In February of 2005, the summer before my last summer attending JHJ as a middle schooler, my family was in a really gnarly car accident. It's a bit to explain and I'll never fully know what happened because I was the one Pappas not in the car for the accident, but here goes nothing:
- A woman trying to cross three lanes of traffic guns it as a semi pulls forward, however what she didn't realize was that the family mini van was sitting on the other side of the semi. She effectively t-boned my mom's car, sending it into a light pole.
- Everyone in the car gets really banged up.
- My dad (who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time) crushed one hip and broke the other. In addition, he broke a couple of ribs and he tore is aorta (a major artery for the heart). While the artery itself tears, there is a lining that surrounds it, which holds. This is one of the reasons why my dad is alive today, a complete tear causes a person to bleed out in seconds.
- My sister (she's 5 at the time) decided to loosen up the middle seat belt in the far back seat of the car. Because of physics and not being properly belted her intestines are punctured and she breaks her back. She spend the next 3 months in a full body cast (it starts just above the knee and ends at the top of her chest, below her arms).
- My mom, who is wearing her seatbelt, come out in one piece. She does sprain her right ankle, an injury common for drivers in a gnarly accident. Something about physics where basically she stomped on the break, so her mass was going against the mass of her car which was coming towards her (in my very simplistic terms, it makes sense I swear).
- After a couple of scary CAT scans it turns out that my brother is actually fine (he is also wearing his seatbelt).
- I get to spend the next couple of weeks at a friend's house, going to the hospital when I can.
- My dad spend a while in the hospital, then a while at a rehabilitation center where he learns how to get around in a wheel chair and gets linked up with a physical therapist who teaches him how to walk again.
- Eventually the Pappas family is united under the same roof. But it takes a lot of time and patience.
So yeah, that happened to me when I was 14. So not only was I not processing this because I was 14, I was also not processing this because I
was am great at compartmentalizing things in order to cope with situations that I have no control over. I don't think I had the opportunity to truly slow down and think about what happened to my family until I got to Mo Ranch. Obviously through out the preceding 4 months I had cried at some points, but mostly all I remember is being so busy that I didn't have too much time to worry.
But then you get to this ranch where you spend every night at vespers enveloped in the quiet and stillness and you can't really compartmentalize anymore. I don't remember the exact details, but I do remember having a moment where there was a break and it was like I finally realized the load I had been carrying around. It was like "wait a minute, my body is heavy and I didn't even realize it. And I don't know how to not be tired but maybe just saying that I'm carrying an impossible burden is a good start". And it was.
Coming back to Mo Ranch in 2010 was a similarly healing experience. All I will say is that while I was there I realized that just because on person doesn't care about you, doesn't mean that you are any less valuable. Going away to Mo gave me the space to take a step back and realize that 1) there were a lot of toxic things that happened my freshman year. And that 2) I actually don't have to feel cornered by those things and people. I may not have control over much, but I can seek out what truly makes me happy. If you want more than that you will have to go check out my blog about Mo Ranch from last year (the link is in the first paragraph of this post).
This year held a similar space for me. 2015-2016 has been a tumultuous year for me for a lot of reason. Between a break in, a break up, adjusting to being a full time adult and juggling two part time jobs I have been shouldering a lot. And I have been shouldering a lot more than I care to recognize. I have been in and out of New Orleans all year traveling for pleasure and for work (Houston x3, Austin x2, Dallas x4, Montreat x1, Mo Ranch x1, Tulsa x1, Auburn x1). When I am in New Orleans there's always one more thing to take care of. Whether it's dealing with a crappy housing situation, things blowing up at work or friends leaving the city to pursue their careers, it's been a hard year. Also, as someone who loves plans an structure, the fact that I only have about 1 year planned out is stressful. What if I actually am totally terrible at my jobs? What if I am %100 not cut out for my chosen career? What am I doing in New Orleans anyway? What if Valentina's predictions are correct and I end up living alone for the rest of my life with my 10 dogs on a ranch in west TX and all I ever wear is flannel and mom jeans (obviously she is joking, but still! That's a lot of flannel...)? What if, when I decide to leave New Orleans, I can't find a job anywhere else? What if someone break into my house again? What if that happens tonight while I'm home alone (unlikely)? What if I don't want to go to seminary? What if I do? What if I am torturing myself for absolutely no good reason at all?
Ya'll, I am not good at being a fun loving young adult. Just saying.
Yet again, being out at Mo Ranch helped me take a few deep breaths and center myself. Yes, I am carrying a heavy load. So are a lot of other people. I don't have to do this alone. And, if we are being honest, so many things I have listed are not important. I am 24. Instead of making graphs to determine the feasibility of my next life step, maybe I just need to enjoy things for what they are.
I got to spend a week with these awesome middle schoolers, all of them unique and funny and all in all I just tried to enjoy each moment for what it was. While there were a few bumps (memo to self, never check work emails while you are out of the office, you're begging for a potential panic attack) I came out of my week feeling serene and focused. Sometimes you don't have to fight. Sometimes you just have to be. Mo Ranch has a way of bringing me back into 'being', which I am forever grateful for.