Tag Archives: Anxiety

It’s Not Really That Complicated

This morning I did what’s called an “examination of conscience.” It’s basically a self-assessment based on the ten commandments, and it’s ideally done relatively often. My family and I came back from vacation this past Sunday. I hadn’t done much of anything other than sleep, eat, and read Lord of the Rings over the course of two weeks. It was honestly a little boring, and that is my kind of vacation. Because I did nearly nothing, I began to question where I was at, spiritually.

As best I can remember, I have done an examination of conscience twice before. I’m afraid of doing it, not because I’m afraid of God’s justice, but because I don’t like looking at my sins. Before I did it this morning, I took a pen and a piece of paper, and I prayed. At the top of the paper, I wrote “I am good. I am beautiful. I belong to Jesus.” I wrote that because I thought I’d be writing a laundry list of ugly things. Then I asked Saint Faustina, who was the catalyst for the Divine Mercy devotion, to pray for me, I asked my guardian angel to be with me, and I asked the Blessed Mother to walk me through it. I also asked the Lord to be gentle with me, because He is gentle.

If you’re not Catholic, those first prayers might seem a bit weird. As Catholics we believe that we are connected to the entire Church, even after death. That means we can talk to, and even be friends with the saints in Heaven, and the righteous souls still working toward perfection in Purgatory. I won’t get into Purgatory here, partly because there’s plenty about it on the internet, and partly because it’s not the point of the post. The point is, I can ask Saint Faustina, who knows so much about God’s Mercy to pray for me, as a friend on earth might pray for me. I can ask my guardian angel to do whatever he needs to in this situation, because I don’t know exactly what that is. I can ask Mary, Jesus’ mom, and by extension, my spiritual mom (again, there’s a ton about this online) to just walk with me through it, before I even start.

A self-assessment is difficult, especially when it comes to the spiritual life. It means I have to look at what I don’t really want to see. I remember realizing for the first time that what I wanted most was to become a saint. To be a saint means attaining perfection. Part of that means looking at what I don’t want to, asking for God’s forgiveness, and letting Him help me. It means figuring out what I can do to change where I can, and mostly it means letting Him work on me, whatever that might look like. It’s hard for me to deal with the fact that He does most of the work. It’s hard to let go of control.

Recently, I realized that God’s Mercy doesn’t always look like what one might expect. I realized that often, His Mercy looks like making sure there’s a time and place for me to go to confession when I need to. I didn’t find a four-page laundry list of sins. I found four things. It’s one thing to be able to make the self-assessment and be honest with myself; it’s another to actually go to confession and state how I’ve gone wrong out loud. I know that I’m really going to Jesus, and I know that I will receive His Mercy. I just don’t like having to verbally admit that I’m not perfect.

The Lord knows that I’m as jumpy as a rabbit, but He also knows that I will go because if I’ve sinned, it means I’ve hurt my most intimate friend.  He’s been kind enough to make sure the priest I go to is gentle. Nonetheless, going to confession makes me anxious. I’m not alone in this. The last thing the priest says is “Go in peace.” The feeling after confession is amazing because sin is heavy, and it quite literally feels like that load has been taken away.

This is why not forgiving someone is such a huge problem. When we pray the “Our Father,” we ask the Lord to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our forgiveness and mercy is meant to be exactly like His–infinite. It doesn’t mean it has to be immediate because forgiveness is sometimes hard (when you’re not God), but it has to come around eventually. God wants to forgive, but we do have to ask for it because that’s part of a genuine relationship.

I should acknowledge that there are two different kinds of sins. Small (venial) sins can be forgiven simply if we pray for forgiveness, and if we really are sorry. More serious (mortal/deadly) sins are what we have to go to confession for, but sometimes it’s helpful to go to confession even for smaller stuff. An inevitable question is, “Why do Catholics have to go to confession at all?” The Church is the Body of Christ and we’re all spiritually connected. That means that stuff I do, even if it doesn’t obviously affect anyone, does have a spiritual effect on the whole Church, myself included, and because we are connected, it hurts the Lord, too.

