Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Most people who know me probably wouldn't peg me as extremely shy or insecure.  A bit more on the reserved side definitely, but definitely not an obvious recluse.  Which just goes to show how much a mask can fool the unsuspecting viewer.  I am shy.  I am terrified of meeting new people.  I'm still trying to figure out why.  My most recent theories are varied.  

A.  I'm scared of meeting people who may change my life forever because I like life the way it is (for the most part.)  

B.  I'm worried about being able to keep up with more friends than I already have.  It's really difficult to maintain close friendships with more than a few people, at least for me.  Which is partially why my circle of friends is so small.  Well, the friends I keep up with on a regular basis that is.  With the invention of Facebook and the like, it's been easier to keep up with all the people I don't see all the time.  And, of course, not talking to people for a while means that you have more to discuss when you do talk.  But I still worry about losing the close contact I have now if I add more people to that list.

C.  I think the biggest fear revolves around a rather huge insecurity on my part.  I know I'm not supposed to care what other people think of me (relatively speaking.)  I mean obviously I don't want to cease caring to the point where I sink into a murky pool of apathy and lax morals (not that I'm in any danger of that).  But I shouldn't care so much whether people like me or not.  Apparently, I'm a likable person.  I'm pretty sure I don't come across as someone who worries excessively about what other people are thinking (whether I admit it to myself or not.)  I can hold my own in a conversation with strangers, mostly by listening and responding vs. having a more active and vocal part.  Unless, of course, you get me going on my favorite topics like books, movies or Macs.  ;)  But anyways, I suppose it's some kind of defense mechanism, to a certain extent.  

I think it's safe to say that C is the most relevant and important issue at hand.  I've definitely gotten better at not needing to be part of the "popular" crowd.  I never was part of that group.  When I was growing up, I really wanted to be accepted by them - but we had relatively little in common.  I was definitely on a more innocent level than they were, for which I am forever thankful.  And once I made it to college, I didn't care so much about the popular crowd (especially after a year or two of observation.)  There is no way I'd want to be included in such a shallow group.  Of course, I'm sure they've all got good qualities of their own, but as a whole they seemed rather sad.  

So even though I've dismissed the "populars," I still struggle with acceptance in general.  I thank God for my friends who love me  just the way I am, even with all my odd quirks like a Barbie movie collection and the unstoppable desire to balance on sidewalk curbs.  But I worry too much that new groups of people will think I am strange, boring, or unsuitable for inclusion.  Rationally, I know that this fear is completely unfounded.  I shouldn't allow my past to infringe upon my future.  All I have to be is myself (even if I don't fully know who that is yet.)  

Of course, all this talk still fails to fully chase away the butterflies that invade my stomach whenever I prepare for a new experience.  My gut feeling is to burrow away into my hole so as to avoid any possibility of rejection.  And for a very long time, I willingly followed that feeling.  Due to the influence of my amazing friends, I am finally forcing myself to step outside my shell.  I know there's nothing to dread.  But I'm realizing that it's going to take a lot of time and effort to convince my irrational, emotional side of that fact.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crying Is Therapeutic

I don't normally burst out into tears unexpectedly.  Of course, I used to do it quite often back when I was a control-freak child.  The slightest change to the plan used to let loose the overflow of salty water. Crying is exhausting, and I think I used to view it as a sign of weakness.  Maybe that's why I avoided talking to people about things that bothered me.  Because I knew that if I did start expressing my thoughts, I wouldn't be able to get all the words out through my choked-up tears.  I seem to have gotten past that combination with years of practice and experience.  I can now explain what's going on, for the most part, without dissolving behind a mist.  I've also become an excellent letter writer.  I've discovered that putting my thoughts on paper allows me to get all the emotions and inter-connected thoughts out before I am interrupted by someone else's questions or comments.  I find it much easier to express my feelings through the written word rather than vocally.  Plus, there is a much lower risk of crying when I'm not immediately discussing whatever the problem may be.

All of which means that when I do start crying unexpectedly, it generally means something.  Generally, it's just that I am deeply connected to whatever I'm seeing or hearing (such as when I watched "For Greater Glory").  Which makes it disconcerting to me when I'm just sitting not thinking about anything in particular, and all of a sudden, the tears start flowing.  Partially, I'm reluctant to admit that I don't have as great a grasp of control on my life as I'd like to believe.  Mostly, though, I'm simply astonished by how much current life events are really shaking me.  I'm on the cusp of a new life adventure.  I'm moving 2000 miles from everyone I know.  I've lived in two places my entire life.  The thought of leaving my core group of friends and doubling the geographical distance between me and my family is overwhelming, to say the least.  Of course, it doesn't help matters that I've finally begun leaving my cave and started hanging out with people on a regular basis.  I'm making new friends, and I have to leave them all behind.

