There’s No Bad Reason to Quit Smoking

I wish that I could sit here and tell you my recent decision to quit smoking was for a selfless reason; that I quit for the health of my children, to set a good example for them while minimizing their exposure to second-hand smoke. I wish I could tell you that it was because I want to get healthy and live longer to see my children get married or enter Holy Orders. I mean, I do want to live a healthier lifestyle, but this was not the real, driving reason I woke up this past Monday (8/14/17) and decided that I was done smoking.

I decided to quit because it’s ruining my voice.

I’m 28, and already I can hear that raspiness associated with old biker ladies who have smoked three packs a day since they were, well, my age. I don’t want to be that lady whose voice sounds like her vocal chords are made of sandpaper.

This is especially true when it comes to singing, which I’ve done basically since birth. I love singing. Always have, and always will. What I don’t love is being unable to sing simple measures because my lung capacity has been diminished by smoking. I don’t love the rattling in my lungs and throat when I sing because of the buildup smoking has caused. The songs I love to sing the most have become more and more difficult over the years, and with every cigarette, I’m stealing away my own gift, and one of the things I love to do most in the world.

So, as shallow as it is, the fear of losing my singing voice is what has pushed me into quitting. And this is what continues to push me through the temptation every time see/smell/or hear about a cigarette. Smoking just isn’t worth it when I think about never being able to sing again because I get lung or throat cancer, or because my voice will sound like rubbing bricks together.

And you know the crazy thing?

I’m not usually the person who just decides to do something drastic like this and then does it. I’m that person who needs to mull it over for a few years, who needs statistics and motivational Memes and scary-truth tactics like the CDC’s smoking and tobacco use campaign, because I lack anything resembling self-discipline. And while I’m not usually one for calling something a miracle, this ability of mine to just… quit… kinda feels like a miracle. Or maybe I’m just growing up and becoming more disciplined. Who knows?

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So today is day 5, and while it’s not as sucky as it was a day or two ago, I am still in a state of unpleasantness. I’m having to rewire my brain from deeply embedded routines like smoking after I eat, smoking whenever I go outside, smoking when I drink, and smoking on a particularly stressful day. *pointed glare at yesterday* I’m fighting a visceral “necessity” to go through a set of motions I have for a long time, that I suddenly decided to stop doing cold-turkey.

For anyone thinking of quitting, yes, it’s hard. Even so, if we could eat better, quit sodas, quit smoking, or extract other nasty habits from our lives without any effort, what would stop us from going back to it later? Because, from where I’m standing at this moment, I never ever want to have to go through nicotine withdrawals again. This means I either quit for good now, or I start again and never stop, and die a really nasty death that my family will be forced to endure right along with me.

(Speaking from experience, watching someone die from smoking is horrible and I don’t wish it on anyone)

Luckily, while my husband isn’t ready to give up his own habit quite yet, he is very supportive of my decision. He doesn’t pressure me or mock me or get upset when I don’t come out with him. Plus, he’s probably happy that he no longer has to supply two people’s habits, or have me bumming off his pack everyday. Because… you know… smoking cigarettes looks a lot like this:

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While part of me feels completely conceited and shallow for the reason I’ve chosen to quit smoking, another part of me thinks: is there really a bad reason to stop smoking? I mean, I guess if you were going to quit smoking to pick up another awful–or even worse–habit, then yeah. And truly I think it would be worse to say, “I know that all these awful things could happen to me and my family if I continue to smoke, but I choose to do it anyways”, than it is to say I’m quitting because I value my voice too much.  

 

 

Back to School: Lice Edition

Even the mere mention of the word lice makes me want to itch. I remember getting it a LOT as a kid. And I mean… it was a constant battle in our house to rid our heads of the literal parasites. My poor mom washed and vacuumed and sprayed and picked in an endless cycle. She took all of our stuffed animals, put them in one of those over-sized black trash bags, and stuck them in the attic to both suffocate and char them to death in the Texas heat. She spent a ridiculous amount of money on at-home treatments that killed the lice just fine, but did nothing to keep them from coming back.

My mom’s final resort? Chopping off most of my hair.

In retrospect, I totally understand why she did it, but at the time she was basically Satan incarnate in my eyes. My hair was part of my identity, and a bunch of little blood-sucking you-know-whats stole that from me. At school, kids made fun of me because I “look[ed] like a boy!” To top it all off, most of them knew my hair was gone because of a lice problem, and this made me an immediate outcast, pushed out like a leper.

