R is for Resentment

r white woodI love my family. I do. But I also resent them. A lot. And lately it’s been really bothering me. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because the weather’s changing and I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to take a stroll with my sister-in-law. Maybe because I went a few days without a phone and realized that no one would have known if I hadn’t posted anything on Facebook about it. Or maybe it’s just time to get over it.

So, like I always do when I want to do something, I warmed up my favorite search engine and looked for anything I could find on resentment. I came across this quote:

resentment2

This pic was created at brainyquote.com.

It stopped me in my proverbial tracks. One of the things I truly value (and I know this cause I’ve gone over my values a couple of times in the last few months in counseling) is trying to do God’s will and grow spiritually. The fact that I’m disrupting my values by holding onto resentment gives my bone marrow frostbite.

So I sat there and thought about it. Why was I so resentful of my family? Here’s why…help

Somehow growing up I picked up the conviction that getting help by asking for it means less than if someone figures out that you need help and offers it. I’m not quite sure why I picked up that conviction, but I did. What’s worse, I typically don’t ask for help until the last possible second, usually right before disaster strikes. Like right before I slit my wrists.

Unfortunately, most of my family doesn’t think the say way as I do. Especially my brother and sister-in-law, the ones I feel most resentful towards. You see, I needed a lot of help the past year or so. As you may recall from this post, this post, this post, and this post, I was suicidal and went through a major traumatic injury. My brother and sister-in-law are the only family members who could help me (everyone else lives too far away) during those times and I resented it when they didn’t help me more.

What was I expecting from them? Well, when I got home from the psych ward, both times, I expected them to check in with me once in a while. By phone if nothing else. If I didn’t call or stop by, I expected them to call me or stop by my place (I live less then 10 minutes away from them). I didn’t receive any check ins. Ever.

After I broke my arm and was in a cast from my armpit to wrist, I expected a daily visit until I was able to do things fat ladylike pull up my pants up one handed and cook myself dinner. I got daily visits the first two days. I couldn’t pull up my own pants one handed for a month after I was released from the hospital (they kept getting caught on my fat rolls. Remember, I’m circus-fat-lady fat), and I couldn’t cook for two months. In addition, I was on pain killers for six weeks. Pain killers and a history of suicide…not a good thing.

The part that I hate most about how resentful I feel is that I knew I wasn’t gonna get any help from my family unless I asked for it. My brother works too much to be able to help me (he works twelve to eighteen hours a day, typically seven days a week. He’s been known to go three months without a day off). So it was my sister-in-law, a “Domestic Engineer” (aka housewife) who would/should be checking in on me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my sister-in-law. She’s the best thing to ever happen to my brother and a wonderful person. She just believes that it is a person’s responsibility to ask for help; that one shouldn’t just help a person without that request. Her belief comes out of her own past of domestic violence and addiction. And that works for her. It just doesn’t work for me.

Why? Because when I’m deeply depressed, suicidal, traumatized, and in pain, I don’t ask for help unless it’s an

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli 1781

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli 1781

emergency (like gotta call 911 emergency). I can’t. And I mean that in an almost physical sense. I spent hours lying on my bed keeping myself alive by telling myself over and over that if I just stayed in bed, I would be able to resist the impulse to kill myself. That if I got up, took that step closer to the drawer where I kept my medications, I would take every single pill I owned in an effort to die. The thought of calling someone for help did cross my mind, and, in occasional moments of logic, I tried to get myself to do it, but I couldn’t. I remember the words piling themselves up at the back of my throat. And I couldn’t get them into my voice box and out of my mouth. No matter how many times I tried to get my hands to pick up a phone, they wouldn’t move. It was almost like psychological paralysis. It sounds dramatic, even soap opera worthy, but it’s true. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything other than breathe and fight the impulse to kill myself. All of my energy was used up in that fight. I had nothing left to ask for help.

So I didn’t get any help from my family. And the only family member in any position to help me was not pre-supposed to help without being asked. And I knew this. I knew it and yet it still hurt when I didn’t get the help I couldn’t ask for. It still hurts today. And so the resentment grows. And grows.

