Two nights ago I had this dream. In it, Father Charlie was setting up the sanctuary for a Mass. There was lots of activity with many of us helping get it ready. There was the expectation in the air that company was coming and we were getting prepared. The place was light and open and good. My part of the activity was setting up these small, clear jars in a neat and orderly pattern. As I was doing it I asked Father Charlie what he thought and he said, "You are trying to arrange things perfectly but you aren't inviting God to be in the middle of it with you." In the dream I was amazed that he saw the inner me so clearly.
Today - in the here and now - it was no different. He saw me clearly. The inner me. Such a scary thought. I've worked so hard to keep that inner person hidden and safe. I am trying to learn what is is to recognize my feelings. Somewhere in the past I must have been able to do it. Somewhere before I learned that feelings were scary and got you in trouble and it was better to stuff them down deep. Something as simple as being asked, "How are you?" throws me into a panic. I don't know how I am. How do you tell how you are? I have often puzzled over what criteria people use in order to be able to reply "I'm good, thank you." Father Charlie told me today that each person makes up their own criteria. You're kidding? I thought. He said it could be as simple as waking up in the morning and being thankful to be alive that could be the criteria for someone deciding they were good. He said being comfortable in my own skin, regardless of what I was dealing with, could be enough to be able to say "I'm good,thank you." Typing all that makes me feel giddy with relief. I realized that I had always been equating perfection with being able to answer I was good. How much I have struggled with feeling like I am lying if I tell people I am good when obviously things are less than perfect in my life.
As my dream progressed it turned out we were preparing for the people who I used to fellowship with at my former church. Father Charlie was going to answer any questions they had about Catholicism. At one pointin the dream, a woman beside me turned to me and was so, so angry when she said, "He's answering all our questions from Scripture." So many times today Father Charlie spoke the words of Jesus to me and said, "The truth will set you free."
He said that I could leave our session and decide it was good or bad. Those were feelings. I got to change the rules that dictated my childhood. Give myself the freedom of the 600 mile distance between me and my parents and change the rules forever. I had no idea they still had such a grip on me. I told him that I lived through my childhood always looking over my shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to fall. Is it no wonder that these past few weeks I have been dealing with a chronic flare up of pain in my neck and shoulder? Pain that makes looking over my shoulder too painful to do? I told Father Charlie how I had asked the chiropractor yesterday if it was possible I was guarding my neck and if that was causing muscles to be so tight. Father Charlie looked at me and said, "How many times during our session have your feelings tried to come from your heart and connect with your head and you've let them go only so far and then pushed them down?" He put his hand at the place where his neck and head met - showing me where I let the feelings go before I shoved them down. We both knew I had continually been teary but unable to let go and just cry that cry from the depths. The gut wrenching cry that was trying to come to the surface. I told him to cry that cry in front of him was too scary and vulnerable a feeling.
I shared how I was so disapppointed to be back in that place I have so often been in my journey. "Oh," he said, "But you aren't." He talked of a mountain road and how it twists and turns. How we can look back at some point and see where we were before and say, "I was there, now I am here." He encouraged me that all I had to do was be where I was on the journey and that I am on a journey.
I hate being needy. Acknowledging it feels like failure. I told him how I had sifted through his reaction to me on Sunday at Mass when I asked if I could see him before our monthly meeting. How I was watching to see if I could discern at all that I was being a nuisance to him. Then yesterday when I phoned to make the appointment how I sifted through his words to see if there was any "rolling of the eyes, this woman is so needy" response in the inflection of his words.
Today before I left he asked me how I was. I told him I was more at peace than I had been for a long time. Then he told me that if I needed to talk before our next appointment to call him. Instant tears for me. I told him people got tired of people being needy. He just looked at me. It took a few moments before I could just say, "Yes, I will call if I need to." The truth is I get tired of feeling needy. I go through this cycle where I feel like I am falling apart. I stay there until it is too painful then I shove everything down until it tries to surface again. I am hopeful that this time I can stay in the feelings while I learn it's okay to be in my own skin and actually feel life, all of it. I do know that based on my very own criteria that today I am good. It's the truth. Isn't that too cool?
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