Coming out of the dark, I get motivation again to achieve new goals. Mourning over a dead relationship is still holding me back. Anxiety from lack of understanding still cripples my heart. Guilt for not leading us better, wanting to make amends and knowing that its impossible at the same time. I've had to do a lot of letting go of people in my life, but I almost never initiate it. I never want to be the one to give up on a relationship, because I just value relationships too much. I find Jesus there. That's one of the blessings and curses of my trauma wounds. I am so grateful to anyone who receives and reciprocates my love, even in small ways that most people seem to take for granted. The pain of disappointment or failure in a relationship, is proportionate to the joy I have in it. There is an extremism to my attachment to people that will make the suffering of detachment extreme too. The deeper the relationship goes the more dangerous it will be. But to avoid the possibility of this pain would be to miss out on the joy as well. I think a lot of hurt people take this route, but I have continually refused to concede this territory to fear. Every time I lose someone, I experience it as losing God, or at least a big part of God. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said the closer one approaches to the persons or work one is called to, the greater the temptation to idolatry will be. So, vocational relationships are the hardest to get over. I know I am being purified of my temptation to idolatry now.
People are the closest we can get to the incarnate God in this life; it is through them that we learn everything about God. People are ends in themselves, and Christians are sharers of the divine nature, why wouldn't we expect to be able to commit ourselves to others with an extreme love? God is found in human persons most fully when we love them more than our own life. But, who would dare love a stranger this way? Almost no one, ever. Even for a very good friend, few would ever love enough to die. What about being tortured for someone you love? Who wants to sign up for that? I sign up for that... with people, in my arrogance, relying too much on my own power to bear it. Even while we were still sinners (i.e. terrible friends and abusive lovers) Christ died for us. This is what we believe. God gives completely, He doesn't 'guard his heart' as we like to say. His heart is pierced for us, as is His mother's. However, He let God the Father do all the work through Him, and He knew how to do that perfectly. He didn't try to control his life. In order to follow Him, I must love myself more than my own life first. I must die for myself! Waiting on the Father to give my identity back to me, as it should be. Then and only then will I possess the gift of myself I so long to give away.
I am not who I thought I would be at this point in my life. I accept this and I repent of trying to force God’s hand. I am finding myself. I am happy with my job. It is not all revealed yet, but there is stability in this work that I desperately need. I am free in mind to pray and study and think while I work, but I am also in constant interior struggle for the same reason. This is good too. I need to learn to master my thoughts anew. I don't know why its so hard, after this breakup, but it just is. I am not the same person I was before. It feels like I am being forced to step backwards. But that is okay too. I need to be grateful for my humiliations. It was easier in school when I had so many intellectual friends and projects. It was easy for me to succeed and be happy in that environment because my mind was obsessed about whatever it was focused on at the time. Relationships were relatively automatic. Except the vocational ones. I am certain that I was created to serve a woman. My personality is just not at home without that intimacy, either the reality of it or the promise of it. I am sure of this. I feel terrible sometimes about my last attempt. It just didn't end well for me. I still feel betrayed and abused. I was clear from the beginning about my needs and my wounds. She didn't listen. I never really wanted to be ‘just friends’, at least not friends in a casual sense. I wanted her to be a best friend, which is what I mean by 'sister' (celibate or not, that part still doesn’t matter to me much). But I absolutely needed trust, vulnerability, commitment, and a degree of exclusivity. If those aspects weren’t available, I would have pulled away from her. I guess in order to learn the lessons I am, those things had to be, at least conceptually, offered to me and then taken away, in this extremely triggering manner. I still don't understand why God let it end like that. It has hurt my perception of God and of myself. So much deception. Self-deception most likely. No reasonable answers. I needed much much more than she was able to give me in terms of effort in communication and keeping in touch. It would have helped me immensely to process. My imagination is very unkind. I let myself wait way too long and suffer way too much. The months and months of no contact destroyed the friendship that I thought we still had. When we broke up, she stopped caring for me, and that was not okay with me. I tried to tell her I needed regular contact. She just wasn't willing or able to engage me on my terms. That's fine, but its not a kind of relationship I want to be in. I should have been more assertive about my needs, but I was prideful about how much I could suffer for her. Our last contact destroyed the only good thoughts about her I had left to hold on to. Now the memory of what I thought we were is just poison to my life. I can't understand it and it drives me into a self-destructive loop of trying to reconcile two unbridgeable realities. I had to just cut her off and push her out of my heart as much as possible. After seven months, I've finally let go of my hope for a positive relationship with her anytime in the near future. I got too messed up by it. I need to stop letting myself think about it, even though I never wanted to do that to her. But the anxiety has become unbearable. My weakness has become too apparent. My wounds make the difficulty much more torturous than it should be, but that is my lot; I’ve got to give God more space and opportunity to help me through the dark days that come. I don't judge her. I really don't. I think she is doing her best. I just should have been much more careful with myself. I expected too much from her. I am too old, and too needy for a normal girl. I am grateful she even tried. There were so many red flags that I ignored, thinking that I could help her grow. But I unknowningly sacrificed my ability to help her relationally when I let things become romantic between us. I thought it was a natural outgrowth of our friendship, but it was all too fast for her. I didn't really think she was ready, but I went with my feelings instead of leading with my reason. She wasn't exactly transparent or consistent either. Nevertheless, I was supposed to lead, but I let her lead me on instead. I regret that. Its a lesson I'll never forget. I truly desired her good and sanctification above all else, and I still do. I made a good and holy gift. Now all I can do is pray for her.
