I want to take us back a little bit before I continue on in my story. I tend to categorize my time from 2002-2010 a seamless lump of ignoring or hating God, but there were a few experiences sprinkled in that caused me to consider things differently than how I was comfortable thinking.
I specifically want to talk about 2009. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve had an easy life. I’ve had a way easy life. And considering the things of the world that cause me the most distress, my life is perfect. I can’t ask for, nor do I deserve to ask for anything more. I’ve had it way easy. All of this considered, I invoke the right to call 2009 the year of magnitudinal sucktitude. It was awful, and there were times I didn’t think I was going to make it out alive, but I did survive it and I learned a lot from it.
I’ll start with January. Every summer in high school and college, I worked at a summer camp with some way awesome people. For eleven weeks, we were the best of friends. We ate, drank, and breathed each other. We spent every waking hour, and some sleeping hours, together. We did had amazing days at camp, stupid decision making at night, joked about who would die from skin cancer first, and try to figure out who would hook up before the end of the summer. From the beginning of June to the end of August, we were each other’s everything. No one else existed outside of this tight knit group of friends. As close as we were during the summer, we rarely got together during the school year. We always picked up in June exactly where we left off in August without ever skipping a beat. Aside from weepy nostalgia, this is important to know. We just didn’t keep in touch during the school year.
So, you see, it was weird to get a text message from my friend, Kelly, in the middle of January. What could she possibly want? I mean, I was excited to hear from her, but it was January…
“Patrick died. He was diagnosed with skin cancer a few months ago and died this morning.”
I didn’t even know he was sick. We never ever keep in touch with each other during the school year, and I didn’t know my friend was terminally ill. He died. My friend was dead and I couldn’t remember the last time we spoke or the last thing we talked about. I wasn’t supposed to have to think about that for another six months when we would pick up where we left off.
That night, the camp counselor network was buzzing. Everyone was calling or texting or facebooking everyone. We didn’t know what to say to each other, but we ended our buzzing with an understanding we wanted to talk more during the year. We were a big weird family, and one of us died. Patrick was dead.
For two weeks, I was a zombie. I barely got work done, I slept all the time, I didn’t talk to friends, and I pretty much just shut down. I went through the motions of being a human, but I wasn’t really there. My roommates had never seen me like this, and were really worried. Two weeks later, things got way worse.
My best friend from home, the only camp counselor I stayed in regular contact with, called me one day after school. Tim and I met when I was in 7th grade and he was in 8th grade. We met at the bus stop and we became like family. His sisters, Tara and Jaime, were like my sisters. Anyway, he called me two weeks after Patrick died and I was excited for a friendly voice. I picked up and he said, “I have some bad news.”
He didn’t even have the opportunity to tell me the bad news, and I lost it. I was in my bedroom wailing and losing complete control of my body. “I CAN’T HANDLE BAD NEWS RIGHT NOW! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.”
“Tara was diagnosed with cancer today.”
I lost it. I ran out of my house, into the driveway and was just losing my freaking mind. I was not being a very supportive friend for Tim; his sister was just diagnosed with cancer and I felt like my world was ending.
I was a mess. Tim and I touched base every day and I later apologized for my bad behavior. We were all still hurting from Patrick’s death and none of us were prepared for another friend’s diagnosis with cancer. I didn’t know which way was up, and I remember turning to God for answers. Keep in mind, I didn’t have a good relationship with our Heavenly Father, so I wasn’t asking very productive questions.
“WHY ARE YOU LETTING THIS HAPPEN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? YOU SUCK!”
For the next few months, life felt raw. February to June was a blur of getting through the semester without any real effort in my studies. I just stopped caring. I didn’t hang out with friends, I barely interacted with my roommates, I slept, I cried, I just did what I had to do to make it through the awake hours.
One day in June, just about six months after Patrick died, I went to the Bank of America to deposit a check. I sat in my car at the teller’s window and I felt immediately and incredibly sad. I felt lung crushingly sad and started to spin. A song came on the radio and I heard these words:
I want a sunburn just to know that I’m alive
Don’t tell me if I’m dying, cause I don’t want to know
If I can’t see the sun, maybe I should go
Don’t wake me cause I’m dreaming of angels on the moon
Where everyone you know never leaves too soon
I felt impressed to look up, and across the street from the bank was the Church of St. Patrick. A church van sat in the parking lot and a tree was covering the words “Church of St.” The van was green, the same color green of our camp counselor t-shirts, and all I could see was the word “Patrick.”
