The Postmortem

Well, seems like I was mistaken about the previous last post being the final say on the whole situation. Though there are a few corners of the Internet that I could post this on, the fact is this is the corner that it’s proper for. The people in my life are largely unaware that this has even happened, and I’d like to keep it that way for a few reasons — the bottom line is that the people who I can trust know what’s gone on.

Hence why I put my thoughts on it here, as opposed to the other corners of the Internet that I occupy.

When we last left off, I had just declared my reasoning and thoughts on why my brief relationship with Abbey had a decent shot of being continued. That was on a Friday. The next day, I was told by Abbey that we should be “work friends” and shouldn’t really see one another outside of work.

As you can imagine, that pretty much quashed any thoughts of a rekindling of things between us. To be bumped from “friend” to “work friend” was not a pleasing thing. We engaged in a two hour long Facebook conversation about the reasoning behind it, which basically boiled down to, “I don’t want to go back on what I said” on her part. She thought it best if we just stay away from one another for a while, especially since I admitted that I still liked her quite a lot.

And I can’t exactly blame her for that. In fact, I get it … she doesn’t want to make a liar out of herself or further entangle things between us, which is wise in a certain sense.

It’s sad in another. Twenty minutes after that conversation concluded, my best friend called and we talked for about an hour and a half, bouncing around multiple subjects that were either directly or indirectly related to the Abbey situation.

Sunday I found myself vacillating from depressing thoughts to angry ones (all while being trapped at work from 5AM to 2PM). I wanted to write on the subject then but my head was still cluttered with all manner of things.

Monday was just about getting to today.

And this is where we are now. I sit in a Starbucks, a stone’s throw away from Birmingham, Alabama. It’s about a 90 miles trip from where I live. I came today because I felt like I needed to get away from it all, at least a little away, and try to arrive at some conclusions.

I’ve titled this entry “the postmortem” not in reference to the autopsy, but in reference to what my journalism professor did at the end of every news broadcast we ran. At the end of every broadcast, just after we’d left the airwaves, he would assemble us all in the studio and go over the things he saw us do — good, bad, or otherwise — and advise us, praise us, admonish us, or render some sort of judgment, one way or another.

He called it “the postmortem”. The show was over and there were lessons that had to be learned from it: there would, of course, be another show the next day, and we’d have to carry over what we learned from the previous shows to that one. We were always striving to be better some aspect of the show than last time, even if we had horrible technical difficulties or if an anchor read the prompter wrong or if a light blew out in the middle of the show. There was always something to be learned.

And, thusly, I title this entry that for there is something to be learned. Despite my hesitance to call this a “learning experience” (simply because I don’t like thinking of a person as that), this is basically what it boils down to.

Though I did cover the things I learned before, consider this a more macro view.

The beginning …

We start with why I ended up in Birmingham. For some reason, the idea came to me yesterday night that I needed to go here. I could have chosen any number of nearby areas, but I chose Birmingham simply because it was far, but not too far.

And I desperately felt the need to go to Mass. So, that’s what I did. I woke up this morning, knocked out all my chores for the day, and set off for the city that SHOULD be the state capital of Alabama. They had a pretty nice looking Catholic church here, so I went there for the daily Mass.

I’m converting to Catholicism from being a Baptist — the process started on Virginia, went to Ohio, came back to Virginia, and now I’m quite a ways into it here in Alabama. As you can imagine, Catholicism runs a distant second (or third or fourth) to being a Baptist in this state. It’s hard to find churches that offer a daily Mass, especially ones that work with my hectic schedule.

But this one did work. I had the day off and I went.

The Mass was fairly quick (about thirty minutes), but the homily was right on point. It spoke of the Advent and the three comings of Christ. The first, of course, being his birth. The second being his return at the resurrection. The third being constantly at our side.

It was in the third coming where the homily hit home for me. The priest spoke of how Christ is with us through all our trials, all our sufferings, and listed some examples. Among those listed, at the end of his examples, was the end of a relationship.

From that point on, the tingly feeling was in my head; it’s the feeling I get when something important is being learned. It happens when I go to Mass pretty often, but it hasn’t been happening of late — not since I got back to Alabama, really. But it happened at this Mass and the point was made that Christ is there beside us to help us through our sufferings, to get us through them, and that those sufferings will make us stronger.

The homily ended and, of course, next came Communion. I loathe and love Communion — loathe it for the fact that I must remain in my pew, unable to take it (for I’m not Catholic), and love it for what it represents and how those that go and get it do so with reverence.

