I Do Go Outside, I Promise: the Roughness of Real Life

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This morning Mom and I got up and drove downtown for an open rehearsal of my local symphony. I love downtown, and I love the symphony, and I love Dvorak. (And I love my mom.) I’d never seen professional musicians rehearse, only perform, and I was excited to see the sort of rough version of the polished symphonies I always go to see. Of course I know that massive amounts of work go into performing, but seeing the orchestra work together and handle critiques and tackle problems as a whole was something I was really looking forward to.

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It was so cool to see. I’m used to going to the symphony in fancy-dress, with a million other people (who have an average age of eighty-three), and all the musicians are wearing black and white tie and the lights are low, and there’s an air of excitement and togetherness and evening. At rehearsal, all the musicians are in normal day clothes, chatting, drinking coffee on stage, and making funny faces at each other during pieces. You can see (if not hear) when they mess up because of their scowls and their hasty comments to their stand partners. The conductor shouts over the music and you see the object of his critique nodding and setting aside his instrument to mark his part while the rest of the orchestra plays on.

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The music was still great—I adore Dvorak (as I’ve said a million times), and it still sounded wonderful to my ears—but something about the fact that it was a rehearsal made it so much better. It felt more intimate, somehow. Maybe it was the fact that I was one of very few people watching. Maybe it was because I got to see their mistakes. Maybe because it all felt so very human, I felt connected with the symphony on a personal level. The clothes, the critiques, the conversation, the coffee, all of these things just drove home the fact that no matter how skilled, how amazing these musicians are, they are people. They make mistakes, they still have to practice, they’re far from perfect, but they come together and they make this mindblowingly spectacular music that just comes alive, that finds your soul and holds it in its hands and says we are all humanwe all feel things so deeply, we can all relate to each other in our emotions, in our passions, in our longings, in that which we strive for. We all love and are loved, we all have things we care about, things we miss, things that move us, things we can’t stand—we all feel, and in this music, in this joint effort of everyday, imperfect people, in this expression of the massive, incredible masterpiece of human emotion, I can see that so clearly.

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After the rehearsal, I had the opportunity to speak with the maestro, and I asked what he thought the greatest thing about Dvorak is. He looked over the stage as he spoke, like the spirit of Dvorak still lingered in the air where his music had just been played with such fervor. He told me that he thinks the greatest thing about Dvorak is that he never lost his folk influences. Even after coming to America, even with his work being shaped by masters and becoming more and more sophisticated, even in his fame and high circles of society, he never lost the earthiness, the realness of the folk, bohemian songs of his home in Prague. Maestro joked, “You know Czechoslovakians, they go ten miles outside of Prague and they’re homesick!” The incredible thing about Dvorak is the same thing I loved about seeing the symphony rehearse: he preserves in all his music the feeling of humanity, the roughness of real life. The simple, unassuming folk music that pervades and influences his work reminds you of his home, his people, and that the most longed for things in life aren’t the most sophisticated or the most urbane, but the most real, the things that make us feel loved and alive and human.

What I love the most about Dvorak is his ability to relate to you on a deeply, personal, intimate level—and that if you can break from your trance, you realize that his music touches the hearts of everyone who really cares and really listens, and it reminds you that at our core, we are all but men, longing to be loved and to belong. Despite our differences, every person deserves respect and kindness, to be accepted and treated as one would treat oneself, because all people share a bond of humanity, the brotherhood of being a member of mankind; crazy, beautiful, wonderful, individual, but still deeply, deeply familial mankind.

Also, I really loved this sign.

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Best wishes,
Hero

 

 

The Bubonic Plague, Seeing the Bright Side, and Being Thankful

So I am currently stricken with the bubonic plague. I’m not exaggerating. (I’m completely exaggerating.) My cello teacher—one of my absolute favorite people, in case anyone hasn’t caught on yet—called me a drama queen the other day for complaining about a fingering he gave me. I responded by telling him I couldn’t read the fingering through my tears. We have a really excellent student-teacher relationship, founded on respect and maturity.

Pffft. Yep.

Anyway. So I’m sick. I have been since I woke up at 6 on Wednesday with a sore throat and a nearly sniffly nose. I felt like I was going to cry—it would have been alright if it’d just been an isolated incident, but not only was this sudden descent of disease coinciding with Thanksgiving break, it was also adding a nasty twist to something I’d been looking forward to for at least a year. One of my good friends, Sarah, was coming down from college to stay with me for Thanksgiving break, and suddenly I was worried her entire visit would be miserable because I suddenly fell ill out of nowhere. After shooting off some distressed and whiny texts to a good friend, I went back to sleep and tried not to worry. The first morning is always the worst, right?

