sometimes you have to go down the death trap slide.

So, as the school year is winding down, teaching seniors makes me a little nostalgic about high school. I had a decent high school experience—my high school was great, the teachers were awesome people, and the people that I went to school with were overall pretty nice people. It felt like a family atmosphere. Mostly, because families either knew each other or were related to each other. For example, when I was a senior in high school, I had a cousin in my grade, two cousins in the grade below me, and my brother was a freshman. There were five of us from the same family in high school together. And, we were not the exception.

A few of my students asked me what I was like in high school; and I really didn’t know how to answer the question. I was…normal. I was…like I am now. I was….well, I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t a loser. I was smart, but I wasn’t at the top of my class. I was average. This, my students, did not believe. “You had to be popular, ma’am. Come on!”

I don’t think that I ever cared what my social status in high school was; I was happy where I was.  I wanted normal high school experiences, and I got into a few situations that didn’t reflect the girl that I was then. I was, like to think, the woman that I am today—except I was a little more insecure and I was more of a people pleaser.

I was never a girl to follow trends—I wore what I wanted, watched the shows that I wanted, watched the movies that I wanted. I was an old soul desiring to have an authentic high school experience…but I never really got it. I never had a relationship in high school, and that bothered more than I probably would have admitted back then. And I definitely struggled with embracing who I was, because I wanted to be something different. People liked me for me, but I couldn’t see that. I was so busy worrying about what other people did, and what people thought of me that I never learned to like myself for who I was.

There is one thing that I always look back to when I am fighting with who I am and what I want to be. I have a memory before I was in high school of being at the pool that I work at. It was the end of the summer, the pool was getting ready to close, and the one thing that I wanted to do was jump off the really high lifeguard stand into the pool. So, I did it. I climbed up and dove head first 20 feet into the water. The impact was hard, my back hurt, and I realized that if I hit the water a different way I probably could have been really hurt.

But, I did it. It was amazing, scary, and I felt fearless. This was the girl that I always wanted carry with me…I wanted to dive off a lifeguard stand because I wanted to do it and feel free. Monday and Tuesday, we had a class trip to the Poconos at an indoor water park. There was this intense slide where the bottom dropped out from underneath you—I hate heights, I hate 90 degree angles, and I hate climbing stairs.

Well, I was sitting, relaxing by the pool and the boys talked me into riding the death trap of a slide. I panicked the entire way up the stairs. The boys were like “Ma’am, you’re going to be okay. You’re going to be fine. You’re really that afraid of heights?” I never used to be, and I wanted to do this death trap slide because my reputation was on the line. Was I glad that I did it? Kind of, I would never do it again, but I did go on a mountain roller coaster that I would do again. A coaster that you were able steer down the mountain side and it was so cool!

Something I ask myself what happened to that girl that wanted to do things her way; that wasn’t afraid of adversity or pain and wanted to do something for the experience? I think there were a number of things that happened. I probably was made fun of for being different. I was too out there, I didn’t conform to what I “should” have been. And, I wanted to be like everyone else that didn’t stand out. So, what would I say to that girl now?

I would look her in the eye and I would confront her what all those uncomfortable times that made her question who she was and what she wanted. She wanted to be fearless, but instead of being fearless she became ridden with fear. She started caring about what other people thought, she started hanging out with people that didn’t give her what she needed, and she started chasing  things that weren’t good for her. I would remind her of the time she was on top of lifeguard stand and ask her to remember the feeling of falling into the water. The feeling was freedom, the feeling of letting it all go, and the feeling of freedom that you can do anything at all.

I got that feeling on the mountain coaster and the death trap water slide. I remembered what it was like to feel free again and feel like I could do anything. It was awesome. Embracing that side of me made me realize a few things—how much I have grown up, how much I have experienced in my life that is so awesome.

In high school I was able to see Julie Andrews in person, attend a papal mass in New York City, and travel to Italy for 10 days. I have seen the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain. In college, I attended a Phillies World Series Parade, joined a sorority, learned value skills of time management and compassion for others. And, as an adult, I have learned value lessons and skills that I never thought that I would be able to learn. It’s all be such a cool, crazy ride.

Part of that ride includes all the heartbreak and problems that I have had in my life—they make up that map. It’s not something that I want to forget because those things have made me who I am today. Through my dad’s death I have learned how important it is to listen to people and to be there for people regardless of what is going on in our lives. Part of life is helping other, giving of yourself to people, and that was something that my dad always taught me.