December Rose is my routine of self discipline for the coming month and my bulwark against the storm that I know will soon return. This is a daily commitment to specific goals and activities to fill my time and move me towards a longer term vision. In general, I must become a rock solid lover at home and a spiritual leader in public. The next steps are just simple activities, balancing my intellectual, physical, emotional, and pastoral health in the larger life of my relationship with the Spirit of the Lord. I'll be rotating through the activities from day to day to keep things fresh and give myself the advantage of some spontaneity. All in all it will be difficult during this busy month at work, but I already have some of these habits rolling and I am rising without an alarm at 3am or so now. So, I will check in with you as I progress through the month, and share my projects with you here, as always. Happy Thanksgiving and Blessed Advent! Pray for me! I pray for you all in my rosaries each day.
I'm so broken. I'm being tested so much more than ever before in my thirty-five years. Its heartbreak, midlife crisis, and spiritual darkness wrapped up and delivered daily in an onslaught of stress and drudgery. Once a month or so, I get completely overwhelmed by anxiety, a tightening spiral of unresolvable thoughts, accompanied by tension and pain in my body. I really am overtaken; it gets to a point that I am no longer able to cope with my life, at least, notwithstanding some kind of behavioral intervention. The coping mechanisms can be positive or negative. I consider this website one of my positive behavioral therapies, but since it offers little to no relational feedback, the emotional connection with it/you becomes tenuous and breaks apart during the heights of my suffering (to the point that I want to throw it all in the fire). Obviously, writing personal notes and designing educational materials for an invisible audience is not a sufficient emotional outlet. Plus, the content is tainted when I am hurting too much. I can't teach when I don't have peace. And I don't need more social life or fraternity. I need intimacy with a woman. Its precisely that. There is no substitute for it, and there is no way to force it. If I let my body fake it, that just ends in further shame and isolation. Its my pathetic special little trauma of female affection deprivation, maybe I'll call it, 'sister abandonment syndrome', SAS. During these few days every month, I can't feel close to God either, who always used to be my emotional rock. He is still my source of strength, but I just can't seem to feel His presence or help in these dark hours. And its not for lack of trying. I do my devotions with all the heart that I can muster. It isn't enough. I know He is trying to teach me something, but I don't understand what it is, or what He wants me to do. I can't handle these dark nights all the time, I'm clearly not strong enough for it yet. I can't escape this need for a woman to share my life with. I know that a deep friendship would be enough too, but she has to trust that my vulnerability isn't manipulative. Why is that so much to ask? I don't know. Nothing makes sense. I'm always tired. I'm always in pain. I don't feel safe. I don't feel connected. I can't heal alone. So I'll wait for it to pass and then come back again.
Think of others as better than yourself.
Outdo one another in giving.
Be of one mind and one Spirit.
Why not rather be wronged? Turn the other cheek and take a strike for your friend.
Stop being so defensive, the fool is enraged by reproof, but reprove a wise man and he becomes wiser still. Find God in the soul's discipline.
Be content with God alone.
Pray that men judge correctly for their sake and not your own.
Think about the needs of others more than yourself. Pray for your enemies with genuine concern.
Stop trying to control other people. Receive the other as you would Christ. Be gracious to those who make demands upon your time and energy.
Stop manipulating relationships to get the things and feel the feelings you want. Give of yourself without counting the cost or estimating the reward.
