Sunday, April 28, 2013

Love, Marriage, and Country Music

My niece had her first communion today, and it was really sweet to see all of the little girls in little white dresses and veils, as well as all of the little boys in suits.  As I watched all of them go up, I was struck by how similar wedding dresses are to the first communion dresses that the little girls were wearing.  While I should have been paying attention to the scripture readings, I was thinking about some of the reading I did about the Catholic Church before I converted, and how many theologians say that taking communion is the consummation of our relationship with Jesus, much like sex is the consummation of a relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.  Part of this is because they both serve similar purposes--both have both unitive and creative aspects to them. With sex, it should bring a married couple closer together (be unitive physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and there is always the possibility that a baby will come out of it nine months later (the creative aspect).  With the Eucharist, the unitive aspect is that we are taking in our Savior, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--so there is literal uniting of ourselves to Him--and the creative aspect is that, when we take communion with the right disposition, it will birth new life in us. I don't think I would have noticed the imagery of the white dresses and veils as a protestant, so I have to say that it was really cool to see and understand it today.  I also think that this is part of the reason that it used to be that a person's first Communion was usually around the age of 15 or 16--the analogy is much more powerful, and the wait creates a longing in us for our Beloved, much like the wait of an engagement does for our physical spouse.

My niece in her First Communion Dress.  Isn't she beautiful?
So, with these ideas swirling around my head this morning, I have been thinking about my own failed marriage as well as my own relationship with Jesus.  One of the contributing factors in my own marriage's demise was the fact that I was never in love with my ex.  I cared about him, but not with the passion that one should have for a spouse.  In truth, I don't think that I have ever been in love with anyone, in spite of the fact that I was engaged or almost engaged several times before I married my ex.  While there was one guy that I was close to being in love with, I'm not sure that I can really say I was in love with him either.  I think that the potential was there but never realized for some reason, probably due to our mutual immaturity at the time.  At 37 years old, I find that sad and slightly tragic.  I know that much of the reason that I married my ex was because I was vulnerable and still deeply hurting from a recent bout with depression--I didn't trust my own judgement, so when my ex told me that he knew I was the person God had for him, I trusted in that rather than try to discern God's will for myself. 

I also have to wonder at my motivations for getting engaged or talking about engagement in the other relationships before my ex--was I just that desperate to be married?  Was it because of pressure from family?  Was I that silly and immature (that would be a resounding YES!!!)? I look at me way back then, and go, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING????"  I've spent time looking at the journal entries, and I know that some of it was just being in love with the idea of being in love.  The fact that my parents expected me to leave college with an MRS degree, not the BA and MA that I ended up with also contributed. 

So did our culture...even as I am rediscovering my love for Country music and other genres, I'm finding that some songs are just problematic.  They glorify sex as love (remember "I think we're alone now"?), or they talk about love as it should be, and I find myself longing for a love like that rather than being content with the place where God has me.

This song is a case in point.  I love this song for lots of reasons.  The singer is great and the sentiment is one I think just about every female would love to say about their significant other.  I would also argue that every woman in a good marriage has things their husbands do on a regular basis that "makes them cry" in a good way.  At the same time, this kind of song is perfect fodder for envy, and maybe the creation of unrealistic expectations.  When a guy hears stuff like this, does he think, "there's no way I can live up to this," or does he go, "I want to do that for my significant other"?  If I were a guy, I might lean more toward the former than the latter.

This is another example.  While it is a lot more realistic, it still makes me wonder if I will ever truly fall in love.  And this thought is usually followed by wondering whether any guy I would be willing to date would be willing to date me.  I can think of all of the reasons why they wouldn't be: I'm divorced, which at least points to the possibility that I'm not willing/able to commit to a forever relationship; It also points to some major baggage; I'm chaste, which is very rare in our society, especially for a divorcee; I am a faithful Christian, and expect them to be the same; I'm Catholic and I plan to raise any children I have as Catholics; I have a history of major depression; I have eclectic tastes in music; I have food allergies out the wazoo--even I have trouble keeping track of them; the litany goes on and on....

