Mourning is something that is avoided at every cost. Part of it is our brain protecting us from feeling the total loss of someone we love or even something we lost. But part of it is also our culture. In America 2017 the idol of positive vibes and positive thinking is worshiped at every level. We do not want to suffer and we do not want to witness suffering. We turn a blind eye to it, justify it, or just deny it is happening. This is one reason why people like Joel Osteen can sell the anti-gospel of “declare yourself victorious” and make as much money off of it as he does. We want answers and we want to fix anything that is broken. Even things that aren’t fixable.
It is easy to point to the prosperity gospel as a Catholic and see all the flaws in it and point them out. It is easy to make memes of Jesus sitting on a rock checking Facebook to see who typed “amen” to answer prayers and laugh. It is easy to say things like “offer it up” and to feel very good about our own holiness. It is easy to type things like “I am not scared of anything as much as I am scared of not suffering for Christ” on a status and walk away thinking that if suffering comes to us we will be prepared. (PS do not do this.)
I have done all of those things. Those were all superficial bullshit things that I did to make myself feel like I had finally made it. I have been sitting in my room for the last two days thinking about my life and I asked myself where exactly I thought I had made it to. It was the first time since my conversion to Catholicism that I have ever asked myself that question. Where exactly was I trying to make it to? Why did I think I had made it there and what was the point of getting there?
To understand this I had to really think back on my life. What I saw was a long line of bad choices, heartache, pain and abuse. That naturally led me to wonder which bad decision would have changed the course of my life and therefore, the course of my children’s lives. More specifically, what could I have done differently that wouldn’t have led to Anthony hanging himself in the garage.
As I looked at each and every moment backwards thinking about the choice I made and why, I was led all the way back to my birth. I was born to a 35 year old mother who had been raised by a mother riddled with mental illness from her own childhood trauma. That trauma was passed down to my mother in the form of unstable mood swings, physical abuse, mental abuse and the fact that at the age of six, she was cooking dinner for her siblings and working in the fields full time. She no longer went to school, which was fine with her because when she was going to school, she was an easy target for racist white children because she was quiet and shy. This also made her a target for others, including my father who abandoned her while she was pregnant with me. That meant he also abandoned me. And that is where my life began. My life has been constantly living in the crisis of poverty and ignorance of how to make good choices since I was born, that is my legacy.
I have a five page criminal record filled with examples of my bad choices all made because of that legacy. I wrote hot checks to pay for groceries for my children because I got pregnant as a teen and then married a drug addict. I wanted my children to be happy so I allowed them to have dogs not knowing that if you don’t have them vaccinated you will get ticketed. I drove without a driver’s license because nobody ever taught me how to drive or took me to take my driving test but my mother handed me the keys to her car to go to work because I had to support my kid. And I got speeding tickets because I didn’t want to be late to work and lose my job but it was difficult leaving my screaming baby when I had to leave for work so I left late every day. All of these tickets turned into warrants because I didn’t pay them. I didn’t even know they could turn into warrants. When I finally landed a good job with benefits and good pay, I was picked up at my house for those warrants and I lost that job. I was 21 and I had a 4 week old baby. I spent two weeks in jail treated like an animal while recovering from giving birth. All because I made bad choices that I didn’t even know the alternative to.
I am not writing all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me; pity is the last thing that I need. What I am doing is trying to explain who I am, why I am here and where I thought I had “made it” to when I first became Catholic.
I thought I had made it to safety.
It is as simple as that. I thought that after all that struggle and pain that I had made it to safety. I had made it to a place that taught me right from wrong and how to make good choices. I thought I had made it to a place where people loved me and would take care of me by teaching me. I thought I had made it to a place in life where my children would thrive, would be safe from harm, make memories with friends in high school and go on to lead joyful lives full of laughter and happiness. I thought I had made it to the place where I would not have to worry about people stabbing me in the back, laughing at me or lying to try and make a name for themselves. In other words, I thought I had “declared victory over my life” aka the prosperity gospel.
I was wrong. That gospel does not exist which I am now finding out the hard way.
I have never suffered as much as I am suffering now. My son is dead, his children are traumatized, my children are traumatized, my husband is tired and I hate everything. Nothing that I thought about this place is real. There are people here who are fake as fuck just like anywhere else. There are liars and backstabbers and assholes that get joy out of seeing others hurting. There are predators and people I respected have let me down. It is no different here than it is anywhere else. I still have to watch my back. On top of it, I have to watch myself because if I say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, don’t agree with the right thing or be myself then I am accused of all kinds of things. I am the target of people sending me pictures of nooses on ceiling fans for a laugh or of accusing me of building a brand on the back of my son’s suicide. Sin still exists here. My unrealistic expectation of it not existing here was very very wrong. I have learned that the hard way.
The people who do love me are at a loss on how to deal with me or what to say to me. I feel an obligation to be happy and funny for them when the truth is that I am in so much pain that I just want to lay in bed and think about every memory I have of Anthony. I want to read his texts over and over, look at pictures of his face, and remember that he is real. Nobody can make this better for me. I just want to mourn. I think his life is worth mourning. But in a world where we do everything to avoid negative energy or suffering, mourning looks wrong. It seems like self pity or weakness. It makes people uncomfortable and/or take it personal.
I felt like I had to be a certain kind of way or that I was making people feel sorry for me. I was also starting to hate happy people and I found myself wanting to punch people complaining about stupid problems. I felt myself becoming a horrible and hateful version of myself from comparing my life to others. I also couldn’t tell which fake AF person was sending passive aggressive messages at me. I didn’t like who I was starting to be. It was all feeding my worst flaw: anger.
So I took down all my social media. I disabled messaging on my public FB page and I am ignoring emails. I am shutting out the noise. I am going to spend Advent mourning for my son and not paying attention to anyone else’s life. My life is in shambles, this is the life that I need to pay attention to. I am waiting on God. Because if I am going to be really honest with ya’ll, the truth is that I don’t know if God really exists or if I just followed another crowd. I sure as hell cannot figure out what I believe by listening to everyone else and looking at our own Catholic version of the prosperity gospel that is preached on social media.
I am going to sit here and wait. I will cry over the loss of my son’s life. I am choosing to feel this heartbreak. I have never felt any heartbreak before. Not really. I always find a way to numb it or tune it out. Or believe that it is not real because somehow magically faith in God makes it not real. Not this time. This time I am going to feel every bit of it and then I will make the choice of where to go from here. There is nothing that numbs this.
I am mourning. As scary and uncomfortable as it might be, that is what I am doing.