Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Good Man is Hard to Find

A good man is hard to find.
I've heard that such a statement is extremely annoying to lads, and often makes them think something along the lines of, "Um... I'M RIGHT HERE" (however, not being a lad, I don't know for sure- any of you gentlemen want to help me out?). Depending on your environment, your life could either be chock-full or devoid of good men, or somewhere in between, knowing some good men and some bad men. 
I think that often, though, when we say 'a good man' what we mean is 'the right man'. 
The man who will love me even my usually-conservative brain takes on a sudden semi-socialist leaning*, or when I need a few minutes (or an hour) alone before being able to energetically converse on any civilized subject, or when I suddenly burst into tears for, ahem, no reason at all (though, fellows, a little hint: it generally isn't appreciated when you ask, "So, it's your time of the month, then?" Just don't go there, because if it was necessary for you to know, you'd be told.). [Feel free to adapt that paragraph to fit your own personality, quirks, and circumstances.]
Maybe it's the change in seasons. Maybe it's some warm rush of a half-nostalgic longing that comes with the smell of coffee or the feeling of a sea-breeze. Maybe it's your three-in-the-morning Pinterest Fest. But something rumply deep within the soul of every single woman I know has, at one time or another, spoken wistfully: "Where is the right one?"
"Where is the man who isn't ashamed to be with me even though I'm a big screw-up?"
"Where is the man who thinks I'm beautiful despite my weight?"
"Where is the man who inspires me to be the better me, the holier me, all the while accepting that I'm not there yet?"
"Where is the man who will be there when everything in my world has crashed down around my feet and left me hopeless?"
Most girls my age are still waiting for that man. Now, it's hard, this waiting. There's a strange sort of ache that has the double-use of making one feel like one is in a meaningful novel, yet all the while it is real and free from pretentious evaluations of what, exactly, it is. It is a tattoo of longing burned into the heart- longing for love. There are few things, in my limited experience, more collectively longed-for than the right man, little realizing that He has already come. 
That He has sacrificed for you; that He knows every person you've hurt, every thought of lust or violence or greed or despair; that He has conquered the world even though you may have lost the battle. That He was beside you when you were vomiting, when you looked in the mirror and burned with loathing, when you lost control of your body and messed up in ways you never thought you would. We have never liked to listen to Him, just as Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader never enjoyed the tearing-off of his revolting dragon hide, but are consistently drawn to the clear, cool waters of His Love and infinite, all-consuming mercy. So we hide, curled up asleep on our piles of gaudy treasure that will eventually mean nothing; we put those shiny cuffs on our arms, only to wake up and find that we can't remove them. We don't like to think of Him because of the incredible awkwardness of His embarrassingly faithful Love that does not constrain itself to selfish limitations, that is not conditional, as our little love often is. Yet when we do, when He gives us the grace to pour ourselves out to Him, amazing things happen, and we can enjoy the spiritual yet physical relationship Christ offers to each of us by coming into our presence as a piece of Bread and a chalice of Wine. 
So we can keep waiting for the right man to come. You can keep waiting for him to bump into you outside a bookstore or ask you to dance or share your table at a tea-house. You can pray for him with all the earnestness that befits the worthy cause of your future marriage; you can write letters full or mush and goo or sensible thoughts on relationships according to your mood; you can ask God to send The One into your life, and you can continue discerning which path is for you in the meantime. But what we should never forget is that the true Bridegroom has already found us, and regardless of when Prince Charming does, Jesus is already here. Already loving us. Already telling us how beautiful, how precious, how delightful we are. When we lose sight of that, we lose sight of who Mr Right should imitate, and take up with a string of Mr Wrongs.
In the meantime, there's the longing. But sometimes, doesn't it seem that the entire Christian life is a sort of longing, a long-ripened desire for something not even of this world?

I'll be praying for you. Pray for us?