One of most valuable lessons that Dad taught me, through his actions, was that regardless of your shit…people have other shit going on, too. And, unless you stop to listen to someone and care about that person…you are never going to learn what is going on. You don’t compare your situations to other people, because it’s going to help anything. Comparison only brings sadness and anxiety, and doesn’t allow you to open yourself up to the people that might need to hear from you.

Dad’s passing highlighted a lot of things for me. I learned who was there to support me because they loved me, and those who supported me because it was something they thought they should do. It made them feel better. That’s fine, because not everyone know who to deal with death. There is not handbook that you get when a parent dies that says, “Hey, you should do x, y, and z to help yourself.” No magic pill, and no magic way to tell people how to treat you. You show people how to treat you. You have to let yourself lean on other, and some will support and others will buckle a little bit. But, that buckle might not be because they don’t love you…it just might mean that they need a little support, too.

This is so, so important to recognize because you are recognizing and appreciating what someone is giving you. But, at the time, of course it feels like your being slighted. Because you expect people to step up, and when they don’t it’s disappointing. But, you have to remember, just because you focus in about your situation 99% of day doesn’t mean that other are going to, or have to. People are busy, people have other lives, people have families. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t love you.

This is all much harder to accept that it sounds. Really hard. Because in the moment, you feel alone and helpless. You feel that people have stopped caring about you, stopped thinking about you, but that’s not true. It’s just that they aren’t thinking of you right now. And, like a lot of things in life, only the people that get it really understand it. They know what it’s like to have your thoughts consumed, to want a break from the world, and to realize that certain bullshit just doesn’t matter.

Two years ago if I had gotten a text from my best friend about someone in our class that either got married or had baby, and ridiculing them for their decisions I would have taken the bait. I would have checked out the post on the Gram or Facebook and made the same comment. But now? Who the eff cares? Bullshit drama at work? Who the eff cares? People making more money that you? Who the eff cares? Someone got fat? Who the eff cares? The people that you see on your timelines and feeds, they are on their own paths. They are doing them, and if it makes them happy to post…who the eff cares? Don’t want to read it? Unfollow or unfriend. Or, instead of making fun of them, how about seeing their happy in the situation?

I came across a post of a girl that I knew in high school, and that I always said was copying my every move in life. She now has her master’s and just got a new job. My first thought was, “Oh my God, she’s trying to be me.” Um, hello? How productive is that? How is that helping me? It’s now. Comparison is evil, and I was succumbing to it.

How much of an ego could I possibly have to think that? Ew. That’s not me; and that never was me until I left my little shelter of growing up and entered the real world. Well, in this world you get to choose the things you care about. You get to choose the people in your story. You don’t like the people? Write them out. But, don’t forget that just because you’re the main character means to get to ignore everyone else.

Yes, I have started saying “Who the eff cares?” about the little things, but the people that you care about in your world and you have been your support system are the big things. And, they go through shit too. Shit that sucks just as much as your shit sucks. People have shitty jobs, shitty relationships, shitty friendships; but if it means something to them it means that you have to listen to them. Even though it doesn’t add up to the shit that you have been through. That’s not their path.

I am thankful that none of my friends have had to lose a parent or even a grandparent. That’s rough shit, but I try to use that experience to make me more compassionate and more patient. My cross might be big, but that doesn’t mean that someone else’s has to be, too. If I can use that experience and help my friends carry their crosses, I consider that a win; because I want the people that have been there for me to know what I will be there for them.

a lesson from mean girls.

There are two things that I never debate about unless I feel totally comfortable with the people I am talking to. The first is politics and the second one is religion.

Politics, if this administration has taught us anything, is bleeding into every single aspect of our lives. It is at a point where politics and playing the game, is part of daily American activity. I have always had a special interest in politics, because it was a time where my dad and I would really talk about what we thought and what we believe.

My father was a Democrat. He had no problems telling people that he was democrat, and he really never understood why people became Republican in the first place. Honestly, I just think that he’s jaded because his parents became Republicans after JFK was elected. My grandmother decided that she wouldn’t vote for someone that cheated on his wife. Seriously, I think she was the only Irish Catholic woman in the Philadelphia area that did not vote for John F. Kennedy. This part of my grandparents made my Dad so mad—more so my Nana than my Pop.

