The Antidote

“So how do you measure the worth of a man / In wealth or strength or size / In how much he gained or how much he gave / The answer will come, the answer will come to him who tries /To look at his life through heaven’s eyes” -“Through Heaven’s Eyes” Prince of Egypt

All semester, I’ve just felt lonely. Why, when I look at such great things, surrounded by such interesting, beautiful people, do I feel so lonely, I asked a friend in an email. It just goes with the territory, she explained. Seeing new things just makes you feel lonely. Don’t worry about it too much.

But the loneliness plagued me everywhere I went, and I couldn’t shake it. It latched on for dear life and wouldn’t let go. I traveled to the far ends of Europe, to Barcelona, to Berlin, to Delphi…and it tailed me all the way. Go listen to Mike Posner’s “Save Your Goodbye” and maybe you’ll get an idea of how this loneliness both hounded me and haunted my thoughts.

Giving up plugging into my mp3 player for Lent gave me a lot of pure, unadulterated time for thought while sitting on the class trip buses shuttling us around Greece for ten days, and instead of not worrying about being lonely, I grappled with it. The typical, “Oh, I feel so small and insignificant when I look at Grecian vistas and the Parthenon and the Mediterranean Sea because they are so big and so great and I am not,” lent me little satisfaction. I don’t feel humbled or insignificant or small. I feel lonely and too complex for my own articulation and entirely alone in the vastness of the universe. I’ve read about this rapidly expanding universe and how much it contains and how complex it is. I felt like that. I felt like the universe, expanding to absorb these experiences and their greatness. I felt like the universe, utterly incomprehensible. I felt like the universe, containing so much stuff but so much emptiness as well.

Sorry to get all angsty, I’m just trying to convey how difficult a loneliness it was.

I kept grappling with it through spring break, through 12 silent train rides through Austria and Germany and mountains. The loneliness and I trudged through Holy Week, too. And then I found it, the answer. I found the antidote to my loneliness.

If you only get to do one thing in Rome (granted, I still haven’t been to Villa Borghese), go straight to the Vatican Museums (grabbing some melone gelato on the way, because that’s important, too). In the Pinacoteca, in the Leonardo da Vinci room, drink in the sorrow Bellini portrays in his painting, Lament over the dead Christ. There is the suffering and the haunting and the loneliness and the helplessness. Mingle that image with the other breathtaking works of art: Laocoon and Sons, the Belvedere Torso, the Achilles and Ajax Playing Dice Amphora, the Raphael frescoes in the Stella della Segnatura. Let the portrayals of the struggle of human activity remind you of your own struggles. Then let the Sistine Chapel convince you your struggling is worthwhile.

Bellini’s Lament over the Dead Christ

Nothing can prepare you for the Sistine Chapel. My mind was quite literally blown apart; I had been meditating on loneliness so long, it had become a pattern of thought, and the Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo’s genius ripped it to shreds:

As I ignored the calls of “No foto” and “Silenzio” and drank in the colors and the emotion and the story, I saw the universe. Michelangelo & Co. depicts salvation history: from God forcing apart light and dark, to the creation of Adam, to the fall, to the flood, to the narrative of Jesus Christ’s life, all the way into the future and the end, depicted in The Last Judgement fresco that spreads across the wall behind the altar. There I was, somewhere painted into the soaring, beautiful figures. Before I had felt unable to articulate my struggle with loneliness. Good thing Michelangelo used his paintbrush to articulate THE human struggle 500 years ago, and I could now clearly see that I am part of something bigger. I matter. My actions, like those of all the characters on the ceiling, like those of everyone surrounding me in this sacred space, echo in eternity.

Part of The Last Judgement

And that’s The Antidote. I’m not alone, because I’m a part of this epic and all epics that insist upon the importance and weight of human actions. Mattering trumps the loneliness. But it’s more complex than that; the fact that I matter means the loneliness that is a part of me also matters, via uniting the suffering of loneliness with the sacred suffering of our Lord. No longer are reminders to “Offer it up!” marked as condescending or annoying; they are reminders of The Antidote.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” Catholicism is like a mountain; it gives you a chance and a direction. Even better than a mere mountain, it gives you the means as well: a wealth of knowledge, sacraments, heroes in the form of saints. To top it all, the Church insists that climbing the mountain is what I was made to do, and it is vitally important. I get to help others learn how to struggle upwards. I get to struggle with purpose instead of aimlessly.

“No life can escape being blown about / By the winds of change and chance / And though you never know all the steps / You must learn to join the dance” -“Through Heaven’s Eye’s” Prince of Egypt


My Mundane Life

I dreamed I found my lost glasses in our front yard last night. It was lovely, because I really thought I had my glasses back. Going from seeing details and minimal eye strain even with hours and hours of homework is awful. I keep reading in the Bible that if you persist in prayer that God cannot ignore you. But it’s been literally two months now, and I still haven’t seen them. I left them on my desk, I thought in their case, but apparently not. I’ve deep cleaned my room several times with no luck. Perhaps God meant bigger things won’t be ignored, or maybe I’m not praying hard enough or often enough. Or something.

