You are always away

by Dorothy Day

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The following entries are from the diaries of Dorothy Day (1878-1980), the founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933.

Friday, Aug 18, 1936, Farm
Low in mind all day, full of tears. Got up at 6 to wash leftover milk pails and get breakfast ...

Jim so low and bitter in spirits, oppressed at the work to be done, lack of funds, too many visitors and children, waste of food which is rotting on the vines, the uselessness of eating corn, because it uses so much butter, and it all comes down to his objection to responsibility which he takes out on me, letting me know in little ways that he thinks I ought to do other than I am doing.

What with him, John Curran and his discourses on daily Mass and orderliness, and John Cort in town, not to speak of the Boston group, Ottawa, Toronto, Missouri, all discouraged, all looking for organization instead of self-organization, all of them weary of the idea of freedom and personal responsibility -- I feel bitterly oppressed, yet confirmed in my conviction that we have to emphasize personal responsibility at all costs. It is most certainly at the price of bitter suffering for myself. For I am just in the position of a dictator trying to legislate himself out of existence. They accept my regime, which emphasizes freedom and personal responsibility, but under protest. They all complain at the idea of there being this freedom in town and here, that there is no boss.

Today I just happened to light on Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor,” which was most apropos. Freedom -- how men hate it and chafe under it; how unhappy they are with it. ...

“Are we trying to make a farm here or aren’t we?”

A statement of that kind, an attitude of criticism of all that Peter [Maurin] and I stand for, has the power to down me completely so that I feel utterly incapable of going to Boston and meeting the opposition there and all their trials and discouragements. Nothing but the grace of God can help me but I feel utterly lacking, ineffective, my strength failing.

In town the usual crosses, Carney calling us all racketeers, calling the spiritual reading pious twaddle; Mr. Breen with his vile accusations; the misery of Minas and the Professor; Kate’s illness; the suit against us, the bills piling up and the unconscious discouragement in people like Frank and Jim—these things to be topped by such a lack of understanding of the personalist idea from those you expect the most from, lays me low.

Since I got back from Pittsburgh I have had this completely alone feeling. A temptation of the devil, doubtless, and to succumb to it is a lack of faith and hope. There is nothing to do but bear it, but my heart is as heavy as lead, and my mind dull and uninspired. A time when the memory and understanding fail one completely and only the will remains, so that I feel hard and rigid, and at the same time ready to sit like a soft fool and weep my eyes out.

“You are always away.” “You are never down here.”

And then when I get to Boston -- “This is your work, why are you not up here more often?”

Never before have I had such a compete sense of failure, of utter misery.

Took boat at 5pm for N.Y. Still low and dragged out. Feeling nothing accomplished. Mr. Schwartz drove me down here where the atmosphere is morose and the weather does not help. Reading Caussade and New Testament does help, and hiding my own sadness.

[These diary entries come from The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg (Marquette University Press). The selections were made by Robert Ellsberg.]

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