#Throughfire

As Quarantine began, the community led by Catholic Creatives exploded with innovators inspired to help others through their struggles. We faced our own giants of fear and trepidation, but something in us drove us to community and fellowship. My desire was to fill social media with art to help with the constant deluge of news all over our feeds. I went to Catholic Creatives who had a similar desire and together we launched the #throughfire.

We asked that you create art and share it on every form of social media. Now, the quarantine is at an awkward point of being kind of over but not really, and #throughfire is changing. Catholic Creatives must get back to their daily projects, so suzannagoretti.com will be the new home for the project. I will be sharing your art and hopefully getting to talk to you as you create it. I hope to get all kinds of projects involved so we can all see how many of us are joining together to walk through fire hand in hand.

Please continue to share your amazing works, so that we can keep this fire going. Thank you for all you are doing to bring Beauty to the darkness.

PEACEWEAVER intro

This lent, I had another identity crisis. I know, I know, every lent this happens right? Well, I ended up signing my life away that I would no longer do yoga and instead teach an alternative. Ironically, everytime I tried to send the papers, something went wrong. Every. Single. Time. Finally I sent them. You know what happened? Two weeks later I found the page with my signature in my scanner. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Also ironically, I had over and over again seen the Bible passage “let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no.” I saw it again Holy Saturday and I realized. I hated this alternative. I was trying to force myself into it because I was afraid I was wrong about everything, but I hated it so much! What I believe God was calling me to, and I want to share how, is being authentic to myself and what I believe about yoga, the Church, and ministry.

The truth is I love yoga. I sincerely believe in what yoga can do and can teach. I believe in a deep and profound beauty about the Sanskrit language and the way they developed it, and the way that the yogic postures emerged from that. I believe in the cultivation of peace and acceptance that I have found in my yoga circles. Though it is controversial to believe this, I sincerely believe that there are ways that those who practice yoga are genuinely reaching towards the same God that Christians are.

One thing I did learn, though, is that I got a little carried away with yogic spirituality. There are things the Christians need to be careful about in yoga. Our God is a jealous God, not the negative jealousy that might come up in your head when you say it, but if we believe in a God that loves us 100% and with the amount of passion and intimacy that I believe He does, then it only makes sense that He would desire us to love Him back. If you were in a beautiful marriage with someone(for those who believe in polyamory, please understand the point I am making, I am not trying to exclude you, just making an example) showering them with gifts all the time, spending quiet time with them every chance you got, wouldn’t it hurt if they started doing the same things with someone else? Especially someone who hates you? That’s a huge simplification, and we will get into it more, but, although I was not actually praising other gods, things got a little murky for me, and it’s easy to get a little lost in yoga’s philosophy or in the spirituality of those who practice it.

This brings me to the most important thing I want to say. Many Catholics talk about how so many people who do yoga fall away from the Church. They argue that this is a sign that that yoga truly is evil and the devil has a hold on the people practicing it. This makes me so angry, and not because I am so devoted to yoga that it’s more important to me than God. It makes me angry because the argument shows a gross misunderstanding of why yoga leads people away from the Church, and what we can do about it.

I really turned to yoga at a time when I was suffering from a kind of loss that I had never experienced before. The kind that rips you up from the inside out. I had tried turning to the Church over and over and I had been shamed, ridiculed, and accidentally made to feel like I was less valuable of a person because of what I was experiencing(it was not because of a sin). My yoga studio was the one place in the world where I was accepted. When I went to Cambio, I was not a broken person who needed to fix x, y, z. I was just a person who needed to exist.

Some Catholics take issue with that, because they say we should always be pursuing more, and yes we should always be pursuing holiness, but Jesus did not demand this constant new and more intense to chase holiness everyday. Jesus wanted a relationship with people, and He wanted us to experience happiness, and rest. Yes, He wanted his apostles to minister to others, and He said there would be suffering, but He also made wine at Cana, and fed 5000 people so much food that they couldn’t eat any more. This is not a good who wants us to beat ourselves to death with efforts to love Him.

