There is a certain undertone to just about everything I do. And that undertone is discomfort, unease. And you know what? That’s a good thing.
If you’ve ever read this blog or know me even a little, you might know that I’m Southern and Catholic. I’m also pretty squarely an Ambivert.
And if you have really read this blog or really gotten to know me, you also know that I wrestle with these things on the regular. They tend to create a certain uneasiness – because, well, life as a Female, New York-Settled, Southern, Catholic Ambivert is not easy.
This is not just because I live in New York City – though that certainly doesn’t help matters. This is just the way life is and has been and will be (forever amen). And sure, we’re all different and special and can’t be reduced to a box. That’s not the point here. No, what I’m getting at is that those complicated little in-betweens are where I feel most comfortable. And that, in a culture where we are encouraged to slough off those same in-betweens in pursuit of specificity, definition and refinement, I am by nature uneasy.
Let’s just clarify a few things real quick before I go any further. I grew up in the South. I am a Southerner. That does not mean you can chalk up everything I do to a sweeter, slower, lilt of a life you think I lead, did lead or will lead.
And at the same time, I’m Catholic. I grew up Catholic. I still practice – and I have, at various points, studied – Catholicism. Which has and does and will continue to make many Southern parts of my life pretty awkward. (And vice versa!)
Then add to that hot mess that I’m usually Ambiverting all over the place. I know this in the same way I know my faith and my Bible (just not like my Protestant friends). In the same way I know my manners (but itch to break free of them at the first possible moment). In the same way I know time spent with many people is time well spent (because my couch will always be waiting for me).
Seriously, if I could identify my alter ego, she would have to be some weird combination of Emily Post and Wonder Woman. That, dear friends, is the level of unease we are talking about. Because let’s face it, what would either woman say about half the stuff I’ve said? Half the things I’ve done? Bless my Southern Catholic Female Ambiverted Heart.
Part of growing up, for me, has been about learning to embrace my own discomfort. It means I am aware of myself. It means I put value somewhere. It means that I am authentic – or at least striving to be that way.
And at the same time, knowing that you’re living authentically can only carry you so far. There’s strength in authenticity. There’s courage in it. There’s also love in it. Got it. That’s why I do it. You don’t have to tell me twice. But, in the middle of all that hard work (let’s be clear – it is most often difficult), sometimes we need something to refresh our memories. Something to remind us why we do the hard work of being strong, courageous, loving, authentic, and yes, uneasy, at all.
Lately, I’ve found myself in need of that refreshment.
Thank God I have people and places to remind me why I am who I am so frequently. It refreshes me, replenishes and restores me. When I am tired. When I engage in self-doubt. When I start to worry I have gotten lost. The nurturing people (and puppies!) in my life make sure I never feel this way for too long.
And then sometimes, I have to proverbially fall and scrape my knees to find myself, well, grounded. Today was one of those times. Running too fast for too long without a sense of direction landed me a prime time spot in the “will fall, needs grounding” camp. Enter the voice of reason.
Like any good millennial, I check my phone entirely too many times a day. Most of the time it’s for texts and emails. Because I am obsessive about organization. And can’t stand the idea of too many unread anythings. So I check repeatedly down my list of “delete, file, delete, delete, file” with machine-like efficiency until I see something that makes me pause.
One of the email lists I’m on originates from a publishing house that happens to produce a lot of great Catholic literature. Or at least, literature that as a Catholic, I find to be great. Either way, it’s not necessarily literature from great Catholics – and if you read the Catholic greats, you know what (read: who) I mean.
Today, a pause-worthy email came from this publishing house. It linked to an interview with an author I’ve never even heard of, and that, in turn, I was hell-bent on reading. C.E. Morgan? Who does this woman think she is, T.S.? What kind of self-aggrandizing BS is that? (Not that my initial signatures after each post are ANY different – cough). Ahhhh, the old fall down the hubris hole trick … busted again.
Turns out, this woman – this Southern woman – speaks my language. She comes from where I am from (at least in some respects). She knows what I know (and probably more). And, more than all of those things, she is the refreshing bit of Truth I had been searching for -the affirmation I needed. A voice that says you are not alone in this confusing mess called life. That there is someone else out there who gets it. That those in-betweens are where the living is, has been and will continue to be (forever amen).
Oh, I could cry from exhaustion and joy and relief. But instead I will read. And I will write. I will keep on the path – however (un)easy – because while I don’t have to be the first, I won’t get to be the last, and one never knows where a voice will reach in between.
Ryan Vale McGonigle
Note on the Featured Image: I struggled to find a picture for this post. I really did. So, I picked a random photo from MONTHS ago in my subway stop. I took the photo at the start of a larger struggle with “direction” – and now that I feel the struggle starting to resolve, why not bookend it with renewed intention?