I haven’t spoken with my family in any way other than through social media in about two months. And I hate it. I miss them so much. I want a hug from my sister-in-law. I want to tease my brother and see that twinkle in his eye that makes him him. I want to hug their dog and chat about NCIS and their grandchildren. I want to find out what home improvement plans they are gonna tackle this summer. I want to see my brother and sister-in-law laugh and kiss and hug in that way that is their own.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

But I can’t do it until I let go of this resentment that I know is totally irrational. I know that they were never going to be able to help me in the way that I wanted, or even needed, to be helped. I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I knew it. And yet I still expected and wanted it from them.

I suppose that ultimately what’s preventing me from letting it go is that I can’t forgive myself for expecting the impossible from them. I can’t forgive myself for needing help. And if I can’t forgive myself, how am I gonna be able to forgive them?


 

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

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R is for Relationships

r recycledSince this is the week dedicated to all things heart shaped (aka Valentine’s Day week), I thought I’d write a bit about my issues with relationships.

I am horrible at all kinds of relationships other than your superficial kinds. If you want to talk about stuff while at work, I’m your gal (or I would be if I was employed). I’ll talk about anything other than politics (and/or religion if you’re not able to be open-minded/respectful of others’ opinions). If you want to tell me all about your life, spill your secrets, discuss your sex life, whatever, I’m good to go. I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and may actually be able to give you some insight or help with whatever you’re going through. No problem. Just don’t expect me to tell you more than the superficial stuff about my own life.

Sure I’ll tell you a bit about my parents, brother, grandmother, and so on. I might tell you stories about growing up heart conversationpoor in a mostly affluent suburb or about taking care of my dying grandmother. I’ll tell you about the safe stuff in my life: career dreams, places I want to travel to or live. But I’ll never get to the meat of anything unless you divulge it first. And even then I’ll stay at the surface. For example: I’ll tell you that I suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, but I won’t tell you who, what happened, or how it was resolved. I might tell you that I suffered guilt and shame over it, that I never told certain people about it, that I’m still somewhat angry about it, or that it took about thirty years for it to become a “minor” part of my life. But I’ll never tell you the details. You’ll never know that my shame isn’t that it happened, but that it hurt those who never knew about it.

In the past, when I’ve told people about some of this superficial stuff, they’ve told me that I’m “open” and that they feel close to me. I nod and thank them for their thoughts but inside I know that it’s just a sham. I know that I’m incapable of real relationships.

How do I know this? Because, to me, when it comes right down to it, real relationships are those that survive outside of the boundaries of the structures of modern life.

Two years ago I worked at a job with a woman who was having trouble in her marriage. She told me about some of her struggles with a previous marriage where her husband was abusive, verbally and sexually. She said that her past made her hesitant to trust her current husband. I divulged to her the superficial details of my own sexual abuse, correlated it to some stuff I learned in school, and gave her advice about talking to her current husband. She took my advice and said it helped. Later she told me that my openness helped her to realize certain things about her relationships. After I quit that job, I never saw or heard from that person again. To me, that was not a real relationship. Was it a worthwhile relationship? Sure, she got something out of it and I enjoyed helping her. But it was superficial. It was the only kind of relationship I am capable of. Other modern life structures that my relationships don’t survive past are school, apartment buildings, even online support groups. After I’m done with a class, graduated from college, moved from a building, left a group, those relationships don’t last. They’re gone. Like they never even happened.

I’m aware that some of those types of relationships are meant to fade away. My counselor tells me this and I read about them in school. But if those are the only kind of relationships I’m capable of, what does that say about me?

The other day I sat down and tried to think of who I’m always honest with (outside of psychiatrists, counselors, heart metaltherapists, etc). I counted seven people: my high school best friend, that friend’s parents, my brother and sister-in-law, a cousin, and a neighbor. Only one of those people is within walking distance of me. Two are in another state all together. And I only speak to one, my neighbor, on a regular basis.

