Friday, December 5, 2014

Praying with Bad Posture

(From 2007) 

Until recently, I’ve seen praying as a ridiculously formal exercise.

CCD (Catholic Sunday School, I can’t tell you what it stands for because I think only the Pope knows) teachers taught us chants, lists, macabre stories of beheaded men.

The worst CCD teacher I ever had was the one who prepared me for Confirmation.

I was about 11, the age of rapid growth and expanding curves.

In my case, Cuban curves. Everywhere.

One Sunday I decided to wear an outfit of stretchy red pants and a striped red and brown shirt (hello, it was the 70s, I forgive myself).

The outfit was a bit too small. Definitely unflattering, too tight in certain places, short in others.

I remember thinking that it would be the last time I would wear it before passing it on to another family.
I didn't feel a great desire to dress up for church or CCD.
Confirmation-preparation lessons were uninspiring, unspiritual and tedious.

Lists, facts, names.

Things a Catholic must know in order to converse fluently with God.

When to look up, look down, stand up, kneel, quietly kick-up the kneeling-thing so people could pass through the aisle.

Specifically, our lesson that particular day, the day I wore the red pants, was The Seven Deadly Sins.

We were young, na├»ve, and words like sloth and lust were pretty much lost on us, so the teacher – an overweight, undercreative woman who seemed lacking in both the temperament and inspiration to teach – decided to use examples for each of the sins.

When she got to gluttony, she wiped her brow, which usually beaded up with the exertion of standing and pacing in front of us, yelling at us to sit still, hands on our laps, eyes forward.

I remember the moment before she locked eyes with me, then announced GLUTTONY is the sin that I’m guilty of, apparently (she gestured toward her large, lumpy body) and Melissa is guilty of, too.

12 pairs of pre-teen eyes whipped around my way, and a piece of me broke off.

That day signaled the first shots of the Civil War that I would wage against my body for 25 years.

I have looked for rest, respite, an armistice, but have only found temporary havens.

It has been a war that has engulfed me, stolen my happiness, and left me so completely ashamed that I couldn’t bear to ask for help.

This past weekend, by a lake in a secluded camp, a friend sat back and admired the sunset.

She told me a story about a man who walked around for a long time in a suit that didn’t fit him, just because he thought it would be the only suit he’d ever have.

He was afraid if he took it off, he would have nothing.

I know that feeling.

I’ve been long afraid that if I put down the guns, cannons and bombs that volley around in my head and heart I would not recognize the terrain of my spirit.

Because of that, I’ve spent little time praying, facing a cross, feet flat on the floor, skirt knee-length-or-longer, chanting.

At the lake, after my friend told me the story, I decided to throw my suit into the lake, along with my idea of a God who gives pop-quizzes and multiple choice tests.

I will talk to God, but not with lists and chants.

I will pray with bad posture, pen in my hand, laughing the whole

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