cleaning in spring

restore the peace, remove the rest

I’ve been doing some purging. 

The easy stuff was first. The closet! The nightstand! The dresser! The cleaning buzz even took me through the wilds of the file boxes. And then the bathroom! The bottoms of purses and the pockets of backpacks! Then the car! The work bag! Nothing felt better than the hours of sorting and tossing and donating. What inspired the frenzy I’m not quite sure, but something in me wanted to be more portable. Unattached. Ready to move and flow without the bog of sticky old cough drops and forgotten bits of mail weighing me down. 

The most thorough part of the purge was the clothes. I’m usually pretty good at pulling out the older things, but this time around I went a step further. Not only did I get rid of the clothes that obviously didn’t fit, I got rid of the clothes I wished would fit. The tops and skirts that were ever-so-slightly too snug, that 5 or 10 pounds would fix, those pieces I begged to stretch just a bit so we could be happy together- all removed. Goodbye to them, goodbye to wishful thinking. Up next, the clothes I thought I liked but never actually wore. Time to stop lying to myself; I’m never going to wear that sweat-dress and I don’t actually like mini skirts. Farewell. 

Today I’m happy to report I’ve been able to get dressed quickly, both in clothes I like and items I don’t have to change because I’m being choked by collars or buttons. Magical. 

Next was the scale. I held it lovingly, looked into it’s cold, dead eyes, then promptly shoved it into the trash. Goodbye little black machine that kindly ruined so many of my days. We are no longer friends. I’ve had my physical and, yes, though I’m heavier than last year, the rest was A-okay. I’m not a diabetic, don’t have anemia, am free of vitamin deficiencies and my blood pressure was fine. The scale-free experiment of the last several months proved successful- my body knew what it needed without your direction. It asked for the right amount of exercise and the right amount of nutrients, I obliged and, shockingly, did not turn into an amorphous blob of cholesterol. I am now firmly convinced that weight can’t be the only marker for health and I’m pretty done letting it run the show. My mind was made to obsess over more important things than calorie counts. 

Happily curled up in pants (that fit) I finally came to the next great purge: The Application for Annulment. At the end of it all the thing turned out to be a thesis paper better off titled: Reasons Why I Should Have Known Better. A small book of lessons learned and shame packed into 70 pages of double-spaced type, neatly mailed away for examination by a crowd of church-goers I’ve never met. At worst, they’ll be scandalized, at best, they’ll be impressed by our profoundly poor decision making skills. I could be wrong- maybe they’ll all just be nice. Either way, I’m trying not to think about it and I’m mostly just glad it’s done. If anything, hopefully at least they’ll be pleased with my A+ work; all my years of training went into this project. The finished product was a binder complete with slip-covers, tabs, tables, headers, footers and 1-inch-wide margins. Now it is off in the universe waiting to be graded like my life’s most terrifying SATs. At least it’s out of my hands.

My name got chopped up next. Goodbye to the married, exotic, Sicilian experience I used to be a part of. Welcome back to the name I learned to spell in kindergarten and had printed on diplomas. Driver’s license, social security, credit cards, nursing board all changed, changed, changed. A long but satisfying list to check off, with every completion another snip at the dangling threads of my old life. I’m still working on my signature- it’s a confused mess of letters that don’t belong to each other, so don’t look too closely if you find my notes at work. In the meantime, I’ll try not to make you feel weird when you congratulate me on the change because you think I’ve gotten married. 

In other news, Lent is here now. A season practically devoted to purging. What else is left to trim? I am portable, satisfied, free. I am unmarried. Back to the name I was born with. 

After some thought, I found the next victim- now on the chopping block are those pesky apps threatening to upset the peace. Those harmless looking squares make me question my worth, my value, my beauty, and, worst, distract me from the present. So, once again, I bid adieu to you, Dating Apps. We had a nice little time together, but you were disturbing the state of the union. Maybe I’ll see you on Sundays, but the days between you’ll find me reading good books, practicing Italian, and remaining blissfully unavailable to the men who say they’ll call but then swipe, swipe, swipe their way through Nashville’s brightest. Adios. 

Or rather, arrivederci. 

to my person, someday

a letter to the future

To you, 

If I ever get to meet you,

Just so you know, I like to laugh.

I’m writing this to you, floating on the buzz of Malbec and gin (weird mix, I know), just to let you know about the laughing. It feels important right now. Don’t worry, though, I’m easy to please. I laugh easy, smile easy; life’s better that way.

I make lists, too, just so you know. I wrote this one months ago, on a little pad proudly titled “Eggcellent Notetaker.” I’ve got four sunny-side up themed pages on who I hope you’ll be. Eggcellent, obviously.

Besides that: You will be kind.