Well, it wasn’t the worst. We picked up Sarah and I felt fine, but as Wednesday went on, things spiraled consistently downward. In an attempt to be funny, and thanks to a lot of banter with my brother, my extremely negative, sarcastic streak reared its ugly head. I said ‘I hate [insert name of anything here]’ more than anything else, then we went out to dinner at literally the worst Mexican place ever, where I burnt my hand on a plate in addition to attempting to eat awful food, and came back home feeling awful, nauseous, and like Sarah was having a horrible time. I woke up Thursday with my voice nearly shot through, rasping like crazy and coughing like you wouldn’t believe—but I was determined to have a better day. It was Thanksgiving, after all, I was with a great friend for the first time, I wasn’t in a load of pain, and if I continued on the way I had the day before, I probably would have totally lost it. And lo and behold, everything was better. My usually unbearable relatives were surprisingly okay, the food was delicious, Sarah and I watched movies and chatted and everything felt better.

The day after Thanksgiving, Sarah and I went to see Catching Fire because my voice was absolutely gone and I needed an activity that didn’t involve talking too much—but it was so excellent that we had to talk about it for ages. And despite the fact that it was painful for me to speak, we still ended up staying up until 11 talking that night. I was so happy, because Sarah and I spent her whole visit kind of lounging around and I was worried that she would be bored, but we ended up having such a great time just hanging out and being around each other. I went to bed feeling awesome, aside from being completely disease-ridden. Then Saturday came. I’d felt much better Saturday morning, but as the day went on I felt worse and worse; by evening, I thought I’d developed a fever (I hadn’t) and was coping by rolling around on the floor making whining noises and hitting things.

But before I went to bed Saturday night, I texted a friend and asked him how his day had been. He said it was alright, then asked the same. As I thought over the day to reply, I realized that even though I’d spent the latter half of the day complaining about how I was “dying” and coughing violently and feeling like I was going to vomit, it was actually a really wonderful, beautiful, happy day. I told him that I always seemed to focus on the negatives in the moment, but upon reflection, saw how the positives outweighed them. Yes, I felt awful. Dreadful, horrid, evil, awful. But actual nice things came out of that—and nice things happened besides. I managed to have a really great time with Sarah; Essie came over and everyone got along; my friend Rose and I planned out our hilarious joint funeral (apparently it’s going to be Eminem themed); and because I wasn’t feeling well, one of my best friends was super sweet to me and it meant so much to me. All of these things made me smile amid the crappy, phlegmy, painful sensations of the day. I suddenly realized that the entirety of break and Sarah’s visit had been like that. Yes, I’ve been sick, but rather than my sickness ruining her visit, it’s been quite the reverse… Her visit has ruined my sickness. She’s consistently made me feel better, happier, and made it possible to ignore the fact that I’m probably going to cough up a lung at some point here. I’ve seen this week that even little sparks on a gloomy horizon can shed enough light to see by.

I may not always be able to see the bright side in the moment. But I appreciate the little sparks as they come; I hold them precious and close to my heart, storing up the light for gloomy days when I can’t find any. And maybe, just maybe, seeing the bright side in retrospect is the first step to seeing it all the time.

I am thankful for the sparks—more thankful than I can ever say. But I can appreciate the gloom as well; life isn’t easy, and sometimes it takes a little darkness to see how brightly your lights really shine, to appreciate what you really have and what really matters. Thank you to all the lights in my life, especially to the greatest Light, Who has given me all the others. Where would I be without you?

Best wishes,
Hero

In Which I Analyze My Own Character by Means of Fictional Ones

Two orders of business: firstly, if my language sounds stiff it is because for the past week I’ve been studying St. Thomas More for school, and having both read a book by William Roper on the subject and finished watching A Man for All Seasons less than an hour ago, using contractions seems… odd.

Secondly, I am writing this in a notebook on the way to Algebra tutoring, as I have limited my computer time to an hour a day for Lent – because of which the blog has suffered. Suffice to say, it’s Holy Week now, so I should be back in the swing of things post-Easter. (Speaking of, I’m so excited!)

On Saturday I got into a discussion about my favorite characters in books and movies, and how they all tend to be grouchy or unpleasant. It’s not the case 100% of the time, but it seems that more often than not the characters I like the most are the endearingly (I think) cranky ones. I think it’s interesting to contrast the characters I most relate to with the ones I most admire – I think it says something about who I am.

When I was younger, I always loved the fiery characters: the ones with the bright red hair and the sizable tempers – usually in the form of princesses who refuse to marry and go off to be knights or something instead. I admired feistiness. (Still do.)

