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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Search of Feelings




As I sit here late at night, looking at the clock and wondering why I haven't already gotten to bed (mind is everywhere so why bother sleeping at all?) I find myself in search of feelings. Not a single feeling, mind you, but multiple feelings ... things I simply underestimated.

To recap previous entries into this space ever so briefly, I had a great week with a girl back in November, a week that went by so fast and was fun, exciting, and addicting in the best way possible. In a week's time I went from asking the girl out to lunch to kissing her (after the prerequisite arm-looping and hand-holding, of course). She initiated all the physical stuff because I'm horrible at everything in the romantic field. In writing, I'm pretty decent. In life ... I fail. So, so hard, I fail.

And today is another day where I miss those feelings that were brought forth in that week. The old saying "You can't miss what you never had" is a true one because, before that week, I didn't miss the feelings. I knew they existed like someone knows an ocean exists, but it was never reality until I got there ... much like an ocean, those feelings stretched farther and wider than I ever really imagined.

I miss them more some days than others. Days where I can see possibilities that stretch as far as the eye can see if only I -- or someone else -- does something different. Today is one such day where I want to do something but find myself mired in inaction. I'm considering a number of actions where I can find those feelings again, where I can access them again ... and, yet, I find myself unwilling to force the action.

I'm great at forcing things. I force myself to do things because, if given time to think, I simply just think. I think, and think, and think. Thinking doesn't put my best foot forward, it makes both my feet stuck and I hate myself for it. I'm weary of thinking, weary of my mind and its thoughts and the choir of voices in it that all say something different.

I'm not insane -- not yet, anyway -- but I am severely inexperienced in the realm of dating and romance and this, more than anything, is merely a declaration of what has already been declared multiple times before: I suck at this.

In my past life as the fat guy, I never really got a run as a social being. I learned nothing about society and life in high school ... in college, I was merely satisfied with drowning in the aspects of life I wanted to acknowledge. Only after all that, after I got my health under control and took responsibility for it, did I realize how far behind I was.

And I am still so very far behind. So, so very far. I feel like the kid who signs up for a race, passes out near the beginning of it, and wakes up on the side of the road sometime later unsure if the race is still being run but determined to finish it. I am dead last in this race, so far back I will never see another soul ahead of me because everyone has finished this leg of it already. I'm quite alone on the trail ... and I feel, today, that there isn't any point in running anymore.

I should give up. Seek out the easy solution, give in to the temptations (not the band, though they're good) around me, drown in it till I don't feel anymore. If I don't feel, I don't have a reason to search out for the feelings I miss.

Biochemical reactions aren't fair. They are such a powerful force, so powerful I want to crawl under a desk and mourn my loss of them on a day like today. I had it and now it's gone and it sucks.

"Oh, it's the same old, broken record; Zach is longing for something and can't get it! BOO HOO!"

I hear that. I nod along with it. It isn't any different on the surface, but if we go deeper we see that it isn't merely about missing the feelings: it's about trying to find them again.

And the search is intimidating. Frightening. Confusing. I am inadequate to the task and I HATE admitting that. Why can't I be adequate? I lack experience at such a severe level it's laughable. I don't know where to start or how to start or how that week in November even came to pass ... but I have to figure out how.

As much as it pains me to say so, I have to figure out how to date because the race is still going and I am being left farther and farther behind as the days go by. I can't make up the distance lost ... I will only find success if someone stops, turns around, and runs back to me.

Dating is the way to find the feelings lost; yes, it's a temporary way but it's designed to help find a permanent solution. Yes, even the permanent solution (marriage) is void of the feelings at times ... but never fully void. Never completely without, not like the single life is.

Is it wrong to want the feelings again? Is it wrong to seek them out? I doubt it. I don't think the search is wrong but where I'm searching may be. The Catholic in me (growing by the day, but little comparatively to the rest of me) says to seek out the feelings in God. In the faith. In good works and good people.

