Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Porn Taught Me to Love Like Christ.

This November, at the Good Women Project, [a Christian women’s blogging site that addresses the struggles of being a good woman in today’s society—which I recommend everyone to look up] the women have been writing about Pornography and it’s impact on women. I wanted to participate in this conversation here on my own blog. Consider this my call to prayer. Thank you for opening your hearts today.

The computer glowed softly as her vacant eyes stared back into mine.  The room was silent, as the previous user had turned the computer to mute. While racing to exit out of the webpage I had accidentally stumbled upon, I became trapped in a trance that this hypnotic scene was playing in front of me.

I wasn’t turned on, and deep down I even knew it was distasteful…but I couldn’t for the life of me look away.

She stared at me, stunning blue eyes piercing my soul. She smiled, as if to make the statement ‘I’m enjoying this…aren’t you?’… and then proceeded doing whatever degrading act was in the script.

I sat, frozen. Stomach flip-flopping with a mix of emotions.

Pornography was something that was never really discussed in my household. Granted, my parents were incredibly open about sex, and were more than willing to answer my questions—but this particular subject had never made it’s way into conversation. 

Mostly because I was clueless.

Yes, I was a pretty innocent thirteen year old. I didn’t know much about the perverse world of sex, and though I made jokes about sexual things with my classmates to make myself seem like I was up to speed with them, I knew deep down that I had no idea what I was talking about. At thirteen, I was really just entering the dialogue between my body and it’s sexuality.

And before I knew it, or even had a say, while working on a project for my eighth grade English class on our apartment complex’s free computer, I was pummeled with the over-stimulation of eroticism.

And thus my innocence was stolen away.

The girl laughed, as she looked at the camera. She seemed comfortable. As if what she was doing was ‘normal’, as if the fact that I was watching her do…whatever she was doing… was something to be considered ‘normal’.

But it wasn’t normal. I knew deep down that something was missing.

I won’t lie and say that I watched in complete disgust. It awakened a part of me that I didn’t even know existed. I was uncomfortable and surprised, perhaps even a little fascinated, but even more than that… I was scared. Scared of feeling the pressure to be this girl. Terrified that I couldn’t live up to what I was watching.

Even more so… terrified by how lifeless her eyes were.

Would I react this way to sex? Would I look that disengaged when I ‘made love’ with my husband? Being raised by two devout Catholics, I had been promised a sex life filled with love, not complicated acts of animalistic pleasure.

I had prayed for so long to have an understanding husband, a man of God that would love me with all his heart and love my child-like naivety when it came to such subjects…but watching these scenes made me scared that the man that I would fall in love with would want these images that were so void of love. Vulnerability, honesty, truth, love, trust… everything I thought my future sex life would possess, played no part in the relationship between the man and woman on this website.

I went to bed that night, ashamed of myself. Ashamed of how my body felt ‘alive’. Ashamed for being so naïve. Ashamed of thinking a man could love me with my lack of knowledge. Ashamed that my physicality couldn’t compete with the girl on the screen. Ashamed of being unable to erase the image of her from my mind as I shut my eyes to sleep.

I hated her.

Weeks passed. Months. Years.

My struggle with lust was a battle that I fought tooth and nail. My body was awake now and I didn’t know how to put it back to sleep. I wished to wipe those thoughts and images from my mind, but no matter how hard I tried…there always seemed to be a moment that they re-appeared in my mind’s eye, and the fight to remain pure would ensue once again.

One unintentional viewing of pornography ruined my youth.

And I blamed her for it.

It wasn’t until I was seventeen, as my father and I drove from Florida to Pennsylvania, that I was suddenly reminded of her face. The face that I had been so enthralled with. The face that ruined my purity. See, we passed a billboard advertising for the ‘XXX: Adult Enterainment’ gentleman’s club off of the highway and almost immediately I had a flashback to that afternoon. That moment when she was smiling and looking at the camera. And for the first time, I fell into a deep state of prayer. 

