It came. It went. Now what…
That’s about all I’ve processed from last week. For those reading this who attended the Summit, I think you understand. For all you others, let me explain…
A little over a year ago, two brothers from Dallas decided it was about time to build a collective of Catholics in the creative industry. There was a need and an identified, shared desire. They created a Facebook group - one of the strongest, most efficacious Facebook groups I have ever seen - and the people came. So many of us lacked community, in both a general sense and within our creative worlds. We identify first as Catholics then as creatives, but both are integral to who we are. This group became our community.
But community needs more than an online forum. We all wanted this to be something real, something tangible. A few regional meetups made it obvious that a larger gathering was imperative.
And thus, it happened.
Everything about the CC Summit felt natural. Everything felt in place and guided by a hand with a bigger vision than even our own collective could imagine. There was a very strong sense of community, as if every person we met was a new best friend. Yet, as I hear people sharing after the fact, many of us also found it to be profound on a very personal and individual level as well.
This weekend presented me with many “full circle” moments, for lack of a better description. It was like my own ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future were showing up, but with the crucial difference being that these were completely positive, joy-filled, and satisfying.
First, I arrived to join the leaders and other volunteers, all of whom I’ve met in the last six months and already call dear friends. But they only know me as the person I am now. Other than the few stories I’ve shared, they don’t know me through crisis, trials, heartbreak, and history (except for this epic weekend of no sleep). They know the me that I have become after 30 years of living life.
Next, I was finally reconnected in person with an old friend. He has been along my journey reaching back to right after the worst-time-in-my-life. I literally met him two days after getting served with divorce papers, just over three years ago. He met me while I was still in the trenches and has graciously stayed along my side on my journey to recovery. Not only has he been there, but he’s been a major character in my story. Before this weekend, we had only seen each other once since first meeting, but, as with many of my relationships, Facebook messenger has kept our friendship growing. Like letters of days past written during war times or when life separated dear friends, we have our growing friendship documented, available to go back and see each other’s trials and growth.
Only a few hours later came the one encounter that I was both afraid of and excited for. Anxiety that I made up in my head - after years of unknowns, dread, and assumptions - had me worried about my every potential word in the months leading up this unavoidable moment. A friend from my days with my husband, and only from those days. My friendship with him was mostly grown out of time socializing with my husband. As went my relationship with my husband, there also went my friendship with him and the whole social circle he represented. For years, I have wondered what they thought of me, of my situation. I had many days of being angry at that population of the world, feeling ostracized, abandoned, shunned, betrayed. Much of this coming from my own pain and likely having very little reality to support the assumptions. But the pain was too much to see past with rational thinking for many years. I was reminded by a trusted friend that the person I am now is different than the person he knew then. He only knew me in crisis mode. He only knew me in pain. So there he was, standing in the doorway. And he smiled.
And that moment. That moment... The resentment, the frustration, the attempts again and again to forgive and move on. So much healing. We hugged like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, not like two people with divisions and awkwardness. I was genuinely happy to see him, and I felt genuinely happy to be seen.
And God didn’t stop me there. As the weekend ended, separate from the Summit, I met up with a person I hadn’t seen in nine years. We chatted for hours over coffee and could have chatted for more, as if we had done this regularly (not just once over beers nine years ago). Oktoberfest, Germany, 2008. My travel companion and I spent nearly the whole evening with a group of army guys, shooting shit, singing songs, and drinking larger quantities of beer than I can even fathom consuming now. Those times were fun, and I look back on them fondly, but the person I was then was also a very different me than who people encountered me as this weekend. This friend represented the me before my strong commitment to my faith and before I had been tested by real, earth-shattering trials.
I was searching then, but striving for a worldly life. Now I’m searching again, but rooted in something unmovable, unshakable. Life has not held anything back in its attempt to try and shake me of it, yet it stands.
So here I was at this summit for creatives as a self-proclaimed uncreative person, justifying my presence because of my semblance as a photographer and my knack for organizing and getting stuff done. Here I was meeting - all in one weekend and all because of this Summit - four representations of the most distinctive stages of my life.
I got no sleep. I made new friends. I deepened old friendships.
And I was healed on yet another level along this journey. Healed to the anthem of Will Reagan and the United Pursuit, the soundtrack from a time when I couldn’t even get myself out of bed, now raising my hands in praise.