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.