Monday, November 26, 2012

On catharsis and hurricanes

Last summer, Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast, plunging my home and my soul into darkness.

It was a pivotal time for me, a distinct event that opened my eyes to the miserable status quo I'd resigned myself to years before.

When the lights came back on, I emerged with a renewed desire to do things right. And, thanks be to God, that resolution continues to carry me through. Holiness is no longer something I achieve by "luck" in rare, isolated circumstances. It's a lifestyle choice.

But sometimes I stumble, as we all do. 

And a few weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy brought with her a torrent of rain and emotion.

I was down for a lot of reasons, struggling with some old sins and past hurts in a way that made me wonder if I've really grown at all. That discouragement only further weakened my soul and stoked a nasty temper to boot.

So last Saturday, I sat in the confessional with my father confessor, lamenting my actions and berating myself in the process for feeling sad and broken.

"But what are you really angry about?" he asked.

I was confused. But he told me that all of the lashing out and other sins were rooted in deeper problems that I hadn't considered. More importantly, he identified my tendency to hold things in as gasoline for my fire.

My penance that day, in addition to some Hail Marys, was to start talking about the things that trouble me. And not only did I have to talk about it, but I had to give myself over to whatever emotions I experienced. He wanted me to truly feel in order to come out the other side actually relieved, instead of resorting to quick, random outbursts.

And worst of all? He wanted me to do this specifically with my boyfriend. I fought Father on this, but he was unrelenting. "Hey, you want to share real love with him, right? Then you have to share yourself," he said. "Even the ugly parts."

That poor, poor man, I thought wryly. I already burden him so much. The last thing he needs is more of that nonsense...

But I listened. And this week I have soaked that poor man's chest with my sobs and given voice to deep worries I've only half talked about for years.

I'll be honest, it sucked. It hurt my pride. It made me feel even weaker and even more of a burden. I was angry all over again.

But at the end of that, I felt a relief that was palpable and lasting. I'm learning so much humility in this new little experiment. 

I'm learning that flushing those emotions out makes room for a clearer, calmer head, too. It's easier to make reasonable decisions when your head isn't full of junk.

And I'm learning that love, real love, is about a lot more than the moments when you're on the top of your game. 

Even with tears still dripping off my chin and snot bubbling from my nose, I am still loved. I am a hurricane in my own way, but I am still strong. I have ugly moments, but they will never take away the fact that I am a wholly beautiful woman.

What wonderful lessons to learn.