Aside from this, I’ve always had a love for the snarky and slightly cranky characters: Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street, Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh (funnily enough, I was never too fond of Rabbit – I liked Tigger too much, I guess: “T-I-double-guh-errrr…”), Lucy from Peanuts, Miss Piggy from the Muppets, Grumpy from Snow White, Constance, the sleepy, grouchy, hyper-intelligent three-year-old from The Mysterious Benedict Society…

I think I loved them because they were a little like me: sarcastic, a little bit pessimistic, and overly fond of scowling. (I like to pretend I’m more mature now, but as I routinely make displeased groaning noises, roll around on the floor in protest of things, bare all my teeth like an uneasy chimpanzee when someone pulls out a camera, and frequently use the word “Pooh!” as an expletive, well… I perjure myself if I deny the evidence.) As I’ve grown, this affinity for the characters everyone else thought were mean grew with me – I still have it.

I love Artemis Fowl and I have loved him from book 1, even when he was kind of a jerkface who, despite his genius, didn’t quite have any common sense. I love Holden Caulfield, who’s a little annoying. I love these characters not only because they personify my lack of patience with a good 90% of society, but also because they have hearts, and big ones – you just have to look for them. The crankiest people are really the biggest softies…. You just have to crack the shell. (But you knew that, I’m sure you’ve seen Up.) Artemis and Holden are scornful by nature, and big sissies inside. I love them.

Looking to literature, the characters I identify with speak volumes about me, but the characters I idealize speak just as much.

For example, in my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, I am very much like Beatrice – a little rude, witty, always looking for a laugh… and sometimes I can be unintentionally mean. However, as dear as Beatrice is to my heart (especially how she melts for Benedick), I long to be more like the Lady Hero. (You’re getting insight into my name, if you haven’t caught onto that yet.) Hero is cheerful, goodnatured, mild, and polite… She is liked by all, laughs a lot, but can pull off a wicked prank when she wants to.

This says nothing about myself that I didn’t already know; when asked what I would change about myself, I always say I wish I wasn’t quite so loud. Gentleness and a cheerful temperament are things with which I was not born, just a desire for them. I am not Snow White, I’m a bit like Alice – tripping over my own feet as I get lost in my insane Wonderland – shouting at things and being clumsy. It’s a bit of divine irony, that I was born as a Beatrice who wants desperately to be a Hero. (Though, if memory serves, the original Beatrice wants to be more like her cousin, too.)

At the same time, I do recognize that while this divine irony exists, God made me as I am for a reason. My mom told me once that when other homeschool moms said they wouldn’t let their daughters do this or that because they wanted them to have a “quiet soul”, she thought it was frankly ridiculous – some people are born with quiet souls, but others are not… After all, becoming a saint takes audacity as well as humility. That being said, let’s keep going with this analysis.

The next character is Jo March, from Little Women. I love Jo – I love how she’s tomboyish and loves to read and isn’t always a little ray of sunshine. She accidentally sets things on fire and isn’t afraid to scowl. She’s got a big heart and an even bigger personality. I relate to Jo very much, but I relate to Meg as well, in her love of pretty things and, well, her vanity. Of the “little women”, I most admire Beth – once again, for her quiet, cheerful gentleness.

I want to be a saint and I want to be meek and ladylike. I’m not – I try, but I’m not predisposed to it – so my track to sainthood looks more like the track of St. Athanasius, who used his stubborn and argumentative nature to debate and defeat heresy, or St. Thomas More, who stood true to the Church in difficult times. A Man for All Seasons portrays St. Thomas as stubborn, resolute, and a little bit of a crank. I am more like him than St. Therese of Liseaux or St. Bernadette – I’m loud, and I think I’m loud for a reason. I need to figure out how to be a saint in my own boisterous fashion.

The rest of this post is devoted to Jane Austen, as she’s been on my mind thanks to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries ending and the fact that I worked a quote from her into my Richard III paper and I am exceeding pleased by it. (“The Character of this Prince has been in general very severely treated by Historians, but as he was York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man.”) There are two Austen characters that I’ve been told I’m quite similar to: Emma, from the novel of the same name, and Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice (specifically in the incarnation of Lizzie from the Diaries –  Frankie once asked me if I’d gotten some of my mannerisms from her; I hadn’t.)

I’m like Emma & Lizzy both in my frequent inability to think before I speak. Emma likes to meddle – I’m kind of meddlesome. My friend Nick calls me a matchmaker: I don’t like to sit and watch things happen if I can help along the process. I am, as D says, a mite “pushy”. I also see a similarity to myself in the way Emma acts rashly and then bitterly regrets it. “It was badly done, Emma.” Boy, do I know the feeling. As for Lizzy, I am predisposed to judge – all too quickly, it seems – only to have my opinions change upon further inspection. Like Lizzy, I am sometimes injured by those of the male race – and have to cope by proclaiming them losers and laughing at them, vowing to become an old maid, like Lizzy does, because there’s not really anything else I can do unless I want to go mad. I also see myself in how Lizzy always has a snappy comeback and isn’t afraid to admit her shortcomings. I wish I was Jane, but I’m not, and that’s okay. In 16 years of life, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s to like who I am. If I don’t, everything becomes grey and miserable. In fact, there’s a St. Catherine of Siena quote that fits the situation quite well: “What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and He might weep when they are gone.” Why do I want to change myself? Adopting virtue, growing in grace, those are good things to change about myself. But to throw myself over entirely and become someone else? Would God weep?