But, what made him even more mad was that when I was growing up, I was the little Republican my grandparents dreamed their son would be. Now, I was 3rd or 4th grade—I literally had no understanding of the American political system, but I loved my grandparents. And, they loved Bill O’Reilly. So, in turn, I loved Bill O’Reilly. When President George W. Bush was running for president, I wanted him to win. Why? I probably couldn’t tell you. Literally, no idea. I guess I thought he looked like a nice man (which, to my credit…he actually does seem to be. Terrible president? Absolutely. A-One guy, most likely).

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A man and his poncho.

However, this made my dad so mad that my grandparents were telling me what to think and how to feel about political climates. Now, I am going to guess that he would have been mad if was the other way around, too. Because my parents were, and are, big believers in letting their children go their own path. My father was much freer about this than my mother is. But, my dad never wanted me to believe something or think something because he thought it—he always said that until the day he died. He raised me to question things if I felt that they were wrong, and stand up for what I think is right. But, it made him happy the day that I stopped being a Republican at 11 years old, and registered as an Independent when I was old enough to vote.

When I went to college, I fell on the other side of the political spectrum. I became, what my father called, “a bleeding-heart liberal.” I never understood that he was really annoyed at my conservatism but was also annoyed with my liberalism. But, yes…I went through a phase—because I look one Women in American History Education and suddenly I wanted to be Betty Friedan. I am sure I was really annoying to be around, but I will argue that all girls go through that “Stick it to the man” phase in their lifetimes. But, yes, I was one of these “snowflakes” (is that the term? I think that’s stupid) that the right now criticizes. I was offended by everything, probably. And, I thought that anyone that didn’t think or speak like me was ignorant, uneducated, and simply living under a rock.

Anyone seeing the hypocrisy in this? I read Facebook comment after Facebook comment because I am a glutton for punishment. I read the comments for the people on the right to call people on the left “libertards” (Classy)  and “snowflakes.”  I read the comments for the people on the left to call people on the right “radicals” and “bigots.” Besides a country wide seminar on how to use a thesaurus or a dictionary, I come away with these thoughts every single time:

This is what political discourse has come to in this country, and people really have the time and energy to write Facebook comments about this shit. (Says the girl writing an entire blog post, I know)

Political discourse is not about calling each other names, and finding fault with every single word in a sentence that someone writes about their endorsement or their dislike for a political candidate. When you evoke your First Amendment rights, you are not waived from dissent—that’s not how it works. The First Amendment writes allow you write what you want about someone in political office (as long it is not of a threatening nature to their lives or families’ lives) without being prosecuted. Yup.

You cannot be tried or convicted of treason because you disagree with the president. Also, can we, as a country just look up treason together and all understand and comprehend the definition? What Benedict Arnold did? Treason. Anne Boleyn? Treason-ish (I was teaching about Henry VIII, what a train wreck).

When I read posts like this, I tend to think of my students. I think of my rural Pennsylvania kid that voted for Trump, I think of my international kids that were so unsure about what was going on in our country, I think of the people that I work with that were disheartened the day after the election. The day after, the boys were buzzing in asking about how he won, what a long shot it was, and that Hillary Clinton was never going to be president.

One kid came up to my desk during my study hall, and said, “Ma’am, you’re a liberal right?” So, I asked him what he meant by that statement. He rephrased, “You don’t like Donald Trump, do you?” I could have taken this two ways, deny his statement and move on or use this as a teaching moment. Working at a private school, like the one that I do…you get a little wiggle room with things like this.

So, I said, “Do you mean, did I vote for him?” He nodded. I took a deep breath, and said, “No, I did not vote for him….” He started to ask, “why?” and I anticipated his question, “However, this is how I see it…He’s the President of the United States, and I will respect him as such. I might not have voted for him, but he is still the President of my country. I will not claim that he is not my president, because he is—even if I don’t agree with him.” I could tell he was not expecting what I had to say, and I continued, “Wanting Trump to fail is like wanting the pilot on your plane to have a heart attack. You’re all on the plane together, and you don’t want it to crash into the side of the mountain.”