Let me clear the air about one thing right up front: Having head lice does not mean that a child has poor hygiene or is dirty. This is seriously one of the most frustrating misconceptions about lice, and it often leads others kids, and even some adults, looking down on kids who get lice like less-than human beings because of something that is basically synonymous with childhood.

Spread the word: lice ≠ poor hygiene/dirty hair/dirty home

Lice, unlike our society, are strictly nondiscriminatory. They don’t care what kind of hair you have so long as they have a place to chill and eat and lay their eggs. Like hipsters, you know? (totally kidding. kinda)

While I can’t offer you a miracle solution to the lice epidemic that spares no child, home, or school, I can offer you some information about lice to help you handle them if/when they appear:

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  1. Some things shouldn’t be shared: Remind your kids as school begins not to share hairbrushes, combs, hats, scarves, or even headphones and hair accessories. One of several lice misconceptions is that they can be spread by Spiderman-ing from head to head. Lice don’t jump or fly or web-sling across the classroom, but they can hitch a ride on items worn on or around the head, as well as by–and most commonly through–head to head contact.
  2. Perform frequent head checks: Seriously, I know it sounds tedious, and it’s not like you NEED one more thing to do between work/carpools/sports/ballet/charitable works, but the earlier you catch lice, the better. Female lice can lay anywhere between 6 to 10 eggs (nits, w.e.) a day. They hatch in 7 to 10 days, and can start laying their own little parasites within another 7 to 10 days; all this while you have no idea what’s going on because some kids don’t even itch–which is usually the first sign to parents. I suck at maths, but they can multiply pretty quickly if they aren’t caught early. Think about scheduling a weekly or bi-weekly lice check on your kiddos. And please, please, check your child’s head before school starts.
  3. Don’t rely on your kids to itch as the first sign: Only people who are allergic to the saliva produced by the lice will itch, and more than half of people who get lice are not allergic. Don’t be like me and wait until you see a huge fat louse crawling across your kid’s head at McDonald’s to realize something is up.
  4. Don’t blame it on the pet: Okay, I may have said that lice are nondiscriminatory, but that was partially a lie. They are discriminatory when it comes to the species of their hosts. They prefer humans, not Lassie to the dog or Snowball the cat, and by “prefer” I mean they only pester humans. So don’t blame the pets.
  5. Little Susie and Jack will not get Bubonic Plague from lice: Lice are not known to transmit diseases. The worst that can happen is a secondary infection from your kiddo scratching the bites.
  6. Your pediatrician can help! I took a chance and decided to tell my children’s pediatrician that we were fighting with a lice infestation on three of my four children. Nothing over-the-counter would work. I combed and combed, and picked and picked, and washed and washed to no avail. I did everything by the book. I felt like my mom, but I was determined not to chop off the children’s hair (which, by the way, is also a misconceived idea. Cutting off their hair short of shaving them bald does not guarantee a solution). The doctor wrote me a prescription for “Sklice“, and seriously it works wonders. So don’t be embarrassed to tell your pediatrician about a lice issue at home.
  7. Don’t solely rely on “preventative” oils, sprays, shampoos: I can’t speak on a scientific level about the effectiveness of using things like tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and eucalyptus oils as lice repellents, though we have used tea tree oil in the our shampoo and conditioners, but my kids still got a case of lice last year after my niece came home with it from another family member’s house. Also be aware that some kids may have sensitivities or mild allergies to these things. And if you plan on trying to “smother” or “drown” the lice in mayonnaise or Coke (yes, the beverage) or coconut oil, just keep in mind that lice can hold their breath for up to 8 hours because biology is weird.
  8. Keep yourself educated: I’m going to include several links at the bottom of this post because it’s good to keep in the know. Also because the Parenting 101 handbook I got after my kids were born doesn’t include a “how to handle a Biblical plague in your own home!” section. (Literally, lice were part of the third plague the Lord sent over Egypt)
  9. You’re not a bad parent if your kid gets lice: Lice happen. Like I said before, it doesn’t mean that you’re not keeping your kid or your home clean enough (unless you aren’t, which that’s between you and the Lord), or that you’re a bad parent. Seriously. Kids get cuts and scrapes and bruises, and lice. It’s not like chicken pox or polio, for which there are vaccines and you just choose not to immunize them. It’s not a moral dilemma. Just take a deep breath, get yourself a lice comb and a beer/glass of wine, and get to picking off lice like adulthood picked off my hopes and dreams. (totally kidding)

(see below for resource links)

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(P.S. – Mom, I’m totally over you cutting off all my hair. Love ya!)

