A little over 3 months of wanting to go to Mass...
... of crying in frustration when I couldn't go...
... of feeling a spiritual dryness I hated...
... of feeling an unrest in my soul...
... of feeling like I was a fake Catholic because I couldn't even get to Mass...
... of dreading judgment from those who didn't know my personal struggles, who only knew I wasn't going to Mass regularly...
... of asking myself (and God) why this was happening to me.
Last week, I had a very Lent-y week. It started off well enough. My new hematologist was great. He wasn't concerned about my blood work (especially since my red and white blood counts had remained within normal range). He ordered more bloodwork and a spleen ultrasound to rule out reasons why my platelet count is low but he was very positive. He even said I had "super platelets" despite the low number; my body is acting as if I had a normal number of platelets (well, except for the fatigue). I have the blood draw coming up in two weeks and I'll find out my ultrasound date either today or tomorrow. After that good appointment though... oh boy.
I had a relatively mild Lent. Compared to others (and not counting my fatigue), I had a great Lent. Of course, something had to happen. That same day, after the appointment, I got the sickest I've been in a long time. I'll spare y'all the details but let's just say that I had an empty stomach for longer than is healthy for me. Factor in the fact that only a week before that, they'd taken 12 vials of blood and had left me feeling weaker than I was before. Add a busy week in which I was buried to my eyeballs with work (my own and work I felt others had dumped on me) and... you get the idea. Because of all of that, I spent the rest of the week feeling lightheaded and weak. It takes me a while to recover when I get that sicks. If I felt useless before, with just the fatigue, last week was way worse. I thought, "Okay, so, is this it now? Am I never going to get better? Am I doomed to this?"
I knew I had to try to go to confession and Mass this past weekend. As you can imagine, I wasn't doing well at all. I'm still not doing well but I somehow got the courage to push myself beyond my limits. I had to go to confession and Mass, even if I wasn't feeling well. It was one of those "I know I'm feeling like this but, darn it, I'm going to try harder than before!"
Before I continue I just want to say I don't recommend what I did because you can put yourself and others in danger. Driving while you're dizzy, lightheaded, and/or weak is dangerous and you should avoid it at all costs. You're excused if you don't feel well enough to drive and have no other way to get to Mass.
Now I'm going to say that while I felt a little lightheaded (that mostly stemming from anxiety; I've had a rough couple of days in that area), I felt well enough to drive. Not only that, I took the small side streets that were emptiest. Not only that, I chose the closest parish to my apartment (less than half a mile away) to get to and from Mass with little to no traffic. I also made sure I asked my friends to start praying for me a day before. I have no doubt that I was covered in prayers which is why I was able to accomplish it all.
On Saturday, I had one goal: confession and Mass. That morning I had gone to visit my godmothers (baptism and first communion; they're a mother and daughter duo) and I was barely functioning on 5 hours of sleep which I knew was not enough for me to safely drive. I decided to take a nap and I woke up a bit late and my head felt fuzzy but I knew I was well enough to drive with Mom in the passenger side; I have more courage to I drive when I'm not 100% if I have someone with me in the car. I'd woken up so late that I didn't have time to eat. I decided to offer any weakness associated with lack of food to the souls in purgatory.
I drove to one parish for confession and another for Saturday Vigil Mass. I chose the first parish because it was the closest parish to my apartment that offered Saturday afternoon confession. Likewise, I chose the second parish because it's the closest parish to my apartment, period, and since my car is acting up (and repairs are in the four digits and cannot currently afford), I wanted to be close enough to not trouble AAA too much if I had to be towed back home. That and I wanted to be close to home in case I had to leave early if I got sick.
After confession, I drank some Gatorade and prayed it would be enough to help me make it through Mass. I don't do well fasting (a condition I inherited from my mom) so I knew that I could get sick but prayed that the Gatorade would be enough. Luckily, I had gotten the Saturday Vigil time wrong and we had 45 minutes before Mass began. I did the math and knew I had enough time to fast the hour required before receiving the Eucharist. We were about a block or two from a local fast food restaurant so I went and got myself some fries (the only thing I can eat at most places with my restricted diet). It proved to be the right decision because I'd forgotten how long Palm Sunday Mass was... and I wouldn't have made it through the entire Mass on just Gatorade.
