I’ve been exhausted lately.
My seasonal depression and anxiety are the lowest they’ve ever been in a February, but it’s still February. I still can’t get to sleep before three or perhaps five, and I still don’t have much energy or creativity.
Due to climate change or the El Nino or something or other, there’s been no snow since my trip to the waterfall. I liked the snow better than the irritating gray void. Snow makes things look clean. I’ve been going on long walks round and round the muddy gray neighborhood, pretending to be a Tolkein elf although I’m shaped more like a hobbit, planning beautiful gardens.
The PTSD is lifting, very slowly and unevenly. I go whole days without thinking about the stalking neighbor. Just today, Jimmy’s boy came over and helped me plot out where to expand the garden; we agreed to dig the patch all the way out to the property line. I’m not afraid of accidentally stepping over it now. But I’ve made less progress in getting over my failure with The Lost Girl. I still blame myself. And then there’s, well, everything else. The religious trauma hasn’t budged one inch. I don’t know if it’s ever going to leave me in peace.
And it’s almost Lent.
It can’t be almost Lent.
I can’t do this again. The shame and the grief are killing me.
I have given up on finding community. All I want is a church to worship in and then go home. But the panic attacks are so bad I can’t even stand in the foyer just now. Adrienne and her father go to Mass together and I drop off and pick up. We don’t pray as a family at the moment. I’ve apologized for the horrific things she’s heard Catholics say around Steubenville so many times that I don’t know what I can possibly say about the Church. And I don’t know how long that’s going to last.
But I can’t just walk away either.
All that I’ve learned in this terrible year of religious trauma and deconstruction, is that I truly, honestly, really do believe in Jesus. And I really, genuinely, actually accept that Jesus is perfectly good. And the best descriptions I’ve ever found of this Person named Jesus, are in the dogmas of the Catholic Church. And I truly have found Christ in the sacraments. That’s not the only place I’ve found Him. I’ve found Him in nature and at the beach, and in homeless people and in my garden. But He’s definitely in the sacraments as well and He hasn’t left. The rest of the Church, though– the clergy and the heirarchy and the cultures that surround them, the things they demand, the sins they’ve committed– are horrendous. And the cognitive dissonance of that is impossible.
And now it’s going to be Lent.
The only innovation I’ve made in this whole year, is that now I can sit in my car outside of Mass and meditate for an hour. Last year, when I couldn’t go to Mass, I mostly stayed in bed and played video games, because just thinking about Jesus terrified me. Now I can pray. Sometimes the only prayer I have is “I can’t forgive you right now,” but it’s something.
That’s all I have: prayer. So that’s all I’m going to give.
I can’t fast or abstain due to the PCOS, so I won’t. I can’t give up sweets because I don’t eat them anymore, also due to the PCOS. I can’t pray the Rosary or go to Mass because they give me panic attacks. I would rather rip my skin off than go to confession again after watching the events of the past several years at Franciscan University. I can’t d0 a big service project, filling backpacks for the homeless or the like, because I’m too poor right now. But I can pray. They haven’t taken that from me.
We’ll just see where we go from here.
I use that phrase entirely too much, but it always applies. Because if God can’t reach me here, where I am, he can’t reach me at all. And here is where I can’t do anything but pray.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.