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Well, today has been… harrowing.
The Viking potential-in-laws were over for Easter and, being good little Catholics, we took them to Easter Sunday Mass.
Now, to give you some backstory, I haven’t been to Mass in a very long time for very good reasons. Our nearest church is the same church that was connected to my Catholic school. I’m still suffering from PTSD from what I went through in Catholic school and walking into that church instantly sends me back to elementary school and being told to be quiet, sit up straight, and believe everything that I was told or I’d go straight to Hell. (It’s that last one that got me, but that’s a different post.)
I tried to do everything I could to prepare for going to Easter Mass. I took my anxiety medication. I brought along a Bible so I could always just tune out and read the Scriptures for myself if it got too intense. I told myself that the Church couldn’t hurt me anymore.
Apparently, it still can.
To be fair to myself, it started out alright. Before Mass, Dad and I talked theology in the academic sense, exploring Dad’s experience in the Ministry Development Program and how the modern concept of Hell came to be. (A mixture of mistranslation, Germanic influence, and the Inferno). Then, when Mass started, I was mainly focused on helping the (Protestant) Vikings follow along. But once they got the hang of it, I was left with just me, my memories, and the Mass.
I tried focusing on other things. I even started trying to make harmonies for the choir music that the reedy children’s choir was singing and singing/humming them quietly to myself. But it was as if the ghosts of the overzealous teachers were patrolling the aisles. I could almost see them in my mind’s eye: walking up and down the aisles and giving everyone, behaving or not, intimidating looks and snapping at them, or sitting behind me and glaring at the back of my childish head as if I were the Devil himself, even though I’d done nothing wrong to my knowledge. Except not fully believe. Yes, that was it. They could smell it on me. That I didn’t fully believe everything they said about God.
I began trembling, now fully grown and semi-versed in the actual history of the Church and its mythos. When we knelt down, I could feel myself becoming ten-years-old again—scared to death that someone would find out my dread secret of not fully believing and knowing that God knew and was plotting His revenge. I could barely look at the Consecration for fear. I simply glanced up so I wouldn’t seem out of place. I sincerely considered not going up to take Communion. I could use the Vikings as an excuse. “Someone has to sit with them,” I rehearsed to myself. “It’d be rude to just leave them alone in the pew.” But then people were getting up and, in my blind terror, I found myself just following. Luckily, since it was Easter Mass, there was more than just the priest and the deacon giving out Communion. I was able to receive Communion from one of the volunteers, which was a little less intimidating. I was still shaking like a leaf, half afraid that God’s revenge would come in the form of having me choke to death on a Communion wafer. Still, I was able to present a stiff upper lip and go through the appropriate motions (which came with surprising ease to me). Only once I’d chewed up the wafer did I begin to relax a little, satisfied that God wasn’t going to strike me dead right then and there. I managed to make it back to the pew, but I was reeling. I half-sat, half-kneeled back at the pew and tried to get a handle on myself. I focused on the choir music and singing with them to try to keep myself distracted. Usually, I’d march to the back of the church after something like that and get a drink of water, maybe wait for my family back there, but, with the Vikings in tow, I didn’t want to let on that anything was wrong. So, instead, I sat in the pew and tried desperately to not let my fear show.
This lasted all through Easter brunch as well, though at that point I’d suppressed it enough that it was barely noticeable. I just didn’t feel entirely well and wasn’t quite in the mood for company. Companionable enough, but slightly distant—and the longer they stayed the more distant I became. But otherwise…
Finally, we got home, but Kay and the Vikings still wouldn’t leave. We had to color eggs, which made me want to smash the damn things into a million pieces. Expressing this was where I made my mistake. I didn’t want to play anymore and I said that I just wanted to smash my egg. “Well, that’s a bit violent,” Mom said. “Would you eat it?”
"No," I replied. "Just smash it."
"Well, if you’re going to break it, you’re going to have to eat it," she said, not seeming to catch onto the whole point of smashing colored, hard-boiled eggs.
