Couldn't think of a cool title…

May 31, 2009

Pentecost and Today’s News

Filed under: News Worth Knowing, Spirituality, Uncategorized — me @ 3:31 pm

Went to church for the first time in a long while, where several 14 year olds were getting “confirmed”– a process I was never subjected to but might have actually enjoyed as a kid. It happens to also be Pentecost Sunday, which is the day the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and they famously could speak in tongues. If you had asked me what Pentecost was before the Service I would have made a bad guess and even now I’m only marginally sure how to spell it.

I learned a few things today, such as that the Holy Spirit, linguistically speaking, is without a doubt feminine. There are many (valid) reasons to debate whether God should be referred to in the masculine but there is no question that the words in Hebrew and Greek that are used to describe the Holy Spirit are feminine. Pentecost, the minister told the young confirmands, is emblematic of Christianity– to be so taken with the Holy Spirit that outsiders will gossip Are They Drunk? It’s interesting to me that this holiday has no Hallmark cards or special candies, no traditional feasting to speak of– is known as “the church’s birthday.” So the Christian church was born in mysticism– feminine mysticism at that– a radically inclusive and dramatic flash of joyful connection– and now it’s anniversary year is celebrated so often as a footnote shrouded by often inhibited churchgoers in their Sunday best, who barely know their own neighbors let alone the people in the pew nearby. Where is the intrigue, the adventure in the re-telling of it all? So little surprises people anymore, is it a wonder there isn’t excited debate going on during “coffee and conversation” time each Pentecost Sunday?

I love the story of Pentecost as a Tower of Babel in reverse– suddenly people of all different backgrounds found a common language, a reason to connect, a hurrah in their hearts as the Holy Spirit descended on them all. There is perhaps no better example of the radical inclusivity of God’s love than this  particular testimony, and no better directive towards community and diverse assembly in doing His Work. We are called to talk to each other, despite sometimes seeming insurmountable differences.

Thinking in this light, it makes this tragedy all the more outrageous. Forget politics. Any theology that supports this murder is bullshit.

November 29, 2008

On a Day After Thanksgiving Ten Years Ago Today

Filed under: Memories, Personal, Spirituality — me @ 4:32 am

I was at a funeral I could never forget. Sitting in the surround-sound call-and-response of a Baptist church as the preacher talked about how God created them Male and Female, watching and hearing the outrage (and approval) around me, my head spinning- not fully able to comprehend what was happening. The preacher droned on, saying “and the Bible says…,” “because the Bible says…,” “remember the Bible says…,” — and I sobbed, embarrassed of my Christianity, angry to be part of a human race that could desecrate the dead, ashamed to be a witness my Dear Just-Turned-20-Year-Old friend be attacked even in death.

I remember seeing Urbanblight’s stone face in the back of the church as several people began walking out of what he would later describe as the most offensive thing he’d ever seen. I remember Uccellina somehow magically appearing next to me and somewhere in there after the fifteen thousandth chorus of “the Bible says” I reached out and found the Bible in front of me, running my hands through the pages until I found the sex laws in Leviticus and tore that thin paper out and found a tiny fraction of relief. In my grieving mind I could live with “the Bible says” being shouted ahead of me, so long as in my head I could reply “well THIS one Bible doesn’t.”

People often say they don’t remember their 21st birthday and the drunkness it often involves. But I remember that when I turned 21 a few months later, I realized it was a blessing he would not get. The finality hit home as I realized that to turn 21 was not a Given. I was blessed with these past ten years, and I’ve done my best with them. My Friend would have been 30 this past October, and I often wonder where his life would have taken him. I imagine it is hard the first time ANYONE goes to the funeral of a young person, particularly one who had been close. It was inconceiveable to imagine that someone so strong and healthy, someone who had been such a friend to me– could suddenly be gone.

But Friend’s passing left me with more than an increased sense of the Fragility of Life.  It changed me as a Person of Faith. Neutrality was no longer an option. I have tried to remember him well and to tell his story when it mattered most. It is in this way that I have come to some meager peace over such tragedy, to find some comfort that the tale of his passing could make a Difference, and that one day it would be unimaginable that such a thing might happen to another. May he, and the others whose tales are far too like his, rest in peace.

October 12, 2008

Moving into Stage 2, I think

Filed under: Business, Melancholy, Personal, Spirituality, Workaholism — me @ 9:38 pm

Looking back on this past week through the lens of the grieving process, I realized that I denial was a huge part of my experience. I couldn’t handle talking about the situation, and I certainly wasn’t making preparations for the future, or experiencing any kind of relief. Mainly I was (and in many ways still am) just kind of mortified to be here right now. In the midst of all this sadness and impending displacement, I mean.

