PSA: Shy Introverts at Mass

One might think Mass is an ideal location for shy introverts. And, for the most part, it absolutely is. I mean, it’s an event where no one is expected to talk  except for the priest, deacon and a few others. Other events perfect for shy introverts include going to the movies, visiting libraries and hanging out at cemeteries.

But at Mass, there’s one part, albeit very short, that is the exact opposite of perfect for shy introverts. In fact, it ranks right up there with attending parties with people you barely know, running into an acquaintance at the grocery store and public speaking.

The Sign of Peace.

Yes. This beautiful part of the liturgy, where we extend peace to our brothers and sisters in Christ before partaking of the Eucharist, is actually quite the minefield for those of us that fall on the more awkward part of the social spectrum.

Below is a short PSA that shows what shy introverts go through at every Mass. EVERY MASS. Yes, you heard that right. This happens every single time. Sure, the shock wears off after the first few Masses. After that it’s just an expected socially awkward occasion where our hearts get the effect of cardio without the exercise. And there’s sweating without the exercise too. Try not to be jealous of the glamour.

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During my research, I came across this hilarious article about the Sign of Peace and the socially awkward by none other than Jennifer Fulwiler. Or as my husband and I refer to her in our household, JFul. It’s the hip hop name we’ve given her. 

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Joy, Pain & Friendship

IMG_3074My husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage on April 2nd.

That milestone brought with it various emotions and contemplations, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about those yearning for marriage but have yet to find that special person, or a past experience with marriage has wounded them deeply.

I know what it’s like to be bombarded daily, sometimes even hourly, with situations and images of something I desire deeply, and yet don’t have, all the while wondering if it might be something I will never have. My husband and I have knowingly struggled with infertility for eight years.  Something as mundane as a parent holding a child in their arms while they go up for communion at Mass can trigger a whole array of emotions for either or both of us.

But last Thursday my heart was with those going through a different struggle: Those who grew up imagining themselves as a husband or wife one day, but now they’re wondering if that will ever happen.  What once was a happy occasion, a friend’s engagement announcement, is like a knife to the heart. What once was a time to celebrate, a friend’s wedding, is a long ordeal of trying to hold back tears. What once was just a cute photo, a friend’s anniversary selfie, is a cause for jealousy and pain.

As time marches on your isolation continues to grow.  You love your friends, but going out with couples makes you feel like your singleness is on display with a spotlight.  And if there’s time to hang out with your friends without their spouses, well, the conversation usually focuses on the daily happenings of married life.  All you can say in response to try and relate is, “Yeah, my parents went through that in their marriage.” And the excruciating awkwardness if you’re at an event where you’ll be meeting strangers is nearly unbearable. The “So, are you married?” has to be followed by a painful and deafening “No.”

And it’s not that you want to take away anyone else’s joy. Knowing the pain of wanting to be happily married, and yet not, you would never wish this on anyone else.  But unfortunately all your good will doesn’t erase the pain that photos, anniversaries and conversations can cause.

For my friends who desire to be married with every fiber of their being, I in some small way can empathize, because I have felt all these things, but just with a different struggle.  And I know that in no way am I aware of all the pain felt by you. I only share what I have come up with by trying to imagine myself in your shoes.

So, when my Facebook page is full of photos from our anniversary date, or of our wedding from long ago, I know that you have a whole mix of feelings, some of them very dark. But here’s the thing I want you know: I don’t judge you for those feelings. I won’t tell you that you don’t have the right to your feelings, or that somehow I’m entitled to my joy and you should keep your feelings to yourself. No. Our lives here on earth are about community, and I welcome all of you. And not just the you that is perfectly at peace with what life has brought your way; no, I welcome you exactly where you’re at.

Michal and Me

Trials can often highlight our own errors.

Recently God gifted me with a trial such as that.  I won’t go in to all that transpired–suffice to say I was given a mirror and the reflection that shone back at me was none too pretty.

