A Net With No Holes

While I am always striving to become more holy, this week I’ve learned the importance of becoming more hole-y.

In my very first class of graduate school, one of my new professors introduced the idea of living life while carrying around a net. We all have a metaphorical net that stays with us as we go throughout our life. We catch some important things, while other not-so-important things sweep by and just flow through the net. We hold onto the useful things, and let go of the things that don’t benefit us. It all works in a pretty nice balance. Well, until it doesn’t.

Some people carry around a net that has holes that are entirely too large. Everything passes through and nothing really sticks. The negative aspects of life don’t linger, but along with them even the monumental and beautiful moments just sweep through without a second thought.

Other people carry around a net with no holes. Everything becomes trapped and tussled around in an unharmonious jumble. The profound mixes with the mundane. The inconsequential takes the space of meaning. Every aspect of life becomes another burden to drag around.

For years, I lived an un-hole-y life.

In this time, I held tightly onto all the aspects of my being, including the positive, but those quickly became drowned out by all the other junk filling the space around me. By holding onto all these things, I didn’t know how to filter out the unimportant. Everything was something to clutch onto. A comment about my weight? It went in the net. A poor grade on an assignment? I carried it around. Indecision? Caught in the web. Friend’s troubles? In they went. And on and on and on.

I carried it all around. Every. Little. Thing. And you know what? It was HEAVY. The extra weight I dragged around with me stole away energy from the things that used to bring me joy, whittled down trust from loving relationships, and provided comfort in a place I shouldn’t have been comfortable. I couldn’t let go of the things that hurt me, and I couldn’t enjoy the things that tried to help me. I got so used to this way of life that I forgot that the net I was carrying was supposed to be freeing, not a death sentence.

My time of deepest despair is marked by a cavern of nets with no holes.

I held onto everything, hoping for something, and ended up with nothing.

My perception of the world was so dysfunctional that I didn’t even know that I was allowed to have holes in my net. I didn’t know that I wasn’t required to trudge through life carrying everything with me. In the many years since this point, I have slowly but steadily learned how to let things pass through the net that flows around and behind me. I was blessed with brave people who jumped into my net with me and cut some holes. I had friends help me carry the load while I sorted out what to keep and what to let go. I saw a counselor who taught me that it’s okay to be imperfect. I didn’t realize how heavy my burdens were until I wasn’t carrying them around anymore.

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to do everything and wanting to be everything, but grasping onto everything creates a messy muddle where nothing can really shine. It’s easy to be lured into taking on too many things, caring about what other people think, holding onto pain, or whatever else fills our nets, but we don’t have to carry those things with us forever. Letting go doesn’t negate meaning or purpose, but sets us free to be our best selves.

What do you have in your net? Patch some holes, cut some new ones, mend some strings, and live your best life. You deserve it!

In Joy, Monica

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Matthew 11:28-30

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Ready or Not

I caught a stingray the first time I went fishing.

I use the term “I” loosely here, as I wasn’t the one to pick the bait, attach it to the hooks, cast the net, or anything else that goes along with the preparation. But when the first bite on the line came pretty quickly, I found myself struggling with the rod, unsure of how to hold it, where to stand, or what to do with my hands. All I really knew was to rotate the little handle on the side, and so I did that with all my might. Thinking I simply had a fish on the other end, and not the large stingray that was actually there, I grappled clumsily with the large rod and quickly got frustrated that I wasn’t strong enough to reel in the fish on my own.

I had known for quite some time that I would be going fishing, and built up the anticipation of doing something new, but in the actual moment of tugging with that rod, I realized that I was not at all prepared.

I knew it was coming, and I wasn’t ready.

Cases like this are sprinkled throughout my life. I moved into an apartment and didn’t know how to cook a whole meal by myself. I found myself fighting mental illness and knew next to nothing of what that meant. I began conversation with friends about my faith and didn’t know how to properly approach the basics. Whether or not I knew in advance of what was to come, I have often wandered into something new and then found out I had no idea what I was doing, and zero clue of what the result would be.

