29 May 2013

Late Night Thoughts

I kind of wonder whether I'm rushing through things. By things I mean my childhood, though I guess by pretty much all standard ways of measuring that, it's been long gone in some ways. To and through adulthood, maybe.

How do you graduate, hit your next "adult age milestone" (21 only is good for legality in the States, but it's still a marker), become engaged and start planning a wedding and potentially a cross-country move without feeling the need to hit pause and just sit? That's what's going on with my life changes, in case you're interested. It's not that I don't want these things. It is a relief not to feel "stuck" as I did in my last months of school. It is also nice to know I can order wine with dinner if I want. I am charmed by my fiance every day. But the successive leaps forward in responsibility and expected maturity coupled with the ever-present lack of total confidence doesn't make for the smoothest of transitions.

And then there's the question of identity. I don't want to be only a legal, graduated and engaged young woman. There is more to a person than that: their ambitions and fears, hobbies and sacred secluded time, spiritual reflections, observations, desires, the thoughts that plague the mind, the whispers that swell the heart, the passions that overflow into dedicated work.

I suppose I want to make sure I am living a good and productive life and the best way I can see that is in rolling out layers of dough, stationary papers splashed with red and purple flowers, steadily worked through Rosary beads, inky pens and fluid writing, photography breaks, waking up with the sun, folding shirts pressed with lightly musky cologne, never ceasing reading, taking long walks, composing music... I want to be alone and surrounded. I want to see the world, see the sun rise and set over different backdrops, become so used to flying that I have a bag constantly packed with travel items. I want to learn to make my body be strong and healthy, but to challenge it periodically. I want to challenge my mind too, throw aside books and paper in frustration but go back to the problems with diligence hours later.

I want to be better at this whole Catholicism thing because sometimes the beauty and magnitude of God scares me and maybe it would enthrall me more if I would just move my feet and fall to my knees a little more often. Maybe I could really learn to fall in love with Him and my soul would be filled and my heart would break a little more often for the humbling and wretched and glorious sacrifice that greets me in every parish I enter. Maybe I could have some real conversations and even if God didn't seem to be answering, I could assure myself that He would and I've done well to finally make that step, but I probably couldn't avoid getting my head inflated about it and then I'd be looking for a confessional again because the sin of pride is a right kick in the head and I'd understand God not giving me all the answers quite yet.

What does the life of total surrender to God look like? Can I find it in a convent or a monastery or in late April at seminary when men are about to become deacons and priests? Can I find it in the continual but quiet self-sacrifice of wife to husband and husband to wife? Will I see it should I struggle through trying to conceive, or finally doing so but finding child-rearing so much more difficult than I could imagine because, as much as my desires now speak, I turn out not to be a good mother, so all I can do is pray I can do enough? Will I see it living hand to mouth, cutting the unnecessary extravagances of coffee shops and concerts and later rationing all of my food to my family? Will it instead be something less melodramatic where I need to learn to be self-disciplined in favor of what I perceive to be a corresponding reward (mind over matter?)? Could I ever really see total surrender in this life, or is my only option the crucifix hanging above me because it is the only picture ever of total surrender?

As much as I don't know the answers to these questions, I know total surrender must be linked to a good life, or at least life worth living. The best kind of life worth living, if you play your cards right (and honestly). And I suppose that self-awareness flowers from that cultivation. But maybe that's the point. Maybe once I can really do well at living for God, I will stop caring about myself so much. How narcissistic is it to be looking for your "identity?" Am I really having this crisis as a young person who isn't sure what her exact next step is, or am I becoming much too self absorbed?

But the self has to be important, because you have to be working on yourself to make you better and more holy and suited for Heaven. Still it seems a mystery that He lets us all in to experience Him, us in all our sooty splendor and Him in His brilliant glory. It feels like standing in front of a great work of art or at the edge of a cliff overlooking iridescent waters, fruitful lands and everlasting skies. You can't wrap your mind around the beauty, the complexity and the bare-boned simplicity, the immensity. You can't imagine the work it would take to perfect each detail, to know the right colors, to put it all together...but there it is and you have to acknowledge that Someone is in charge and realize that Someone comes down from Heaven every Mass to dwell among men as He did thousands of years ago because he LOVES us.

And as much as that seems hard to believe, you're still crying about it in amazement because the last thing you ever deserve is that kind of love. How could you be worth it, after all, with your mistakes and your confusion and clumsiness in human interaction and common decency and charity every day? But there it is. The host upon the altar, the crucifix hitting your heart, the perfect strokes along the landscape and every inch of the universe, including yourself, the damned creature who never deserved such grace, but there it is. Beauty too unattainable, grace that envelops you like a blanket, love that knocks you off your feet and shakes you to your core.

I don't know what I'm doing with my life. Not all of it. A lot of the details are fuzzy at best and sometimes I can't erase plans quick enough to tack on others. But somehow life works out just as it should, just as quickly as the world turns, just as quickly as God gives you breath and inspiration and grace when you seek Him.


  1. I just stumbled upon your blog. And this post? WHOA. It speaks to me. I can't drum up anything coherent to add to the discourse, but thank you. For writing- and in doing so, making me feel a little less alone in the stream-of-consciousness identity-crisis thing. Peace to you.

    1. I think I have read this once since I posted it two and a half months ago and "WHOA" is right. I should probably read this every day to refocus. It is far too easy to let our days become busy and self-centered.
      Nice to meet you and thank YOU for your comment and for reminding me to get my life going right.