So I’m me: Emma/Jo/Lizzy/Meg/Alice/Thomas More/Mr. Frederickson/Holden/Oscar the Grouch. I am loud, stubborn, hardworking, snarky, outgoing, unabashed, meddlesome, clumsy, spirited, and I never shut up. But I have a heart so big it sometimes makes me wish I had otherwise, and like Lizzie, Jo, and Beatrice, I can see when I need to step back and strive for the virtue of Jane, Beth, and Hero.

Well.

I try, at least.

Best wishes and much love to you all,
Hero

BEDA Day 31: On Heroism, the Bright Side, and My Rollercoaster that Only Goes Up

It’s the last day of BEDA, so I want to end with a hopeful note: an uplifting closing statement to wrap up my month of daily blogging and, on the grander spectrum, my summer. A lot of things happened to me over the past months – some good, some bad – but I’ve learned from all of them.

I fell in love and then had my heart broken. But you know what? That’s okay. I couldn’t have picked a better person to fall for and I couldn’t have asked for a better way for it to end. It wasn’t in God’s plan for me, and I accept that. It’s taught me a lot about the fragility of things and most importantly, it’s taught me that I have so much more in my life besides relationships and boys and petty fancies. I am out conquering the world: writing novels, becoming the next Yo Yo Ma (ha – I wish), spreading intellectualism in my little ways. I have beautiful friends and happiness surrounding me. I have so much to live for, and even though what happened was painful, and even though it was (is) so important to me, of the life I’m living. An important speck, yes, but a speck. I am going to do so much more in this life of mine, and honestly, I can’t help but smile at the memories. They’re sad memories: but they’re sad because there was so much joy that came before them. And the joy is the important part. That’s what I have to remember.

I learned a lot about my family this summer, too. My family is nuts and crazy and every single one of us is a force to be reckoned with. I’m not sure why it is that God decided that all of us needed to have strong, stubborn personalities, but we do – so we clash. Frequently. But part of being graceful and humble and, well, loving your family, is holding them in a higher esteem than you hold yourself. Deferring to their opinion to avoid a fight. Allowing them to have their way. Not making them feel stupid over something they’ve said. Overcoming my own stubborn, I-am-always-right frame of mind and being a little more subordinate than I would like. I love my family, and they drive me a little less crazy when they’re not all shouting at one another. 😉

Another thing I learned this summer: perseverance and hard work. This came out especially in my cello over the summer. I had auditions and a recital that I had to prep for – I practiced every day for months and months straight, and that stubbornness I mentioned earlier comes out in my inability to give up when I really want something. I work for what I want, even if practicing sucks up all my free time or it’s boring or it’s hard, and I think that was really driven home for me this summer. Nothing ever just falls into your lap. It’s not that easy.

A note on heroism before I move on. This morning I went down to the hospital for my third appointment in my series of can-we-please-take-my-wisdom-teeth-out-already appointments. The operation was scheduled for 9/11 (but it’s been moved — again) (active duty military guys apparently have trump points when it comes to making an appointment, so I’ve been usurped twice), which got me talking to my mom about 9/11. I think sometimes people forget that 9/11 wasn’t just the Twin Towers, but also the Pentagon, and then the one plane where the passengers overcame the terrorists and crashed it into a field to prevent it from hurting anyone else.

I mean, that’s heroism right there.

And then I started thinking about the shootings in Aurora, Colorado – about those men who threw themselves over the women they loved and sacrificed themselves for them. That’s heroism again.

And the way I see it is this: bad stuff happens. We can’t change tragedy. But we can find the best of humanity brought out by the worst. The heroes amid the villains. We can either focus on the bad, or we can celebrate the good. 9/11 was an awful, awful tragedy, but the heroes who saved lives and sacrificed themselves give me hope.  The men who gave their lives to shield others from the spray of bullets – they give me hope. They remind me that even though awful things happen, good shines through the bad. Heroic, beautiful, self-giving acts are brought to the light of day. The clouds part and we remember that in the midst of tragedy and loss and corruption, there is good. And it’s beautiful. Tragic, but beautiful.