Yes, all of them (and more) are Facebook friends and yes, I can text, email and/or speak to them by phone pretty much anytime. But I don’t. Even when I know I should. I’ll reach for the phone or keyboard and something will stop me. Something dark and ugly will rise inside me and I’ll put the phone or keyboard down.

Sometimes I think that dark and ugly thing is my mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, and/or the eating disorder). And sometimes I might be right because those things seem to clog up my brain and throat until I can’t communicate with anyone other than God.

But other times I think that dark and ugly thing is just me. My innards are so disgusting that I don’t want to expose them to the light, to my friends and family, to anyone with even a little bit of goodness in them. So I shove that ickyness deep down with food. I keep relationships superficial. I keep everyone away from my ugliness.

It’s safer.

Maybe for them.

But mostly for me.

I’ve accepted my inability to have real relationships with anyone other than those seven people. Mostly. Sometimes I surprise myself and make new friends. Like my neighbor, I’ve told her details about my sexual abuse, about my mental health issues, about my previous struggles with cleaning, and so forth. For some reason, I haven’t scared her away.

I think she may be Superwoman.

I know she’s extraordinary.

We’ll see if my relationship with her will last after one of us moves away. I don’t have much faith that it will last, but then again I also didn’t have much faith that I’d live past thirty either so it might. I hope it does. Because if it does, that means maybe I’m capable of a real relationship. One that lasts beyond the boundary of our building.

And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be capable of having more of those relationships.

And then maybe, just maybe, I could date, have a romantic relationship, marry. I haven’t dated since high school (I’ll be 41 this year.)

Would you date, or marry, the circus-lady fat gal?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I’m not holding my breath. I’ll be satisfied with becoming capable of having real relationships. Down deep, I know I’m not meant for a romantic relationship. All that disgusting ugliness may be tolerable in friendships (superficial or not) but it would be impossible in a day-to-day-till-death-do-you-part relationship. After all, you can get away from a friend and wash off that gross scum. A romantic partner (in my case, a man) is required to live with it, carry a bit of it in their heart, meld it to their soul.

I couldn’t ask any man to do that.

Does that mean I don’t miss those types of intimate relationships? Not on your life. At one point, when my biological clock was ticking with the power of Big Ben, I thought the yearning, the loneliness, would kill me. I cried at the sight of a baby, leaned toward the TV when watching romantic comedies, sobbed myself into migraines.

Even now, years after my biological clock short-circuited, I still yearn for closeness. There are days, weeks even, when I just want someone to hold me. Someone to tell me it’s gonna be okay. Someone who would worry with me about bills, broken down cars, unemployment. Someone to hold my hand under the dining room table when my social anxiety kicks in. Someone to bring me an apple when I’m binging on chocolate. Someone to look me in the eye and tell me I’m important, worthy, loved.

I want that someone. But I don’t think he exists. At least not for me. I only know one man out there who is that kind of gentleman, who would have that kind of patience, that kind of acceptance, that kind of pure-heartedness. He’s my high school best friend’s father and currently married to her mother. They have a son, but unfortunately he doesn’t take after his father. I doubt very much there’s another guy out there like him.

So I’m assuming I’m gonna live out the rest of my life alone. Slowly working on having real relationships but never having that ultimate relationship that makes life worth living.

It’ll be lonely.

It’ll suck.

But I’m used to that.

I’ll just have to content myself with a cat.

cat sofa

Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate!

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

R is for Random Questions

r2Hello Readers! I’m gonna do something different in this post. I know it’s the end of the year and I’m probably supposed to be writing a post evaluating my last year and promising to keep resolutions, but I just don’t feel like writing about those things. So I’m just gonna answer a bunch of “getting to know you” kinda questions. Some are questions people ask on forums, some are questions I just thought of, and some are from that interview show called Inside the Actor’s Studio. Here goes:

 

1. What one thing could you not do as a child that you can do now?

I can drive a car. My family was very traditional and skills/chores were divided by gender. My brother mowed the lawn and got taught how to drive at an early age. I did the dishes and was expected to be a passenger. Now I can drive a car and I mostly enjoy it. Except when I have to drive in a major city; too many people drive like maniacs there.

