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.

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Profile No. 21: Dustin Siggins

 Profiles in the Gap

Dustin Siggins

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 Dustin Siggins is a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area. 

Did I expect to be single at the age of 28-and-a-quater? Simply put…no.

I had my first crush in September of 7th grade, and at 15 started looking for the right woman to marry. I figured it would take some time to find the right young lady for me, and by the time I got out of college we’d be ready for marriage.

Over the next several years, I was met with disappointment after disappointment. Starting in February of 7th grade – 1999, which was when the aforementioned crush and her boyfriend of several months broke up – a string of failures found me at every turn. At one point I was 0-17. For you non-sports fans, that’s zero “yes” answers and 17 “no” responses to my asking girls on dates.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I analyze. A lot. More on that later.

Finally, for a period of approximately eight months, good luck was mine. I dated a young lady for a month – she was vacationing for the summer in my hometown – and then dated my then-best friend for several months. The end of this latter relationship left me quite depressed for months, a state of mind that was finally broken by the stress and distraction of Basic Training after high school graduation.

I entered college quite optimistic about dating. My string of bad luck was over, if the prior year was any indication! Alas, by the time I graduated college I had dated one young lady for a month, and that was about it. Turns out, being an abstinent, pro-life, weekly attending Catholic made me a radical even among my fellow Catholics.

Thus it was that by the time I was a junior in college my regular commentary on dating was that I had accepted that I was going to be the 80-year old virgin. I told people I would make a movie out of it, and make lots of money – the PG version of “The Forty-Year Old Virgin.”

When I came to D.C. my optimism had rebounded, especially as I learned how culturally and geographically unaware I had been. Here I was not a radical, extreme Catholic – who knew the Northeast was more liberal than the rest of the country? Not me, at the time – and I hoped I had matured enough to change my dating luck around.

Again, luck was not mine. Turns out women don’t like it when a guy shakes hands on a first date (something I have remedied since). The Southern women found me a bit…blunt…and too intense. And despite my preference to become friends with a young lady before formally pursuing a relationship, my personality was putting me so far in the dreaded Friend Zone it was like being in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by sharks. With chains.

In other words, women liked being my friend. But not my girlfriend. (Though this has its own advantages – the benefits of friendship, the benefits of hanging out with very attractive women, and none of the emotional stress of trying to date said friends.)

In 2011 I utilized online dating for seven months, and finally started “playing the field.” Effective though these tactics were, they never felt comfortable, though online dating did lead to a short-lived long-distance relationship. And then, finally, luck was with me as I dated a woman for almost five months and almost fell in love with another later in 2012, despite the brevity of the second relationship (two months). In early 2013, one of my closest friends and I discussed dating, but because of our religious differences we decided to simply maintain a very close friendship.

So where does this leave me, as 2014 nears? It’s been a tough year, I’ll admit. My younger siblings are both getting married next year. The average age of marriage for men is 28, which puts me behind the eight-ball, and for most of my life I’ve thought that guys who are unmarried in their late twenties are losers or have gigantic personal flaws. And the constant discussions of discernment in the Catholic community mean the subject is dating is always on my mind.

However, tough times allow for growth, and this year has also been one for large personal growth in certain areas. They include:

  1. A priest told me in July that our goal in life is to be a saint. Everything else helps us on that path. It was a good reminder about priorities.
  2. Despite rumors to the contrary, I talk far less than I want to. The filter between my brain and mouth is gigantic – which should scare those of you who know how much I talk. I find this filter necessary to strategize how best to talk to people in life, especially since my default setting is to be extremely choleric, and this can alienate people. However, a friend recently told me I should not worry about filtering because of what other people might think. While we all have our flaws, by being so tactical, I am not being who God designed and intended for me to be. To a degree, I’m letting the flaws of others dictate my behavior, which is not productive for anyone.
  3. Clearly, I am someone who analyzes and thinks a lot. While this is naturally part of who I am, and thus does not paralyze me as it might others, it can also create an inefficient style of behavior. As my friend Isaiah once put it: “Dustin, I love you, but you have got to learn to take yourself less seriously.” To put it another way, by thinking and analyzing so much, I’m essentially trying to control my life to a fault, instead of putting it in God’s hands.

In short, I need to learn to relax and go with the flow instead of always trying to create the flow. For example, my one romantic idealistic trait – wanting to be one of those old couples that’s been married for 70 or more years – may need to take second-fiddle to the rest of my life. And rather than get frustrated when people who don’t follow key Church teachings get engaged and married, while I follow them and remain single, I need to remember being a saint is the first and foremost goal.

Marriage is not a competition I have to win. We’re trying to be saints. Comparing myself to my siblings, or the average age of marriage, is to miss the forest for the trees.