But something new has been popping up, which I suppose confirms that this really is a journey in mourning. I’m angry. It hadn’t really occurred to me that I was angry at first. Around Thursday I stopped in at my church and talked to one of the ministers there. I felt like I wanted to talk to someone totally objective who might be able to help. I talk to my friends but I worry a lot about boring/annoying them. I feel a lot of the time that they can’t possibly grasp what has happened for me. I want to be a champion of my own courage, to brag about this move and its symbolic power in closing a chapter of my life that included a lot of distress. But instead I have felt distracted, foggy, at times miserably sad. Underwater even. I know from experience that you can’t float up out of the lower limits of depression on your own, so I reached out. He is the one who brought up that I was probably angry.

There’s something about my upbringing that makes me apologetic at the notion of being angry. At any rate, when he said it, and I thought about it, it was clear that it was true– if hiding deep below the surface of all the wanting-to-hide-under-the-covers-ness, it was definitely there. I’m angry at the ways I feel I was badly treated. I’m angry at feeling “forced” to leave a job that I in some ways felt born to do. I’m angry at the misinformation already spreading about, regarding my reasons for leaving and my abilities in my position.

Minister said I should read some Psalms. In my denial/anger state I didn’t take the suggestion very seriously, but really I don’t know what I was expecting. Of course that is what Minister would say. And it certainly can’t hurt. He said what’s great about the Psalms is that they’re filled with the voices of people who’ve felt let down or abandoned, people who often aren’t necessarily thrilled with God. I have clung to God throughout the process of getting to this point– first trying to discern what it was I ought to do, and then praying–begging really– that I might have the courage to go through with it. My spirituality has always been a friend to me when there was no one else to make something happen but me. It definitely got to a point where there were no more conversations with friends to be had, no pros and cons lists– just action needing to be taken. But while His voice was there for me as I made the decision I guess I haven’t really been able to key into that yet since the decision has been made. I know I’m not alone, and I know making it through this journey will certainly be easier with a faith that I’m taken care of and going where I need to go. But I guess I just haven’t been ready to really… be spiritual… in all this unhappiness. It doesn’t frighten me, I know my religious connection will be there for me when I am ready for it, but I guess sorting out my feelings has been a bigger priority thus far.

There have been times in depression that I feel alone with my God, in some ways closer to Him than ever– underwater and yet with a witness at least. Other times are like this, when I know He is there and will be there, but I kind of ignore– almost avoid– that part of myself because I feel like I need to re-align. I’ve always said I would be a mess without my believe in God. But sometimes WHEN I’m a mess my belief in God, for better or worse, becomes a bit of an afterthought. Maybe, like those Psalmists, as I see myself moving away from denial and into more anger, if nothing else I’ll have more to say to Him.

January 14, 2008

I know, been busy…

Filed under: Spirituality, Workaholism — me @ 6:34 pm

Part of the reason I haven’t posted much lately is I haven’t felt very coherent or articulate. I definitely have a sense that I’m on the precipice of a new stage in my life, except I’m not altogether sure what that stage is or will hold. Certainly I have been questioning my long-term commitment to my Job, and that has been part of it. And I’ve been trying to climb my way out of depression once again, with varying results. I have this constant question in my mind of “Well what DO I want?” and my answers have not been too clear, which worries me. I’m used to being pretty sure about these things. Or at least I like to think so.

I have been good the past couple weeks and actually taken real weekends (Sunday-Monday) Well, there may have been some e-mail involved but it’s a start. It’s hard not to panic on a day off about all the things that I have to face when I return to work. But I’m trying to be strong about it, let things fall where they may, and tell myself I will be more productive if I’m rested at least. Through no great initiative of my own I also got out of teaching Sunday School (attendance was low and they combined classes and don’t need me much anymore), which is also probably a good thing in the realm of taking things off my list. I haven’t been to church in a couple months, which I regret, and I do want to get back into that soon. I need restoration. And maybe a place of worship isn’t a bad place to sort out a life’s purpose…

October 21, 2007

Loving People Sure is Emotionally Draining

Filed under: Melancholy, Spirituality — me @ 6:59 pm

My pastor is moving to another church. I find it extremely hard to talk about with friends my age, particularly friends who don’t know my church and what it is like there. Partly because its my faith is very personal to me I guess and partly because everyone my age seems to be agnostic, or passionately pagan, or devoutly  atheist– and the fact is that Christianity has a bad rep among my generation. I don’t dispute that this rep has been largely earned– it’s just that it’s become kind of accepted to bash people of faith as though they were all ignorant, or mean-spirited, or at least misguided. And that hurts sometimes.