What had she expected when she first signed up for that project? What was she promised? When she was a little girl, had she dreamed of being a princess or a porn star? Was she a Christian? Did her parents know what she did for a living? Did they care? Was this even what she did for a living, or was it something she did on a whim?

I cried silently that car ride. I didn’t really know why in the moment. I thought, maybe, for my soul. Or, maybe for the brokenness of humanity. But when I look back on it, five years later, I know I was weeping for her. For her lost dreams, for her lost hope, for her lost innocence.

This past month at the Good Women Project, women have been writing about their own struggles with pornography and the impacts it has on women. While I have struggled immensely with lust and sexuality, I was never addicted to porn. In my story, I never craved it the way that some of the women this month have so courageously shared.  But porn did impact me.

It taught me to love like Christ.

In high school, I would have looked at that woman as something that had wanted to corrupt me. Someone to hate. Someone to blame for all the struggles that I would come to know. But in truth, when I least expected it, God broke through my hardened heart and reminded me that she too was broken. That that girl on the internet didn’t grow up with aspirations to destroy my sexuality, or her own. I would say that she was just as much a victim as I was, and just as desperate for love.

My heart aches for her.

Today I would like to make a request. It’s simple, really. I would like to ask each of you to call to mind that girl when you pass an ‘adult entertainment’ billboard or see a tantalizing website. And I would beg you to say a prayer [for you and I] to have the courage to remain strong in not indulging in this media…and for the women who have so blindly lost themselves by participating in this entertainment of empty pleasure.

Because they deserve so much more than the base infatuation we have to offer at watching them on the internet. Because they are beautiful and so are we.

Because, I love that woman in the porn I watched so many years ago, but I love her for more than her body. I love her soul...and I wish I could tell her that. I wish I could tell her that I pray for her and think about her face every day. I pray that she is happy, and that all her dreams come true. I wish I could tell her that she is beautiful, not 'sexy' or worth getting off on. She's simply perfect.

Because He too devoted His life to spending time with, and praying for, and loving prostitutes and sinners. Shouldn’t we?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

White Walls.

I’m thankful for…Well, I’m thankful for…Because…Huh.

So, about that new season resolution I made in September!

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful. There are so many things on this blessed holiday to call to mind and not take for granted... But! It seems that as of late it’s hard to articulate the positive when all that seems to come out of my mouth is negativity.

See, I’m sitting in a room in my ‘house’ that is not really my room. I did not grow up in this room…this condo is not the place that I have fond memories or buried secrets. In fact, my parents moved into this condo about two months ago. Since then, I have called it ‘home’, in hopes to bury the old as quickly as possible. But the truth is...I’ve only ever slept in this room four times.

Over the years I’ve learned that burying the old as quickly as possible is the easiest way not to drown in the nostalgia for what once was. You see, this is not the first time I have sat in a foreign room, attempting to find solace in the familiar color of starch white walls. Familiar only in the sense that all the rooms I have called my own were this color [except for the Pepto-Bismol pink I begged my parents to paint my room when I was four don't hate].

I had always hoped the white walls would lend themselves easily to starting anew. That they would be the physical blank canvas to my life…but every time we moved they somehow became the link between the blanched walls of my prior room and the new. The memories I had in those prior rooms where I once laughed and played would come flooding back.

Of course, eventually, the memories of the old would join or be replaced with the memories of the new. Sooner or later I would forget the heartache I felt for my older ‘home’, but it was never an easy or quick transition.

I sound like I’m whining, don’t I? You’re thinking ‘so what…you’ve moved once or twice...’

Wait for it...waaaait for it....

I’ve lived in four houses, two condos, and five apartments.

I’ve attended a total of fourteen schools. Some parochial, others public…even home-schooled for a semester. I’ve lived in six states, each eventually became ‘home’ in their own unique way.


No, nice try, but I’m not a military brat.