He smiled, and responded “Ma’am, that’s the first time that someone who disagreed with Trump gave an answer like that.” And he reached out for a high-five. To see him have that reaction was good, but it was also a little sad. Young adults shouldn’t be surprised when people disagree politely about serious topics. Instead, they are learning to be inflammatory and judgmental behind a screen. This is what we want out children to learn? This is how we want the future generations to grow up?

This is not what I imagine for my children and my grandchildren; I want them to be able to form opinions and thoughts from listening to both sides—and maybe even living both sides. I never would have had that opinion if I hadn’t know what it is like to live on both extremes of the spectrum. And, I want other people to know what if you read something that doesn’t speak to your beliefs….that’s okay, because it’s either going to teach you something that you never knew or it’s going to deepen your belief in that system.

I want a world where kids are not afraid to ask questions and research because it speaks to their interests. I think that amount in which a person that learn is not something that needs to be prescribed to them in their textbooks in tests. For whatever reason, I always think of that scene from Mean Girls when Cady is facing off with Marilyn from the private school. “The Limit Does Not Exist” scene, if you will.

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Calling someone a snowflake or a bigot is not going to get people to change their view, and it certainly not going to get them to be able to see your differing opinion. Sometimes, it’s something that you can move on with, or sometimes you just have to walk away. At the end of the day, a post about how someone is an idiot because they backed a candidate does make them think you’re any less of any idiot for voting for the other guy.

depending on something bigger than myself

I have always had a special place in my heart for the Easter Triduum. I am sure it goes back to when I was altar serving in 8th grade. As an older kid, I was responsible for teaching the younger kids how to serve during the masses. And, when your priest is a nonsense Polish man that loves a high mass—you get everything right.

I remember the only time that I was openly disrespectful for a teacher—it was during on practice for Holy Week. Father would call every single altar server out of class to practice for the Masses during Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Somehow, I was never slated to serve the Easter Vigil. I have never, in my life been to one. My mother won’t go back to one because when she was grade school, she was in the choir and had to stand for 3 hours. She said she remembered deliberately dropping her hymnal so she could bend her knees. So, we always served the 7 am mass on Easter Sunday.

Anyway, my teacher wouldn’t let me and other 8th graders leave for practice, even though we were allowed. I told her that we had to leave, and she got this big attitude (for the record, this woman probably shouldn’t have been a teacher. She was a little nutty) and said that if Father had a problem, he could take it up with her. I snapped back at her and told her that she didn’t teach anything anyway, so what would it matter? Somehow, I didn’t get in trouble and she let us leave.

Holy Thursday was always required more practice than Good Friday. Holy Thursday we had to practice the incense, we had to practice the washing of the feet, the procession around the ENTIRE church during the benediction. It was a big church, and it always seemed to take an hour. We must have ran through the entire mass three or four times, and it must of stuck with me because at every Holy Thursday mass, I remember what we did, when, and I notice if it’s not done at other churches. For instance, during the Gloria—two altar servers go back and forth ringing the bells during the entire hymn. It’s the last time the bells ring during the Triduum. My parish doesn’t do that, I remembered that. I have been to parishes that don’t really do a procession—which I always find odd.

Holy Thursday always required a lot of planning, and it seemed like it was most important mass of the year since we practiced, literally for a week.

Good Friday was always much simpler—not a mass, veneration of the Cross, communion, and that’s it. Cake walk compared to Holy Thursday. However, there was one Good Friday that I thought we were going to be a man down. We had a very old monsignor—he must have been almost 90. My pastor had directly told him, when we prostrate do not lay down. So, when we processed in, our three other priests prostrated on the ground and one altar server tugged at my sleeve. I looked around, and there was the old Monsignor laying on the ground.

I went into the panic. What are we going to do? Is he going to be okay? Are we going to be able to get him up? Well, that’s exactly what we had to do. We literally had to hoist him up off the ground, and he just started laughing. I mean, it was amazing that he still wanted to do that, but it was definitely not practical.

So, I have always loved the ceremony behind the masses—I think they are beautiful and deeply meaningful to Catholics during this time. But, I have not always had the sense of connection and love for this time.

Before I started working at my school now, I was a substitute teacher in my Catholic school system. Looking back on those days, they were some of the most trying times in my life. My anxiety was a lot higher, I was really trying to figure out who I was, and looking back at it now it was a lot of growing pains.