What yoga did for me, is exactly what the name claims to do. “Yoga” means union, or “yoked” or something similar depending on your translation. The intention behind it, is to unite body, mind, and spirit, and yes a part of that intention is to connect to what most of them call ‘the divine.’ For me, it did all of those things, including connecting me with my understanding of who is ‘Divine.’ I learned ways that God was reaching out to early yogis long before any Christians could have come to them. I learned to accept my own body again after feeling betrayed by its weakness. I learned to rest again in a way I had not done in a long time, and with that rest I was able to pray again and sort through the pain I was so overwhelmed by.

As I healed, I was met with so much scorn by the Catholics I know. I cannot even count how many dirty looks or awkward mentions of evil happened around me. I earnestly tried to help those around me to understand, but it felt like they believed I was the spawn of Satan. I cried to a priest one day in confession, “I just feel like maybe I can never belong, but I want to.” His answer, “Why don’t you just leave?”(We weren’t even talking about yoga, this was about an election, but yoga was a huge part of my struggle.)

My point in bringing this up isn’t to say that all priests are awful, or everyone Catholic is judgemental. That is not true at all. However, there is a very vocal part of Catholicism that is not always kind, and frequently even when they are kind they can be really hurtful. The problem with a lot of these people is that they do not really understand the topic they are talking about. They have no experience of the other side, and sometimes they don’t really understand Church teaching on the topic either. There are parts of Catholic theology that get interpreted and thought of in a certain way when there is no real reason for them to be interpreted that way in the first place. It’s problematic because some of these teachings are so intense that they can really hurt people.

That brings me back to my purpose for writing this in the first place. This is a little sneak peek into a little something I am starting work on today. It is called PEACEWEAVER, and it is my story of what I have been through with yoga, but more importantly I hope to help both sides to understand each other. I’ll dive deep into what Catholic teaching says about yoga, but also what the history of yoga is. I will also talk about the ways the Church is not reaching people who love yoga, and most importantly, how they can find new ways to do so. I am passionate about helping people who love yoga to find peace with God, but also to help people who are concerned about yoga to understand what they should and should not be concerned about, and how they can grow closer to their loved ones who do love yoga.

Note: I hope to share excerpts here occasionally as I move through, but if I share too much, you’d have no reason to get the book, so, I won’t share everything. If you disagree with me, I would ask that you please send me your resources, tell me your story, help me to understand your side, and then maybe give me a chance to tell you mine too. I believe that we all are trying to do our best here, and I care about the truth.

Also, please let me know what you would like to see in a book on this topic. Whatever your point of view. ♥️

Disclaimer: This work is not meant to be an endorsement of yoga for Catholics or the opposite. All of us must discern what is right for ourselves. I want to share my story, and my understanding of both sides of the story to encourage understanding on both sides of the issue.

I Need to Calm Down: Weight Loss Angry Day

I am so angry.

This week I hopped on the scale to see that I had gained pretty much all of the weight I had lost back. Seriously?? After all of this time? What was the point of any of it if I’m back at this? My BMI was back up by a full point, and my muscle was down. I started to do my inches and I just gave up, “Nope, I am not putting myself through this.”

I rested on it a little while and everything felt a little more stressful all day. I survived the day though and I started to realize. I didn’t gain EVERYTHING back. I gained some weight back yes, but considering that from when I started I had two pregnancies and ended up even heavier than I had ever been, but got it back down, That’s incredible. I started to slow down a little bit and take some time to give myself some credit.

Here’s a list of my achievements:

I have still lost 32.5 inches. It is not as amazing as the 60 I originally had lost, but that is still a lot! Especially if you consider what else I have done in the last couple of years. I had 2 pregnancies, and not just normal pregnancies but pregnancies where I was super sick and under a great deal of stress. We moved-THREE TIMES, changed jobs twice, lost the higher income paycheck to me becoming a stay at home mom, and all of this while dealing with severe anxiety and depression made worse by hormones that are skyrocketing and plummeting constantly.

Plus, there are a lot of mitigating factors to my numbers. Ok, my boobs are bigger, I AM BREASTFEEDING SO FREAKING DUH! They are STILL less than they originally were, and that is awesome! I got them down way small before they had to hold the morning noon and night buffet! (I love breastfeeding but it does add inches, lol)

Also, my weight? I went way up when I was pregnant with Sage! And managed to get it all the way back down to AGAIN?! In a year? While breastfeeding and raising two toddlers and under ridiculous amounts of stress? That’s pretty awesome.