I am the first to say that the public face of Christianity in this country disenfranchises virtually all other world views and spiritual practices on a regular basis, and that it’s not fair. And that one of the greatest travesties done on behalf of the church, throughout the ages, is abuse. Sometimes I try to grasp just how many have been hurt on behalf of religion, and by my religion, specifically. I can say that my God is a different God than that of the man who stood on the pulpit over my friends’ corpse just under nine (!) years ago, who felt it necessary to let us all know at that moment of his future in hell and ours as well. I can say that the whites who sought to Christianize the Lakota Indians by stealing children from their families and beating them in boarding school prisons when they didn’t speak English were not truly acting in His name. But semantics aren’t very helpful in these cases, and to some extent that is what it is. I met a young man a few years ago who blew his settlement money on crack cocaine after suffering for years because of his priest’s sexual misconduct. I doubt my protest that technically I’m Protestant would mean little in the face of his well-earned right to despise the Christian faithful. Christians need to own up and take responsibility. People are broken. It’s in our nature and it’s part of our life. And sometimes the institutions we are a part of contribute to that brokenness. I can’t fix the way so many people I care about have been hurt in this way, and I respect those who have examined the evidence and come out critical of this belief system that orders so much of my life and provides what little clarity and comfort I feel I have at times. So I laugh at certain comedians and remain silent when my friends comment that they think Jesus is a fake made-up story. But there is a bitterness towards my faith sometimes that makes me feel like I need to hide it, almost be ashamed of it, and it hurts.

I’m grieving my minister. He has not died, he is just moving on to his next adventure and I am proud of him for embracing the opportunity for new challenges. He has played so many roles in my life, in just the short time I’ve known him and been a part of this church. He’s sweet and funny and wise– kind of a self-deprecating teddy bear sometimes and kind of a world-weary activist in others. He gets excited about things and it’s contagious. He wears his heart on his sleeve and worries about being liked, and yet he had the courage to write a sermon about a friend who died in Vietnam during the months when America appeared to be counting down to the start of the Iraq War as though it were a Superbowl. He let me direct Laramie Project in the sanctuary and then shielded me from the outrage of those who did not approve. He comforted me with his quiet anger when I confided that someone in the church, charged with helping me through a difficult time had dropped the ball. He prayed with me. I miss him already.

October 1, 2007

Game Plan

Filed under: Spirituality, Workaholism — me @ 2:37 am

So I met with my pastor on Thursday and talked with him about some of the workaholism-related issues I’ve been struggling with lately. He had an interesting perspective. There is a story that is often told, from John 5, of the man sitting on his mat in front of the “healing” lake for 38 years. He has some sort of great infirmity and it is said that when the water ripples the first person in the water will be healed. So Jesus asks this man what his trouble is and listens to his litany of reasons he has yet to find healing. “Pick up your mat and walk.” And of course, after 38 years the mat is a metaphor for his life. Pick up your life and walk. Sometimes it all comes down to that.

So I’ve been trying to formulate a game plan, and it’s been harder than I expected. Simply put, I have to figure out what my boundaries are and then I need to communicate them to the people I work with. I’m definitely moving towards a two-day weekend at work, which is HUGE. Getting my hair done every few weeks seems like a step in the right direction– if I feel like I look better than I seem to take better control of my life in general for some reason. I have a sense that I need to underschedule– or at least take things off of my schedule before I add new ones– it’s something I find difficult to “enforce” though.

I’m currently taking a class on prayer on Tuesday mornings and I think that or some similar activity needs to be a regular part of my week. I need centering– even in the short time I’ve been doing this class it’s been clear how scattered I am, it’s difficult for me to hand over my attention to a simple meditation for very long at all. So I think that’s a sign it’s something I need.

I guess there isn’t necessarily a shortage of ideas, just a shortage of confidence.  I don’t have faith in myself yet that I can carry some of these things out. But if it was something that came naturally I wouldn’t need a plan. And I’ve got to pick up that mat if I’m ever going to walk, so I’m going to do my best.

June 30, 2007

Senior Year

Filed under: Memories, Personal, Sister, Spirituality, Talks with the Doc — me @ 5:04 pm

