As I get older, I find myself missing the ritual of Catholicism. I’ve been toying with the idea of popping into a mass some Sunday, getting back into the habit, resuming where I left off when I was 14.
Up till then, I enjoyed the church. I even wanted to be a priest, and fantasized about that lifestyle. My first real goal in life. Then Sister Joanne, the principal at my Catholic school, turned me away from the church. I wrote about her a couple years ago.
The church was a comfortable place for me to escape after dad left. The priests took pity on me and stood in as alternate parental figures – and, no, nothing untoward ever happened. I felt wanted in those early years after family tragedy brought all the walls down, and, when I was kicked out by a delusional nun with an anger management problem, it was yet another heartbreak in a long line of heartbreaks. I became bitter, angry, and carried that with me for a long time. I still carry it with me. My childhood was all about rejection – a father who abandoned me, a mother who condemned me, and, then, even my faith was stripped from me.
I bounced to public school and started a long, steady, aimless drift. It’s taken me over 20 years to even begin paddling back to shore and take charge of my life. Something that may have happened sooner if it wasn’t for the nerve pain that stole the first 12 adult years of my life. Or, perhaps, it’s something that’s happening now because physical pain – and escaping from it — gave me the focus I needed. Who knows?
Either way, the last six months have been about reviewing my childhood. For the first time in 20 years, I’ve broken out the boxes of memorabilia, the moth-eaten, mildewed, aged remains of the family business. I’ve cleaned up pictures and organized files, I’ve put the important stuff into safer places.
Now I find myself sitting outside Catholic churches on Sundays, but haven’t yet decided to return to my faith. Getting my life together is one thing, but forgiving these fucking assholes who threw me into this situation is another.
Forgiveness is all about the individual. It’s our coping mechanism. In my opinion, it’s a sign of weakness. My parents, and the likes of Sister Joanne, outright betrayed me. They took their aggression out on an innocent and, in the process, they shattered that innocent’s life and dreams. The only reason I’m still around today is thanks to my own chutzpah. A pig-headed stubbornness that demanded I fight against the odds, for good or bad. Roughly 25 years spent flailing against a wall, scratching away at the mortar, smashing brick after brick in a sometimes feeble, sometimes insane, and often dangerous attempt to free myself of these people who hurt me, who threw me down the wrong path.
While the journey of healing and overcoming is going to be a lifetime in the making, I’ve finally made it clear of the childhood darkness. The people who hurt me are all dead and gone, which has proven to be the only way to get over that shit, and I’ve come to realize that forgiveness is a waste of time. It lets them get away with the evils that they did. It let’s the weaker friends and family members waffle and say, well, he was sick, she was driven mad, he wasn’t all that bad, she was possessed…
We do what we can to rationalize these people. To give them a human face and try to understand why they did what they did.
We don’t want to admit that some people are simply broken, and capable of great evil, and should be punished for it. Call it natural selection – these wicked, broken souls would have been cast out by any right thinking tribe. There would have been no forgiveness there. Survival is about getting rid of these people.
So they stand accused, dead or not, and I will always list their names on the roll of wrongdoers no better than serial killers and tyrants.
I haven’t yet stepped back into a church. I think of Sister Joanne and what she took from me at a time when I needed it most, and I start the car back up and drive home.