Friday, September 18, 2015

Finding my way back

I think it's time to throw in the towel on at least one front. This is a battle I have been waging (not alone, mind you) for over three years now. Three years is a long time to be in an emotional war, especially when there is no end in sight. We're in this weird sort of limbo, with times of relative peace punctuated by enormously emotional charges that result in a flurry of meetings, phone calls, texts and emails. Link after link after link. Reading sites and articles that piss me off and hearing rumors that make me sad. We never know when the next attack is going to come, so we're lulled into a sense of complacency. Then they hit again and I'm dragged back in, dragged back down. It is guerrilla warfare, right in my very own parish, and I have to pull my personal troops out.

I was going to dance around this and not disclose the issue, but that seems pretty stupid and vague, plus is probably infuriating to readers. So I'm just gonna put it out here.

Girl Scouts.

(Wow. That looks stupid even as I type it. What the hell could be so terrible about Girl Scouts, right?)

There are a handful of people in my parish who think that GS is bad, and that good Catholic families should not be involved. Here's what I think: GS is a secular organization that is trying hard to not piss off any one big segment of the population while providing an incredible amount of positive programming for girls. It will never make everyone happy, as I believe that no large organization can. Heck, the Catholic Church should know this, having lost millions of its own flock over the years, especially after having some particularly dirty laundry aired. Is the GS organization perfect? Nope. (Show me one organization that is.) But the only way to make it better is to stay in it, stay at the table, and speak up for what you think is right. And it has an awful lot right going on. GS gave me so much throughout my childhood. I am the person I am today because of GS programming. Summer camps shaped me and formed me and made me better. Earning badges made me realize that I could accomplish so much, and that education and self improvement don't ever stop. One of my first thoughts upon learning we were going to have a baby girl was, "She can be a Girl Scout!" I knew before she was born that I would be her troop leader. It is a great source of pride to me that I am.

None of this matters to the people who have made it their mission to hate GS and drive it from our parish. They have done terrible things, including spreading lies and misinformation. We have been in a defensive crouch for over three years, with support from our local council and even support from our archdiocese. Now our (newish) pastor seems close to deciding to tell our Girl Scouts that they can no longer be affiliated with our parish. He is fed up with the divisiveness and discord within the parish. So are we, especially because we aren't the ones causing it. This other group brought American Heritage Girls into our parish, to co-exist with Girl Scouts. Families had their choice of troops. And they chose. They predominantly chose Girl Scouts. This still wasn't enough to shut up the haters, and they have continued their quest, redoubling their efforts. We are teetering again...can we stay or will we be forced out? This is how bad that other side wants us gone: they did not renew their AHG charter, telling the pastor, "See? We got rid of ours, now they should get rid of theirs." There are smaller battles tied up in this. Scouts (boys and girls) are no longer allowed to wear their uniforms to school on meeting days (ending a tradition that began with the parish over 50 years ago). The Thanksgiving Mass is no longer the Scout Mass (ending a 30-year tradition). Things they are a-changing. I am normally not averse to change. In fact, throughout most of my career I have been in the position of change agent, sometimes guiding large teams through change they didn't want. I recognize the need for change, the need for growth, the need for improvement. But I can't wrap my head around how these changes are improving anything for anyone but this small group of unhappy, judgmental, and extremely vocal people.

And so I get sucked in with the other women who care so much about Girl Scouts. I debate and spin conjecture and gossip and feed my own anger and that of those around me. We feed on each other. I become the angry, hate-filled, judgmental person that I accuse those others of being.

This is one of my many weaknesses. When I am passionate about something, I internalize everything. I can't look at things objectively, and I lose the ability to rationalize and consider options dispassionately. It weighs on me, and it affects my faith, my health, my marriage, my ability to parent well, and even my job. I am now angry and bitter and sad, all the time. I do not like who I have become. After another meeting last night that left me drained and even more upset than when it began, M asked me a very simple question. "Do you know anything new?" No, I did not. I had just spent hours with other women, talking and discussing and being disgusted. There were a few laughs, but not nearly enough to make the evening worth it. I wasted a whole night of my life being unhappy and upset, and I came out at the end in exactly the same place, if not in a worse place. His one question put everything in perspective. What am I doing? Is this really worth it?

Is the fight worth it? Absolutely. But I think it's time for the people stronger than I to carry on without me. I promise to be there for "the big stuff," but I have to remove myself from the chatter. I have to avoid getting dragged down into the trenches. I have to stop spending more time on this crap than on leading my girls. I am a Girl Scout troop leader, and they count on me to lead. I can't lead if I'm angry and bitter. That's not the legacy I want to pass on to them.

So the parish kicks us out. Okay. I can host my troop meetings at my home, and aren't I lucky to have that option? I am not standing on the border of a foreign country, my child in my arms and all my possessions on my back, facing a wall of barbed wire and wondering where to go and how I'm going to eat. It's time to get out of this stupid swamp of haters and start being myself again. It's a time for reclamation, joy, and the ability to find beauty everywhere again. It's time.


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