The Most Dangerous Ground

By Elizabeth Pawelek

Note: Title is a coffee pun. You're welcome.

I duck into a café one drab and rainy Tuesday afternoon. I shiver from the cold, wet weather and scan the vintage succulent-infested café for a place to set my books before walking up to the counter to order a coffee. On my way to order a warm drink, the puddle I’ve brought into the café and left on the floor results in an ever so clumsy slip. I am left to regain my balance (sort of) on top of the counter. As I thank the Lord that the slip didn’t result in an entire wipe out montage, I refocus and realize that a quite handsome man is waiting, most patiently, for my coffee order. Blushing, I apologize for the show, and he laughs it off. I order a coffee, pay for it, and receive it with a smile from the barista who wishes me the best of luck on my trip back to my seat.

On my way back to the cozy little study nook, it begins: my daydreaming about said attractive barista man. My thoughts start with “Did he just smile at me? I wonder what his name is...He looks like a Jacob...I wonder if Jacob’s dating anyone...Maybe he’s not and he smiled at me because he wants to date me…We would look good together…I wonder where he would take me on our first date…I wonder if he’s Catholic? I bet he loves his mom, he looks like a Jacob that loves his mom...”

Fast forward five minutes, and I’ve just daydreamed-named our first son John Paul and our first daughter Lucy Therese.

The reality is that his name is actually Brody, and all Brody did was make me a coffee, not completely laugh in my clumsy face and smiled (because normal human beings smile to show hospitality.) The reality is, I spent my entire time at the café sneaking glances at Brody and then ended up leaving, unproductive, a little disappointed, slightly resenting Brody. Poor Brody has been the victim of chronic daydreamer attack, and he has no clue (thanks be to God.)

However “Anne of Green Gables” this scenario is, it happens to the best of us. Ladies, we need to talk about daydreaming.

As women, we are so inclined to create emotional relationships and bonds very quickly, sometimes without warrant. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because our emotions are powerful: they can support a friend, nurture a child, or deeply connect with our Lord. It’s a curse because they are powerful, and cause us to run away from reality.

I had finally become aware of this daydreaming scenario one night after me and my lovely roommates were discussing this very thing, and it was as if we all admitted together that we were culprits of this reality, the daydreaming reality (paradoxical I know). I took this reality to the beauty of the Confessional, and inquired a name for my daydreaming. Gently, the priest responds that I am stealing, stealing time. WOOF. That one stung. After I did my penance, I reflected on the times that I stole from the reality that God has specially placed before me. The time I spend as a single person is meant for a specific purpose. Not to be running away in this magical barista-man land. No, God called me here, and sometimes this “here” requires a loneliness that beckons for long chats (sometimes wrestling) with Him. There is purpose, and it’s always to draw us to Himself.

Action Plan:

Now that I’m aware of this wastefulness, I have a plan. Thanks to cool saintly women like Mother Teresa who said, "If you ever feel distressed during your day — call upon our Lady — just say this simple prayer: 'Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.' I must admit — this prayer has never failed me.

I do believe we can take after Our Lady in this “daydreaming” department. When we read of Mary hearing earth shattering, vocation-changing news, she “ponders in her heart.” Her pondering is always directed towards the Father. She is able to maintain a peace because of that very fact. Plus, Mary understands our female heart, and Mary delicately brings our imperfect hearts to the Son. We can learn a lesson or two from that Special Lady, and she’s not so bad in the interceding department either. An action plan is the most helpful nonetheless.

Heck, who knows, maybe one day it will happen like the movies. I’ll fall in love at a café, or maybe it will be a guy I’ve been good friends with since I was eight. Whatever the plan is, it is the most wasteful to spend my time on the cute guy on the bus or the guy I’ve been crushing on for months. God’s plan will prevail, and I could be using that time to get to know Him better (or myself through Him.)

As a side note, I would like to encourage us ladies to not be slaves to what we desire. The desire can be rightly ordered, it just takes a shifting of a lens. It becomes a battle that you are fronting yourself, without the Holy One as the driver. Praying for “the one” is beautiful, but it’s when we start making a cookie cutter ideal (or imposing an ideal) onto another man, a man that mostly (always) has zero idea of what is going on in that lovely brain of yours, that we begin to impose unfair limits on men. It really is unfair for them if you think about it. How freeing it is to give that desire to Him, as He is the greatest Romancer of all time (Refer to the Cross here.)

So, I’ve begun to be more intentional with my thoughts. I’m trying to live in the reality. One of my professors always says, “saints live in ‘what is’, not the ‘what if.’” I challenge you to live in the reality, in the ‘what is.’ It’s a good check-up. The question to ask ourselves is, “is this a daydream?” or “am I actually discerning?” The discerning is our safest place to be because our thoughts, like Mary’s, are directed towards the Father, not some make believe land.

Bottom line, He has a wonderfully beautiful plan that all your daydreaming could never imagine. Reality is, we are wasting our thoughts, thoughts that could be spent on gratuitous, contemplative, meditative, thankful, philosophical, theological, loving, prayerful, discerning and fill in the blank thoughts.

I will continue to go to the café with the handsome barista man (because the coffee is divinely delicious), I will still think him attractive, but I will call on My Mother to help me out in the daydreaming department, trusting Her intercession to bring my desire for a Godly man to the Lord. I will thank the Lord for my longing heart, my clarity on my vocation, and I will drink my coffee. I will continue to discern and pray about the eventual man and trust that He will fulfill the desire. I will trust in His reality.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.