And as it usually goes, before I was blessed with the reflection of reality, God first took a chisel to me in the form of a trial and it was painful.

724px-Überführung_der_Bundeslade_durch_den_singenden_und_tanzenden_König_David2 Samuel 6:20

And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was belted with a linen ephod.  So David danced and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the horn.

As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

And David returned to bless his household.  But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!’

And David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father, and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD–and I will make merry before the Lord.  I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.’

Tissot_Michal_Watching_David_from_a_Window

Imagine gazing into a mirror and seeing Michal.

Oh, how sad I was to see my ugliness; how ashamed to know that I was being so superficial.  To not have my first look in another’s direction be saturated with LOVE was a terrible realization.

That’s what I saw.  So many times I’ve condemned others–thought people less than me, thought myself more righteous.  So many times I’ve thrown someone’s humanity out the window and reduced them to an object.

The word “objectify” seems like it’s been overused in our day, but I think we’ve actually just forgotten what it means in practice.  When I look at someone and don’t see who they are–I’ve objectified them.  In my eyes, they might as well be a toy doll, because if I’m judging them by anything other than WHO THEY ARE, then I’m objectifying them.  And who are they?  Children of God made in His image.

It’s so difficult to move away from the Puritan influence of our culture here in America, but I have to remember that when God first created the world He said it was good, and when he created man He said it was very good.  I must look at God’s creation and see the goodness in everything and everyone.  First and foremost we are called to love–and I really do believe that it is love that will bring people to Christ.  How could judgment, criticizing, disdain and self-righteousness bring anyone to Christ? And then, on top of that, the fact that my judgments were based on standards I had created, what I thought was right–it’s a big jump from wanting someone to be virtuous to then saying they should be virtuous and exemplify it in this way that I decide.

The temptation to slide into creating rules and standards outside of what God has put into place is so strong.  How subtle pride can be that I actually find myself adding on to what God has commanded!  “Nice work God; I see where you’re going, let me step in here to create some more rules for these folks.”  Yikes.  I am so very thankful that God is so merciful, otherwise He would have put me in my place long ago and it wouldn’t have been pleasant.

My job is to love everyone.  Only then can God use me in His great work of salvation.

Reading that helped to serve as my mirror:  CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce, a series of posts about thingifying people by Calah Alexander

Nausea, Tears & Claustrophobia! Oh My!

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“Let’s go to D.C.  We’re not busy.  We’ll cover a fight.  It’ll end up being a free trip.”

“Sure.  Why not?”

THURSDAY

The preceding two weeks were plagued with worry as I obsessively pondered what I would pack, how I would pack.  What does obsessively thinking about packing get you?  Nothing.  You pack just the same, figuring it all out.  But, yet, thoughts of getting liquids into 3 oz bottles, packing winter clothes, a large winter coat, a camera, two laptops–danced through my head for days and then on Thursday I spent all of maybe 45 minutes putting it into action.

We’re off.

We make it to Houston’s larger airport, George Bush Intercontinental, with plenty of time to spare.  Kels has the foresight to request we eat a meal since the rest of our day is filled with traveling.  What would I do without him?

After a vegetarian style taco salad, my last Tex Mex to be had for the next few days, we head to the gate and begin the dreaded WAIT.  Dreaded because waiting allows me to think about being on a plane, to mentally snuggle up with thoughts of impending nausea and nervousness.  So I sit and pretend to be on social media all the while my heart rate is increasing and there’s a tingling feeling creeping up my arms.

Oh good!  US Airways announces there’s no room for carry-ons!  The McCarsons hastily proceed to undo all that crazy packing so laptops can be removed and carry-on luggage can be checked.  Nothing like dropping to the floor in front of the boarding counter and unpacking and repacking your luggage in front of a large crowd.  “Nothing to see here folks.  Clearly we just don’t fly very often.”

By the way, you should see us go through security.  It’s a disaster and we’re avoided like the plague by fellow travelers.  

Bags checked.  Boarded.