I think I would have an easier time understanding why I had moved so often if my family was in the military, but it would be a lie if I said I was. Honestly, I think God likes to make sure my family never gets bored, so He’s constantly got us on our toes!

And I am thankful for the adventure He’s given us…but…

As I sit in this new blank room, where no memories have yet painted the walls of this blank canvas, I feel exhausted more than I feel thankful.

I ask myself questions about being settled. I beg God to explain why He’s made me feel uprooted so often. I wonder what life would have been like to grow up in one house or in one school. Would I have had a best friend that I grew up with? Would I have met the Cory Matthews of my dreams in seventh grade? Would I have known my neighbors so well that I would invite them to my graduation from college? Or to my wedding? Would people know me? Would people care? 

Would I be a more whole person?

Maybe I would. Maybe I wouldn’t be so crazy, so outgoing, so goofy if I had been given those things. Maybe I wouldn’t feel insecure about my looks or worried about my future if I knew what stability was. Maybe I would trust in humanity a little more had I not been hurt the way I was hurt through all the unsettledness of my youth. I could be different! I could be popular! I could be….

…everything but me.

But I like me.

And I like who Christ has molded me to be. Regardless of how difficult and strange this adventure has been…I’ve truly loved every minute of it.

I have parents who taught me that my trust should never be placed in humanity, but should be kept only in our Lord. Who taught me life is painful, but through the pain we find ourselves. Parents who held me as I wept in those new blank rooms because I was scared to go to a new school, or homesick for the old. Parents who I call my best friends, because they made me laugh at just the right moments. Whether it was by dancing a Mexican hat dance at six in the morning to wake me up for school, or by wrapping a towel around my head and calling me the queen of Sheeba…they loved me through each transition.

I have family who care about my future. Who ask how I feel, who love me and want to know that I’m doing well. Who remember each birthday and make sure I know they are thinking about me. Praying for me. Family who send me four GB's of music when they hear my computer crashed, family that want to see me on stage….family that want me to succeed.

I have friends all over the world, all over the country…people who love me and care about me with every fiber of their being. People that, only having known me a few months or a few years, know exactly how to care for me. The people that remind me being sane is boring. They are my angels, my hope, my joy.

I have a best friend who, by the grace of God, asked me to go to an art museum with her, completely out of her own shy demeanor…simply because she remembered how painful it was to be the ‘new student’. A best friend who, knowing my heart, has made each birthday spent together, special.  Five years of tears, laughter and dancing in the living room like crazy people…she made me feel like I fit somewhere.

And on this thanksgiving, these white walls that have so often been a screaming reminder that I am different, have suddenly shifted into the back drop of my vibrant life.

I cannot be contained in four white walls…I’m too unconventional for that. And my love, my Lord God, knows this better than anyone else.

This Thanksgiving is not about what I am thankful for, but who I am thankful for. Things are nice, but it’s people that have helped me color these walls of discontent, people that have painted my life with the most beautiful of memories.

And today I am most thankful for these amazing people, Lord.

I wouldn’t trade these white walls for anything. Because in these walls, in Your love and plan for me: I am made whole.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you had a blessed holiday!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Attacking Anxiety.

I get anxious fairly easily. In fact, it doesn’t take much to set me off down a spiral path of worrying about one thing or another, which usually leads to hyperventilating over absolutely nothing.

Last night, as I entered mass…my heart began to pound out of my chest. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why, for I had no particular reason to be upset. I had just spent the day out of town at a farm…pretending to be a child amid the apples and pumpkins and petting zoo. I was content, at peace and ready for a very stressful week to begin. Yet, walking into the sanctuary, I felt a burden tug at my heart. I tried to ignore it. I tried to get lost in my surroundings. The music was so beautiful, and the church was warm and cozy. Normally, my sitting alone and with Christ would lead to a beautiful dialogue between my divine husband and I, but instead my mind raced away from His saving face. I sat down, and a thousand things hit me at once; exhaustion, rejection, the thought of my school work, the heartache I’ve shoved down for so long, the fear of not being liked by that new someone, the fear of not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, humble enough, talented enough, my shame for being so judgmental, my fear of being alone, my desire to be normal, my desire to be different, my fear of being different….

