Jackpot

So, I may have mentioned previously that I’m dating someone.

I know…

wait what

Since I’ve been gone so long I never really mentioned it.

But I am.

When people found out they were either…

finally

or…

too soon

Dating really wasn’t even on my radar. Living where I live, the odds of meeting an educated, intelligent, well-rounded, responsible male who didn’t live for football season and drink himself into a stupor every time his team lost… was unlikely. Furthermore, the odds of me going online to find a relationship? Puh-lease… I have a hard enough time reading people in person. I was not going to go online and take my chances building a relationship through texts and e-mails.

And then… the man (as he will subsequently be referred to as) asked me out. Now, to clarify, I had known the man for over a year before he worked up the courage to ask me out. And when I had met him the previous year, my first thought had been (and no, I’m not making this up…), “Oh goodness. We are totally going to date, aren’t we? Maybe even get married. Wait. What? I just met you. That’s weird. New train of thought, Annie. If he could hear you right now, he’d know you were a psycho…” I mean, I INSTANTLY clicked with him. And that’s never happened before.

But even when he asked me out, I wasn’t looking for anyone. Even though it had been a full 3 and a half years since my husband had walked out, I really wasn’t looking to date. So, when he did ask me out, I was all, “Um… can we do that? Is it too soon? Is it too late? I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE TIMELINE REQUIREMENTS, HERE!!!”

So, we went on a date. And it went shockingly well. And then we went on another… and then I got freaked out and took 15 steps back…. but then we had another date… and another… and another… and before I knew it, we were like, grossly in love with each other and all, “Yup. I found the one I want to keep.”

You guys… THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I like… fell in love with someone. I’ve never been in love with anyone! And honestly, sometimes I’m like, “How has this never happened before?! I am 20 years behind everyone else! This is what that feels like? WHO KNEW?!” Clearly, I’ve been a bit stunted in the relationship department. My bad.

But anyway, we started dating, and one of the first things I noticed about him that made me go…

surprised

I have found the rarest creature in the history of creation…

was the fact that the man… had his CRAP together.

And by having his crap together, I mean…

  • He was financially stable.
  • He knew what it meant to be a contributing member of society.
  • He did his own dishes and cleaned his own house.
  • He didn’t play with Legos.
  • He knew how to parent and selflessly put the needs of his children first.
  • He knew how to remodel and do home maintenance.
  • He was ridiculously good with money.
  • He didn’t drink.
  • He READ BOOKS.
  • He cooked amazingly tasty meals… and desserts… and appetizers.
  • He didn’t avoid conflict.
  • He was honest.
  • He was emotionally mature.
  • He was smart and didn’t talk out of his… um… rear end.
  • He’d clean my carpets, do my taxes, straighten my classroom, take care of Winston, and even do my dishes… if it meant it would help me out in some way.

Um… I’m sorry. Come again?

I HAD FOUND THE LEGENDARY MAGICAL UNICORN OF THE MALE SPECIES.

I HAD HIT THE JACKPOT.

(Actually, you know what? Instead of “the man”, let’s just call him “Jack”.)

Everything is good and awesome and wonderful about this scenario.

With the exception of one thing…

I don’t have my crap together.

I blame it on the fact that I’m seven years younger than him and childless… but still. Financially secure? Ha! I make less than a seventeen year old at McDonald’s. (No, I’m not exaggerating. Catholic Schools pay shockingly little.) Doing dishes and cleaning my house? WHAT TEACHER HAS TIME FOR THAT?! Remodeling and doing home maintenance? My brother got me an electric drill for Christmas. I still don’t know how to use it. In some ways, his awesomeness makes me feel like a kid… who knows shockingly little about the world. I mean, he’s someone I admire and respect but… I’ve never been in this situation before. I’ve always been the one to have their crap together… I’ve been the magical unicorn in the equation. And now? Now I don’t have to work nearly as hard.

Which is good… but intimidating.