Sometimes Kids Just Need To Be Bored

 

Why do we as parents feel the need to keep our children engaged and entertained every minute they are awake?

I mean, I get it. A bored kid is oftentimes more of a headache to us than the boredom itself is to them. When my kids are bored, I’m their go-to to supply them with entertainment, even if that entertainment comes in the way of watching me lose my s*** because I’ve listened to “but moooo-OOOOm, we’re so bored!” more times than Trump has tweeted the words “fake news”.

Seriously. They hate nothing more than when my husband or myself tell them to shut off the electronics and come downstairs. Why? Because downstairs means they have to make their own fun. They can’t just plug-in and let their awesome Uncles Mojang and Pop Cap keep them entertained. Downstairs means they have to go into their rooms and play with real toys, create their own zombie apocalypse in diecast cars, army men, and Lego blocks. Downstairs means they have to use critical and imaginative thinking to stimulate themselves. Downstairs means they have to endure moments of silence and disconnect.

And you know what?

It’s good for them.

As much as it drives me insane, boredom in moderation is good for kids. Yours, mine, and even Susie-perfect-mom-down-the-street-with-her-24-hour-schedules’. Unstructured free time does wonderful things for kids, and it even helps us as parents grow in the virtues of patience and fortitude–because nothing gives me fortitude like staring four “so-bored-we’re-going-to-die” children in the face and saying “no” to the electronics. The temptation to give myself a moment of peace and let them plug-in is sometimes palpable.

And you know what else? My children aren’t going to starve if I don’t make their meals colorful and shaped like animals or cartoon characters or their pet goldfish.

I’m serious, y’all.

We’ve dealt with our fair share of picky eaters. We’ve dealt with that fun stage when the kid doesn’t want to eat anything and you’re 90% sure they’re going to starve to death and you’re desperate enough to julienne, batonnet, brunoise, and paysanne every ounce of their food and make it look like The Last Supper on a kid plate if it’ll get them to eat. But you know what? I don’t owe it to my kid to do stuff like this. It’s not my job to make every moment of every day fun fun fun! Because that’s not life. If they want pancakes shaped like baseballs or teddy bears when they grow up, they can go to Denny’s and order off the kid’s menu.

This isn’t a personal attack on any parents to who do this, who go that extra mile to do something fun for their kids, but it’s not me. On a personal level, food is food and everything in their life isn’t going to be handed to them diced up and decorated. The light company could send our bills on neon pink cardstock complete with flourishes and dancing lightbulb cartoons, but I’ll still wince every time I pay it. Moses could have come down the mountain with two elaborately decorated tri-fold display boards that would put a 3rd grade science fair presentation to shame, and it wouldn’t have made the 10 Commandments any easier to follow, and the same with Jesus and His commandments.

“Yo, would it be easier for you guys to clothe the naked and feed the hungry and love your neighbor if I made it into a rap song with a sick music video?” — Things Jesus Never Said.

Kids, my kids especially, need the mundane, tedious parts of life. They need monotony and blandness. They need realistic expectations, because I’m not going to wait until they turn 18 to pull off the rose-colored glasses and push them headlong into “real life” while simultaneously insulting their general lack of knowing how to handle “real life” because I didn’t want to ruin their childhood.

And honestly, I want them to know the value of, and to be appreciative of, silence. I don’t want them to be afraid of silence like I am. I don’t want them to be afraid to just… be at times. I want them to know stillness and calm, and so I have to gave this to them now, as children, so that one day they’ll be self-disciplined enough to seek it for themselves.

 

I Don’t Want A Perfect Life

“Perfect” is an ambiguous adjective. We all have our own idea of perfection; the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect spouse, the perfect home in the perfect area, complete with the perfect vehicle in which to transport the perfect kids.

My idea of perfect as a teenager was marrying a bull-fighting, guitar-playing poet. He would be handsome, charismatic, and deep. We would live in a run-down but well-loved flat in Prague. We would write, make love, and change the world through both. My plan was to be married by 23, and have my first child by 25, so that I would still be young and flexible enough to chase him/her around. Of course, my love-child would be gentle, soft-spoken, intuitive, and life would be bliss. The perfect husband, and the perfect child. This was my dream, and my plan.