And that helps. It mitigates it to a point and, in the same breath, it brings it into focus. I have Catholic friends who are happily married (of which I am envious). I have Catholic friends who are in relationships (of which I am also envious ... and a bit scared). I have Catholic friends who are single (of which I am understanding).

I am not without my flaws. I have, in the past week, received an unprecedented amount of insight into realm of dating and what to do, how to present myself, ect. The information is staggering and overwhelming and I'm weary of having to account for so much on something that appears so simple.

But I'm not the only one searching for these feelings. We are all searching for them, we are all damaged, we are all hurting and wanting and angry and sad. I, however, am not good at figuring out how to present an image where all that is minimized.

I grow deathly silent sometimes. I can disappear while standing right in front of people some days. And some days I speak as though I own the room. I am not consistent, I am not good at pretense or casual.

I have a cause. I have a will. I want to find a way. I want to force things, to make action where there is none for the sake of action ... for the sake of some sort of momentum.

That's not a good thing. I was told some time back, by my best friend, that I like things to be tied in a nice bow or shattered into a million pieces, that I do well in the extremes and suffer in-between. It's true. I don't do well in the middle ground and that's where most people exist.

I don't exist there and, I fear, the feelings I'm looking for are where I don't exist.

Thanks for reading, folks. God bless. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Welcome to Catholicism



Well, that was a rush of a Holy Week and Easter weekend. If you missed out on the news, I am officially Catholic now (losing my title as the unofficial-official-converting-Catholic). It's taken me to this point to be able to sort out all the various feelings involved (lots of those) but I'm ready to throw out some thoughts on it all.

On the Easter Vigil:

This was the big ceremony of the year from what I was told and it lived up to its billing. There was a fire pit (with fire ... and lots of lighter fluid ... and wind), there were candles, tons of incense and singing, and lots -- lots -- of people. I was given an entire pew of my own for me and my guests (assumed to be my family, but they're all in Alabama and very much NOT Catholic), which looked pretty empty for the entire four hours before the ceremony.

I arrived there at four in the afternoon to walk off my nervous energy and just sit and contemplate. The church where this all went down is a beautiful place, with many quiet areas just to have a seat and think. Which think I did.

This was the culmination of about two years of work. From my initial investigations, to meetings with my priest friend, to moves from Ohio to Virginia to Alabama to Virginia once more (just a week before) and many, many Masses inbetween. My thoughts were all about the time spent thinking about this day, wanting this day ... and here I was.

It was all surreal, really. By 7:15 I was in my pew, awaiting my best friend (and sponsor) to arrive and being profoundly aware that I was the only one in a very empty pew. If you ever want to feel lonesome, sit in a pew in a Catholic church as people are starting to fill up the pews around you. Catholic families are usually on the larger side and they come in bunches -- this night was no exception.

At 7:30 my best friend arrived and took a seat beside me; we just went on about many things. The two of us tend to tangent off into many subjects. I was dressed in a suit (of all things) and she thought it looked nice (which was nice to know, suits are so constraining) and she was dressed nicely, too. It was the Easter Vigil after all.

Eventually our conversation turned to the event at hand: I was about to become Catholic. She asked if I was ready. I didn't exactly have an answer then, nor did I have one in the coming days (I would see her again on Sunday and Monday).

Was I ready for a completely life-changing event, one that I'd been working towards for two years, one that was set in motion nearly four years before?

I have an answer for that question now: yes. On the surface that looks like a rather trite answer, especially considering the gravity of the question. But I've been doing my best to live like a Catholic for a little over two years. It hasn't been easy, it's been a massive adjustment (going from Baptist to Catholic is like learning how to do everything with your left hand when you're right handed), but it's been worth it.

The Catholic Church -- and Catholicism -- gives me a peace I don't have anywhere else. I frequent my church because of that peace that's there ... sure, I have the ability to go to any Catholic church in the world and receive the sacraments, but I like my church. It's a nice benefit though.

So, yes, I'm ready to be Catholic, to live Catholic, and to function as Catholic; does that mean I'll be perfect at it all? Not in the least. Remember, this is the beginning for all this. The two years I spent preparing for this moment has led to joining the Church.