Then I find songs like this--the songs that say exactly what I feel about a particular situation.  I've come to the conclusion that, like the name of this song, I'm hard to love: I'm one of those high maintenance females that guys don't like to date.  I'm working on that, but my many allergies mean that I'm going to be higher maintenance than most women.  I mean, at some point I'll have to have a conversation with him about not using fabric softener anymore, and just choosing a restaurant is fodder for nightmares...This is not the picture of low maintenance!!! 

And yet, lately I have found myself praying that the Lord would allow me to be head over heels in love at least once in my life--with Him and maybe with another human being, even if the second comes to nothing.  Is it wrong to want to experience the pinnacle of what it means to be human? It might be that I'm overdosing on Country Music, and I need to cut back on my consumption...I probably DO need to cut back on how much country music I'm listening to, but I doubt that this is the only reason for my prayers.  Scripture says in I John 4 that God IS Love.  When we are in love with another person, the best of who we are comes out--it is also through love that we come to know God.  Think about it--when we are in love with another person, we study them, try to think of ways to please them, and our longing is for their company...and that is what we should be doing with God. Additionally, love for others is probably the best remedy for selfishness, and all of us struggle with that particular propensity!

I know that I'm really not ready to begin any kind of relationship--my ex has only been out of the house for 7 months, and the divorce has only been final for about 5, not to mention the fact that I won't truly be free for a relationship until I have heard about what the Tribunal says about my annulment application.  I can't help but think about it, though. 

And that, in and of itself can be dangerous, as it can set up expectations that no human being could ever meet.  I quit reading romance novels in college because I realized that it created unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be.  Really, I should know better, as none of my relationships have followed what is considered to be a "typical" pattern--you know, where the guy gets up the courage to talk to the girl, and then pursues her relentlessly until he wins her heart and they ride off into the sunset together....typical romantic comedy drivel!  However, when guys have pursued me like that, it has felt more like the story line from Mr. Wrong, than it has happily ever after! 

There is a very real part of my heart that wants....something, I'm not sure what to call it, in my romantic relationships....I guess the best way to explain it is a cross between being cherished for who I am, to not be afraid of showing the whole world that he wants to spend time with me, for him to be willing and able to stand toe to toe with me if he disagrees (I have out-stubborned most of the guys I have dated), to not be afraid to hold me as I blubber and get his shirt all wet, to value my opinion and me as a person, to discuss intellectual issues with an open mind, to be desired by him physically, and for him to proactively seek to help me get to Heaven. In short, I guess I want him to be in love with me, too, and that has also been missing in my relationships to this point (or at least it has from my perspective--I could be wrong).

That is why I take solace in the following verse from Jeremiah 31: 3-6

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again,
    and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
    and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
    and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out
    on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”
No matter what happens with the humans around me, God already loves me like that, and even when I cry out with longing for human companionship, the Lord is there to comfort me, cherish me, and draw me closer to Him.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gear update!

So, I took some time today to look at the gear I have and see if I can fit it into my backpack and/or how much it is all going to weigh.  Based on what I have learned and what I have bought, I currently have the following for my Camino Trip:

This is everything on the list below.

Basically the clothes/personal items

Outerwear and backpack/sleeping bag

Toiletries and my new shoes!

