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Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Do You Fear?

It's been a rather boring Thanksgiving holiday for me. It's been a lonesome one, but from solitude comes introspection and from introspection, perhaps, revelation. I spent the day doing laundry (yay?) and catching up on all the superhero movies I missed this past summer. From The Wolverine to Iron Man 3, I'm caught back up.

I like superhero movies. I'm a geek, one, so they appeal to me in that respect, but more than that I like them for the deeper questions they inspire in me. In watching these movies today and thinking about all the superhero movies I've seen over the course of my life, the question of what I fear entered my mind.

And the answer is rather simple on the surface: I fear death.

Now, taking that at face value it's not all that surprising an answer. But let me elaborate: I fear the death of those I care about.

That's a distinctly superhero-trait. It's a go-to cliche, yes, but it's a very superhero-thing and it surprised me. I had thought the answer would be more self-centered I guess. But I had never really asked the question of myself before.

I'm more than at ease with my own death, whenever it'll happen. It's not like I'm that important ... in the grand scheme of things, what little I bring to the table won't be terribly missed when I go. But at ease with the deaths of others? Not so much. Very much not, in fact.

It's probably a natural human reaction. As a close friend and I were discussing recently, I'm a bit of a control freak. I don't like NOT having a say in things. It's my opinion that if I can affect an outcome for the better, I should, and I very often think I can affect things for the better (though, very often, what I think and what's reality are two different things).

But the death of others is an outcome I can't really affect. Only in certain instances can I be the deciding factor. If a friend or family member needed an organ, needed some money, needed something I could provide, they'll get it. I'll give it to them or find some way to get it to them, absolutely. Naive? Probably. But I've always been colored an optimist.

Even in the midst of situations that look absolutely bleak I try to find some silver lining.

But those types of situations involving death are very rare. Most times, death happens when we least expect it and when we're completely unprepared for it. When we can't be there to stop it or vainly attempt to try to.

And that's my fear, right there. People I care about are going to die away from me. Far away, in all likelihood. I can sit here and scream to the heavens about it, but I can't change the laws of physics (obligatory Trek reference). I'm hours away from my nearest family and more hours away from actual blood family. More hours away from my grandparents and my relatives.

I can do nothing about that. Which doesn't comfort me at all because I want to do SOMETHING about it.

I can't affect any change at critical moments. Not from where I am, no matter where I am, it'll happen when it happens. It's ... it's bull shit, really. Unfair in some respects and sobering in others.

Part of me wants to take this and say to myself "This is why you need to be as much a part of their lives as possible. One day they will die and what will you have done?"

But I can't do that and no other person really can. People live their own lives and build it. They have their friends and their enemies, their trials and tribulations, their thorns and roses. You can't share in everything another person does because then you're intruding on their life and, by extension, not allowing them to BE a person.

There's a middle ground, of course, but as those that know me realize by now ... well, I'm not good at finding the middle grounds in life. You can be a part of someone's life and allow them to have their own life, but the ratios are different for every person.

There's no hard and fast rule. No rule at all, really.

People I care about will die and I won't be there for most of them, not physically anyway. It bothers me and I'm scared of it. I dread it.

I don't think this particular fear ever goes away nor do I think I'm unique in it. I'm sure I'm one of many ... that doesn't comfort me much either.

It's only bound to get worse as I add more people to my life. The heart is capable of infinite amounts of love, I think ... so it's a fear that grows with age. It's a necessary fear I think.

But maybe this is all off-base and I'm just tired (true), a bit lonesome (true), and looking forward to the holiday season being over (maybe true). Whatever the case is, cherish those you love and care for on this Thanksgiving. If you have the ability to give them a hug, give them that hug -- and make it count.

Thanks for reading, folks. God bless. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Why I'm Going Catholic

I've been simultaneously dreading and anticipating this post. It's been in the making since last April, when the deal was sealed and I knew. It's been a busy summer and fall, but I'm finally at the point where I can start the conversation process ... or the process of starting the conversation process. But I'm now knee deep into this and I'll be neck deep by the end of the weekend.

So, it's time to tell you why I, a lifelong Baptist (born and raised), am about to go very much against the grain and convert. The process isn't easy. It is, in fact, harder than pretty much any conversation process I know of. The Catholic church makes it hard and the reason for that, I think, is to test whether or not you really want it. Whether or not you're really ready for it. Whether or not you're really sure of the life-altering choice you're about to make.

And I'm sure. I have been since I came to the conclusion in April and that sure feeling, that right feeling, has only gotten stronger as I have gotten closer and closer to the point where I'm going to begin the conversation process. It's gonna be long and it's gonna be a major learning process.