I experienced a lot of failures at a particular school that I worked out. I was having trouble figuring out what kind of teacher that I wanted to be, I was struggling with who I was professionally and personally—there was this separation of it all, I think, and I just wanted my life to be different. This was all over a period of three years. I worked at this school for about six months, but in that six months—I gained something that I hadn’t gained in other places. I felt, in a way that I belonged—I liked the community and I really thought it was what God has planned for me. But, when we plan, God laughs.

So, after my six month stint, I kept going back to this school—I started helping a friend of mine in her office, because I was unemployed (This was the spring before I was hired at my full time job), and I needed something to do. Thankfully, that panned into a per diem job. But, then my grandmother died. Another shock to my system. I didn’t have a job, and I lost one of the closest people in my life. How could it get worse?

Oh, wait it did!

There was a guy that I worked with that I ended up really liking—he was everything that I thought that I wanted. Catholic, loved his job, and just was a great person. After months, maybe a year of interpreting and misinterpreting signs I told him how I felt. I actually believed that the feelings were reciprocal—and a lot of other people did, too. This was something that I never did before, and to do it took a lot of balls.

Part of my wanted to finally have an answer, and another part of my wanted to stop feeling like I was crazy or unhinged. So, I told him. However, the feeling was not reciprocal, and looking back on it—all the anger that harbored toward him was actually anger that I had toward myself. I was angry that I thought that I looked foolish—and put myself out there. Understandably, my ego was hurt. And, I thought that my life was spinning out of control.

I was unlucky in love, unlucky in my job, and I had lost my grandmother—I could and thought about giving up. But, I didn’t. This time was different, I prayed harder than I even could have in my life and tried to make peace with everything that had happened to me.

But, too this day, I am working on this. I still have bouts of self-doubt and jealousy of all those people that I worked with. After I left that place, it was like my connection to them was completely severed. Everything that I had done, and everything that I given of myself was just left there in a weird limbo and I hated it. I hated myself for being upset and scared, this was not who I was working to be and not who I wanted to be.

When you are hurt by someone and something that deeply, it is really hard to get over. But, guess what? It’s all going to be okay. Because, at the end of the day I still have my family and friends that still love me and still support me. I know the people that are supposed to be in my life. My friend Judy once told me about “reasons, seasons, and lifetimes.” There are people that are in your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime. But you don’t realize when or for what at the moment. I think now, those people that I used to work with were a season—they were there to teach me something about myself that would eventually make me stronger.

Learning how to deal with heartache and disappointment, but also being able to rely on God are what helped me through the death of my father. Something that rocked my world to the core, I was able to remember that I am that I need to lean close to God, not against Him. It was something that I learned to go through all that when I worked at the school, but in terms of what I have gone through now…it’s a blip. But, it was blip that made me learn.

So, this Holy Thursday—I actually went to my home parish for the first time. I was in so much pain from the fibro that kneeling and standing were taking such a toll on me—but, I persisted. I was thinking about how Holy Thursday has carried such an anxiety and disappointment for me that it was hard to focus on anything but that. But, I think that was what I was supposed to do.

I focused on the difficult things. The things that made me cry, the things that broke my heart, the things that had made me feel so small and so insignificant. I broke myself in front of God, because I wasn’t afraid anymore of my brokenness or of what was thought of me. I knew who I am in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the people that matter the most to me.

When Father took the Blessed Sacrament around the church, I had this heaviness of my heart. From everything that I was worried about, and once he walk by me…my heart felt light. As soon as he walked to the Repository and placed the Blessed Sacrament inside…my heart was light. Jesus had taken my suffering from me, and held with him until the next day—where that suffering would be shown on the Cross.

God never give us anything that we can’t handle in our lives. He doesn’t test us, nor does he enjoy watching us suffer. However, in times of struggle, we lean on God for what was cannot get from other people. There is a safety net about God; that can handle things that we cannot. And, being able to rely on Him during times of struggle has been something that I have needed in my life. It was powerful, moving, and I just felt like I could sing. I finally felt at peace, and it was the best feeling in the world.

The Release Project: Impatience

I am not a patient person. I have tried hard to be patient, but it’s a quality that I can never seem to grasp. For one, I want things immediately, more often than not. When I schedule something or pay for something (like student loans and such), I don’t want to wait the time for things to be taken away. I just want to rip the band-aid off.

