When I took off my crucifix and St. Raphael medal today, I felt like I was taking off a wedding ring.
I’ve had that little crucifix since I was a baby, when I was baptized. I tried to give it to my priest friend, but he wouldn’t take it. I had half the mind to just leave it there on the pew, even though both are third-class relics (in vernacular: very special). He told me to keep it with me, at least in my purse. So I did, because he told me to (and very earnestly). Giving up something you wore all your life is harder than one would think, even if it’s something as burdensome and ugly as a wedding ring can be when it’s turning out to not be the fairy-tale everyone made it out to be.
I feel like I’m in a loveless marriage now when it comes to the Church. Going to Mass really does feel like an Obligation. It feels like what I hear what happens, when there’s trouble in the bedroom; at least one spouse doesn’t really want to do it, doesn’t get anything out of it, it hurts him/her in some way, but just does it because the other wants it and it’s expected of him/her.
Now, I don’t go to church for the “warm fuzzies” or to “feel spiritual”. I never have. I never really expected or thought about what I “got out of it”. If that’s what I wanted, I’d take my spiritual books and be with nature outside; I’ve spent many an hour outside churches with the trees, flowers, and holy statues.
I didn’t have a choice growing up, and when I had the choice, went more often, stayed longer than what’s expected of me. Why? Because I was, I thought, safe there. Evil things (that I don’t feel ready to talk about) wouldn’t be there, telling me I belong to them. When people were there, I was ignored at worst, and at best, they acted friendly. When it was empty (even better), I do have a sense of security come from the Blessed Sacrament, the holy statues, that little red candle. I can sense God. And as I grew closer to my home parish, that made it all the safer, knowing there were people there who cared for me. In other churches, I’d feel safer because it was a place my abusers didn’t know about, or would go looking for me at, one parish* having both conditions met with the presence of someone I
stupidly thought would protect me if need be (all the regret…).
*A/N: it is to be said, though, that while the people at that parish acted nice, some of them pointedly asked why I was there long after Mass was over. Could be, combined with what he would say, that they were whispering about me behind my back, about “that woman over there.” Maybe they were part of it. Who knows.
This safety, this sense of God, these good, positive things are still…kinda there when I’m more or less alone, or again, outside. Then Mass starts, and all I want to do is run out the doors. I try to think of something else, almost anything else, the whole time to dissociate my way out of being in that pew. Over the course of a long time now, all I can think about is all the hurt I’ve experienced by the Church. I think of everyone who abandoned me, abused me, lied to me, and just broke my heart. People I used to have only loving memories that made me smile, who now bring up hatred, heartache, words and memories that crush my spirit.
I especially think of people I put under the category of “parent”, especially “father”. I think of my main abusers, how there’d be verbal abuse before and after Mass most Sundays, how one would touch my throat to feel for vibration when I spoke or sang too quietly (an enraging habit, and now I’m sometimes too loud). I think of my old spiritual director, things he said to get rid of me. I think of those older folks who “adopted” me, and how that all turned out.
To be honest, I don’t see God as very different from them anymore.
I went to the vigil tonight – again, out of obligation, as hated an obligation as that is now. I had to escape to cry in the bathroom again. The homily got to me: he asked if, like in the readings, God came to us and said “Ask anything of me, and I will give it to you” (1 Kings 3:5). “What would you ask for?” he presented. I realized that I wouldn’t want to ask for anything; I wouldn’t trust it. That’s a trap question, just as much as “How are you?” or “What’s wrong?” Whatever I’m given, after all, will just be taken away, leaving me not even emptiness, but an ache of betrayal. Why ask? Why want? Why open myself up to hurt and loss?
Even if I did trust God, I really don’t know what I’d ask for. Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding. I think I have more than I’d ever want of that by way of hard experience.
What would I want? What would I ask for? Compassion? Kindness? Someone who’d stay? Someone who’d actually want to know me, to see me healed, and not wuss out? Yeah right. I’ve had those things for a little while. They all ended badly. It’s a trap. Can’t trust it.
…It’s awful. I’ve never (officially) had a boyfriend, or girlfriend for that matter, and I still managed to learn what a broken heart feels like. All the advice online has to offer on broken hearts due to dating/marriage applies to most of those platonic relationships that broke.
Now, all I have is hatred.
Hatred for them is the only thing that’s going to keep me safe.
For years, I was always taught to forgive and show mercy. One abuser would always come to me after the other lay in on me, and straight up beg me to forgive. “Forgive, Ana. Be merciful, Ana. Say sorry for provoking her, Ana.”
That’s what I did. For years.
I forgave. I showed mercy.
All the while, a very deep anger boiled inside. “It’s not fair!” I’d think. And I was right; it wasn’t fair. I was the price paid to keep the status quo, and to keep the abuse pattern going. It was (and I quote) “too much trouble” to challenge it, to get an apology and some kindness.
Screw mercy. Screw forgiveness.
And yet that’s precisely what everyone tells me is going to make me feel better.
They always tell me that if I just forgive all those abusers, all those people who broke my heart and abandoned me, I’d finally feel better. It’s the only way, they say. The whole thing about the Mass and the Church is forgiveness and reparation, right? Jesus even says to “love [my] enemies” and to “pray” for them. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Mercy, mercy, mercy. Always mercy and forgiveness. Who cares if it’s fair?
It all sounds like masochism to me. Sounds like letting someone hurt me over and over and over until there’s nothing left of me, and that I’m expected to take joy from it.
…and those thoughts sound decidedly un-Catholic, aren’t they?
That’s the other thing; I don’t feel welcome in the Church anymore. I feel unwanted. I feel like the thing everyone would rather wasn’t there. I’m thinking some really dirty and disgusting thing, like rotting roadkill, or something that crawled out of a bog. Who cares if someone else did the running over, or pushing into the bog – just matters that it looks and smells like something no one would want to get near. People, in and out of the Church, say they care, that they want to really know me. They get to know me, and run away. Cowards.
But hell; if I could, I’d run from me, too.
Maybe another solution will present itself. For now, hatred seems to be the only option I have. I really, truly don’t know if I could survive it happening again. If I opened up, forgave, let someone in again…only for them to eventually leave me even more hurt than I was before, their words and presence that once gave comfort instead haunting my every moment, waking or sleeping. I don’t know if I could live through that. I really don’t.
…I don’t know what else to do.
I don’t like feeling this way.
I’m scared I’m becoming that one main abuser, who never got angry until she suddenly couldn’t stop being angry.
But what else can I do?