So where am I as we enter 2014? Frustrated, absolutely. Recognizing that even at the age of 28 – a full-fledged adult – I have a lot of growing up to do? Grudgingly, yes. I’m trying to not miss the forest for the trees, and remember that people mean well when they say contradictory things like “Be yourself, but be low-key,” or the falsely uplifting “The right girl is out there for you!”

So what should I expect out of life right now? I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions,” as self-improvement should be a continuous process, but I think I’m going to prioritize a few things this year:

  1. A friend gave me a piece of advice recently that I’m going to take into consideration: Rather than focus on multiple aspects of life at the same time, try to focus on one aspect to make it as successful as possible. She suggested one’s career path, and indicated this would be a good idea in order to be happier, and happiness is attracting to the opposite sex. I think I’ll take her advice, with a twist – prioritize everything but dating, and let the dating happen as it will.
  2. I’m going to work on being more aware of why I act as I do. I always apply my friend Ben’s advice – “Don’t care what people think, but don’t give them reason to think badly of you” – but I’m going to try to keep the latter mindset balanced with greater emotional awareness.
  3. A retired priest advised me to just be Dustin. Let’s see what that looks like, rather than being “Dustin who’s constantly being hard on himself.”

In the end, the goal of every human being should be to walk on the path God has for us, and be happy regardless of what life throws at us. We should be whole people as much as we possibly can – and, in my case, if a cute girl walks across my path, life’s a little more attractive right now. And if she becomes my wife, my ability to walk on the path of God’s Will will be more complete than it was before our paths crossed.

Profile No. 9: Angela Lademan

Profiles in the Gap

Angela Lademan

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Angela Lademan is a youth minister living and working in Northern Virginia.

In my 26 years of life, I have learned one thing: Never. Make. Plans. The Lord always changes them. I don’t know if this is true for everyone (maybe most other people are more in tune to what God wants for their lives and plan accordingly from the beginning), but for me, I have rarely made a plan that ever worked out according to “the plan.” And you know what, it’s okay. God’s a little more creative than I am, and He has more confidence in me than I have in myself. So, it’s made for a much more exciting life than I could have dreamed up.

Six years ago, I studied abroad in Austria. The last day I was there, the Student Life Director said something I providentially needed to hear. He asked me what I was going to do once I graduated, and I told him that I didn’t know, I would just see what God wants. He gently but firmly replied, “But Angela, you need to do your part and let the Lord do the rest.”

This conversation has often replayed in my mind as I pick up the pieces of broken plans and gear up for another turn in the road. Sometimes I want to just stop walking and say, “What the heck, Lord! Fine, you pick me up and put me where you want me. I’m done and not contributing to this journey anymore.” But, Mark’s advice keeps me walking down the road and rolling with the punches. I have to keep moving in order to encounter the world, and to meet the new and unexpected people and experiences the Lord throws in my direction.

In the last four years of my life, according to the plan (you know, the nice little Catholic girl plan), I would have gotten married out of college and started a family and would be sitting at home all day in my perfect house in my perfect 50’s housewife outfit with my perfect “Leave it to Beaver” children (because those exist). Sorry, I know, can’t any of us women be a little more creative with the story we write for ourselves? While this is a beautiful story, what I think most of us women don’t realize is that in order to have this “perfect” little “Leave it to Beaver” family, you have to be ready to be a real woman, a real wife, and a real mother. Otherwise you are just playing house, and when the hardships come, you don’t know what to do with them (’cause, heck, nothing bad or unpleasant ever happened in “Leave it to Beaver”). Now, I still don’t know what the Lord is preparing me for, but I think there is no better boot camp than having a few years of singleness.

I wish I could say I’ve spent these years embracing every moment. I haven’t. It’s hard to detach from the plan. But even if I haven’t appreciated every moment in the present, I am looking back and am so grateful for every difficult experience, every unknown move, and every unexpected friendship. Every experience makes me ponder who I am, why I am doing what I’m doing, and what I want for my life. While I haven’t figured any of these things out completely, I have more and more opportunities to discover and become that woman the Lord wants me to be.