 

I was 16. Give me a break.

Thirteen years later, my life is none of these things. My husband is not a bull-fighting, guitar-playing poet. He is handsome, charismatic, and deep, but sometimes these exact things drive me insane. Our home is run-down, but it’s not a love-nest in Prague. And I did manage to be married with a child by 25… In fact, I managed to be married with FOUR children. Four rambunctious, loud, sticky, impulsive children.

Thirteen years later, and my perception of “perfect” has drastically changed. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want the perfect husband and the perfect kids. I want grit. I want to forge this family out of blood, sweat, and tears. Give me the sticky and obstinate children, the husband who snores and drives me absolutely bat-s*** crazy with how literal and analytical he is! I want the kids who talk back and make messes, who are stubborn and impulsive.

Why? Because these things are what help us grow. These are the crosses we have to bear—each other’s weaknesses. These things are mirrors reflecting where I myself am lacking, and where I could do better. These things serve as reminders, both through their actions, and my reactions, that I am flawed. I’m not perfect. I would rather this family be swords forged in fire than sprouted in a field of daisies that wilt beneath too much heat.

I am glad my husband is analytical, because this quality in him–as crazy as it drives me sometimes–has helped him to see things differently than others. It helps him to solve problems both at home and in the work field.

I am glad that my children make messes and are stubborn. If they never made messes, they would never learn to clean them. If they aren’t stubborn, then they will be easily swayed in life. If they don’t talk back, they’ll never learn to speak up for themselves and others when it is most necessary.

I know some parents would try and hammer these qualities out of their children, to make them quiet, docile little things, but this isn’t what I want. I want to hammer and refine their perceived negative qualities and show them how they can be used to find success in life, to establish a firm foundation of faith in morality in them. I want them to be stubborn and vocal when it matters. I want them to have backbones. I don’t want them to be afraid of life, to be afraid of screwing up and making a mess, because they will. No matter how they try to avoid it, they’ll make bad decisions, both big and small. And you know what? I’ll still love them.

Of course, I get frustrated and angry when they talk-back, when they do exactly what I told them not to, and don’t do what I tell them to do. There are times when I want to rip the hair out of my head just to show them how done I am with the way they act and speak sometimes. I’m still human. I’m sure there are things about me my children dislike. In fact, our 5yo daughter told us we’re the worst parents ever earlier today because I grounded her after she refused to do something I asked her to do.

And you know what? I pray that she’ll stick to her guns that hard if/when a boy ever tries to pressure her into sex, or when her friends try to pressure her into drinking or doing drugs. I hope she looks them in the face and tells them where they can shove it, fiery little thing she is now. I hope she’ll fight as fiercely against people who would want to harm or use or mistreat herself or others as she does when her brothers try to steal her Peppa Pig toys.

I hope my oldest son can one day use his impulsiveness to bring fun and silliness when and where it’s needed most. I hope he adapts it to quick thinking and being mentally agile. I hope it sends him on adventures worth telling his grandchildren one day.

I hope our second-oldest can take his incessant–and oftentimes infuriating–need to argue, and use it for good. I hope he finds something he is passionate about to put this quality to good use. I hope that his being able to laugh through literally everything will be a comfort to him and others when life gets really tough, because it will. It always does.

I hope that our youngest, the little boy who is like the Bruce Willis of two-year-olds, will take his adventurous curiosity and explore the world, explore other cultures and other ways of life. I hope he’ll never stop seeking, never stop wondering.

Because I was once a prisoner to comparison. I would look at my friends’ children, the children who were so well-behaved and docile and quiet, and I would feel jealousy. It made me resentful towards my own children. It made me wish I had something other than what I do. It made me wonder what was wrong with me as a parent that my kids turned out to be the ones who end up on Ellen because of their shenanigans. How fair is that to them? That I should resent them for who they are, because who they are doesn’t fit into my neat little box of who they should be? What does it teach them about love, about acceptance and understanding if I try to make them fit a mold they were never meant to fit?

Yes, I want them to be successful, productive members of society, and I understand that this requires discipline, fortitude, and obedience. It means tact, social aptitude, and certainly not giving someone a detailed account of your daily BM, or loudly shouting “I FARTED” while in Mass.