As a teacher, I have worked greatly on my patience. I used to lose my temper really quickly with my classes, especially when they were not doing what I was asking–but working there I am now, patience is something that my students really value. Not because they tell me this, but their actions speak louder than words.

Teaching all boys is the messiest job I have ever had–literally and figuratively. They are noisy, they are big, they are 17-18 and easily revert back to 10 and 11 year olds. They yell at each other, they fight, they are inappropriate, but they are real. One of the things that I needed to adjust working here was my patience. With boys, you have to walk them through certain things, but you have to be careful not to order them around. Tell boys what to do works for the younger grades, but with my seniors–they have to believe that the choice they are making in their’s, not something that you are making them do.

They are feeling their oats right now, they are tapped in a weird place of adolescence and adulthood; they are trying to figure out what path is for them and how far they can go with certain things in their lives. Growing up with two brothers, I saw the bad side of being surrounded by guys. They are no-holds bars, they are in your face, and they will call you on your b.s. faster than you can get the sentence out of your mouth.

But, working here, I have seen the finer side of young men. They are compassionate, they are caring, they are sympathetic, and they try their hardest to help–but sometimes their motives are mistaken as something more than they are. But, in order to see this, you have to let them be themselves. You have to let them become who they want to be, and you can’t push them in certain direction.

In my personal life, I have a problem with patience with relationships. Romantic and platonic. I have a problem with being patient with making decisions, waiting to tell people certain things, and just wanting something to go in a direction that another person might not want to go in.

In romantic relationships, I might be the least patient person in the world–and also the most indecisive. I once when on a date with a guy that was fully ready to commit to a relationship (which was something that I thought that I wanted), but then go totally freaked out when it came right down to it. I wanted constant communication, I wanted a sense of belonging, but once I got that–I high tailed it out of there after a few weeks of talking.

The next guy that I dated was completely the opposite–totally aloof. He was nice, he was funny, and listened to me. He was shy, to an extent and I was annoyed that he wasn’t making more of an effort. I always had to make the decisions, I always had to pick where and when we met–and I wasn’t sure it that was he wanting to make sure that we were doing something that I wanted to do, or he was just wasn’t that into it. Or he was waiting for something more, which was something that was not going to happen in the immediate future.

So, I got out of there, too. Both of these relationships, looking back on it, I was glad to have. I dated a guy that was full force and I dated a guy drug his feet. I was impatient, and changed my mind constantly and doubted how I was feeling. I wasn’t sure what was right for me at the time, but I think that these experiences made me value what I am looking for in a partner.

I want to be with someone that is going to value and cherish me for who I am; not someone they want me to be later. I want to be with someone that I am going to value and cherish for who they are, not for who I want them to be. Things like a good sense of humor, compassion, and kind disposition are nice things to look for in a man, but they might not manifest themselves until much later in the relationships. As much as we don’t think so, men shield themselves, too, when it comes to matters of the heart.

I never wanted to the time to get to know the person, I always wanted to fast forward to a place where we would be happy and in a relationship–the idea of getting to know and understand someone was something that I did not want to much effort into or something that I didn’t think that I needed to do. With the right person, all of these things will be come naturally, and I won’t have worry about doing or saying the right things because, not everything I say is going to be the right thing–and that’s okay.

Being with someone doesn’t mean that everything has to be perfect 100% of the time–the beauty of the relationships is having those bad and stressful moments, being able to be angry or annoyed with someone, but still be able to love them anyway. In these moments, relationships grow stronger and you grow together despite what is facing you. Thought of eventually getting to share that with someone makes me so happy and so hopeful for what is to come in my future; but for now I only have to be patient. 😉

 

The Release Project: Introduction

Lent. Call me a traditionalist, but I love Lent. I love what this time brings, I love the symbolism of the season, and I love that this is a time that people can stop and contemplate their relationship with God. Now, for Catholics, typically Lent is a time that we think about things to give up. In grade school, things to give up were chocolates, soda, candy, or a bad habit that we wanted to break. When I got to college, lapsing in my Catholic tradition, I decided that one year I was going to give up coffee. Such. A. Bad. Idea. Seriously, my addiction to coffee was so high in college—constantly pumping my system because writing papers and going to sorority functions were my life and I needed to keep going.

(The more that I digest this fibro thing, the more I realize that my college lifestyle definitely did not help my condition.)