As a member himself, the priest is, in this context, a representative of the Church, as well as a representative of Christ, through whom Jesus administers the sacraments. That means when I go to confession, I can acknowledge that I’ve hurt the Church, I’ve hurt myself spiritually, and I’ve hurt Jesus, and because God is Mercy, He can take the load from me. I still have to do some sort of penance, though, because I did make a mess in the first place. An analogy might be a brother and sister playing together get into an argument, so the sister breaks the brother’s toy. The sister then feels bad and says she’s sorry. The brother forgives her, but the toy is still broken, so the parents decide that the money to pay for a new one has to come from her allowance.

None of that is to say that I’m still guilty after confession. Penance should be natural if I really am sorry because out of love, I should make amends for causing hurt. Because we are God’s adopted children, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re a massive, crazy, dysfunctional family, which is seriously awesome. I have written a post before about “agape” love. It’s love that simply wills the good of the other. It’s the kind of love that, by nature, looks outward. We should be attentive to our inner spiritual lives in order to most effectively maintain this agape love.

Let Tomorrow Worry About Itself

Yesterday the priest celebrated his last Sunday Mass at our church. My family and I usually show up a few minutes early, and I pray while we wait. For the past several weeks, at least part of my prayer has been, “I pray for Father Daren, that he’s successful and can do your will in his next assignment, and I pray for our new priest. All the same, I don’t like this. A lot is changing, and I don’t like change, and I know you know that, but I’m saying it, anyway.” We’ve known that this change was coming for a long time, and a few weeks ago, I prayed this, and while I didn’t exactly feel a sense of peace, I felt some kind of reassurance. God didn’t say anything, but I was reminded that while everything in the world might change, He doesn’t.

God is often referred to in the psalms as “my rock,”, “my refuge,” or “my shelter.” This was an abstract idea for me for a long time, until He called me to live a holier life, and on top of that, a lot of things in our church started changing. On top of that, my cousin, who I see quite often, is moving from New Hampshire to Oregon. She’ll be working on her doctorate for the next seven years or so, which means I’ll probably only see her for Christmas for the foreseeable future.

God doesn’t change. When it seems like everything is being uprooted around me; when it feels like I’m being hit with a tornado, I’m held close by the One who can’t be uprooted. In many of the psalms, it is said that God will hide his loved ones under an Eagle’s wings. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry because God cares for them and sees everything they–we–deal with. He gives the example of how a sparrow is well cared for by God’s creation and doesn’t worry about anything. Sure, a bird of prey could eat that sparrow, or it could be met with some other calamity, but the sparrow doesn’t worry about it.

Sometimes I marvel at my parrot’s fearlessness. He’s not much bigger than a sparrow. Still, Seamus will play-fight with his human flock, and admittedly, sometimes win. I can pick him up and toss him, and he treats it like a game. Of course, if we go in the car, and he sees the hawk, he gets scared, but that is a legitimate fear. That hawk could eat him. My fear is not warranted because for all I know, the changes our church is going through could be good for our future. I’m not happy about my cousin moving, but for all I know, she could move back when she’s finished her degree. I will miss our priest, and I will miss my cousin, but they’re not gone for good. Jesus said to let tomorrow worry about itself, so that’s what I am choosing to do today.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Red

My favorite color is red. I mean bright, LOUD, obnoxious RED!!!! It’s followed by blue-purple, then black. Apparently only 10% of women in the U.S. say their favorite color is red, which I thought was cool. I was bored one day, so I looked it up. If you looked at all the stuff I own, you’d know my favorite color. My mom got me a new bag for my birthday, and it’s delightfully red, and significantly bigger than my old one. I was running out of room.

I was thinking about why my favorite color is red the other day, and I think I have an interesting reason. I’m just one of those people who have to have a reason for everything. Generally, I think, most colors have at least vague connotations for different people. To me, red exemplifies power and energy, but also love. Of course it’s also the color of blood. Interestingly, I got into an argument about this with a friend on Facebook. Red has negative connotations for him because it mostly represents blood and, therefore, death. For me, it can also represent blood, but I generally associate this with life.