Even still, some of those measurements were really exciting measurements to improve.

That difference on my calves made the difference between me buying regular or wide calf boots.

The inches on my hips made it to where I can shop in stores now for my pants and shorts, I don’t have to order online anymore.

The two inches on my arm got rid of a lot of the flabbiness that drove me crazy.

Also, I GOT TO MY GOALS. This year, I got a Victoria’s Secret pajama set! I didn’t like the fabric so I returned them, but I FIT IN IT. I was able to shop in stores for the clothes I wanted. I still am. In fact the shorts I bought in Target are now too big and I need new smaller ones. My body has completely changed over and over again and I am still better off than I was.

Biggest of all, I achieved a goal that I didn’t think was possible. I balanced my hormones enough to have two babies. That is a huge enormous deal for me. My babies lived. ❤

Time to set new goals, but those are some pretty amazing goals to have achieved.

The Measles Vaccine and the Mommy Wars

This morning I read a thread that made me want to cry. It was originally a very strongly worded pro-vaccine post, and below one anti-vaccine mom tried to politely give her stance. Mom after mom ganged up on her, correcting her, but with barbed comments about not loving her child enough, or emoticons laughing at genuine things she was saying. I had so much admiration for how well she held it together. She was even brave enough to come out and say that it wasn’t ok how they were treating her, only to be met with mockery about that too.

The sad thing is, I see this EVERY DAY. Every day I see a new post of two different sides of an argument, the side that considers themselves smarter than the other pummels the person who holds the minority opinion. It happens on anti-vaccine sites too. The anti-vaccine moms can throw down with the best of them-on the posts and groups that are made for them. The cry it out moms do it to the attachment parents, the car seat safety moms do it to any mom who didn’t know a rule out of thousands, the rich moms do it to the poor moms, the poor moms do it to the rich moms, the Montessori parents do it to the Waldorf parents who do it to the public school parents who do it to the private school parents. And so on.

Even I am guilty of it, though I do my best not to be. I have ruined friendships over judging their parenting choices. I have been awkward and condescending when someone told me what they did with their kid, or when they treated them a certain way in front of me, or when they treated my kid in that way in front of me. You know what, it wasn’t worth it. These were amazing people that I was unkind to, and they didn’t deserve it. They are doing their best with the information they have been given, just like I am.

It even goes beyond mommy wars, it’s the war between people. Non-gamers do it to gamers, people of different religions do it to each other, people of the same religion do it to each other, people in different neighborhoods, different backgrounds, different jobs, different races, different sexes, different preferences on sex, sexuality, sex education.(sex is particularly polarizing.)

I take the route that I feel is the safest most of the time. I just stay out of it. I don’t want to argue with you, or your friends, about whichever new thing it is. I don’t want to bully or pummel or be bullied or pummeled or whatever word you use for it. Maybe I am a snowflake, but if that means that I am kinder to people for it, then that’s what I am going to be. I ask you to join me. Be kind to yourself and those around you. If you disagree, put yourself in their shoes before you make fun of them or attack their character. Realize that everyone here is just doing their best, and we may disagree sometimes, but we are all just trying to get through life with a thousand different things beating us up along the way. Don’t be one more thing that hurts somebody. Maybe when you see a conversation like this, just send some love and light into the situation, or when you give your own opinions add some compassion to your post. Maybe think about how you would feel if you were in the same situation instead of assuming you know everything.

In The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart, the author talks about how the internet has created a throwaway culture of people. Getting away from someone you disagree with is as easy as a click of a button, bullying or being rude is too, even if it is unintentional, which is easy in a world of emoticons and tone less typed words. I can say from personal experience that there is something different that happens when you live in community with people. You HAVE to make it work with those people, or your every day life is hell. You are forced to make up from fights because you can’t just give them the silent treatment forever because they are in your lunch line and it’s freaking awkward. The people around you want you to make it better because it sucks for everyone. There is pressure to fix the relationship or to be kind in the first place. That doesn’t exist online, there’s no security to relationships or conversations on the internet. Personally, I am striving to value every single person as much as if we were in person all the time. That doesn’t mean I have to be best friends with everyone, but it does mean that I am trying to treat people like real people, not faces on the internet. If you knew you had to see that person every day for the rest of your life, would you be that rude to them? Would you hurt them life that? To be fair, sometimes that makes it worse, sometimes it gets harder not to judge when you see a mom with her kids every single day and she does things so differently than you. You might feel like she’s not as a good a mom, or they aren’t as good of a person, or they aren’t trying as hard as you. You might even see them succeeding or failing at something that you do not succeed or fail at and that might make you angry, bitter, jealous, sad, or lonely, but here’s the thing, there is something that you succeed or fail at that makes them feel all the same emotions.