Of course, knowing that this move is the next step on God's plan for my life helps a lot.  As does the knowledge that I can place all my worry in His hands.  But I'm still human, and whether I choose to admit it or not, I'm worried . . . okay, we'll call it what it is.  I'm terrified.  Extremely excited (mostly) as well, but terrified nonetheless.  And I guess that's where the crying comes in.  Crying releases the pent-up emotions (oftentimes ones of which I am unaware) in a way that allows me to admit how weak and frail I am on my own.  They allow me to accept the fact that growing up and moving forward is painful.  They open the gate to humility and the chance, once more, to place my worries and cares in God's hands.  Now if I could only remember all of this while I'm crying.  Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Everything we do is a choice.  Our choices shape our future.  Our choices affect those around us.  Choices have unforeseen consequences.  One choice can change your life forever.  It is just as easy, however, to make small choices that lead towards the same life-changing alteration.  And you can always make the choice to change, no matter how far down a path you have gone.  

Why the musings on choices?  I was recently introduced to an Indie film titled "Ink" which illustrates the impact of our choices and how a single decision can cause an explosive chain of events as one link sparks the next into action.  I won't actually discuss the film per se because it should be watched before discussed, but I'd like to ramble for a few lines on the general topic of choices.

Some choices are simple and may not seem to hold much sway over your future such as what you eat for breakfast or how many movies you watch.  Other choices have a very visible impact such as deciding on a school or a new career or a vocation.  All choices, large or small, do guide the path of your life.  As human beings we were granted the gift of Free Will; it is up to us to choose our fate.  Of course, with the grace of God, these choices can be easier (or at least more bearable.)  

Everyone knows that you can choose to have a good or a bad day.  You can defy the discouraging and depressing vibes of the world around you and still go about with a smile on your face.  Or you can choose to join the ranks of sad and lonely people.  You can choose to join in someone's anger or revenge, or you can choose to attempt changing their point of view.  You can choose to hide away from the world, or you can choose to step out of your comfort zone and become part of the world.  Regardless, choices have consequences.  If you experience a great sorrow, you can choose to accept it and move on or to seek revenge on whoever caused the sorrow.  Just remember that two wrongs do not make a right.  Do not let the ill choices of someone else dictate how you choose to live your life.

Similarly, we can ourselves help guide the choices of those around us.  Ladies, your presence can lessen the foulness of language in the near vicinity.  Gentlemen, your presence can lessen the amount of fear in a potentially dangerous situation.  By setting an example in our own lives, we can be a positive role model for our family, friends and co-workers.  St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."  This statement applies to our entire life.  If we uphold the moral standard and strive to lead a holy life, we will stand out amidst the immorality of modernity.  And the more people are willing to choose the truth, the more our country and world will benefit.  

Finally, never underestimate the power of a genuine smile.  Even if your personal life seems to be in a forever downward spiral and the Devil is getting the upper hand, smile.  The Devil doesn't understand how we can have joy in the midst of suffering.  And you never know how much worse someone else's situation may be.  You might just be dealing with a broken dishwasher while they're coping with a sudden death in the family.  And remember, on the flip-side of all this, just because someone scowls at you across the hall or down the grocery aisle, it doesn't mean they're angry at you.  They're probably just having an off-day and forgot to choose to smile.  So smile back and say a quick prayer for them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hopeless . . . But Not Without Hope

I'm one of those people who falls in to the "hopeless romantic" category.  I drink in the beauty of a single rose.  I daydream about happily ever after.  And I watch an excessive amount of chick flicks.  Yes, I can actually admit to that fact.  Fair warning: This post probably won't have very many deep, intelligent, philosophical points.  Mostly it's the fruit of frustration at my occasional (some days more than others) discontent with my current lot in life.  Coupled with the daydreaming dynamic, it's a dangerous combination depending on the day.  Now that we've cleared that up, I'd just like to say that I know my vision of the whole "happily ever after" in reality is skewed.  The romance of on screen couples has given me too many unrealistic examples.  (Not that I regret watching them.  Sometimes they're the perfect cure for a funk.  Or a good laugh.  Or smiles.)  But I know in reality that no relationship falls into place that easily.  You don't go from hating someone one day to loving them the next.  You don't suddenly wake up and realize you're in love with your best friend at the same time that they do.  And you definitely don't decide to marry someone after knowing them for only the better part of a week, or a weekend as the case may be.  It's nice to delude yourself every once in a while that such fantastical happy endings actually exist, but I've discovered that a delusion too often entered becomes a habit extremely hard to break.

