If I could write only one thing on this blog it would be "Stay rooted in reality."
Now, staying rooted in reality can be very tough, and sometimes it is much easier to hide from reality, when it is unpleasant, than to grapple with it and figure out what is best to do. The Canadian philosopher-theologian Bernard Lonergan, S.J. called this tendency "the flight from understanding."
The greatest example of this from my own life was math class. Although I got through Grade 9 math, thanks to a very good teacher, Grade 10 math was hell. It was hell because I couldn't grasp the concepts from the beginning and instead of turning to other books or teachers for help, I took refuge in daydreams until the teacher started screaming abuse or philosophy from the blackboard. Sadly, some of the messages that she banged into our heads were that boys were better than we were at math, and that her husband was a better math teacher than she was, and that we spent too much time crying over boys, whereas boys didn't care about us.
Today I can't dial my husband's mobile phone number without carefully following it on a sheet of paper. Nothing frightens me more than long strings of numbers. And for a long time I asked male friends if they had, in high school, cared about girls.
It will not be a surprise to you that I failed Grade 10 math. But what is astonishing is that, when I repeated it, I got the same teacher and I made no protest. I didn't even tell my parents the things she said, not even when they furiously scolded me for not doing my math homework, which by then I was as incapable of doing as a four year old child is of translating Thucydides. I took refuge in stories and daydreams, living in a semi-fog it took me a long time to escape. Not once did I go to an adult and say "I have a serious problem. I write A+ papers on Shakespeare, but I can't understand polynomial equations. What is wrong with me? Surely it cannot be, as our teacher seems to think, because I am white/a girl/incurably lazy. Help me."
Why do we not tell our parents these things? This is a serious question. If there are any child psychologists who know why children do not tell their parents about the really messed up things that happen at school, please tell me.
In adult life, we still stay silent on some very messed up things. As Searching Singles, we hear and read all about "red flags" and how to recognize "red flags." So far I haven't read anything about how to recognize a red flag and then force yourself to DO something about it.
I was delighted one day when the man I was then in love with drove me to his hometown to visit his parents. In my private universe, driving a girl home to visit your parents meant that a man was serious about her. (This, of course, is not always true.) In reality, it is certainly a good way to find out if a man comes from a "good family" or if his family is entirely messed up and best avoided.
Well, into the house we went, and it was a nice house, the house of a successful research scientist and his wife, and the one thing I remember clearly is that my boyfriend's parents were both terrified of him. They seemed to walk on eggshells around him. They were amazed to see him. They were amazed to see me. They spoke carefully, almost pleadingly, and hoped we'd stay for dinner, which we didn't, despite the two-hour drive. It was clear there was something very, very wrong going on, but I was in love with this man (absolutely head over heels), so I ignored my insights. Later he told me that his biggest kick in life was hurting those who loved him.
So it is not enough to see the red flags. One must understand that they are red flags and take appropriate action. In my own case, I think my mistake was becoming so completely infatuated before I knew the man at all well. On our first date, he drank and told me he had a drinking problem. I thought he was exaggerating. On a subsequent date, he told me he had attempted to seduce his girlfriend's gay friend because she had always had a crush on him. I thought he had repented and would never do something like that again. Why, I wonder, did I so badly want things to work out with this guy that I ignored so much horror?
"You should try to find a man from church," sighed an elderly man I consulted.
"I met him at church," I said, through gritted teeth.
And that's probably why I shut out reality. I wanted to marry a Nice Catholic Boy so badly that I was willing to sacrifice the "Nice" part. And no doubt this is part of the reason why I blog every day to invite Singles to find the good and the purpose in their Single lives and to stay rooted in reality.