Focusing on the bad in life will get you nowhere: you have to look up. Chin up, I always tell my friends who are upset about something. Chin up, feel the sun on your face and remember to look forward. Time goes on. Sometimes it crawls in a petty pace from day to day ( 😉 ), but it is bringing a better tomorrow.

Right now, my tomorrows are looking pretty good. I am riding a roller coaster that only goes up, my friends. I have a dance next week and then orchestra starts up for real, (and at some point I get my wisdom ripped out of my skull, so, yay) and then we move and I get to decorate and lovely things, and this whole while I’m having a fantastic time with school because my classes are so awesome, and then it’s my birthday, and then Halloween, and then there are some other things thrown in there but let’s skip to CHRISTMAS because I love Christmas more than anything… And then New Year’s and prom later on and… Yeah. This school year is gonna be awesome.

I don’t really like this roller coaster metaphor, though, and you know why? Because only going up on a roller coaster means that the whole time, you’re waiting in fear for that moment when it suddenly drops. And honestly, the roller coaster speeding downward is the best part. But the analogy does work in one way: when my roller coaster takes a turn and speeds downward, I’m going to throw my hands up and not let it worry me. After all, it always shoots back up eventually – and I refuse to live my life dreading the point when it’s not awesome anymore.

Who am I kidding. My life is always awesome. 😉 But that’s only because it’s filled with people I love and books and cello and all the things that matter so much to me. So thank you for being in my life and making it awesome. I don’t think I could have made it past the lowest point on my roller coaster without all of you.

Really quickly, before I go and get back to Beowulf… Starting as soon as I finish the Great Gatsby (it’s awesome so far), I’d like to begin a series of critical book analyses (but done in a fun way, of course) where I review the book and point out some things that I liked and try and uncover some of the metaphors and hidden meanings (if there are any to be found — not everything I’m going to read will be a classic, deep book). Here’s a little preview of the books you might see.

Probably not in this order, maybe not all of these, hopefully more (think Dickens, and Verne, and Salinger, and some more of the classics – I have a number of books on hold at the library). Also, if anyone has read The Sound and the Fury, tell me if I should read that one – I’m going to have to clear it with my parents first, but I saw it on our shelves and it looks good and the title is a reference to that Macbeth excerpt I quoted yesterday, so where can it go wrong? 😉

Have a great night all of you – I will write again next Wednesday. I’m taking the weekend off. I think I’ve earned it.

Love & best wishes,
Hero

 

BEDA Day 13: Inspired

I know you’re all desperate to hear about art camp (hah), but before I post about that, I have some poetic religious gushing that I have to get off my chest. If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine, but I feel like it will offer a peek at my world view and my spiritual life, so if you’re interested, continue on.

I’ve put this post off because Saturday and Sunday I was too exhausted to do it justice, and I don’t want to lose my train of thought by putting it off any more. Almost the entirety of this post occurred to me during adoration on Saturday, so y’all should feel flattered that I’m thinking about you all the time. 😉

So on Saturday I went to a LifeTeen event at a theme park. (Not telling which one, for safety reasons, however feeble they might be.) We spent the day riding the roller coasters and eating overpriced ice cream and sweating a lot. It was incredibly hot. As fun as the roller coasters and the ice cream and the heat (ha) might have been, the best part started in the late afternoon, when we gathered in the stadium for Mass and adoration.

Before Mass started, we sang a bunch of Catholic songs and punched the air and danced — I recognized a guy who spoke at the Made to Love retreat I went to back in February. It was awesome.

Then there was Mass. As a rule, whenever our Archbishop says Mass, it’s awesome. You know how (or you may not know, actually) how Pope John Paul II was so invested and enthused about the youth? Our Archbishop is the same way. He’s fantastic. His homily was fantastic, but the part of the Mass that really spoke to me was the Eucharist. This seems to always happen to me at retreats, but because it always takes so long to distribute to Body and Blood, I end up having a lot of time to contemplate and it always really moves me.

I’d spent the whole week at art camp, surrounded by people who weren’t Catholic and probably weren’t even Christian. At one point during the camp, I’d had to explain how we Catholics don’t worship Mary, we just honor her. (That’s always fun, right?) I can’t help but pity my non-Catholic/non-Christian friends. I know they’re happy how they are, and I mean no offense by any of this, but I am so happy to be Catholic. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like not to have Mary or the saints in my life. Not to have the Eucharist; not to have adoration.

I have to wonder how it feels not to have that special relationship with our Heavenly Mother. I know that when I’m feeling the most alone – when I’m crying late into the night and can’t sleep because of the sobs pulling apart my chest – she’s the one who kisses my wounds and rocks me in her arms until I fall asleep. She’s the one who holds me, the one who comforts me. One night at camp I just lost it completely. I’d never felt so alone, so much loss, so empty inside. I spent a good fifteen minutes kneeling by the window and just crying my eyes out as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t wake up my roommates… I finally settled under the covers with my rosary and ended up falling asleep halfway through the third decade. She is with me when others aren’t, or can’t be. And I can’t imagine life without her.