But I'm here and I think, before I can really begin, I need to explain why I'm doing this. It doesn't feel right otherwise. 

This week, I threw myself head first into Catholicism. I found a church. I joined the local college's Catholic student group (and they let me in despite the fact I wasn't a student or even technically Catholic yet). I spent a day with them and we made Halloween treats for kids and you know what? It was a blast.

It was there where I found the best answer to why I'm doing this. The answer is succinct: I'm tired of settling. I was explaining myself to one of the members of the Catholic student group and explaining why I was there, how I got there. I told him (and all of them that were there by the end) about how I came to a point of desperation with my weight. About how I had to choose to settle and be miserable or try to change so I could live.

This is the same thing. I'm at a point where I'm losing the war for my soul. I'm slowly but surely giving up fractions of an inch on a daily basis and it adds up. I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting this by myself and I'm tired of going to a church and participating in a faith that does nothing for me. I jump into it and get nothing out of it. My soul is malnourished if not in the process of dying.

I have to make a change.

First, let me dispel the idea that I'm doing this based only on a feeling. This isn't a feeling thing. This isn't a "Oh, it feels right so it must right" thing. This is something I have researched extensively (and will continue to in my free time outside of my class) and the way the Catholic faith operates makes sense to me.

Most of you, if not all of you at this point, have encountered my various blog posts asking faith questions and coming up with few answers. I don't have them and the Catholic church doesn't sit there and feed me lines. They admit they don't know either about some of them but they do have some answers about a few of them.

There's not a subject they don't have some insight into, even if it's more confusing insight, at least it's information and I can absorb that. I can use that, store that, and use it down the road.

More than that, the Catholic church addresses a few issues that the Baptist church doesn't. Like contraception, which is a-okay in the Baptist church and isn't in the Catholic church. I was clued in to the hazards of contraception for women some years ago and the stuff is horrible from a health standpoint. I can't sit there and accept it as normal for a girl to get a pill (or other form of contraception) when she reaches a certain age.

I'd like to have children in the future. I'll probably get stuck with girls because that's just the way my life works. I won't be part of this vicious cycle and I don't want to be married to someone who supports it. It's wrong. You know what else is wrong? What the drugs actually do, which is prevent life. It's not natural.

And this is another thing that appeals to me about the Catholic faith is that it feels natural. It just is to me. We're a fit and you're as surprised as I was when I realized it. But the Catholic faith has rules, structures, regulations, sacraments for everything, traditions, rites, routines, habits ... all these things I like. I like structure and the Baptist faith doesn't really have one.

But really, the think that strikes me most about it is how insightful it is to me. I get something from it. I haven't gotten something from the Baptist church in years. I've attended all of four masses at this point. One in 2011. One this past Easter. Two this past week (daily mass). And you know what? Every time I left, I left with that tingly feeling in my brain. I don't know if you know what that feeling is, but it's the feeling I get when I learn something and it feels good.

I spoke, at length (over six hours total time) with a priest about converting over March and April. I laid it all out. He sat there and listened, he offered his thoughts, and he told me point-blank what I was getting into. He tried to discourage me. To quote him, I'm "about to join the Marine Core of faiths."

I'm fine with that. I like a challenge. I like this.

I'm making this play. I'm committed to this action.

I imagine this is going to confuse some people but I know this right. I feel it and I know it. I'm here, I'm staring this right in the face, we're separated by mere inches, and I'm not blinking. I'm not backing down. This doesn't intimidate me, it fascinates me, because it's not about spiritual highs from mission trips or attendance boosts. I went to a mass in Cathedral that had all of a dozen people in it, tops.

A dozen people in a giant Cathedral. Think about that. And you know what? I felt good there. Sure, I wasn't sure about some of the things that were being done but I watched, I learned, and I got better. I'll get better.

The Catholic church encourages aiming for sainthood. I'll probably never achieve it, but I have a goal. Something to aim for and I can look at it, know what it takes to get there, and try my best to get there. It's not a faith where you just put it on when you're expected to.

They expect you to live it and the rules make it so you pretty much have to if you're part of the church. There's accountability there. People will kick me in the tail and hold my butt to the fire if I step out of line. I like that.

Part of me feels like this is a betrayal. I admit that. I'm going against a lot of things here and I wish I could make this seem less random, less out of the blue, but it isn't. I'm put my time and my effort into this. I've done the groundwork, I've put boots on the pavement and ran to this. Literally.

I'm tired of settling. I want to live.

And I will here. At the very least, it'll be interesting. It always is with me.

Thanks for reading folks.