I mean, how long before he starts to notice?

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Little by little by little

Just when you think you’re good.

Just when you think you’re happy and healthy and on the road to recovery.

Just when you think your past is behind you…

It comes screaming back to smack you in the face and beat you over the head with the fact that you’re a failure, a loser, and broken beyond repair.

There’s no coming back from that past.

There’s no hope.

You screwed the pooch and now you must deal with the consequences.

It’s just swell.

I haven’t felt this way in a long time. A long, LOOOOOOONG time. But, lately, it’s been creeping back. Little by little by little.

A Facebook post here, a text there, a homily… a letter… a lecture over coffee.

“Annie, you’re broken. Your life is in tatters. And there’s no coming back from that. But it’ll be okay. You have your cat and Jesus. That’s all you’ll ever need.”

I knew I never should have fessed up about my divorced status to my Catholic coworkers.

I knew I shouldn’t have become Catholic.

I knew somewhere, deep down, everyone was secretly judging me for the ass hat’s mistakes.

It all started when I told my priest friend I was divorced.

So, he told me to get an annulment.

Then, I became Catholic.

I became a divorced Catholic going through an annulment.

Life was fine. I mean… it was weird… and kind of lonely… but fine. I was doing what my priest friend wanted me to do. I was staying on the straight and narrow. Mass every week, confession every month, service projects when I could, keeping the whole “divorce” things under wrap and staying away from online dating sites…

Until…

Until I got asked out.

But a fellow divorcee.

A non-Catholic divorcee.

“What the heck!” I thought. “I’ll get a free dinner, we’ll compare tragic marriage stories, and I’ll make a good friend.”

So, I went.

And I fell head over heels, madly in love with this divorced non-Catholic dad.

You’d think this would be a good thing, a happy thing, a cause for celebration.

Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Not in the Catholic church, it’s not.

In the Catholic church it’s a reason to call you on the carpet and beat you over the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Don’t you know dating as a divorcee without an annulment is ADULTERY? Why are you committing adultery? Why do you hate Jesus?”

Don’t get me wrong, I was strong enough in my Christian faith to know this wasn’t true, but… my priest friend saw things differently.

And so it began…

A scolding over coffee: “Are you lonely? I know it wasn’t a mistake for you to become Catholic. Why can’t you wait until your annulment is final and find a good single Catholic man?”

A flurry of frantic test messages: “Jesus tells us He hates divorce. You are still married to the ass-hat. You are committing adultery. Why are you doing this?”

A not-so-subtle homily: “We should praise and encourage these faithful Catholics who are choosing to embrace a chaste, single lifestyle – separated yet still married to their spouses! This is their cross to bear in the face of divorce – and they bear it well!”

A biting Facebook post not directed at anyone, but the message was clear : “How dare you “faithful” Catholics praise and “like” the new relationship of a divorced Catholic! You are encouraging adultery and mocking God!”

Little…

By Little…

By Little.

And I would shrug it off and laugh and say, “I know where I stand with God my Father. I know I’m in His will. I know this relationship is a blessing from Him.”

And yet… the little nagging voice…

What if.

What if the priest IS right?

What if you ARE committing adultery?

What if God IS just as disgusted and disappointed as the priest is? How dare you commit this sin against a God you claim to love?!

You’re divorced. You’re broken. And now you’re going to add a multitude of sin on top of it?! What is the matter with you?! How stupid are you?! Sure, God still loves you, but you made your bed. The ass hat left you. Now you deal with the consequences. Live like he’s your husband and don’t move forward until the Church gives explicit permission for you to do so! He’s not going to bless you moving forward! He’s only going to bless you in your sorry state of robotic obedience to the church! But He’s certainly not going to bless a new relationship! Who authorized this?! Certainly not God… and most definitely not the church!

Little…

By little…

By little.