As I knelt on the cement ground of the theme park stadium, watching the Archbishop give communion, I felt huge emotion welling up inside my chest. The band was singing How He Loves, which I absolutely love, and this one line just echoed through my head… “If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking…”

I felt so tired. Emotionally and physically, I was exhausted. I was sick (still am) of crying myself to sleep, of the ache in my heart that comes from nowhere and catches me unaware. I just wanted to stumble forward into His arms and drown in Him. I wanted to give everything to Him, and I did. My aches, my pains, my joys, my fears, my sadness, my excitement… Everything that I am, everything that I am to be, I want to surrender to him. I want every molecule, every particle of my being to be filled with Him – every time I breathe in I want Him to fill my lungs, to fill me inside and help me stand up, help me carry on, help me hold up my head. And I want it so desperately – the only thing I want as desperately is for my friends to be able to feel this way; to experience what I experience. I want the people I love to know how it feels to have Him in their life – not that they don’t already, but a lot of them don’t have Him in this way.

Not just my friends, either. The people on the roller coasters surrounding the stadium, their squealing cutting through the silence – not realizing how close they are to Christ Himself. Not realizing that the one person who loves them more than anyone on this earth ever will is right there. He loves them more than the boy sitting next to them on the coaster, more than the mother who tucked them in at night, more than the girl who broke their heart said she did. More than all of it combined. And they don’t even know it.

They don’t know how it feels to see the priest process in with the monstrance and to have their breath catch in their throat and their heart skip a beat. To not want to tear they eyes away until they have to because their vision is flooded with tears and they have to wipe their eyes.

If I am drowning, then I want to grab hold of everyone I know and drag them under with me, because drowning has never felt so beautiful and filled me with so much joy. My life has been rough and confusing lately, a lot like the roller coasters I rode on. There have been loops and twists, plummeting drops that still haunt me, and the inescapable fear that I am going to fall off the ride. But through it all, He has been with me, holding my hand and teaching me how to breathe again.

I realized on Saturday that Jesus is and always will be my one true love. He is my bridegroom, and every Sunday (and usually at some point during the week, too), I walk down the aisle to be with Him at the altar. He is the only man who will love me more than I could ever possibly love Him – even though I love Him with everything I have, He will always love me more because He can. I cannot love Him like He loves me because I am just human. I’m a weak and exhausted teenage girl, and despite my many flaws, He loves me and He always will, even when I sin, even when I break out in pimples, even when I feel like the most unloved and loneliest being alive – He is always there.

I am never truly alone. I cannot be. That is the simple truth that has kept me going since June. When love and hope and happiness feel as though they are gone from my life, there is someone there for me, there with me.

That’s why I pity people who don’t know Christ. Because without Christ, I would feel even more lost than I always do. I have a road map, and even though I feel like I can’t read it a lot of the time, I know I have it and the reassurance of that has kept me sane.

That’s why Catholicism is the most important aspect of my being. That’s why I go to Mass every Sunday and why I keep a rosary by my bed. That’s why Mary is my mother and my greatest friends don’t live on earth. Without Christ, without the Eucharist, without someone to feed me – someone to tell me to GET UP AND EAT – I would be nothing. I would not be able to go on.

Have a blessed evening, you guys. Stay tuned for some art camp shenanigans and some paintings and stuff. ‘Til then, best wishes! 🙂

~Hero

Things of Little Consequence

Today I want to devote an entire blog post to all the issues I have with Avril Lavigne’s ‘Sk8er Boi’. Stupid? Yes. But the dang song is stuck in my head and there is so much wrong with it that I feel the need to get this rant out of my system.

Let’s go line by line, shall we?

He was a boy
She was a girl
Can I make it anymore obvious?

So far, fine. Girl, boy, classic love story set up.

He was a punk.
She did ballet.
What more can I say?

Quite a bit more, actually. I get that this is a song, and this line is used to reflect that they had pretty different personalities, but being a punk/doing ballet does not epitomize you as a person.

He wanted her.
She’d never tell.
Secretly she wanted him as well.

Here’s where I start having issues. Besides the fact that we’re using the word ‘wanted’ instead of ‘was in love with’ (which says to me that this is obviously a really superficial relationship), we also have to deal with the fact that this ballerina girl is ashamed of ‘wanting’ this guy. I’m sorry, but if you really care about someone, you’re not ashamed of them – no matter what others think. Which leads us to the next line.

And all of her friends
Stuck up their nose.
And they had a problem with his baggy clothes.

