I left off in Chicago. I suppose, in some way, fitting, then, that I should pick this back up on a trip to Chicago.
Somehow, solo travel is a bit of a balm. I’m sitting on a Greyhound bus, riding through a snowstorm, deciding, after not one but two naps, and a rosary, to start again, to try writing again.
2018 was a draining year. In all honesty, I got really burned out in my ministry (plural ministries, in some ways) and recovery has taken months. I’m not fully recovered, if I’m being fully honest, but, I also want to write again.
And maybe not forever. Maybe just a singular update, if it’s too much. Part of this has been learning my own limits, trying to establish boundaries. But, writing is also fun for me, and, maybe…something good.
Here are some questions, for 2018 reflection, adapted from a Verily article from years back. But, if the shoe fits, wear it. If the questions are good, ask them. If the prompts get your mind going, blog. 😉
This will be kind of long, I assume. I’m okay with that. I’m okay taking a few days to write this, in various places, on different forms of transit. Standard blogging practice would dictate giving enough words for someone to read in a sitting, short, like a newspaper article.
This isn’t about you today, though, reader. This is about me. Maybe it’s about “us.” Maybe you’re tired, too. Maybe you’re inside, on a winter’s night, wanting to plow through some stuff. In which case…here we go. There are 40 questions. I’ll be answering them over the next few days.
- What advice would you have given yourself on January 1, 2018?
“Relentlessly pursue your mental health. Give yourself breaks/ nature/ people. Also, not to be overstated: Don’t go to Ireland. You know it’s a bad idea. It’s a terrible idea, worse than you know, because a scandal is going to break at the same time. Don’t do it. It won’t renew you. It will make your burnout worse. You won’t even be able to look at your pictures afterwards. The memories will make you sick. You’ll be angry at yourself for going, hurt that your family didn’t care enough to give you space, and, to make things worse, you’ll burn your vacation time all the way through 2019. That’s right. No more travel in 2019. Go to Lake Michigan instead, stare at the water, breathe the pines, and thank yourself later.”
2. Describe your year in three words.
Relentless cement burial.
3. What is one thing you learned about yourself?
I think I found my niche in formal dinner party throwing—seven courses. I threw two this year. They were probably the happy highlights of 2018, the whole shebang: formal paper invites, linen napkins, flowers, etc. I loved seeing my people gather. I loved planning good things.
4. What single achievement are you most proud of?
The formal dinner party of SEVEN COURSES is not to be understated, of course (pun!). Courses go like this: Amuse bouche (kind of like a one-bite “flavor” of what is to be expected over the evening), soup, appetizer, salad, main course, cheese, dessert. But, you’re never supposed to repeat flavors (i.e. two courses can’t both have, say, tomatoes). Plus, the seating chart is a skill, introverts and extroverts, etc. It’s deliciously fun (another pun!).
I also wrote something called a “Minor Basilica Application,” for the church where I work. The application starts as 20 pages of questions, all in Latin. I had to research and write all of the answers, which took the application to 50 pages. Then I graphically designed the whole thing (it was stunning, to be honest), which took us to 243 pages. 243 pages. On top of my full-time job, yo. And the terrible trip to Ireland. Spot all of my life-planning mistakes in what I just wrote.The application, of course, is important for my career. It has been very well-received on many levels, and is currently in Rome, awaiting approval. The Pope probably does not have anything to do with the approval process, even though I tell people that he does.Also, if approved, it will give the church where I work an instant international status/ importance. I feel like this is a great gift to the city/ community where I work. That status is never removed, so, this is something that my (potential) grandchildren and great-grandchildren could see, a piece of history that I have helped preserve. I am proud of this, even though my name is no where to be found on the application. I.e. No one will know that I wrote it, but, it was written…and it was written beautifully.
This says “single” achievement so this is getting out of hand, but, I also opened an Etsy shop this year. I haven’t sold my art since high school, and it feels good to be back in the saddle, so to speak. Link here, if you wanna browse that stuff.
5. What good thing happened to you that has never happened before?
The absolute highlight of my year was a day (a few days, actually) in Rome-and-Assisi with Julia and Father Grayson. On one day Julia and I hiked something like 14 miles through the streets of Rome, in the rain, and then Father Grayson met us as his school, and took us to this spot where a (roofed-but-not-walled) terrace overlooks the city and St. Peter’s square, and he brought us dry socks and tea and sweaters, and the sun set on one end of the city just as a thunder/ lightning storm was rolling in over the other end, and it was a beautiful and magical moment of nature and architecture and faith and friendship, tea…..and dry socks.
6. If your life this year was made into a film, what genre would it be?
I think it would be a very boring training video this year, which is sad, as I love good adventure, good relationships, and good living.
7. Recount 3 of the best compliments you received this year.
First: I can’t remember the person who gave this one, but, the application I wrote was presented at an important meeting full of important priests in the Archdiocese. I vaguely knew this, but didn’t know when the meeting was going to be held or even what was going to be said. But, I knew when the meeting was held, because one or two of the men at the meeting called or texted and said they were impressed with the application. So, it was cool that they went the extra mile to do that.
Second: I was offered an important job. Through discernment, I turned it down. Still, it feels nice to be valued and appreciated for hard work.