I don’t let them get away with being disrespectful. They face punishment when they talk back, when they deliberately disobey, and when they hurt each other. Day by day, I’m teaching them prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. Some days we have to learn the hard lessons together. Other days I have to use my own shortcomings as lessons for them: don’t be like your mother and engage in fights with people on the internet! There are even some days when I’m the one who learns a lesson from them.

I thank God everyday for what I have, and for who I get to share it with. Even when they drive me batty.

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Shopping Adventures With Kids: Vol. 1

Taking my children out of the house is never dull; arduous, frustrating, interesting, and sometimes hilarious, but never dull. Bear

And, of course, it just wouldn’t be a proper outing without our very own internet celebrity, Bear, keeping up with his usual shenanigans. Thankfully, there were no eggs involved this time.

First, Bear waved and said “Hi, dad!” to a young Wal-Mart associate, and the dude straight had to eyeball me for second just to make sure we hadn’t “crossed paths” at one point.

As we were waiting to checkout, he decided to let out a high-pitched ululation as a call to people. You know, one of those screeches that could make a banshee blush, and every person over 12 glare at you. From a few lanes down, you hear another child respond.

He then proceeded to stare awkwardly at the little girl—who responded in kind to his howls—after she ended up in the lane beside us. I’m not sure if he’s attempting to amass a cult following, or if this was a mating call. But since he takes so much after his father, I wouldn’t doubt if this was some kind of mating ritual. That’s just how they work: they do something drastic to get your attention, then stare at you until you fall in love with them.

But, hey, it obviously worked once, right?!

The cherry to top off this moderately eventful shopping trip was when the woman behind us turned to Bear—after he smacked her in the head with his balloon-on-a-stick—and said, “Oh, he looks like he should be on television!” I told her that he’s been on the Ellen Show and on a show called “Right This Minute” which airs on ABC, and I wish, I wish I could have captured the look on her face when I told her HOW he ended up on those shows.

While most kids end up on television because they have otherworldly voices, impeccable musical skills, or have IQ’s higher than my blood pressure, my kid ended up on national television because, well… he was acting like a typical 2-year-old. His superpowers include fist bumping, ululating, sleeping in odd places, destroying feather pillows, maneuvering out of his clothes in a way that would shame Houdini, racking up medical bills, and making me question my abilities as a parent. 14233258_10153838366552304_917444458146065898_n

 

 

I Am A “Feel Like It” Catholic

A reflection on my personal struggle with acedia, spiritual apathy

The following is an excerpt from my personal journal, dated 4/23/17:

Maybe I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Your grace and mercy are inexhaustible because I am exhausted. I have a nasty habit of projecting myself onto You. I am tired of me, so how are you not? It must be like watching a mouse go around and around in a maze despite the number of times You have directed me to the correct path.

You lead, I stray. That’s how this [has] gone my whole life, and I don’t know why it is so difficult to just go the way You say. I knew from the start the path would be jagged. I knew that if I said “yes” to You, I would be plunged into the fire and purged. How many times have You put it into my heart that swords are forged in flame[?]

I don’t know where You want me to go. What do You want me to do? Because either way, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that you have great things planned for me. And I’m afraid that you have a very humble and meek calling for me. I want and don’t want both or either. But even more, I hate this skittering back-and-forth. This apathetic restlessness.

I cannot spend the rest of my life a lukewarm Catholic.

Is it better that I try until I feel, or feel it and then try? If I come [to You] out of obedience and not with my heart, is it better that I just stay home?

I’ve just returned from staffing an ACTS retreat over the weekend. Teaming with the ACTS apostolate is one of the very few things I feel like doing anymore. I love it. I love serving others in this ministry. I love spending four days and three nights on my feet. I love the way I feel after a retreat, this renewed yearning to go out and set the world on fire even when my body is exhausted. AcediaThe only issue is that I rely heavily on these feelings to be what carries me out of my spiritual apathy and into a new era of my faith; a renewal of my caring to do what God wants me to do. Every year I tell myself, “use this retreat to kickstart your feelings and get back on track”.

And every retreat, I don’t.

I, like many Catholic-Christians the world over, rely on my emotions to carry my faith. I don’t feel like praying or attending Mass or going to confession, so I don’t. I even asked a very good friend of mine, who is a newly ordained priest, if it’s better not to go to confession since I would be going more out of obedience than out of an overwhelming feeling of guilt and pain over doing things that have pained God. He lovingly explained the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition, and strongly suggested I GO!

