The Beacon Crafter Pt. 1

Have you ever been charged with making a fire?  Ever been charged with keeping that fire going?  Ever been charged with keeping that fire going with palm branches that quickly burn out due to their nature?  Ever been charged with keeping said fire going by your parish priest?!

It was kinda stressful, I’ll be honest, but fun in a way.

Maybe it’s odd that I find a high point in a time like Lent, but here I am, shooting upward towards the heavens again.  Ah, I wish I could just settle, or perhaps it’s good this way, experiencing a certain rejuvenation, a cleansing of the mind if you will.  No, I shall not have mediocrity from myself.

So, recently, I was given the task of being “the fire guy” during the Shrove Tuesday service.  You see my friendly old (or young) reader, I saw the fire, but not a world on fire yet, fortunately.  When we get there, heh, it would be wise to run.  Still, as I watched the fire, my mind went to Baptism, specifically the part with the candle, the light entrusted to the parents, to be kept burning brightly.  I’ve wanted to be a parent for quite a while.  Anyone who knows me realizes that babies are kind of a weakness of mine, and as for having a child of my own, oh, don’t get me started!  Of course, that all depends on what route I take, but that’s beside the point for now.

Returning to the fire, did I mention that I was panicking over it at times?  Yes, every so often, the wind would threaten to blow it out, and the flame would bend and crackle, shrinking in size and intensity.  My solution: throw more pine branches on the thing.

Like a magic trick, it would flare up for an instant, roaring brighter than I’d expected before, but in the next moment, it would die down to a quiet, resolute image, still withstanding the windy evening.  Other times, unfortunately, I came close to smothering it with too much thrown on at once, but if I gradually added on, the flame could grow.

Why am I writing about this?  Oh, things have just been going well, and depressing times are exactly that, so why not find some joy in things for once?

This whole fire thing, in case you haven’t guessed, is reminiscent of our lives.  I am the fire.  You are too.  Welcome to the flame club, by the way.  I’m afraid we don’t have nametags or any nice slogans, but we glow pretty brightly at times.

Being flames, we face a lot in our – pretty short, even without the analogy – lifetimes.  There are quite a number of storms in life, and even when we think we’re in a calm place, there’s that deceptive gust that suddenly blows through.  Now, that’s not meant to be discouraging, but it is what it is.  We sway, we risk going out, we blaze up when we’re most needed.  Regarding that last one, perhaps all it takes is some fuel.  My fuel comes from others, they energize me, they bring me to my greatest potential.  Introvert though I am, I need the people in my life.  They have an odd habit of sticking with me at the strangest of times, and I must say, it’s been the case where I’ve found myself in a situation, and I hear words of wisdom coming to me from my friends.  Some of these words are from so long ago, I’m surprised I even remember them, but there they are in the memory, aiding me in the moment.

However, the voices, the retreats, the brief moments of meeting, they’re not enough.  They are the quick palm branches that bring the blaze to life for an instant, but that’s all it is, an instant of intense power.  Friends are the lasting fuel, the huge pieces that take a little bit before the fire encompasses them, but when it does, it lasts.  Unfortunately, when you remove the log, well, there goes a foundational part of the fire with it.  It’s a sacrifice, but it’s worth the effort (cue Father nodding in the background).

A long time ago, I told a bunch of my peers not to give up, never to give in, because they’re not alone.  Well I pray none of them are now.  Isolation is a dangerous thing to play with.  Isolation and sad music.  Bad mix.  Kill it with fire.   Your fire.

Here’s some practical advice:  Make a playlist of hype music.  That’s literally what I did.  Make a playlist with songs guaranteed to lift your spirits, and listen to it when you’re down.  Then like… dance around your room or something, I dunno.  Fires move and crackle about, so I’m curious as to whether you can imitate them.  Send me a video or something if you can.

Oh, one more thing on us fires: Perhaps we’re stronger than we think.
See, during some of the times where I stepped into the church antechamber to listen to the prayers, the wind grew dangerously, and I’d have to rush back outside, thinking my beautiful fire would die.  Well, while yes, it did shrink, it never died.  It withstood the force, perhaps even retreated further than I would have liked, but it held on.  You hold on too.

I’m writing from the blaze, the high point, on a dual retreat high, you might say, even if both were more sobering experiences than “usual”.  I know I’ll be going down in time, but hopefully when I get back there, I’ll still be able to withstand the storm.

Why is this piece so childishly written?