At various times in my yet short life, I’ve been obsessed with things. When I was a little kid I was obsessed with dragons. When I was in middle school I was obsessed with a mythical world my friends and I created that, of course, we had to rescue from Agorauth, the evil wolf demon. When I was in high school I guess you could say, in a sense, I was obsessed with myself–or rather, the fact that I was “alone.” When I was in college, for the most part, I was obsessed with school, partly in the pursuit of Truth.

These days I think it would be accurate to say that I am obsessed with art; with creating things. I feel like my art–in whatever form it takes–has to have a reason behind it. I don’t think you can create art for art’s sake. At the very least, artists create because we want to. Even if one isn’t trying to say anything in particular, there is something of the individual in every created thing.

Most of my art isn’t visual. I mostly work with music and written pros. I don’t create in color per se, but I definitely live in color. Everyone does. How we dress, how we decorate, and what we carry with us say something about who we are. Most of my important stuff is red and, in some cases black. These color choices have musical, not just visual connotations. I grew up on 90’s punk and alternative rock. From the age of eight I wanted to be in a band, and when I started guitar lessons at fourteen, I knew I specifically wanted to be in a punk band. That didn’t happen, but it translated to how I carry myself. Red and black are very 90’s punk.

As I said, I don’t usually work in a visual medium, but about a year ago I designed a piece that, until recently I didn’t do anything with. I can paint, though not incredibly well, and it takes me forever. The design I came up with was complicated, so that was out of the question. I thought about getting a tattoo, but no one would see it, and it’s important to me. Finally I was able to create a digital version of my design and I’m having it made into a pendant. I’m rather proud of that. The design is a butterfly on top of a rose that is being held by two hands clasped together. The butterfly is supposed to be white and the rose is supposed to be red, but I’m having the whole thing made in silver.

The colors were symbolic in my original design. The white butterfly was meant to represent redemption and change. The red rose was supposed to represent life and sacrifice. The two hands together represent togetherness with God. I think the design will look nice in silver, but I still think it would have been nice to find a way to make it into something with color.

I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing. We just haven’t found a thing on Earth that doesn’t end up being not-good after a while. Everything eventually ends up being boring or unhealthy. When I was in middle school I ate pickle-and-mustard sandwiches for lunch every day. Eventually I got sick of them and, to this day, I hate pickles.

During Lent I’ve been taking a class about knowing Jesus better. Last week we learned something interesting. People tend to replace God as a priority with four basic things: power, honor, wealth, and/or pleasure. The thing is, none of these things will ultimately satisfy us. We’ll just always want more. This is definitely the plight of the artist… or at least for me. It’s never quite good enough, so I keep creating, or I keep editing. Sometimes I hit a home run and I can consider a project finished, but it isn’t often, and I throw a lot of material away. Part of it is that I’m much more careful with my novel than I am with my songwriting lately. I haven’t written a really good song in a while.

It’s hard to write a really good song about a specific person or thing. I find it’s easier to write about ideas and invent specific details, or to start with something random off the top of my head and see where it goes. Some of my best songs have been the result of what started as “mind spew.” I have a new musical project in mind. It’s an instrumental piece because it’s supposed to convey something I haven’t been able to express in words (and trust me, I’ve tried). In a sense, it’s supposed to be synesthetic. You’re supposed to feel it as you hear it.

I find I can much more effectively convey emotion through sound than any other medium, whether it’s musical sound or something else. Specifically, I’ve only really been able to convey a sense of peace through music. A lot of my visual art actually tends to be angst-ridden for some reason. My favorite color is red, and while it represents love, I never really think of it as representing peace.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

“You Need To Get Out More”

Last night my dad and I were playing video games, and he said to me, “You need to get out more. The only people you talk to are yourself and your bird.” I found that rather offensive. The reason I don’t go out more is because I live in suburbia and can’t drive. Every time I need or want to go somewhere I have to ask for a ride, and I hate inconveniencing anyone. Plus, even if I did “go out more,” I don’t even know where I would go. I don’t drink; I don’t like crowds; there’s not much in Boston that I haven’t already seen.