Much love,

*I blame my upbringing. I have heard Canada called 'a nation of Frenchie Socialists', which is not only a bit rude towards the Francophone community, but also untrue, as most of the people I know only have socialist inclinations and aren't what you'd call budding communists, but merely have a distaste for capitalism (oddly enough, most of the people I know also vote Conservative- because what are human beings if not self-contradicting?). I've heard this may have been due to an influx of Marxist literature that ran through work-camps in Western Canada right before WWII, which the Prime Minister at the time didn't do much about (in fact, I don't think that the Prime Minister at the time did much about anything, but I'm too lazy to find my Social Studies text from Grade Six and look it up). 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Not a Great Plan {on sexual education, purity, and ignorance- have fun!}

*This post contains a lot of awkward TOBsessiveness. If you think that would not be a good thing for you, please do what is best in your own case. Love ya!
Also, I used gifs when this isn't even a list. But gifs served the intended purpose, so we're just going to have to get over it. Don't hurt me.

One would think that I, of all people, would jump at the chance to talk about human sexuality for an hour or two. And I might, now that I know something about it; but I would not jump at the chance to sit through an hour or two of the sexual education I was given in the Way Back When (or, for that matter, crude jokes about marrying-off at family gatherings. Please, please stop. You make us spit out our tea.).
"What could possibly be more awkward than sex education in a sheltered, Evangelical Protestant, somewhat-Fundamentalist school?" you may ask. Answer: who can say?
Anyway, on to the subject. Our sexual education (referred to as The Health Class) was conducted in two rounds of classes a few years apart. Please note that prior to both classes, I had pieced together a very rudimentary knowledge from books and movies; nope, never had The Talk; nope, haven't spoken to any of my former classmates on this topic; nope, this is not a purposeful jab at the character of any former teachers. The teacher who taught The Health Class was one of the nicest people I have ever known. This is more about the general attitude towards human sexuality that, in my experience, was/is normative in Evangelical Protestant circles. So, here we go.

Now, I don't mean to imply that we didn't learn anything. In the first round of classes, when most of us were in our early teens, we learned about the function of a feminine hygiene product, what exactly a monthly is, and why boys acted weirdly (yeah, they split us up for the first round, because who wants to sit next to a youth of the opposite gender as the teacher draws pictures of your insides on the whiteboard?). However, never once was either pornography or masturbation mentioned. Statistically speaking, there were those of us who regularly watched pornography, and (again, speaking in likelihoods) the vast majority, if not all, of us would be exposed to pornography before the second round of classes; not to mention that self-gratification is even more accessible and that was also likely used. A little knowledge of how that would affect our brains, or what to do about it, would have been helpful. But no. Not once was either addictive- and, indeed, ruinous- behaviour mentioned. Not. Once.
My biggest disappoint at the time, though, was the following idea: women are emotional, men are sexual. It's a lie that's easy to perpetrate because of obvious factors, like visual stimuli (natural and not bad in and of itself), and all those years and years of sexism in which much could become acceptable by merit of its being done by a male; but a lie it remains. Women and men are both sexual and emotional, albeit in different ways. This idea was never presented to us. Rather, we were told that men would experience sexual desire and that men could be physically aroused by women, but never that it could work the other way around.
Telling that to a crowd of newly-teenaged girls? Ahem, not a great plan (they did mention female arousal during round two of classes, a few years later, to their credit. They even used a great analogy, but I can't repeat it because it triggers a look of complete horror and I'm typing in a public space.). Saying that men can desire physical affection or struggle with lust, but not that girls can, can potentially cause years of doubt and confusion for a young lady who experiences either/or. If your response to that is that she could always bring it to her parents, you have a very different remembrance of being a thirteen-year-old than I do. When I was that age, most girls I know would rather have talked to almost anyone but their parents- perhaps they would have brought it to the teacher, but if it was the class that caused the confusion in the first place, are they likely to bring it to the instructor of that class?
That was Fail Number One. Fail Number Two was the definition of  'purity' in those circles. Purity was the same as virginity, or so I was lead to believe. So if you weren't a virgin, you were not- and almost could not- be pure. Chastity in the form of transitional celibacy (i.e, what unmarried teenagers are called to) wasn't a thing; it was all about physical virginity (yes, it is better for you and your future marriage to wait until you're married to be sexually intimate, but there is more to purity than just not having sex). As long as you're technically a virgin before your wedding-night, you're fine, but you can do all that other stuff as long as you aren't technically having sex. Snogging? Fine! Sexual cuddling? Okay! Sleeping next to each other as long as intercourse isn't involved? Lovely! Watching movies in a dark room when mum and dad aren't home? Carry on, my wayward son!
The problem with that system is simple. A girl who has such a limited knowledge regarding her capacity to be sexually aroused, and thinks that technically having sex is the only way to become impure, and so will do just up to The Line, is in danger of crossing it before she can say, "Doritos". It is not right that she should be kept ignorant to the female dimension of human sexuality, especially since, in my experience at least, good Christian girls are obsessed with the idea of sex. As aforementioned, it is wise to remain a virgin until marriage; so, while not condemning my brothers and sisters in Christ who aren't, we should have learned about our bodies in more depth so as to be more knowledgeable about staying pure- not just staying virginal, but staying pure. And not having neurochemicals going cray-cray because we could 'touch' all we wanted and it wasn't impure... even with people who didn't really care about us.
Recipe for ignorance and heartbreak, right there. No girl (or boy, for that matter) should age ten years in just a few months because she didn't know what her own body was telling her.

