A chapter closed

Another one of my sisters got married at the end of last month. Maybe it’s because my sisters are so close to me, so involved in all my most important memories, that I struggle to take their weddings seriously. Every time I have to remind myself that this is real; I stand in the vestibule ten minutes before it all begins pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

Weddings in general tend to leave me a little dazed. They happen so quickly — after months of preparation and flurry and nerves on edge, two people whisper those conclusive words, exchange rings, smile for photographs, hug distant relatives, dance and eat cake, and somehow, in just a few short hours, the Change happens. A bridge crossed, a door closed, a new chapter begun. 

Maybe all big changes are like that. Months and even years of preparation, inner turmoil, questions and fears, and suddenly everything converges in one sharp point. There’s only this moment, a decision, a quick, almost innocuous action, and the rest is what you make of it. 

I find, as so many things draw to an end before I set off on this discernment journey, that I want all of my goodbyes to have meaning, to betray even a fraction of the real thoughts and feelings I’ve been too nervous — or too proud — to show up until now. I’m consistently struck by how little of myself I’ve shared with the people I love most. Why do we struggle to be real with one another? Perhaps it’s more fair to ask, why have I always struggled to be real?

Words just fall flat at a certain point. I’m afraid that’s my only excuse for the long silence on this blog, and for awkward goodbyes in person over the last month. Before certain realities, one has to be silent.

Despite the frustrations, the long bouts of loneliness, the pain of unanswered questions, I have loved my life in the gap, and I’m going to miss it. It’s good to feel the sting of this goodbye; it means I’m not running away. All the best things in life require some sacrifice. As one dear friend reminded me just this weekend, the most important things are also the hardest. 

Please pray for me as I enter formation. Know of my prayers for you (and please feel free to email me with any particular intentions that I can carry with me when I enter in August). 

Friends, readers, I want to thank you in a special way for several wonderful years on this blog. Thanks for your encouragement, your comments, and your particular insights about life as single young adults. This is the last post on Life in the Gap — another chapter closed. I pray that we will all be open to answering God’s call, even as we persevere in the silence for as long as he asks it of us. May we always be generous. May we give our hearts away in love. May we set the world on fire. 

God bless you all,

Mabel

 

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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

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

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.