Learn how you are being perceived, so that your presence may be a gift.
Stop trying to be right. To be right for the sake of being right is to miss the truth. There is no such thing as winning a quarrel, if the other person loses, so do you. To be ‘right’ is to come together with the other in the truth. This requires hard work. Will you have succeeded if you get to heaven all alone?
Be your brother’s keeper, care for one another as God cares for you. In deed and thought alike give charitably.
Stop judging other people. You do this because you think too highly of yourself. The arrogant person turns a perspective difference into moral conflict out of laziness in understanding the other. Never assume to have exhausted another person’s mysteries, or to know every angle of a situation.
Don’t take relationships for granted. Each person is a tabernacle of God. Reverence each other as such.
Don’t call someone a friend who you are not willing to suffer for. People are not your commodities.
Don’t suffer at the expense of others, rather, suffer for their sake. Be merciful to those who hurt you because they may be hurting even more.
Friendships require sacrifice, work, and commitment. Emotional reciprocity is a delicate balance, easily tipped; pay attention to keep the scale even, lest the relationship should die from neglect.
Without regular communication there is no relationship. Without trust there will be no love.
Take responsibility for your own emotions. Stop blaming people, or circumstances, or genetics for the way you feel. The choice that you make in response to your feelings is yours alone.
You are free to love the other even when you feel you are being wronged. Choose love and God will settle your pain. Choose anger and the devil will stoke it with lie upon lie.
Let your own faults be the focus of your concern. Remove the log from your own eye before pointing out the splinter in your brothers’.
Humble yourself before others and they will forgive you a thousand offenses.
Presume what you are owed and you will not receive it. Expectations from life are the source of hurt, there is only one God and He is all you need.
Be grateful that the other gave what they could and your patience will attain what was lacking.
Connection with a loved one must outpace the division that time creates.
Prayer and honest conversation destroy myriad misunderstandings.
Honor your words even when your feelings change. This is training in love, for love is a choice and not a mood. If you fight for it, emotion will eventually obey the choice. If you are not faithful in the small choices, you will not be faithful in the large ones.
If you must change a plan made, do so only for grave reasons and with thorough explanation to those affected.
Be yourself at the risk of offending and you will learn the new self you want to be. Hide yourself and you will never be free. You can only love others in a proportion to your receptiveness to God's Love. Deep roots in God are what make vulnerability with others sincere and relational giving authentic.
Pray constantly to do God’s Will and you will find yourself doing It by accident.
Be eager in seeking reconciliation with a friend.
Apologize for misperceptions and let your true intent be known.
Humility gives strength to every virtue.
Your work will be finished when you die.
Pray without ceasing. Take your whole mind captive to the obedience of Christ!
According to Cal Newport’s research in Digital Minimalism, when the brain is not in a task-focused state, it defaults to a mode of personal social analysis. The human person has evolved complex methods of relational navigation (i.e. unconsciously interpreting body language, social positions, voice intonations, and cultural cues) amounting to a large degree of one’s normal cognitive activity when not otherwise distracted. With the rise of the smart phone and social media (including gaming and streaming) there has been a correlating rise in cases of anxiety, among young people especially. This is now thought to be a result of intentional corporate strategy designed to stimulate lower brain reward circuits via electronic devices and the internet. Basically, these apps and programs are designed to be addictive, and thereby, indirectly degenerative to a healthy and holy life. Smart technology has been training young people’s minds to give up live-conversation and intentional-communication for consumptive relational behaviors, such as the dopamine hits of having a post ‘liked’, or low grade achievements such as looking good in a picture. The same is true of information gathering, as people now look to quick guides and popup-news in place of academic level research techniques. Newport’s solution to these problems requires a reordering of one’s priorities to minimize digital technology use, new boundaries for timed and purposeful use of tech, and replacing the time saved with real world interactions (analog crafts and face-to-face relationships). Chief among these necessary, though often neglected, activities is being alone and undistracted with one’s own thoughts, regularly.
