Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Truths to Set You Free...

so, my dad and i generally spend one week a year accompanying the teens from our parish on various service&justice mission trips. We've been to Mexico 3 times, as well as attended events stateside. This year is probably the last time we'll do this together, which makes me incredibly sad. But it has gotten to the point where adult lives no longer fully accommodate the carefree summer schedules of teenagers.

The spiritual experiences of these trips vary widely for me, depending on how receptive the teens are, what types of spiritual experiences there are, and how insanely exhausted i am from keeping up with teens who seem to have limitless energy and enthusiasm (the answer: i am ALWAYS insanely exhausted by them). Generally, the focus of these service trips is leading teens to Christ, something I really treasure. But, no offense to them, I'm not the target audience, so I usually just sit back, observe and support, remembering what it was like to be a teen questioning the faith.

But last week, in Greensboro, North Carolina, my experience was completely different. First off, unlike every other service trip I've done, my work that week would not be painting or plastering or mixing cement by hand. My job would be to be present to people with developmental disabilities or deteriorating mental conditions. Everyday our little group got up, headed out, and had exactly the same conversation over and over. Or we spent an hour and half doing puzzles. Which was actually amazing. And sad. And a challenge as a chaperone, to make sure everyone was engaged and focused outward. The meeting of teenagers, who have their whole lives in front of them and who may not have learned they're not invincible, and the elderly, infirm, and fragile, whose lives have encompassed so much vulnerability and pain and joy and who have lived sometimes 4 or 5 times as long as these teens - man, that was rough terrain for us all to navigate.

Thankfully, another thing that was different this year was the priest for Catholic Heart Workcamp. During our first of 5 daily masses, Fr. Jeff let us know that he was going to give us 5 universal truths that, if we would listen and really hear them would set us free. And, I mean, c'mon - we're Catholics. We love lists! So I got all psyched, thinking they'd be wisdom culled from the ages that i could spend my free time reflecting on and, like little Buddha under the lotus tree, reach my own kind of Catholic enlightment.

Umm, no. That's not what happened. This list, which you'll find below, is, without any context, a seriously depressing list. But with context, and with God's grace, it's the best, hardest news I've received in a long time. I hope Fr. Jeff doesn't mind me stealing his idea (which I think he stole from Richard Rohr, so hopefully, we're even), but it was too good not to commit to paper (or to electronic media in this case).

After we received each truth, and then went out to do service, I began to see exactly how these truths manifest themselves, and started wanting to find them, just so I could work on my reactions and pray for guidance in them. Also, these truths offered a helpful, spiritual lens on service. These five truths, Fr. Jeff pointed out, are already known to the downtrodden, the broken, and the fragile in our society. So we can turn to them for guidance on how to accept these truths and move towards grace, which is part of what makes the poor so much better than the rich, and the weak so much better than the strong...

Five Spiritual Truths

  1. Life is Hard - now, we all say we know this. But, if you reflect on how our society is set up, you realize how much the message really is "Life is hard because..." Because you don't own a good car. Because you're not rich enough. Because you're ugly or stupid or lazy, or, worse yet, because other people are stupid or lazy or taking advantage of you and you deserve better. But, there really is no "because". Life is hard. Period. That's the human experience. Sometimes it's our fault it's hard, sometimes it's outside us. But there's nobody out there whose life is bumpless and serene. If we accepted this (and I look mostly at myself when I say this), it would revolutionize service. Because, I don't have to fix you. Your life is hard. My life is hard. What I can do is walk with you, listen to why your life is hard and tell you a little about my life. And if I have something you need, and I offer it, and it temporarily makes life less hard, awesome! If not, we've connected in our broken, hard, lives and that's always valuable.

