I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you 7 Quick Takes from my world this week.
There's a saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The other way to look at it is that humility is not self-hatred, nor a narcissistic self-love. Humility is looking at yourself - knowing your weaknesses without giving into despair, knowing your strengths without giving into pride. We are to be grateful for our strengths, and know them, acknowledge them as gifts from God. We should also be aware of our weaknesses. This helps us buffer up and be on guard from temptations, helps us to know when to ask for help, and helps us see how much we need God.
I've been especially aware lately of false humility. Self-hatred is not humility. Putting yourself down is not humility. Women tend to introduce themselves as "just" a stay-at-home-mom, or someone how "tinkers around" in the industry in which they are actually an expert. They admit fear when given a platform or frame their talents on display as an "honor they don't deserve." Sometimes I think women need more humility, in the sense that they need to honor and acknowledge the gifts they do have, not downplay them as "little old me". On the flip-side, over-confidence is not humility. Self-assurance and self-sufficiency are not humility. Our American society is so backwards. Women are often taught to criticize ourselves and downplay our strengths. Men seem to be taught to act as if they had no flaws and "fake it 'til you make it." (Sorry, I'm painting in really broad brush strokes here...)
Here is a link to Mother Teresa's "rules" on humility. Some really good stuff.
And, if you ever need a shocking prayer, pray the Litany of Humility. It'll really put life into perspective. If you start praying it, all of the sudden, opportunities will abound that allow you to grow in humility.
This week at work, we all had to meet with our immediate supervisor and discuss our job performance. For the first time ever, I have been told I'm not aggressive enough in some situations. In the past at other jobs, I've been too aggressive. Part of this lies in the fact that I basically took a demotion to come to this job - not in pay, but in authority. I don't have the authority to make lots of decisions here, and boy oh boy does the Big Boss never fail to exert his authority. I know my place. However, due to the micro-managing and my hands being tied quite a bit, maybe I've over-corrected and become less assertive than I need to be. It's hard to know when I'll be punished or reprimanded for exerting the authority I do have, or when I am expected to step out and take the reins over a situation. This job has been confusing at times. Although I have about one existential crisis per week regarding my career, I am grateful to have it, and I want to do a good job at it as long as I'm here. Tying in to the Litany of Humility - it's hard to know when I should be self-promoting at work, and when I should just put my head down and get the job done. America's workplace and the virtue of humility don't go that well together. It seems those who get to the top are aggressive, brash, rude, and very confident. In my workplace the leadership are mostly white males. I'm so much less ambitious than I used to be. I just want to make enough to meet our needs and to have the time and freedom to spend more of my life with my husband and doing what matters to me. My career is no longer the most important thing to me.
Jesus is a really bad driver.
On retreat a few weeks ago, we were told to see Christ in everyone, especially the difficult people. I've heard that saying many times before. But, for some reason this time, I imagined Christ all around me when I'm stuck in traffic and prone to road rage at the incompetent drivers. Would I flip off "Jesus," yell at him in my car, or call him names if he were in the car next to me? Um...no. No, I would not.
This has really helped me be more patient on the road. For real. However, as I have told the Lord recently, "You are a really bad driver!!" I mean, Jesus has been cutting me off, nearly hitting me, driving too slow, driving too fast, etc. all over town.
I have to smile because this exercise is actually working for me. Not only is traffic a major point of my first-world suffering to the tune of 10-15 hours per week, but I have the opportunity to grow in patience constantly because I see Christ in all the other drivers now. And, Jesus is a really bad driver, FYI, so he's giving me lots of chances to grow in patience.
~4~All that glitters is not gold.
When I was in my 20's, I fell deep into the "Sex and the City" lifestyle. My friends and I watched it together religiously. We even started a blog in which each of us wrote under one of the character's names to keep up with one another after we moved to different cities and the show ended. (I was "Charlotte.") At the time, drinking and sleeping around was completely normal and expected. I was on track to be in school for the next 10 years, get a doctorate, look for a tenure-track job, move anywhere for my career, etc. The way I saw it, a man couldn't fit into that equation... or at least not until the tenure-track job was secured. I effectively postponed my happiness, looked for only casual or not-headed-toward-marriage relationships, and made my twenties all about me me me.
Ironic how Carrie from SATC ended up with "Big," her on-again, off-again love. And at the end of the series, all four women were actually happily partnered off - Charlotte and Harry, Miranda and Steve, Samantha and Smith. (Of course, the movies after the series tweaked this set-up...) Isn't it interesting that a whole entire show about how fabulous life is with your single girlfriends in the best city in the world still concludes with said single girlfriends seeking lasting, monogamous, committed love with a member of the opposite sex?
