Fight the New Drug

Fight the New Drug Video: My porn recovery story

***To see my featured talk "How Love Defeats Porn" given at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. click here. ***

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Present of the Moment

            Today I found myself doing something I haven't done for a majority of this year.  I was having dinner outside sitting with the core members and workers at L'Arche, the volunteers from Syracuse, and Amy's parents and brother.  We were there celebrating Amy's birthday, lucky her having three communities, really three families, surrounding her on her day.  I joked with Danielle, one of the core members, I laughed with Amy's mom, and played sass-tennis with Jeanie as we tend to do since I've been down here.  And in the middle of that picture-perfect memory, I found a peace in myself and noticed I was doing something I found so hard to do for months.  I was living in the moment.

            January this year, I came back from winter break strong with momentum and everything was hitting all cylinders.  I was praying and working out every day, going to bed and waking up at the same time, and my balance of life, work, community, and friends and family were pretty good. 

            Then once March rolled around and was starting to be in the thick of applying for jobs, things started to change.  I was applying to dozens of teaching and ministry jobs, waiting, waiting, checking my e-mail several times a day.  After not hearing back from many, getting straight e-mails how it "won't work out", I got two interviews via Skype.  Both felt like shoe-ins, one at a school where one of my best friends worked was talking up the staff for me and another at my old parish where many of the staff already knew and liked me.  After what felt like another month of interviewing and waiting for them, I received e-mails from both directors saying the spot has been filled. 

            The following months I pursued with the job search (longer than I had expected), and even though I had my projects like my Lent Project, "Proyecto Cuaresma" I found myself still at times filled with anxiety and still wondering and worrying about my future. 

            Finally on May 31st, I landed my job with Catholic Volunteer Network, and for that last month, especially my last two weeks until now I have found the present moment again, especially starting in Costa Rica considering that I may never see some of these people ever again.

            I guess I just want to reflect on how refreshing it has been to be fully in the moment of where I am.  To be with someone and just sit and be fully engaged in what they're saying, not thinking or worrying about what I need to be doing somewhere else.

If I had a Dumbledore's Pensieve to save memories, I would take my wand and pull out these picture-framed moments of the past several weeks to save forever. 

-Tom's tears as he read us his final prayer to us in our living room.  His tears weren't the only ones falling in that room.

-Brittany's pursed lips whenever she talks about her girls from her work and how they give her havoc. 

-Jelly's barking laugh, chin up in the air and eyes shut, finding humor in one or all of us.

-Jordan holding me when one day after I came home in tears after an upsetting moment at Hogar.

-Singing "Trading My Sorrows" with my youth group, Paxto, for a last time, all of them praising God with me with their thumbs and L's in the air yelling "Yes, Lord! Yes, yes Lord!"

-Reading "Buenas Noches", my departing poem to my English classes, the kids that have made me realize my calling in teaching. 

-Playing "Pass the top" with the my boys at La Isla.  I had taught them to say "May I have the top," "Yes, you may" and "Thank you" in the exchange of the thing we threw around.

-Hitting the last student square in the chest in our last dodgeball game of the tournament that my decimos and I organized.  It was glorious.

-Saying goodbye to Flori, a blind woman I had gotten close to at Hogar, at her bedside because she's really sick now.  Saying one last prayer with her, holding her hand, seeing her tears, hearing her say my name one last time, "Mateo...."

-Being in front of the teaching staff in my goodbye breakfast, telling their example has made me want to become a teacher.  Some joking, shaking heads, telling me I had chosen wrongly.

-Singing and playing guitar in the office with my boss Jenny, praising God together, songs I had taught her in the beginning of the year, finishing our time together with those same songs.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

-Arriving on U.S. soil, to find in the Charlotte airport Bojangles Fried Chicken, my all-time favorite fast food that's based out of NC.  Getting upgraded a 3-pc meal for 2-pc for free.  The seasoning and Texas Pete hot sauce covering everything.  It was a sure sign God loved me.

The first weekend back, I attended a wedding where I saw a lot of close friends.

-The moment Josh and I rolled into Kelsey, Kara, and Juliette's hotel room, which JJ later followed.  House '08-'09 reunite.  I'm the luckiest guy to have loving faces to be so happy to see you after such a long time, joke with you, beam at you. Kara yelling: "Matt has facial hair!"  These are best friends for life.

-Seeing Casey and Kate kiss the numerous times at the wedding and reception.  They are so in love.  And classy.  I want to be that in love and classy when I get married one day.

-Praying with Mimi in the hallway before the night ended, both leaning over the railing.  It's touching that I can still pray with my friend after not talking and seeing each other for so long.

This past week I've had the opportunity to go to each of the sites of the volunteers here in Syracuse, one per day.

-At Jeannie's site, Vincent House, to see the smile on Malaysia, a short pudgy girl with almond-colored skin, a smile where her eyes look almost shut.  Every time I glanced at this seven-year-old I thought to myself, "She is so pretty."

-At Tim's site, CYO, to see Gah Wah, a four-year old Asian boy with red pajama outfit with action heroes all over it.  The way he would just sprawl out on the floor when he was tired, overwhelmed from learning ABC's.

-At Monsy's site, the food pantry, Sister Therese as she's packing the grocery bags.  Joking to me how she needs a step to reach the top shelves.

-And at Amy's site, L'Arche, "shooting" Tim, one of the core members, in the eye, and he going, "Oh!" while grabbing his eye, then following, like a script, "Did you see that?"

            A side not about the my friends here at Syracuse...they inspire me.  They are so into their work, into the relationships they have with who they work with ("work" in quotations, as Amy would put it).  They really are invested, and they often put extra hours, extra heart, so things can work out the way they should.  They may have been overworked this year at times, but it's manifest that the places they work at are over-loved by them.

            As for me, I'm at a peace again after months of trying to find it.  I had moments, but this past month since the last two weeks of Costa Rica, has been the most consistent time I've just been happy. (Well, I take that back, the last two weeks of Costa Rica I was borderline depressed thinking about all the people I was leaving).  But I got my closure there and I'm smiling because it happened as Dr. Seuss would say.  Not stressing about jobs, not stressing about girls, just me being me, playing my guitar, smiling at the person I'm talking to, engaged in what they have to say, laughing out loud at stories told, and having no other place to be but here and now.

            My dad once told me that life and each day is a gift.  Jordan would say "that's why they call it the present."  I say, thank you God, for letting me to truly be in it again.

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