In my time I’ve seen two ways that this can be interpreted: 1) Ballerina Girl’s friends are all snobs and need to get over themselves, and are also not Ballerina Girl’s real friends, because if they were her real friends, they’d like him because she liked him and they want her to be happy. 2) Ballerina Girl’s friends care too much about her to see her go off with this punk/skater dude who doesn’t exactly sound like a savory person. I mean, clothes are one thing, but personality and behavior are another. (If one of my friends liked a guy who was treated people badly or didn’t have respect for authority or otherwise made him a bad influence, I would have issues, and pull a Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. “My objections to the marriage were not merely those which I last night acknowledged to have the utmost force of passion to put aside, in my own case; the want of connection could not be so great an evil to my friend as to me…”) Either way, this line is just wrong, juxtaposed with the next one.

He was a skater boy, she said see ya later boy.
He wasn’t good enough for her.
She had a pretty face but her head was up in space.
She needed to come back down to earth.

Okay, so this one also has two interpretations, the former of which is more likely: Ballerina Girl listened to her snobby friends and turned down Skater/Punk Dude not because he was bad for her morally, but because he was poor or a punk or not a ballerina or some other superficial reason. The less likely reason is that Ballerina Girl turned down Skater/Punk Dude because he was legitimately morally bad for her, as her friends told her, and Avril Lavigne is mocking this decision. So either she was superficial, or she wasn’t superficial and Lavigne is calling her an idiot for leaving a guy who was apparently hot/talented.

Five years from now, she sits at home feeding the baby, she’s all alone.
She turns on TV and guess who she sees?
Skater boy rockin’ up MTV.
She calls up her friends.
They already know
And they’ve all got tickets to see his show.
She tags along, stands in the crowd.
Looks up at the man that she turned down.

Okay, this is the part of the song that bothers me the most. She has a baby, which, assuming the best case scenario, means that she was in love with someone who was also in love with her, and they got married and had a baby and he’s either still there and just not present in this scene, or he left/something happened to him. So then this girl, with her child, born of a man she obviously loved very much and should either be remembering or mourning or something, goes to a concert to regret her decisions because the guy she liked as a teenager is a rock star now. What is this? Is she supposed to throw away everything she had with the father of her child because this dude is a rock star? Does she have no integrity? What real woman would experience regret at a loving, obviously fruitful, if short-lived relationship because a relationship that could have happened with a famous dude didn’t? I mean, come on! I’ve had crushes on people before, and I don’t think in a million years that, after having grown up, gotten married and had children, I would go back to having a crush on them because they can play a guitar moderately well.

He was a skater boy, she said see ya later boy.
He wasn’t good enough for her.
Now he’s a superstar
Slammin’ on his guitar
To show pretty faces what he’s worth.

This line is also obnoxious. Because your worth is entirely in the fact that you’re a superstar! Apparently! It’s like, “Hey, this girl turned me down. What should I do? I know! Not change my personality or anything at all, not maybe shape up my life and become a respectable gentleman so this doesn’t happen again – nah! I’ll become a ROCKSTAR, so I can have a bunch of groupies and girls who have no self confidence/worth hanging all over me, and then she’ll regret not dating me because I’m FAMOUS now!” In what universe does this make sense? If I got turned down by a guy for reasons based on station of life/personality/whatever, I’d either a) move on, or b) in following the same route as Skater/Punk Dude, go for a profession that actually shows my self worth! Like, hey, I was an awesome girl, I’m a writer/famous cellist/charity worker with a great personality now, too bad you couldn’t see past my non-designer clothes and really get to know me! Instead, this guy, who was turned down FOR SUPERFICIAL REASONS goes off and pursues ONE OF THE MOST SUPERFICIAL CAREERS EVER. What’s this girl supposed to think? “Aw, dang it, look at how famous that guy is. I really missed out – he would have made me happy… I mean, how could that relationship go wrong? He’s so famous, everything would be perfect and his riches and fame would make me happy…” Logic check, please.

Sorry girl but you missed out.
Well tough luck that boy’s mine now.
We are more than just good friends.
This is how the story ends.
Too bad that you couldn’t see…
See the man that boy could be.
There is more than meets the eye,
I see the soul that is inside.

Okay. So now Lavigne is mocking this girl who made life choices that may or may not have been wrong, after ridiculing the fact that she MAJORLY SCREWED UP by not dating this über famous guitar player when she had the chance and therefore her life is terrible and she will never be happy ever just because she didn’t date a rock star… And then she has the nerve to throw in a line about ‘soul’ – Avril, I’m pretty positive from everything you’ve said so far that you don’t really care about this guy’s soul. You’re dating him because he’s a rock star and making fun of the girl who didn’t. If he had a winning personality and a soul that would have made him right for this girl, he probably wouldn’t have decided to become a rock star to show her what she was missing. (Try a humanitarian or a doctor, if we’re going to go down the career route – not that someone’s career showcases their personality. Honestly, he should have actually talked to her, since she obviously cared – well, ‘wanted’ this guy. If he had such a deep soul or whatever, she would love him regardless of the bagginess of his clothing.)