Later, I realized something: I am absolutely terrified of the real world. I am terrified of making a fool of myself. I am terrified of failure. I just finished writing page fifty six in my novel. I actually love how well it’s going so far. There are things that need tweaking. There will always be things that need tweaking, but this is the farthest I’ve ever got in the endeavor to write a fantasy story. I’ve wanted to be a famous musician since I was a little kid, but I’ve always wanted to write a good novel, too. Last night I thought: “What am I even doing? I don’t have a paying job; I don’t know how this is going to go; I don’t even know if I really actually want to write a novel.” Sometimes I don’t.

My parents gave me a year to do whatever I want. I have to try and do something meaningful in that year. That was the one stipulation, but I can do whatever I want. The trouble is I don’t want to do anything. I literally just want to do nothing. I want to sit and enjoy the sunshine. I want to read books. I want to read the Bible cover to cover. I want to play video games. I want to waste time and not feel bad about wasting it.

My mom suggested finding a group for writers who are working on novels for the first time. I like that idea, but the truth is that even that scares me. I guess I’m more scared of people than I even realized. It’s not just that, though. I feel like I should know what I’m supposed to be doing by now. I feel like I should have a clear path. My brother knows he wants to be a doctor. He has at least the next ten years of his life planned out. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. People at school would say that they felt “called” to do X or Y, but I feel like I’m just floundering. I don’t know what I’m “meant” to do, if anything.

I still don’t, but what I realized is that I have to do something. I have to choose a path and stick to it, so I’m going to finish my book. I may not feel like I’m going anywhere with it sometimes, but I have to finish it. I can’t stop now that I’ve got so far. I think it’s a good story, and I’m proud of what I’ve written so far. I just have to remind myself, when I don’t feel like it’s going anywhere, that the sooner I finish, the sooner I can get it published and maybe make some money off of it… or if it flops, the sooner I can do something else. The other thing I reminded myself of last night is that things happen slower than I think they will, or want them to, sometimes, and I don’t know how most things will end. I have to be patient, and I have to trust God, because I may not know what I’m doing, but he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s not just going to leave me floundering. I’ll figure it out. I’m going to finish my book, and I’m going to go outside of my comfort zone and find a writing group.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Email Miracle

Just because I’m in school again does not mean that music is getting left in the dust. Something amazing happened 3 days ago. I had sent an email blast towards the end of my vacation to all the places that would potentially let me make noise in their venue for a night. On August 30th, I heard back from my favorite; the Gulu Gulu Cafe in Salem Massachusetts. I was told that I had 4 hours to work with from 8:00 to midnight and that if I didn’t want to play that long I needed to find openers. Just a few minutes ago I heard back from my friend Nate. He and a girl I met at an open mic named Amanda have both agreed to open for me.

We’ll each get to play for about an hour and 20 minutes, which is super cool. Now all I need to do is come up with a set list that’s long enough and awesome enough to get the audience to like me for that long. I’ll be playing most of my originals, including the ones that won’t be going on my first album and a few covers including some from my friend Ken’s old band since he’ll be accompanying me on lead guitar. You can check them out on iTunes; just look up Meet The Day.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get this gig. I’ve been either rejected or ignored so many times that I was just scratching my head and wondering what to do next or instead. Getting this gig and getting opening acts was so easy that I really do think this some kind of gift or push in the right direction; maybe even just assurance that this is what I should be doing. Sometimes I come across opportunities like this seemingly by accident, and I’m sure that the Lord has something to do with it. It doesn’t always have to do with music either; I think he probably had something to do with finding the right school or getting runner up in a state wide poetry contest that I submitted song lyrics to.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!