The human in me also hopes that you’re cute. Let’s be honest, I’ll have to look at you, and I tend to like guys with sweet smiles and kind eyes. Usually tall too, but that’s not a dealbreaker. Just please don’t be so gym-y that you’re douche-y. Maybe you exercise a little but also eat pizza? We’ll get along better that way, probably. Or maybe that’s just my insecurity talking. I’ll work on it.

Anyway, the back to the list.

I wrote down normal things:

  • Intelligent
  • Genuine
  • Driven
  • Responsible

And some more particular things:

  • Balanced
  • Attentive to the present moment
  • Self-reflective
  • Growth-oriented

And some more fun things:

  • Will dance
  • Will drink
  • Will play games
  • Will have friends

And the dealbreaker NOPEs:

  • Creepy
  • Mean
  • Uses women
  • Doesn’t want kids
  • Lack of faith
  • Disrespectful of boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Lazy
  • Poor priorities

AKA a decent human (according to my sister. Also probably me too, now that I look again).

If you aren’t a nope, congrats. 

If you’re the match for me, we go further.

I think you’ll be faithful, but not a weirdo. I’m Catholic, and it’d be lovely if you were too, but if you were centered on Love and oriented towards Good and understood (as much as any of us can understand) Jesus I think we’d be cool. He’s my friend, and I’d like it if you knew Him too. 

I hope we can go on dates and we can get appetizers and bottles of wine and dessert. I hope you have a budget, but sometimes know that beautiful living means there’s a little bit of wiggle room. Good food requires the wiggle. So does art. And music. And travel. I hope you like those things as much as I do.

I hope over the wine and apps and pasta we talk, and talk, and laugh, and talk some more. I hope you’re a good conversationalist, which implies that you’re also a good listener. And also probably funny.

It’s a pipe dream, but I also hope you are loyal to the Patriots. If not them, at least football. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s how I spend Sundays after church. If you’ll be there it’ll be easier if we can just hang and share the nachos.

I hope you love your family. I hope you want one with me. I want one with you.

I hope you are compassionate. 

And here’s what I know, before I’ve met you: 

You have a strong character. You know what you’re about. You’re a leader. A leader who I’ll let lead me because you’re so damn respectful. And you appreciate women. You support them. 

You support me. 

You see me.

And you’re gentle. Strong, and brave, but soft.

Maybe we can read together, some time? With coffee? I like both those things. Then, maybe, a bit of wine and pasta later, we’ll fall in love. And go to church and eat nachos and yell at the TV and talk about philosophy in our sweats then go to game night with the neighbors. Or maybe we’ll cancel on the neighbors because we decided to make a baby or two and finish the nachos in bed.

Anyway. Hope you’re doing well, wherever you are in the world.

Looking forward to knowing you.

Love,

Me.

a woman in the world

independent women who like men

How am I supposed to pass the Bechdel test?

There should be two women (this woman) in a room (on a blog) talking about something other than men. Preferably they have names.

I tried to pass. Put in my very best effort. I went to Ireland last month a very happy me, full and satisfied and single and thoroughly enjoyed all things green.

I started to worry, though, because I had nothing to write about. Nothing new to say. I was just living, and living well. There’s not much to tell when I’m wasting hours in the back corner of a pub with my Baileys coffee and book. No drama to investigate. Just me, feeling alive, riding bikes on an island, content with sweaters and soups, just as impressed with latte art as real art. No story hidden in the simplicity. No secrets.

Who wants to read about girls who are, well… fine?

Am I interesting anymore, without a man? Without a story to tell? With the story I have that’s just featuring me?

But then again, it’s not just about me, is it? I don’t want it to be, anyway- I still would like to find a man, right? (*cue feminist cringes*)

Should we be cringing, though? What’s wrong with men? What’s wrong with wanting to be with a good one?

There were some Irish nights, instead of soaking in my singleness, that I found myself putzing around on newly downloaded dating apps. I wasn’t really interested in the guys looking for someone who’s “a freak for her man” (whatever that means), and not really interested in guys who think Vegas bachelor parties are considered world traveling. Even still, I was there, and a little interested. 

Why couldn’t I just be the lovely, independent, strong woman that Lizzo wants me to be?

Why was I on the other side of the ocean with two sisters, adventuring away, and still hoping for the attention of heavily accented red-headed bartenders? Go back to your Guinness, girl! 


No Irish bartenders for me, but I did get home and try to go on a date. Shocking, I know.

We met on an app (weird), he asked me on said date (weirder), then hours before meeting flaked on date (weirdest). No explanation, no follow up, hardly even an apology. Maybe the actual weirdest part was that I was surprised. 

Anyway, it was a strange, disappointing entrance into the so-called dating scene. 

In an effort to redirect this post away from the feminist rant it could be and towards the peaceful, lovely, self-secure place it should be, I’m going to tell you the truth now. 

