I travelled over 5000 miles this past weekend to go to Edel 14. My expectations were hard to pinpoint. Part of my expectations were dreamy and full of star-struck anticipation of simply being in the same room with women I have looked up to for years. Another part of my expectations wondered how it'd feel to meet so many people whose online personas I had become so familiar with; surely I would suss out those inauthentic people, surely there would be many who would be totally disappointed with just me. But I was surprised with how quickly we met and immediately felt comfortable with each other, how great it felt to know that these women were even more genuine, kind, and themselves in reality than they are in their writing.
Friends like Haley, Molly, Kelly, Jenny, Kate, Bonnie, and Sarah who I've followed and emailed and commented and friended for some years were real friends. Women who I've followed from afar like Sarah, Nell, Heather, Leticia were more lovely and real in the flesh. And the women I've looked up to for years Cari, Hallie, Rebecca, and of course Jennifer; not because they portray glamorous lives on their blogs or have a perfect life I envy but because they've shared the difficulties of their lives, what it costs to follow God's will for their family, how their faith has given them more life than they dared hope, and joy in their crosses, were kind, fun, beautiful, and so wonderful to me.
In all this there was the realization that the truth in how we see each other both in real life, and even more so online, is so prone to the lies of comparison, criticism, willful misinterpretation, the unwillingness to give the benefit of the doubt, to think of ourselves as less than, alone, the only one with difficulties, struggles, burdens, fears, crosses, failures, and complications. These lies all fester in our isolation as Catholic women and mothers, living in a world so contrary to our beliefs and vocations, but also because we don't want to share our weaknesses and failings or actively choose believe false ideas of others.
But the truth is that all of us women share the same Faith. We are all sinners trying to accept the life and forgiveness Jesus wants to give us. We're all learning, striving, failing, trying. We are all imperfect, we all have trials, sufferings, and piles of crummy stuff in our lives whether we blog it for the world to see or are unable to mention it to anyone but our confessors. There will never be a point in our lives here on earth where we'll see all our difficulties and pain in the past tense and be ready to enjoy ourselves, to give ourselves a party, to feel completely confident when meeting a stranger and that is why we have to choose joy, friendship, compassion, forgiveness, and the party right now. If we don't actively make the choice to choose joy in our lives in the midst of all the awful we may just become buried in it.
And no, the joy doesn't need to come in a wonderful and extraordinary weekend thousands of miles away. Maybe it's making time to call a friend to genuinely listen and genuinely share. Maybe it's giving yourself an afternoon by yourself to refresh in silence, shopping and coffee. Or it could be trying something new, reading a new book, spending more time with your husband even if there are dishes and grime everywhere and you feel ten pounds too heavy and five hours short on sleep.
This weekend was about coming together in friendship to support each other in our lives as Catholic women that can often times feel so tough and heavy. There was so much grace found in the warm smiles and hugs, in the fun and laughter, in the sharing of food and drinks, in the knowledge that these women were real. We all came as ourselves, and were welcomed as ourselves. There was a tangible feeling of acceptance, openness, and the embrace of all aspects of our lives. An authenticity that was the best comfort to each other.
I will always remember the great fun I had, the friendships seen in actuality for the first time, the greatness of being able to get dressed up and drinking a margarita in the Texas heat. I'm so grateful for meeting so many new women who exuded love and gave me joy. And I think that I now have a renewed energy to choose the joy when I feel surrounded by the tough stuff and to help share an authentic, Catholic, life and love with the women around me and online.
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