Until you’re so convinced that you’re wrong and so beaten down… that it just becomes easier to throw the blessing under the bus, and go back to your sorry situation of blind obedience. Being in their good graces is better than having them think you’re destined for Hell. And being the champion people-please I know I am… I’m sometimes willing to give up the blessing in exchange for their approval. The fact that I would take heartbreak and devastation over having a priest think ill of me shows the depth of that people-pleasing addiction.

I wish I had never joined the church. I wish I had never gotten asked out. I wish, I wish, I wish. Life is easier when you live in stagnation instead of fear of failure and regret.

 

 

 

Welcome to Catholicism

Where everything is your fault… and even if it’s not, you may as well do penance for it.

I don’t know if I mentioned this… but I joined the Catholic Church about a year and a half ago.

Apparently, I don’t have the staying power the cradle Catholics have because I started pulling up stakes a few months back.

I just couldn’t do it anymore…

I mean, not really…

I could go through the motions and pretend, but…

But even the pretending became burdensome. You know you’re doing it wrong when the whole time at Mass you’re thinking, “I wonder if I can find something decent on Netflix after this…”

I tried. I really did. But what with all the suffering, and the Marian devotions, and the guilt and the shame, and the bickering over how pious and holy one would have to be to attain perfection and gain admittance into heaven… It just became too much. I couldn’t buy into it anymore. I didn’t buy into it anymore. It all became too convoluted and treacherous and… well… backwards.

I mean, when you start to brow beat yourself for thinking that Billy Graham certainly made it into heaven, and feel guilty for not praying for his admittance into purgatory… You know there’s a bit of a problem.

I mean… really, Annie?

It just became… exhausting. And worship had become… forced. And Jesus had turned into a sad, angry, hurt martyr… and God was mad at me ALL THE TIME… and all semblance of grace and joy and peace had been left in a dust heap by the door…

It was just time.

So… here I am. Trying to figure out the why and the “HUH?” to my conversion and reversion and making my way back around to the light and joy and the peace.

I don’t know… Like I said… Over and under, around and through… I guess that’s the only way I really learn.

 

 

 

Beauty in the Mess

The first day or week of a new year always brings about a flurry of excitement. Big expectations and high hopes for what the new year will bring. Endless optimism and determination to make it the best year yet. Some people hope for big answers to prayer, others are longing for a return to normal after a tumultuous year.

Every year I used to go through this.

New Years Day always brought with it heightened anxiety and desperation for big changes, better things, and happier times. Honestly, there were times I would spend the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s praying feverishly for something “good” in the new year. An answer to prayer, a respite to suffering, a resolution to a problem, a dream come true – something… anything that would just make that year different and maybe a little bit better than the year before.

And now?

Now the new year means little more than heading back to school after Christmas break.

And you know what? I’m happy about that. Gone is the anxiety and desperation for something bigger and better. Because every year is going to have its share of ups and downs, good times and bad, successes and failures, happiness and heartbreak. Because that’s just life. That’s how it works. Worrying yourself to exhaustion through gritted teeth and sheer determination to somehow create a better year for yourself… well, it’s just not worth it. God’s got it under control. Nothing we do or say is going to change the future. We just have to trust that He’ll make all things work together for our good.

I look back at my life the past few years and compared to other people, my life thus far has been a roller coaster. I’ve been through more changes in my measly 30 years than many people experience their lifetime. I feel like I’ve lived 5 or 6 different lives instead of just the one. Every season has been so drastically different from the one before that sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what life was like before this present season. It’s difficult wrap my head around the fact that at one point in time, my life looked nothing like it does now. My seasons of life have differed so drastically that they look like the different lives of different people… but in reality… it’s just my life.

And you know what’s funny? I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Most people have the one life. They do the thing that leads to the next thing that leads to the next thing that leads to the next thing until they look back at their life and they discover they’ve forged a neat little trail of experiences that fit perfectly into “their plan”. My experiences have never fit into my plan. Instead, my life has been a series of dead ends and detours and round-abouts and endless road construction. I’m honestly not completely sure how I got from Point A to Point B, and I haven’t a clue what lies ahead at Point C.