Seated near the back of the plane (fabulous place to be if susceptible to motion sickness), middle seat (because of course that’s for me and not Kelsey), next to a chatty and nice man from Boston who’s a little concerned once he sees my anti-nausea bands on my wrists.  Lucky for him no fluids leave my body for the duration of the flight.

Two-hour flight.  Bumpy landing.  All of my mental faculties are focused on one thing after landing:  GET OFF THE PLANE.  Not so fast, Rachel.  You’re going to hang out in that middle seat, surrounded by people, with only tiny windows as your connection to the outside world.  The motorized ramp that connects the plane to the gate, well, it’s not working.  For the next 30-45 minutes the pilot will recount what the broken ramp is doing and what the flight crew is doing–basically the flight crew is watching the broken ramp not work.  But don’t worry, they are HOPING it will start working.

Finally two sets of stairs are brought over.  We travel down one set from the plane, and up the other to the gate.  On this journey down and up stairs, the flight crew has formed a human barricade lest one of us attempts to flee after our short imprisonment on the plane.

Oh, and we missed our connection.  Thankfully we’re put on the next flight to Dulles and I now have some time for the nausea to fade.

And for the future, anyone know if there’s a Saint for motion sickness?  

Board smaller plane.  No longer in a middle seat, but now in a smaller plane, and again seated near the back.  This flight is unpleasant.  All my strength is focused on not vomiting, and I am victorious.

Fast forward–me sitting near baggage claim in tears and taking deep breaths to stave off the nausea.  Why am I crying?  It was a physical reaction that couldn’t be stopped.  There was no actual reason that could be stated.  There were just lots of tears.

Kels is at a loss, going back and forth from knowing there’s nothing he can do to wondering if he should take me to the hospital.  My only joy is found in daydreaming that I’m in an “outbreak” style movie and I’m the first person with the deadly virus.  Should I asked to be quarantined?

Kels is off seeking solutions, and comes back with a distressed traveler rate for the nearby Doubletree. The hour long bus ride to downtown D.C. doesn’t seem doable at this point.  It’s a kink in our plans, and the only thing worse than all the nausea is not showing up at our friend’s house when we said we would–ah, the life of a people-pleaser.

Waiting for the hotel shuttle.  IT IS COLD.  I am bundled up like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, and yet I am fearful I may lose bits of my body to frostbite.

Hotel.  Food.  Sleep.

FRIDAY

After much deliberation, we finally decide to head into D.C. to meet up with our host, Mr. Starks (plural, not singular–our friend is not Iron Man, but is better than Iron Man).  Maybe you’re familiar with his work, he’s the editor and founder of The Queensbury Rules.

As far as nausea–the next three days consists of me fighting off waves of nausea and tossing TUMS down my throat ever couple hours.  It works.

We successfully take a bus and the rail line to Union Station.  Of course, we had help from various locals, all of whom, contrary to what we were told, were very nice.  But I suppose it’s difficult to be unhelpful when a traveler with a southern accent asks you a question.

From there we roll our luggage blocks to where our friend works–our delayed arrival has left us with no way to get into his apartment.  Another kink in our plans that is very stressful for this people-pleaser.

Keys gotten.  Now to catch a cab because we only have 90 minutes to drop off our luggage and head over to the weigh-in.  We cross the street because we see the oncoming traffic’s light is red.  A lady, who apparently was going to run that red light, is so angry.  She proceeds to yell at us from her car, first with the window up, then with the window down, and finally with her head out the window.

I feel good about our first impression we’ve made with D.C.

Cab caught.  Enter apartment.  Steal apple sauce and raisins.  Leave apartment.  Walk to weigh-in.

And, of course, the email detailing where the weigh-in is located is all but detailed.

Did you know?  Phones from the south can’t handle the cold weather of D.C.  Rather than buck up and deal with the cold, they power down.  We don’t figure this out until Saturday though.