‘I’m such a mess.’ I thought ‘I’m such a selfish, spoiled sinner…I don’t deserve Your love or forgiveness. I don’t deserve the gifts that You have given me. I’m the worst kind of sinner. How am I suppose to make it into Your arms if I can’t even let down my pride long enough to trust in You?’

At one point in my life, when these moments of being emotionally overwhelmed would hit, I would sit in the desolation and become so lost in the agony of my thoughts that I would choose to forget the love of Christ. I wanted attention, I wanted someone to make me feel better in that instant. In my naïve mind, I would think, ‘If I look sad...if I seem distraught… someone will have to rescue me.’ And I would purposefully choose the desolation over Christ. But this only led to more anxiety, and worse, more selfishness. What I hoped to achieve in this state, what I wanted more than anything, during these moments, was for the room to fill with the weight of my anxiety. I wanted it to permeate the air and destroy the joy in my proximity. I wanted the people around me to sense I was broken, notice my lack of breathing, rush over to wipe my tears away, hold me, caress me, take care of me, reassure, me, me! 

But last night, mid-tears and racing heart— He pressured me to try a new tactic. I sat, in silence, with my eyes lowered, and calmly allowed the thoughts to come and go while the Lord spoke to my soul.

“You are not your emotions, Katherine.” He whispered into my ear, trying, as He so often does, to reassure me that everything would be okay.

“Trust in Me.” He repeated.

Trust in Him. It has been the theme of my life to learn to let go and trust in Him. The all-powerful, creator of the world…and yet, I have the hardest time giving my everything to Him.

Including my negativity.

One of my favorite Buddhist sayings is, ‘Let go; Attachment is suffering.’ For some reason these words repeated in my head as the mass continued on. So, I gave it to Him. A gift, in a way, to show my undying devotion to His most Sacred Heart.

He knows, all too well, how difficult it is for me to give my anxiety up to Him, but I did…because I wanted to be able to give Him something that was difficult to give, even if it had to be my tears.

And yet, I was pleasantly surprised. In the heat of this desperate cry for hope,  I realized that while I thought I was giving the gift, it was truly Him that was sacrificing for me. Sitting in the presence of the Lord makes it very hard not to be aware of His undying devotion to His people. To me. 

Because before my eyes flashed the multitudes of moments when humans let me down. But this time, instead of seeing myself in these images sitting alone…I could see Him beside me.

When I am most emotionally distraught, regardless of how ridiculous the circumstance, He simply attends to my needs without question. When I weep, He wraps His arms around me and promises His eternal love, while wiping away the tears. When I whine, He laughs at me. When I fall down, He runs to the rescue. When I bear my insecurities to Him, He finds little ways to make me smile.

…And when I wanted to leave mass yesterday, before having met Him at the altar in communion with the Eucharist, He kissed my forehead and blessed my mind’s eye with an image that He knew would wipe away my pain.

He humbly reminded me of the nails being driven into His hands. Not because He wanted me to feel bad about my emotional crisis. Not because He wanted me to repent for being self absorbed or selfish. Not because I was being dramatic. But because He wanted me to know that He had already had this anxiety attack with me… on the cross. He had already felt this pang of complete desolation, worry, fear, rejection, overwhelming lack of trust from me. He had already died and risen so that I could have this growing pain while in the midst of His flesh and blood.

And the Eucharist was raised, and while I didn’t feel any better, I also didn’t feel alone.

My love is outside of time. He had given me this gift long before I even knew that I would break down crying with Him. 

Get lost, anxiety.

Trust in You, my Divine Love? With all my heart.