I can't express how happy I was and how at peace I felt during Mass. I felt like I had returned home. I knew I was going to cry at least once during Mass. It happened twice. First, when the priest shouted "Hosanna!" during the beginning of Mass. The second time happened when I had received the Eucharist. Huge tears rolled down my cheeks as I knelt down and thanked God for having returned to confession and Mass after so long.
I had never felt the amount of love I felt for God as I did when I received the Eucharist. I can't put it into words. The closest I can get is by saying what I said to God as I knelt, "I love You above everything and everyone. Everything I've gone through was worth it. Everything wrong in my life doesn't matter. None of that matters. I'm here. I love You so much. I'm so happy." I meant every word from the bottom of my heart. Nothing else mattered. All my fears, all my worries, all my woes... none of it mattered. The only thing that mattered was my love for Him and how joyful I was in that moment.
I had that high for the rest of the day... and then it all came crashing down yesterday and continues into today. However, I'm choosing to look at the lows this way: receiving the Eucharist and going to Mass just reminded me how important it is to frequent confession and attend Mass. Not for the feelings but because it reminds me of what it truly important in life. The material possessions... the emotions... the illnesses... the negative... the lows... none of it matters. What matters most is the state of my soul, my relationship with God, and what is Heavenly. Earthly matters? Not so much.
I know the current low is just the devil trying to suck me back into how I felt while I was away. Luckily, I still remember what an amazing day I had on Saturday and that is (God willing) going to carry me through the rest of this Holy Week. I've already found myself slipping into some of the poor habits and carelessly I had fallen into while I was away from the Sacraments but I remind myself that I've done those feelings without thought and, at most, if I've done something terrible it's been a venial sin at most. I can still receive the Eucharist. I can still fight to keep myself as "clean" as possible until the next time I can go to confession.
Before I end this blog post, I want to address some questions I received while I was away... some of which I felt an enormous amount of judgment (whether real or imagined) from others.
Why didn't I just get a Lyft or Uber ride to confession and Mass? I've had days on which I literally need someone to help me do something as simple of getting out of bed to use the restroom. Other times, I've felt too weak to stand for long without feeling like I'll black out and faint. Many times, I've simply not been able to afford it.
Look, I don't like talking about finances and I've alluded to having a hard time, financially, but very few people know how bad it was. I hate talking about this but I'm just going to say it in hopes that, in the future, people will refrain from judging me without having all the facts.
Mom and I haven't done well. We've had to rely on the kindness and charity of friends to make it to the next paycheck at the end of the month. Only a handful of friends knew how bad it was and they offered to help, which was hard for me to accept. I've gone to bed hungry on some nights. I've purposely overslept on other days because I haven't had something to eat. It's been that bad. When people say, "Well, just take a taxi to Mass," I often want to say, "I'm weak from not having enough to eat... how do you want me to pay for it when I'm struggling to simply eat?" These things become a luxury when you don't have the means to do it.
My being sick has meant I don't bring in an income. We were doing okay for a while because I maxed out my student loans while in school and that was helping with food. I can't work right now because of how weak and fatigue I've been these past couple of months. I was writing on a trial basis during which time I wasn't getting paid. My trial period just ended so it'll be a small help, enough (God willing) to at least ensure that we at least have food at the end of the month. I hope that my third novel and the autobiography I'm ghostwriting will help us a bit more but those paychecks are months in the future. Beyond that, I have no idea when I'll feel well enough to do other work... or what I can do to help bring a bit more financial stability to our household.
So, that's the big reason why getting to Mass has been hard these past couple of months. It all feeds into the other. Sick -- lack of funds -- lack of food -- added stress -- stress makes me feel sicker and weakens my body -- can't work because I'm sick -- lack of funds... the cycle continues. We're hopeful that I'll continue to get better (last week's sudden relapse notwithstanding) and that I'll be able to get healthier and get to Mass more often.
By the way, I didn't share this because I wanted your pity. I shared it because too often we, we've assumed things about others. We usually don't know the full story but we are ready with unjust judgment based on what we think we know. I hope, if anything, this will help you stop and reflect that perhaps we don't know all the facts and should pray for another person instead of judging them.
Anyway, that's it for now. I hope to publish more posts this week (I've had 4 in the drafts for weeks) but that's contingent on how well I feel and how much time I have.
I hope you all had a lovely weekend and that we can all survive Holy Week because, well, y'all know how hard this week can be for most of us. ;) Prayers for everyone!
As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D