I've had my share of broken hearts and shattered dreams.  Apparently it is possible to force your own heart to break when you fall hard for someone who doesn't share the attraction.  I don't recommend it.  Especially if you're of the same hopeless romantic type that I am.  It takes years to recover.  The only plus I can think of is the benefit of lessons learned.  You take better care of who you allow yourself to love after you experience what it's like to have it all end in vain.  Although then you run into another problem, i.e. the case of closing yourself off from all possibility of heartache.  It's my uneducated opinion that true love only comes at a high price.  You have to be willing to jump, but it's never a bad idea to give yourself a parachute just in case.

And what is true love anyways?  I know it involves self-sacrifice.  A willing of the good for the other person.  A relationship based on true friendship.  The only perfect example we have is God's love for us Who gave His only Son to save the soul of all mankind.  Given such an impeccable standard to follow, we can only hope to achieve as near a likeness as our fallen nature allows.  With the grace of God, of course, anything is possible.  I know true love exists in the human race.  I see it in the face of a parent when they see their child.  I see it in the glance of a husband at his wife.  I see it in the actions of friends and family who truly care.  I know I am so blessed to be surrounded by so much true love in my life.

But none of this rational knowledge makes waiting for the fairy tale any easier.  Neither does it help the emotional side realize that fairy tale happily ever afters like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty don't actually exist.  At least not on a regular basis.  Maybe that's a bit cynical, but cynicism is one of the prices paid for dashed dreams.  Or maybe it's just realistic.  I mean, every girl dreams of waking up and finding her Prince Charming standing before her, but in reality that would be really creepy.

I know I can't explain this innate desire for the perfect storybook ending (or beginning).  I know that God has a plan for my life.  That He has a purpose for these deep emotions that bubble up constantly (although I've gotten really good at concealing them.)  So what do I do in the meantime?  I wait.  I listen.  I watch.  I try to be open and guarded at the same time.  I try to make friends without thinking further.  And I watch chick flicks as an outlet.  It's a comforting thought (regardless of how realistic such a thought may be) that the damsel in distress, in spite of her trials and sufferings (or maybe because of them), is always rescued in the end.  The kiss that breaks the magic spell.  The friend who becomes the dearest love.  The prince who banishes all the darkness.  The white knight who champions her in her distress.

And I wonder how I can have such feelings (for lack of a better world - darned English language) for someone I've never met.  I suppose they're just one way of God's telling me that I haven't erred in my vocational discernment.  I know, at some point (and only God knows when), I'll be walking down that aisle in a white dress towards my own happily ever after (with all the messy bits thrown in for good measure).  That one day I'll fulfill my call to marriage and motherhood.  I know I still have an enormous amount of growing to do as myself before I can even begin to think about dating someone, let alone marry them.  And I'm sure that they've got growing of their own to do.  So I remind myself of the rational explanations and succumb to the emotional lure of the fairy tale when rationality fails.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Letting Go

There are several ways to deal with anger, frustration, sorrow and the like.  Some people retaliate with force and sweep a path of destruction.  Some people crumble to the ground and bemoan their trials.  And some people don't seem affected at all.  These last often take the most dangerous approach to trouble.  They force their emotions aside as they deal with the problem at hand rationally.  While it is extremely useful to have a level head when dealing with trials, it can also be extremely dangerous if you never release your emotions.  I've seen first hand how burying your true emotions beneath layers of sturdy masks can damage and sometimes ruin relationships with everyone around you.  If you don't deal with the entire problem, you may fall in to the trap of developing a sub-conscious grudge that will grow and grow until you can't stop it.  But I also know how hard it is for these same people to let go of their control and just allow the emotions to take their course.  So here's my advice:

1.  Keeping a strong face in the midst of trials can be a good thing, especially if you have other people leaning on you for support.  Everyone falling to pieces solves nothing.  Just be careful of how many people you try to care for.  If you are a generous and loving person, it's often hard to say no or to even realize when you should.  You have to remember that in order to help them, you must also help yourself.  If that means taking 5 minutes or 5 days away from everyone else who leans on you, then so be it.  You don't want them to become annoying ticks rather than the friends and family you truly want to help and support.