  2. You Are Not Important - okay, now here's where the wheels started coming off the wagon for Fr. Jeff in the beginning. Because absolutely nobody wants to hear this. Thankfully, almost right away he clarified it. We're all infinitely valuable. We're just not important. Because, in true philosophical logic, if something is important, it always holds that something else must be unimportant. So, by trying to make ourselves important, we necessarily have to denigrate someone else, or promote ourselves above them, or make them feel they've just missed the mark. Much as I loved all the teens there, it's really easy to see how the issue of being important plays out in interactions between cliques of friends. And it's easy to see how it plays out for me, which is the most embarrassing part. See, the teens from our church see their youth minister every Sunday (and then some). They see my dad every Sunday, and many have known him (and my momma) since they were small. But, they only know me (mainly) through my sister, since I chose, about 5 years ago, to get my spiritual needs filled elsewhere. Which I don't regret, but does lead to little Gollum moments when I realize that I may be the least important chaperone. I mean, the teens were all incredibly nice, including me in their reindeer games, and all that. But in terms of really connecting, it was much harder than it seemed for Monica or my pops. Which caused me to note my reaction and what I saw was kinda horrifying - I'd made it about me, not about helping the teens. Ostensibly the point is that the teens find Christ through service. But I found that I really wanted, in some way, for the teens to find Christ through my service - to them and to the community. I wanted to be important. Thankfully, once I named that, I was able to struggle with it. And once I was able to struggle with it, painfully and never truly successfully, I was able to pray my way out of it a little. And I was able to realize that, on our own, we're all valuable without trying to promote ourselves or to cut others down...

  3. Your Life Is Not About You - Fr. Jeff took pains to explain this point clearly, since there was so much confusion about the earlier point. He said that one of the dangers of raising children these days is that parents give up everything for their children, which leads to children who think they are the center of everything. But, in fact, we all have to live on this increasingly crowded planet together, and it does nothing good for us, or those around us, if we pretend that we're the only ones who exist or have needs or are "important." Selflessness is necessary for us all to get along in the world. For example, every day at the elder day center, at exactly 11 o' clock, the whole group of us walked from the room where we hung out down to the lobby to sing songs and wait for lunch. And, as I observed this ritual which every person there had done at least 200 times in a given year, I noticed how two of the folks with the most profound impediments, who could not communicate at all, always took pains to grab the wheelchair of the person next to them and wheel them down. Watching fragile people confidently and kindly taking care of other fragile people is almost too much to think about, even now. We don't often see fragility being celebrated in our media consumption or advertising culture, so to be confronted by a person who can't speak caring for one who can't walk - well, it makes the phrase "The blind leading the blind" seem less nonsensical and more tender. Because the folks at the elder center took care of each other in a matter-of-fact, common place way, because they seemed to get it - their time there wasn't about them. Other people were worse off, and it fell to them to take care of others, and they did it with a joy and kindness that often eludes those of us who take care to hide our fragilities.

  4. You're Not In Control - This point was aptly illustrated during the week because we almost never had a day where one of our buses didn't break down on the way back from picking up teens. Teens who were working far away from the camp site and, more importantly, far away from a refreshing shower. These kids would usually also miss dinner and part of the program, and many of them were doing hard manual labor and were so anxious to get back. It was such a bummer, but also an unfortunately clear example of Fr. Jeff's 4th point. What would complaining have gotten those kids? Not closer to home. Not on a bus that was fixed. They just had to wait, since they clearly weren't in control. And, amazingly, most of them remained in good spirits and found ways to pass the time. In fact, one day, a priest from one of the youth groups took the time while they were waiting to hear confession, right there in the horse park. That's a pretty amazing example of what happens when we surrender our need to be in control and make the best out of the situation we're in.

  5. You're Going To Die - This one I had a little sneak preview of, but was a good reminder anyways. You will die. People you love will die. But, think of all the ways we try to outrun it, or amass power and prestige as some sort of way to ward it off. It took my mom dying for me to realize, truly, that I only get this one life but I spent so much time being afraid. When I looked at the folks we worked with during our week in North Carolina, it seemed most of them had suffered some sort of deep loss. Some had lost spouses or children. Some had their very livelihoods taken by strokes or early-onset dementia. And, not to be prosaic, but I think anyone who's experienced that kind of loss knows a little more about mortality than the rest of us. And even some our teens knew that type of loss and tended, as a consequence, to be fearless and tough and hurt. But even those teens who have never experienced loss will, eventually. We all know nobody escapes it, and no one can fend it away from anyone else, much as we'd like to. So, the best bet is to do what seems least helpful - to live through it well. The folks at the elder center often could not remember that we'd come. But they remembered most of the Baptist Hymnal. One man whom we saw everyday, was legally blind and deaf. He didn't seem to make a lot of sense when he talked but the two things that made him come alive were Jesus Christ and checkers. Checkers with him was ruthless - he was sort of a cheat and definitely a smack talker. Given all that we'd seen of him, none of us were prepared for him to say grace. He recited all of Psalm 23 and led us in every verse of Amazing Grace pretty much everyday. He knew loads of other songs, too, and all of them were about Jesus. Specifically, they were about the promise of resurrection and about life eternal, even for wretches like us. So, the old rugged cross and it's amazing grace somehow cut through the fog of confusion which settled on him most of the time. Maybe it was through rote memorization, but I think it's more likely that it was because those songs and psalms hold a promise that is especially sweet to those folks who have already accepted the truth of their own mortality.