My favorite saying of all time is “Be kind. You will never know how much the person beside you is suffering.” Live that truth. Live like you have seen them crying alone in the chapel at night. Live like you have seen them love like no one else. Live like you have seen the best and worst in them and still love them. Love every single person with unconditional love, even the ones you don’t want to.

Meredith Grey loved the serial killer(Greys Anatomy-Season 5), can you?

What the New York Abortion Bill Means to Me

When I found out I was pregnant with Emma, my husband walked away from me, went upstairs and blared slipknot. I trembled downstairs in fear.

When I was pregnant with Emma, my husband and I fought every single day. These were not little, meaningless spats. They were screaming arguments, “How are we going to pay for that? How are we going to take care of her? What are we going to do?” We would scream at each other for hours and break down into the kind of sobs that take over your whole body, and your guts come out through your eyes.

It never stopped. Every single day we erupted in terror at the only person we could talk to about it.

We were Catholic. There were no options. We were stuck, and we were screwed. We had no insurance because we couldn’t afford it, but because we were paying rent we couldn’t get Medicaid. We didn’t have our own house. We were living in a tiny bedroom, sleeping together in a twin bed as I grew enormous in a matter of weeks. My mom has always said that using NFP meant that you didn’t really trust God, and I had had virtually no sex education so it didn’t occur to me how quickly you could get pregnant, if you were married(obviously you get pregnant if you even think about having sex if you aren’t married.)

Our marriage was ruined, we had no idea how we would survive, or how she would. I was terrified of hospitals, and we couldn’t afford one anyway.

I had fleeting thoughts of wishing I would miscarry, but I could feel her. She was present in me and I knew her, but I couldn’t stand the pain of knowing that she would always be afraid because we couldn’t provide for her.

It got so bad that I considered abortion. Not fully, not seriously, but for a second, I thought about it. It is almost impossible for me to admit that as a Catholic.

Later, I don’t even know how it happened, but one day I realized I was reading a how-to on committing a natural abortion. I think I may have been searching for vitamin safety during pregnancy, and then saw this article and was so shocked it even existed. I had been taking a ton of vitamins that weren’t safe to stay healthy while I was so run down, and again, for a split second, I thought, “What if I just kept doing it?”

It couldn’t be a sin right? It’s just taking a vitamin, for my health. It’d be an accident. I’d like to think I didn’t mean it, but I was so scared.

We lost her a week later.

In the most horrifying, tragic moment of my life, I miscarried our honeymoon baby.

I don’t know if it was the vitamins I was taking unknowingly, the lack of sleep, the exhausting work I was doing, the stress, or just my body’s inability to form the baby correctly, but whatever it was she was gone. She IS gone.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel some repercussion of losing her. She is my butterfly effect proof. She is everywhere. She was all over my periods every time I questioned whether they were miscarriages or not. She was there every step of my pregnancy with my rainbow, and my double rainbow. She is there when I check my babies breathing at night. She is there when I hear stories of women losing their children. She is in me still, even though she’s not for anyone else.

I cannot believe now that there were moments I did not want her. Now, I would give anything to take those moments back, to have her back. I was so scared, and I try not to blame myself, but losing a child, whether it is your fault or not, is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is the greatest pain that you can imagine, and it isn’t healed by time. The thought fades, thankfully, but the grief never does.

In the face of the New York bill, what I want to say to you, is that you do not know what these women are feeling. A woman who is losing her child, has lost her child, or could lose her child, is in a kind of pain that you cannot imagine if you have not been there. There are women who are pro-life who have held their own children lifeless in their arms, and they cannot stand the idea of another child being lost. There are women who are pro-choice who have faced the worst nightmares and had to ask “what do I do?” No matter who you are, you do not know what is in the hearts of who you are against. You do not know what drives them.

