Some news you’ve probably already heard

It’s no secret anymore, folks, and after an unexpected round of some very — er — public publicity last week*, I guess there’s no point in holding back from my own little blog.

I have some news. Granted, I’m pretty sure most of you know it already, but just to make sure we do things properly, I’m writing it here.

It looks like I’ve only got a few months left in the gap. In August I will be moving down south to enter the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN. Okay, so really, I guess I’m leaving one gap for another (postulancy and the novitiate are definitely not “settled” yet), but this gap has a clearly delineated trajectory and such a clear, beautiful end.

Still, I used to think that when I finally wrote The Post announcing my departure from the gap, I’d feel nothing but joy. I’d be washing my hands forever of the tedium of looking forward, and I’d rush off to greet the future with wide open arms. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of joy in making this announcement, but it’s tinged with bittersweet. As one of my friends said to me this weekend, “I won’t say my joy is unmixed.” It’s been a good six years in the gap, and almost without realizing it I’ve put down roots, made lasting connections, and given out little pieces of my heart here and there that are already starting to smart something dreadful when I look ahead to the summer.

It’s going to be very hard to leave so many good things behind. Friends and family, don’t think I’m not going to miss you awfully. I’ve been hesitant to say anything on the blog because I don’t really want to think about it, and I certainly don’t want to talk about it. At the same time, I’m so grateful to know that leaving will hurt. It means I’m not running away from anything, which means I can honestly say I’m making this choice in freedom. God is very good to me.

That said, I’ve got a few months left here still, in that funny limbo between my normal, working world life and the postulancy. I’ll be working my regular job through June, then spending a month with my family before entrance. I’ll also be working my way through my “bucket list” of things to do before I go, and dragging my friends along with me on my adventures, including but not limited to a day trip to Harpers Ferry, brunch at the Kennedy Center and a trip to the Baltimore aquarium. During these next few months, I do intend to keep up with this blog, so do check back — more posts to come, I promise.

-Mabel

 

*Life lesson from a girl who works in PR: if you don’t want your story to go public, maybe don’t agree to talk to reporters, mm-kay? Sometimes I wonder how I survive from day to day, with the lack of brains I show sometimes.

Time to grow up

You know how sometimes you’re having a complete meltdown over something that seems absolutely critical to your future health, happiness, and overall well-being? There you are, staring out the living room window at the cold, dreary rain, thinking dark thoughts about the future without whatever it is and wondering how you will ever survive. You’re in the depths of despair, and you glower in black fury at your roommates when they walk innocently by and wish you “good morning.” Nothing interests you. Food loses its flavor. Life — what meaning does it hold now that That Thing is about to be taken from you?

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So I was having one of those days on Sunday. And I’m both relieved and embarrassed to admit that the answer to my woes was incredibly simple. It went something like this: Grow up.

I’m realizing with increasing regularity that I spend a whole lot of time thinking about how the events and people in my life affect me. Those that affect me most get the most attention. Those that affect me less can sit and simmer on the back burner, if I give them even that much thought. Why worry about other people’s lives, seems to be my semi-conscious mantra, when I have my own to worry about?

But when someone else’s life has a noticeable impact on mine, theI stand up and take notice.

This weekend a blip in someone else’s plans threw my own plans into a tailspin, and instead of reacting in genuine concern for that person, I had a fit because I wanted things to go my way. Granted, this other person would probably like for things to go my way, too. I’m not being completely selfish. But it wasn’t until the blip in their plans unsettled mine that I took this person’s long-standing intention to prayer with real fervor. Heretofore I’ve been comfortable with the more passive, “Please bless so-and-so in such-and-such situation.” But now my own dearest wishes were on the line, and my prayers were much more focused.

As a result, I’ve been taking a much deeper look at all my intentions and realizing how selfish I am…yes, even in prayer. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and it’s even pretty easy to tack names on to my daily rosary or Mass. But to really carry the people I care about to Our Lord and present all their needs to him and beg him to look on them in love and satisfy their deepest needs–needs that have nothing to do with me? I won’t say that’s hard, but it’s hard to remember. It’s hard to pull my selfish head out of my own goings-on long enough to focus on The Other.