Darn right, "Oh, sh*t". There's stronger language I could use, too.

Ahem. Where were we?
Oh, yes. My Christian sexual education was highly insufficient and resulted in utter confusion and varying degrees of self-disgust. Christian schools, kindly step up your game. Because leaving half the story out is... not a great plan.

Much love and prayers,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Understanding the Introverted: 8 Things to Keep in Mind

1.) Introverts do not increase their energy by being around people they like. 
People seem to be under the impression that an introvert's energy is only depleted by being in large crowds, or around people they aren't especially fond of, but that is a lie. Let me assure you that most introverts can be tired out even by being with loved family, or their best and closest friends. They may be completely happy from the encounter, glad that they had a chance to catch up, and still not want to see anyone for a few hours (or the rest of the day) after hanging out with their nearest-and-dearest.

2.) But an introvert can be stimulated by conversation/dialogue/talking.
What?! Yes, an introvert can be a very passionate speaker; it just usually depends on the topic- we aren't likely to get excited when a person remarks on the weather for the third time (seriously, people, unless you have a funny weather-related story, we don't want to hear about it's being chilly out), but we, like the next person, have stories we want to tell; thoughts and ideas we're passionate about. An introvert can be fiery on stage, or give a smashing good lecture, or present their idea to the board with energy and enthusiasm, but they might get a bit snappish afterwards if you try to engage them in small-talk. And, yes, even after a roaring debate or deep conversation, they will most likely need a while by themselves to recharge, but not half as much as they'd need it after bland chit-chat. Talk about the state of the roads and we get frustrated; mention our deepest passions and we're like...

3.) Introverts get lonely, too.
We need time alone, that's for sure, but if that time lasts too long, we get lonesome just like the next person. If  'overcharged', we may even get hyper (and it's my experience that introverted hyperness is not quite as classy as extroverted hyperness- the latter usually involves off-key singing and giggling attacks, much more reminiscent of grad-night drunkeness than it is of charming liveliness).

4.) Introverts aren't purposely setting out to be rude, selfish, or callous.
I'm sure there are introverts who are all that and then some, and we all have days where we're less than virtuous in our conduct with others, but the idea that introversion is primarily selfish, rude, callous sulkiness needs to be put to rest. If an introvert has been put through enough noise and people, they're most likely to get moody and snappish simply because they haven't had some quiet time. I'm not attempting to excuse the bad conduct of anyone, but I would like to suggest that if an introvert has been around people all day, it's a good idea to leave them alone to stretch, have a cup of tea, read a few chapters, check their e-mail, journal, have a lie-down, or what have you. They will come back refreshed enough to talk to you, whereas if you try to engage them before they've had a little lone-time, they might proverbially bite your head off.

Or blast you away with a fire-extinguisher. 

5.) Introverts don't hate extroverts. 
We think of extroverts like extroverts tend to think of introverts. For example, an extrovert might think of their introverted friend, "She never wants to hang out with me after work, even though there's a lot more we could talk about. She doesn't seem to care that I care about her! She's such a snob! Ugh!"
While her introverted friend may be thinking, "I wish she would stop pestering me. I do want to spend time with her, but I don't want to be so stressed out from constant socializing."

6.) Introversion is not the same as shyness.
Shyness is something of fear and anxiety; introversion is something of not minding being alone for hours at a time. There's even such a thing as a shy extrovert- I've heard that Barbra Streisand, off-the-charts extrovert, suffered from paralyzing stage-fright.