In my adult life, I have held to a principle of approaching Christian friendship as if I were becoming a part of someone else’s family and they a member of mine. All other relationships I relegate to a sphere of courteous superficiality, such that they make no demands on me and I expect nothing from them. I call these acquaintances. Many people are comfortable in-between those categories, and even seem to enjoy staying in a place of low-commitment and lower-brain emotional connection. I can’t help but blame social media for this. Personally, I have had a great deal of difficulty with superficial relationships; because nothing distresses my traumatized heart more than those moments of realization that someone does not want to be a part of my family. Every attempt at a meaningful Christian relationship must first pass through this phase. Not many have survived, and my soul takes these hits hard. So I don’t risk myself often. Usually, God has to setup the circumstances in such a way that I feel compelled to take the chance. It is like going on a mission for me, because I know if it doesn’t pan out that I’m going to suffer greatly. But I don’t protect myself once I’m committed to trying, that’s my rule. If I’m going to do it, I’m going all in. Such is my understanding of the dignity due to the other person. The same is true about my avoidance of pretend relationships. It’s degrading to both of us. People are ends in themselves. They deserve the best gift of myself I can make. They even deserve my death, if it comes to that. This, I believe, is the love that seeks not its own, that sets Christians apart and converts the world by its example. I used to think that if someone was a good Catholic, for that reason alone, it would be a safe bet to invest myself in their lives. It seemed a safe place to grow and encounter God. The reality is that most Catholics today are more a product of American culture than they are children of The Church.
So, I ask myself and I ask God, how do I create community? Not just any community, but one which cultivates those features of relationship that are eroding so rapidly today. The best friendships I ever created were in my family and in my fraternity at college. I keep coming back to that model. It was a religious community. My answer is the school of life that I have been developing here and in my personal life for years. A place a friendship, education, liturgy, evangelization, and craftsmanship. I constantly pray that this dream comes to fruition. Lord knows my heart is there. But the process has become so roundabout that I frequently get lost on how to proceed. I forget that the vision is God’s first and that I need to let Him lead so I don’t mess it up. I can’t do it alone either. These online courses I’m working on will build an intellectual framework for the ground based version when the hour arrives. Step one, I thought, would be to have a partner to engage in this holy practice with. In the meantime, I am growing immensely in my relationship with the Holy Spirit, more so than I could have known was possible without the gift of my wounds. What survives the fire is the Lord's work in me.
After finally getting around to reading The Purpose Driven Life - since everyone and their mothers have read it by now - I have some reflections and notes to accompany my last post. Firstly, this idea of the celibate or Josephite marriage, whether or not it prophecies a literal end, it is an archetype of the Christian life generally. Unless you are at this very moment about to participate in the procreative act, waste no extra energy thinking about, preparing, longing for, or expecting sexual intercourse. Let nature come as it will and pass freely by you. Don't hold onto it, don't feed it. Bow your head in reverence of the mystery. Release it back to God with gratitude, and then pray for your many many many brothers and sisters enslaved to lust and at risk of hell. Sex is not an end for human love. Love does not need or require sex. Instead of burning with sensual passion, give your whole hope to having God in a new way and with a new joy, in a spiritual passion (this would be the proper attitude to procreate with as well). All of us are called to this single-heartedness, single, married, widowed, divorced, and celibate, the same. When or if you are called to the act, it will be in the service of the Kingdom and only after God initiates. Primarily, The Holy Spirit is your spouse, and this intercourse is always available after Baptism, protected by obedience to the commandments, fulfilled in perfect love of neighbor, and renewed by frequency to Christ's Sacraments. Chastity is an expression of Purity of Heart, that is, to seek and find and rejoice for God in all things at all times. This is the true purpose driven life.
Warren's thesis is that we must all answer life's Five Great Questions:
1. How do I worship?
Making God the beginning and end of every moment; making God my closest and greatest friend
2. What is my character?
The sum of my habits over the span of my life, enhanced by faithfulness to my words
3. What is my service to the Church?
My unique combination of spiritual gifts, desires, talents, personality, and experience given freely
4. What is my mission for the world?
The habit of evangelization counters reliance on worldly possessions, accomplishments, and status
5. How do I fellowship?
Warren says the nine characteristics of biblical fellowship are: We will share our true feelings (authenticity), encourage each other (mutuality), support each other (sympathy), forgive each other (mercy), speak the truth in love (honesty), admit our weaknesses (humility), respect our differences (courtesy), not gossip (confidentiality), and make each other a priority (frequency).
