A Run and A Confession

I ran five miles tonight after three days break.

Afterward, I drove to Confession at St. Ray’s. I made for the last hour and spent most of it in line, waiting.

And what a wait it was!

I had conversations with three random women. When was the last time a stranger talked to me in public, doing anything? It was refreshing and unexpected.

At first I felt a bit self-conscious in my skirt, even though it’s an athletic skirt. Everyone else was so buttoned up and well, Catholic. Hee! But a woman in the pews pointed to my skirt and asked, “Do you play tennis? Cute!” We got to talking about exercise. She had a big black boot on her foot. “I’ve never been a runner,” she told me. But she loves tennis. She said she’s not sure what kind of work out she can do with her foot.
“Yoga?” I suggested. She agreed. Pointing to her arms, she grabbed one and jiggled it! She likes to lift free weights. She was wearing a bright orange shirt, black pants. Cute choppy blonde haircut.

The line moved up, so I moved. I said goodbye to her and we smiled at each other.

Two women in front and behind me were having a conversation. Whispered, so I couldn’t decipher what they were saying specifically.

I was looking at the woman in front of me, scoffing internally at her bright yellow banana clip– straight out of the ’90s!– and the wierd black pipecleaner thing she had somehow wound around it.

And while I was judging her, she began talking with me. The woman in front her saw my Shamrock Shuffle hoodie and asked if I had run in it. “Yes!” I said. “My daughter ran it,” she told me. I felt so proud. This hoodie wasn’t cheap but I knew I’d live in it. It felt so good to be recognized for an athletic achievement by a stranger. I’d told myself it’s just an 8k, a mere five miles. Small potatoes in the running world. But that’s five miles I couldn’t dream of two years ago!

It was her turn.  So it was just me and the woman behind me, who had a thick braided ponytail– almost white blonde. She was holding a small finger Rosary.

“Is it Amber?” I had asked.

She wasn’t sure. “I got it in Poland,” she told me.

I told her that on the other side when I got there, there were several nuns waiting in line.  “I wonder what nuns confess?” I mused.

She said a lot to me, but I couldn’t hear most of it. But clearly, she was alive with faith. She spoke of Jesus, I caught that much.

Then it was my turn.

I told Father that it’s been about a year since my last Confession. I had missed Advent. I was kneeling on a dark wood bench– there was simple cloth curtain separating us. It seemed to be a large confession booth. He was a good listener. It was almost 9 p.m., closing time, but he wasn’t hurrying me at all.

I was surprised at how good I felt– I wasn’t wracked with guilt about anything. I told him the truth– that I haven’t been to Mass much lately.  That I had a hot dog for lunch. That I quit choir so I could get to bed earlier and focus on running. That I gave up envy for Lent, and that I struggle with it. That I gave up sleeping in for Lent too– also for running– and have failed that on multiple accounts! That I want to be more independent. I’m trying to save my money.  That my parents are my best friends and I want to do right by them. That I want to learn the Rosary but it’s overwhelming and not happening yet.

I told him other things of course– but I’m keeping that to myself!

I was genuinely shocked by his reaction.

He didn’t chastise me once. Not even for going MIA from Mass for awhile.

Instead he told me that God wants us to progress in our lives. That I’m doing that with my running. That my tenacity will pay off.

He asked me to say One Hail Mary and one Gloria.

I left feeling lighter. I’m always inspired by how forgiving and open-minded priests can be. I should have gotten his name. I’d like to confess to him again. He had a soft accent.

I left feeling grateful and cleansed, like I do after a good run.

Confession was like a five mile run for my soul. I feel more spiritually fit.

If you haven’t been to Confession in a long time, don’t be afraid. Be honest. And let it go.

 

 

 

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Lenten Promises 2017

I’m giving up envy and sleeping in this year. Got my ashes tonight at Mass!

I struggle often with envy and while sometimes it can be motivating it’s mostly a purely sulfuric emotion that causes me to distance myself from people who I envy, sometimes when they are celebrating a milestone that deserves my support.

So hopefully this will make me a better friend and a more selfless woman.

Sleeping in is probably my #1 vice! I want to regulate my schedule into a better routine.

This should do the trick. Hopefully I’ll also run more.

Here we go!

I Get It : Finally!

