Thursday, May 31, 2007
Sister of Perpetual Discernment
I don't know where I saw that phrase, but I like it. It's so true, for too many.
Just when I think I had it all figured out, I must, in all humility, admit that I DON'T. I don't have a clue. I have no idea what's going to happen next and I'm not even willing to hazard a guess anymore. And humility is not my strong suit.
Even further, I can't believe I'm writing this post. A certain Sister I know is likely falling out of her chair 'bout now, reading this, ready to dash off an email to me.
I had ruled out religious life. I hadn't ruled in married life (no one on the horizon), and had just come to be comfortable with the idea of perpetual single life...although truth be told, that "comfort level" is just a sham. I made it up.
Tonight, EWTN had a few Brothers on, and as usual, when I watch these shows, I think, "I could do that. I like that MUCH better than what I'm doing NOW!".
I like prayer, although I'm often distracted, and I get bored with the Rosary (There! I said it!), I don’t like praying the rosary with a large group, I'm lazy and most of the time I think I'm entirely useless to God or anyone else, but here I am. My regular, willful, confused, train-wreck of myself, wondering if I should open that door I already closed. Does anyone really WANT me to open that door?
I don't think I'm called to religious life, but I'm going to admit that I haven't fully let it go. Or rather, it hasn't let me go. I had a terrible family life; I can't see myself in a community setting and able to deal with it. Then again, it's not as if I'm a stranger to dysfunction, but that's why I crave stability, and is stability really an option in community living? I mean, really. Let's be honest. People are human all over the place and all of us have our various disorders. We're all disordered in some way. It's called "the effect of original sin." Yup.
But then I watch these shows and I start wondering again. God knows I haven't found success in the professional world. On the surface, maybe. On the surface, it looks like I'm making decent money, I own a house, a car, dogs, I have good credit, I'm heading off to grad school (maybe), and man, I'm "livin' the dream!"
Yeah. Some dream. I'm miserable. Completely miserable. My joy is in my faith, my joy is in the gift of life God gave me, my joy is in the Lord. But when I take a step back in the midst of that joy, I know I'm completely wretched, because I haven't figured out where I belong. I so envy people who know where they belong, even with all their own trials. I don't want their lives, don't get me wrong. I just want their secure knowledge of Vocation. I don't have that, and some days I wonder if I'll ever have it. I’m completely adrift, being pulled by different currents, sometimes left to float, abandoned, always trying to keep my eyes on the cross. Unfortunately, the crucified Jesus does not speak from the cross in ways that give obvious direction. “Offer it up” isn’t going far enough these days.
There's a big piece missing somewhere, and some mornings I wake up in complete terror, thinking I've lost it forever. Except that I know God is faithful and He remembers the location of whatever I've misplaced, or whatever someone else has hidden from me.
Back in high school, when I revealed to people that I wanted to be a cop, they laughed at me. Some of them, anyway. The cops I knew didn't and took me under their wings. I'll be eternally grateful because it was their support that fueled me through the difficult training (all the more difficult being a woman). In High School, I was quiet, I was "a brain", and I was a troubled kid. Of course, the school didn't know it because the troubles were kept under the surface. No one knew of my suicidal leanings, few knew of my days as a runaway, but every time I jumped, God was there for me.
I remember one day, having dodged flying objects all night due to one of Mom's psychotic rampages (bipolar), I had packed a few things and fled to school, praying that my best friend's family would take me in for the night. I didn't care if I had to sleep in a box. In my hand I gripped a permission form Mom had refused to sign because she thought it was a commitment order or a death order or some such thing. I was 17 years old, and Mom wouldn't let me go on a class field trip. And it wasn't so much the field trip as the helpless of my situation. I spoke with the guidance counselor that day, some to do with upcoming college admission, and he suggested I look into Minor Emancipation, and sent me to the Principal. I ended up presenting myself before a surprised Principal, in whose office I had never been, in tears, in panic, and explaining my Mom's illness. I explained that the GC had sent me to him for info on a Minor Emancipation. He was surprised to see me; I'd never been in trouble, I was one of the "bright" kids, and it was so rare for one of the top students to come from such a position with such a request.
He had a file in front of him, I remember, and he told me that he didn't think such a court proceeding was the way to go. I learned that day that our Principal was a compassionate man ruled by a great deal of common sense; he suggested that in the event, throughout what remained of the year, if a permission slip was needed he would accept the signature of another adult (I had to give him some names; that of my best friend's parents, and he knew them as they were affiliated with the schools, and of my aunt and uncle), or I could simply bring the issue to him and he would assist.
I left the office, still in tears, but this time, with hope. Just one of the times God caught me before I went off the deep end. God is faithful.