Nothing has been more painful and fruitful than my willingness to die in my relationships. Worldly imprudent, but spiritually efficient. Maximum effort, maximum humiliation. So many lessons from love. The last one really tortures me still in a holiness inducing manner. I just interpret it as a call to continual prayer, until (if?) it fades away. In the moments of peace about what it all meant for me, I keep receiving this idea of a sexually integrated celibate community. I keep believing that my romantic love belongs in a celibate marriage with a special sister. In my last attempt, I almost never felt like she was a temptation for me while we were together, even though we had a very strong physical chemistry. It sounds weird, but I felt sexually full, satisfied by her love without the desire to consummate it in that procreative way. And I didn’t feel that our sexual attraction was a hinderance to our ability to serve God. In fact, I experienced it as a kind of protection and inspiration that freed me to pursue God’s Will with more joy and more direction. In the beginning, it seemed like she was so on board with the idea. Because of both of our different wounds, there seemed to be a real fittingness to it. Somewhere along the way, the relationship started to become something else, something much more like the way everybody else does it, and I really did not like that. That’s where our friendship started falling apart, at least for me. When it became a normal marriage vision for her, she drifted so far away from my call for my life that I felt I couldn’t even relate to her anymore in a non-superficial way. I wish I hadn’t let that happen, but hindsight comes before foresight and it was my first time in that situation. The lesson has been how to recognize and avoid letting our relationship slip into that worldly rut again next time. If the pain has served any purpose, I definitely think it is to never let me forget that difference. When I find the right one, she will want the same freedom to be focused on serving the Lord (in a direct fashion) that is also equally protected by my love as I am by hers. This lesson is the light that now accompanies me through this ugly darkness of my broken life.
In the absence of literal physical danger, the primitive brain system (Biblical 'flesh') became overly sensitive to potential attacks on one's sense of self-worth. Its responds to these supposed attacks with fight, flight, or freeze. In the world of psychology they are renamed: anger, fear, or withdraw. With these come a pantheon of life sabotaging beliefs (lies). It is a terrible plight to be constantly in one or all of these states, as they destroy functional interaction in relationships and create a self-consumed victim personality. They are natural defense mechanisms, and they are difficult to counter. The longer they persist, the harder they are to break. It takes constant work. Through mindfulness, the non-judgmental observational state of mind (Biblical 'spirit'), every instance of anger, fear, or withdraw can be questioned and followed back to a foundational lie. After this awareness, the lies can be replaced with a new beliefs, until the new beliefs become habitual responses (second-nature), over-taking the old addictions. Addicted to the Monkey Mind, is a great book on this topic.
Your nature is corrupt, your love is perverted
My love, in both body and mind, has become purer and purer each day with Christ
You are not loved, you are not known
I am known and loved by my Heavenly Family more deeply than I know and love myself
You are useless to the one's you love
My prayers, my sufferings, my joys for others are efficacious beyond my ability to measure
You are alone, you will always be alone
I am united in Body to the whole Church and I am spiritually connected in a special way to my family and friends
Your minimal social life is a reflection of your social value
My desire for holiness requires me to choose friends and spend time carefully
Your thoughts and words are morally ambiguous
I am an eccentric artist for Love and the pure will see my purity, I am always trying to improve my precision of expression, but I cannot and do not need to control other people's interpretations of me
The sex drive is an evil desire, chastity means fear of being a sexual being
God made sex; all the bio-chemical movements of sexuality can be drawn into the service of True Love, of God and neighbor, without being frustrated or suppressed. Only God's law gives us authentic sexual freedom.
You are emotionally immature and effeminate
I am an emotional man, that is a gift, it helps me understand and serve women better, my feelings do not control me, I use both my positive and negative emotions to support my passion for Truth
No one wants your love
I am free to love people whether they want it or not
You have been financially irresponsible
I went in debt with the Lord's blessing, for the Lord's service, my financial state is what it is for a good reason and it will not be a hindrance but a blessing to my true vocation! I am doing all I can right now and enjoying this time of learning new financial virtues.
You don't have a vocation because you would be a bad spouse and father
My Father is waiting to give me my fatherhood only because the hour has not yet come. God is making me into a saint and a saint-maker. I have the gifts to be a wonderful husband and father, especially the gift of always learning and trying improve myself. The longer I must wait, the better husband and father I will be!
Some of these lies are ridiculous and obvious, but they never reveal themselves as they really are, they hide behind lesser accusations and trivial circumstances. The real difficulty lies in uncovering your own individual triggers and learning to root out the error beneath them. Then, God-willing, we can start helping other people through their triggers as well. We should love the people who have forced us to face these lies, for they almost certainly didn’t mean the lie itself, and without their triggering we wouldn’t have had to grow. Once we have dealt with our weaknesses, we can liberate others from the burden of feeling like they always hurt us. Lord, let us always seek to lighten each others’ crosses through Your redemption of our minds!