...is a good thing to do as the New Year approaches. Yesterday was the Third Anniversary of this blog, and what an amazing three years it's been. However, my mind right now is focused on gratitude to God for more recent events.
I reconciled with a good friend of mine last weekend with whom I had not spoken for a year and a half. While it's hard to say what was going on, emotionally, on her end, I know that either way I had a large responsibility in creating that rift over the years (the final break only manifested a tension that had been simmering for a long time, I think), and certainly the event that served as the final catalyst on my part was inexcusable. I was quite surprised, then, to get the phone-call from her, as I had written a message a few weeks earlier (in a very dark place) and heard no immediate response. I was so happy to see her again; really, her absence had meant that a significant part of my own self and respository of my own personal history...had been entirely missing, and I was just recently realizing how profoundly harmful that rupture had been to my own soul on a deep (if not immediately apparent) level, and so the restoration was an important part of restoring balance. I don't know if our relationship will be the same as it used to be in the future or what, but either way I was so happy, we spent seven hours catching up, saw some other friends together the next day, and I'm supposed to go visit her in California sometime in the New Year.
I am grateful in general for getting to see so many friends recently, from that long "catch up" with my recently reconciled friend, to our trip to the zoo with a couple other friends the next day, to a crazy night ending with a bar-fight with four of my oldest friends the next day (we've known each other about 15 years now), to Solemn Midnight Mass at the Institute of Christ the King for Christmas with another friend from college (our third year in a row going), to a trip I took today to the aquarium in Chicago with a really good friend of mine. It's most special in groups. It's nice enough to have individual friends going back to ones childhood, but to be part of a group of four or five that have all known each other over that span...really does create a wonderful sense of hometown groundedness and stability and continuity that I think is important for a person. I also, in the context of one of these group get-togethers, reconciled with another friend of mine who had drifted away over a misunderstanding sometime in the past year. Though she is not nearly as important to me on a personal level as the other, this is someone who goes back to first grade, who formed an integral part of one sub-group who are supposed to be friends for life, and whose loss would have introduced significant difficulty in the future when it came to having such group reunions. I feel like I've driven some people away in my life as of late (always so much more painful than when people drift away organically) and so having two reconciliations like this, and re-affirming all these different friendships through meeting, really helped me feel like harmony was being restored.
On the other hand, I am also grateful for recently making the decision to purge from my life several acquaintances who were toxic in their homophobia or general Catholic identity-politicking. The last thing I need right now is a (mostly online) "audience" of Catholic judges to make me feel trapped in a persona. My attitudes and approach towards engaging religion and spirituality have undergone a pretty profound shift recently, and I am grateful for the sense of spiritual freedom this has afforded me. Interestingly, this very liberation makes it, perhaps, feel unlikely that I'll ever get into specifics in terms of writing posts synthesizing these realizations online (which, for me, has often been more an act of "convincing myself") though, on the other hand, maybe someday or in some format I will, given that I might think my musings could be helpful for other people (though, really, I think they're understandings that people can only ever learn for themselves; the last thing I'd want is to go from one dogmatism to another; at best, then, reflecting on my journey could only help others by providing them with a language for expressing their own evolutions when they are ready). Suffice it to say, it's clear that in the past I was appropriating religion in a fundamentalist or legalistic sense, and so much unnecessary stress and artificial constraint and anxiety was being invested in this. Eventually, I became an absurd caricature in spite of my own innate qualities of self-awareness and criticality. It's nice, for once, to not feel like I have to fight battles to sustain an invisible edifice lest it (for whatever reason) threaten my own sense of self too much or something like that. It's nice to be able to read viewpoints, even if I disagree with them, and not feel a burning, anger, or sense of "Hmm, they may have a point...No! Better do damage control to cover this up!" Most of all, it's nice to feel honest with myself rather than feeling like I have to put energy into maintaining an elaborate intellectual facade by repression. It's nice to raze the bastions, it's nice to know God is love and mercy, and to focus on grace rather than the Law as I go forward on my spiritual journey and grapple with this Faith I have been given.
I am also so grateful, as I discussed in my last post, for coming out officially. Only a couple of my remaining friends did not know already, but it was really great to come out to my family and have a long drunk conversation with my dad about sexuality and all the hidden stories of my life of which he was entirely unaware (but whose very absence created, I'm sure, a very unbalanced image of who I am in his head). He said he already basically knew, and that such suspicions have already been discussed with my siblings, but he was so proud, and though we were really drunk (he broke a glass and it was gently hinted we should leave the pub, actually) I felt really close to him. He actually expressed more appreciation for religion and spirituality than I'd ever seen before too. Then the next day it turned out he had forgotten large chunks of the conversation (and, actually, all of it beyond a certain point) on account of his inebriation, which made things a bit awkward in terms of how to proceed (with a "recap"?) but it's a step I'm so glad was taken.
I'm grateful for having steady work close to home for now, and for finding a friend at work to help get me through the long dull days. I'm grateful for seeing family at the holidays and good food. I'm grateful that I didn't get many gifts, because I don't want much else in my life right now materially.
I'm grateful the world did not end.