Third: I had a few options for this last one, but I’m going with this one: one day this summer, a friend confided in me a deep and painful secret of abuse, betrayal, and assault. It’s a heavy secret, one that was hard to share. But, it was an honor to be trusted to carry that burden with that person. This, I think, will be something I’ll carry the rest of my life. I pray about it. I’ve said I will pray every Mass for it for the rest of my life, and I plan to. This changes the way I see things like the priest scandals, the #metoo movement, the discussion I have as a member of the church, and the way I view the strength of every survivor.
8. Describe the favorite place you visited.
I already have! That day with Father Grayson and Julia in Rome was nothing short of perfect, and I am deeply aware of that.
9. What (or whom) are you most thankful for?
A good tie between therapy and my friend, Father Paul. Father Paul started offering morning Mass and adoration every day of the week (except for Wednesday!). In Lent, I tried to go every day. In these non-Lent days, I try to go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I’ve really loved having the opportunity to focus in the mornings and hear a good message of love about Jesus.
Father Paul occasionally gets tea or food with me, too, and I’ve valued his insights into my life. We’ve talked about burnout in ministry a bit this year. Dear man. Many priests are introverts, and I’ll say, “Look, I know you can go to the woods and get renewed, but I can’t do that,” and he says, “But the thing is, as an extrovert, you’ll try to join a group of people, but you will end up listening to them and doing active ministry every single time. It’s who you are, and it will be hard for you to get away from that.”
A few weeks after that, I went to a party where I didn’t really know anyone (and no one practiced a faith experience/ knew I was in ministry), in hopes that I could have a little bit of party, but not a lot of ministry. I sat next to man who ended up unloading the past-few years of his relationship—betrayal, sex life, wounds, everything. I called Father Paul afterwards like, “You will never guess what just happened” and he LAUGHED AT ME and said, “See, Danielle, I wasn’t wrong.”
10. Whom in your life most surprised you this year?
SORRY TO MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT PRIESTS, BUT I SUPPOSE THEY ARE WHAT SUSTAINED ME, and I promised myself I would approach this post with as much honesty as possible.There’s a priest I know from when I was in undergrad, Father Steve. We’ve always known each other, but we’re coworkers in a way, so we haven’t been super tight or anything. This year he invited me to work with him on two projects. The first is a Cabinet of sorts, where we all give feedback about the state of local church. I’m honored to be a part of it. At the end of the day, no one mandates that a priest would make a committee of laypeople to listen. And he did. This is a very beautiful act of humility. To be included in that, as a woman, means a lot.I also work with the man on a podcast. Yes. Indeed. Podcasting. So, that’s fun, and it’s been fun developing that friendship. You can find our first season here, and we’re working on the second season now. 🙂
11. Did you overcome any fears?
Ha. I was afraid, at the beginning of the summer, that my load would be too heavy. So. I was right? I don’t think that that’s the same as overcoming a fear.
12. Name your best career-related achievement.
I think the Minor Basilica Application was huge. I also set a goal to have 100 tours this year at Ste. Anne. Total? 129. 13,000+ visitors. That’s gigantic! We also worked on a lot of events that were super successful.
13. How has your relationship with yourself changed?
So, I read a book over the summer, recommended by a friend, and it was fine but also it wasn’t life-altering/ amazing for me (several people have found it to be those things) (also, recently someone told me the teachings aren’t compatible with Catholicism but I didn’t know that at the time) (these things aren’t as relevant, what is relevant is): it kind of outlined a few personality-types. One of them was for a perfectionist/ workaholic. And I brought this up to my therapist who laughed and said sarcastically, “You??” so then I figured we hit the nail on the head.I had never really thought of myself with those specific terms. I mean, they make sense, I suppose. But, also, I had never thought of them that way. So, opening my eyes to that reality has kind of shifted how I accept things, etc. Knowing is half the battle, right?
14. How has your relationship with your family changed?
Two of my brothers were engaged this year! This is, obviously, very good news. But, I also see how it changes things. I.e. their interests and loyalties and responsibilities and expectations are shifting. I’ve showed up at a few things with my family where I am very clearly the one without a plus-one. This is not bad, it just is. So, I’ve tried to be intentional about establishing new relationships for myself as well. I.e. will my brothers want to travel as much with me in the future? Probably not. So……I need new travel buds. Et ceteraaaaaaa….
15. How have your life goals evolved?
Do I even have life goals?
Of course I do.This has been a year, and, like all years, it hasn’t been static—it’s been full of movement and motion, change and evolution.I was thirty-one for most of this year.A goal for me has always been to have a family. This year, I’ve thought to myself, “But, if it doesn’t happen…what do I want my life to be?”This is a marked shift. At the same time, I want to be a woman of hope, but…I also don’t believe that single women should postpone their lives, waiting for something. So, I’ve begun dreaming, focusing. What do I want? I don’t think I want grad school. I think I want to begin to build a home of my own, whether or not I have an immediate family or not. So, I’ve contacted a mortgage broker, I drive around the city, I look at home apps on my computer. We shall see.
That seems like enough for today.
Rest up, for perhaps there will be more tomorrow.