Because… there’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.  I think we tend to get bogged down with our worldly, adult responsibilities quite often, and we don’t really take time to kick back with authentic childlike joy.  That doesn’t mean ignore the reality, but a nice balance with escapism tends to do wonders.  ‘Tis my writing for me.

We are children, we are fires, both tend to be/go awesomely mental and wild.  Be it.  Live it.  Fire fire fire.

-M

P.S. It’s gonna be lit.  Sorry college fam, couldn’t resist, don’t start dabbing though, please.

All Or Nothing (The Addict)

I’ve gone through many addictions in my relatively short life.  I’m not proud of a number of them.  Others are of no consequence.  Still others have their ups and downs, a cycle of choice and rejection, again and again.

Coffee is a good example of the last.  I go through a period of time where I find myself drinking it, day in and day out, without fail.  I want to feel it, like a fire coursing through my veins, keeping me from exhaustion.  I view every moment of sleep as a moment wasted, and I try to avoid the night.  My main goal is to stave back slumber until only absolutely necessary, and then succumb as my eyes begin to blur.

Then I realize that I don’t want to live like that, reliant on a drug to keep me up and about, and I stop.  How long I stop varies.  A day passes, then two, then the headaches start, and I fight through.  A day after those headaches vanish passes, then two… then inevitably, I find myself taking a sip of the drink.  I can’t escape it.  It’s too tempting.

Maybe it’s not problematic that I don’t have self-mastery over such a small area.  I don’t know, I just hate the feeling I get after going without it, and the feeling I also get when I spend too much on the drink at school.
It’s also clear to me that if I don’t have self-mastery in this small area, then perhaps it’s also safe to say that I will find difficulty in self-mastery over larger matters, which… I already have.

Over these past weeks, I feel like there are lapses in my memory, gaps where there should be something, where I should be remembering… something important.  My life has reached the point where it’s becoming a blur, and the moments that stick out are my only reference points to hold on to.  Alas, some of them are not so conducive to keeping one’s head on straight as I would like.

Still, I welcome the blur.  The swirling colors, all coming together, in their various shades and hues.  I would say I’m addicted to the feeling of spinning in the current.  Any second that I find myself emerging is a moment of weakness to me, and so I inevitably seek to be busy.  Busy busy busy.  Ever thought about that word?  It doesn’t always lead to being productive.  So I get obsessed with this idea of being busy, I get addicted to the endless cycle, and things that are important become mere flashes in the mind, until I’m faced with the reality that I have work to do.

A procrastinator’s dream interrupted.

I don’t have any advice this time.  I say a lot of things, trying to understand even myself, follow my own ideals, but as you can see, I’m not good about that.  This is more a plea for help than anything I’ve posted before.  I realize that I need prayers, that I don’t have everything together, and that if I can’t get most in place, some very vital life plans that lie contingent upon that fact might go very, very awry.  I wish to give my due attention to the spectacular now, as I have said, but even that seems to be passing by too quickly and yet too slowly.  I feel like something’s catching up to me, yet it’s taking its sweet time about it.

I want to go, discover who I’m truly called to be, whether by determining that I’m not to go a certain route or that I should in fact go.  But it feels so far.  So very far.  If you can’t tell already, I have a lot of fears about how things are supposed to go.  I know I have to trust, and that there is someone who can be trusted, but moments have this infuriating fashion of taking their sweet… time.  Trapped, but hoping to find that spark here.

I don’t know, but I have no time to write more.  I’m about to go to this thing called driving and square dancing, and it should be fun.  I want to find joy in it, but I’ve had difficulties lately.  So I request, once more, that you pray for me, as I pray for you.  Because I’ve been addicted to a lot of things that have held me back from being me, a sentiment I’m sure many of you may share.  And I suppose, if it’s any comfort, though time is painful, it also brings healing.  And maybe I’ll be searching for a long while, but I can at the very least say that I’m still seeking.  That perhaps is an addiction I can accept.

-M

Dreams, Daredevil, and… La La Land?

So, I recently watched this movie, perhaps you’ve heard of it?  La La Land.

You might be asking, “How in the world can you relate the grim, dark world of Daredevil to La La Land?”  Well, I’m glad you asked, my good humans, because I’m about to do it terribly.  Full disclosure, I’m basically spoiling some stuff from both, so… you’ve been warned I guess?

Let’s start with Daredevil.  It’s a world on fire, heh heh.  Two sides, Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, duking it out in a battle that requires everything that they have.