That’s not the only thing. I lost my smart pen. I love my Livescribe Echo. I want you back, too. While we’re on it, whatever happened to that one cell phone I dropped on the porch? It was literally out of sight for a few seconds, and I never saw it again. Now I’m stuck with a crap phone for another year. Whatever happened to my tie-dye Homecoming tshirt? And the other pair of glasses I lost last semester? My earbuds and mp3 player? My 60G iPod? That pisses me off. I am a loser of things, and it is one of the single most frustrating qualities about myself.  I’ve done it since I was little: just set something down somewhere, and never saw it again. A box of crayons, my favorite Beanie Baby. I’m getting all worked up thinking about this.

Maybe I should just own less stuff. Okay, cool. But my glasses! How the hell does one lose 2 pairs of glasses in a matter of 6 months? It’s such an expensive habit.

Anyway, I missed my work shift. Again. I woke up around 1, and cleaned for a while, but not too much. I was good and limited myself. Then I went to the library and worked 20 minutes on each subject, using the eternally helpful Then I went to dinner, and there was macaroni and cheese and salsa, and Lucky Charms, and spicy vegetable soup. The weather is almost always lovely now, so I sat outside with some funny people: my best friend’s roommate, with whom I exclaimed about how glorious a meal it was. Not going to lie, I had been hoping this guy I kind of am thinking about liking would show up, but he only did as I was leaving to do more homework.

I sat outside and was efficient, mostly because I have nothing better to do. I blocked all time-wasting websites, like Youtube and Tumblr and Pinterest and Pottermore and Facebook and Twitter with StayFocusd, a Chrome extension. I can only access them for 7 minutes a day. Except when I was signing up, I thought it meant 7 minutes for each, but it meant 7 minutes TOTAL. Which was probably for the best, because I have buttloads and buttloads of things to do.

I wish I could put a block on my sleeping, since I am having such trouble curbing it. Sigh. My roommate laughed when I said this, and she wished for a block on eating. I’ve been losing weight ever since softball, since my metabolism is still hyperactive. Not for long though, which is why I need to start working out again, stat. I want to run in a 5K this Saturday, mucho mucho. First I have to muster up some money.

I went to church, and I had a little panic attack as I was sitting in the back row, afraid that I really was in a Serious Funk, and that I was going to start having trouble sitting through Mass again and all that. But then we started singing and everything was better. And I caught of glimpse of the guy I mentioned earlier. Working on a nickname for him. I am actively trying to not care, though. Really, I am.

I grabbed ice cream and then called my mom, which initially didn’t help much. I told her what had happened that day, and then I told her I was so, so lonely. And she started talking about the summer, which usually does help me out of a Minor Funk, but this time it didn’t. I just got frustrated and teary, and so I told her I would talk to her later. I considered moving out for the night, but I really don’t feel like walking anywhere and stinking in my loneliness, so I set the alarm for 20 minutes again, and I’ve been efficient ever since. Besides this, but this is an exception.

I can’t wait to break this funk. I’m going to schedule an appointment with the counselor and go for a run tomorrow night. I promise.

Laughing Girl

I get compliments from girls when I dress up. Boys, too, every once in a while. I have a lot of friends, boys and girls. I look at photographs of myself and think that I’m pretty 9 times out of 10.

So why do I only attract the flighty boys? And as for my friends who are boys, what is it about my personality that means I’m the friend with whom you laugh and cry and talk everything with, but that’s it. Just talk. Nothing beyond that, ever.

I’m a sanguine phlegmatic. I get excited easily, am affectionate, have low energy levels. I am generally optimistic to the point of tears. By that, I mean I am crying with optimism. Wait, that doesn’t help either. I am optimistic as I am bawling my eyes out. I am a conglomerate of two vastly different personalities: the extrovertive introvert. I am laid back and easy-going, a peacemaker, passive unless I am acting for somebody else. I inspire people, but sometimes I lie. I am talkative, my best defense is my dry sense of humor when attacked or when I must attack someone else. I try too hard usually, when it comes to relationships. I am always trying to balance between that trying too hard and conserving my energy.

So perhaps I am the problem. I mean, I said that already, but I guess it’s more clear when I look at this. One google hit says the sanguine phlegmatic holds deep relationships away with a sense of humor in order to protect my low energy levels. I am flighty, always changing. It becomes apparent that being bipolar might be partly personality based. I am the laughing/crying girl. Just depends, I guess.

I can’t focus. I can’t last. I jump around. Life is like a dance for me. Sometimes I am sitting down, worn out, resting. Sometimes I am dancing madly, madly. I suppose I go big and go home in a quick cycle and come back for more at the earliest possible moment. I am so honest it hurts, I seek beauty so brilliant it hurts, I am after the Sun, the Form of the Good.

Sorry this post is angsty, poorly written in the passive voice, uses the word “I” much too much. I am just worn out, and must put forth all my energy into a paper about obedience in Paradise Lost. This isn’t even a daily post, really, I just had to say something. Maybe I’m getting sick or something. Last night, I was up at 4 in the morning watching Leave It To Beaver in Spanish.

There’s that dry sense of humor again.