Thursday, July 24, 2014

Erasing "Church Lady" from My Moniker

As many of you know, I've been on a family/medical leave of absence from my church lady job for 12 weeks now.    What originally began as a "family" medical leave for Ponzi's illness evolved into a leave for my own health as I began deal with the emerging and varied symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome.

But as my scheduled time to return approached, I grew more and more anxious about returning to my job: anxious because I knew in my heart of hearts that I could never handle the stress level again . . . anxious because I didn't even want to try . . . . and anxious because every time I thought about it, it brought back flashbacks of a different time. .  .a different me. .  . a me that can never be again.

But you see, the saddest part is that I don't even want to drive by the building any longer.

Because I feel like I quit God.

I quit God and that beautiful and sacred space that used to be my second home.  I quit the floors I used to see polished to perfection . . .the weekly liturgies I used to put together with care. .  .the grieving families I used to help. . . the complainers I used to lend an ear to. .  .the plumbers I used to send in the right direction . . . the schedules I used to prepare . . . the altar servers I used to train . . .the poems and prayers I used to write. . . Christmas decorations I used to oversee . . . toilet paper I used to order. . .

You name it.  I have walked away from it all.

I knew every square inch of those buildings - inside and out.   I was baptized in that church and made every one of my sacraments there (except one - ironically enough, a fire erupted in the church the week after Drip Dry stepped through the doors so we needed to move our wedding to another church)  And my children have all grown up with that church building as a part of their lives.

You see, I'm a creature of habit.   And that historic building and all it encompassed was a huge part of my life.

And I would be one big, fat liar if I didn't tell you that I am now feeling tremendous guilt in the walking away part.  And I'm having a tough time distinguishing between my relationship with God and my relationship with my job.

A job which was literally sucking me dry.

In retrospect, I honestly can't say when my Sjogren's symptoms began.  I've read that saliva production needs to drop to at least 40 percent before you notice a dry mouth.  And could my production have dropped so dramatically that my lips were literally stuck together and my tear production was less than half the minimum just one month after encountering the flu?  I know my joint pain has increased dramatically (and still continues to do so) but I had been dealing with some level of pain for at least five years.  And the neuropathy in my hands and feet?   The truth is, I've been ignoring that for years as well.  Did I ever mention those mornings I would appear at work without the ability to grasp a pen hard enough to sign my own name?

No, I focused on my increasing anxiety levels instead - working my way through different therapists, anti-depressants, and Xanax strengths.   And that alone should have warned me to slow down. . . to say "no" a few more times (well, perhaps at least once). . . and to pay more attention to what my body was trying to tell me.

Instead I waited for the train wreck to hit.

And hit it did.  So now I can't go up or down a flight of stairs without pain.  I cannot walk through a grocery store without feeling fatigue.  And I cannot eat a mere cracker without liquid with which to wash it down.  (As if I needed yet-another reason to be thankful that God invented wine!)

Yes, back to God now. . . .

You see, God, I really didn't want or mean to quit you, but I needed to quit some things I thought I was doing in your name (but - in reality - was perhaps doing for my own reasons.)  I needed to stop trying to be superwoman in others eyes.  I needed to stop working seven days a week.   I needed to stop pretending I was strong.  And perhaps I needed to be a little less of a control freak.  You see, I always said that if I were God, I would like a clean church.  (For why else would they say that cleanliness was next to Godliness?)

But I'm not you, now am I?   Perhaps I needed to concentrate on YOU more.  Perhaps I even needed to attend Mass without thinking that the altar servers should tweak their bell-ringing. . . or worrying that I had left a typo in the announcements. . . or resisting the urge to run and pick up drooped flower petals off of the floor. Perhaps I needed time to sit down in your presence and just listen. . . to take the time to pray without other thoughts crowding my head.

Novel idea. . . now isn't it?

So God, I am earnestly asking you to help me though my little crisis of conscience here.   I know it may not be today. . . or tomorrow. . . or next week. (As a matter of fact, I'll be on vacation next week and will have tons of other stuff to worry about. . . like my children drowning in the ocean . .  .or getting in a car accident. . .or having the strength to go to the grocery store. . . or looking like a fool bundled up in sun-protecttive clothing while everyone else is scantily clad. . . .so don't even try to help me next week, cause I'm devoting the whole week to truly being undun.)

But I'm counting on you to see me through to the other side somehow. . .  someday. . .in some fashion.

Because I'm crying real tears here. . .
not ones from a dropper. . .
for the first time in like forever. . .
so that really must mean something. . .