Monday, July 28, 2014

Edel 2014

As a mom of young kids, I know we all experience the same feeling of defeat. We all experience that moment, sometimes more often than we care to acknowledge, where we must escape. Like a caged and beaten animal, we find ourselves longing to run away, far far away, and nurse our wounds. It doesn't matter how many children you have, if you work or stay home, if you are rolling in cash or drowning in debt, we all experience that sensation that we must flee.

That's not why I bought my ticket to the Edel Gathering.

The Edel Gathering was named for Venerable Edel Mary Quinn, and I think the two founders may have found her name by googling "Patron Saint of Partiers". I was only half listening to that sentence because there was a really distractingly cute baby near me. At any rate, Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord, decided that mommies, and specifically Catholic mommies, needed a weekend to refresh, renew and recharge themselves back to the amazing and wonderful individuals they have always been. There are a lot of wonderful things to say about these two women, but I'm going to save that for another day. First, let's talk about moi.

The day I bought my ticket was rotten. My husband was out of town, The children were needy, and I was depleted. I had considered it, but there was no decision made by the time the tickets went on sale.  So, that day, when I spoke to my husband, I told him I bought my ticket, and I was staying at the Omni downtown Austin. We have a policy of discussing any several-hundred dollar purchases in advance, so he had every right to be angry with me, but he was not. Surprised, maybe. Probably a little frightened, wondering what kind of desperation would lead me to forsake our agreement, but completely on board. Because he is the best.

What followed was one month after another of really bad news, really deep heartache, and really hard days. One day, I think perhaps in May or early June, Scott said, "Well, at least you get to go to that conference." and I nearly burst into tears. "That Conference" was months away. I needed a break right then. I couldn't see past the sunset, let alone weeks ahead. I was afraid I was becoming someone unlikable. I was afraid I had made a mistake in choosing to go alone, and not even trying to make some kind of e-connection with the other attendees. I misunderstood and thought it was mostly an opportunity for self-promotion of personal projects. I didn't have anything to promote, I didn't want to buy anything. I didn't need a massage. I needed to find out if I could exist outside of who I had become, and in that moment, I didn't want to do that because I was afraid I would not like it, I would not like me outside of my roles.

My sister lost her husband in February of 2006. He was 30, she was pregnant with their second child. My father-in-law died in 2011. Sweet baby Nora died in June. A lot of people spent their lives identifying themselves with these loved ones. My sister started dating Mitch since she was 15, but had decided to marry him in 5th grade. My mother-in-law had not only built a life with her husband that included children and grandchildren, but she spent his last years being his caretaker. Aleisa and William spent all of Nora's 2 plus years caring for her and nursing her and chronicling her witness for the world. Identities wrapped in these relationships and then they were gone.

I spend a lot of time caring for my children, especially Mae. But I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. While many of the ladies at the conference were experiencing the crushing isolation of motherhood, I have a life full of well-built relationships. I've been where they have been, for sure, but that's not where I am now. I have 4 amazing, beautiful, hilarious sisters who love me dearly. I have 3 tough, compassionate and generous brothers who love me. I have two holy and patient parents who love me. I have a husband who thinks I am the closest thing to the Virgin Mary on earth. (I am so very much not that, but I do not seem capable of ridding him of that delusion.) I have a parish and school community that love our family. I have friends who "get it", and support me even when they don't. We have a neighborhood full of people who like each other and are prepared for the onslaught of Fryman Teenagers when the kids get to that age. I have in laws and cousins and aunts and uncles and even the cashier at the grocery store who gives me coupons and let's me break up my order so I can use more than one $10 off $50 coupon. I am not rich, I'm filthy rich.

Which is why the reading of the rich young man haunts me. Money isn't my comfort, relationships are. The experience of these past years have taught me that it is possible that I could lose all of this around me. The day I bought my ticket I had realized this and I could not answer a question that thundered into my thoughts; Did I even like being just me?

So I went to Austin alone. I met other women without one of my children licking them first. (True story, happened more than once.) I went for walks. I slept in a bed alone. I went to confession. I went to mass. I partied. A lot. I talked to strangers. I ate yummy food. A lot. I smiled. I cried. I watched Gravity and cried like it was me in space with one thing after another going to hell. I identified a little too closely with Gravity. I missed home. I sat in Saint Mary's Cathedral. I thanked God for the weekend. I thanked God that I had met all these women. I thanked God that The Body of Christ is made up of wounded a broken people who want nothing more than to love and be loved. It was in my gratitude for the weekend, in the pleasure I felt at actually absorbing a mass undisturbed, that I knew I absolutely could not ever stand to be alone. The good news is, God Almighty promised me I never would be.


  1. This is absolutely beautiful. I'm so happy that you came to Edel and that God gave you everything you needed and more. It was such a pleasure meeting you! Your smile could light up an entire room.

  2. What a beautiful reflection.
    It is indeed difficult to not define ourselves by our relationships. What a challenging thing to grapple with.

  3. Barbara!
    I am so very glad you had that experience. You and I roomies 2015?