When I knew that I wouldn’t be able to reel in the catch using my own strength, I passed the rod onto someone much more experienced and fish-savvy than I. It stung my pride a bit to not be successful, but to be honest, there really was no reason that I should have been able to do it on the first try. I had never even truly watched someone fish in real life! The outcome I had envisioned of a scaly fish evaporated as I spotted the stingray flapping through the shallow waves.

I hadn’t even tried to research this, but no matter how many videos we watch, articles we read, friends we ask, or supplies we buy, we can’t always be prepared for what life throws our way. Struggle and uncertainty is inevitable.

No one is immune. The most confident, beautiful, and clever people fall into this too. It is scary to face the unknown, and even more daunting to fathom doing it alone. Sometimes we don’t want to have to do things on our own, and it’s often a brutal reality that we may have to. If we are capable, we can use our skills even if it is inconvenient or unpleasant. However, when we find ourselves in times where we know we can’t do it on our own, it is okay to ask for help. No one expects you to catch a fish perfectly on the first try. Pass the rod onto someone who knows what to do with it. Share the burden and reel in the fish together. You may not know what’s at the end of the line; maybe it’s a stingray, or perhaps an old tin can, or even a feisty clump of seaweed, but pull with all your might anyway. Ready or not, you’re fishing! With enough practice and commitment, we will learn how to do it on our own, and maybe even help someone else learn how to fish along the way.

I begin graduate school today, and it feels a lot like the time I went fishing. I don’t yet know how to cast the metaphorical line or how to hold the figurative rod, but this time I’m equipped to learn, and keen to find out what’s on the other end of the line. I’m going to pull with all that I have, because…

This time I’m ready, and I have no idea what’s coming.

In Joy, Monica

I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

Philippians 4:13

Well, Hello!

This part of my life started by chopping off 10 inches of my hair.

I thought about it while walking into Mass on Saturday night, and a few hours later I stood in my mother’s bathroom with my hair in two pigtails, and snipped my way through five years worth of hair growth.

I’m not generally one to do anything spontaneous. I’m a planner, and I like it that way. Last time I trimmed my hair, I watched about 15 YouTube videos, read several articles, and nervously and meticulously cut the tips off my long pieces of flowing hair. But in this particular instance, I had such a strong urge to get rid of the strands running all the way down my back that I didn’t even try to fight it. Knowing it might end up a total disaster, I went for it anyway! Looking back on it now, I think my mind was trying to wrap itself around the idea that I am beginning a new chapter of my life, as in just under 12 hours I would be leaving to move into a new apartment to begin graduate school. Yep, I went through the “new year, new me” syndrome. My upcoming journey obviously needed to be accompanied by a fresh and drastic haircut.

The good news is, I love my hair.

The bad news is, I love my hair.

Well maybe that’s not really such bad news, but it has sparked a spirit within me of wanting to take chances, try new things, and boldly listen to my heart. Which, to someone who likes to be in control of situations, is a very, very scary thing.

However, I feel substantially lighter and freer by acting on a decision I probably should have made a long time ago. I took the risk and it has paid off big time (except burning my pinkie finger the first time I tried to curl my new ‘do).

So, with a little less spontaneity but just as much excitement, I decided to start a blog. I’ll be honest, I’ve wanted to do this for years but never really felt ready or capable. I may still not be ready or capable (we’ll find out), but the difference now is that I’m not going to hold myself back any longer. It is a big risk to put yourself out in the open, but since I’m apparently all into risks now, I’m going to rebel against the world by being daringly honest.

Next week, I’m starting a graduate school program to become a mental health counselor. As someone who has been in counseling before, I know that life gets messy sometimes, and it gets painful, but persevering through those most poignant experiences empowers us to enjoy a life that is also radiant and joyful and meaningful. For several years, mental illness made my life extremely difficult, and I kept all my thoughts to myself. Then I started to share my heart with select family, friends, and particular groups of people. Now, this is me claiming my story and proclaiming that no matter who you are or what you have been through, you are loved and worthy and exquisite. My experiences may be similar to yours, or they may be vastly different, and those are both excellent reasons to keep reading.

So I’ve cut my hair, I’ve started a blog, I’m going to graduate school, and I don’t know what will come next, but let’s find out together! I’m living my best life and I don’t plan on stopping.

In Joy, Monica

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:17