7.) Not all introverts suffer from poor mental health.
We have a tendency to think all those with depression and anxiety must be introverted, and there is substance to the claim, as depression is an inward state and introversion suggests a lot of inward-ness. But there are extroverts with mental health issues, too, you know.

8.) Introverts tend to not take interruption well.
If you'd like an introvert to do something for you, please don't demand that we drop whatever we're doing to do it; rather than saying, "Please fold the laundry," for instance, say, "When you've finished what you're doing, would you please fold the laundry?" or, even better, wait until they're done to ask. That's basic politeness, but something that introverts especially appreciate. Whereas we, when interrupted as we're fully immersed in our captivating task, get angsty. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Conversion Story Q&A

I was resting my chin on my hand and then
turned around really quickly when I realized
there was a picture being taken; I know that
my posture in this picture is really strange and the angle
is awkward. But that expression sums up how I feel
when people asked me some of these questions. Roll with it.

Howdy, friends. There are some questions I've been asked concerning my life, my conversion, my scandalous past, and all that jazz, and I thought I'd answer them all in one fell swoop. Again, I don't mean to sound super-whiny, but I'm a little cranky today, so there we go. Please be courteous if you decide to comment. Praying for you all.

So, do you still live with your mother, or...?
I live in her basement.

Is she still... you know... toxic?

Why are you still living with her, then?
Hopefully, I/we will have another dwelling before so many years have gone by. Pray for us? Thanks, loves!

I know. I agree. I also know that it's hard to return respect you don't get. I'm working on it. Thanks for your concern over my Biblical correctness.

So are you all weird now about motherhood and shiz?
I love babies, and I think parenthood is a beautiful and incredibly important thing. I don't know whether I'm called to be a wife/mum, but I do know that I fear it somewhat. If I do end up with that particular vocation, it is likely that I will need counselling in order to face it, and I have heard that in such cases, it is recommended that the couple wait a while before having a child. Anyway, I try to let Him lead me where He will. If that be to motherhood, then so be it. If that be to a nunnery, then so be it. If that be to the single life and an apartment full of doilies and cats, then so be it.

Do you go to therapy?
Yes, I've been going to therapy for almost a year now, and it's a great help. I would recommend that anyone struggling with a mental/emotional problem seek out a therapist.

Do you take medication?
Some herbal stuff. Other than that, no. Again, thank you for your concern.

Why'd it take you so darn long to do anything about the abuse?
It usually does, I think. I've been told that a side-effect of depression is the fear of seeking help for it; also keep in mind that my idea of 'normal' was being emotionally abused, and I thought that it happened in every family, so why should I seek help for something so regular? I was also raised with the idea that a parent can do no wrong, and my mother acted differently outside of our home. It took years for my own grandparents, whom we see very often, to realize something was amiss.

Workin' on that, too. Forgiveness is the work of years, people. It's not a one-time thing. We're in this together, I like to think, because we all have something we need to forgive. *group hug*

Is your family reading this?
Not to my knowledge. If so, it's not like they're learning something new. (Hi, guys! Remember to do your chores!).

Yes, there is! I promise! We'll get to that! Don't hurt me! MERCY!

Thank you very, very much for your concern, and if you have other questions, ask away- but use discretion, please, as there are some things I can't really answer publicly.

God bless you!


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Conversion Story IV: "The Only Church That's True"

*Okay, so for those of you who don't know, the Rose mentioned in this post is my older sister. If you want to know what she's like, know that we are practically identical to the point where we order the same thing at restaurants by default. The difference between us is that I'm taller and curvier, she has shorter hair and wears cat-eye glasses; she does things like Pilates and having a social life, I do things like knit and complain online. But I do have a social life. It's just always with the same people. And I do exercise. I walk to the bus depot. Ha. 