It’s just so dratted easy to be selfish. And quite frankly, it’s childish. The child can center the whole universe on her own measly wants and needs, but the adult is supposed to know better. Not just outwardly — it’s one thing to volunteer at the homeless shelter, give your seat to old ladies on the metro, or let the person with two items get ahead of you in line at the grocery store. Those are good things, but they’re also external and therefore easier to see. What goes on inside is just as important.

Real Christian charity isn’t just an outside thing. It should be all-pervasive, all inclusive, and deeply selfless. I should have genuine concern for the people in my life in everything, not just the areas that impact me directly. So I was grateful, albeit a bit embarrassed, when a wise person listened to my tearful tale and chuckled and said, “You’ll be fine. But you should be worried about that other person.”

Ah, perspective. It’s still not all about me. Maybe some day I’ll learn that lesson for keeps.

- Mabel

Profile in the Gap: Marie Kelly

Profiles in the Gap

Marie Kelly

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Marie Kelly is an accountant who lives and works in Northern Virginia.

Did you expect this time of singleness?

For me, “expect” is the wrong word. Since I have never been technically part of a couple, I have been in a season of singleness for a long time that I did think would end earlier. I am glad it isn’t over quite yet, if I am honest.

When I was 7, my teacher asked her class to draw a picture of what they would like to be when they grew up. My understanding of that question was framed in a vocational reference by my parents. I only knew 3 options: marriage, single life or religious life. I thought through the 3 options for the first time ever, reasoning that marriage didn’t look fun. I knew nothing about singleness so that left only one option: I drew a picture of a nun in her Dominican habit. When the rest of my class showed off their pictures of firemen and ballerinas I realized I felt gypped! I didn’t know those were options since I understood the question differently.

In high school, my angst centered around desire for freedom and independence. I longed to make my own decisions, go where I wanted and explore the world on my own. My time as a single has afforded me those opportunities. I have grown deeply as a person these years and now have accumulated both knowledge and wisdom to share. As a teen, I hoped to avoid being “trapped” by marriage too soon. Often, this struggle seems unique to my experience.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Yes to both! I selected accounting early on for its unique match of my interests and abilities before I ever knew what accounting entailed. Although I struggled at jobs where I found little purpose in my work, I find great meaning in working for the Church as an accountant. I love being a Catholic accountant. It’s such a unique skill set I can offer in a ministry setting. Often I feel I am helping serve Christ’s physical needs through proper stewardship of donated resources. I feel my job is on the pulse of the Church, as I see the lifeblood of ministry flow through my desk. I love it.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook as a single young adult?

Faith is crucial to me. Without Christ sustaining me day in and day out, my walk would be unbearable. It is so easy to compare, become bitter, just not have a light to offer the world without Jesus. I am very at peace with where God has me today. I passed the 30 milestone and life continued. I see God’s Providential care for me each day. I know He loves me. When He needs me to serve Him in a vocation of love, He will give me the graces for that time of my life. Until then, today is enough.

Chivalry and the single girl

This blog post from James Michael Shama, founder of the New Chivalry Movement (an endeavor I applaud whole-heartedly) has been making the rounds on my Facebook feed over the past few weeks. It’s  great to see advice from one young man to another on being a gentleman. As a woman who spent most workday evenings standing on the DC metro during my four years commuting, while plenty of young, healthy men sat and stared at their phones, I’ve certainly experience firsthand that a good discussion on chivalry is long overdue, especially for my generation.

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I appreciate Mr. Shama’s work and I realize he’s speaking largely about relationships and how men ought to treat women within them. Still, as a single woman, I’d also like to remind the gentlemen of this world that chivalry is not limited to the woman you’re romantically interested in. Sure, hold the door for the girl you like and pull out your date’s chair at the table, but chivalry isn’t about scoring points with your girlfriend. It’s about honoring and respecting those more vulnerable than you, which means quite simply there’s not always something in it for you.