2. Do you have a motto?

Other than “breathe”, not really. Sometimes I repeat after Dory in Finding Nemo and say “just keep

Image from disney.com

Image from disney.com

swimming, just keep swimming” but that’s usually when I’m frustrated with myself.

3. Favorite ice cream flavor?

Chocolate, of course.

4. Where would you like to travel and why?

I’d like to travel to every state in the US, just to say I’ve done it. I’d like to go to every country in Great Britain, because that’s my heritage and because I’m fascinated by its history. Finally, I’d like to go the Vatican and the Holy Land, because I’m Catholic!

5. Ever met a famous person?

Nope.

6. Favorite color(s)?

Purple and blue. Sometimes green.

7. What’s the weather like outside right now?

It’s winter and we just had a day of above freezing temps followed by one of below freezing temps after a few weeks of snow, ice, and below zero temps. So all surfaces are an unpredictable combo of snow and ice (both visible and invisible) and the air is cold enough to see your breath.

8. When you were a kid, what did you want to do (as a job) when you grew up? If it changed, why did it?

I wanted to be (in order) President, a nurse, a teacher, an actress, a dancer, a writer, an interior decorator, a Mom. I changed my mind about being President when I was told that “girls don’t become President.” I decided not to become a nurse because I was sick of hospitals from having to be there with my Mom so much. I decided I wanted to become a teacher cause I couldn’t think of anything else to be when I was in grade school. I decided I wanted to be an actor/dancer/writer in grade school. I dropped dancer in high school when I found out that dancers were skinny and usually started doing it professionally, if they were female, by the time they were in their teens, so I was too far behind. I gave up acting when I got to college and realized that I’d always want to kill myself more than I wanted to have a career as a minor character (fat, depressed gals are rarely the stars of anything). The writing thing has stuck around. I wanted to be an interior decorator in high school then realized I had a hard time telling the difference between shades of peach. I wanted to be a Mom when my internal clock started ticking in my late twenties, it stopped ticking in my thirties.

9. Sports?

No thanks. I do like watching figure skating though. And dog agility competitions, if I can ever find one to watch.

10. Last movie you watched?

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Bourne Identity. Matt Damon is my movie boyfriend.

11. What book(s) are you reading?

I’ve got two going on right now: The Holy Land: an Armchair Pilgrimage by Fr. Mitch Pacwa and And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake by Elizabeth Boyle. Usually I have three, one spiritual, one Romance, and one self-help or improving. I’m taking a self-help/improving break right now cause of the holidays.

12. If you had $5 million to spend in 5 days, but with the clause that you could not spend any of it on yourself or your family, what would you do with it?

Probably divide it into equal amounts and give it to various charities: animals in general, a cat rescue, mental health in general, depression research, the homeless, medical research, literacy, a couple of scholarship charities, international disaster relief, my local church, my local public library, my local mental health facility, and a couple of local food pantries.

13. If you had $5 million to spend, but with the clause that you could only spend it on yourself or your family, no saving it, what would you do with it?

I’d split $1 million in cash between various members of the family (my brother/sister-in-law, my nieces, an aunt and a cousin) for them to use however they wanted. Then with the remainder I’d pay off my brother’s house, buy myself a house, furnish said house, buy as many books as possible, then take a trip around the US and the world.

14. Were you named after anyone?

My parents decided that my Mom could name my brother and my Dad could name me. My Dad had a friend named Bonnie and always liked the name so that became my first name. My Dad’s family has a tradition where middle names are family names, so my middle name is my great-grandmother’s first name and an aunt’s middle name.

15. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yes.

16. Red or pink?

Pink, I hate red, but not baby-pink. I’m a woman, not a child.

17. Glasses or contacts?

Glasses. If God had intended we put things in our eyes our impulse to blink would be less pronounced.

18. What color is your car?

Red, but only because it was the only car in the model I wanted available in my area. Yes, I get the irony.

19. Hobbies, besides blogging?

Sleeping, eating, reading, crafts. I made a couple of ornaments for Christmas gifts this year.

