It’s Thursday, around supper time, and I am settling into what has become my ritual for Thursdays at this time. I sit at the same spot, at the same table, in the same Starbucks most Thursdays at this time, for an hour give or take.
This ritual of peppermint tea and a pastry, or maybe some cheese and fruit, time alone with a good novel, or maybe a bit of Netflix on my iPad is how I gird myself each week for what comes next.
I found myself thinking about this ritual tonight, as I rode the bus from home to my stopping point in the Starbucks. Thinking about it as I texted with a friend about my ongoing journey with Catholicism. It seems more deeply necessary at this point in lent – this strengthening for the journey – this pause to care for my heart.
What comes next is RCIA, a journey that has been a sort of rocky wilderness for me. It’s a few hours each week where I feel different, odd, less than whole, and as if I just might die of dehydration in the dessert. It’s the place where we’ll meaning people refer to everyone who is not catholic (even other Christians) as being from other faiths. It’s the place where I’ve recently had to set boundaries with those who are frustrated by my more quiet introverted nature – who expect hearty group participation at every turn – who contradict my tendency to hold things within me, and process aloud only with those I trust most. It’s the place where a few weeks ago a priest announced that because we have the hope of the resurrection, Christians can never be depressed – not precisely the most encouraging thing to say to a room full of people, and harder yet to hear when you are the person in the room who has struggled with deep anxiety and depression since adolescence.
It has been long and exhausting, this journey towards the Church. It’s been so different from what I expected and hoped it might be. It has coincided with a season of massive transition in my personal life, and the combination of a plodding journey and massive transition has more than once become overwhelming to me.
I was thinking about this tonight as I rode the bus to my quiet refuge in the corner of Starbucks. Today I exchanged emails with a local priest, arranging a time to go for first confession before Easter, and the process of sending those emails contributed to my reflective mood. I texted a far-away friend, sharing some of the things I was feeling:
I’ve got to be honest – I’m so very tired of all the new situations this journey has held – and of the uncertainty and anxiety they each bring.
And that feeling – the never ending newness, in combination with the decidedly extrovert focused RCIA process – are why I find myself in this corner of Starbucks most Thursdays set this time. I need the space for quiet, the beauty of reading something that engages mind, soul and spirit, the calming taste of the tea, and the familiarity of the routine. I’ve learned to create that space for myself, and it has become an oasis for me since the first time I sat in this Starbucks, just under a year ago, as I waited to meet a priest for the first chance to discuss this journey with a local catholic.
So I’m here, and in this place I’m just me. The me who wants more than anything to partake in the Eucharist, and the me who is exhausted, angered by and pretty much completely over the process of being able to partake. The me who is anxious about yet another awkward evening and the me who understands why this particular expression of the process is not meaningful to my soul in the ways it is expected to be. The me who sips tea instead of coffee, who reads a novel instead of the bible in this hour of solace each week, and who finds this restorative.
This ritual is my haven, and today I’m thankful for it.