It's been just over a year since one of the worst mistakes of my life began. Thankfully, it's also been about six months since it finally ended. I can dwell on the "if only I had known"s but that wouldn't change the facts. I ended up in a toxic relationship. I allowed that person to affect multiple areas of my life which they really had no business interfering with. I am dealing with the results. While there is still a long way to go, I am making progress. More and more days I make it through Mass without thinking about the fact that I'm wearing pants or worrying if my shirt is cut lower than "two finger-widths below the pit of the throat" OR snarkily wearing a shirt precisely because it's cut lower than that (I can assure you that if anyone EVER tries to admonish me about those blasted two fingers again I will tell them exactly what they can do with them). My medicine doesn't get a second thought . . . well, except for needing to talk to my doctor about upping the dosage or finding something else because after almost weaning all the way off of them in the fall they aren't enough anymore. Even knowing that there was a chance Mass would be a TLM, I still went to St. Pete's on Sunday, admittedly telling myself over and over "even if it's TLM, it's still Jesus' Mass and no one else's. I don't go on the guy's blog or check facebook. I haven't even been on Catholic Match since December.
But Valentine's Day was nice. I was walking across the FUS campus to daily Mass when I happened to be behind a student smoking a cigarette. I don't smoke. Never have, never will. And I'm not a big fan of smoking in general. But as I smelled that smoke for a few seconds I realized again just how free I really am. No one can yell at me because I'm "endangering my future children" because the five seconds of second-hand smoke exposure will harm my eggs thereby resulting in deformed descendents (I wish I was kidding). No one can embarrass me by loudly exclaiming "EWWWW SMOKE!!!" and pulling me to the other side of the street (again, I wish I wasn't speaking from personal experience). No, I am free. And in that moment of smoke, my freedom was clear as day.
The second moment of Valentine's Day was at the end of church choir practice. I had jokingly told the choir director last week that if I "had to be at choir practice on Valentine's Day we had better be singing more of the Tallis and Palestrina and less of the rest" although, the music we're working on now is nothing compared to some pieces we've done (in the words of my sister "kum ba ya by any other name is still kum ba ya"). We had gotten to nearly the end of rehearsal and neither of those pieces had shown themselves. Finally, as the last piece, our director passed out Sicut Cervus by Palestrina. We sang through and I realized (not for the first time) that my love of this piece of music is one of the few things that I shared with my ex with which I do not have negative associations. I think that comes from the fact that I had loved it long before he was part of my life and I will continue loving it now that he is no longer part of my life. In any case, I'm very glad that I didn't "lose" it in the mess.
Finally, Sunday was World Marriage Day. As I mentioned, I went to a different parish and so, got to hear a homily by a priest I rarely see. There were a set of very interesting coincidences about this particular Mass.
- The priest preached about marriage (OK, not surprising as it was World Marriage Day)
- The girls sitting in front of me thought that was funny.
- I'm pretty sure their amusement was due to the fact that they are two of his granddaughters.
- Yes, Mass on World Marriage Day was celebrated by a married priest (he used to be Episcopal)
- Fr. mentioned at the end of Mass that it was also the 29th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
While that collection of coincidences was fascinating, my favorite thing was something he mentioned in his homily. He told the story of a couple who were meeting with their pastor for the last pre-marriage counseling session before the wedding. The priest told the couple that everything they had learned about the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage could be summed up in one sentence: "And the two shall become one." The groom-to-be nervously asked "which one?"
On hearing this story, the congregation appropriately chuckled and then Fr. continued, reassuring us, as the other priest had the groom-to-be, that this did not mean that the couple would become totally absorbed into one indistinguishable entity. According to Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, they do become one in a mystical sense while retaining their individual personalities and the like. Although I have no plans to get married, this was such a relief to hear articulated. At one point in our relationship, I had been chatting with my ex about the idea of women keeping their last names when they married (yet another red flag -- we should NOT have been talking about marriage a few months into a friendship when we hadn't even spoken to each other let alone met). He vehemently opposed the idea saying that by keeping her maiden name a woman was "saying the marriage meant nothing more than a partnership and not a true two become one union." I tried to articulate what I believed (basically what Fr. described on Sunday) but he still disagreed. The only concession that I managed to get out of him was "well I suppose you still have individual souls." God help the woman (if she exists) that marries him.
As I'm sure as been evident by this post, I'm still a mess. Healing from this relationship is going to take plenty of time and the other circumstances which have surrounded it don't make it any easier. I'm trying not to be bitter and, in some strange way, the fact that I'm done with relationships has helped. I pity my ex as he has many issues (some of which he can help and others not as much) which may prevent him from having the type of relationship he wants. All I know is how thankful I am to be out of the situation.