But really… How exciting is that?!

I would hate to have a boring, scripted life. I never wanted an ordinary life. I used to pray for God to give me a “Life Less Ordinary”. And you know what? He has. Every heartbreak, every disaster, every situation I thought I wouldn’t or couldn’t recover from has made me into the person I am now and brought me to a place where I never thought I’d be. Every roadblock and dead end and detour has resulted in a mixed up yet gloriously beautiful road map that simply glorifies God and testifies to His goodness. That’s what God does when you let Him take over. When you give up on your perfectly scripted plan and give into His… it ends up being a messy, wonderful, exciting ride that just gets better with every failure and every triumph.

So, bring on 2018 with all its messiness. I’m thrilled to bits to see what He’s going to with this new year.

Nowhere to sit

Remember that time in junior high when you were looking for a place to sit in the lunch room, and the people you normally sat with were all away at band camp or on a field trip or home sick or you just didn’t have any friends and you genuinely couldn’t find any place to sit because you just didn’t belong?

That actually happened to me at my Mom’s funeral.

I had just gotten my cake and coffee… (Which is truly weird that the local grocery store provided complimentary “refreshments” in the form of cake at a funeral. What is that? Cakes are usually congratulatory things. What is the take away from a cake at a funeral?

Congratulations on your achievement!

Way to go!

Best wishes!

You did it!

Weird, right?)

ANYWAY, I digress. I had just gotten my cake and coffee and I looked out over the church social hall and…

I had nowhere to sit.

I couldn’t sit with those people. They had their group.

I couldn’t sit with these people. They had a group too.

Those people… sure… but… that would just be uncomfortable.

In a sea of family members, friends and acquaintances, I genuinely had nowhere to sit.

Typically, I would have sat with my husband or my mom.

And one had taken off with a married mother of three and the other was lying in a casket upstairs so…

What now?

I remember I froze. And I almost dropped my cake and my coffee and took off running.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I awkwardly wandered over to where my eldest sister and her family were sitting. I awkwardly sat down. And I awkwardly said, “Can I sit with you guys? I don’t actually have any family here to sit with.”

And my sister grabbed my hand and said, “We’re your family and we will always be there for you.”

And as I tried to choke back the tears I remember thinking… “Sure. Until I you head back to California and I only see you once every three years.” But instead, I just said, “Thanks.”

But that cynical thought? Not so cynical anymore.

Since that funeral, I’ve seen my siblings maybe once if I’ve been lucky. Two live on opposite ends of the country. One wants to move to South America. And numbers five and six are so busy with their own families they hardly have time to feed their own children, let alone set up time to see their youngest sister.

It’s a miserable existence.

I saw no one for Easter.

I saw no one for my birthday.

Thanksgiving was a forced issue that turned into an awkward obligatory occasion that only happened because Mom had passed a mere matter of weeks prior.

A couple of people gave some half-hearted invitations for Christmas… except for the one good sister who I actually went to visit.

And now, another holiday rears its ugly head and I’m forced to answer questions from well-meaning friends and coworkers who ask, “What are you doing for the Fourth? Is your family getting together?”

And instead of being honest and telling them, “No. We don’t see each other anymore.” I just nod and smile and say, “Yep!” Because admitting the truth is just too pathetic.

How did I become the person with nowhere to sit? No one to visit? No one who cares?

I don’t mean to have a pity party, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I was thrilled when a coworker noticed a creepy stalker guy sniffing around and had a few words with him on my behalf. Seriously? I’m that overjoyed about someone caring enough about me to tell a guy to buggar off?

I need my family back. And if they’re not interested, I need a make-shift family. I need some people who actually care. I need more than my cat.

Because I genuinely have nowhere to sit.

 

 

 

But, I don’t wanna be Jennifer Aniston!

You guys…

I just remembered why I hate the 23rd of June.

This was the day the ass hat left.