Socks, 8 pr (4 pr regular hiking, 2 pr thin hiking, and 2 pr fuzzy socks for night)
1 pr long underwear
1pr running capris
1 pr running tights
cetirizine (allergy meds)
Scrubby sponge
Flip Flops
glue stick
head lamp
bandannas (2)
Waterproof matches
Insulated mug
Water bottle
ballet shoes
fleece jacket
Long sleeved shirt (2)
Short sleeved shirts (3)
Sports bra (2)
Fleece Scarf
Beanie hat
Dr. Bronners
Soap Caddy
Feminine Pads
Airtight container
ziplock bags
First aid kit
Ear plugs
Toothbrush and toothpaste
writing utensils
fingernail clippers
hand sanitizer
hiking shoes
knee brace
wind breaker
Sleeping bag and compression sack
Emergency Blanket

I still need:

Drinking Bladder
Waterproof/woolen gloves
Rain Coat
Hiking underwear (2-3 pr)
Hiking skirt
Running tights (1 pr--would replace the long underwear since I could wear them without anything on top of it)
Hiking gas stove
Blister care
Power converter
Extra batteries/rechargeable batteries and charger

Total weight of everything I have BEFORE the gear that I still need:  20.5 lbs.  Now, about 2 of that are my shoes, and another 1-2 lb will account for clothing that I will be wearing.  I need to try to pare down what I have to get it lighter, which will probably mean that I will need to get rid of some duplicates.  I also forgot to get my hiking poles out of my car so that I could weigh them and pack them....they add about a lb each.  I should also try to find a lighter journal, since the one that I was planning on taking weighs 12.5 oz.  It has the benefit of being free, but I am going to need to shave off more weight, not to mention space!

I could barely fit everything into my backpack that was laid out.  I have absolutely no idea where I'm going to find the room to add a drinking bladder, a rain coat, and a poncho, not to mention gaiters!
Even though I really didn't want the weight of bigger pack, I'm thinking that I really should have gotten one that was at least a 40 liter.  Instead, I got an Osprey Sirrus 36.  I'm also going to need someone to teach me how to pack this thing, as it just might be my bad packing skills that is causing my gear to barely fit.  I'm most surprised at how much of my pack is taken up by my sleeping bag, even in a compression sack!  I would say that it probably takes up 2/3 of my pack, so space is really at a premium, and unfortunately, it will only fit in my pack oriented vertically rather than horizontally.  Part of me also wonders if it will take less space if I take it out of the compression sack completely...I suppose I could see if I could find a different compression sack, but I really doubt that it can be compressed more than it is in the compression sack that came with the sleeping bag--I am amazed at how much air can be squeezed out of it as it is...Down is a wonderful thing!

My sleeping bag: a Big Agnes Fria, rated at 15*F, and only 3 lbs!
These wouldn't fit, but I expect them to be on my feet and face, so that isn't a problem!
In spite of being a good 5 lbs heavier than I wanted it to be, I'm glad that I went to REI and got fitted for the backpack--it is surprisingly comfortable when on my back.  At the same time, I haven't taken it hiking yet, so just putting it on around the house doesn't really count.  That will be the next step--taking it for a hike while it is weighted down.  I just want to get the rest of my gear first, though, so that I can know what the grand total is, as well as to figure out how to make it all fit into my pack!
Me with the backpack on.
and me with my backpack on from the back.
I have also come to the conclusion that, even though I would really like to use this backpack when I eventually through-hike the Appalachian Trail, it probably won't be big enough, especially when you figure in the 5-10 lbs of food that you need to have with you when hiking the AT.  In fact, even though it will add weight, I'm thinking that I might need to return my pack to REI so that I can get one that is slightly bigger, that way I have a little bit of breathing room for gear if I need it.  At least the sleeping bag is a really good one, so I can probably continue to use it for the next 10-12 years or so. I will just need to add a sleeping pad if I ever use it when camping. Since I will be staying in the Pilgrims' Hostels the whole trip, I won't need it for my Camino, though.  From the research that I've been doing, Big Agnes is one of the better companies that create light and ultralight hiking and camping gear. 

Things are starting to come together, and for that I'm incredibly thankful.  The next step is to buy my plane ticket and renew my passport....I will be renewing my passport in May, and probably won't be able to buy my plane ticket until July/August.  I'm really hoping that there is a sale about that time so that I won't be paying $1200 for the ticket, but I'm not really holding my breath....The price has held steady since January!