It's been over a week since we got back and I still find myself reflecting on these truths. It's definitely the best gift I've received from any mission trip I've been on. Knowing that I will be leaving my spiritual support system so soon, I've wondered how I'll stay connected without my mission trip experiences, or my spiritual community, or seeing my dad and sister sing in the Lifeteen band. But I've been able to find deep spirituality in North Carolina, so chances are, with Chrissy along for the ride and five new spiritual truths in my mind, I think it's gonna go pretty well...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

the promise and power of grace...

so, this weekend, i was chatting with my friend Alex and he gently chastised me about my use of the term evangelical. i tend to use it in a negative context, since i associate it with yelling. but more specifically (or more broadly, I guess) it's an ability to channel the Holy Spirit into your words and actions. which is what just happened to me on a plane.

i promise i will update everyone on how the trip went (complete with pictures of our potential new place and rave reviews of my new apartment mate, Chrissy, who is GLORIOUS!) But, more for myself than anyone else, I want to write down what happened to me.

I borrowed Eboo Patel's Acts of Faith ( for more info on Eboo Patel and the Interfaith Youth Core, visit their homepage) and began reading it on the plane. At the same time, I was listening to K'Naan sing "I Was Stabbed by Satan" and then I got to a point where the song and the book coincided in their message. And the message was this - there are so many forces arrayed against the youth in our world. Some of them are overtly violent (Al Qaeda, the KKK, gangs, child soldiers) and some of them are insidiously violent (overt consumer culture, our violent language, cliques). But Eboo Patel talked about how utterly normal the Muslim youth responsible for the London bombings had been. They grew up admiring Western culture, did well in school, etc. But they got taken in by a rabidly anti-Western cleric who knew how to target their struggles and to slowly pull them into this movement by pretending to offer a solution to the angst and alienation of the teen years, especially for teens who do not fit in. Eboo Patel's point is that we've failed youth, because there is always someone out there who makes their money or their ideological point with youth that are ignored other places. Patel says "Every time we see a teenager kill in the name of God, we should see a pair of shadowy hands behind him, teaching him how to build the bomb or point the gun, giving him a manual with the prayers to say while committing the murder, steadying his shaking hands with callused, steely ones..."

K'Naan (a Somalian rapper) wrote the song "I Was Stabbed By Satan" about the folklore idea that children cry when they are born because Satan pricks them to bring pain and welcome them to the world. He expands on this idea by listing the ways that children and teens in Somalia and in the US are subjected to violent systems and often face few positive choices for their lives.

So, anyways, I was all of sudden flooded by grace and a vision. I am called to work with teens on issues of violence, oppression, and faith. Which is weird, since I don't know a lot about any of those things right now :) But the idea of doing that for the rest of my life, knowing there will be struggles, knowing that I will fail perhaps more than I succeed, knowing that it's not a Hollywood movie and many teens live lives that will absolutely break my heart with no recourse for action - it all melted away and my heart was filled with God's love and certitude. It was so overwhelming - I felt my momma's approval and my Savior's and a kind of liveliness - that I started crying. Did I mention I was on a very, very full plane? Cuz I was...I may not be the most enjoyable seatmate.

I know I will go through periods where I will question what I felt and what I know about my vocation. Which is why I raced home to write this down. Because I want to be able to remember this. And I want to be able to say to people who might question it that I finally believe in a personal Jesus who cares for me and has a plan for my life. And, frankly, I'm sick of being ridiculed for being optimistic and hopeful. I think irony and detachment are dreadful things (though I'm still relatively sarcastic) and I know that it will strike many people I love dearly as odd, anachronistic, or outright crazy to say that on the plane, I felt the love of God and feel like I have a mission in my life. But I am just so not able to lie about it right now.