2 years ago.

2 FREAKIN’ YEARS AGO.

How is it possible that it’s been two years already?

I think this is where I’m supposed to take stock of my life and compare how much better off I am now than I was then.

But I can’t. Even if it is true, I can’t help feeling like a bit of a failure. If the *bleep!* (c’mon kids, let’s keep it clean) hadn’t hit the fan, I’d have a house, a dog, a KID, and some semblance of a happy marriage.

Or not.

Maybe if the *bleep!* hadn’t hit the fan, I’d still be living in the same apartment, tripping over Legos and dealing with harrible in-laws without a dog, OR a kid, just biding my time until sweet death took one or the other of us.

Who knows?

But I totally wish I knew.

I mean, if I’m being honest about comparing my life then and my life now? Well, there’s no comparison. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have a job that I’m not only THRILLED with but thriving in. My faith is stronger and deeper than ever before. I’ve finally figured out who I am and what I like and what I stand for. I’m not afraid of things anymore. And I feel happy in my own skin.

And yet…

There are some days where I can’t seem to see beyond the things I don’t have anymore. I mean, I’m 32, you guys. I should have a husband. I should have a house. I should have kids. And I was totally on the fast track for those things when…

You know. The *bleep!* hit.

I’m sorry… give me a minute.

*Deep breath*

Okay. It’s all good.

I guess what I’m saying is…

I don’t wanna be Jennifer Aniston!

Why can’t I be Rita Wilson?

Or Sarah Michelle Gellar?

Or Faith Hill?

WHY JENNIFER ANISTON, DAMMIT?!

I DON’T WANNA BE JENNIFER ANISTON!

Even if Jennifer Aniston DOES get Justin Theroux in the end, that doesn’t make up for-

Oh.

Wait.

That totally makes up for everything.

Dammit! Where is my Justin Theroux?!?!

 

 

 

S’napping.

Seriously, you guys. Is there anything better than s’napping?

And by s’napping, I mean, “summertime napping”.

I’ve been s’napping nearly everyday.

Usually during that mid-afternoon lull where you’ve finished errands and daily chores, there’s no justification for starting a Netflix marathon this early in the day, and quite frankly, if you spend anymore time reading, trolling Pinterest or stalking people on Facebook, you’re going to flat-out off yourself. THAT, my friends, means it’s prime time for a s’nap. (For people who work during the summer, this is that drowsy point in the afternoon right after lunch, right before your 15th cup of coffee. Primetime for s’naps.)

The problem with s’naps is that once you get into the habit, it’s hopelessly hard to break. Because they feel SO GOOD. I never knew how much I could enjoy taking a nap WHENEVER THE HECK I WANT. And most of the time, after I wake up, I don’t even feel guilty. Because it’s SUMMER. And I’m a TEACHER. What else am I going to spend my time doing? I mean, besides…

  • Catching up on reading
  • Working a summer job for extra income instead of whining about how poor I am
  • People-watching at Starbucks
  • Reorganizing my life
  • Redecorating my apartment
  • Gardening
  • Golfing, hiking, playing tennis or getting any kind of exercise
  • Travelling
  • Learning a new skill
  • Mapping out my curriculum for next year
  • Planning and putting together my classroom for next year
  • DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE

You know… all those things that pretentious over-achievers do. And I’m nothing if not an unpretentious under-achiever.

Now before you leave a whole slew of comments about how I SHOULD be spending my time instead of s’napping, let me clarify. This is my first summer off since starting my teaching career. All the prior summers off were spent taking graduate courses or relocating for new jobs. I’ve never had a summer where I could actually… HAVE A SUMMER. So, don’t be getting all up on your high horse with your, “Annie… you’re being slothful. You need to go to confession.”

OOH! Confession! That actually sounds like fun. I should try that out sometime. Play a little game of, “See which priest can recognize my voice the fastest.”

Oh, Annie. You irreverent, sacrilegious boob. Go take a s’nap.