I am so excited about how the Lord is making things come together!!!  The only thing I could wish for is someone who could and would walk with me.  Even so,  it is going to be a trip of a lifetime, and I get to share it with all of you, so I will just have to carry all of you with me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Work-Life Balance and Other Musings

It is about to become crunch time here at work, which means that I will be working some pretty long hours in the coming weeks, including weekends.  I don't mind so much, since it is only about 2-3 weeks each semester, and no worse than when I had a lot of grading as an instructor, but I sometimes look around at my colleagues and realize that others are able to get all of their work done during the work day, while I am not doing so well with that.  I think that part of my issue is that I'm suffering from ADOSD--Attention Deficit Oooh Shiny! Disorder.  You know, the one where, you begin by looking for one thing on the internet, then see a really cool link, follow it, and then find another cool link...until you realize that 2 hours have gone by and you still haven't found the information that you were looking for in the first place! ADOSD is a real hazard in my job, as part of my job is keeping abreast of the emerging technology and how it intersects with education.  It also doesn't help that I have tons of friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ that post amazingly interesting articles about technology, higher education, running, and related topics.  I was doing much better at not spending so much time reading articles when I only had Facebook to contend with!!!  Even so, I know it isn't the social media that is to fault, it is mine and mine alone.

I just need to figure out what to do about it, as I still want to keep up with my exercising, and that means being able to have the time after work--the pool is only open until 7:00pm, and if I run after 9:00pm, I tend to wake up in the middle of the night totally energized and have trouble getting back to sleep.  I have no idea why swimming has the opposite effect--I'm POOPED after my pool days! On my pool days, I can just come back to work afterwards, even though I doubt that I will want to.  I will be coming in on Saturdays, and that is one of my exercise rest days, so this works perfectly.  I've tried timer apps that cut your day into 25 min segments plus 5 minute rest periods, but the ticking has just become another sound to block out.  I only wish that there were some sort of way to restrict my internet without removing my ability to access the websites that I need to do my job, like Blackboard, my inbox, etc.  Any ideas would be appreciated!!! And yes, I know that writing here is just another distraction if it is done during the workday...

On a completely different note, I read something on a blog post by Elizabeth Duffy today that grabbed my attention:
The repulsive truth is that nothing will provide satisfaction in life but self-gift. Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Married, Single or Religious, you have to find a way to give yourself to others, while expecting nothing meaningful back in return.

 Self-gift without expecting anything back in return....not something that is easily done, no matter what the relationship, but that is what Jesus did for us.  If I am serious about imitating Him in my life, then I need to keep that at the forefront of my mind all the time.  I'm still learning how to do this, but it is one of those things that kind of hit me right between the eyes today as I read this.  One thing that I've noticed since getting divorced is that I'm often forgetting to think about others as I make decisions in my life.  This isn't necessarily completely a bad thing, as it is helping me to recapture my identity as a person in my own right rather than being the enabler of my ex's bad behavior.  At the same time, no matter what my state in life, I am called to give myself to others, just as all of us are, and I'm wondering if I have swung too far in the opposite direction.

This is my favorite depiction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It just seems to depict what devotion to the Sacred Heart is all about--Jesus giving us His Heart.  Someday, I want a nice print of this for my wall. It is by Desvallieres.
Ever since I can remember, my greatest fear has been that I would somehow miss God's will for my life.  What that means has changed as I've gotten older and grown in my faith, but of this I am absolutely sure of--God calls ALL of us to be saints.  As I read the lives of the saints, I am most struck by the fact that becoming a saint really means that I become the best me that I can be...I'm not a cookie cutter person, but I let Jesus work through and shine through everything that makes me uniquely me. At 37, I'm still figuring that last bit out, and the healing that I still need to do from my divorce is muddying the waters.  I always thought that I'd be further along in the process of becoming a saint by this point in my life, although I also thought that I'd be a stay-at-home mom of 6 by this point, too!  Instead, I'm a childless divorcee who is once again looking at her life and trying to figure out where God wants her to be.  I feel a lot like this song by Chris Rice most of the time.