Highlights of the last few years: European travel and the Bahamas; missionary work with college, high school, and grade school students; living in four different states; deciding on a Friday morning to run away for the weekend (just because I can); speaking to large groups of teens and seeing them completely engaged; walking down the aisle in front of several best friends; letter-writing to close friends as they journey through discerning God’s will for them to be priests and religious; realizing that my workday consisted of listening to and praying with a young adult or teen who came into my office crying over something; finding myself in front of over 100 8th graders and bursting with joy to tell them that God wants so much for them; running around like a crazy person with paint all over my face followed by 10 2nd-4th grade boys because I was “Chief” for the week at camp; a half marathon; flying in a private jet; and the list goes on… But at the end of it all, finding myself in adoration and realizing that nothing else in my life has been constant except for the Eucharist, and realizing that at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

So, if one day I find myself in my perfect little “Leave it to Beaver” life with healthy children and a happy husband, it will be because I’ve had a few years to learn to persevere through struggle and hardship, and because I learned that most things are actually a gift, and that faithfulness, no matter where it looks like it is going to bring me, is the only way God can bring about the most and best in my life.

This needs to be said

While we’re broaching the subject of dating, there’s something I’ve been needing to get off my chest for a long, long time now, related to the dating scene here in the DC area.

We gals can spend a lot of time complaining that “the men around here” aren’t proactive enough. And while that can feel painfully true at times, it isn’t. I think what we really mean is that the men we like don’t happen to like us. Frustrating? Of course. But let’s not denigrate all the men in the local area because the “wrong” ones are the ones reaching out.

In fact, I want to thank all the men in my life who have honored me in the past few years by seeking to get to know me better, and even — at times — asking me out. Obviously for now it hasn’t been quite right for whatever reason(s). Attraction remains a mystery, right? Some of us are comfortably returned to being “just friends,” and some of us have fallen out of touch or taken a big step back. And I’m afraid I’m the most awkward person alive when it comes to dating and all things that threaten romance, so I know I haven’t always handled things as graciously as I could have. Still, you should all know that your notice was flattering, uplifting, and encouraging, and I’m incredibly grateful.

I’m especially grateful to the men who have had the courage to pick up the phone and call. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone for me. Thank you for letting me know that I’m worth seeking out, beyond a Gmail or Facebook chat or the occasional text message — nice as those things are, of course.

Know that even though I’m not very good at expressing it out loud or in the moment, you have earned my lasting respect. By behaving the way men ought to and pursuing, you have helped me step into my role as a woman. I mean it from the bottom of my heart: thank you.

-Mabel

Stepping past disheartened

“I’ve given up on men.”

It’s becoming a key phrase among my single lady acquaintances. We’re single and we’re tired of being single, but scanning the horizon turns up a pretty bleak picture of…well, a lot more singleness. It’s the same whether you live in a metropolitan area hopping with apparently eligible bachelors (I’ve heard D.C. listed as such a place by wide-eyed out-of-towners. Oh, ladies: give me a call before you start planning your move to this area to find Mr. Right), or in a suburban wasteland. Here and there around us people meet, date, fall in love, get married, and all our elders tell us this is the “normal” state of affairs and ask us when we’re going to settle down. Now I believe this used to be the normal state of affairs. Granted, I’m no history expert, but every woman I know over the age of 45 tells me the same story about life for the 20-something woman back in her day. A twenty-six-year-old living on her own and working, while not unheard of twenty years ago, was certainly not the established norm like she is today. If movies like Crossing Delancey are any indication, they were in fact still something of an anomaly.

Anyway, this post was not meant to be a commentary on cultural norms, but on the disturbing trend toward bitterness I’m seeing resulting from those norms. Of course, I see only the ladies’ side of this discussion, where hapless single females between the ages of 25 and 35 begin to throw up their hands and cry, “It’s hopeless!” But though we haven’t talked much about it, I sense a similar feeling of discontent in my male friends and acquaintances. Of course their frustrations are different from ours, but they’re every bit as real. Whether we’re going on frequent dates, dating online, or hardly dating at all, many of us are becoming increasingly disheartened.

Disheartened. I’ve been mulling this post over for the past couple days, and that word keeps playing around in my mind. Like a good editor, I looked it up, because even though I know basically what it means, sometimes it’s nice to see the exact definition. To dishearten is “to cause someone to lose determination or confidence.” It fits even better than I realized. We are losing our determination to hope, and we are certainly losing our confidence in one another.

Of course, we all have our own ideas of the perfect solution to the problem. The girls say, “If only the men would take some initiative!” (But let’s be fair. Ladies, do we really want every man we know to “take initiative” and ask us out? Or are we thinking of those few men we could potentially be interested in who have never made a move?) The men say, “The girls just have to be more approachable!” (Frankly, I’ve never understood what the heck this means. I may not be Mrs. Potts, but I’m not exactly an icicle…)

At the end of the day, though, there is no perfect solution. The human race has ever been and remains a broken people. I think we pin a whole lot of expectation on our hope for love. We want to be discovered, rejoiced in, cherished, committed to, perhaps healed, and we seek all of those things in a romantic relationship that just never seems to materialize.