I was annoyed, yes. However, primarily, I was relieved. Despite my wishy-washy I-want-a-man meanderings, I don’t think I actually wanted to meet the man. 

Probably in part because it’s much safer and easier to be single. No one can hurt you when you take yourself to the movies, right? Also, I really don’t know if I have the energy right now to form a meaningful connection with a stranger male, or the real desire to take responsibility for a that same male and incorporate him into this life of mine. I’m still busy stretching and wiggling and allowing myself to toy with the idea of learning Italian and taking writing classes and doing whatever the hell I want because I’m relearning what it is I want. 

Of course, I’m also relieved to learn of flake-boy’s flakiness before I’ve started to care. He’s been kind enough to reject me before he’s actually met me, which is much gentler on the ego. 

Anyway. 

I’m failing Bechdel again.

I would like to have something to say that doesn’t have anything to do with relationships, whether that’s getting into them or out of them. 

Or maybe Bechdel was a little bit wrong. Maybe I just need to make peace with relationships and having things to say about them. Really, the whole point of life is relationship, isn’t it? It’s an endless back-and-forth between us and ourselves, with God, with others. It just so happens that a significant portion of those others are male. And, ultimately, I’d like to be with one of them. 

In the long run, it’s not going to be the most interesting thing about me, but it might still be worth my attention.

Yes, I’m already on an adventure- insert strong independent woman cliché- but I’m thinking that maybe strong independent women can also coexist with men who respect them. Maybe she’s even encouraged by them. 


In the meantime, I’ve gone to Ireland and bought my own Claddagh ring. I’ll not die pining after anyone like the sad little man who made the first one. I’ll buy my own jewelry and I’ll turn the heart towards me, not because mine is taken by a man, but because I’m already cared for. I’m quite securely held by God, my friends, my sisters, my parents and myself. 

I think I’ll try to operate out of that place and let go of the rest.

Bechdel approved or no, I’d like to anchor into myself just enough that I can still move through the world with love. After all, isn’t that the most wild adventure of all?

Ever so slowly, these doors I’ve closed are opening. Fresh rain-clean breezes are blowing in freedom, untamed by rules or tests or time. This new, free, self will be the best self.

All will be well, no matter who’s talking in what room. Just love. Live well. Drink Guinness. Move on.

the words that dwell among us

good gifts for the new year

This Christmas I was given the gift of words.

Between a New York Times subscription, Kindle Unlimited and a handful of paperbacks I have enough to keep me going happily for all of 2020.

Even the mass readings were a gift: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Very explicit, courtesy of John, followed up with, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1, 4-5).”

That last bit I had carried in my heart through this year; light was the word of the season as the darker parts of my heart were illuminated and the dusty corners of my soul cleaned out. A year of open windows, fresh air, therapy, journals, night skies, starlight and the first pinks of dawn. A year of refusing to be overcome, and then, beyond simply defying defeat, a year of resilience that overflowed into life.

What word, of all the words, will speak to the season ahead?


I was out last week with my cousins and we walked by a bar, all cheerfully buzzed on G&Ts and the cold December air. A bouncer stopped us, begged us to come into the hazy-blue bar with it’s empty dance floor. I’m sure we were an impressive bunch; a gaggle of tall, red-lipped, long-haired twenty-somethings. We walked past, intent on our destination (pizza), and continued to ignore the calls of the boy behind us. I trailed behind and heard him plead, one last time, “Come on, come in! You’re pretty too!”

I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and marched on to more important things (pizza). A couple slices and an uber ride later we were safely in our beds, bouncers all but forgotten.

The next morning, though, I found traces of annoyance lingering.

Was this boy used to having girls do his bidding just by calling them pretty?

Why had I even turned around at all?

And, by the way, aren’t I more than just pretty?

Such a small word, but enough to throw intelligent women off their axis at the mercy of smaller boys.


Which is the word I want? If I got to pick something better than pretty, what would be enough to catch my attention and hold it?

Which is the one that I am?

Which is the one God says I am?

Another Christmas Scripture nudges my heart and settles in like the last puzzle piece: “No more shall people call you ‘forsaken,’ or your land ‘desolate’ but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused’ (Isaiah 62:4).”

I wouldn’t mind being a delight. I’d definitely like to move away from those old characters Forsaken and Desolate.

I think back to a few weeks ago when I felt Jesus whisper “let me take you to France.” A small, almost silly, thing, but a thing that meant something to me. I went home that day and booked a trip to visit the land of my dearest Saint friends. That day felt like the beginning of this- a journey where I am no longer espoused to the little earthly man who hated travel, but rather to the man who died for me.

Another whisper takes shape: This year is the year I am beloved.


Beloved:

adjective

be•loved /bəˈləvəd/

dearly loved


Thank God the open windows of last year let in the holy breezes of this one.

I am seen. I am known. I will learn to live out of a place where I am anchored, deeply set in who I am and who I belong to. Beyond pretty, but beautiful.

