At some point, there might be an essay to accompany this photo…or there might not…
Some of you guys might know that my boy was home sick from school all week. We spent our days together very intensely as is usually the case when he’s sick, which means lots and lots of babying, cuddling, talking, talking, TALKING about everything in the whole wide world – yes, even when he’s sick – and doing all sorts of projects as he felt able, etc.
He called out for his Daddy at 5:30 this morning but Husband was already downstairs and didn’t hear him, so I went into Boy’s room to see what was up. He let me know he wanted his Daddy, not me – which is GOOD because the kid knows I am not an early morning person – and I told him I was just filling in until Daddy got up there.
I climbed into bed with him hoping he’d fall back asleep, but NO, and then he goes, “Mom, I’m feeling worried about something. You know how we were together for so many days in a row just you and me? Well, by last night I needed a break from you (I bit my lip to hold back the laughter) and when you told me to do something, I thought to myself, SHOVE IT. Does that mean I’m bad?” I finally laughed out loud, I just couldn’t help it, and I told him no, of course not, it means you’re normal. But you know you would have been in big trouble if you’d said that to me, right? And truthfully, by last night I felt the same way, but I didn’t SAY what I was thinking either. Because that would be mean and disrespectful. I moved on from that normal but negative thought in my head and I JUST DROVE AWAY AS SOON AS DADDY GOT HOME, remember? And he goes, “ohhhhh, so that’s why you left in such a hurry to run errands (*uses finger quotes*)? To get a break from me?” And I said yup and we laughed.
In honor of my daughter’s homecoming tomorrow night and because I needed a good laugh before bed, I give you this: It’s the end portion of a long text exchange between me and Girl from a few weeks ago, one in which we were discussing her philosophy course. Sometimes I scroll through our text conversations – yes, I save them ALL since she left for college – because there’s just SO MUCH good stuff. And anyway, when I stumbled on this tonight, well, I laughed myself silly which is exactly what I was going for. Enjoy. I know I did.
I went to church yesterday for the first time in a long time, because I promised my son. He’s having to make some pretty big adjustments at school and at home and he just really needs me to go with him right now. I wish you could hear him trying to process the Gospel in the context of his young life. It’s unbelievable. So anyway, you probably know that I strongly dislike going to church, I still can’t fully articulate why, but obviously it’s directly tied to our 2006 departure, right after my boy was born, from the faith tradition in which I was raised and the church in which I’d spent the bulk of my adult life. I don’t talk about it anymore, BLAHBLAHanytomDICKorharrycanmasqueradeasapriestBLAH.
Anyway, church yesterday was fine – this is the church my husband shopped for and chose nearly 2 years after we left our former church because we realized if we didn’t take our kids to church, they wouldn’t go – and it made my son and my husband happy to have me there. I’m sad that its still so hard for me to go, but I was there today for Boy, and I will be there one Sunday at a time as long as I can keep it together. I’m trying to explain the whole thing to him, but it’s ugly, and I want him to have church without the ugly. Anyway, the music was good – so different from what I grew up with, but I actually like most of it now, when before it just made me cry – and I found myself wishing that church could just be that, the music. Drop in, enjoy some praise music, give a few hugs or high fives and leave.
Anyway, I saw two women I’ve gotten to know a little, women who have invited me to join various small groups with them over these past 7 years. I ended up dropping out of the most recent small group I tried to participate in, so I don’t see them much at all anymore, other than when we randomly bump into each other like yesterday or on FB. There was nothing at all wrong with their group, all nice ladies, just too many of them or something. I don’t know. And I was DEFINITELY the token liberal doubter in there, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I admit they LOVED me with a capital L, but it didn’t seem like I had anything to give them, nothing they seemed to need from me anyway. I just didn’t want to be in that setting anymore, me apparently needing some sort of repair or adjustment in their view, and I certainly wasn’t going to become more like them because the doubt is as big a part of my faith now as the faith itself, and truthfully, their collective unquestioning faith was unnerving me. I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore, it scared me. On some level, I’m still attracted to what they have, I miss it, being a church lady and having my closest friends be church people and all, but ultimately I don’t want that anymore because it feels kind of dangerous to me. Almost cultish. It’s me, not them, I know. It’s my past experience, not them, I know. I simply do much better one on one or in unorganized, informal, more diverse gatherings or randomly dropping into church when I feel moved to or reading folks like Anne Lamott. Obviously I’m still listening to that voice that SCREAMS caution at me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not in constant conversation with God because trust me, I AM.
One of the main reasons I keep going back to Jesus at all is that I get sick of being depressed about injustice and how horrible people can be to one another. I need to believe that there’s meaning in the suffering. Or something. But it’s definitely more than that. You might not get this given how much I dislike organized religion, and I can’t tell you why exactly, but not only do I still believe in Jesus and in who He is and what He did for us, I also really dig Him, love Him actually. I can totally get behind his basic teachings which boil down to this: 1) Love God 2) Love People. That’s it. The SparkNotes version. Simple. That’s all my deeply flawed human brain and heart can handle. And maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s everything. The rest is open to interpretation and debate and I really don’t care about the details and the rules because more often than not it seems to me we hide behind them and/or we use them to make ourselves feel better or superior or we use them to advance our own agendas and hurt and oppress and trick people IN THE NAME OF GOD and then the LOVE part gets lost which totally must make Jesus weep. And don’t even get me started about the church as an institution because I don’t trust it anymore which I realize complicates things because church is supposed to be a spiritual hospital and maybe it would be awesome if it wasn’t so often perverted by humans. And the related phenomenon of THE CULT OF PERSONALITY? And the associated inevitable abuses? Terrifying. And I cannot stand that dogmatism is valued over humanism, especially in hierarchical churches. It’s UNCHRISTIAN. There. I said it. Apparently I’m supposed to be able to navigate all of that and still feel spiritually nourished and safe but I can’t anymore. I don’t want to. But Love God and Love People? Good. I can get behind that and spend the rest of my life trying to do better at it because that’s a project. The rest? Shut the fuck up.