After that, we ended the Mass and I sat in the pew for about ten minutes, trying to wrap my head around the beauty of the place and trying to decide where to go next. I eventually decided to head to Starbucks, but upon exiting from the church I was approached by an elderly gentlemen whom was a beggar — homeless, likely, dressed in old clothes and eyes tired.

He asked for enough money to buy food, pointed to a soul food joint across the street and asked me if I could buy him a meal there, that I didn’t have to give him any money at all. Of course, the cynical side of me said that he was probably just using me — hitting up church goers after Mass for money screamed “ploy” to that part of me.

But I couldn’t deny his need. He looked hungry. I reached into my wallet, pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to him. Told him I trusted him to get food. He was genuinely thankful, shook my hand, and walked across the street to grab a hot meal on a cold day.

Normally, you wouldn’t find me doing that, especially since I’m trying to save up money to get back to a state where Catholicism isn’t in the minority (that state being Virginia). BUT, I had just finished up a lesson in my Catechism the day before about showing God’s love through acts of charity and other good works.

I don’t know if it was a test. I don’t know if it was a ploy or if I just gave that guy a hot meal and a bottle of booze (or some other drug). I don’t know for sure why he was waiting out there ten minutes after the Mass had ended (did others say no?). But I gave him the money. Did I hesitate? Oh, yeah, for about fifteen seconds I looked at him quizzically.

And then I took an action.

About twenty minutes later I entered Starbucks, found a seat, ordered myself a Pumpkin Spice Latte, sat down, and took out my Catechism.

Lesson 14 was about the second coming of Christ (tying back into the homily I heard earlier).

Coincidence? I don’t honestly believe that. I can’t believe in coincidence anymore, not after the last few weeks, certainly not after the last three and a half years. And after the events of today (and how they tie in with recent events), I certainly can’t claim coincidence.

Lesson 14 focused on the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. It was a pretty deep lesson, actually. It brought up the judgements (the general judgement at the end of world and the particular judgement upon one’s death — the differences being the general rules publicly whether you are headed to heaven or hell, while the particular tells you whether you are headed to heaven, purgatory, or hell) and then dove into the reason we suffer.

The reasons we have trials and crosses to bear, which is to purify our love of the Lord, to grow it, and allow us to enter heaven with perfect love for our God.

Bringing me back to my least favorite (or most favorite, depending on the day) phrase: Everything has a reason.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand why Abbey was brought into my life. I have theories (to teach me how to not be a complete noob with a young lady?) but nothing concrete. I don’t know if I can call it a trial or a cross to bear; at least, not the week of bliss I had with her.

That week was a joy and, even after being bumped down to “work friend” status, I still can’t be bitter. I’m not bitter — I’m not even angry, really. Not at her, not at her reasons, for the reasons make sense to me even if I wish they didn’t. Am I disappointed? Yes and no. I don’t feel like I failed at something. Despite how poor I was at my brief romance (honestly, what guy needs to be told where to put his hands?) I don’t feel like it was a contributing factor to the end of it.

Ultimately, she ended it and the only feeling I have for that is sadness. The sadness — the regret at what apparently isn’t going to be — is my suffering, my trial, my cross to bear I think. This point was driven home in one of the discussion questions at the end of the lesson.

Q: If a boy or girl omit many easy opportunities to go to Communion, is he or she ready to go straight to heaven upon death?

And my answer flew from my fingertips before I even really had time to think about it. Once I read it back, I could only shake my head.

A: No; only by accepting the opportunities presented to us, trusting in God’s plan, can we please God, and make our way straight to heaven upon death.

I bold those two phrases above because those are two things I fail at often in my daily life. They may be the things I fail at most often in my daily life. I have a bad tendency to over-analyze and over-think things. Often, I’m presented with opportunities and I circle around them, over and over again, trying to make sure they’re something I can do or want to do.

As one would expect, by the time I figure out whether those opportunities are something I want, they’re usually gone.

Trusting in God’s plan is another difficulty I have, simply because I’m a bit of a control freak.

Both these points were brought up in my late night conversation with my best friend Saturday night. Both those points had been brought up before by her and by others. Both those points are probably among the most talked about points in relation to myself and “the grand scheme of things.”

I find it hard to trust in God’s plan because I don’t know it and that bugs me. It bugs me because it seems completely contradictory to things I see and hear and feel. It bugs me, especially now, because I don’t understand why I was granted the opportunity to enjoy Abbey’s company for just a week.