20. Even or uneven?

Even. I hate it when things are crooked, even if it’s meant to be that way artistically.

Image from bravotv.com

Image from bravotv.com

And now, the Inside the Actor’s Studio questions:

1. What is your favorite word?

Peace.

2. What is your least favorite word?

Terminate. As in “we terminated the employee.” Really? You killed the employee?

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Possibilities. I like to imagine what would happen if someone had made a different decision.

4. What turns you off?

Inflexibility and rudeness.

5. What is your favorite curse word?

Sh*t. Because when people use it, it usually means exactly that.

6. What sound or noise do you love?

That inhalation that people make when they’ve experienced wonder.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

Engines, especially lawn mower and leaf-blower engines.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

This would be a better question if I had a profession. Umm, let’s assume right now my profession is something in customer service. I’d like to try, just once, to be a tour guide in one of those living history museums. Just to say I did.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Anything to do with garbage, picking it up, throwing it out, moving it around, etc. It’s just gross dealing with smelly stuff.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

I love you! and Great job!

new years

Happy New Year to all who celebrate!

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

R is for Religion (The Later Years)

r xmas fancyWhen last we left my spiritual self, I was identifying myself as agnostic or atheist and had a knee-jerk reaction of “eww” to any mention of organized religion. I was in this world during my twenties and during that time period I didn’t think much about my spiritual life; I was too busy trying to keep myself alive (financially and physically. Major Depression is a hard task master). Eventually, my life evened out and I started to think about the big pictures: why am I here, does God really exist, etc.

As I contemplated those questions, I had to admit that there was “something.” I wasn’t sure what, but I knew there had to be something above and beyond our physical existence. After all, if all there was was the physical, nothing in a spiritual plane, I should have been dead, homeless, friendless, family-less, and so on. There were too many instances in my life where I was pulled back from the brink of disaster for no particular reason. And it couldn’t have been luck, there were too many for it to be luck.

So I started to identify myself as “spiritual but not religious.” I figured that was a great way of saying that I couldn’t stand the thought of organized religion. Then I read an article about a new trend of people setting up altars in their homes. A home altar was something I’d never heard of and it sounded almost sacrilegious. Hence I was fascinated.

Not long after, I was in one of my favorite places, a bookstore, browsing and happened to wander into the metaphysical section. Usually, I avoided that area, as it was right next to the religious books that I wanted nothing to do with. I’ve no idea why I ended up there (God perhaps?) but I found a book about altars. As I paged through the book I discovered something new: Neo-Paganism. Now, I’d heard of Wicca and been told that it was witchcraft and evil (by a conservative Christian) so I wasn’t so keen on investigating it. But Neo-Paganism sounded intriguing. So I did some research and was fascinated by how different this “religion” was from everything I had had contact with. There was a Goddess, more than one for that matter, and it revered nature. From there I slowly started researching Wicca and found that it wasn’t evil as I’d been told but a nature religion that embraced the possibilities of the person.

I was hooked and read everything I could get my hands on about Neo-Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Goddesses, and

The Goddess Hestia. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Goddess Hestia. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Feminist Religions. I bought myself a necklace with a pentagram charm and wore it daily. I tried spells and chose a Goddess to worship (Hestia, Goddess of the hearth). But there was a problem. I felt disconnected from the spiritual (not to mention occasionally silly conducting rituals alone in my apartment).

So I tried to connect with the larger Neo-Pagan community. I live in a largely conservative, Christian, community. There were no community centers or clubhouses where Neo-Pagans congregated. I turned to the internet where I found listings of gatherings within drivable distance. And I promised myself I would attend one.

But the big test, the one that declared if I was really going to commit myself, was if I could get out of my bed for this religion. And I couldn’t. I made note of gatherings, planned to go, but never did. Eventually, the very nature of Neo-Paganism began to bother me. Despite some claims that Wicca and other Goddess-worship/nature-worship religions had been around for centuries, passed down in secret, there was no real evidence that this was true. Much of what drew me to the religion in the first place, the ability to be a solo practitioner, to basically make up your own religion, began to make me uncomfortable. And gradually the various trappings of Neo-Paganism fell away from my life and I went back to “spiritual but not religious.”

