In search of the yoke of light

Sunday, as you know, I was sick.

Monday and Tuesday, the awful drowsiness of the new powdered supplement eased off and the depression went with it, so I scrubbed the tub and cleaned the bathroom. People with chronic conditions know the tremendous sense of accomplishment that comes with cleaning the bathroom. Cleaning the bathroom is a tour de force. Cleaning the bathroom is like climbing Everest. Cleaning the bathroom is doing the kessel run in less than twelve parsecs. Cleaning the bathroom means you’re fine again, for now. When you can clean the bathroom, it’s a good day.

I still had some energy and there were hours before Adrienne was due to take up martial arts, so I left her with Michael for an hour and drove to the rec center. I had kept six pink ticket stubs in my purse, which meant that even though we were broke, I could go swimming. I paddled back and forth across the pool in slow motion as muscular people lapped me up. A miracle.

That night, I tried half a dose of the new inositol supplement, and was groggy and tired for 24 hours afterward, accomplishing nothing.

On Thursday, I felt much better and hiked along the trail near the Frankfort Mineral Springs cave, pretending I was a Tolkien elf. I stood right under the waterfall and got soaked. It was beautiful, like everything was fine all over the world.

That night I tried a quarter dose of the inositol supplement, and my head went into a horrible foggy state where I couldn’t sleep or stay awake, but I was anxious and cried until five in the morning. The rest of the jar goes in the trash. But at three today, I felt great, so Adrienne and I went to the lake with her martial arts friend.

I swam along the beach, contemplating.

This is the new truth I discovered: it’s okay to make a mistake. It’s okay to admit you were wrong and do something else. There’s no shame in that. Have a sick day because something you tried didn’t work. Ditch the expensive powdered vitamins. Opt for a different diet. Try something new. It’s the way to manage a chronic illness.

I decided to let that permission go from my chronic disease management regimen to everything else. I decided it was okay to doubt that the things I had been told were absolutely true, and that it was okay to come to a different conclusion. It’s normal not to have the answer and to fidget for a while too. I will take pity on myself and continue to learn. This is how I manage my chronic physical illness.

And yes, I apply that to my religious deconstruction.

The Catholic Church is where I met a God I know exists. The glimpses I have had of this God, in liturgy and in nature and in suffering and in community, have been more wonderful than I can say. When I see that God manifests himself to me through people who love each other, I am amazed. I can still recite the whole Nicene creed without getting inflamed; I think it’s true. I love Catholic social teaching. The Eucharist is impressive and beautiful. The Communion of Saints is real. And it is also true that the Catholic Church has hurt me more than any other force. She traumatized me in a way that cannot easily heal. I am too wounded to receive the Eucharist very often. I don’t know if I could still go to confession. There are saints who make me shudder when I see their simpering on a prayer card or an icon. Prayer hurts. I live in a mystery, for now I readjust myself to find what I truly believe and leave it unashamed.

Readers who encouraged me to leave the Church and readers who are fed up that I don’t like the Church will be frustrated by this, but that’s where I am. I allow myself to do things that were totally forbidden growing up. I went to Pride to see how it felt. I prayed with my friend on a witch’s sabbath. I have not renounced communion with Rome and I come to church every Sunday so that I can do so without getting sick. I still believe with all my heart that Christ is who I’ve been told he is. I’m just trying to see what will work, to treat this soul of mine that suffers from a chronic spiritual illness, inflicted by forces beyond my control. And I do it without shame.

If I wasted my entire Catholic writing career for writing about the only Catholicism I know of, well, it wasn’t very lucrative anyway. Maybe someone else would like to hear my story. But for the moment I am still Catholic.

I read the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer, because I found it online and it has pretty good English. Most of the prayers in the book are the same as Catholic and Orthodox, but worded a little differently so I don’t have a panic attack when trying to pray them. The ten commandments of the catechism in the back are the same passage of scripture, divided into different pieces.

Someone I thought was a friend overheard me praying with a Protestant prayer book and didn’t like it. He walked into a conversation I was having with an Episcopalian priest friend on social media with a recital of cold Catholic apologetics, trampling on a few sore spots in my soul. I don’t think he meant to hurt me but he did, badly. And he dismissed the Episcopalians as “light Catholicism.” I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

“Catholicism lite” is a funny thing to say as a pejorative. Frankly, light Catholicism sounds delicious. Smooth and harmless Catholicism. Catholicism of the blond roast. Catholicism with coconut milk and amaretto.

My grandfather, not the lapsed Catholic, but the wealthy WASP who lived in Columbus, drank the most horrible coffee. He bought undersized bright yellow cans of Bitter Puritan Powder, an Italian-style coffee that would make your teeth cringe, and brewed it in an angry old-fashioned percolator while we ate dinner. You could hear the guttural moans of the percolator the whole time you sat at the table, complaining about Ohio State football coaches for roast and boiled potatoes. The percolator rumbled through the vanilla pudding and Cool Whip we always had for dessert, always grumbling about football. And then he poured himself a simple white cup of boiling tar, coal-black, opaque, both bitter and sour. If I drank even that coffee, my tongue would be swollen and I would have tears in my eyes. A cup of this coffee would turn my stomach over and over like a clothes dryer. It wasn’t a drink, it was torture. I thought I hated coffee until cappuccino became fashionable even in the bland Midwest. Now I drink a cold infusion with cream.

I think the religion I served, in Charismatic Renewal and Steubenville and fighting trolls and traditionalists online, is percolating Catholicism. It’s Gospel but ground and roasted and canned cheaply without care, left to go stale, sold at a discount, then brewed too long in abusive homes to be the most stabbing, agonizing and traumatic Gospel. that is.

Maybe I need to look for light Catholicism – not necessarily Episcopalian, not necessarily any denomination, but light Catholicism.

I should seek the light yoke that Christ promised in the Gospel. Christianity is light. The God who is Light, in whom there is no darkness.

I will keep reorienting myself until I find such a thing.

And we’ll see where we go from there.

picture via Pixabay


Amanda J. Marsh