Thankfully, I had a few shifts after the SATC lifestyle years. For one, I realized during my master's program that I didn't want a doctorate. I didn't want that life when I saw the inner workings of academia. I realized I had been postponing my happiness for such a distant point in the future that I wasn't enjoying the here and now. I came off the career rat-race track. Secondly, I became Catholic. Although it took a few more years after becoming Catholic to start living the faith fully, I gradually became more and more open to the truth of the human person regarding sexuality, contraception, theology of the body, etc. As a result of becoming Catholic, I eventually broke things off with my long-time, on-again off-again boyfriend. He was a non-practicing-Catholic turned atheist. I was a Protestant-agnostic turned Catholic. As confused as I was about myself and the world, I knew I could not marry or raise children with someone who didn't at least believe in God and support or respect the beliefs I had. He didn't. One night, we stayed up talking on the phone until sunrise at 5 or 6 am. I don't remember exactly how it was said, but I made it clear that I couldn't move forward in the long term because of our differing beliefs, and that I didn't see the point in having a not-going-anywhere relationship.
Eventually, I met my husband. Although we had many, many ups and downs, a break-up, and nearly lost it all...we not only started living our Catholic faith, but we came back together in a stronger, better relationship after all we went through. We are committed to God and to each other. When I look back on that SATC girl who blogged under the "Charlotte" pseudonym, who thought there was no such thing as a soulmate (except for our great friends), who thought a career would keep her warm at night...I feel sorry for her. I am glad that I was able to get off that train before it crashed. I know that not everyone who longs for marriage or children gets to live out that dream. Thank God for stirring that longing in my heart and letting me believe it was possible again. Also, for guiding me to my husband...out of the billions of people on this planet. And, most importantly, for restoring my dignity. When you play Russian roulette with your sexuality, you are playing with life and death. What if you get pregnant, what if you get an STD, what if you have a child with someone who you'd never choose to spend your life with, what if you have an abortion....? There really is a dark side to these behaviors, as pleasurable as they might seem in the moment. I didn't come out of that lifestyle unscathed. But, it could have been much worse.
All this to say that we have been sold a great lie. It is an appealing lie. There's a bit of truth to it - girlfriends are fabulous, NYC is one of the best cities in the world, and we don't need to be married or in a relationship to be happy. But, we are meant to live in community, regardless of our station in life. We are meant to respect our bodies and our appetites...meaning we cannot indulge our every sexual whim without consequence. And, there is no denying biology...whether we marry and have children or not, our bodies are beautifully capable of that for decades. Month after month, we carry the wondrous ability to conceive. Is it really meaningless? to be discarded? an afterthought? Or is that motherhood, whether literal or spiritual, an integral reality of our lives as women?
I'm still unpacking all of this. It's been a few years of being a practicing Catholic, but some days I feel like an addict in recovery or someone who left a cult. I'm still finding little remnants here and there of twisted thinking, lies I've believed, and wounds that hurt.
I read this interesting article about a British woman in her 40's who admits that her single life is not what she thought it would be, and Sex and the City didn't set her up for the truth of this reality.
Jennifer Fulwiler made some interesting points on a recent podcast about gratitude. Basically, God gives us the tools or what we need to more faithfully carry out our vocation. If we don't find that perfect pair of shoes (her example), then we don't need that pair of shoes to faithfully carry out our vocation.
In terms of my job, I guess, God has given me this job for now. I know my primary vocation right now is marriage, maybe children someday. For so long as an artist and musician, that was my "vocation." That career path, especially, tends to speak about the lifestyle of an artist as a vocation. You have to love it. It has to be more important than anything - money, stability, etc. Now that I make a living other ways, have gotten married, and have really tried to practice my faith, that "vocation" is basically out the window. I need to try to understand things in terms of my vocation.
How does this contribute to my primary calling in life right now? God has given me what I need.
I had a very vivid dream this week. So vivid that I had to check Instagram to see if it happened in real life or not.
I had a dream that one of my (gay) friends posted a picture on Instagram of himself and a (gay) friend of his. (They aren't a couple in real life, just friends who both happen to be gay males.) It was a selfie of them in a beautiful church, flying buttresses, in the old cathedral style of a church shaped like a cross with the altar, narthex, etc. But, when you looked more closely, you could see that they were each flipping off the camera.
When I asked him about it (in my dream), he basically said that the Church, the Catholic Church specifically, represented hate to them. Their picture was basically their way of protesting the institution that represented the most opposition to them, above all other religions and above all other Christian denominations.
While I don't know that my friend would ever do something like this in real life, Fr. Jonathan Morris experienced something similar this summer when he was spat upon during NYC Pride. People have been hurt by the Church, or they think the Church hates them.
This is the civil rights issue of our country right now, despite several other worldwide conflicts and possibly more prevalent issues, it dominates the discourse. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has been painted as one of the enemies in this culture war. I wish people would take the time to understand our viewpoint. We aren't Sola Scriptura folks, quoting Bible verses and "cherry picking" our favorites. We have a holistic viewpoint which takes into account society, anthropology, natural law, tradition, reason, scripture, and faith. In our world, we have ISIS killing gay people (or perceived gay people), and then we have American states outlawing "conversion" therapy. I don't deny that there is some damaging therapy out there, but if someone were to genuinely want to talk about their sexuality and they were unhappy with that, we are telling them there is no alternative. Acceptance is forced now. Even in countries where homosexuality is accepted and not persecuted, gay men and women face higher rates of suicide, increased chances of life-threatening illness and mental illness. There has got to be a better way. A Third Way, if you will.
Thank God it's Friday.
And now, a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast day was earlier this week.
What if we acted like we really believed that Christ had no body on earth but ours?