Back to the ceremony, which was a sight to behold. I was confirmed via the profession of faith, my best friend behind/beside me, and with a pew full of my Catholic friends watching. That, in of itself, earned a variation of this once it was all done:








But that wasn't the moment I was most looking forward to. No, that moment would be receiving the Eucharist for the first time.

For over two years, when it came time for people to get in line to receive the Eucharist, my place would be standing outside the pew, letting people pass me, and then I would take my seat back in the empty pew. I can count the number of times on one hand when I wasn't the only one in that pew.

For two years I watched people get it. For two years I waited, kneeling, and had to endure being left out. I simultaneously loved Mass and hated it; loved it for what it was and hated it for what I could not experience. It just grinds you down, being denied over and over something that you want.

And I did want it. Badly. On Holy Thursday, I was at the last Mass before the Easter Vigil, where we took all the things for Holy Communion out of the church and put them in an open place for people to adore it quietly till midnight. I didn't stay till midnight, but I certainly knelt down on the hard, wooden floor and stared at it.

You know what I was thinking?


I'll see you on Saturday. Be ready.

I was looking so forward to it. Getting the Eucharist after all this time, after all the denial (self-inflicted, to an extent, because I could have easily gotten in line once and gotten it ... but I wasn't Catholic and that would have broken the rules and I didn't want to do that -- I had researched it, I understood what it meant), was the high point. I was fairly certain I was going to cry -- I nearly did thinking about it all kneeling on that floor Thursday night.

We come back to the Easter Vigil, where we're now entering the familiar territory of the usual Mass. I'm in now, I'm official, but it doesn't feel like I'm in ... not quite yet. The Eucharist still awaits, the final part of this completely insane journey of mine. Arriving at the Eucharist seemed to take longer than usual, but that was likely because of how much I was looking forward to it.

But we did get there. And, for the first time in over two years, I didn't have to stand outside the pew and watch people walk by me. I got to get in line. Now, I had been watching people receive the Eucharist for that time carefully, trying to figure out what I was going to do. There are multiple ways to do it -- everyone has their own little combination.

I decided to keep it simple for my first time and merely knelt before receiving it.

It was the best tasting thing I've ever had. THE BEST. The best. Best. Ever.

Best.

I've had the pleasure of knowing many great cooks in my life -- my best friend would qualify easily for this title -- and I've experienced many a great tasting thing. Cheesecake to die for, steaks to savor, bacon to break into spontaneous applause about ... and not a one of them separate or combined was as good as the Eucharist.

Now, admittedly, this probably has roots psychologically and religiously; I've been looking forward to this for two years and it's been very much on my mind during Holy Week. Rationally, I understand the taste associated with it -- it was lightly sweetened, I know that much.

But that doesn't lessen it in the least. I can come up with a thousand rational reasons as to why it tasted so good, but the truth is that it tasted so good because it is that good. It is, by its nature, good. The best good you can have.

Once the Eucharist was had by all and I managed to blink away a few tears (hopefully stealth-like), we closed out the Mass and that was it. Nearly 2.5 hours after the whole show began, we had reached the conclusion. 29 of us, in total, joined the Church and, at least for me, the night will remain burned into my mind.

What It Means:

The analogy I came up with is pretty straight-forward. I'm a huge Star Trek fan; I know more about that than just about anything else in my life. Joining the Catholic Church, after two years of waiting and more getting to that point, is like joining the crew of the Enterprise (I'll take the original, please).

It's that momentous a thing, it's that big -- I worked to get here, I am here, and this is just the beginning of it all. The Enterprise is the best ship in the fleet, the thing that saves the universe time and time again. And the Catholic Church may not fight the Borg or prevent a whale probe from destroying Earth, but its mission -- similar to the Enterprise -- is to save the innocent. To foster peace and understanding, to explore strange new worlds, to be unafraid of the future, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

I just joined the best ship and crew in the fleet. I might be a lowly redshirt (maybe I'll get transferred to the science department), but I'm here.

