Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Most Ingenious Paradox

Another commenter has taken me to task for “whining” about what she calls the “tragically unremarkable” losses I spoke of in the previous post, and for calling myself broken when in fact I am blessed – among other things, to have a husband who generously married me “in spite of” all my apparent, well, brokenness. I understand what she means, for indeed I am very blessed. At the same time, I do feel that I’m called to an open position of mourning, for the very reason that the circumstances of my life have been tragically unremarkable. If our culture of abortion is so prevalent that even a Catholic woman, as I am assuming the commenter to be, can tell one of her sisters who’s suffered from it to “stop whining” and “deal with it,” what measure of compassion can we expect from those who consider themselves pro-choice, but who are, essentially, anti-woman and anti-child? I feel like my mourning has to bear some sort of witness to this very unremarkable tragedy. If the mourning of those like me is allowed to go forth, perhaps more hearts will be changed.

And as for being blessed, yes: God is so good and His mercy is so unfathomable. As Christ told Saint Faustina, those who deserve His mercy the least have the most right to it. This is truly one of the most amazing paradoxes of Christianity. Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 20:1-16, about the workers who arrive at the eleventh hour and are given a full day’s pay) illustrates it well. Man is limited by justice, but God’s mysterious mercy is higher and deeper than our imaginations can conceive. I pray that God may pour out his Divine Mercy upon all those who read and comment on this blog.


Anonymous said...

The "it" in "deal with it" CLEARLY means your blessings, not your abortion, just as the “losers in life” comment CLEARLY meant people who have failed as artists, not as human beings. The whining stems from stubbornly refusing to take “YES” for an answer from God, but instead dwelling on your failures that, while substantial, He has forgiven and blessed you abundantly in spite of them all.
I am much younger than you, but yes, I would consider a middle-aged woman who is still in graduate school and who insists on referring to herself as “completely broken” and “most likely never [to] recover” from the vicissitudes of life EXTREMELY blessed to be remarried to a good Catholic man and have with him a healthy child – a man whom you curiously seldom mention, while incessantly referring in the most glowing and admiring fashion to the ex-husband who goaded you to abort your first child. “I feel like my mourning has to bear some sort of witness,” you say - but to whom? God forbid a young woman who has made the same disastrous decision to abort her child and is trying to return to the Catholic Church stumbles upon this blog: “You will always remain completely broken and will most likely never recover from this, no matter what. In fact, you will forever pine away for the man with whom you committed this crime even if you remarry and have children. There is no exit.” This is a very destructive “witness,” to say the least, and I am puzzled and not a little appalled that Dawn Eden would link to this blog. I know the two of you are close friends, but this is just irresponsible.

Pentimento said...

Thanks for your comment, Anne, which I'm going to consider. I believe it is made in the spirit of love.

I may not have described the witness I feel called to clearly enough, since it's pretty inchoate in my own mind as yet. I do feel called upon to mourn, and that's where I am right now. It seems you believe my stance is one of neurosis rather than penitence, and you may be right. You say you're much younger than I am, which may be true; I don't know if you know me IRL, and you may be overestimating my age a little. It seems from your comments that your life has been happily free from "tragically unremarkable" events; thank God for that -- and I don't suppose, owing to your young age and seeming lack of experience with these unremarkable tragedies, that you are acquainted with the trajectory of grief and healing that comes along with them. If any post-abortive woman stumbles upon this blog, she will find it similar in tone to some of the other post-abortion blogs that Dawn has linked to, except perhaps for the music content; this is my reality right now. However, such a woman might also find some hope here. My main witness, as I see it, is to post-abortive women in academia who do not profess a faith and who are not aware that they are suffering (this was my own situation for years, and these women are hard to reach). I don't think that there's "no exit," but I do know that there's no hope either as long as suffering and penitence are put off. But, simply because of the blessings you mention, I really hope that I can also give glory to God through this witness and demonstrate that there IS hope. I would be lying about my own life and experience if I denied the grief that still remains. But you have a point -- I am a very melancholic person, and perhaps I should buck up a little. I don't post about my husband (a great man, by the way) in order to protect his privacy, since this is an anonymous blog. But I will say this. He used to be a commercial fisherman, and he himself told me last night that, emotionally, I'm like someone who panics in a rip tide and drowns. He said that you have to "let go and let God," allow the tide to carry you offshore, and then swim back to shore. I'm trying to do that, and I would appreciate your prayers.