I'm just so glad that the Lord hasn't given up on me...I'd be in real trouble if He ever did!  It goes back to the picture of the Sacred Heart above--Jesus is giving us His Heart, and in doing so, He will make us holy, joyful, and whole: a saint!  All we have to do is accept it and give Him our heart in return.  Now, if only I could get out of His way so that he could do all of those things in me!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Gear, New Digs, New Ideas, and New Beginnings

This week has been a week of changes. Sunday evening, my niece and I switched rooms, since she needs more space for doing her hair, and the easiest way to give it to her was to let her have the master bedroom. Then, I ordered/bought my three biggest gear needs (I will post pictures once all of them arrive)--my backpack, my hiking shoes, and my sleeping bag. I also got some of my small gear items, including my head-lamp, some merino wool hiking socks, and a hiking towel. I used the hiking towel this morning in order to test it out, and I was pretty impressed by it--the micro-fiber material doesn't move very well across the skin, but it definitely dries you off well!  It wasn't really even that wet even though I was dry, so I bet that it really does absorb 8x it's weight in water!  I'm also wearing the hiking socks today, as I was worried that I might react to the wool, and so far so good.

On top of that, I've come to realize that I just MIGHT have enough ideas in my little brain to make a career out of being an academic. I know it is probably stupid, but it has always been one of my concerns about getting a Ph.D....can I think of enough research products to continue to publish? The fact that there are so few full time faculty jobs also gives me pause, but I could also stick with some sort of staff position, so it is a thought, anyway. I have also been intimidated by the idea of writing such a long paper, but my boss gave me a great compliment earlier this month...He said that I wrote better than one of his dissertation advisees! I don't know if I will pursue a PhD or not, but I have time, since I can't begin until August of 2014 at this point, which means I don't have to apply until february of next year.

And, this week is the beginning of a new year for me. I don't really feel like I'm 37...In fact, I have to say that I feel much like I did at 25 or 30. Well, that isn't entirely knees are creakier, and I have more grey hairs and wrinkles, but inside, there isn't much difference. Maybe a little more wisdom, and hopefully a better knowledge of who I am....fundamentally, the same core is there. I am also happier, more at peace than I was a year ago, but that is more a product of my divorce than a fundamental change in me.

What do I hope will happen this year? That is a really good question, and I'm not sure that I can answer. I do know that I want to continue healing from my divorce, as well as from some of the scars from childhood that I discovered as I was writing my annulment application. I also want to build my mental toughness through continuing to run, racing, and then finishing my Camino. I need to prove to myself that I am able to go the distance....both figuratively and literally! The demise of my marriage has shaken my confidence in myself to do so--even though I knew within 2 weeks of my wedding that I had married the wrong person, I never expected to be single again. My great uncle used to always say that one should wait to get married--if you married the right person, it would be that much sweeter, and if you married the wrong person, you would have less time to endure it! And that is what I expected to do--in many ways, I felt that my marriage was penance for my bad choices, and I sometimes feel guilty for being so happy and at peace now that I am single again.

I think that I will leave what happens in this coming year in the Lord's hands. More than likely, my plans will be changed by Him anyway, and it will keep me from fretting myself to death. Honestly, the way I feel about this year is the same feeling you get at the beginning of symphony concerts--you know that heartbeat of time when the Concert master has just finished making sure that everyone is in tune and the conductor has just raised his baton? We all tend to hold our breath, waiting for that first note to be played, or I do, at least! That is what this year feels like to me...a transition from cacophony to beautiful music, a pause before the main event. I have a feeling that anything that I plan will be paltry compared to what the Lord will give me anyway, so I am holding my breath for the first glorious note, even as I continue walking in the direction I know that I should.