Things I wrote there have really haunted me. I have really been praying over it a lot. This weekend I was so bugged by, the need to figure it out so urgent, that I decided to go on retreat here in my home and really pray pray pray. I even fasted this morning, which I should not do as a diabetic. By retreat I mean, except for the daily phone call to check on mom who is unwell, I spoke to no one, did not leave my home except for some air and exercise, no TV, no radio, no email.
I am not at all pleased with the results of this retreat. I don't show up well at all and there is the crux of the matter. What I learned is that maybe 3/4 of my cry for accountability is not a desire for accountability but a desire for attention. I am selfish, ego-centric entirely wound up in myself. To some extent, this has been a survival tool in a toxic family and a way to cope with years and years and years of severe depressive episodes.
Since I have been deemed disabled, I have had the luxury and grace of the time to pay attention to myself, my thoughts, words, deeds, motivations, reactions etc... all important things in order to allow me to learn to manage my symptoms. This has taken me years. But the last 2 years I have been depressed, but not in depressive episodes. There is an important distinction. I have experienced depression as a normal reaction to events in my life. What did not happen was weeks and months of utter blackness.
For instance on August 29, 1994, my beloved cat, ChinChin, died. We were together for 16 years. I went into a depression so deep that by 2/17/95 I had lost 2 jobs and become ill with pneumonia for 5 months, which is the origin of my present day pulmonary problems. The State of California deemed me disabled as of that day as did Social Security a year later. That depressive episode lasted for years.
This year on October 2, 2005, my beloved cat, Ezra died. We were together for 19 years. Yes, I did get sick in December and was ill throughout march with pulmonary stuff, but I am not in a depression. In May a dear friend of many years died and 2 weeks ago another very dear friend died a hideous and horrible death. I am sad that they have died, but not depressed. I cannot tell you how huge a difference that is.
Therefore, I do not need the coping strategies that I needed in the past. In fact, they are holding me back, interfering and getting me the wrong results.
You may be wondering... what is the point... would you get to the point already.
The point is that I have been using these same old coping skills and applying them to my scrutiny of my novitiate. At some point they cease to be coping mechanisms and become self-centeredness. Or to use a grand old word we don;t see too much of these days, I am guilty of over-scrupulosity. So much so, I wonder the Holy Spirit has ever found any room in me in which to do Her work.
I am very accustomed to being told I am wrong. Grew up with it daily, encountered it at school all the time from my peers and being wrong is a pretty consistent message I have been accustomed to my entire life. None of you have been telling me I have been doing anything wrong. This has translated to me that I am not being held accountable, that you are not paying attention to me to tell me I am going at it wrongly. I have got to let go of this feeling that life is incomplete unless I am being told I am in the wrong somehow. I am so accustomed to being found in the wrong that I think I even create situations where I will be told it, just to end the tension and get on familiar, if miserable ground. I expect it from everyone, from God, you guys (used as gender inclusive term) and you aren't giving it to me. I think I have been craving negative reinforcement, how sick is that.
Rather the reverse is happening. You encourage me, support me, care for me. Through the Ember Day letters, I am letting people know something about me that has been a huge secret all my life. Except for the occasional spiritual director, no one has ever known about my hidden life. I've hoarded the secret because if I told anyone, people would use it as another way to tell me I've been in the wrong. It took me years to get up the courage to approach various communities and share with them my deepest longing. By some miracle, despite the fact that most of them communicated a message that I was somehow wrong for them, I persevered.
Then I opened my big mouth and I spoke of my longing to Christie, my spiritual director and my priests and eventually my bishop and such a miracle. No one telling me I was wrong. Only a whole lot of attention telling me I was right, so to speak. Imagine the shock to my system. I've been waiting ever since, I realize, in some trepidation for one of you to burst my balloon ever since and tell me I am wrong. I even wrote an Ember Day letter trying to create a situation where you would tell me I was wrong.
You haven't done it. Not once since November 2, 2005 have you told me I am in the wrong. I have been trying to perpetuate the dynamic by trying to find the message, demand the message. I am very skilled at "acting as if" and have a high tolerance for pain, so I have perhaps camouflaged my doubts with my public persona (which I don't like very much and am whittling away at) and pretended not to be in pain, be it mental or physical ( as with this knee thing), although, I suppose the use of the walker gives it away that I am in physical pain!!!!!!
So... where does this leave us? I can only speak for myself, but I have to face the fact that I have no idea what healthy accountability looks like. Fr. Mike said something to me last Sunday at the coffeehour, I have been mulling over all along.
For the benefit of the rest of you, on his first Thursday back from GC06 and vacation, he joined my table at lunch and I pelted him with the questions that had been building up in me since GC06 and longing to ask him. He answered them and said that he would be done with GC06 on 8/6 when he would address the congregation about what happened and then he was going to concentrate on the MDG and being a priest here so he was glad to get all of my questions out of the way because he knew i wouldn't give up until I was satisfied. I puzzled over that for a while and thought I detected a "Gloriamarie, you are wrong" message and so i asked about it. he told me he had meant it as a compliment and that I did have to be aware that when I have a lot of questions, other people might not get theirs answered. I responded with a breezy (more acting as if) "When I was in 1st grade, Sr. Padua, may she RIP, also encouraged me to ask every single question i had because if i had the question, I could be sure others did to and who was going to have the courage to ask it, so i always do, not being shy.
Fr. Mike might pull his hair out at this point, but even after telling me he meant it as a compliment, I still heard a "you are wrong" there. Which got me to thinking about selfishness, which led to all the fretting and irritation that resulted in this weekend being a retreat.
So that's that. I have no idea what accountability should look like. I have to learn to live without 'you are wrong messages" and only having a dim sense that i am doing right by the absence of the negative messages.
I have been looking for accountability from people when the nature of my vocation says that it should be God. As I told Christie when she asked me what did I think God was saying to me, "It feels like God is laughing at me and telling me the answer is right under my nose. if i would only open my eyes." Took me a while to hear the Holy Spirit, but I believe She is telling me to sink into my Rule, to let it enfold me as a featherbed wraps itself around the sleeper.