During this time period, I was working at a job that required me to work at least one weekend day. Typically I was scheduled to work on Sundays. Since I wasn’t happy with organized religion, I didn’t mind this at all. Until I hit my late twenties and, seemingly out of nowhere, I’d get the impulse to go to church. I, of course, ignored these impulses, but they bothered me. Why should I want to go to church, I’d ask myself. Look at how organized religion oppresses women and homosexuals. Look at how narrow-minded most religious people are, how unforgiving, how hypocritical. I didn’t want anything to do with these things.

Then my brother got engaged to a cradle Catholic and began to take RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes in preparation to convert to Catholicism. Over the months he attended the classes, I watched him closely for any evidence that he was turning into one of those hypocritical people I hated. Didn’t happen. In fact, he seemed to become more like himself, more settled into who he was, more peaceful.

But it was his wedding day that was the turning point for me. My brother and sister-in-law got married at the local cathedral, a gorgeous building of stone and stained glass. I’d never attended anything Catholic before, so the entire ceremony (properly called a Wedding Mass) was new to me. And what I saw was nothing like I’d been told about Catholicism. There was silence in the church itself, a type of reverence I hadn’t encountered in a church before. The Mass was beautiful and included more Bible quotations than I’d ever heard before. And the homily given by the priest was eye-opening. Instead of a generic speech about marriage I’d heard in other wedding ceremonies, the priest talked about my brother and sister-in-law. He knew them, personally, and spoke about their relationship in loving terms. It was a joyful, yet reverent, speech. Not once did I flinch when the priest mentioned Jesus. Afterwards, I was hopeful that maybe I could come back to organized religion. That maybe I could find a place that would accept me without the restrictions of the churches of my youth. That maybe God wasn’t so far away.

Exactly one week later, my schedule, inexplicably, changed and I had Sundays off. Not quite ready to walk into a church, I did what I always do when I’m confused or anxious about something, I turned to books. I learned a bit about each of the world’s religions and decided that I had to give the religion of my youth a chance. I told myself that I’d give Christianity a year, and if it didn’t work out I’d start in on the eastern religions. A voice in the back of my head told me that I’d eventually become Catholic, but I ignored it, thinking it a remnant of my childhood fascination with the nuns in the musical Sound of Music. So I read a bunch of books on Christianity, the different branches, outlooks, philosophies, dogmas.

After a few months of reading, I started “church shopping.” Every Sunday I’d drag myself out of bed (big sign right there) and attend a service at a different church, including the Catholic Church. My community seemingly has a church on every corner, so it was quite possible to spend over a year and not go to the same church twice. Most churches were “nice.” Some were boring, others a bit too cookie-cutter. I even attended a “mega-church” service, which I hated. It felt like I was going to a concert, not a worship service. All along I continued to do research into Christianity, thinking about the various dogmas, the history, debating with myself about the veracity of it all. I began to read the Bible. And slowly, I started to accept that Christianity, with all its problems, was the religion I had to accept. It was the religion of my heritage, it was in my blood, and I could not turn away.

After six months of “church shopping” I was exhausted. So I began to narrow down my choices and after a month or two of prayer and consideration, chose the Episcopal Church (for those unfamiliar, Episcopalianism is the American branch of the Anglican Church). My local church was “high” Episcopalian (in other words, very much like Catholicism) and I fell in love with their Mass, the ritual and reverence was soothing.

But it wasn’t until I accepted communion that I knew I was a Christian. From childhood I understood that communion was an important aspect of Christianity. When I began to fall away from God I started refusing communion, despite my family’s insistence that I take it on the few occasions I went to church. They told me it was just a symbol, a part of the community. But I thought taking communion, a fundamental aspect of a religion I didn’t believe in, would be hypocritical of me. So from my teens until my late twenties I refused communion.