This may have been the first enjoyable plane ride of my life...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

i don't remember writing these at all...

i love/hate going through old notebooks and finding poetry. i love the surprise of it and hate the painfulness of reliving old wounds.

poem 1 - February 15, 2009

i always miss you on the first days of early spring.
i hope it doesn't hurt you that i don't
miss you at any other time of the year -
not your birthday or mine,
not during the saddest times of the year.
i only miss you on those days immediately following winter,
when you look outside and know that life will begin anew -
that things are growing underneath the earth
and will bloom soon enough.

any psychiatrist worth their salt
would probably attribute this to
all the dead children between us
who will never see the light of day
as part of your gene pool.
There will be no children named after
our favorite inanimate objects.
no children to experience the loss of love
in exciting detail, right alongside us.
but thinking about that
doesn't make me sad at all.

i think i only grieve you in the spring
because the cold sunny days
give a limit to my grief.
you can only be a little melancholy
0n the only sunny day
during a week of rain.
and i don't want to grieve you that much -
just enough.

just enough to acknowledge that i loved you -
not enough to unpack how wrong that love was
or how poorly that love played out.
i want to miss you enough to get misty
and then to pull myself back together
and then to wish you well,
finally, wherever you are.

This Is Not a Story About Hope - February 15, 2009
The last time I saw her, she looked at me,
confusion crowding in around the edges, and said,
"I can't remember what I can't remember anymore."
And you can see the clockwork slow down, imperceptibly.
Her pains stay around longer than they should.
This is not a story about hope.

The last time I saw her,
she said that now her yesterdays
are more vivid than her tomorrows
and today loses itself in a sea of fog
as soon as it comes around.
This is not a story about hope.

This is a story of who we become
when all we have are stories,
when we live lives in circular time.
We lost the ones we love yesterday
and we will lose them all over again

This is a story about the hopeless cruelty of age.
This is a story about being lost in the massive fabric
of your own life.
But, somehow, whenever I see her,
she's still happy
and she still pours her love into coffee cups
and soup bowls
and cookie jars.
She's still proud of us for the things she remembers
and she's sure she would have been proud
of those things she's forgotten.
And she's secure in our love - a love that is constant
and somehow unforgettable.

Perhaps this is a story about hope, after all.


So, tomorrow I will lay eyes on my new home for the very first time. The idea that I am moving to a completely new city, living with a new person (hello, awesome Chrissy!), and attending a new school seems to strike some people as crazy. Chief amongst them, me.

To explain, I am in no way the brave one in my family. That title belongs to Claire, who left to do a semester in Ireland and decided to spend the year after she graduated living on an intern's salary in NYC. Or Christopher, who also spent time abroad in Ireland and moved to sunny Southern California for school (the furthest from home any of us went for undergraduate degrees).

I, on the other hand, spent three years in Montana and moved back to Portland to finish up school. I'm a homebody and I'm really, really comfortable in my hometown - it's like a second skin. Like Burnside and the Willamette divide up aspects of my own personal geography as well as this city. I totally accepted the idea that I would live, work, and love in this city. Didn't bug me at all. Anything else seemed a little scary.

Then mom died. And, after a long time of mourning and reflection, I realized that, as much as I love this city, I didn't love my job (well, I did but I didn't. Hard to explain). And that I probably wouldn't change if I just stayed in one place. So I decided to apply to graduate schools on a whim. I finally narrowed it down to Catholic University and Loyola in Chicago.

I visited CUA in February. I was already in DC and figured I'd check it out. I knew right away that, as much I like DC, I couldn't ever live there and the campus seemed pretty close-minded (school newspapers and fliers in student halls are a pretty good barometer of the school, I've found.) So, I figured I'd apply to both, see where I got in, and then figure things out.

When I got into Loyola, I just decided I wouldn't try anything else. I thought I'd spend some of my vacation time checking Chicago out in the spring. But, ummm, I just never got around to it.

So, here I am, a month from moving permanently, and I'm FINALLY going to check out where I'll be spending the lion's share of my next 3 years. The city that will temporarily hold my interest, dreams, and numerous words until I am 32 years old. This is exactly equal parts terrifying and thrilling. Thrillifying, if you will. And usually, when I experience those emotions, I totally panic. Which, I have been doing a fair amount of.

But, the thing I keep forgetting is that I am in no way doing this alone. My fantastic apartment-mate Chrissy is making a really valiant attempt to keep me sane by being super-organized and really compassionate. Alex is rocking the hosting duties. And everyone everywhere is letting me know how proud they are of me, and how much they believe in my success.