More than once I’ve been left in the proverbial cold while men went out of their way to impress my girlfriends with their chivalry. I’m well aware when a man is pursuing my friend, and I know just about every man in my acquaintance currently is only interested in me on the platonic level. I play the best friend role a lot, believe me, and I know how to be a third wheel.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt sometimes. As just one example among a few, several years ago a guy opened a door for my friend, then walked in after her himself and closed it on me–even though we were all walking together. I remember standing there staring at the closed door for a full minute, blinking in bewilderment. Apparently not being a romantic interest meant I wasn’t worth respecting at all. There’s not gentle way to put this: that hurt. It still hurts, in fact, even though it seems like such a small deal, and it happened so long ago.

We single women develop a thick skin to rebuffs like that. Over time we come to expect them. We twist the painful experiences into cynical jokes and snide “funny” stories so they don’t sting quite as much, but the pain of being unnoticed and unlooked-for is very real. Men, do you want to be truly chivalrous? Take the time to perform a random act of gentlemanliness for a woman you’re not romantically interested in. It shouldn’t be a romantic act (you don’t want to send the wrong signal), but just affirming her womanhood means the world — even if she’s used to being cynical and not quite sure how to take it.

AdamAndEve_Garden_Lucas_Cranach_0I often return to that scene in the Garden of Eden, when Adam awoke and saw the woman for the first time. His response was one of wonder and delight; he affirmed the woman as a woman, and that affirmation was her delight. Each of us women is that first woman, and each of us longs to be seen and affirmed, even the most cynical and thick-skinned of us. All it takes is a small act of chivalry, like holding a door or vacating a metro seat, to say, “I affirm you as a woman. Not a potential girlfriend or someone I really want to impress, but as a woman in your own right, even if I never see you again.”

In its ideal form, that’s what chivalry should be all about: affirming the value and worth of the other person, no strings attached.

–Mabel

I’m in training

Is it just DC where every activity has to be carried to an absurd level of competition? I have recently begun training (I use the word “training” with just a hint of irony, since I have no idea what I’m doing…) for a 10k race in May, and the subculture of running I’ve stumbled upon amazes and frightens me. I was always dimly aware of this culture, but I had no idea how pervasive it really is. It seems everyone is a runner, or has been a runner, or plans to be a runner in another six months.

Of course, I’m in full support of a healthy habit, don’t get me wrong. But I’m also a wee bit embarrassed. Well-meaning friends have offered to train with me, and even more well-meaning housemates are offering me tips and advice on getting into the most optimal shape. People talk about their “slow” 10k finishes of 50 minutes, and I cringe. I’m a stubborn 10-minute miler and I don’t see that changing any time between now and May 17. I’ll be lucky if I can run a full 6.2 miles without dying, so speed is not at the top of my list of priorities.

I had to use this meme.

I had to use this meme.

 

But it gets worse. I don’t even know how to look like a runner. I’m realizing there’s a whole fashion code to working out, and somehow I completely missed the trend on that one. I see them all the time here in metro DC, the svelte, spandex-clad paragons of modern virtue racing down the sidewalk in their neon-colored shoes, earbud cords flashing white against their North Face and Lululemon jackets. I’m pretty sure they don’t even sweat.

Is there nowhere in life that "poorly dressed" is an acceptable standard?

Is there nowhere in life that “poorly dressed” is an acceptable standard?

Me? I’m huffing along in year-old cross trainers, sweatpants, and oversized T-shirts from countless volunteer functions over the years, with my hair flying in just about every direction and inevitably getting in my mouth. And my nose always runs. Always. Does anyone else have a runny nose running problem, or is that just me?

In all seriousness, this endeavor is proving to be an excellent opportunity to exercise not just discipline, but humility. No, I’m not the best runner out there — far, far from it. No, I don’t really even look like much of a runner. Honestly, I’m sure most people don’t notice; and those few over-achiever females who do bother to pay attention to what I wear can pat themselves on the back for looking better in their designer workout gear. No, I’ll never be fast, and yes, I’ll probably be finishing this race last, but by golly I’ll be in better shape than I was at the beginning of the year. And when it’s all over, I can say I ran a 10k.