You see, I have found myself in the grips of the noonday devil, acedia. And not in the manner that I think I’m possessed or anything so dramatic, but that I just don’t care to do the things I know I ought. I have found myself in this sort of restless stasis, not caring to fulfill the duties of my vocation as a wife and mother, or as one of 1.2 billions Catholics in this world who make up the Church. Both because I feel nothing, and because doing what I should doesn’t really guarantee that I will feel anything.

I don’t pray enough. I don’t attend Mass on even a semi-regular basis. I’ve put off going to confession by any means possible. I have put off having our youngest baptized, or putting our older children in faith formation to receive their sacraments. I always find something “better” or “more important” to do. I always tell myself, “I can do it later”, and I watch the seconds and hours and days and weeks pass while I remain stagnant so far as the laws of time allow. And all because I don’t feel like doing it.

Most of us have heard or read Jesus’ words to Peter when he finds the apostles asleep in the garden just before He is arrested: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The issue with acedia is that neither the flesh nor the spirit are willing.

In essence, I have dropped out of the fight because I don’t feel God’s presence at all times, because I don’t feel divinely energized by the Holy Spirit, because I in all my imperfect humanness don’t feel like doing what God wants me to do. The Lord knows that I lack obedience, that I lack the discipline to act when told to act and go where I am told to go simply because I rely too heavily on emotion and spiritual fuzzies. Instead I sit back and wait for–like I said–divine inspiration to carry me to Mass or confession, or to the church office to sign my children up for formation and baptism.

Even now, in this post, I feel like I’m scrambling in circles, all while the Lord stands off to the side with this “seriously, child?” look on His face. He’s holding a map and a torch, offering me everything I need to quench His thirst for souls, and all I want to do is snuff the torch and stuff the map in my pocket because I am tired–body and soul. I am tired of caring, and somewhat resentful that I ever learned the Truth in the first place because now I can never not know, and so I can never feign ignorance to what is expected/wanted/needed of me.

If that seems… harsh, I know. But I really try to be candid about things even when it bites me in the rear at times. And I know that I’m not the only one suffering with this exact issue, this acedia and this selfish pride as if the Lord owes me warm fuzzies simply for doing what He tells me.

Anyways, here’s the full excerpt on spiritual sloth by St. John of the Cross in “The Dark Night”:

As to spiritual sloth, beginners are wont to find their most spiritual occupations irksome, and avoid them as repugnant to their taste; for, being so given to sweetness in spiritual things, they loathe such occupations when they find no sweetness. If they miss once this sweetness in prayer which is their joy, – it is expedient that God should deprive them of it in order to try them – they will not resume it; at other times they omit it, or return to it with a bad grace. Thus, under the influence of sloth they neglect the way of perfection – which is the denial of their will and pleasure for God – for the gratification of their own will, which they serve rather than the will of God. Many of these will have it that God should will what they will, and are afflicted when they must will what He wills, reluctantly submitting their own will to the will of God. As a result, they often imagine that what is not according to their will is also not according to the will of God; and, on the other hand, when they are pleased, they believe that God is pleased. They measure Him by themselves, and not themselves by Him. . . . They also find it wearisome to obey when they are commanded to do what they like not; and because they walk in the way of consolation and spiritual sweetness, they are too weak for the rough trials of perfection. They are like persons delicately nurtured who avoid with heavy hearts all that is hard and rugged, and are offended at the cross wherein the joys of the spirit consist. The more spiritual the work they have to do, the more irksome do they feel it to be. And because they insist on having their own way and will in spiritual things, they enter on the “strait way that leadeth unto life” (Matt. 16:25), of which Christ speaks, with repugnance and heaviness of heart.

 

You Can’t Drink Poison Then Wonder Why You’re Sick

“Don’t say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

Yesterday was a bad day.

I don’t say that often. I have lazy days, frustrating days, long days, but rarely do I have plain bad days.

Since becoming Catholic in 2011, I’ve worked hard to meet adversity and meanness with charity and compassion. I work hard to control my tongue, and even more control my fingers on the keyboard when on the internet. It’s easy to sit in front of a screen and treat it as a line of demarcation between reality and fiction. When arguing with someone online, it’s easy to forget that there is an actual living, breathing, hurting, loved individual on the other end, no matter how intolerable they are to us personally.