Let's get something straight here, folks. Stuff's 'bout to get REAL.
[Yes, that did just happen. Bear with me. It's late and I'm tired. Thank you.]
So, thank you for taking the time to keep up with my haphazard slap-dash conversion-story-that sounds-like-whining-but-I-promise-there-is-a-point-here-somewhere (if you're ever in town, or I'm ever in your town, we can meet for tea or ice-cream and swap tales, m'kay?). I only recently realized how very flat incomplete stories sound, but there are things that aren't mine to say, and that which is not fit to splash across the internet, so it's just going to have to be a little more boring than it is in real life. This is going to be a little more serious than my previous installments just because life gets more serious with age, or so it seems in retrospect. Grab thy mug of some hot beverage, friend, and settle down.
So, where we left off, my family had been having a really hard time fitting into the mold of megachurch/public school life, so we left the megachurch- not the school. From that point on, there were about another two years of churchlessness, during which I was less than wise. I was lonely, and I was confused, and I made regrettable decisions; let's leave it at that. In addition, it was during these years that my mother's lack of mental/emotional stability was made painfully apparent, and she became decidedly verbally/emotionally abusive.
Years passed that are now a blur, though they can't have been many. One night I was downstairs in Rose's room, and she suddenly brought up Catholicism. When I say 'suddenly', I mean that after buying a Crucifix for over her bed, as well as a Rosary, and posting an article about World Youth Day on Facebook, and having a book on her nightstand called Why Catholics Are Right, she brought it up again. I asked her if she thought she might become Catholic one day, to which she replied, "It's really the only Church that's true."
At around this time, my dad had the idea that we should try out this Eastern Orthodox parish. I had predisposed myself to dislike it, I must confess, and having social anxiety means that I over-analyze everything, but those two powerful factors aside: the parishioners were quite rude to us there. For whatever reason, when Ma started to go with us, they warmed right up to her. She announced just a few months later that she would be becoming an Orthodox Christian.
"What, like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? 'Tomorrow, you gonna be bapTIZED into ze Greek Orthodots Cheeurch. Nikki gonna be your godmothah.'"
This made me very grumpy. The up-side was that Rose started taking me to Sunday Mass with her at the local parish. I hadn't even known there was a Catholic parish in our neighbourhood! Though a little skeptical, I sincerely enjoyed the Mass and wanted to go again. There was a joy, and a sense of belonging, there that I hadn't experienced in a long time. I became mildly addicted to the Rosary, and fell in love with the Saints, and took Holy Cards to stick to my locker at school. It was back to being a very Catholic Protestant, and I didn't mind at all, though something was holding me back that I couldn't put my finger on.
My mother was Chrismated. The rest of us were cranky. Rose told me that she was going to sign up for RCIA in the autumn. But in the next installment, I am going to skip right over to the following winter, wherein I heard of Jackie Francois Angel, then just Francois (that statement sounded a lot more dramatic and ominous in my brain. It means something. Just roll with meh.).

Thank you for your time, again, and know that I am praying for you!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Wait? {a response to the responses given to chaste singles everywhere}

Sometimes, one has to laugh, or one will cry. Such is the case with the responses that single men and women practicing chastity encounter. And so, before I leave you for Advent, I am going to rant. This'll be fun.
WARNING: this post includes a lot of awkward TOBsessiveness. If you think that won't be good for you today, please do what is best for you.

"But if you get married, you won't know how to perform!" they wail, as if to imply that we're the dancing seals or painting elephants at the zoo, rather than human beings consummating a lifelong commitment. Listen, kiddo: if how much a person enjoys their honeymoon is dependent on how 'skilled' their bride or groom is, they need to be given a what-for (and possibly a long period of abstinence just to sort out their priorities). Neither you nor your future spouse is there to cater to expectations derived from fantasy. 

"Do you really want to ruin your wedding-night?" they smirk, because having never done something before must mean it'll be terrible the first time around, right? When did we forget that intercourse is primarily for expressing love, commitment, and procreation, not some stage on which to flaunt ourselves until we're so used to it that it means nothing but a quick pleasure-fix? Is that really what we ought to base marriages on?

"But don't you want to?" they ask, peering at us quizzically. Well, yeah, sure- it's natural to 'want to'; one should be rather more concerned if one didn't experience sexual desire. God and Christianity know this (there's even a book in the Bible devoted to it! What's life without a little awkward?). But the thing is that it isn't a question of what I want in the moment, it's a question of what's best for me, this person, my future husband, our future family, and what would be most pleasing to Jesus Christ, who is the true Love of our lives. 