2.  When you do take time for yourself, find an outlet.  Get the emotions out so that they don't continue to build up inside your heart.  I find an outlet through my writing.  Or talking to a very close friend.  Remember that a true friendship has give and take.  You rely on each other.  Just make sure that you deal with the emotions and your own pain in a timely fashion.  If you allow it to build up for too long, you often either forget it or become too overwhelmed.

3.  Be aware that the sorrows of your past (unless dealt with properly) will probably encroach on your future.  Some trial that you pushed aside years ago may suddenly resurface with vehemence.  So please face your trials.  Don't use comforting others as an excuse to hide once more behind the mask.  You needn't face them alone.  You can always find someone to help you, even if you can't see them.

Basically, don't bury your emotions and forget about them.  Push them aside if the present case calls for it, but don't forget to pull them back in and find closure regarding whatever the issues may be.  And if you have buried issues in your past, figure out how to solve them.  Do whatever you can to ensure that your heart is no longer a potentially hazardous waiting zone for grudges and thoughts of revenge or depression.  Seek out the light, and you will find it sooner or later.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Silver Linings

You know those days when everything seems to go wrong?  Your alarm didn't go off.  Your fridge is empty.  Or your car just won't start for the third weekend in a row?  (Guess which one didn't happen today.)  I've decided that there are quite a few ways to deal with said problems.  You could just jump off the deep end and run around screaming and cursing the fates.  You could get extremely frustrated by how late you're going to be or how much money this repair is going to be.  You could just crawl in to a hole and curl into a fetal position as you suck your thumb and bemoan your sorry existence - the whole "woe is me" angle.  But none of these outlets are fruitful or helpful in any way, shape or form.  Sure, it might give you some small pleasure to curse your vehicle for breaking down yet again, but it won't help fix the problem.  Besides, it wastes energy.  So here's my solution.

Take ten seconds and just breathe.  In and out.  Allow yourself time to fully grasp the situation before tackling it head on.  Remember that broken cars are the reason we have car insurance.  So that when you need a tow truck, it's covered.  You don't have to delve into your pocket for loose change.  This is also why you have an emergency fund in your bank account.  Unexpected (and often costly) delays happen all the time.  Your best bet is to be prepared for the inevitable.  Sort of like bringing an umbrella on a sunny hike just to make sure it doesn't actually rain.  Of course, car repairs are just a part of life.  No use getting angry and frustrated over them.

So, now that you've established the problem and called the tow truck, you're probably wondering how in the world you're going to get all the places you have to be.  Most immediately it's the mechanic to talk to them about your car.  This is where the true friends and Good Samaritans show up.  They lend you their car with no questions asked.  You make it to the mechanics and back safely, confident that your vehicle is in good hands.  Other friends are more than willing to give you a ride places such as Mass.  Suddenly, your life looks less and less bleak.  After all, the sun is shining.  You got a day off to relax.  This could very well be God's way of saying "slow down."  

And that's where the silver lining comes into the picture.  What seems at first only an annoying problem transforms into numerous opportunities for gentle reminders that He's in control.  That you do have friends who love you.  Friends who would drop everything at the slightest call for help.  Friends who you would do exactly the same thing for were they in the same position.  So once you've got all your immediate troubles sorted out, take another ten seconds (or longer) and be thankful for the many blessings.  Your car will be fixed.  Your troubles have dissipated with the help of many friends.  And God has once more shown that you are not alone.

So, it is up to you to choose the silver lining.  Every situation has one, no matter how dark and dreary the cloud of trouble may appear.  You can choose to waste time, energy and your life in being frustrated by every problem that appears.  Or you can choose to offer up the frustrations and know that everything will work out for the best.  You can work through the problems rather than ignore them, and along the way, you will discover blessings you never knew you had or had failed to fully appreciate.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I'll Be A Old Maid

No young girl wants to be labeled an "old maid."  Perhaps that's why we have become so desperate to have a man in our lives, regardless of whether he is "the one."  I have to admit that I was in the boat with all the other optimistic, naive young women who entered college with the thought "I'll be getting married when I graduate."  That wasn't in God's plan for me, at least not yet.  It's been a long road, and a difficult one, but I'm at last beginning to be content with my singlehood (even rejoicing in it occasionally.)  I'd like to take a few moments to pass on my experience and thoughts on the subject to all you readers out there who may be going through this or know somebody going through it.

I've decided that there are a few steps to be taken when one looks at one's future, especially regarding the vocation of marriage.  I would like to outline them for you in the hope that together we can determine some of the cause behind womankind's inevitable tendency towards romantic illusions and heartbreak.

