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.

 

 

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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.

“Delighting in the sons of men…”

“Rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.” – Proverbs 8:31

An old spiritual director once counseled me to “seek to delight in the other.” The advice had something to do with openness to dating and letting my guard down, and I’m afraid at the time the words fell on largely deaf ears. That’s not to say they didn’t sound nice in theory — “delight in the other” has a sort of Garden of Edenesque trill to it that’s lovely all on its own.

But to delight in another person, whether romantically or simply as one child of God encountering another, has never come naturally to me. Maybe it feels a bit like taking a liberty. Admiring someone is one thing, because it maintains a respectful distance. Delighting in a thing means immersing yourself in it, digging your hands in it up to your elbows, throwing it in the air and catching it again, tasting it, laughing out loud over it, hugging it close to your chest, smothering it with kisses.

In other words, delight is a shameless, childlike, generally pretty messy process. And one can’t delight in another person without being a bit shameless, childlike, and yes — messy.

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But reflecting on my chosen theme for January, I realized that learning to find the face of Christ in others has to start with learning to delight in them. Of course, this is easy to do when you’re dealing with babies or small children or pleasant, loving people who are pretty obviously delightful in and of themselves. But what about the less-than-delightful people we encounter on a daily basis? The grocery store cashier who looks half dead, the jaywalkers, the drivers who cut you off on your morning commute, the old woman who sits right behind you in chapel and smells like mothballs and whispers all her prayers aloud until you can hardly think.  

Delight can be even more challenging when you don’t feel all that delightful yourself. I realized that in a more poignant way than ever this weekend. I helped to organize a black tie event with some friends, and somehow being in a social situation surrounded by people in their best clothes left me feeling irritable and shoddy. Other people thrive in lively scenes like that; the older I get, the more I want to run away about twenty minutes after the party starts. I’m afraid “delight” was about as the farthest thing from my mind that evening.

But it’s not just black tie social events. I make a point of surrounding myself with delightful people all the time, from my household to my closest friends. It’s a great practice, until I inevitably start comparing myself with them; then I just become sour. And the sourer I feel in comparison with my delightful friends, the less able I am to delight in anybody else. I’m just a quivering bundle of resentment.

Yet it’s that delight in others and even in ourselves as children of God that is the key to real Christian charity–the charity that changes hearts and stays lodged in our memory for the rest of our lives. Just think of saints like Bl. John Paul II: he delighted in people, and people never forgot it.

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I guess the challenge lies in really delighting. Delight can’t be forced. Do we simply go through the motions and hope the real feelings will follow? I think instead we have to go back a few steps and work on other attitudes first — like gratitude, service to others, and charity. And we have to be okay with being like children, unafraid of what others will think of us, unafraid to see and rejoice in the goodness of other people.