Skip ahead...I worked hard to do what I thought I was called to do, only to fail. Again and again, I have failed. God has given me what I needed, and he's made me rip through thorns both natural and those of my own choosing, but he's provided results.
I used to have my life planned out. I was going to be on the SWAT team. I was going to be a canine officer. (Um...I DO have a German Shepherd). I was going to own horses. I was going to be married, maybe have a family, I didn't know about that. Well, law enforcement lead to disaster, other trials lead to other trials while outside of work, my volunteer work in ski patrol (training) and working in probation as a volunteer exceeded my wildest expectations. On paper, I was the stuff.
In reality, I was lost. So lost.
Then I met my boyfriend, a firefighter, who lead me into another childhood dream I hadn't wanted to admit; to be a firefighter. He thought I could do it, I at first argued, then let him talk me into it. He helped me train, he introduced me to some of his friends who were likewise enthused at the idea, and once I got into training for the test, I had the scent and I went after it.
I ended up being hired...over 3,000 applied for that job, not many got it. I was in the second class. I kicked butt in the physical test, but I'd trained hard for it. The interview seemed tailor made for my experience.
But my judgment proved to be just as bad there, as once I was well into training, 4 months of academic training, 3 weeks into the meat of the job (the Tower), I realized I didn't belong there. I wasn't cut out for the job. I didn't want to be there. That's when God got me out of it via an injury, and I left a piece of cartilage on the apron at the base of that tower. It cost me more to get out than it did to get in.
Admittedly, though, I'd drawn closer to God in the process.
I ended up where I am now, but that's a boring story. 'Nuff said that I'm in corporate America, working for a company based out of Cleveland, OH (the only place I haven't been sent for training), hate my job and found that I've committed professional suicide by accepting this position.
I'm stuck. But life isn't about a career...there's something more, and I'm missing it.
I'm God's wayward daughter, the one who looks good on paper but happens to be really messed up. And in reality, I have to wonder how many of us (esp. singles) feel the same way?
The world teaches us only to look good on paper. It was always about the resume, the expensive parchment with the academic degree, the money to be earned, the career to love, the children never to have. It was about the stuff.
I don't care about the stuff. If my house disappeared overnight, I don't think I'd care, as long as the mortgage went away with it. If my car disintegrated (not likely, it's plastic), I'd be thrilled. One less bill to pay...and opportunity to just get a horse. (They generate their own gas).
Most of the stuff in my house...well, there's many sentimental items, and the computer aids me in my true love (writing), and the art I've bought to grace my walls, I'd miss. But I'd get over it.
My dogs...that's the hardest; lives for which I'm responsible. But God can have them, too.
It's been a rough road, and I don't expect it to get any easier. It seems I'm only going in circles. Again and again, I'm stuck in this rut I can't seem to climb out of, and it keeps bringing me back to Vocation discernment.
It had been hard to tell my friends that I was considering a Vocation a couple years ago. I expected them to laugh at me, but they didn't. They told me they'd considered it, too, or at least thought that I should. Some had come to me independently and suggested I consider it. Telling my family was torture, and Mom, in her style, assumed I'd disappear off the face of the earth into a cloister. I had to explain to her that this is not how it works. And she admitted she knew that; she'd wanted to become a nun, and they thought her too "worldly". (This shocks me...my mother is naive as they come). She didn't regret her decision to marry and have children. But she understood what I was seeking. My brother wasn't shocked, but his girlfriend, seeking Buddhism, was amazed, but supportive.
But it was hardest to tell my then Spiritual Director (SD). Out of everyone, HE was the most difficult, I told him over the phone after much hemming and hawing, and almost died in the silence after my revelation. But he didn't condemn me, either, and he didn't laugh at me.
Of course, after everything I'd done up to that point, people had learned not to laugh at me...I usually did exactly what I told them I was going to do. Even my SD knew that and understood that if I was saying this, it was for real. And of course, he realized how hard it was for me to tell him. But this had a different element to it, something new, something that didn't originate with me like everything else had.
When I "discerned" that I wasn't Called, my friends revealed immediately that they agreed; but they had never before wanted to say so because it's a journey and they did not in any way want to discourage me. I wasn't surprised they didn't think I was called...I had gleaned from some of their reactions that they didn't think so, but then again, I'd seen that reaction before.
But as we all know, God has a sense of humor. A really big sense of humor. I still don't think I'm called, but my curiosity is back, and that door is nearly irresistible. I'm a writer...and I have not written of religious life from the inside. That's a challenge....but is it a challenge from God to attempt such a thing and remain aloof...or is it a challenge to answer a Call, created just for me, to appeal to me as He created me?
The Call is unique to the individual, and God, in his great wisdom and great humor, just LOVES to contrive ways to entice us into our Vocations.
I don't think I'm called, but somehow, that door doesn't seem to be entirely closed......