So? You ask. What do I do with that information? Find out. Learn from the pain of others how to address problems in a way that helps everyone. Ask the mom who is contemplating abortion what she needs, and help her find it. Start a fund for women who are struggling. Be compassionate. If you are pro-choice, ask the pro-life women what are they worried about, what is wrong with the bill? What do they want?

More than anything, tell your story, tell it as loud as you possibly can, until you are heard. Stop telling everyone else what’s wrong with them, and speak your truth.

Fat Yoga

i read this article this morning and I was so touched. I have struggled with body image my entire life, probably somewhat influenced by my mothers constant body shaming towards herself. Reading this article really touched me because to me it is what yoga is all about.

People now struggle with body image like crazy, maybe women always did. I mean there were parasols so that women wouldn’t get freckles, corsets that are incredibly unhealthy that sucked their waists in and left their hips out, and who knows what else. I am no exception to that rule. It doesn’t help that now I have gained a lot of weight and I can’t lose it, and I’m not gaining for specific reasons. Someday I need to get hormone testing done to see if that’s why, or maybe it’s allergies to some different food group. I won’t deny I struggle with over eating but part of the problem is that even if I do the work I don’t lose the weight, so when I’m really depressed and want a coke, that five pounds it adds means nothing because I’m just going to keep gaining anyway!

It doesn’t help that my mom spent my entire life talking about how ugly she was. “Mom, you look so nice.” “No, I don’t, don’t lie!” “Don’t take pictures of me!” “I will take your phone if you don’t delete that right now.” And it showed itself in other ways too. I can’t shake the feeling that maybe the reason why she would never let me wear clothes that really fit me, or clothes that were stylish was because she couldn’t because she weighed too much to shop in regular people stores.

Now I weigh too much to shop at regular stores too and I can sympathize with all of that. It makes me so angry to see all the skinny people at the mall when I go to try and see if they have had any big stuff returned from online. And I work retail so that doesn’t help either, so much bitterness when a size 2 complains about never being able to find stuff that fits. At least there is a size that fits her and she doesn’t have to order online, and she can shop without being too ashamed of herself to talk to sales people.

But in yoga class is the one place I get to forget all of that(at least most of the time) I get to remind myself constantly that yoga is about accepting myself and others for where we are. So I am just in the moment and the people at my yoga studio are so welcoming and kind that I don’t even feel that they are judging me. Yoga truly is my sanctuary.

The other thing that touched me is what he said about “one day” being able to do things he can’t do now. My hot yoga teacher is always saying, “and one day” such and such will happen, “and if that is not today there is nothing wrong with that!” And she is one of my favorite yoga teachers because in her class I am safe from all of the daily insults and all of my self grading thoughts. And when she talks about “one day” I believe her. And that’s what really matters and what I need the most. Hope. Yoga is my hope.

Anger

Ive never been an angry person. In fact, for most of my life I never got angry no matter what anyone did to me- just hurt or maybe upset but never angry. Now last night I caught myself calming myself down at work by imagining different ways to kill the person who made me mad. I would never do anything but it scares me that that is part of who I am now.

A few things happened that broke my faith in humanity and life, and I think that was the first step to my excessive anger. First, my one and only real best friend that I had ever had got so angry at me for a rule my boyfriend(her ex/other best friend and my now husband) and I made that when we were married we wouldn’t hang out alone with the opposite sex. She flipped out told me HE was her best friend(not me) and our friendship went out the window. All she cared about was him after that. Recently we started talking again but only after a year and in some ways I have forgiven her, but in some ways I don’t know if what she said will ever stop hurting. 

Then, I finally got married. My parents and his parents made the preparations a complete nightmare and made me cave on everything I wanted. The day itself ended up being lovely, but it is so hard for me that my wedding day is over and none of my dreams came true at it. 

Then we lost two babies, within 4 months of each other, both such early losses that I still don’t know how to grieve them. After that I started having sudden rages at the tiniest thing. I’ll never forget hubby looking at me like I was crazy when I accidentally ripped over and empty cup and screamed “God fucking damnit! What the fuck?!” In what must have been the angriest tone he had ever heard.