"I don’t think I’ve ever had a hard-boiled egg," the Viking’s sister said, resulting in a flurry to fix her one.
It was at that point that I fled outside. I lay down in the grass in our backyard, forgetting that I’m slightly allergic to grass, and tried to just soak up the nice weather and lack of people. I could hear the neighbors having their own Easter celebrations and wondered what would happen if any of them caught me lying in the grass and if there’d be negative consequences. “Well, if a woman can’t lie in the grass in her own backyard,” I reasoned to myself as I shielded my eyes from the sun. “Then there’s something seriously wrong with society.”
Apparently, there was something wrong with lying in the grass, though. The Viking’s sister came out after a few minutes looking for Pepper. She seemed vaguely worried. Once she went back inside, I switched to leaning against a sapling. Then Kay came out.
"Hey, Alice," she said as if talking to a wild animal. "Whatcha doing?"
"I was wondering if we need to take the braces off this tree," I said, which was technically true. I had been about to do it myself once I’d tested that the sapling was strong enough by gently shaking it to see if it had its roots firmly planted in the soil.
"Maybe in a bit," she said, going over to water her cherry tree. "Let it grow a bit more."
I nodded and watched her water her tree. Fury and frustration still flowing through my veins, I decided to take it out on the composter. I got a garden fork to stir it up with and the hose and sufficiently mixed and wetted the compost. It took a bit of work and I got some cuts on my knuckles for my pains, but in the end the task was completed. After tending to the cuts, I took to washing the dishes. Anything to keep me from “socializing”.
Finally, Kay and the Vikings left. I bid them a somewhat terse goodbye, pretending to be too busy getting things straightened up. Kay gave me a hug goodbye all the same.
Once they were gone, I continued my cleaning. “Going on a cleaning spree, huh?” Mom commented.
I nodded. “Do you want to keep this Easter basket?” I asked, holding up the little, green basket she’d gotten me and from which I’d already emptied all the candy and stuffing.
"Not really. They were like 90 cents."
I nodded and began clipping at the bottom with some scissors.
"Alice, what are you…?"
"It’s not going to fit in the trash unless I deconstruct it," I interrupted.
"You’re really taking that apart?" Dad put in.
"It won’t fit in the trash if I don’t," I replied.
"Alright. Do you want to talk about what’s making you so upset or just keep…" She gestured to my methodical destruction of the Easter basket.
I grit my teeth. “Not really,” I growled as I pulled a bit of the weaving out.
At that point, Mom gave up and went outside. Dad sat down across the table from me and watched me take it apart. “You know,” he commented after awhile. “That’s an awful lot of trouble to go to over an Easter basket.”
"Only way it’ll fit."
He paused. “Alice, what’s going on?”
And that’s when I broke. I put down the scissors and started to explain how Mass had been difficult for me. How the Church was still haunting me. I ended up crying as I took apart what was left of the Easter basket. Dad explained to Mom once she came back in. They were both sympathetic once they realized what was going on and told me I didn’t have to go to church if I didn’t want to. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to be driven off again. I told them I wanted to go to church, just not that church. “Too many memories,” I explained. “It’s funny. I have no problem if I’m singing or I’m at the cathedral, but something about sitting in the pews…”
"Well, why don’t we do that then?" Dad suggested. "We can go to the cathedral a few times. The choir director will want us to start singing again pretty soon."
"And I want to get into her good graces," I added, thinking of how I was planning on taking voice lessons from her during the summer.
So that’s become our plan to slowly introduce me back to the Church. I figure this is a form of exposure therapy. You know, facing the thing you’re afraid of in order to conquer it. And hopefully, with some luck and some radical priests, I can face this dragon.
what if the coins you find randomly at the bottom of drawers and in between couch cushions are actually from spiders trying to pay rent
do you think God ever gets sad like “what do you mean you don’t love yourself i worked so hard on you….”
…why is this so uplifting
I’m not even religious and this makes me smile.
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