I lost it. I sat crying in the bank parking lot across from Patrick’s green van listening to Patrick’s song. But it wasn’t the same kind of sad crying that had been consuming my life up until this point, but it was the kind of crying that comes from permission to let go and say goodbye. I asked Patrick, perhaps in a prayer, to please take care of Tara. I begged him to find a way to let her live. I pleaded for him to just take away this pain. I could feel him there with me and I could feel him telling me that he was okay, that he wasn’t in pain, and that he was happy. Most importantly, I could feel him telling me that he was.
Sometimes it’s weird sharing this story. How do I help people understand how I felt and what I experienced without sounding like a fool? Really? A song on the radio and a green church van? I guess the only thing I can say about it is that after that I felt good again and I felt like I had permission to go back to being normal.
I spent my first summer away from home and from camp and worked at the pool and on my research. School started and my daily routine started at the bus stop at 6:55 a.m. I debated whether or not it was important to tell this story or why it has anything to do with my conversion story. It has absolutely no direct impact on my theology, but I feel like when my future children ask, I’d probably have to tell them this story. I was feeling better about Patrick and Tara, but I still wasn’t normal (some readers might argue I’m never normal, but that’s besides the point). I didn’t feel grounded and I didn’t feel in control of anything.
I won’t go into very much detail about this, but around this time, I started dating a guy I met at the bus stop (I suppose just about anybody is attractive at 6:55 a.m. – shh, Lady Mo. That’s mean). Our “relationship” progressed quickly and I let my body make most of the decisions. I wasn’t thinking, I certainly wasn’t feeling, and I didn’t acknowledge the fact that I wasn’t happy. I did things I wasn’t comfortable with. My roommate told me many times that this was a bad relationship, that I deserved better than him, and that if nothing else, I needed to protect my heart. I ignored her voice. Something told me, very strongly, that this was not how I wanted to live my life. I ignored that voice, too.
We broke up after a short whirlwind of bad decisions and I felt like trash. I felt used and I was disappointed with myself. I thought, “LadyMo, you know better than this. This is not you. Why are you doing this?” My sense of self was not previously grounded in a theology of divine worth, and I made decisions that made me question that worth. With no clear understanding of where to plant my divinely worthy feet, I just felt lost and trashy. So, current readers and future children, the point of telling you this story is that I did things I wasn’t proud of because I didn’t feel firmly planted in an understanding that I was worth anything. My sense of power came from how I used my body and not from an understanding that my body is actually important. Does this make any sense? I didn’t feel like a child of God, so I wasn’t thinking that my decisions had eternal consequences. I didn’t feel like I had any divine worth. In short, I was unhappy.
A few weeks after we broke up, my mom called me with bad news. Remember in one of my earlier posts where I mentioned a babysitter who flashed me a peace sign during Mass every Sunday? Her name is Corinne. My mom called me and I could tell she didn’t want to tell me what she called for. “Corinne died last week. She was recovering from a surgery and Marc (her dad) went to go check on her, and he found her. But you have to know she was in so much pain. She has been emotionally and physically hurting her whole life. She’s in a better place now and she’s not in pain.” Mom also told me that she waited to tell me until after Corinne’s funeral, because she didn’t want me to stress about coming home. I was pissed. Even after everything that happened with Tara and Patrick, and after a receiving a confirmation that Heaven is a real place, I was still very very angry. I went back to God (thinking back on this, I realize how much I actually did rely on conversations with Heavenly Father. They were never reverent or loving, and just about always in anger and hate. But I still went to Him). I asked him, “Why are you still doing this to me? Why are you taking people from me? Why are you letting these people who have done everything right get sick and die? Why won’t you help them??” Oooooh, I was so angry.
Two weeks after Corinne died, I got a text message from a friend from college I hadn’t heard from in a while. After the year I’d been through so far, every phone call and every text was a death sentence. I was afraid to pick it up, because I knew it would be bad news. “What else could possibly go wrong?”
“Sheldon was killed in a car accident last night. A bunch of teens were in the other car and were racing on the wrong side of the street. They hit him head on and killed him.”
I’m telling you, this year sucked so hard. I was so angry with God, I was angry at the world, I was angry with myself. Nothing seemed fair and I felt ganged up on. I know now that this wasn’t a fair assessment, feeling like I everything and everyone was against me, but it’s all I had at the time. I just felt like I was in such a bad place and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I was soooooooo unhappy.
I was having a difficult time with people around me and I decided to move into a one-bedroom apartment to get away from the stress of roommates. I thought I needed space to figure things out, but really, I just think I was hiding.
New Years Eve came and went, and instead of going to a friend’s party, I fell asleep on the couch at 10:00 p.m. All I wanted was for 2009 to slip out the back door and to never come back. Good riddance.
Why is this story important? I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is a good picture of who I was, but it’s a good picture of who I was that year. Just three months after all of this, I met the missionaries. They had a lot to work with 🙂
So much love,