So…I’m calling this a win. And if you’re working towards a 40-minute 10k anytime between now and June, know that I hate you and I don’t want to talk about it.

-Mabel

Profile in the Gap: Blanca Therese Morales

Profiles in the Gap
Blanca Therese Morales
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Blanca Therese Morales is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Check out her blog! Also, be on the lookout for her to appear in EWTN’s new series, “Extraordinary Faith.” She’ll be featured with some friends in an episode later this spring. 
I had always expected to be married by my early twenties. I knew many women who had married out of college, becoming stay-at-home moms in a nice little towns. It always seemed ideal.  However, God had other plans for me.
Since marriage was not to be had, I planned a glittering career in broadcast media. I saw myself living a glamorous life in either California or New York, rubbing elbows with celebrities, attending VIP events and feeling “free” of commitment or obligations.
But God got to me before any of this took place. He let me see that a life without Him would have no meaning, no purpose and no merit. I decided to offer my future plans to him, including marriage. From that point on, every decision had to include Him. I would live my life for Him.
As I offered up a career on TV, God offered me a better career alternative: writing. I had always liked creative writing but never saw myself working as a writer. God led me to news writing and photojournalism, where I learned to hone this skill through experience.
While I had never planned this for myself, God knew what He was doing. This new path helped me to grow so much as a person, and also as a Christian.
I now see that this season of singleness was a blessing in disguise. I have been able to do things I would not have been otherwise been able to do, had I done things according to my own plan. I have had the time to travel, go on pilgrimages, have a career I enjoy, attend retreats, and to learn and grow in so many ways.
God has humored me even further, by letting me go in front of the camera as I had originally planned, except this time the opportunity came not to give myself glory, but to speak about the things that give Him glory.

Breaking the spell

Being single for so many years, I’ve gotten pretty used to being unseen. Saying I’ve gotten used to it doesn’t mean I like it, or even that I’ve accepted it, but I’ve developed a comfortable routine that takes my own invisibility for granted. 

Perhaps other singles can relate: It’s unsettling to discover you’re not as invisible as you think you are. That despite the constant, nagging sense of being unknown and unlooked-for, you’re still capable of being observed. This fact has startled me a number of times in the past year. After a good decade of feeling trapped in invisibility, I’m discovering I’m not as unseen as I thought. Some stranger will make an unexpected observation, an acquaintance will remark on a peculiar trait, a closer friend or mentor will point out some flaw, and I’m left feeling at once exposed and a little ridiculous. 

When did the invisibility I thought I hated become a crutch? I’ve railed against it for years, whether as a wallflower at school dances, as the “sweet, quiet girl” at the office, or as the introverted friend and roommate. I’ve spent many a long night after a party or social event, sitting on the edge of my bed and grappling with it into the wee hours of the morning. Yet now when the veil gets torn back for a brief moment, I recoil.  

Why can’t we move forward in life–and in love–without some lifting of the veil? I guess it all comes back to my least favorite word: vulnerability. We must be seen in order to be loved, and that means not just the pleasant parts we like to show off before company, but the ugly parts also. Yes, I have character defects, loads of them. As long as I’m invisible, though, I can keep them (mostly) to myself. To be visible  automatically requires some level of vulnerability, but it’s the only way to be loved. 

And I suspect that ultimately, it’s not entirely unpleasant. There’s relief in being seen, recognized, and even (sometimes) accepted. Maybe the genuine encounter with the other is worth the initial discomfort of exposure. Maybe love really does smash through our carefully constructed barriers and make us new and whole in spite of ourselves. 

 

Profile in the Gap: Marian Keiselbach

Profiles in the Gap

Marian Keiselbach

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Marian Keiselbach is a nurse in the Northern Virginia area.