Their two worldviews stand in direct opposition to one another, but both seek what seems like a common goal: saving the city, making it a better place.
And yet they remain incompatible.  Why?  Well… one wants it in their image, controlled like crazy, and the other wants it to be free of all the crooks and thugs that plague it.  It’s… yeah okay, it’s kinda obvious.  Drat.  My bad.
Hell’s Kitchen is a mess of power, and these two opponents are… actually a mess in their own right, but that’s something I want to save for another, more focused post.

The point is, they have these goals, these dreams for their city.  They’re willing to sacrifice basically everything to reach it, both walking on their own dark, individualized paths, only able to play the game a few steps ahead at a time once they figure out that there’s another player on the board.

~

Now, La La Land, a recent watch of mine, and something I enjoyed, even if certain naysayers *cough, an Eaglet friend, cough* despised it, was also basically all about… dreams and sacrifice.  In a different way, obviously.  The two main characters aren’t exactly out to wreck each other’s plans, but… well…

That’s kind of the key thing at the end of the movie: the sacrifices involved, and the choices made.  No human ever knows how things are going to turn out in the end, we know this fact.  It’s only after the long move has been made that we look back and say: “Oh, I could have done it this way.” but even that view may be an idealism, unrealistic, and most likely disregarding the true challenges that would have been faced had said route been taken.

Dreams however, are good, even ones involving the past.  Indeed, Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia (which I’ve been working through reading with my Kenosis group/fam/whatever over at Ruah Woods) says that a family without dreams is dead.  I’m paraphrasing from memory of course, because I lent the paper to another student to read, and now I don’t know where it is.  The point still stands.

Dreams are important: they’re how we visualize where we want to go, whether in general or moving on from a situation  – in those cases where our dreams tap into memory.  It’s a balance, and it’s risky, dreaming about life.  Nothing will ever go fully according to dream or plan, yet one has to willing to accept the consequences.

A year ago today, I had… a different experience of life.  An hour or so from now (when I wrote these specific words, obviously), one year ago, on a cold Saturday night.  Thanks Facebook memories, you’re both a blessing and a curse.  Feels like a different lifetime, really; one of those dreams that you wake up from and laugh at, because it was probably impossible in reality.  And yet it happened.  It really did, and it was good.  Even the buzzing in my ears at the end.

And that’s the thing that La La Land is real about, why I can appreciate it.  At the end, when the two main characters have had their little montage of “what if they had worked it all out differently”, they just kind of look at each other.  They look at each other, and then they smile.  And after that smile, comes the nod, as if to say with all sincerity and love: “Well, here we are.  We made our dreams reality.  And isn’t that fantastic?”

The thing is, spoiler again, they’re not together.  After all that time spent united, working together, loving and supporting one another, they got the premature farewell, when things were looking up for them once more.  That’s why it felt more realistic.  The choices they made changed where the sacrifice lay; by pursuing their individual dreams, they sacrificed their being together.  And that’s not a bad thing unless you look at it from that viewpoint that they should have ended up in the expected, movie finale way.

I say no, it was a good ending, and there’s something there worth striving for: Acceptance.  That’s where that “handy, if annoying at the worst of times” serenity prayer comes in.  There are things we can’t change, things we have to let go, and things we can do right here, right now, standing in front of us.  Dreams, if they hold us back, are a danger; dreams ignored and pushed aside are too.

~

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

– The Doctor

~

The point is, I try to remember the past fondly, including all those embarrassing moments I experienced.  They made me who I am today, with my current dreams.  So, stealing another quote from Doctor Who: “To days to come.  All my love to long ago.”

Life is a complicated, ebb and flow of roads.  A bunch of highways with loopbacks and dead ends, and all sort of mental mishap on the way, but hopefully there is one singular destination.  Now, before they get there, some people have roads that cross multiple times.  Some have the high road, and others take the low road.  Some take a very long time before they cross again, as was the case with the movie, but in the end, they were able to accept what had happened.  They found their peace.

As for Daredevil and me watching it… well, I have yet to reach the part where one of their dreams is fulfilled, and I’m definitely not at peace waiting for the next part of that great and yet terribly cliff-hangery series.

So, try to find peace with your present situation, even if it does feel like that part in a TV series where everything is going wrong, your favorite characters are dying, and unresolved plot after unresolved plot follows (heh).  It gets better in time.  There’s no clock I can reference, but it will.  You just have to see it through.  Like the battle for Hell’s Kitchen.  It gets darker and more gruesome before the enemy’s gate is down (ah, that Ender’s Game reference).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to “A Lovely Night” for the gazillionth time while writing a dastardly paper.  I’m living in the moment, livin’ the dream.  And you should too.