Let’s start with the obvious problem: those are things we should be seeking from God first. If we’re blessed to discover them also in a romantic relationship, praise God. But don’t pin all of that responsibility on another human being. (I remember being surprised when a dear friend of mine in a committed long-term dating relationship once told me, “Even when you’re dating, you still have some days where you just feel sad and lonely.” It made sense, but it still took me aback. Subconsciously I guess I’d always imagined I would want for nothing once I ended up with a great guy.)

More to the immediate point, we have to lose the bitterness. Christ and his mother are often referred to as “all sweetness.” If we’re to imitate them, we also must be sweet. “I’ve given up on [the opposite sex]” is the cry of a bitter, very often wounded person. My heart goes out to all my single friends, as I know the real pain behind those words. But spreading the bitterness around only tears everyone down.

I propose what may seem a trite solution, but I firmly believe it’s the only one: prayer. And lots of it. How often do you ladies pray for men–not just your brothers/fathers/friends/future spouses, but Christian men everywhere, and especially the men in your own community? When you’re dating online, how often do you pray for the men whose profiles you click through? Ladies, I challenge you: let’s pray for our men. Pray that they may become holy, grow in virtue, and become the men God wants them to be.

And guys, I offer you the same challenge: please pray for us!

We are all of us broken. We’ve all been hurt in some way, some far more than others. But we can be healed if we want to be. Cynicism and bitterness are selfish responses–people have not given us what we wanted or expected, and we respond by putting up walls. I challenge all of us to try something new, something different. Let’s counteract the bitterness with sweetness. Remember that Christ still heals. Why not ask him to heal us, and to heal those who have hurt us?

A 6-week love story

Did I ever mention that I fell in love last year?

Yeah, I did. It was Advent, just two and a half weeks before Christmas, and I met him on a cold—really cold—Tuesday night, the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  We both showed up at a D.C. church for a holy hour, only to find out it had been cancelled. He had an “in” with the priest and got permission to stay and pray, provided he locked up when he was all finished. In a highly unusual burst of courage (I hate hate hate asking for special favors), I asked to stay, too.

We ignored one another during our prayers, of course. Though I couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t bad-looking… Afterward, as he locked up, we exchanged the usual pleasantries: names, jobs, home parishes. I liked him right off. He was open and chatty and obviously holy. Once outside, we shook hands, said, “Maybe I’ll see you around soon,” and went our separate ways.

Nothing special. Really, nothing. Except that I have this awful habit of assigning deeper meanings to events that have no actual meaning. Part of that Catholic upbringing of mine: I love signs, and asking for signs. And I guarantee you, if you ask for a sign, you will find one—whether it’s real or not. It’s amazing what you can read into something when you’re determined to find “meaning” in it.

It was the vigil of one of Our Lady’s feasts, and I just happen to be consecrated to her: a sign!

It all happened in a church, and one of my prayers as a romantic and overly pious teenager was to meet “The One” in church: a sign!

He mentioned in the course of our brief conversation that he’d just gotten out of seminary after two years, and I’ve always wanted to end up with a guy who gave the priesthood a try: a sign!

He had a really cool biblical name, which wasn’t in itself anything I’ve “always” wanted, but was nevertheless fascinating and therefore probably significant.

So even though the chances of me ever seeing this fellow again were pretty slim, the incident stuck with me for weeks and weeks—and yes, the hope that this “nothing special” might be repeated or followed up and become something.

It didn’t.

In a turn of events that will surprise no one, when at last I did see him again (at the same church about six weeks later), he was with another girl. C’est le vie.

Why am I bringing him up only now? Honestly, I’d almost forgotten all about him, and then I ran into him at a house party some friends threw a couple weeks ago. Literally. The room was very crowded and at one point I took a step backwards and bumped into someone who said “’Scuse me” in a kind of peeved way, and I turned and said, “So sorry,” but he was already walking away. No flicker or gesture or movement of recognition. You fall in love with a guy for six weeks, you at least hope for the eyebrow raise and the, “I think we’ve met before” handshake when you see him again a year later.

It’s amazing, the way we can take a fellow human being and stick him (or her) in a particular role in our own imaginary worlds. And even more amazing how angry and sad we become when that fellow human being gets his lines wrong or misses his cue. Don’t you know God gave me a sign? As if everything in the universe boils down to me and my silly daydreams.

And this all came over me as I watched him walk away at this party, clearly not even interested in introducing himself. Humiliating? You bet. But also incredibly freeing in its own way. I spend so much time asking what significance this or that event has to me in my life. But maybe this particular event wasn’t about me at all.

Maybe God just wanted someone to carry that boy around in her heart for a few weeks.

You just never know…