Did I expect this time of singleness? I don’t know. Depends on when you asked me. When I was eight, I thought that the end of the world would come well before I was 21. When I was 16, I thought I had my whole entire life completely figured out and therefore how could there possibly be gap time. And when I was 21, and my life plan of 16 had fallen through and thrown me flat on my face, I thought the rest of my life would be an unending limbo of fog and unfulfilled desires. I’m 27 now and this “time of singleness” is well upon me, so there is nothing to expect or not expect, there is only the day behind me to be reflected upon and the day ahead of me to be embraced and lived. 

Married, celibately consecrated, or in the grey in between, I seek and hope that l will continue to seek to find my fulfillment in my relationship with… you guessed it…. God. I also can’t help but wonder if I really will feel more fulfilled once I’ve “minded the gap” and entered the train. I know that I’m crazy restless right now, and some of it is from the evil one driving me to despair and some of it is from the Lord urging me toward the Father, but I can’t really imagine that getting married or joining a convent will all of a sudden provide the magic cure for my restlessness. Surely the only true fulfillment will be in heaven. Maybe I will feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled in a different manner or a little less, but I think until I’m face to face with God forever I’ll always be searching. And for me this is one of the greatest consolations of this between time. My angst (I think) is not because I’m in the  wrong place or doing the wrong thing or not doing enough, its because Eve ate that damn apple and Adam stood by and watched.  

That being said, I do love my job. I’m a nurse and I thank God daily for my work. (Although last week when my patient vomited all over my new sneakers,  I believe I may have been a little less appreciative.) My work challenges me, pushes me, makes me more generous, gives me structure and discipline, and provides an outlet for my desire to serve. I’m also fulfilled by my many relationships, and I rejoice that I have time to make new friends and to love and grow with my old ones.

Finally, the life of the mind is another truly satisfying aspect of the single life. If I was married with children or caught up in the responsibilities of communal life, would I have the same luxury of free time to study my Spanish, visit the many museums in the area and of course read, read, and read some more? Probably not. So, although I think it’s about time the Lord revealed His will for grown up me, and if He would move it along a little I would be very grateful, I nevertheless daily thank Him for the wonderful and satisfying things He has given me, and I strive to continue to have as much fun as I possibly can in the meantime.

 

 

A new trajectory

I am learning through experience that “the gap” changes and takes on different aspects as you continue to journey through it. Some months it can seem like trudging along at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, while other times it’s just a footbridge over a small creek. There’s a temptation to look at our lives now and assume they’ll always be this way, that we’ve finally got it just about figured out, that the journey will only get easier from here.

Life has thrown me a number of curveballs over the past eighteen months, knocking down each of my carefully constructed paradigms, from my comfortable career, my ambitions and goals, to my narrow self-perception and even my relationships. I have been forced to admit that I don’t know what’s coming next, that I don’t have all the answers (I don’t have many answers at all), that despite all my introspection I don’t even know myself all that well. I’ve been pretty shaken up, readers, and the process of recovery and healing has taken a long time and led me into some situations I never thought I’d be part of, but it has been truly beautiful. I wouldn’t undo it for the world.

The shakeups in my career and the almost subconscious resetting of my ambitions in the last year undid a lot of things for me, but it also opened me up in ways I never expected. Readers, I’ve been grappling with whether or not to broach this on the blog, but I’m far enough in now that to say nothing would be dishonest. After years of assuming my “life in the gap” would end in marriage, I have found myself gently led down a different path. It began to dawn on me during Holy Week last year that perhaps I am being asked to consider a different life. It took a few months for things to become clear, but I have been actively discerning a vocation to the religious life since last summer. Without going into imprudent detail, I will only say I continue to be met with green lights as I walk this unexpected and beautiful path.

For now, I’m still “in the gap,” even if my trajectory is a little bit different now. This blog will go on, and hopefully at least some of my readers will stick with me. I’m excited to continue this journey, to see where my gap leads now that I have taken some first steps, and to share where I can.

-Mabel

February Profile: Mary Powers

Profiles in the Gap

Mary Powers

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Mary Powers lives and works in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of the University of Dallas.

Did you expect this time of singleness?  