Even when I walked away from the faith for a bit, I still loved Lent. I would think about giving things up, but would never really do it. I was angry with God at the time, and I decided that I didn’t want to give something up for Him. Once the fire was reignited, it was like that I had a new understanding of Lent. It wasn’t so much about giving up something, and denying yourself of something that you love; it is about symbolizing the sacrifice that Jesus made and giving yourself back to Him.

For the past few years, instead of giving something up I would do something extra. Two years ago, I tried to get to mass everyday—or a couple days out of the week to get myself in the right frame of mind for school. Last night I was thinking about what I was going to do for Lent this year. Getting up for mass every day before work would be hard for me now, so that’s out. Maybe I could get to Mass on Saturday mornings and a Friday morning here and there. I was also thinking about adding in more Eucharistic adoration back into my life. I used to go all the time, but grad school and life seemed to take over and I couldn’t make the time.

I thought that something was missing. I was talking to my friend about what else I could do, and things that I would give up for Lent. Judy is my mentor. Next to my mother, she is one of the most influential people in my life. Our friendship started out as one of student and teacher. When I decided that I wanted to become a teacher in my senior year of high school, she was the person that I looked to for advice. From there she and I developed this wonderful trusting relationships where we can talk about everything. She was the one that also helped me back into my faith after a particularly rough time in my life.

When my grandmother died, I was angry with God…angry with everyone. She was the one person, at that time in my life, was there for me when I felt no one else was and it hurt to lose her. So, during this time, I wasn’t going to mass or praying, and honestly thought religion was stupid. Judy never gave up on me. She was patient and kind, and talked me through so many rough patches. Although at times it was really hard, we came out on the other side of things, and I would like to thank her for the inspiration for this project.

The Release Project is what I am going to be doing during Lent to focus on developing my relationship with God and with myself. Yes, at first, it might sound selfish. But, it’s totally not. If we focus on the positives things in our lives, and the positive qualities that we have, then it makes it easy to see God and Jesus in those around us.

Judy sent me an article from Daily World, part of USA Today titled, “19 things to give up for Lent that aren’t chocolate.” This list is awesome, and was exactly what I was looking for. The 19 things are:

  1. Fear: God is on my side. In Him I am more than a conqueror. (See Romans 98)
  2. The need to please everyone: I can’t please everyone anyway. There is only one I need to strive to please.
  3. Envy: I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
  4. Impatience: God’s timing is the perfect timing.
  5. Sense of entitlement: The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
  6. Bitterness and Resentment: The only person I am hurting by holding onto these is myself.
  7. Blame: I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
  8. Gossip and Negativity: I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic and bring other people down.
  9. Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
  10. Fear of failure: You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fall forward.
  11. A spirit of poverty: Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack.
  12. Feelings of unworthiness: You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
  13. Doubt: Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
  14. Self-pity: God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
  15. Retirement: As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
  16. Excuses: A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
  17. Lack of counsel: Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
  18. Pride: Blessed are the humble.
  19. Worry: God is in control and worrying will not help.

What is great is that there are Bible verse to go along with some of the things that we should give up. So, after reading this list I started thinking that I am going to take one things every single day and meditate on it. 40 days in Lent, I could work through this list twice. On Easter Sunday, my hope is that I will walk into mass and release all of thing that do not serve me. Hence, the release project. I want to be able to work on the negative parts in my life that I want to change, and bring out good qualities that I want to show people.

So, here how The Release Project is going to work

  • Word and mantra for the day—I might go in any way what might inspire me, or I might go down the list.
  • I might right this down in the morning, jot my thoughts about the topic,
  • Read a Bible verse that discuss the work or mantra
  • When I get a quiet moment in my day, pray about this. Ask God to free me from this problem
  • Now, this hardest part. Sit and let God talk to me. When I pray, it’s total stream of consciousness. I make lists, talk about problems, but I want this time to be about God talking to me and I need to be receptive to listening to Him.
  • Then I write about a blog post about my experience for the day and if this would be something that I should revisit during my 40 days.

I don’t want to limit myself. If I feel like I need to spend two days on fear of failure, then I am going to spend two days on fear of failure. If there is one word or mantra that you just want to solely work on, do that! This is something for you! This is taking care of yourself!

Part of the process with fibro is taking care of myself mentally and physically, and I have been trying to get a handle of the physical part, but I want to be able to work on the mental part—with the help of God.