Both of my kids are spiritual in their own ways, not sure how that happened but it did. Boy believes as much as an 8 year old can, he also questions a lot and tries so hard to make sense of it all, while Girl is quite solid in her belief. They are both respectively comforted by their understanding of their faith and I hope they always will be. I think it’s hard for them, and for Husband, to watch me struggle with my pain around the institution of the church and how that impacts my faith – I just can’t seem to separate the two – but we talk about it and we get through it.
Girl and I recently got into a long conversation about ways in which we’re different, which are so often wrapped up in my skepticism or pessimism and her optimism. It started when we recalled an incident that happened on a NYC street this past summer. A dude got pissed off at another dude and threw a big fat thick hardcover book at him in the middle of the crosswalk, but the book didn’t hit his target, it hit me instead. I was understandably stunned, went right up to the guy, told him he hurt me, and asked him why he did it. I have a voice now and I USE IT. That was dumb, I know, because he was enraged. But anyway, he said the dude he was trying to hit had tripped him a block back and he wasn’t going to let him get away with it. All I kept thinking was damn good thing he didn’t have a gun. I was so shocked, and didn’t really know what to do with it all. Girl just wanted me to move on, to shake it off, to forgive, to believe the dude didn’t mean to hurt ME. It wasn’t personal. She didn’t want me to see or hang onto another ugly thing that might further darken my view of this hell hole I think we live in because LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. And I was all WTF are you talking about because it doesn’t matter who he meant to hurt. I was incredulous that she seemed more concerned with me immediately forgiving him and accepting it was an accident because his target was someone else. As if that should make me feel better or absolve him. It felt like she was making so many excuses for him that she had no compassion for how scared or triggered or angry I was. Or that what the dude did was WRONG and dangerous. I bet if a cop had been around he would have been arrested. She observed shortly thereafter that the incident screamed out our differences in that I lean heavily towards justice and she leans heavily towards mercy. And we bitched at each other about it for a long time until we arrived at a deeper understanding together. She further noted that the thing is that either one in excess or in absence of the other – justice or mercy – can be a destructive thing and we both experience that in our own lives and in our relationships, including with each other. Yeah, amazing kid, I know. So anyway, apparently only Jesus – who is NOT neutral – knows how to apply justice and mercy in perfect and equal measure, which I guess is one of the reasons this world we live in is so messed up, which totally pisses me off but whatever.
Yeah, so anyway. Why? WhyWhyWhyWhy? I ask that question of God all the time, I know He’s listening and that He’s there but He constantly annoys me by not answering. Not in a language I understand anyway. And truthfully, I don’t trust Him so much anymore because it feels like He’s missing in action. A lot of the time. And it feels like He’s sitting up there saying I don’t have to tell you WHY because I’m God and you wouldn’t understand even if I explained it to you. So just Love Me, Love People, keep your side of the street clean, keep working and keep trying and keep waiting no matter what happens and I’ll be here to catch you every time you fall in My own perfect way which you won’t understand either. The point is that you must never give up and there are better things ahead, maybe not until after you’re dead, or alive again, or whatever, but still. If you lean on Me, you’ll feel better so just do that. Because I said so. And I do try…but obviously I give Him a fair amount of hell in the process. He doesn’t take care of shit the way I would, that’s for damn sure. And hell yes, if I ever see his face, we will talk about that. Even though I don’t get Him most of the time, I do still inexplicably believe on some level that He’s there and that He’s hanging in there with me.
….because I just don’t know….
The sexual assault epidemic on US college campuses
The marginalization of the LGBTQ community at my daughter’s college
Growing income inequality and the number of CHILDREN in this country living in poverty
What should have been the 19th birthday of my daughter’s friend who committed suicide in October
The second anniversary of Sandy Hook
The goddamn GUNS
The CIA torture report
….maybe when I know what to say, I’ll say something….and until then….
What happens when my kid gets sick right before I’m supposed to meet up with my BFF in Florida for the weekend to celebrate her 50th birthday while she just happens to be down there at a lovely resort for a conference?
My kid quickly gets better, goes back to school and I GET SICK. Because thats a RULE OF LIFE.
But that is NOT stopping me, no matter what. I AM OUT OF HERE TOMORROW MORNING and I’ll crawl there if I have to. I’m very, very sorry to have to show you this as I finish packing and I cough up God knows what and I lose more and more of my voice as the night goes on:
And finally, in the immortal words of my almost 9 yr old son…SO LONG, SUCKERS! I’M BEACH BOUND! No matter what.
Postscript, Thursday 8:30am: I wouldn’t say I feel like death this morning but I totally and completely LOOK LIKE DEATH so I put some makeup on which typically I reserve for very special occasions only because I don’t like it. When I got downstairs, Boy goes, “Mom, NO, what were you thinking?! Take that stuff off, it’s not you. Seriously, it’s disturbing.”