Taking communion at the Episcopal Church, where it is believed that the bread and wine are God (not physically though, that’s where they differ from Catholicism), was an indescribable life-changing experience. For the first time, I felt I was accepted by an omnipotent being. That that being loved me, with all of my flaws.

wood rosary

Rosary

The next year or so was one of the most stable and life affirming of my life. I went to church most Sundays and began to make positive changes in my life. I started to pray the Rosary and set up an altar in my home. The fact that much of what I loved about the Episcopal Church was actually remnants from its Catholic past bothered me a little but I chose not to think about it. All I wanted was to be done with all of the pain and confusion of choosing a religion.

Of course, life doesn’t always give us what we want, and my life changed. An illness in the family prevented me from attending Sunday Mass and slowly I began to feel discontented with the Episcopal Church. I disliked the organization of the church, it felt unstable. And I seemed as if I was “stealing” things from the Catholic Church, despite the fact that many Episcopalians recited the Rosary and prayed to saints. With all my time being filled with taking care of my ill family member, I rarely attended church of any kind and stopped considering myself an Episcopalian.

After a few years, my family member died and my time was my own again. I considered returning to the Episcopalian Church but, since the things I loved most about that Church were the things that they kept from the Catholic Church, decided not to return. After a few months of religious aimlessness, I started attending Catholic Masses. I missed the familiarity of the Episcopal Mass, but knew that the Episcopal rituals were derived from the Catholic and found comfort there. And when RCIA classes started, I attended.

Attending RCIA classes was interesting, and occasionally confusing, but always fruitful. Over the nine months of classes, I learned a lot, thought even more, and eventually accepted that I was Catholic in my heart.

I found in the Catholic Church a place where my questions were answered, where people much smarter than me had debated the issues and made decisions guided by the hand of God after centuries of prayer. It was a church that welcomed doubt, loved and forgave without reservation, and accepted me as I was, confusion, doubts, reservations and all.

I was brought into the Church Easter of 2010. I have not regretted my choice to convert to the religion my (now deceased) mother once told me was evil incarnate. In the years since I have occasionally struggled with some of the dogmas of the church, but have never stopped feeling like I am Catholic in my heart, mind, and soul. Catholic I am, and Catholic I will be.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

R is for Religion (The Early Years)

r xmas lightsSince it’s Advent, I thought I’d tell you how/why I became Catholic. So, to quote Rogers and Hammerstein (Sound of Music): “Let’s start at the very beginning…”

I was brought up in a nominally Protestant household. What do I mean by nominally? I mean that we went to church, said we believed in God, had Bibles in our houses, taught our kids the same basic morals as was preached in church, but didn’t do much else. Not much praying before meals or bed. A “God Damn” was not followed by discipline. Missing church was not considered a sin. Basically, we were like most Americans. And we were comfortable in our nominalism.

My brother and I were baptized in a Lutheran church during the first year or so of our lives. But we rarely went to there. At least, that I can remember. Mostly we went to a Baptist church. Why the change? I’ve no idea. The only real reason I can think of is that more of my parents’ friends went to the Baptist church. I also remember my parents saying something once about attitudes toward the Deaf at the Lutheran church not being the best, but I could be mis-remembering that.

In any case, most Sundays we got up and went to church. There was Sunday school, if we made it there on time (it was held before services), pot-lucks, and choir. Yep, my parents were in choir. They called it the Singing Hands Choir. Basically what happened was a recording would play and an interpreter would lead the singers in the lyrics so they were together with the recording.

Sometime in my ‘tween years, my parents choir was responsible for the annual Christmas reenactment of the Nativity. For those of you who are unaware, the Nativity is the story of Jesus’ birth. Because I wasn’t fond of babysitters, I usually hung out at the church during the rehearsals for this program.

My very first spiritual experience happened during one of these rehearsals. I was entertaining myself by walking up and down the pews of the church and straightening the hymnals. The choir, including my parents who were playing Mary and Joseph, were up on the stage/alter, in costume. Much of the time they were doing all the really boring stuff like determining when and where people would move around, so I wasn’t paying much attention, just looking up every once in awhile to be sure my parents didn’t need me for anything.

