About a month ago I suddenly had this aversion to the word journey. If you read a lot of blogs or follow different groups on Facebook, etc. you will see that this word is used very frequently – I even use it in my own blog title. And, really, there isn’t a word more appropriate to describe the experiences I have gone through in getting healthy over the past few years – and, hopefully, into the future. But, for some reason, I just started realizing how often that word is thrown around and it kinda struck me as funny/annoying now.
So then about 2 weeks ago, as I was leaving church with my family, a woman handed me a flyer and asked me to consider joining a women’s group that was starting a new session – called, of all things, Journey. And, actually, I was aware of this group and had looked into it briefly last year but realized I had missed the start of their session … and then I forgot about it. After talking to someone at the front table, I learned that the new group was going to start meeting last week for a 9 week session. I decided to go ahead an enroll.
A brief summary of my religious life: I was raised in a very Catholic household. Very Catholic would describe my mom – my dad was just along for the ride. My mom was the daughter of very Catholic parents and her older brother was a Catholic priest before his death about 15 years ago. My dad had actually been in the seminary studying to be a priest (which was pretty common for boys his age back then) but he decided that wasn’t a life he wanted and left and finished high school at the same school as my mom in Kentucky. As a kid, we took many trips back to Kentucky to see my grandparents – both sets lived within a mile of each other. While staying at my mom’s parents’ house, it was a revolving door of nuns and priests. My uncle’s best friends were priests – and nuns – and we were also very fortunate to have a small rotating group of nuns that took care of my grandmother in her home until she died at the age of 104! Having Catholic Mass in a living room, either in Kentucky or at our house in Arizona, was pretty common. If I was anywhere near my grandmother’s bedroom when she was visiting, I got sucked in to her bedside to say the rosary for what seemed like seven hours. As a teenager/young adult, I sort of felt like my religion was handed to me whether I liked it or not. But, I was pretty compliant and went along with it because I didn’t feel like fighting it or being disrespectful – but I can’t really say I ever embraced it. I think one thing that did help as I got older is that my uncle, the priest, was extremely open-minded and laid back about all of it. If he didn’t have the white plastic collars lying all around the house, it would have surprised some to even know he was a priest. He came to Dallas when I was in college for conferences and I really enjoyed just hanging out with him and getting dinner, etc. I liked that he could just be a cool uncle, and not always – “Father Tony”. So, anyway, I went on to college in Dallas – at Southern Methodist University. We had to tell my grandma that SMU stood for St. Mary’s University. There were actually more Catholic students at SMU than Methodists. I really had no intention of going to Mass since I was now “on my own” but with the lure of free Sunday dinners (the campus cafeterias were closed on Sunday nights) I went to Mass a few times and found that, on my own terms, I loved the people and the environment. Over time, I became quite involved with campus ministry and made many friends within that. I went on and organized retreats with other off-campus groups and found Catholicism could actually be quite enjoyable outside of what I had grown up with (which wasn’t bad, but it sure wasn’t very inspiring or interesting to me). After I graduated and moved back home, I found myself back in the old “system” again but I made an effort to go find my own Catholic parish and look for something similar to what I had at SMU. Around this time I met my husband, Paul, who was a barely practicing cradle Catholic. When we started dating he went along to a few of the different Catholic churches I was checking out. We were married in the Catholic church and have been raising our kids Catholic, but it is much different than how I was raised. I wouldn’t say we make it to Mass every week and, lately, we sure have skipped more Sundays than we have actually gone, but we try. We were part of founding the parish nearest to us and were quite active in it up until about 5 years ago when, after several priest changes and losing our beloved founding pastor, we were less inspired or motivated to attend than ever. We realized through talking to old parishioners that many had changed their membership to a parish quite a bit south and east of our house but they all insisted it was worth the drive. One Sunday we took the whole family to go check it out and we really liked it. The kids got involved in their youth ministries – willingly! – and so we feel like we have found our new spiritual “home”. My prayer/spiritual life has been spotty, at best, over the past few years but we’ve tried to make an effort to keep our kids at least exposed to it but not force it on them. Fortunately this new parish does an excellent job of making it relevant, inviting and FUN for them.
So, that is where I am. In general, I believe in God and feel like there is Divine intervention in many aspects of my life and those I love. I think a person’s character speaks louder than any professed belief system and an atheist that is kind, compassionate, and reaches out to anyone is “holier” in my book than anyone in any church that condemns others. I try to be open minded – not always successfully – but I think there are 2 sides (or more) to any argument and none of us can say for sure who is right – we need to leave that to God. The Catholic church has a long history of horrible things, but I have known some very good people in the church that have dedicated their lives to making the world better. I hope the church is finally moving in the right direction – the new Pope gives me that hope.
That was not such a brief summary … sorry. But maybe that gives you an understanding on where I’m at in my head. In my continuing effort to create a healthy “self” I have addressed the eating and exercise portion pretty well and, in many respects, the emotional side as well. I have continued with the hospice counseling and I should probably go back and catch up with the other counselor as well if needed, but this Journey group seemed like an excellent way to move on or continue on as I wrap things up with hospice. The first session of this group started at exactly the same time that I had scheduled with the hospice counselor so I asked her if it would be OK to reschedule because I felt like this was a great “next step” – and she totally agreed with that assessment. Last week was just a ‘meet and greet’ and to get an overview of what we were going to be doing. And, I found out, I’ve already done this – it was just packaged under a different name at my old church. They had even slapped a sticker on top of the same workbook I have at home. The series I participated in before was called MOMS (Ministry of Mothers Sharing) but at this church they have opened it up to all women in all stages of their lives. We have a huge group, larger than they would normally like, but they decided to move forward with it and not split us up. Today we had our first full session and, while I won’t go into details because it is to remain confidential, I had another floodgate of emotions as we went around the room and shared a small part of our “story” which was started by an earlier discussion of someone else losing their father. So, as much as I think I’m doing better – and I am – I still hold the emotions of losing my parents extremely close to the surface and today served as yet another good opportunity to work through that.
I am grateful for this time and opportunity and what seems like a great group of women. When I went through this program almost 12 years ago, my life was so different! At that time, I only had two children – toddlers – and both of my parents were still living and healthy. The kids were not even in school yet or doing any activities. I was still working as an engineer. At that time, I probably had not lost all of the baby weight from my second pregnancy but I was probably not too far from a healthy weight. So, even though I’ve already been through this workbook, I doubt any of my responses to the questions are even close to the same. Furthermore, that group was a bunch of young moms with pretty young kids. This group has a very wide range of ages of women – a few have never had children – and many have had heartbreaking life stories. For a few minutes I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more women my age but I quickly realized that these women have life experience, advise, and perspective that I would be wise to pay attention to – I can tell that already. We’ll see where this leads … I know it will help me continue to grow and open new doors on this weight loss … journey.