Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

May 21, 2010

Reflections of a Traveler

Well, I have just returned from my travels. I realized that I get to traveling a lot. I’m quite lucky. Less than a year ago, I was in North Africa! And just these past few weeks I have been in Vienna, Austria. But I am the world's worst blogger when I travel, and for that I apologize. Maybe it is because I have been stressed these last two trips. Maybe I am just a bad blogger when I travel. So here are a few reflections of what I have been learning during my travels.

This trip was both wonderful and stressful. Wonderful because I got to see my golden old friends (and family - my sister lives in Europe!) meet tremendous new ones. Nothing helps healing more than friendship. I was doing some work for a conference that tremendously interests me - on Islam and Europe. It was a great conference. But my boss was a bit of nightmare during it...he made it quite stressful. But I won’t delve into that, save to say that he is not the best manager of people and a micro-manager who also hates details. Yes, imagine that – not an ideal combination to put it lightly.

But after all that passed over, and I found myself still missing Peter. The goal of the trip was to forget him, to let the memories of our relationship and the plans of our future pass into smoky oblivion and move on, but that still has not happened. The stress of conference planning was merely a distraction, and as I found myself steeped in the beauty of a city the Habsburg money built, I found my heart so heavy with sorrow. Why could I not just forget about him? I walked into every gorgeous Church I could find asking that question receiving no comfort, no answer. Even now, I still miss him and he still haunts my sleep. Even if my better judgment reminds me that I have been saved, my irrational emotions remember the goodness of Peter, instead of his faults that made him entirely wrong for me. That’s human nature, isn’t it? A little good, a little bad – such a complicated mixture of good and evil.

Despite my sorrow, I opened up to others about my experience – to my friends old and new. What I found was solidarity in suffering, as this trip revealed to me the long known truth that world is full of human suffering....

Take the lovely young girl from Armenia. She is 22. At age 20, she married the love her life, the man of her dreams. At age 21, she had a child who lived for only 6 months. He died of genetic disease - the genes for which both she and her husband carried. After the death of her baby, she and her husband divorced. At 21, she moved to Vienna to seek meaning and move on.

Then there was the older American woman who used to work for the same person I worked for during this trip. She left a fabulous well paying job because she was looking for meaning and thought working for an organization associated with the Church might give that to her. She worked for this organization for just six months and found the job odious. The next thing she knew, she was making rather poor decisions, like that one guy that one night...and then she found herself pregnant. In Europe I met both her and her beautiful little daughter.

Finally, there was the glorious French professor who teaches in Germany. He writes about Medieval Islam and Christianity and was invited to speak at our conference along with many other notable men and women. I went with the driver to pick him up from the train station in Vienna and escort him to the conference. I was captivated by him. He is very French, delightful, forgetful, and absent minded. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible and his face was almost expressionless, but his words were always so kind and incredibly wise.

When I asked him about his work, he told me a story about his wife. She had encouraged him to take a fellowship that would take him away from her and their three young sons. She did it because she loved him and she wanted what she knew would make him happy and allow him to become the best of himself – he did not say that, but I knew it. But he did say, “She had so much courage to do that, to stay with our three sons on her own. That is what I love about her – she has the feminine courage that lasts for the long run, while masculine courage only lasts in the short run…”

Those words resonate with me. I thought – that is exactly the kind of love I want to have from a husband. I hope he is out there, and I hope I do a much better job of finding him. I think that’s why I love the idea of the woman warrior, because all of us women are called to be one at one time or another. Even as I protest, God has put that training before me. And while I am no woman warrior like the ones I blog about, I certainly aspire to be. I think it is safe to say that I am a work in progress on that feminine genre of the virtue. After all, it takes courage to meet your almost mother in law on what should have been your wedding day and return those gorgeous rings you were supposed to exchange. And while you are quite tearfully doing that, she is gently and tacitly blaming you for the mess: “Peter says you just wanted too much and he felt too pressured to give everything to you.” Whatever that was supposed to mean – just another lie, another attempt to escape blame for what he did wrong. As I said, human nature is a complicated mess of good and evil. And it takes courage to tell your family members which items belonged to Peter that need to be returned to him as you weep so that they can pack them up and get them out of your apartment. All the while, he is roaming around town partying at a Mardi Gras parade on what should have been the first day of your honeymoon – the first day of your life together as man and wife. Yes, it takes courage to move on from all that. It takes the feminine courage that lasts for the long run, the kind I am inevitably, and perhaps unwillingly, learning to practice.

Photos: From my trip
1: View of Vienna from Stephansdom Tower
2: Altar at Votivkirche
3: Facade of Michaelkirche - St. Michael the Archangel


Aaron said...

This comment isn't really a comment; I don't have anything particularly interesting or insightful to add. I just wanted to say I enjoyed reading this post. No, "enjoyed" is probably not the right word. I thought it meaningful, and I'm glad I read it. You'll be in my prayers.

Julian said...

So much love.

Agatha Magdalene said...

you have more courage than anyone I know.

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