reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

You may have stumbled upon this little corner of the internets because of columns I used to write for dating apps. Yes, I am divorced and annulled and have never actually dated. Those who can’t do, teach. Right?

About a year and a half ago I suddenly stopped writing for dating apps. I tried to write. My gracious editors tried to offer me topics that I could write within my wheelhouse. However, this perverse sense of integrity stopped me in my tracks every time. I just couldn’t do it anymore. It took some time to sort out all the whys about being absolutely done. Now that I have some distance on it, here is why I am no longer writing for dating apps. But first a disclaimer:

Yes, I am aware of the many success stories of people who have met online. In fact, some of my closest friends met each other online through an app. I am happy they found their happily ever after. My take on the dating app approach is not a judgement in the least on those who have met their partners online. Just like I have friends who have met their spouses in college, in middle school, through Bible studies, at work, in bars, at parties and hook-ups, and on blind date set-ups by nosey relatives, I am happy for them all. I can hold that happiness in one hand and still hold the idea that I don’t think their method of getting together should be trademarked and marketed as THE method of finding a spouse. My grandfather proposed to my grandmother after 3 weeks and they were happily married for life. But, I wouldn’t recommend marrying someone you met three weeks ago, despite the obvious lovely success of my grandparents. Let me say this again very clearly, I am happy you found your Love, however that came together whether through an app or not, and I will not judge how you got there. The following then are generalities, not specific to your situation. [end disclaimer]

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This post is not a flex by any means. Maybe it will be a comfort to my fellow mommies in the trenches who lay awake at night pondering all the things left undone on their lists and all the unmet desires of their hearts.

I am not a great homeschooling mom. Since day one 16 years ago, I have been thinking that I haven’t done enough. Other parents are teaching more subjects in far greater depths. If I hit 2-3 subjects on a given school day, I feel like we got a lot done. Other parents are lesson planning in the summer while I am laying on the grass reading Anne of Green Gables to the kids. Other kids are enrolled in all sorts of lessons and classes half the nights of the week. We are playing Uno and stress baking brownies at midnight.

I am not being self-deprecating. I am being brutally honest. We never do enough, not nearly what we “should” be doing.

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You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 6:5

I worked an insanely long double shift recently. And I got home so late, so hungry, but too tired to eat. I fell into bed completely exhausted. Morning prayers came early. Too early.

I took my son to work and then went to daily Mass. I was so spent that my voice could barely chant the Syriac, as it cracked on the in-between tones. I could scarcely focus on the homily. The thought came to me that it would have been better if I had skipped Mass and just stayed home. Maybe sleep would have been a better use of my energy.

Then I felt the Lord say, “Your body is here in my presence. Your will is here. Your heart is here. If your mind isn’t, three out of four isn’t bad.”

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Your favorite mommy-blogger loves to talk about work-life-balance and that all important “self-care.” (Aside: To hear them tell it, self-care always seems to involve cheap wine? I am not about that life.)

The social media world is rife with “hacks” to somehow achieve said balance.

I’m not sure how that new water bottle, blender, concealer, or skin moisturizer someone is literally obsessed with will help achieve any measure of balance. Likewise I don’t think there is a master-course you can build that will help anyone to find that level of Zen in the chaos of life–especially a life lived externally online in lieu of that work of deep interior conversion.

Here’s the truth, if you want it (bearing in mind I am the queen of oversimplified answers to complicated questions and that I would almost always rather be a mystic than a theologian. Do not forget that I am more likely to put herbs under my tongue and practice breathing than take an advil. So, if that is not the kind of advice you are searching for, you can move right along, because that is what I’ve got. OK, enough of the fine print.):

There is no such thing as work-life balance.

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If you are not a person who randomly scribbles notes in journals, in tiny booklets lost in the bottom of your purse, and on the backs of envelopes of bills you forgot to pay you might not understand this. If you do not find yourself saving little bits of poetry in your phone, dog-earring pages of books so that best lines can be found again and again, or hear yourself saying things like, “What is that one thing Flannery said?” then maybe this will not resonate with you.

I process my inner world in words. In revisiting some words, I find they no longer fit–like shoes I have outgrown. Sometimes however I find old words that still feel like putting on that favorite sweater you haven’t worn in years–it still smells, feels, and fits like a cozy skin.

something hastily scribbled in a notebook living in the bottom of my purse

Four years ago my life changed in one dramatic moment of just unbelievable courage. I had lived in the oppressiveness so long that one could say I was used to it. I rationed my peace like someone with limited oxygen at the bottom of the sea. I could live on so little peace that it seemed normal. But, God, who bottles tears and lines his throne room in perfect symmetry with my wonder and prayers, had a plan to rescue me and bring me back to the surface. Four years ago I set a boundary I didn’t know if I could keep. Four years ago I said the words I meant with my marrow. In that moment my life and the life of my children changed. I said, “That’s enough.”

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Hey, guess who was spotted speaking her mind outside the blog? This girl.

First, I was honored to be asked to be on the Ideas Digest podcast taking up the question of whether it was an objective good to have children.

