Maundy Thursday

It should feel more meaningful.  For the first time in my life, I have kept a Lenten fast.  Six weeks plus a day or so (I started early) on 20-25 net carbs a day.  I've lost about two inches in my waist, likewise two in my bust, and (probably, it depends on how I measure) two in my hips as well.  I've learned to think about food in a wholly different way, as something nourishing for my body rather than as a drug for my mind.  I can recognize carb cravings now for what they are (a cry for help), and I know that I can survive without stuffing my emotions full of sugars and starch (although, full disclosure, those Atkins peanut butter bars really come in handy at the end of a long day).  And I look forward to the day when I can fit into my skinny jeans not with longing, but simply as a matter of course.  One day, I will simply be a different size.

And that, it would seem to be, is that.  No great drama.  No great crises of self-realization where I find myself suddenly transformed.  Just thinner, the size my body is supposed to be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm loving it.  Even my knees feel slightly slenderer, even if my thighs are still quite heavy.  But it doesn't distress me anymore because I know that it is simply a matter of time--and counting carbs--until I am my proper self.

So why am I not more ecstatic today?  Part of it must be the flu that I still have.  My sinuses hurt, I am worn out simply walking down the stairs to take the Dragon Baby out.  But it is a gorgeous, if chilly, day.  The flowers are all in bloom thanks to the unseasonably warm March we had.  Term is off to a promising, if challenging start, and I am only somewhat behind in the other things I have to do (e.g. write another book review).  So why am I not celebrating more?  Okay, so it's not Easter yet, we still have Good Friday and Holy Saturday to live through, but today at least we are looking forward to sharing a meal with our Lord and friend (or, I would be if my sinuses weren't hurting so much; I still have a half an hour to decide).

But I am still sad.  Why?  I could say, "I wish I knew," and leave it at that, but I think that that would be lying.  I think that I do know, but that I am afraid to admit it to myself.  I have lost the last anchor that I had to my old life.  The life that I have had since I was a child, with all of its frustrations, to be sure, but also its dreams.  I used to have so many dreams.  About what it would be like to be a professor.  About what it would be like to have a home.  And I've fulfilled them, mostly.  All except this last one, to be thin.  And soon (I'm hoping maybe by Pentecost), that will be a reality, too.  And then there will be nothing between me and...what?  Utter fulfillment?  Day-to-day bliss?  Or, rather, the realization that everything that I have been dreaming about was actually a surrogate for the thing that I really wanted to feel: loved.

Even worse, I'm not even sure anymore that I know what it would feel like, that I would recognize being loved if I were.  After all, there are people in my life who insist that I am, that they love me very, very much.  So why can't I hear them when they say so?  No, now I'm just trying to keep from hurting their feelings.  I don't hear it, I don't feel it, and I don't understand why.  My sister called today to tell me that she had been thinking about me after reading Monday's post and wanted me to know how grateful she was for all of the work (and worrying) that I did taking care of our father's estate after he died.  And I hear her wanting to acknowledge me, but I don't feel it.  I am afraid to feel it anymore.

How is that?  What is it that is making me so afraid?  How about this: I am afraid to confuse needing her approval with feeling loved.  Which, if you think about it, is actually really a good thing, right?  I'm not as dependent as I used to be on other people's approval.  I know how good my work is (excellent), I know how hard I work at my teaching and research (very), I know how much my fencing has improved in the past several years (by leaps and bounds), I know what I am going to look like in a few more weeks (myself).  What more could I possibly want?  What more could her--or anybody's--approval possibly prove?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I am that confident in myself now.  I do not need to be thin to prove anything to anybody (and, so, of course, ironically, I am losing weight).

And yet, as much as I want to imagine myself as Diana, the virgin huntress, indifferent to the world, I just can't.  Even if I understand now that it is nothing to do with me if there have been people in the past whom I have wanted to love me, but who don't--perhaps more accurately, whom I have wanted to love me in a certain way, but who can't--it still hurts to be talking with them (rarely as that happens anymore) and feel nothing, no connection whatsoever between what I've said and what they (apparently) hear.  And then, today being the day it is, I wonder whether anybody ever hears, if even God's friends managed to betray and abandon him when he needed them most.  People suck.  We all suck.  How often do we ever listen properly to what anybody has to say, before leaping in to comment on how what someone else has just said is actually about ourselves?  How often do we ever hear the hurt or longing or need in someone else's voice and not try to shield ourselves from it by trumping their pain with ours?  Here we, as a culture, spend hours and hours and hours of our lives wholly absorbed in the fictional dramas projected on our digital screens and we can hardly bear to listen for a whole minute to another person talking about something that matters to him or her.  I'll say it again, we suck.  I suck.  And I'm pretty sure you do, too.

And guess what?  It hurts even more when you become aware that that's what we're doing to each other.  All.  The.  Fricking. Time.  Did Jesus' friends listen to him, really listen to him when he knew he was about to die?  Nah.  They went to sleep.  And then his best friend denied three times that he even knew him.  Have I said it already?  We suck.  And for this, God had to die?  You remember what John said, right? "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  I do think that I understand this now.  God listens.  God always listens.  But because we almost never listen to each other, we do not know God.  And because everyone is such a terrible listener, almost nobody feels loved.  Except, maybe, the celebrities we spend so much of our time watching.  Maybe.  I'm just guessing here.  I think most of them feel pretty lonely, too.

I can hear you now, "Stop showing off.  You're just saying all of this to get attention."  And so what if I am?  Because, you're right, I do want your attention.  I want you to listen while I speak and to respond to what I have said, not just use what I have said to say something about yourself.  And then I will listen to you, even if it is hard for me.  Even if everything you say seems to have something to do with me (when it probably doesn't).  Even if nothing that you say is of the remotest interest to me except for the fact that you are saying it.  That's love.  That's what I need to feel.  That's what I thought I would get if only I were thinner or more successful or had a more beautiful home.  But I know now that it was never about any of these things.  It was only that I wanted you to listen and you wouldn't.  Couldn't.  Weren't.

"Mandatum novum do vobis..."


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