I’m really good at keeping busy.

I like helping out and doing things for others. But this year I’ve really noticed that without even realizing it, I was still putting myself last.

I’ve been “single” for years. But most of that time, I was actively dating or looking for ways to meet someone. Wishing. Praying.

I was fine doing things alone– going to dinner, the movies, staying home and enjoying it.

And I kept so busy.

I was singing in the choir at my parish. I was attending political fundraisers and meetings, phone-banking, canvassing. My Sunday mornings were for Mass.

I was always there for my friends.

But the best friend I’ll have is myself. Why am I so quick to change my plans for others?

Slowly this year, I’ve been clearing my schedule of those obligations. Even Mass. I’ll go when I feel like it, but am not allowing myself to feel guilty if I don’t.

Instead, I’m going to run as much as I’m able. That’s my priority.

I’ll meet God outside, and worship him in motion.

Like any adult, I know how to push myself. Through fear, confusion, sickness, exhaustion.

But have I ever truly set an ambitious goal and believed?

No.

All I saw were obstacles. I won’t say they were excuses– I was terrified to fail. So I would just not even attempt it. And sometimes depression crept in, manifested in over-sleeping.

But running is a natural anti-depressant. Endorphins are real!

My initial reaction is one of caution. I get that from my Dad. He’s wonderful, but he’s not the best at encouraging me when I want to try something new. And it’s understandable. He’s suffered a lot of loss. I’ve battled health problems all my life.

But I’m changing. I’m realizing that’s just the way he’s built emotionally- and it makes sense for him. And that I don’t need his approval to motivate me.

I was in this mind-frame of asking for permission.

But now I’m giving that permission to myself!

I don’t need to even tell him. I can just do it.

I can do what makes sense for me, even if he doesn’t get it.

My dreams are bigger than his: and that’s okay.

A friend at work approached me about a race yesterday. He knows I run… sporadically. This friend is a consistent runner– even in the winter! He has a training regimen.

Months ago, I had approached a different friend about running this race with me. She wasn’t game– I just gave up on it.

I’m going to sign up for it: the Solider Field 10 Mile in Chicago on May 27.

So what if I don’t finish it?

I can still do my best. And I’ve finished every race I’ve run thus far.

Instead of sleeping in on weekends, I want to go bed earlier.

I want to rise and run.

I usually like to sleep in on weekends. But if I had a date or some fun plans, I’d get up.

What if my fun plans were running?!

And now I get it! The true FREEDOM of being single: constructing my life 100% around ME.

Without obligation or guilt. I will never have that kind of freedom again later in life.

Just what I want to do. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary.

I deserve this!

Even with casual dating, you have to block out time for this person. You talk to them after work, they may text you to check in during the day. You plan dates– you invest hours and days and weekends getting to know each other.

In taking this time for myself without dating on the table, I’m putting ME first. I’m saying that the biggest priority is what *I* want to accomplish.

I won’t let myself feel guilty about saying “no” to social invitations. Or going home early.

I can still make sleep the priority– by regulating a bedtime and schedule.

I’ll build socializing into running. I’ve got three months to train.

I have no idea how, but that’s the adventure.

And I’ve got running friends to support me.

Letter to Myself at 36

I am proud of you.

You prevail even when feeling uncertain, jump without knowing when you’ll land– but always knowing you will not falter.

If you don’t know how or when to move when feeling overwhelmed, you pray. You hit your knees in gratitude, in humility. You journal to work out your feelings. Then you act.

You adult every day and know that sometimes, that includes sleeping in on weekends because that’s just what you want to do. You turn down events you could attend, but don’t feel like it– because it’s okay to do that.

Your girlfriends are a supportive, hilarious, challenging and diverse bunch. They remind you of your fire, are honest when you’re acting batty, and love you unconditionally. Your male friends are few but treasured. They have become your brothers.

You are a devoted daughter and cultivate a close relationship with your parents. You don’t take for granted that they live 5 minutes away. You’re aware that as cool as they are, they are also aging. You now enjoy a close friendship based on respect and shared history.

You are flawed, but that makes you wonderful and genuine.

You are working to better your life while also appreciating the progress thus far.

You are kind, but with boundaries.

You are quietly advancing on the path meant for you. You are steady.

Amee, I love you.