Then, a week after the first loss his mom kicked us out of the family’s house saying that I never belonged there. My parents house was not much better, my brother is engaged and I always had family problems but they had never been so completely cruel until this engagement. We finally moved out of there because they made my birthday absolute hell.

Now I’ve been stuck in retail for going on two years and I have been applying for jobs that whole time. I feel so stuck like a lion back into a corner. I am so sick of being treated like a kindergartener or a number, mocked in front of everyone, yelled at in front of everyone or even worse yelled at in the back room, almost every single day I go to work. Its not like I’m lazy! It’s silly things that other people do too, or sometimes little forgetting things but it’s not like I’m this horrible leech on the environment, but that’s how they are treating me. 

Anyway this combo has given me such a dark outlook on life. It’s not like I hadn’t been through hell before I mean everything before college was a nightmare too, but my 20’s were supposed to be when I finally felt free and now? It just feels like there is no hope. Like nothing will ever be ok.

So I am terrifying levels of angry, and I am getting professional help so that hopefully I never snap and carry out any of the horrifying visions I have for myself. Or even now the ones I occasionally have of other people. But I am so discouraged with life right now. I am going back to my college for the first time in 5 years tonight, and I will be there a week. I am so scared of what I will find there, will God be there and heal me, or will I find that the world is empty and He has never really been here? That’s my greatest fear. What if Gods not here? 

Ok today

I was going to write a reflection on how difficult this weekend was and how relieved I am it’s over. But that is not what’s in me today.

Today, I was blessed with having my shift cancelled at work. Freed from all the stress that was descending on me last night. Then I got to spend a blissful two hours with my husband before he stress waterfalls over him like he does almost every day. I got to go to Mindful Resilience yoga and was so at peace I think I fell asleep but I can’t even tell. And I went on a hike. And went to the chapel for holy hour.

I feel ok today. Not great, but I feel ok for today. 

Palm Sunday

It’s Palm Sunday today. Growing up this was a day that even if we were seriously sick you went to Mass anyway. But I am not going to Mass today. 

I am looking in on myself from the outside in while I sit volunteering at a yoga studio,reflecting on that girl. I know what my mother would say…or rather how she would look-horrified. “My daughter is going to hell.” And dad would say “as long as you do this, the devil is winning.” But I have questions that can’t be answered while my bitterness gets deeper and deeper every Sunday.

For example, why is NFP allowed by the church if marriage is only allowed for baby making? Also why is it allowed and oral sex isn’t because they say it is the same thing as contraception? Let’s clarify something- I enjoy pleasuring my husband in every way possible. Oral sex does nothing to prevent is making babies when we do have sex. Making out doesn’t make babies either but that’s allowed. 

Another thing, Catholics say they can prove they are right because they had lasted for so long, but Buddhism and Judaism are older and they are still going so…….

Why, if Christ showed love to everyone, and only called the Pharisees out on their sin, do Catholics and Christians feel the need to constantly throw sin in each other’s faces and everyone else’s? Even people who haven’t done anything wrong?

Why is everything sinful? Is God really up there creatin a thousand traps for us and if we ever trip up we are going straight to Hell? I refuse to worship a monster god.

Why are we not allowed to explore other religions if we believe we have the truth? If we have the truth wouldn’t we only learn more about our own belief if we explored everything? 

Why is it more important to comfort women who have had abortions than women who have had miscarriages? Women who have had abortions did something wrong, and they have support groups and free counseling, yet women like me followed all your rules, and it’s impossible to even find a catholic counselor for it and all you get in support is glares at every Catholic young adult meeting you go to because you don’t have children to show for your year of marriage. I’m so sorry my 2 babies didn’t survive.

Why is it that my Yoga studio has more  true Christianity in it than any Church I have been to in years? Why do they show more love than Christians who are supposed to have Love at the center of their lives?

When these questions begin to be answered and I stop feeling like the Catholic Church is kicking me out for no good reason, maybe I will go back to Church. Maybe I will find God in the Church that says it’s His. But I can’t spend every Sunday feeling like I’m buried in lies that send me to a new hell every day. 

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