Yesterday, I was not charitable. I did not meet the person with whom I was fighting (someone I once knew personally and intimately) with compassion. Anytime we interact there is tension. Both of us want to get at the other, even when we both claim that we don’t. I chalk it up to unresolved issues that 1. we had when we were dating, and 2. that we have accumulated over the years and not talked through because, well, neither of us really wants to listen.

You could say, “just cut them off, stop talking to them,” but the situation is a bit more complicated. There’s a third-party involved, and that relationship cannot be severed, nor can this party be thrown in the middle of our issues. The one I was fighting with is a person I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, and he is one of the only people in the world towards whom I feel this amount of animosity.

I lost my cool. Not once, but twice. I failed the first incident by responding to what I knew was him baiting me into fighting. I fell for it. I fell into it. I failed the second time by, while claiming that I was done doing this with him, that I was going to try and do better by not stooping to the levels and language that I did, I stooped again. I trash-talked, I made petty (albeit true) comments in a public forum.

I’m not going to try and excuse my behavior. I’m a grown woman and I should know how to act, even and especially on the internet. I failed to set the example that when someone hands you poison, you don’t have to drink it. And drink it I did. Then I proceeded to moan about being sick.

My relationship with this individual was toxic when we were together, and ten years later, it’s still toxic. We both eat at each other, then we both turn around and act like what the other says and does doesn’t bother us. We’re both… excuse me if you will… full of crap. If neither of us cared about the other (in a broad, platonic sense), we wouldn’t nip at each other the way that we do. He wouldn’t do his best to show me how smart and wise and “enlightened” he is, and I wouldn’t waste my time trying to show him that he may be those things but he doesn’t know the first thing about being a father.

Now, this isn’t to say that he on his own is a toxic person. He says that he’s come a long way from who he was when we dated, and maybe he is. I don’t know because all I see is what he posts on Facebook, and what he tells me. And while I tell him that I’m not the same person I used to be, I always revert back to the outrageous, defensiveness 17-year-old I once was. I don’t show him a difference.

He hands me poison, and I drink it.

Two things shook me out of my tirade yesterday: one, a good friend and family member pointing out that I was being hypocritical by saying I didn’t want to stoop anymore, then doing so anyways when I had the chance to prove I’m not that person now; two, my mom said to me, “I hate seeing you like this. You have done SO WELL over the past few years when you weren’t speaking to him and now you’re right back to where you were before, and that’s not you.”

Thank God for people who are willing to set me straight even when it hurts. And I mean that with the utmost sincerity. I was making an absolute ass of myself and I’m sure it got a good “ha-ha” from his end, which of course cripples my pride. But that’s exactly what I need and needed. I need a blow to the pride. I need to remember that this person who keeps goading me into these behaviors has no power if I don’t give it to him. He may goad, but I’m the one who has control over my actions and reactions. I need to remember that he’s a person with aches and pains and past and present hurts just like me. I need to remember that even though he doesn’t claim religion or faith in God, he’s still made in the image and likeness of God. He’s broken, just like me, and we both have a Father who wants to make us better, who hates to see us bicker and hurt each other the way we do.

Right now, I honestly don’t want to be kind to this person. I don’t want to show him an ounce of compassion because I personally don’t think he deserves it. He won’t take it anyways. He’ll see it either as a ploy or a weakness, and he’ll exploit it either way because that’s just how this works. But it’s not really about what think, is it?

I’m done drinking the poison. I’m done letting him get rash reactions from me. I’m done speaking to him unless it involves the third party. Does that mean I’m going to kowtow and bend a knee? Absolutely not. I have the third party to protect, and even if it makes me look like the bad guy, I will never apologize for doing what I deem is in the best interest of said third party.

Mr. Wise and Enlightened can have the last word. He can prove how much smarter and wiser and all-around just a better person he is than me, and I’ll take it. I’ll take humility (and being humiliated) over pride and acting the way that I did yesterday.

Sometimes the suffering that we experience in life is completely self-inflicted, but we can especially in these moments allow God to work through others and show us where we’re lacking, and how we can do better, both for ourselves and those around us. I take full blame for yesterday, from the initial argument to the way it blew up on social media. I took a huge dose of humility, and it’s been much like a panacea to me. It’s been an opportunity for the Lord to remind me that at the core of it, I know nothing of patience, charity, and humility as it applies to temperance.

“Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.” – Saint Ignatius of Loyola