"You'll die!" someone might say... only, we won't. When was the last time you saw someone rushed to the hospital for lack of sex? Have you ever read an obituary that described the deceased as a tragic victim of virginity? Me, neither.

"So, you must be pretty repressed, eh?" [note: I've never heard this one directly, it's just the gist of several paragraphs of Why You Should Sleep Around from the local pro-premarital crowd.] Nope, I don't think we're repressed. Why? Because not having sex before marriage actually liberates us from a lot of unnecessary drama, depression, confusion, disrespect, addiction, and worry, not to mention that we needn't be always worrying about pregnancy or infection. Chastity weeds out people who are just in it for the fling, and not having a bunch of intimacy hormones going crazy leaves us with clearer judgement in relationships. After all, strange women lying in ponds distributing 'protection' is no basis for a system of government- sorry, I meant to say 'swords'. 

"What'll your future spouse think?!" they cry, sincerely worried for the heart of the mysterious Mr or Miss Right when they find out you waited for them. People, if it's either them or chastity, choose chastity- because if they don't love you without the sex, they don't really love you with it. Personally, I like to think that, if and when you get married, your future spouse would be honoured to hear the words, "I may have messed up in the past, but from _______ forward, I waited for you". They're worth it, you're worth it, and your future marriage is worth it. 

Okay. Thanks for reading. God bless you, and let me know your snappy comebacks for snide remarks regarding chastity. Now for heaven's sake, go have a glass of water and think about something else for the rest of the day.

Love and all that,

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Let's not say goodbye, let's just say... au revoir."

Well, friends, it's about time for a blogging break. I'm taking Advent away from the blogosphere, wonderful as it and its keepers are, because attempting to balance studies with writing, eating, sleeping, praying, a feeble attempt at having a social life (social life?! What! *crawls back under rock*), and blogging with any sense of regularity, creativity, or depth is a little too much at the moment. I'll miss you, but that's life. I might have some posts on auto-pilot, but I won't be signing on a lot to read your lovely comments or your own great blogs- I shall return and catch up with you wonderful folks, though!
Anyway, because I won't be around to nag you with links or gush over the awesomeness that is another person's blog-post, I'd like to share some things around that will, hopefully, brighten your day and strengthen you for the coming change of liturgical season (by the by, please tell me someone else is colour-coordinating their nail-polish and cardigans to match the Advent shade of purple?).

1.) The 5 Dimensional Political Compass
Have you ever wondered what your in-depth political identity is? Take this quiz and wonder no further! I am apparently a socialist anti-government interventionist cosmopolitan reactionary. And, yes, the first thing I thought of was...

Please note that such a statement is all in good fun. I don't plan to burn anything. Pax.

2.) You Are Beautiful- Scars and All 
 Don’t journey through life thinking you have to be perfect in order to be enough for someone. The truth is, we are all broken.

3.) Gentlemen Speak: Appreciating Feminine Beauty Beyond Big Butts

Because, as the saying goes, charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting. I’m looking for the real deal, a woman who is free to be herself because she isn’t concerned with what the world tells her is desirable. And since she’s not spending all her time and energy trying to fit into some mold, she’s free to develop real assets, like virtue.
 4.) Beyond the World
Peregrin's latest. An inspiring and excellent comment on dear Nicole's post about the trials facing young, homeschooled Catholic women. Which brings me to my next point, as the latterly-mentioned lady has just introduced me to Cimorelli, who have that wonderfully fluffy yet heartfelt music. Like!

5.) Cimorelli's ' You're Worth It'.

This song is great because it covers a variety of trials that girls face, as well as being uplifting and compassionate. Like! But here's a funny one for after you've listened to the first: 'That Girl Should Be Me'.

Lovely Mariah's post... such good advice for your prayer-life.

7.) Franciscan University Presents: a Catholic Guide to Depression
A little lengthy, but worth the watch. It contains some interesting things about depression that you should know if you or a loved one struggle with melancholia; my favourite thing about it was how they mentioned how hard it is for depressed people to often get work done. So if you have depression and have been beating yourself up because you feel constantly overwhelmed, think yourself to be lazy, or find it difficult to get basic tasks done, know that you're always in my prayers.

Love and prayers and hoping y'all are having fun preparing for Advent,

Previous Rambles