-M

Striving Death

How many times do we consider death in a day?  How many moments come to us in which we consider that mystery, the gate through which we all must pass eventually?

I like to think I’m rather good at planning ahead, thinking about the big picture, the consequences of each act, of every chance where death could have claimed me that was denied.

Now, that might make me sound suicidal, but I think the man who has not considered death is very unwise indeed.  It’s all very well to live in the present, but to deny the reality of mortality is foolhardy indeed.

I choose life in all its greatness and its struggles, but there’s always that blade hanging high above, the Sword of Damocles as it were.  When shall it fall?

I have absolutely no idea.  No one ever does.  I’ve taken steps, or at least tried to, in case I do die before all matters are sorted out, but there’s always something that’s bound to be missed.  A relationship, a personal goal, etc.

We write our stories expecting to reach a conclusion of our own making, but life isn’t like that.  More often than not, the end of the chapters, the series, they come to us, quiet as a breath of wind.  To end it as we wish renders us… cowardly, diminished, and lacking.  To force the hand of the writer, to stop at the point one wants misses something beautiful: the epilogue.

A lot of stories have such unexpected conclusions to great sagas.  One reaches the last chapter – and in their mind, the conclusion – thinking it the end of all the greatness of the story, and then is pleasantly surprised at times by what many pass over as an afterthought.

“Oh, this story has had its time.” some might say, “Let it pass, for to add anything further would ruin it.  Drop the book now, before it’s spoiled by whatever last words the author wanted to add.”

Rarely however, in both stories and in lives, have I found an epilogue not worth reading, or seemingly so.

By such final moments, by gift of the Great Giver, by mercy itself… the story may yet reach what may be pictured as a vast and utterly beautiful library; its shelves lined with books beyond imagination that are each uniquely penned, and yet all are wonderful and delightful to the eye of He that brought them home.

– M

Shatterpoint (An Analogy)

Hello, 2017, you’re an odd kettle of fish.

Perhaps it’s time to come back down off of that ethereal plane of a new year high and reconsider things.  I’m trying to break out of a bad habit… again.

The habit in question is… wait for it… you’d never believe me if you knew me in the past… oh… 6 months or so… video games.  Dun dun dun.  Oh, the horror!  So, as you can probably tell, it’s severely hampered my writing abilities in this mind-numbing fashion that brings out all the animalistic instincts I normally try to dissociate myself from.  Did I use that word correctly?  Oh well.

My point is… I need to get back to this.  I need to retune my skills like one attempts to tune an instrument (which I’m terrible at, ask any of my siblings).  And what else to bring me back to writing but a sobering, earthly subject?

I confess, I used a particular video game as an escape route, *cough* Shadow of Mordor *cough* thinking it quite cathartic in venting streams of anger that I didn’t quite know what to do with.  Am I an angry fellow?  I like to think I keep myself rather even tempered, but I’ve been prone to odd outbursts lately, and here’s where things actually start.  In the spirit of years’ resolutions, we’ll take the examples of goals for this, seeing as that’s basically what I had.

I had several goals this past semester, this past year, these past days, to reach a point regarding a matter rather… important to me.  So, in pursuit of that goal or that point that I saw as success, I kept hacking away at this wall of things that stood in the way of reaching that place.  As it turned out, well… the wall was much more solid than I imagined, and what had been envisioned as success rapidly turned into a nightmarish attempt to reach the other side.

I was left angry and bitter at my failure, and as such, sought an outlet.  Several outlets, actually.  And after each outlet, I thought I saw a glimmer of the far side of the wall, perhaps closer again than in truth.  I started once more at the wall, again and again, until at last, I saw that my efforts were fruitless in the extreme.  So… I tried to leave the wall.

Did I succeed?  I’m not quite sure just yet.  The heart is an odd thing, and memory another.  To cherish the latter has often led to a great distress in the former, at least in my case, but still I do it.

Why do I tell you this?  Well, indulge a young fellow, but I put this out here because I’m hoping I’m wrong, in a way.  If what I speak of seems unclear, garbed in analogy as it is, I do apologize.  My emotions hamper what I say more effectively than the shouts of a thousand men.

