Yesterday was the beginning of Lent for Christians.
This was the first time in years (or maybe ever) that I was excited to get the ashes smeared on my forehead. Going back to Confession was a big step for me since for the longest time I hated the idea of a priesthood set apart. I wanted to be on equal footing with everyone and liked the idea of having “accountability partners” who basically were just as flawed and untrained as me.
It’s a rare friend who tells you the truth about your missteps.
The priest I went to see was pretty hardcore (in a nice way). He didn’t downplay my tendency to jump into family gossip and self-righteous back-stabbing of my adult siblings. After all everyone in the family does it. The priest shook his head. “No, that’s a bad sin.” Of course he was far more eloquent about it.
Friends tend to help you find excuses for your bad behavior. After a while all of my “accountability partners” became suspect. It started to bother me when they soft-pedaled around things. I’ve done the same, thinking to myself this person is a train wreck but not saying it. I mean, calling someone a train wreck isn’t helpful anyway, but you know what I mean. I didn’t have the faith that the friendship could survive an honest appraisal of the person’s behavior.
A priest at Mass recently talked about how draining it was in this time of priest shortages and bad-apple priests to carry the weight of parishioners’ sins. Until I “got” the sacredness of the priests’ position I would not have understood what he was saying. He intercedes for us! Now that is a burden for sure!
Last night I took my puppy to her PUPPY CLASS. You can follow her on INSTAGRAM here: Comfychi_golden
I was tempted to wipe the ashes from my head. I was torn because some teach that wearing your faith on your sleeve (or forehead) is offensive to the sensibilities of others, and I so enjoy being liked. Some say you should proclaim your faith in actions and behavior. In the end, since I’ve decided to fully embrace traditional Catholic culture I went ahead and wore the ashes to class.
Totally by coincidence, the judge who was involved in the adoption of our daughter was taking the same class with his tiny pug-like dog Wolfgang (which is the cutest name ever). It’s always funny to see people outside of where you put them in your head. Obviously the judge doesn’t wear his robes to class (and he doesn’t command the same authority with his dog that he does in the courtroom).
He smiled when he saw the ashes (by now I had forgotten them). “Oh, I forgot today was Ash Wednesday,” he said, “but I went to a Fat Tuesday pancake dinner last night. It was really good.” He sheepishly laughed again. How could he have forgotten after a full night of pancakes? I laughed too.
We all care so much about what people think. 🙂 As a writer I care about every last review and fret when people on Amazon find the few negative reviews from when I first published MY NOVEL “helpful” because this lands those reviews as Top Reviews. I tried to explain to an Amazon rep that it would be better to set the default on reviews to Most Recent (since my book has been thoroughly re-edited and getting good reviews for a while now) but to no avail.
I found this this helpful:
“To realize how desperately we depend on the ‘existence’ that recognition by others gives us, and how hopeless we are without it until God gives us feet to stand alone on. I have those feet sometimes, but once again, let me realize that there is no absolute ‘standing alone’ — only awful poverty and insecurity and clinging to God in one’s need of others, and greater appreciation of the smallest and most insignificant of communal verities.” THOMAS MERTON
Going to puppy school has been a good thing for me. The tendency to keep in my hermitage actually makes me more desirous of outside praise and notoriety. I don’t want to be that bitter person who compares likes on Instagram and lives for new followers, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. At puppy class everyone goes without their authoritative robes. We are all at least partially dependent on the whims of the puppies. Learning to let your guard down and take your lickings and laugh when you can’t make puppies stay is the best kind of humbling experience. And in this most insignificant of communal experiences I find, as I already know but forget, that we are all the same and live in this mystery of loneliness and friendship.
12 responses to “Therefore I Exist”
I do care about what people think but I want what they think about me to be because they care that I’ve contributed to the well being of others in a significant and sincere way. I believe in tikkun olam, the repair of the world because the condition of the world is a reflection of God’s presence on Earth. We are required to fix what we break and to fix what others break and to fix what breaks because of bad mechanics. It’s part of the human partnership with God.
As for friendship – I am so lucky to count friendships older than my children, and some greener ones that excite me with their potential. I carefully guard friendship as I had no friends as a kid until I was in fifth grade. Not blaming others, I didn’t know how to curry friendship. But I’ve also ended some friendships for sundry reasons. I dislike those who lie, those I can’t trust, those who use me or use others, those who humiliate and intimidate because of their supposed social or intellectual status. I forgive my friends and acquaintances because they are human and flawed but I find it nearly impossible to forgive myself. And I can’t wait to adopt a puppy and take her to puppy classes but it’s still a year or 2 off.
Another of your deeply thoughtful posts to ingest. Enjoy that new little girl of yours, and I hope all is well with you and your family, Adrienne.
Hi Shari! Yes, I loved in The Brothers Karamazov when Father Zossima realizes that we are responsible for ALL people — the broken mechanics and everything.
I’ve had three close girlfriends (with plenty of ups and downs as we’ve matured)but have had trouble as an adult making new friends. I think because I tend to be such a hermit. 🙂
Forgot to ask … why so long before you get a puppy??? 🙂
Oh boy – Our house is a mess, outdated in dangerous ways, and as soon as we start to make the endless repairs, other emergencies pop up. We need to: Have the entire electrical system in the house rewired as it had been built with aluminum instead of copper. That got delayed because of the Covid crisis. Have a complete overhaul of our heating system and hopefully an air conditioner installed, dependent upon the success of the electrical upgrades and repairs. Have all the windows replaced with high C, low E glass so that the new HVAC system will not have to heat and air condition all of Orange County. All of this extensive and expensive work will require us to move nearly every piece of furniture away from electrical outlets and windows. That’s all just the start but is the most urgent. SO – dealing with a new puppy in a potentially hazardous environment is not something else I can do. You asked – LOL.
LOL!!! Sounds like a lot of fun.
Finding a good priest for confession is a literal Godsend, a rarity, in our Protestantized Catholic Church where we more or less get to do as we please and still go to heaven. You are most fortunate. We should delight to hear the truth about ourselves. It sets one free of self-delusion.
Yes, I had one priest who blew off my confessions and even admitted that he had lost his faith in seminary which was pretty sad. 😦
I live in the Albany diocese which has been decimated by our past bishop. But since returning to the church I’ve been lucky to find two good priests whom I really respect. I hope they don’t retire!
Puppy school sounds nice. Unconditional love…
Puppy school is extremely fun.
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They’re such darlings right? 🙂
Very interesting post more so the puppy part. We had a beautiful German Shepherd Dog with us for 14 years from his puppy days till he passed away. The joy he brought to our family was infinite.
Thanks and best wishes 🙂
It’s amazing the power animals have to bring joy. Sorry for your loss. We had a beautiful German Shepherd growing up. She was so gentle and loving.