Don’t Straddle the Fence


I consider myself to be rather decisive about most things. I haven’t always been, it’s something I recently grew into. I don’t like to vacillate when it comes to whether I should do this or I should do that. I think about the task or decision that has to be made and then I make a decision. If other people are involved, I hate holding them emotionally captive while I go back and forth, back and forth.

When I was a little girl, I usually had a hard time making decisions. One Christmas, when I was about 5 years old, I received two beautiful skirts as gifts. One was a gray flannel a-line skirt with a big red strawberry appliquéd on it. It was resembled an ice skating skirt. The other skirt was a beautiful, colorful, fancy calypso skirt. It had many tiers in different colors. It was the kind of skirt that you would dance the calypso  in or maybe the tango. Both were so stunning, I couldn’t decide which one to wear. After some thought I decided to wear both. So, that Christmas, I changed from one skirt to another all afternoon long. I had a delightful time prancing around , darting between a house full of guests, showing off my two new favorite skirts. I changed from one to the other because they were both so beautiful and I couldn’t decide which one to wear. Eventually my mother, unbeknownst to me, gave the taffeta, tiered skirt away. I no longer had to make a choice as it had been made for me. This probably laid the foundation for my future inability to make quick decisions. I would go back and forth throughout my younger years, not feeling secure in the choices I would be making probably because I’d had parents who would make choices for me. When I got older it was because of my lack of patience that I actually became more decisive, more secure in my own decision-making. When I found myself in situations where other people were wavering back and forth, I found their indecisiveness very frustrating. Eventually I became confident in my ability to make decisions that were right for me.

In recent years, my husband and I attended the same church. I have to admit he attended more than I.I would like to sleep in lazily on Sundays reading the Sunday  Times and drinking my coffee. Although I did attend often, Chuck was the one who rose, rain or shine and attended church faithfully. His faith in God was unwavering and would help to keep him through the tough times to come. He decided that even though I wasn’t attending he would go faithfully with or without me. He would get up, get dressed, go to church and when he arrived home, I would have breakfast waiting as I continued with my leisurely Sunday and time spent with Chuck.
For me, at that time, church was the place to go on Sunday, hear the sermon, feel good momentarily, and then get back to my daily routine. I was not fully immersed in my faith at that back then.The basis of my current faith practice is Catholicism, Christianity, and metaphysical practice. I studied metaphysics exclusively for awhile, but decided that I missed a more traditional setting rooted in Christianity.Chuck and I searched for a church home together and settled on my present church not far from where we live. It was the place that met both of our spiritual needs and would one day be the church that buried my husband.

When Chuck was battling his pancreatic cancer, we would go to our church together in the beginning. Soon, though, as he became weaker, we would attend our neighborhood church, which was a  Roman Catholic one. Chuck wanted a miracle and he wanted to feel close to God, so on Saturdays we would get dressed and go to church service there. He would slowly make his way up to the altar for communion and then he’d slowly make his way back. He wanted to do it on his own and he did. When he could no longer attend, I went alone. Every Saturday, I attended Mass, lit candles for my husband, earnestly prayed and hoped for the best.

After Chuck died, I continued to go to the neighborhood Catholic Church, but I also attended my other church as well. I loved both places and wanted to experience each church’s unique service and receive the emotional and spiritual benefits that I derived from both.
One day I decided to go to confession at the Catholic Church. Well, this was not the confession that I remembered as you were no longer hidden from the priest’s sight. Now, one could see the other, priest and parishioner, as you sat and confessed your sins. I told the priest how much I enjoyed this church and I wondered about receiving communion. I shared that I was also attending another church as well. The priest asked me if they “had good preaching over there”. I answered that they did, but I enjoyed the “preaching” here as well. I asked him if I should receive communion (the rules of faith in Catholicism are strict and immutable, different than in other Christian denominations especially where communion is concerned). He suggested that I refrain for the time being. He also advised that I should “make a decision”. I was startled, I mean here was a Catholic priest giving me an opportunity to decide where my church home would be. He wasn’t taking the opportunity away, but having known what I’d been through, there were no mandates, just compassionate advice. He said, “don’t straddle the fence make a decision. If you want to attend the other and not here then decide.” He also went on to say, “…why should you be tied to two church homes?” He suggested I should be someplace settled in, where I could give my attention fully to one particular church community. Otherwise, he felt, I would have one foot in and one foot out, not fully committed to either place. Now many people attend multiple churches and that works for them, but for me I wanted to have my spiritual roots firmly planted in one place. This priest’s advice, at a most critical time in my life, would carry me beyond church matters.

After my husband passed away, I found myself feeling unsure about decisions that I would now be making alone. I reverted back to a place when I was once indecisive. But this new way of looking at my life, to be able to feel strong and firm in my beliefs and decisions breathed fresh air into the new chapter I was beginning.
I did make a decision that I feel right about regarding my permanent church home. In recent years my spirit has been renewed and reestablished in ways that suit my life now. No longer do I lay in bed reading my Sunday Times and drinking coffee. I’m now eager to be a part of the community of faith that I have come to love and that has been there for me. But beyond spiritual and religious matters, I’ve found that I’ve become more decisive and firm about choices in other areas of my life. I can’t go along with others if I don’t feel it’s the right thing to do. I can’t wait for others if the decision-making process becomes too time-consuming and complicated.
This priest’s advice ,so generously given, helped me to move my life forward. In the absence of my husband, I have evolved into someone stronger and more secure in my making process. When I am faced with a question or decision that has to be made, I remember this priest’s advice, “don’t straddle the fence, make a decision.” Advice that ,for my life here and now, has helped me to continue to feel confident and brave as I move forward fulfilling my destiny.

Read more about how I came back to life again in my book  Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse   now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other e-booksellers

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