Step 1:  Discerning your vocation.  This does not mean figuring out where you want to work after graduation.  A vocation is your life's work, your calling, what God intended you for.  The most common distinction within vocations is that between the religious life and the married life, both of which are amazing vocations.  But your vocation could also be to the single life.  The process of discernment can take many years, even decades, and it won't work unless you are completely open to every possibility.  Too many people (myself included) spend their lives searching for something to complete them, but they search on their own and refuse to let God take control and show them their path.  It is a scary thing to offer all your hopes and dreams to God and place all your trust in Him.  And it's incredibly difficult, but once you do, everything will fall into place as He reveals His wondrous plans for your life.  

Step 2:  Where to look?  For the sake of this post, I'm going to focus on those who are called to the married life.  I currently believe that is my vocation, although I'm still working at the complete discernment.  In the meantime, what should you do?  Suppose you don't have a boyfriend (or any possible prospects).  Does this mean that you will end an old maid?  NO!  As a dear friend recently said, "If you're not ready, and he is, God won't bring you together.  If you're ready, and he is not, God won't bring you together.  Only when God knows you are both ready will you be brought together."  While you are single, your sole purpose is to draw closer to God and develop your own spiritual life.  The vocation of all people is to strive for sainthood.  As a single person, you have advantages that married people do not.  You can spend more time in prayer and meditation than a mother with seven children or a working father.  Use this time to become the best person you can be.  For in order to give yourself to someone else completely, you must first know who you are.  And that is no easy task.

Step 3:  Don't despair!  Too many young women fall into the depths of despair when they aren't married by age 23.  Believe me, I was in that boat once too.  It seems that everyone around you is happily in love, and you are left out in the cold.  What is it that those girls have that you don't?  Are you ugly?  Boring?  Unlovable?  I've asked myself all these questions at one time or other, but thankfully with the help of God and my closest friends, I have determined that the answer to all those questions is an emphatic NO.  Just because you don't have someone yet, doesn't mean that you won't in the future.  Focusing on what we don't have causes us to lose sight of all that we do possess.  If you spend too much time daydreaming about Mr. Right, you will miss spectacular opportunities in your daily life.  He'll come when he's supposed to (or near enough).  Don't spend your life wishing upon a fairy tale.  

Step 4:  Stop looking.  I'm sure you've all had the trouble of something bordering on a pathological search for a guy.  Or close enough.  The checking of left hands for rings.  The glances to see if he's got a girlfriend with him.  The subconscious appraisal of his potential.  All of this simply works negatively.  A) You're automatically classifying every guy you see, making snap judgments.  B) You set yourself up for heartache because inevitably all of the guys are taken or whatever.  You have to stop thinking "Is he the one?" every time you see a guy.  And this goes double when you make friends with a guy.  There is nothing worse than analyzing a new acquaintance for his marriageable potential.  Treat him as a friend, nothing more and nothing less.  If something is meant to happen, let it blossom out of the friendship.  Don't try to force love to grow in a hothouse rather than using the clean air of nature.  If you can stop thinking about every guy as a potential boyfriend, and instead think of them just as potential friends, your life (and your heart) will be a lot easier.  

Step 5:  Guard your heart.  Don't leap at the first opportunity just because you've been waiting for so long.  Don't allow yourself to enter a relationship which is detrimental to your health, whether it be your spiritual, your physical, your emotional, or your mental health.  We've all seen the movies with love at first sight, but I've come to believe that such a thing does not exist.  Not true love anyways.  Like at first sight I can do.  But true love must come from a deep understanding of the other person, which understanding only comes about through true friendship.  By staying away from bad relationships, you protect your heart for your future spouse.  I was once told that every time you break up with someone, your heart rips in two.  If you go through relationship after relationship, by the time you finally find your spouse, your heart is missing large portions.  Be cautious (but not afraid).  Love is about taking chances and risking everything, but generally when a person takes life-changing chances, they weigh a few of the potential pros and cons.  Don't let your passion drown out your reason.  Passion and reason should work harmoniously together.  Believe me, your heart will thank you in the long run if you let reason take the precedence.

I could go on, but I believe that these are the most important things to remember.  Above all, do not lose hope.  God has a calling for everyone, and if your vocation is marriage, He will not let you die without fulfilling it.  Keep your mind and heart open to His will.  Strive towards sainthood.  Keep your eyes open to the world around you.  Cherish and care for your friendships.  And eventually, probably when you least expect it, you'll find that the love of your life has appeared before you, creeping on soft and slow through the guise of friendship blossoming to true love.