Which means, at some point, I need to believe in my success and I need to be proud of myself. Which, honestly, I am coming around to. In the past 2 years, I've accomplished more and lived through more than I ever thought I possibly could. So, I'm pretty sure I can do this.

But, I'm also pretty sure that, setting my sights on this new skyline, I'm gonna be fighting a fair bit of panic. And I'm coming to accept that, too...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

a semi-independence day...

every year, for as long as i can remember, my dad's neighborhood has thrown an epic Independence Day party! The views on patriotism range in our neighborhood and no one seems to have a particularly strong attachment to the idea of the holiday. What we all do have an attachment to is a) potlucks, b) community and c) danger/exploding things. Every Friday, the neighbors have a block party and July 4th is just an extended, more chaotic, and incredibly dangerous version of the usual block party.

It's also something that's very tied, in my mind, with my momma. I remember hanging out with her on the porch when we were little kids, how she'd help us decorate our bikes for the annual bike parade. She even insisted on going down to the Wall Party when she was incredibly pregnant with my brother. She left early because she went into labor - Colin was born on July 5th, but for the longest time, he really believed that people made a special flag and set off fireworks just because he was born. Which would be pretty cool, actually...

Anyways, this year was a little more conflicting - I expect to miss mom on her birthday or Mother's Day. I don't expect to miss her on otherwise-neutral days like the 4th of July. But I did, especially last night, since it was also the first time in 1 1/2 years that I've seen my ex-boyfriend. I don't really know what brought him to my neighborhood with his new girlfriend, and I probably won't ever really understand why he'd choose to come back to an area where we spent most every Independence Day. But the significance wasn't entirely lost on me - on this Independence Day, I wasn't really as independent as I'd thought I'd be by now. I still rely on a particular brand of advice regarding relationships that I'll never have again. My momma's ability to read me and offer pointed yet sensitive advice is totally missing. I didn't have anyone to lay it all out there for - why I was missing a person that I left, why I'd hoped we could be friends, what I want from any relationship I'll be in. Absolutely no one will ever give me advice like my momma. And absolutely no one will fit into my life in exactly the same way my ex did. And that's sad, and it's also good. I don't want anyone to replace my mom - if they could, it would negate the very real fact of her uniqueness. And I don't want a replica of my last relationship - I want something sort of similar but better-fitting.

And I started thinking about this notion of independence. It's a real American value and a huge part of our identity...weak people shrugging off the fetters of colonialism. But we know we didn't do it alone. Our ancestors "independence" came about because of a very real dependence, and eventual exploitation of American, African, Asian, and European "natives". But we still believe, somehow, that there will be a situation, or a person, or an age that will be truly free, truly independent. We still believe that dependence is in some way weak, and we judge everyone, even ourselves, for not being as free as we ought.

But today, July 5th, we had a different message from the Gospel readings. Stories about weak prophets who go into unfriendly lands and, betraying the American ideal of independence and freedom, fail. Or are not guaranteed success. Or are run out of their own towns. God's ways are truly not our ways. Because today we heard Paul speak of the "thorn in his side" which he prayed be taken away. And instead of being freed from it and able to speak strongly and masterfully, God told him " "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

And then Paul sums up, in one line, the path I desire - the path that recognizes true independence as an impossibility for anyone but God, the path that holds up the downtrodden and frees the oppressed to live in community. Paul says "Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong."

So I will struggle to be independent of earthly things - jealousy, grief, anger, hostility. But I will never fool myself into thinking that I will be independent of the One Who Made Me or able to survive without human kindness, community, and a little bit of chaos. For when I am weak, I am indeed strong...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the unselfishness of selfishness (or vice versa)

