Three years ago, my friend Calah Alexander dragged me to the Edel Conference. I was reluctant to go in the midst of our medical drama at home. She was right. It was exactly what I needed. This week, I’m getting ready to head off to Edel again. This time I know that it’s what I need, and I’m eager to get there.
I thought I’d re-share my experience from way back then while I’m packing and getting ready to go now.
I didn’t want to go. I’ll start right there. Back at the beginning of the year, when I was in the midst of unplanned pregnancy/miscarriage drama, Calah from Barefoot and Pregnant wouldn’t take excuses from me when she bought my ticket. “You’re going to be ready for this break in July,” she had said. That was back in the simpler time before the mystery illness crashed into our lives bringing frustration and loneliness with it.
“I don’t play well with others.” I tried to tell her in June. She shook it off and said then I could play badly with her.
As July 1st arrived, I stared at the word Edel on my calendar, and sighed. It was one more obligation on a pile of “too much.” I read through the plans and saw that Friday night was set to begin with a cocktail party and crazy shoe contest. I handed my check card to my eldest daughter, told her my budget, and let her shop. A few days later, these arrived in the mail
Glittery cupcake shoes were enough to break a crack through my fog, a small one. Shoes meant a party, and a party means people. The extrovert in me clicked her heels for joy. People!
I’ve made no secret of my loneliness. Reeling from tragedy to tragedy for the past two and a half years has stripped away all but the most devoted friends and even family. I have the people who live in my house, plus one close friend left in Dallas. When you add in a parish that has been spectacularly unresponsive in helping or ministering to our needs, I’m in the midst of a desert. I ache for people and community, and the loneliness of here is almost as crippling as the recent tragedies.
In spite of my isolation, I didn’t want to be around strangers. I’m still not playing well with others these days, and didn’t want to have to be fake happy all weekend. My emotional responses can be off after the past few months, and I didn’t want to cry in front of people who would judge me. My daughter wouldn’t listen. She was a girl with a plan, and that plan included me.
Her BFF of five years has suddenly become much more than that to her, and she needed to get to San Antonio for a DTR (that’s a define the relationship talk, y’all.) She could drop me in Austin and then drive the remaining two hours by herself. (If you’ve been reading me for a while, this is the same kid who asked my husband’s permission to write to his daughter. We like him.) She’d be back on Sunday to pick me up. She had decided that I needed to go, and she was taking my means of escape.
Within five minutes I heard, “Shut up! You’re Rebecca Frech! I love you!” and I was enveloped in a warm hug that left me breathless. It was a feeling I was to experience often during the weekend. I apologize to the women whose warmth overwhelmed me, and I broke down sobbing in their arms. The isolation has broken me over the past few months, and I was overcome to no longer be alone.
By the time Calah and I were dressing for that night’s party, laughter had replaced tears and we giggled like college girls. We checked for VPL (visible panty lines) and fixed one wardrobe malfunction before heading down to the party.
After the party, we ran up to our room, threw on pajamas, and ventured back down to the lobby to play Cards Against Humanity with the other slightly wrong, dirty minded, absolutely hilarious Catholic women. We shed our identities as wives and mothers at some point and were just ourselves… and the people we are are HILARIOUS! I kept finding myself wondering where these women had been my whole life. After years of thinking myself an anomaly, I had found my people at 2am in Austin.
Saturday afternoon, the CAH girls slipped into the back row of seats as the speaker sessions began. We snorted with laughter and giggled inappropriately, tweeted and texted, and played in that back row until the speaker took the mic. I can’t tell you what she said, although the tears on the cheeks around me said that it must have been amazing. I couldn’t hear her over the swirling in my own head. This was the living Church. This was the Body of Christ, and I was happily taking my place within it.
For a lot of years, I studied hard and tried to be smart enough to be part of the brain of the Body of Christ, and then I tried to be generous enough to belong in the heart. I admired those whose humility allowed them to be the feet which carry us, or the hard work of the hands who do the work, but knew I wasn’t the hands or the feet. It was only after a weekend filled with karaoke, off-color jokes, squeeze-you-breathless hugs, and laughing until the mascara ran down our cheeks, that I have at last found my place upon the Body of Christ’s funny bone. It’s where I belong. The weird thing about that funny bone – it can make you laugh, but it’s also the part of the elbow that you lean on when you pray.
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