Dawn is a close friend of mine, and my son's godmother. If you think it's irresponsible of her to link to this blog, you should let her know. If you want to continue our discussion, you can email me at newmagda1en -at-

Anonymous said...

I have never had or lost children, so I can't comment on that. But Pentimento, I am a musician, and I have an idea of what you are going through with respect to your musical career. In fact, this post you have written, on which I am commenting, is very like one of those arias which sends you into complex tears - something that is unreservedly sad but also beautiful - the more beautiful because the sadness is set out plainly. (I won't name any such arias - your tastes will be different from mine, but I imagine some will pop to mind for you). Having multiple losses is bad enough, but giving up singing is deeply personal and difficult. I recently talked to an acquaintance who has had an international opera career. He also has a young family and the travel + feast/famine money was too much for the family, so he has given it up for a more earthbound career. But the pain that flew across his face for a second there as he was telling me this was so sharp that it really hit me. I pray for him that God will see my friend's tears, including the un-shed ones.

So you're going through something most complex. Please continue to be honest with yourself but also kind to yourself, please. (Your other commenter has no idea how deep the breakage is, but also no idea what new mercies God is quietly preparing for you).

Fr. Joe said...

I found your site through Dawn Eden's blog, and I would like to commend you for expressing such difficult experiences. Most people, I can understand, tend to bottle them inside, believing that no one can possibly appreciate the depth of emotion suffered. You are doing quite well.

It seems to me that the closer we come to God, the more turmoil we go through. And that makes complete sense, because as we come closer to Pure Love what is brought to light is our own self absorption, the deepest root of all sin and evil. This turmoil is not only experienced internally, but also in the truly heart-felt reactions of others. That's "heart-felt" as in "Sacred Heart." The presence of God in our lives stirs up something in others that to them becomes truly unsettling. Hence the commentary.

To heal, we really have to go through that purgation, that purging of the self-deity that keeps us from Him in any meaningful way -- even that part in us which refuses to accept forgiveness. God has no limits, only the ones we place on Him by our self image. Purging is painful, and it just may be the Cross we are expected to experience in order to Rise.

May God keep you close, and let His peace burn away all anxiety.

Fr. Joe
Birmingham, Alabama

Pentimento said...

Thank you, Anonymous and Fr. Joe. Your comments brought those tears of which Anonymous speaks.

Maclin Horton said...

I can only take Anne's comments as the voice of one who has never done something she regrets to the bottom of her heart. Repentance and penance restore God's grace but they don't un-make the past or undo the harm one has done. It's not a question of where one is now or of ingratitude for present blessings; there is no contradiction there; in fact the blessings may seem even sweeter for being undeserved. Anyway, I connect very much with that sense of brokenness.

Pentimento said...

It seems to me a particularly American fallacy to believe that after terrible times have been supplanted by better ones, the former sufferer ought to buck up and put it all behind him. I agree with you that those who would circumscribe mourning are most likely those who haven't experienced it, and those who misunderstand penitence are those who haven't needed it. I hope that Anne's life has been and will continue to be blessedly free from the tragedies she dismisses as unremarkable. All the same, being utterly broken by sin and suffering has really helped me in some ways; it's given me far more compassion and humility than I had before I fell.

Maclin Horton said...

"...far more compassion and humility ..."


Mahsheed said...

Hi Pentimento,

I can relate to your sense of brokenness too because so am I. And I'm culpable.

Funny but I want both you and Anne as my friend. You of course are terrific. Anne is harsh but she is a vehicle of grace, I believe. My biggest problem has always been lack of honesty and confrontation and all my friends are like me so I would absolutely appreciate someone like her.


Pentimento said...

Well, I was going out on a limb when I assumed that her comments were made in the spirit of love, but it's best to give people the benefit of the doubt, and, although I think she has a thing or two to learn about life (and mercy, and compassion), she did make some good points. And as for me, Mahsheed, I am your friend!