yesterday, after 2 years at my job, I left. And it was all that could be implied by that statement - good, bad, hard, easy, conflicting...this job gave me the following things:
  1. A Trip to Palestine [really, i could just stop here and the job would absolutely and totally have been worth it. but i shall continue]
  2. Co-Workers Who Really, Actually Pray for You When Asked [this is equally invaluable, especially since, during my time on the job, I lost a relationship, my mother, and, occasionally, my sanity]
  3. An Excuse to Visit Unknown Parts of My State [have now seen the inside of the church in Florence, OR, the Catholic retreat center in Gold Hill, OR and innumerable parish halls and church basements. Plus more yurts than in all my previous years of living. Trust me - a yurt will ALWAYS be better than a Motel 6 for business trips!]
  4. More Money Than I've Ever Made [plus more stress than I've ever had]
  5. The Most Amusing, and Polarizing, Boss in the History of Ever [ps, Portland - she really is awesome!]
  6. An Excuse to Read Papal Encyclicals [and understand them. Sort of. Maybe. At the least the non-Latin parts.]
  7. An Ability to Believe that I Am Not Alone in Finding Justice and Charity to Be a Key Component of Catholicism
  8. The Best, and Longest, Email Exchange with a Co-Worker about Jesus, Dinosaurs, Transformers, and Life
  9. A Sense of Purpose
  10. A Renewed Belief in Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and the Goodness of People
It also gave me:
  1. A Blogging Stalker
  2. Heartbreaking Attacks on My Family Which I Was Unable to Prevent or Predict - if anyone ever asks where my deep-seated paranoia came from the past two years, this is why. And, clearly, it's going to take a long, long time to get over...
  3. Lost Weekends and Evenings and Months Where I Rarely Even Saw Claire, and We Live Together
  4. Nights Waking Up at 3am, Knowing I'd Forgotten Something
  5. A Fear of Doing the Wrong Thing
  6. A Fear of Doing the Right Thing in the Wrong Way
  7. A Pretty Consistent Sense of Failure to Accomplish Anything
  8. More Stress Than I've Ever Had [plus more money than I've ever made]
  9. The Heartbreaking Realization That Maybe I Don't Have a Place in My Own Church - I vacillated back and forth between thinking that Justice Catholics were prevailing, to realizing they were being ostracized. And back again...
  10. The Realization That, Much as I Love the Church, I Can Never Work for The Church - this is, like, the most heartbreaking thing about this job. Because I feel like I failed, I know my boss feels like she failed, and whatever I go on to do, it will always sort of frustrate me that I couldn't make it work.
One of the things I really never learned, though, and which I am paying for now, is an ability to do self-care. Which sounds weirdly like bragging, but totally isn't. When I look at the best activists/justice leaders/amazing people I met on the job, they all took great care of themselves so they could take care of other people. They knew that it was important to revive themselves every once in a while, to let go of all the cares that pile up on people who care for a living, and to find joy in the world. And I so admire that, and I believe in it, and I literally cannot do it!

Which I realized when I woke up on my first, real, do-nothing day of the vacation that I am, frankly, imposing on myself. I could have just started off right away planning for my transition to Chicago, packing, transferring lease information, etc. But I thought it would be important to just recover and heal. So I woke up an hour later than usual. And felt guilty. Even though the only thing I HAVE TO DO starts at 5:30pm. And it's a meeting, which isn't really vacation-y, but that's okay. Then, I had to literally fight the urge to clean our kitchen, which I don't want to do and which is incredibly stressful, but which just seemed like something that I needed to do right now.

So, instead, I went to Jim and Patty's and read Chesterton and hung with J Pix. And I kept thinking, "There must be SOMETHING I need to do right now." Because there always is. Except not today. And, that, I think, is my problem. I don't like to think of myself as a selfish person. But I do think that I have this need to be needed. And now, I'm the only who needs me. So, it turns out, I think, that learning to let go and not do stuff may be the most unselfish thing I can do.

But, my problem is, that my disordered thinking really has me believing that work and life should be hard. I don't really know when or how this happened, but time spent on myself always, always, always seems selfish to me. It doesn't when other people do - I applaud that! But the idea of spending my day reading and walking around and doing literally nothing seems appallingly indulgent and self-centered. This is going to be one of the biggest changes in attitude - thank God I've basically got a month in which I have nothing to do but learn to take care of myself and take charge of my own life.

Because I keep doing things for other people in this disordered way - showing up at work when I am technically done, volunteering time I don't have, meeting with everyone and their mother because I feel badly about not seeing everyone in the world ever before I leave, it won't be because I want to. It will because I want them to think I'm great and selfless and humble. Which is not selfless or humble and is definitely not great. I love people, for sure - I don't do well without a constant source of external stimulus and renting a cabin in the woods alone for a month always sounded like Hell to me. So, I'm not going to stop seeing people or being with people. But my intense focus on obligations and guilt has made me such an incredibly self-focused person, just in different ways.

So, I'm gonna take a break and read books and sing songs and cook good food and fight the urge to call myself selfish until such a time as rejoining the world can be a selfless act. But, I'm not gonna lie, today I probably will break down and do those dishes. I guess I'm still learning...