Life sure has thrown us all some curves over the last couple of years. I was no exception. In a lot of ways it feels like I’m starting everything over completely. You see, my plans all fell apart just before Covid in 2020.
I was born and raised Catholic, and in 2019 I entered religious life as a Dominican postulant. (I had a profound conversion experience in 2014 that deepened my understanding of the love of Jesus Christ for me. It literally changed everything in my life, but that’s a different story.) EXACTLY nine months after entry day, I left years before vows and even before taking the habit. I had realized religious life just wasn’t what God meant for me longterm, and that was ok. What I learned about life and about myself in my that time, not to mention the intimacy I developed with my God and Savior, is absolutely irreplaceable.
Seeing I was there for 9 months precisely, I recognized it (theoretically at least) as a gestation period. A new birth. A new start. A new me, in many ways wounded and disappointed but blessed to be alive and growing.
I did two things when I returned home to New Orleans. First, I got a medical coding certification and a job in the healthcare revenue cycle: completely new. New knowledge about biology and medicine; new challenges to my sensory overload, physical sensitivity and utter hatred of the telephone; new opportunities to learn patience and mercy with myself and others.
Secondly, I returned to my Herezoth trilogy. If you’re not familiar with me, I wrote a fantasy trilogy between 2007 and 2012 that I self-published a decade ago. I never marketed it much, and I stopped marketing it more or less completely in 2014 after my conversion experience because my priorities shifted radically. Before I entered religious life I took the trilogy down from Amazon. When I left the monastery, I started working with my trilogy again: editing, rethinking, reshaping things here and there. My plan was to get a new release together of a second edition of each book: professional editing, a better marketing campaign, the works. I also wrote a first draft a prequel.
Book one, The Crimson League, is now with the editor. I’m hoping to release it again in early 2023, and plan to begin professional preparation for book two once I make up the costs of preparing the first book for rerelease.
So right now, I’m thinking a lot about starting anew, of becoming new. I just went on a retreat last weekend about “Becoming a new creation in Christ.” I’ve started a new career. I’ve got a new Church home (or “parish” as we Catholics call them) and I’ve served my Church community in new, sometimes uncomfortable ways as a small group leader. I had to start this new blog as I lost access to my original blog at http://www.crimsonleague.wordpress.com. I’m working anew on old fiction and gaining SO many more insights about life and myself in the process. I’m hoping to share those in blog posts like this one.
It’s funny how I fluctuate between different perspectives on how life has unfolded. Some days things truly do seem new, and my time in the monastery truly a nine-month gestation before a new birth. Hope is easier. I understand that I’ve started down multiple different paths, only for God to say “that’s enough now” and start with me in a completely different direction, and that He has reason for doing that and can work with it. It’s easier to be patient with myself and the slow pace of life and development. Other days I just feel frustrated by all the loss and the change of these past three years. I feel like a failure. Sometimes it’s, “Everything has collapsed!” Sometimes it’s “Every day is the same old drudgery.” I feel confused because I can’t understand any of it. (“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts,” God told Isaiah.)
And yet, I truly have learned SOOO much. It’s odd how things that are genuine accomplishments, like managing to study for and pass a medical coding certification exam in the midst of grieving my lost vocation and in the middle of COVID lockdown, can sometimes feel like nothing. I’ve learned that we can’t always help what we feel, but we can be honest with ourselves when our feelings don’t reflect reality. I can recognize my certification as an accomplishment and a mark of God’s healing, grace, and mercy, even if I’m not technically using it at present.
I have learned the importance of routine, and especially the importance of prioritizing what is most important and following through on those things no matter how I am feeling. I have learned that emotions, life events and periods of life, various cases at work, and more will always be in flux; that doesn’t matter at all. If I am striving to put God first, prioritizing prayer time every morning to give the first fruits of the day to God, trying to listen to Him and obey Him, and trying to be honest with Him, myself, and others, well, He will have all the rest. All of it.
Semisonic tells us in “Closing Time” that “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” The question is: how do we approach that? Do we focus on what has ended? Do we focus on new beginnings? St Paul talks in one of his letters about not looking back, pressing forward to the rewards of heaven. And there’s truth and wisdom there, for sure.
Still, looking back in gratitude is also good. I’ve found when I look back, I find myself in absolute AWE over the emotional and spiritual healing God has brought me over the last twelve months: after a spiritual director on retreat urged me to be honest with Him, and yell at Him, and tell Him exactly how I felt about all my plans falling apart. Also, looking to see how far you have come is good. That can spark gratitude. Looking to see how the twists and turns of life have brought you to a place you never expected, but that there can be peace and joy there nonetheless–perhaps a peace and joy never expected and not possible elsewhere–is liberating.