I decided not to make any overtly religious arguments, but to be more philosophical in my approach. It was loads of fun. Give it a listen and tell me what you think!

Next, I was asked to be on the Catholic4Rednecks podcast telling the story of my journey from charismatic Protestantism to Catholicism.

What a delightful and fun conversation!

This one comes in two parts:

Besides my obviously epic taste in jewelry, tell me what you liked about my public appearances!

I will preface this disjointed post by saying that I don’t expect everyone to follow my train of thought here. It IS rather disjointed, but it flowed in my stream of consciousness this way as I talked with two friends: one in the afternoon with tea around my fire. The other way late into the night with vodka on the Feast of the Annunciation. Which, come to think of it, is a perfect feast for pondering this idea of voice–whose voice, how it is heard, and what it all means.

So, let me begin with Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. A week or so I was reading along being all open-minded, but on the struggle bus. It’s not a difficult book to read in the sense that the ideas are not difficult–even if I disagree with some of them, I do understand them. It’s not a particularly long book either. But I was just so unnecessarily annoyed with it. For such a popular book I found myself ready to chuck it across the room in exasperation with how poorly it is written. I had a little check-in with myself, asking myself why I was so irritated with it. And it came to me that it is the voice. What voice is this? This was not written nor translated by someone who has English as their primary language. I realized that unaware I was reading it in my head with a Russian or Eastern-European accent. It was not the ideas that annoyed me so much as the clumsy way they were being communicated–which pointed to it much more being a me-problem. Mea Culpa. (I then googled it and confirmed my suspicions.)

This episode of me trying to sort out whose voice something was written reminded me of early in my conversion to Catholicism. I got a Catholic Bible from my BFF. I took up the Deuterocanonical books with enthusiasm. Then I struggled to get through them because I didn’t know the voice. You see, I had read the 66 books of the Protestant canon so many times. Those books felt familiar and comforting, like walking into your grandmother’s house and knowing where she keeps the treats, where the best books are on the shelves, and to immediately get dibs on the coziest chair.

These new books felt awkward to me, not because of the truths they contained, but because I simply didn’t know their voice. I had to sit with them awhile and learn their rhythm. It was like I had to tuck myself next to the Holy Ghost and ask to see things through new eyes. What are you looking at? May my eyes rest there. Now they feel so much more alive and active and beautiful and tender then when I first started reading them. I can find my place amongst their images and listen to God point out the intricacies.

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I currently have about 1,589 ideas running around my brain, but none of them taking shape of a cohesive post. But I have a bunch of random things we would talk about if we were sitting down together over a cup of chai with an extra shot of espresso. Madame Zeroni, the dog, would be begging for crumbs from something loaf-like I have baked for you. We would get comfy on the couch, or better yet in the rocking chairs that are around my fire. We won’t have a fire burning much longer, the days are getting warmer. So, let’s enjoy these last few while we can, getting cozy and talking about books, music, prayers, the deep things on your heart and mine, and the dumbass things people say. Let’s catch up and spill the tea while sipping our tea in gratitude that here we are over the halfway point of Lent. We have met Jesus along the way…and heard his gospel being proclaimed to the ruins of our hearts.

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The Liturgy during Lent in the Maronite tradition destroys and rebuilds me every week it seems.

It begins with the Wedding at Cana and Jesus’ first public miracle. The reality of the situation was that they were out of wine. The truth, however, was greater than that situation. Jesus was going to show that he was not confined to the boundaries of the material world.

The next week is the Healing of the Leper. The man begged for healing. The hymn in the Rite of Forgiveness says “Christ took away, by his passion and saving death, the burdens imposed on us by Mosiac law.” The Mosaic law that said he needed to be outside the camp, that he was unclean, and untouchable. The reality of the law had its limits, but the truth was that those Jesus says are clean, are clean. What Jesus says is true, is true.

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“Hi, my name is Daja and I’m a recovering People Pleaser.”

(Your part is “Hi Daja!” enthusiastically so I know you’re not mad at me.)

Sad Divorced Woman

I remember when I had to go to court for my divorce to be finalized. I stared into my closet. What would be the last thing I would wear as his wife? You can be sure I did my make-up and fixed my hair. I would not wear my grief like a badge of honor. I wanted to shine.

Throughout the last few years one indication of who was really rooting for me and who was not was their reaction to how put together I looked going out. There is a difference between “Wow, you look great!” and “Wow….you look….great?” It was clear who expected me to be falling apart and letting myself go. I had to play the part of the sad divorced woman in the story they had crafted of me in their minds. But when I looked good, smiled, laughed, went out with friends, it didn’t fit the narrative.

And while part of that is my vanity (I fully admit that I can be very vain), part of it is simply to live an accurate representation of the truth–the truth of the goodness of God in my life. I might at times be sad. I may be divorced. And I am a woman. But I am not a sad divorced woman. I am a beloved daughter of God. I am striving to live the endangered feminine image, established by eternal decrees–Mother, Virgin, Bride. As Gertrud von le Fort writes it is not man, but the woman who must rescue this image from a culture bent on its destruction.

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