It was during one of those glances that I saw three middle-aged men, dressed as Kings, sing “We Three Kings” in perfect unison. Chills went down my spine and I got choked up watching their hands move. A quick glance around found my parents and everyone else reverently watching them. And suddenly I started to wonder exactly what it was about the Christ child that would cause anyone to follow him. I sat, afraid that I’d fall down, and patiently watched the rest of the rehearsal. Dumbfounded, I listened to rest of that familiar story, hoping I’d get an answer. I don’t remember if I got one or not, but I do remember thinking that my parent’s choir was the best thing ever.

A year or so later, we watched a performance by an Evangelical theatre group and I got scared that I’d go to hell. After the performance was over, I walked up to my parents’ Sunday School teacher and said that I wanted to “accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” She nodded, said something along the lines of “that’s nice”, and walked away. I kept waiting for something to happen. For that teacher to come back to me. To be filled with hope, or at least chills. Something, anything, to acknowledge the huge step I was taking. But nothing happened.

Not long after this, our family attendance at church started to dwindle. My mother was getting sick a lot and, in my disappointment with God, I was trying to rebel by refusing to go to church. By my teens, I’d stopped going altogether, at least with my parents.

My best friend since fourth grade was a Christian. A The-Bible-is-the-literal-truth kinda Christian, who was “on fire” praying_on_bible_redfor Jesus. This kind of Evangelicalism was, as you can imagine, a huge turn off for me. But she was my friend, so I let her drag me to youth activities at her church. There, between flirting with boys and gossiping with the gals, I learned quite a few of her church’s views. It was there that I realized that my family didn’t really “walk the talk.” Not that they were bad people, they just didn’t pray daily, read the Bible a lot, or quote verses all the time. By this point, I’d stopped believing in Jesus and the Bible, so it didn’t matter to me that our family wasn’t “doing” Christianity right.

I was about fifteen when the Mormons came to call. Now I should tell you that my parents were magnets for all kinds of religious organizations. We’d been given so many Bibles in so many different translations and sizes that they had their own bookcase. I don’t know if it was because the various Christian denominations targeted my parents for conversion because of their disability or if my parents were just unable to say “no” when handed a free Bible. It was probably a bit of both. In any case, the Mormons came, and came, and came, and came again. They knew sign language, were young and nice. So my parents smiled and nodded. They invited my parents to their church. My parents went. They invited my parents to convert. My parents converted. Complete with re-baptism and a long ceremony.

“We’re just being polite,” my mother told me. “We don’t really believe what they say, but it would be rude to say no. ” I just stared at my mother, eyes wide, mouth open. I think this was the moment I realized my parents were not like me. And, unlike most Deaf people, they were more afraid of hearing people’ perceptions than in living a life of integrity.

My best friend, however, wasn’t giving up on me. She constantly tried to talk me into becoming a Christian. When I told her that I had tried that and been brushed off, she told me that I must not have approached it right. That I should “accept” Jesus NOW. However, accepting Jesus meant that I also had to give up believing in Evolution and homosexual rights. I had to believe that every word of the Bible, even the contradictory words, was the absolute truth. Lit-er-a-lly the truth. Forever and ever, amen.

I just couldn’t do it. And I could never get my friend to explain why everything had to be so black and white. Why couldn’t seven of God’s days look like millions of years to humans? If Jesus was all about love, why couldn’t a man love another man?

There were times though that I wanted to say “yes, please, I want to be loved by Jesus. Please love me God. I want to believe. I’m so tired of not believing.” But each time I asked my friend if it was okay to accept Jesus even if I didn’t believe in everything, she said “No. You have to believe in it all and with your whole heart. Otherwise, you’re going to hell.” Well, I was going to hell, because I just couldn’t see why a loving God could turn his back on a human’s love just because the object of that love had the wrong body parts.

It was when I went to college (the first time) that I started calling myself, depending on who asked and how much debating I wanted to engage in, atheist or agnostic. I didn’t want to have anything to do with religion. I couldn’t believe in an institution that rejected people for the very thing it said it was all about: Love.

Coming next post: Paganism, church shopping, and the Rosary.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.