Catholic Spirituality,  Family Life,  Life in Italy,  sleep issues,  Suffering,  toddlers

How (not) to suffer

Been curled up in a ball of self-pity and eye twitches most of today, due to nothing more serious than a broken laptop, a country that refuses to grant me resident alien status or internet access, and a baby who screams mercilessly, whether he is actually in pain or not.

I looked up from my wallowing groove on the couch to realize, quite suddenly, that today was April 2nd. The eighth anniversary of the death of my beloved hero, Bl. John Paul II, and the day which marked the dramatic beginning to my reversion to Catholicism. How I had failed to anticipate this day’s arrival, I cannot fathom, so maybe I’ll point to months of sleeplessness, adjustment issues, insane working hours and plain old stress. But nevertheless, here it is, and here I am, in Rome, balancing a shrieking almost one-year-old named John Paul on my hip while trying to hit pause on Jillian Michaels for the 30th time this workout…and I realize what a strange thing it is, to be here like this. In Rome.

Living half a mile from his mortal remains, enshrined under the alter of St. Sebastian, and sitting around suffering and feeling like my life is going to end because of how very hard everything is and how much God is asking of me right now and can somebody just come and hold my hand and give me like a 20 minute break and a tropical drink?

I texted Dave a sort of ‘happy conversion anniversary to me’ text while he was at work, taking care to pepper it with details about how fantastically well-behaved his children weren’t being. Later in the day, during a phone call update on the ongoing status of our internet-seeking saga, (I’m working from his office right now) I was moaning about how difficult Rome was and could he believe that JPII died here,  and he had the sweet audacity to point out how maybe we could emulate his heroic example of suffering.

Yes, because my friendless, baby-saturated wandering in the internet desert is akin to a lifetime of self-denial and sacrifice, capped off by the painful degenerative humiliation of Parkinson’s.

Obviously it isn’t. And my sweet husband wasn’t being facetious, if you can believe it. There really isn’t room for any more of that in our marriage, and I’ll let you figure out on your own whose fault that is.

JPII’s suffering, though, was particularly meaningful in its example because he didn’t choose the circumstances…only the response. He didn’t want the papacy, and he certainly didn’t ask to be crippled and nearly silenced in his old age by a hideous disease which robbed him of his elegant speech and his capable athletic physique. But he said yes. And he kept saying yes, kept submitting ‘thy will be done’s,’ to his boss, kept acting ‘as if,’ even when it most assuredly felt like running the opposite direction would have better sufficed.

So what can I say? I’ll keep on keeping on. And I will dance for joy when the internet gets turned back on. But I’m prepared to at least attempt to act joyfully now, while things are still hard, even if I’m crying in the shower while my kids are pretending to nap in their room next door. I don’t know, it feels like what he would have done. Not the crying in the shower part, but the joyfully picking up your cross and maybe even smiling about it part.

Bl. John Paul II, pray for us…and pray for me, in particular, won’t you?

I love you, old friend.


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