A lot of words packed into one little word.

I’ll take it.

recovering safety & sight

the slow walk towards trust

Last year, the day I moved home, my mom came to me with a handful of miniature nativities. All small enough to fit in her palm, one was meant for me as a gift from her recent trip to Italy. She was surprised by my choice, the little wooden family, carved as one piece and painted with muted colors. The most rustic, least detailed, least dazzling of the group. 

Where my mother was surprised, I felt it was obvious, almost logical, to choose this little walnut-sized family. Look at baby Jesus! He was sleeping, tucked into the arms of His mother, enveloped by Joseph, their mantles melted into one. How could I not tuck myself into that little nativity? That smallest Jesus was the safest Jesus.

Months later, I began therapy. My journey towards healing began by addressing those underlying currents that had propelled me out of my marriage and, instinctually, towards whatever appeared the safest. 

I found I felt unsafe emotionally, having known a love that withdrew and told me I was a mistake. Unable to trust that a heart promised to protect me would continue to be willing. I had learned I lived in a world where I could give my all, over and over again, and I would not be good enough. I could be rejected, forgotten and unwanted. 

I learned I felt unsafe spiritually, unable to express the truths of my faith without conflict. Unsafe to pray openly at home. Unsafe to talk about what shaped my heart and soul and what I believed at my core. Unsafe to put God first, because that meant my husband would only love me less. 

I realized that, at times, I even felt unsafe physically, having lived with a man who’s rage frightened and shocked. Unsafe in intimacy, unable to trust my body to a partner who pushed boundaries. Leaving me with one eye over my shoulder at all times, in all situations.

Hour after hour was poured into therapy, claiming a new space where I could breathe. It was safe to exist, to take up room, and to trust my environment again. 

Okay. Great.

So I’m safe within myself. Within my heart. My mind. My home.

Where does that leave me and God?

It leaves me angry.

It leaves me feeling like God is dangerous. Because I prayed novena after novena after novena, made sacrifice after sacrifice, and endless, endless, loops on my rosary. Because I journaled and prayed and reflected and talked and asked for prayers and guidance and felt like I was in a good place, I was doing the right things, I wasn’t even having sex! I was even using NFP! 

All that, and, guess what, I got hurt anyway. My heart got broken. He didn’t see me or hear me or want me or convert or grow or treat me better. Nothing. I didn’t get kids or stability or healing or holiness. I asked for help and thought God was reassuring me, thought I was having peace, but really it was just moments of relief. No signs, no reassurance, just interludes in the cycle of abuse. 

And now I look into the face of the God I trusted, the God who led me to believe there were great things in store for me.

What great things? 

This?

Why?

I can’t open my hands, I can’t let You in, I’m angry and I’m hurt and I don’t understand. I think I find You untrustworthy. Because I used to trust, and the one meant to love me for forever, the one meant to make Your love tangible, abandoned me. Abused me. Ignored me. Withdrew from me. It feels like You did that.


I pause in my anger, and I see Mary Magdalene in my heart. I’ve always had a soft spot for her, the woman who struggled with sexual sin. I took on some of her shame in my own relationships, sometimes carrying a burden heavier than I was meant to, not realizing that ‘no means no’ still applies when he says he loves you. Not realizing that not everything was my fault. Not realizing that seeing Mary Magdalene as an adulterer was an unfair projection onto a woman who should’ve been known for more.

I think I finally see her now.

God didn’t love her ‘in spite of’ her sin. He loved her before the sin. He loved her for more than the evils we blame on her, before the labels and the embarrassments and the character she took on in the narrative we created. 

When she was called adulterer and stripped in the street and stoned by her neighbors, God did not see what we all saw- a sinner, a prostitute. He saw a woman abused. He saw a woman desperate and abandoned by her people, trying to survive in a culture structured to leave women dependent on men. A community where women were left with very few options or resources of their own. He saw a woman who had been taken advantage of, her weaknesses exploited, her body marked, her soul abused, her heart broken. 

He saw a woman out of options. 

He presented her with a new one.

He saw her on the ground, kissing His feet, and, no He did not begin by asking her for everything. Even less- he asked for nothing. In return, He presented her with love.

I imagine she was overwhelmed and tired. I imagine she had a multitude of reservations, and a heart in need of healing. I imagine she was afraid. 

I imagine she didn’t have a heart ready to abandon to a Savior. I imagine she was guarded. I imagine that was okay. 

All she did, all she needed to do, was look up, and look into the eyes of the One Who loved her. A small movement, but a movement of courage. Not everything, but a place to start.

Jesus, I don’t have much for You right now. I’m guarded. I’m hurt. 

Even still, even here, I’ll try to let you see me. I’ll try to meet Your gaze.

It’s not everything, but it’s a place we can start.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.