There is a point where one’s emotion must bow to reason.  When one has tried over and over to reach something that perhaps (I say perhaps, as one has yet to see) is not beneficial to the soul, to the ultimate goal of reaching Heaven; when one has experienced a greater negative outcome than positive by that continued attempt… perhaps it is time to conclude that the hope was in fact flawed.

Hope is not flawed, hoping in something in which one should not however, is.  I have tried, time and again to reach what I saw as the greater good, per a promise I made.  I met the wall.  Efforts met with the blank silence that comes from futility.  Oh, there may have been a few sparks as I battered at it, but no true persevering light.  Of course, there is the possibility that I went about it the wrong way.  I am a swordsman, so let’s take that analogy.

The approach I took by the way of the sword left no truly visible mark on that impenetrable wall; indeed, it only led to the blade growing duller with every attempt, and at last, that blade which I thought would hold forever shattered.

Maybe I used the wrong tool, maybe the wall was never mine to break through, but I think that I ask the questions of myself too late.  I lost, in those terms, and hopefully I’ve won in others (heh, see below).

 

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My personal seal I made, which I realized too late was a bit stubby.  But I succeeded-ish!

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Took me a good five attempts to get that right.  First I did it reverse, then it was too shallow, then it wasn’t showing up so clearly in terms of width (the picture doesn’t show the final product, unfortunately), then  it was too shallow again, then finally I found the right look.

 

The lesson I hope to take from it, for everything must be learned from, is to know when to change course.  Steer the car another direction as it were.  This road I’ve walked or driven might have been good and right at one point, but… maybe it’s not the case anymore.

We all have to face things like that at some point in our lives.  It’s kind of a downer, but it’s true.  The thing is, we must pray that we have the grace to know when to live with the consequences… and move forward (bit of Flash there for ya) from what we once thought was right for us.  That’s not to say it won’t ever be in the future… but at the moment… let it pass, into the west (them LoTR feels).

And also:

“Things end… that’s all.  Everything ends, and it’s always sad.  But everything begins again too… and that’s always happy.  Be happy.” – The Doctor

-M

Chasing Perfection: A Brief Note

I’m going to make a bold claim, as an older brother ten years removed from my sibling, that it’s hard to relate to him.  Perhaps I have forgotten what it was like, being that age, and seeing the world in that different way, that mixed bag of extremes and simple, innocently testing fun.  Today, the reality was brought home that perhaps I still am very much like him after all.

See, it’s not often that I actually talk with my little brother, no, on the contrary, I half-heartedly listen at the best of times and ignore him at the worst.  There’s that to add to my list of faults.  I realize that interests change with time and age, yet if I could go back in time and look forward, I would be astounded at how little interest I now show in those little adventure books, in card games like Pokemon, or even in building with LEGOs.  Yeah, that last one is an actual problem.

So today (realize I began this the day of, but failed to see it through until now), after seeing him moping about on the couch for some odd reason (I assumed that he didn’t want to eat his lunch), I decided to talk to him to try and persuade him to get ready for an activity he had later.  As it turned out, he wasn’t sad for that reason at all.
No, what was causing distress was a picture he’d been drawing.  I believe the one in question was of a car, and he’d grown frustrated with a wheel’s roundness of all things.  Ah, if only the worst of my drawing problems was a lack of circular perfection!  He was beating himself up about it, burying his face in the pillows of our couch.  When I got to him at last, he was tearing up a bit, saying he’d never be as good as well… me.

It’s an oddly vicious cycle of comparison.  To compare to those we see as great is a balance, and I’m sure most would agree.  We tend to be partially inspired, and more often than not, discouraged!  Especially when we perceive a gap in what we have versus what they have.  So when I sat down next to him to tell him how I wasn’t the greatest by any stretch of the imagination, I could truly understand where he was coming from for once.  It was one of those situations where nothing is lost in translation, and one aspect that – unfortunately in certain senses – is not lost as we grow.

We lose heart when we realize that we either have a long way to go to reach what we perceive as great (which, by the way, might change to passable in our eyes when we actually get there), or simply think the task impossible.  One of those times where the word “never” comes to mind.

Is perfection subjective?  I don’t think so.  The word for that is perhaps the ideal.  What to us is the ideal, the standard by which we measure success?  I’m sure we can all think of answers to that.  The ideal picture of life… the life I can pretty much guarantee we won’t ever have.
Perfection on the other hand, is – I believe – objective, but there are many roads to that singular goal.  One only has to take the Saints.  So many unique travels, yet they came to that perfection which is holiness.  Unity with Christ.  Oh, to only truly long for such a thing.