So, we’re wandering around 9th street, no map because phones have shut down.  Kels follows his instincts, and we end up at the Renaissance Hotel and finally at the weigh-in.  We have arrived at the exact moment it is starting, which means I start by taking out-of-focus video but make minor improvements before it’s all over.  

Now to head home, or to what is home for this weekend.  But now we have our trusted friend and fearless guide, David Greisman, who is also quite the salesman–he sold a copy of his book, Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing, to a complete stranger at a Starbucks.  (Although, one need not have salesman skills, the book kind of sells itself.)

Home.  The writer writes.  The videographer edits.  I nap.

Then I snack on goods from the nearby 7-11, thanks to our guide Greisman.

Friday night is filled with food, drinks, friends and boxing.  What else could I ask for?

SATURDAY

We awake to the good news that although our friend was on a path to disaster, he managed to avoid said disaster all around.  The day is starting off well.

The morning and early afternoon is dedicated to tourist attractions:  Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pool (of Ice), Washington Monument.

We skipped the tour bus ($46 per person–no wonder there was no one on them) and were lucky enough to have a cab driver that not only shared cold weather tips for maintaining your vehicle, but he also told us all about the tourist attractions on the way to the Lincoln Memorial.  Fifteen dollars well spent.

We made our way around by keeping our phones next to our bodies, and when we did have to use them one of us would breathe on the phone while the other texted.  Crazy tourists.  What the hell are they doing?

Our day of touring ended at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to see their Dinosaur exhibit.  We enjoyed our tour and the company of Greisman and his prettier half.

Fortunately, we don’t have to figure out how to get the D.C. Armory on our own–we allow Greisman to chauffeur us to our destination.  Sure, our chauffeur gets into a tiff with the parking lot attendant, and we’re chased down when he parks without paying, but in the end we discover only Golden Boy big wigs don’t have to pay for parking.  Media making little or nothing, they pay.  They pay $20.  

At the fight.  It’s 4 pm.

What’s with the new trend of undercards starting so early?  

The next eight hours or so:  fights, writing, photos, interviews.

We leave, and added to our group for the ride home are Starks and Fight Network contributor, Corey Erdman.  Yes, five people are heading home by way of a compact car.

Starks mentions something about claustrophobia, I mumble something about occasionally being claustrophobic–and BOOM, bring on the irrational and illogical panic attack.

Greisman begins the drive home.  Thirty seconds later I demand he stop the car so Starks and I can take off our winter coats and put them in the trunk.  Being cold is much preferred over the feeling of being strangled by your own winter attire.  The rest of the drive I mentally alternate between pretended feelings of calmness and GET ME THE F*** OUT OF THIS CAR I CAN’T BREATHE.  

“It’s been a pleasure to meet you for the first time Mr. Erdman.  I’m a crazy person.”

Also, when you sit in the middle of the backseat of a compact car you find out how big your ass really is.  Sorry fellow compact car companions.  I’m the reason we had trouble closing the doors.

Home.

SUNDAY

Photo-editing, beers and sleep.  Well, really “nap.”  Went to bed at 3:30 am and got up at 6:30 am.  Good thing about sleeping three hours–you don’t hit that REM cycle so it’s pretty easy to get up.

We shower, pack, and bundle up.  We say goodbye via a grateful look in the direction of our sleeping friend who was so generous as to give us his bed while he took the couch these past two nights.

We walk to Mass, and then by sheer luck find our way to the nearest rail line and head to the airport.

Did you know?  Having a safety razor, which uses a traditional razor blade, in your carry-on is a no-no.

We haven’t eaten since the evening before, and are very happy to arrive early enough to have time to eat.  And yay!, I purchase a fruit cup that has gone bad.  After all I’ve gone through with being nauseous, somehow I purchase and eat two bites of rancid fruit.  This can only mean good things for the return trip home.

Flight, nausea, tears.  Repeat once.

And that folks, was my trip to D.C.

For coverage of the fight check out Kelsey McCarson’s work over at The Boxing Channel and The Sweet Science.