The best is yet to come.

Thanks for reading folks. God Bless. 




 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why Virginia?



"Why Virginia?" Is the question that I've most gotten in the last few days from those I work with. News broke Monday that I was leaving the store and heading up to Virginia, much to chagrin of many. I've had my store manager jokingly threaten to lock me in the store until I change my mind, among other things.

Now, as those of you who follow my exploits regularly know, I've been wanting to get back to Virginia since I had to leave there back in early October. It wasn't a very graceful exit (a blown out tire, a tow, a late-night hotel check-in, and misery will make anything less than graceful) and my arrival back in Alabama wasn't a favorite thing of mine.

But that's all about to be done. March 28th, I'm back in the place where I belong. This past weekend I traveled up there to close the deal on a place I wanted to rent -- and I closed that deal. It was a fun weekend, but a brutal drive there and back.

Since I got back, I've fielded the titular question a lot. Here's why.

1. Virginia has people I love dearly in it.

I have friends and family (not blood, but just as meaningful if not more) there, and being close to them is a very good thing. It's worth just about any price, any expense, any effort, to get back there as this weekend proved -- it's a 12-13 hour drive up there and another 12-13 back from Alabama and I did it just to close the deal on a place I'm RENTING.

Since I'll be nearby again, I can help out. I can show up randomly and make a day of things. I can be a part of something I desperately love being a part of. That's more than I can say for my time in Alabama, which isn't bad but certainly isn't fulfilling in the same way.

2. I'm converting to Catholicism.

This Easter, as a matter of fact. Doing so in Virginia, where this journey of mine started, is absolutely crucial. It's necessary and it's completely right to do it there. Being a Catholic in Alabama is a joke, really -- yes, there are Catholics here and I have a decent church nearby I like, but I don't love that church like I do the one where this all started.

No, that church has a special place in my heart. The people there have a special place and this doesn't work unless I start it all off in that place. I'm a Catholic noob and, even after my conversion goes through, I'll still be a rookie at this. I have SO MUCH to learn and figure out but I'll do it in the best place possible.

That church in Virginia, that place is where this started and where I want to begin this journey. I'd like it to be my spot always, but we'll see if that's in the cards.

3. I keep going back there.

God has made this all work, let's make that VERY clear. I didn't predict my current job taking me back to Virginia at all when I began it -- I work retail, after all, it's not exactly glamorous or known for mobility, but this worked somehow. I got the money, somehow. My car didn't die, somehow. I found a place, somehow.

And that somehow belongs strictly to God. In my six months of southern exile, I have grown to really appreciate the way he works, even if it's frustrating. He's answered many prayers (he's kept my best friend from suffering serious health issues, among other things), he's given me a glimpse of things here and there, and he's allowed me to actually trust him -- which, if you've been reading this blog for years (if you have, you are a saint), you know how I struggled in the past and still struggle with trusting the big guy upstairs.

I'm a control freak. Trusting the all-knowing, all-powerful Father is difficult to do when I don't control things.

Still, I wouldn't be here without him. This doesn't work without God. God keeps taking me back to Virginia and this time (I hope) it's for good. I'm taking up every stake I have here in Alabama and moving it to Virginia.

This is my make or break play and I think I'm going to make it.

4. Virginia is where I'm at my best.

The best things I've done in my life, short and largely unspectacular as it is, has happened in Virginia. In that state I found an adopted family that means the world to me (actually, probably worlds). In that state, I went Primal and began a weight loss journey which ultimately led me to lose 133 pounds in only 11 months. In that state, I found Catholicism and got answers to questions I've had for years.

Is it a perfect place? No, but no place is on Earth. But that place is perfect for me I think and, for a traveler of many states (Air Force Brat), I'm glad I found one I actually like.


Are there more reasons? Oh, sure. I could be here all day typing out why I love that place. But those are the main one's above.

I'm heading back and I'm excited.

God bless everyone and thanks for reading.