However, to make the most and best of time on earth, I have some word of advice, and honestly, a bit of self-motivation at this point.

Don’t get lost in chasing an image.  Have an ideal, have a goal, sure, but don’t forget your own unique abilities.  While you may find a whole number of similarities between yourself and someone else, don’t try to become their carbon copy.  I know that’s easier said than done, but all we can do is our best, right?

It’s like my old gaffer said… no I’m just kidding, this awesomely hilarious priest said something similar is all.  To paraphrase for universality’s sake: “We are not called to be Saint Therese, or Saint Padre Pio, or Saint Josemaria Escriva, or – you get my point.
We are called to be Saint _____.”  So put your name there, sign that line (for those with longer names, I am so sorry that it’s a tiny line), make the commitment to strive for it.  It is beyond imperfect ideals, beyond the standards set by this flawed world.

I don’t say that to push you to sacrifice the pursuit of good and beautiful skills such as art, writing, leadership, a career, and all that.  No, not at all.  All I mean is that… there is more to our destinies than that.

So to return once more to the picture of my younger brother in distress over his artwork, we all have to start somewhere, right?  Should I have told him that this question of “can I ever be good enough?” would never leave him?  Did I perhaps give him false hope by encouraging him to move forward, and just draw and draw, over and over?  Should I have taught him that he would have to do the same with every step of his life’s journey?
Because you see it now, don’t you?  Life is the canvas, and we’re all artists.  And maybe we have some idea of where the line will fall, maybe we already have an idea of what we want to draw out… but we can never be sure until it’s truly on the page.

– M

P.S.  My bad, I did say it would be “brief” in the title.

The Simplest Times – Abide Pt. 7

My experience at Washington Park was not out of this world.  It wasn’t extraordinary, no great storm came overhead, there wasn’t any human I interacted with that spoke profound words of comfort, and yet it was good.  Good, but still lacking something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

After a time of worship and a talk calling the Holy Spirit to flow through our actions that afternoon, we were on buses with boxes of dinner, talking and laughing enthusiastically.  I felt confident that I could go outside of myself on this venture, that I would do what needed to be done.

As home base was set up in center of the park, I found myself suddenly quite abashed at the idea of encountering people.  Here was where the retreat feeling was both a blessing and a curse.  The presence of those who had been part of that universe helped keep me calm, but also, all these new variables, these fantastically unpredictable human brethren of ours who knew nothing of the retreat experience, were there for the meeting.  And that’s a run on sentence.

Purposeless, I hunted for sure ground and companionship in my quest to aid those I saw, but I lacked conviction.  Then suddenly my small group leader, DJ was there and asking me if I wanted to help hand out water bottles to people.  It was then, accompanied by Sister Anne, that we walked the perimeter of the park, accomplishing the simple act of bringing much needed hydration to those under the boiling sun.

As we walked, I was breathing calmly, and I didn’t really have to say much either.  I just gave to those who asked or needed, and it was… joyous.  I could find joy in what I was doing, despite its simplicity.  It led to some funny and confusing moments, I’ll tell you.  Sister Anne, being a Sister, attracted people through the innate beauty of the consecrated life, which was just awesome, and we as a trio ended up waving at one of those… pedal cars?  No… pedal wagons (heh, had to research it)!  That thing that can go on roads with a table in the middle and about 5 people on either side, they noticed her, and cheered us.
There was that, and then the man who saw that I was Asian and asked where I was from, stating that he had friends wherever it was, before I had answered him.  I ended up answering with my city, which maybe wasn’t the answer he was looking for, but he still nodded vigorously in the affirmative.  I hold nothing against the man, I was just thoroughly bemused, which led to laughter from my companions.

Still further, I came back into the park grounds after rounding the entire block and ended up at a loss once more.  I found myself wandering, like you do when you’re young, finding the number of Pokemon Go players amusing and the children playing with bubbles and soccer balls even more so.  And yet… I felt distant, the way you might looking out of a window on a starry night.  A detached, but not really unpleasant feeling.

It was only at the end of our time there, all of us gathered around the gazebo and raising our voices in prayer, that something felt right.  Our purpose just sort of… clicked.  Bringing the joy that we’d found to the people, and the beginnings of understanding began.  Still, being me, it wasn’t quite clear to me while I was in the heart of the retreat.  Now, looking back, it was right to go the way that it did.  However, that isn’t quite where my confusion left me…
More on that note.

TBC – M