from my wonderful peer youth experiences in both high school and college. It was also hard for me to go to the parish where I had gone with my ex. Church is always a place where I feel open to my deepest feelings and troubles; having that place linked to my hurts made them all the more pronounced. However as I began to heal, I finally realized in the spring that I needed to become part of a stable, long-term community. Furthermore, the traditional environment of the parish reminded me of my childhood and allowed me to reconnect with my deeper faith, moving past the immediate past's pain and reminding me of the trust and support that a parish can give. Although I had wanted to help the students what I really needed was people who I could learn from instead of vice versa.
The result is that I love my parish. I have gotten to know some parishioners and look forward to getting to know them better in the future. I EM every other week at the same mass, and often am asked to fill in even when I'm not on the schedule. It's wonderful to be connected to the community this way. And I know there are other opportunities for prayer and service when I am ready. I am comfortable, feel ready to grow. I think that it helped a lot to be able to separate the place where I worship from work, where I sometimes feel unduly judged and feel that my spirituality is stifled. I know that I will have to work on these feelings, but having a place and faces to root my faith journey with really helps me.

Country Hearts
Something else that I have become involved with is the, er, well it is still a little embarrassing to admit this but- the country scene. That's right, there's a country scene in CT, and I'm part of it. It started with my friends bringing me to a country bar, Cadillac Ranch. I was instantly hooked. It was the most enjoyable experience that I've had "going out" to a bar. It was relaxed, people danced to the music, people danced to the music in their heads, people wore hats, belts, t shirts, dresses, flannel, tube tops, you name it. It's one of the least pretentious places I've ever been. Naturally after that I had an inkling of curiosity. I tuned in to 92.5 and the rest is history. Yes, some country songs are about mildly scary hick things, but mostly they are about people. About mistakes, good times, love, and especially heartbreak. It's easy to see why I and many other people in pain look to country music for comfort. Lover, lover became my anthem ("Lover, you don't treat me no good no more. I know you used to love me, but that was yesterday"). She Won't Be Lonely Long gave me hope ("Heaven help the fool who did her wrong; She might be lonely now but she won't be lonely long"). And songs like Cowboy Casanova, Little White Church, and Picture to Burn empowered me. And then there are the songs that are just downright entertaining... She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy (It really turns her on; She's always starin at me, while I'm chugging along), not to mention Only Prettier (although that one has to be taken with a grain of salt :D). And the dancing!! Who knew that the old folks were right? Line dancing is fun and easy. I'm currently taking lessons, which is something I never would have guessed in a million years when I started this blog.

Sympathetic Hearts
One of the biggest and certainly most important changes in my daily life is that I have friends. This makes me sound rather pathetic, but it's more or less true. Before I became single, my closest friends were my roommates in college. I did not take time to get to know people at work. I didn't need to because I spent every other evening with my boyfriend and the nights in between were usually spent studying or correcting. I did not realize how detrimental this was to my emotional health. When the breakup happened, the only people I had to look to were 100 or more miles away (or in another country!) Furthermore, these people were bound to my ex by friendship also, and my history, thee very way I related to them, included him!
It did not happen instantaneously, but there have been many people over the course of the last year who have listened and helped me, spent time with me and shared new joys with me. Some were old friends who I got to spend more time with an see in a new light. A few have been people that I've kept in touch with online and have deepened my relationship with even though we are great distances apart. These interactions helped me to redefine myself and what I meant to people. As we would say in the Ignation tradition, I explored the question of "Whose Am I" and was startled and delighted to find that the answer- which I had once defined as "So and so's, because no one else is around" suddenly became "His and hers and this person's and that person's etc". (For a great, and amusing, account of the voyage on the journey to discovering the answers to the 3 questions Who am I, Whose am I, and Who am I going to be, see the blog Wandering In Wonder for Oct 25th;

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