The start

 

I first came to grips with my fibromyalgia diagnosis two weeks ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office, crying because I was having a bad day. The boys were particularly difficult this day, and ever adult in the building was getting on my last nerve. Now, I work with a small faculty, so we are like a little family; but even family has their limits. I snapped at almost everyone on my floor before lunch, and that was when I knew that I needed to take a day to myself. My first, actual, sick day.

I went to my principal during my prep period, and explained to her what happened. What I said, what I did, and that I needed to take the next day off. Thankfully, she understood–her sister has fibro, so at this point I was happy for the sympathy. As I was telling her that I was struggling with my illness, I started crying. I felt so overwhelmed and helpless. Like the world was crumbling around me, and I finally admitted to myself and someone else that I do, in fact, have a chronic illness, and there are going to be times that I am going to need a break.

Prior my illness, I could not sit still. I was always working, I was always doing something, teaching, volunteering at church, helping my family whenever the needed. Always making time to do things for other people, but making little time for myself. Before I got a full-time job, I was a substitute teacher. I bounced from job to job worrying about where my next paycheck was going to come from. I did a daily subbing gig for a while, until I finally landed my first long time sub job. It was only supposed to be from December until March, but somehow God was looking down on me and I stayed until June (This story is for another post). The first two years out of college were the years that I had never worked so hard in my life. I was tired, I was miserable, I was poor, and I didn’t feel safe in what I was doing. I had no security.

Stress. Stress. Stress. These two summers were all about stress. From not having a stable paycheck, to helping my grandmother with her cancer diagnosis, eventually dealing with her death, and trying to find my way in the world. I didn’t know where I was going.

Finally, I was hired for my first full time position–a position I have now held for three years. It has its ups and downs, but the job itself and teaching the kids that I do, makes me so proud and so happy.

In my second year at my job, around this time my family and I noticed that my father wasn’t feeling well. We wrote it off as a sinus infection, at first, but as the days went on we realized it was much more serious. My father was suffering from a stroke–and for some reason, he kept having these strokes despite what the doctors could do.

I held a lot of pain in during this time; I felt that I needed to be there for my mother and my brothers. Someone had to be able to get things done, and my mother needed her time to grieve and I wanted to help her. This is something that is just automatic for me; when I sense someone needs help, needs someone to think for them, or help them work through a hard time I just go on autopilot. Part of me is still dealing with my father’s death every single day, and it never gets easier.

Stress. Stress. Stress. When I was in college, two of the most stressful things in my life were pledging a sorority and being president of my sorority my senior year. I cried, yelled, bottled up, and usually drank my stress away. Which, albeit is not healthy at all, but I just always kept things inside until I hit a breaking point and I can’t take it any longer. Some of these things, sadly, I have carried with me as an adult. The stress that I have experienced in the past three years, makes my college years look like child’s play.

When my doctor asked me if I have experienced a lot of stress in my life, I laughed. It was defense mechanism, way easier to make something a joke than dealing with your feelings. Wait for the post about being Irish Catholic for more of an explanation. I know I have experienced with stress, but at that time–I didn’t need to deal with it. I compartmentalize it. I bring it out when I need to deal with it, or when it’s relevant at a certain place and time. Or, honestly, when I have had one too many glasses of wine, and literally cannot stop talking. Also, wait for the Irish Catholic post.

Stress was just something that I dealt with, when I wanted to deal with it. Which is probably why I am bad about going to a therapist. I thought that it would help me, but I don’t think that I am in the right place in my life for it. I’m certainly not denying that it cannot help, or that it could have some benefit; I just don’t think I am ready yet. Or that I will ever be ready.

But, I have learned that this stress has been doing terrible things to my body–which has manifested itself as fibro. And. I will tell you…it sucks. This is the most annoying chronic illness. My body is in pain constantly (shifts from place to place some days), anything can set it off, I am tired ALL THE TIME, it’s wiped out most of my desire to workout, muscle spasms at night are annoying, sleeping is terrible, walking, standing, sitting is uncomfortable. There are so many things that I can be annoyed at with this illness, and it took a long time for me to even accept the fact that I had an illness. But, I do. And I am still here. Fighting.

So, this is my journey with this annoying illness. This is my journey with my faith, feeding my soul, and learning how to take care of myself.