I did not expect this time of singleness, though I didn’t know what I would expect either. I thought I’d marry just after college (at 25) like my mom. I  kept waiting expectantly when I was in my early twenties for “the one.” While I’m still waiting, there hasn’t been a dull moment yet. If I had had gotten married earlier, I wouldn’t be able to do all that I am doing now, so in the end my singleness has been a blessing. It’s funny, for a while I kept praying for my husband thinking, “There must be something that he’s working through that God hasn’t brought us together yet”…and then a couple of years ago I realized I also had  things to work on, too. So maybe I’m the one God’s still working on! Either way, I know it’ll happen in God’s time.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Yes, definitely.

I work in the pro-life movement in DC, so there’s always something happening that I can help with or work on within the movement. I began working with pro-life students and now work in pro-life politics. Within each area there are such important groups of people to reach with the beauty of the pro-life message. It truly is the human and civil rights movement of our day, fighting for mothers and the rights of their unborn children. Both students and politicians are on the frontlines of the pro-life movement in different ways. Students are working to help their peers choose life on campus, reaching the most vulnerable in their community to show them the love and acceptance they hunger for. Politicians are on the front lines as leaders in their communities, in Washington, D.C., and the media as candidates and legislators working to protect Life at all stages. Each requires unique resources and constant encouragement and support. Even though I’m stuck behind a computer for most of the day, I’ve still assisted them in obtaining those resources in a small way.

I also volunteer in my parish by teaching CCD. I started by teaching 1st grade for two years and then moved over to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who will be receiving their sacraments this year. Even though it’s difficult to give up beauty sleep on Sunday mornings, it’s so fulfilling. Seeing their excitement when they understand a piece of the faith or watching them recite prayers that they’ve memorized in front of the class is just so awesome. The first year I taught, there was a boy in class who was so difficult. My co-teacher and I were pulling our hair out every class trying to get him to sit still and not play with the toys in the classroom while he was supposed to be listening/reading/working on projects. But then, just after Christmas, we took a trip to Church to look at the manger, and as all the kids were battling to view the manger scene, I looked over and saw this trouble-maker peacefully praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I thought, “Wow! Who would have thought?” Ha! God is so good. I never cease to be amazed at the progress each class makes and the knowledge they soak up. People you think aren’t listening the whole year end up answering questions in the end that surprise you. It’s great. It makes the challenges that much more tolerable.

I also sit on the National Alumni Board at the University of Dallas and help coordinate UD activities in DC. It’s so fun to help continue the UD community here and foster relationships between the wise alumni in the community and those who are new to the area looking for work or internships. It’s also great to meet UD alumni doing amazing things—and meeting them in the most random places! I love hearing their stories. It’s always like meeting a friend at the Capp Bar on campus. I will never forget being new to DC, looking for a job, and connecting with a UD alum on the Hill who was a Chief of Staff for a Senator. He was so kind. His door was open and we chatted for 45min about UD and then had a brief conversation about jobs and his thoughts on what I should do. After that, with each new job, his door was always open and I constantly received invitations to his bible study or lunch on the Hill. He has since passed on, but it is my goal to continue his “open door” and be the person that people can go to for help—even if my connections aren’t as big as his. After UD gave so much to me, it’s nice to be able to give back.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 

Faith plays a major role in my actions and outlook. Following God’s plan and doing what He wants me to do is paramount. He seems to know exactly what I need all the time! It’s wonderful. I once read a letter in Flannery O’Connor’s Habit of Being where she described the Church as a Mother and said that, because of faith, we can sleep peacefully in our Mother’s arms. This is exactly how I view life. Even in the darkest and most turbulent times, we can sleep peacefully with the knowledge that God has everything in control. We are called to not only live and preach the Gospel, but also to trust in His will. We have so many wonderful resources to use and share as Catholics that it’s hard to stay silent. You just want to keep talking about how awesome life is!

And as hard as it may be, our faith helps us to see life in a different way. It helps us never give into the darkness that secularism often brings. I often feel that Winston Churchill’s “never give in” speech explains that well: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Why shouldn’t we give in? Because we have something so much better…and an unimaginably wonderful place to look forward to.