There were so many little moments and things in that week. I recited the “Never gonna give you up” part of the Rick Roll song to her (because I had been Rick-Rolled earlier in the day on Facebook) while we were holding one another in the parking lot, swaying to the wind. Poor taste? Maybe. But she laughed.

The physical component of the relationship is the most confusing thing of all to me, really. Even now, over two weeks after it has come to an end, do I still have feelings and eyes only for her. I think it’s a biological leftover from the physical contact (otherwise known as hand-holding and kissing in this case).

I don’t know. Certainly there are, objectively, prettier girls. Certainly plenty of them around me on a daily basis (Target attracts them in hordes for some reason). And not a one of them catches my eye like she does.

Why that? Why her? Why us for a week? Why did it even happen at all?

I simply don’t know but, damned by my own answer, I must trust in God’s plan. I accepted an opportunity presented to me when I asked her out for lunch. That opportunity evolved into something more for a brief time period before it became … this. Whatever this is.

It seems that whatever effect I could have on her will be minimized now since I’m just a “work friend.”

But, if I need to look to anything for an answer, I simply only have to look at my Catechism. Lesson 12 covered the four marks of the true church.

Those would be that it is one, holy, apostolic, and catholic (otherwise known as universal) church. The marks are where my answer lie, I think. In any relationship with Abbey, our differing beliefs and ideals would be tested. But in no way would I be able to profess that the Catholic Church is one, holy, apostolic, and catholic. That would make the Catholic Church the only true church in existence, a belief which I have come to. If I were deep in a relationship with her and still professing that, I would be indirectly condemning her.

There would be no way she would ever attend Mass with me (as that phrase is prominent in every Mass) and there could be no way I could attend Temple with her. We would both be violating our beliefs and our faith, and we’d both hate ourselves for it.

To her credit, she realized this far sooner than I did. I would expect she has a better understanding of the Catholic faith than I do (she has studied it significantly due to the degree she’s going for and her own historical interests). More than anything, it reflects poorly on me that a Mormon girl has a better understanding of my own faith than I do, but I’m converting, so I’ll give myself a pass … for now.

The phrase “One, holy, apostolic, and catholic church” never added up before to the understanding expressed above. They were things said during Mass, things that I was aware of in a sense, but I didn’t realize they were part of a one whole thing; I thought they were four separate things in a list.

(As a complete aside, Catholicism kills me as far as grammar is concerned. There are certain things that are capitalized and things that aren’t, lists that aren’t lists but an entire phrase … the Catholic faith — and possibly all religions — seem to disregard the rules of grammar and, for a writer, that’s a bit of an annoyance. I’ve been trained to write in one way and now I have to write in another, at least as far as this subject is concerned.)

I think I’ve arrived at a better understanding of it all now. Today, I ended up in Birmingham. I went to Mass, gave a beggar money for food, and now I sit in a Starbucks, where the people around me are my age (unlike Mass where there were only three others around my age), where most of them are students (Birmingham has many college campuses) studying for finals, and I’m studying the Catechism.

For the first time in a while, I don’t feel like a poser around the students my age. I’m not here creatively writing, I’m not here sipping on coffee and jotting down theories on life.

I’m here studying a subject just as relevant as anything else in this place.

I don’t have all the answers. I can’t claim I ever will. I still don’t know for sure the answers to any of the questions posed here or posed before. I still believe a good thing is being left to wither between Abbey and myself. I still believe it’s wrong that we aren’t pursuing it, even with the understanding that it would likely end poorly anyway between us because of our differing faiths and beliefs.

That said, Abbey did teach me many things and she did burn one particular bible verse in my mind. It was the verse she used to explain why she broke it off.

1 Corinthians 14:33

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.

It is that verse that she cited as the reason why she broke it off; it made her feel confused, our relationship, even though we got along so well. I pointed out that maybe it wasn’t me that was the source of the confusion and she noted that point, but she still said she felt better about having made a decision to end it.

I don’t necessarily know if I’ve arrived at a peace. Her ending it has confused me, that’s certain, but I’m not as confused now as I was. I’m being led to a peace, more than likely, and the process will take time.

In time, all this will look either really stupid (likely), really dramatic (as likely), really smart (less likely) or fall somewhere in between (probably the right answer).

I have many, many questions and thoughts (which I will expand upon further, no doubt). But, I must hold to my own words and trust in God’s plan.

It is with that thought that I end this entry. As always, any and all comments are welcome. Thank you for your time.