He’s just a boy, and I’m just a girl.
Can I make it anymore obvious?
We are in love.
Haven’t you heard how we rock each other’s world?

Yay, Avril, you love the guy. Good for you. I hope you feel better, taunting the girl who almost had him first. ALSO, you seem to think that she would be in your shoes if she hadn’t turned him down. So, two questions for you: 1) how many relationships that start as teenagers last for very long? 2) How many relationships with ROCK STARS last for very long? All I can see as that Ballerina Girl would have dated this guy for superficial reasons, and now she’d be in the same place she is now, except she went through a breakup with this guy – even more painful – and would not have a baby, a baby who is probably pretty dang precious to her.

I’m with the skater boy I said see ya later boy.
I’ll be backstage after the show.
I’ll be at the studio singing the song we wrote about a girl you used to know.

Well, that’s hardly necessary, is it?

Anyway, I know it doesn’t really matter and it’s kind of stupid to complain about a pop song that came out in 2002, but it just really bothers me that this is society’s view on women. Didn’t date a rock star? Life wasted. Hope you enjoy regretting that decision until the day you die. Like you can’t live a happy, full life without dating someone famous or cool! And now you’re stuck with a baby from pursuing true love – so, oops, looks like your whole life is ruined! I, for one, hope that I marry a giant dork who isn’t cool or famous in the slightest, and then have a gazillion kids so my life is as ruined as I can possibly get it, and I KNOW that will make me incredibly happy, despite the fact that Avril Lavigne and the rest of the world things it won’t.

I’ll do my question post on Wednesday, providing I get some more questions. Leave them in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading!

~Hero

Essay Prompts in the Cemetery

This weekend I had to write an essay. Usually I’m good at essays, but this essay had a pretty difficult prompt: is it better to talk about your feelings or to act on them? It was hard for me because I think you should talk about your feelings and act on them – but ‘both’ was not an acceptable essay topic. You had to pick one or the other. Because I was pressed for time, I picked talk about your feelings – and of course, talking about your feelings is good, and there can be consequences for acting on your feelings without talking about them first – but this morning I was really thinking about it, and I may have been wrong.

See, my dad went on a retreat this weekend, and for lunch today we met up with him at the retreat center. The retreat center is also on the same grounds as a cemetery. While everyone was setting up, I could see that I was just getting under people’s feet and not being helpful, so I slipped outside and walked over to it.

There’s this one part of the cemetery that I’m always drawn to – a really tragic, but at the same time very beautiful part. It’s set away from the rest of the cemetery, and there’s a statue in the middle of the grass of Jesus sitting on a bench, with a child on his lap, two children at his feet, and a few feet away, there’s another child running to him. The grave markers around the statues have only one date on them. This part of the cemetery is where all the babies who died on the same day they were born are buried. It’s achingly sad to walk around the graves and read the inscriptions on the marble: ‘Our darling baby – Mom and Dad will see you soon.’ Looking over them, I always want to cry – to plop down on the bench next to Jesus and shed silent tears for the families of these babies. I have no idea who they are. All I know is what the name of their baby was, and the day that baby was born and died.

But I hold back the tears. I hold back the tears because when I look at the statue of Jesus with the children and see the smiles on their stone faces, I know the joy that these babies are experiencing. Yes, their time of this earth was unfairly short. But they are with God – they are so dear to God, and I feel this warmness well up inside of me when I think of how all the children in this cemetery, and every other cemetery, are being held in the arms of God. They are happier right now that they ever could have been on this planet. It’s a beautiful thing – a tragically beautiful thing.

One of the grave markers had a quote from Helen Keller on it that really struck me: “The most precious things in life cannot be seen or even touched, but only felt with the heart.”

As I walked back to the retreat center, my high heels clicking on the uneven road, I thought about why I’d walked over the the cemetery. I had a feeling – a deep feeling, a strong pull – to walk over there and look at the statues. To read the grave markers. To take a minute and remember what’s precious and what matters in life. To commiserate with strangers. Yeah, sometimes acting on your feelings doesn’t end well. But other times, you do something on a whim, because you feel like it, and you experience something you didn’t before. You realize something poignant and meaningful. You realize that the most precious things in life cannot be seen or even touched, but only felt with the heart.

And you think that maybe you wrote the wrong essay. Maybe acting on your feelings takes you places that you wouldn’t have gone if you’d talked it out logically before hand. And maybe it takes an experience in a cemetery for you to understand that.

~Hero