Ash Wednesday Thoughts

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Woman with an ash wednesday cross
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I am not overly religious but I do like to attend special masses on Holy days, so last night I took my very atheist girlfriend to church for the first time to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass. I was a little nervous about how she would get on. A Catholic church is not the easiest introduction into religious services for the inexperienced/unbeliever!

When we got home, I asked her what she thought of the service and her response was that she'd give it a 6 or 7 out of 10, and that "there was something quite humbling about watching people pray".

I was in fact humbled by her response; I am used to it by now, but I suppose that seeing people on their knees, eyes closed and begging for repentence reminds us that we are all human with-dare I make this pun- our own cross to bear. Being a very opinionated woman, especially when it comes to religion, I thought that she would hate having to listen to the service and would leave the church adamant that she would never go again!

It encouraged me to take a step back and remember that it is so easy to envy other people from a distance, but deep down we all have regrets, troubles and things that we need help with.

Like I said, I'm not overly religious but I love the way I feel re-energised and a lot more kind and thoughtful when I attend mass. I feel like, in the immediate hours and days that follow, I am consciously more mindful of others and the world around me. If only it didn't take such an experience for me to act like that all the time!


Passion, or lack thereof

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When I was younger, I believed that without hobbies or something you were passionate about, you were hollow; an empty shell. I wondered how people could exist without something that defined them, and wondered how they were happy just 'plodding along'.

I spent all of my time busying myself with things, needing passion in my life to feel content. Even to this day I can't sit still and I get restless if I don't have something constructive to fill my time with.

As I grew older, although I became distracted with friendships and all that comes hand in hand with 'coming of age' I never lost this craving to be defined by my passion for life and the things I enjoyed. I suppose in a way, if I'm being honest, I felt superior to others who had missed out on or lost this spark. I used to pride myself on being a mystery, full of love and a lust for the unknown, desperate to excel at everything and anything.

I spent my misunderstood youth writing songs and poems late into the night, playing my guitar until my fingers bled, dragging my gig bag all over the country singing in pubs, clubs and student unions to handfuls or hundreds of people. Music and words were my thing, the place where I felt at home, and when I sang I knew I belonged somewhere. I had stories and poems published when I was just a child. Being bookish was what I was known for and I felt so content with these parts of my personality. They weren't hobbies, they ran deeper than that. They were who I was, and to an extent who I still am, although these parts of me are somewhat quashed or tainted by growing up, gaining responsibilities and losing time.

Over time I have learned to enjoy my hobbies and passions on a lesser scale. We all know the trap of being dragged into the 'real world' and losing the time and/or energy for the things you love. When I got home from work I would chose to spend my time with my partner rather than upstairs alone, playing my guitar or reading. I could not write late into the night because it would keep her up. I could not go to see the bands I loved because she would never come with me and I lost contact with my friends. When I entered competitions or auditioned for things that would further my singing in the hope of doing it professionally, my partner would deliberately ruin it for me in case I 'became famous and left her'. Any attempt at gaining a new hobby became twisted into an excuse for me to be dishonest or disloyal so eventually I gave up on these attempts. Looking back, I realise that her behaviour was pretty emotionally abusive and slowly chipped away at my self confidence until I felt I was no longer able to enjoy or excel in the things I loved. The things that were a part of me and used to define me became ghosts that haunted me.

Luckily I am in a much better place in my life now, but the self doubt and lack of confidence that this instilled in me still prevails. I still feel the desire to be someone better than I am and get back to the time where I felt like I knew who I was. I still feel burning passion inside of me for the things I love but I am not comfortable expressing it the way that I used to. I feel that I only have myself to blame for the choices I made, choices that let my dreams and desires slip away.

I fear that those who did not know me back then will think of me as the type of person I used to hate. They do not know the way I used to read "just one more chapter" under my duvet with a torch when I was a kid. They do not know the way I could hold captive the attention of an audience when I sang a song I had written myself. They do not know the way I felt when I won a first place trophy at an Irish Dancing competition, or the way my team mates celebrated with me when I scored a winning goal in the Lacrosse match that earned my team a promotion to the Rosebowl Division.

And still they do not understand the way I can fall in love with a character from a story or the chemistry between my favourite singers. No one will understand the bitter aching I feel in my heart when I listen to lyrics I can relate to or a piece of music that moves me or a poem about unrequited love that takes my breath away. No one will ever understand the yearning I feel to be the one who evokes these feelings in others and the quiet desperation for the lost person I could have been that gnaws at me while I'm lying awake at night.

Call me a lot of things, but don't ever say I don't know how it feels to have something I am passionate about.
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