There were ways I fully came into my own. Having been relieved of any obligation to take any more math classes until college, I had enough credits to just take 3 classes and a study hall at Real School. I took a semester of Speech and a semester of Urban Literature with really great teachers. In speech I sat with a friend from Arts School and had a grand time basically hanging out and occasionally writing stuff. With probably 30 kids in the class, it was a breeze for me– give a speech once every couple weeks and spend the rest of the month listening to people. In Urban Literature we studied primary sources of the history of my sometimes sad city, and read books like Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas, a book that probably would have been banned in most of my friends’ more suburban school districts. I remember reading an amazing short story about a little boy earning his father’s praise by shooting an escaped slave. Then I went to Psychology, which was taught by my Biology teacher from the year before. This teacher was one of the great ones, and taking a class with her in a subject I was actually interested in was academic bliss. There are times when I feel compelled to defend my alma mater despite its very real issues– and she is a reason. I saw my college friend’s biology and psychology homework and marveled at how easy it was compared to the standards she held us to. There was chemistry though, because my school required 2 lab classes to graduate. Chemistry was a class my father pushed me to take when I thought physics sound much more interesting and useful. I maintain that I was right to this day. Chemistry class for me represented, now and then, everything that was wrong about education today. Once every week or two there would be a test. I would memorize terms the night before, take the test, and promptly shuttle the knowledge out of my brain. I worked the system, masterfully, earning an A- in the course. After years of taking “Honors” classes in almost every subject, I purposely downgraded to an “Academic” class. But I did not then, nor do I now, have any understanding of chemistry, period– in a class that was supposedly preparing me for college level science classes. Chemistry’s entire significance was that it allowed me to pass high school.

Art School, of course, was fabulous. My acting classes were wonderful, including my main one that had a great new teacher I am friends with to this day. My classmates and I were very close-knit and we enjoyed ourselves except for occasional worries about whether our presentations would be sufficiently impressive enough to the younger classes we imagined looked up to us. There were several performance events towards the end of the year that I felt proud of and I cannot begin to express how grateful I was for having been able to have had the chance to do them. I had convinced Urbanblight to forego his parochial school education (I don’t recall that took much convincing) and join me there. This made for great fun and lots of Burger King (weird now, since he’s a vegetarian), although there was a definite moment when he realized he knew a thing or two, and didn’t quite hold me up in quite the same way he used to. There were areas in which he always thought of me as wiser or more knowledgeable, and I distinctly remember feeling a little threatened when his confidence  changed.

It was a difficult year for me in terms of Sister. January 4, 1996 stands out to this day as the worst night of my life. I remember calling Urbanblight at 6:02AM the next morning to tell him how I watched her come down from what we think was pot laced with heroin, in my bedroom, thinking she was going to die and believing it would be my fault for not calling a hospital or telling my parents upstairs. He had to explain the early call to his parents by claiming my parents were so stupidly conservative we didn’t have a TV or radio to notify us as to whether Arts School was having a snow day. I told my parents she was sick and that I was tired from taking care of her and convinced them to let me stay home from school too.  I remember volunteering to shovel off and warm up my dad’s car, and putting a Blues Traveler tape in while I sobbed, the first moment I’d been able to, obsessing over the image of my 15 year old very little sister, clutching her dirty white teddy bear, confessing, “I’m not strong.” I repeated a verse that I had desperately found in my Bible that night, “The Lord is good to all and his compassion is over all that he has made.” And I remember thinking how– ironic?– it was that in the end I would find a way to tell this story but that there would always be a sort of guilt or embarrassment to admit that my religion had meant something on the worst night of my life. I remember Urbanblight coming over after school with my “homework” and the smell of his green jacket while he held me. I remember watching TV with my mom and my sister, and how my mom stared at my sister suddenly– and I knew she knew that something was up, something wasn’t right. I remember Ucellina’s reaction– “Wow, I think you finally entered adolescence.” And I remember that it was very odd how life went on as if nothing happened.

A few months later Sister was skipping school with some friends and they were in a car crash, the day a new Children’s Hospital opened in town. She had a black eye– or more accurately, a startling RED eye, for some time afterwards. My parents were embarrassed and mad, and I imagine scared that she could have been more hurt. Her Catholic school made an example of them, overtly saying “see this is what happens when you skip school.” Sister had always been at war with the administration of her school on  a lower level, but this was the moment when things got really bad there, and for my parents with her. And I remember feeling powerless to protect  her from herself or from these various adults’ feelings towards her. I longed for her to find a sport or hobby, a class she enjoyed– but she settled on a boyfriend and smoked cigarettes out on the back porch while my parents either didn’t notice or pretended not to. Mornings especially were a nightmare, with my mother screaming upstairs, begging Sister to get out of bed and go to school, Sister yelling back to leave her alone. If ever a situation called for professional help it was this, but as far as I can tell my parents sought out no real resources for themselves or for her.

I recently was talking with the Doctor about my college selection experience, something I had not thought about in some time. It surprised me how quickly and deeply the pain of that time cut into me. Struggling and then choosing to go to Boston. Telling my parents my decision (in tears), and then telling my friends over the next 12 hours. My mom showing up at school unannounced to take me to lunch. Driving around while she told me that my father was “scared,” that we “couldn’t afford it,” that she didn’t think I “really wanted it,” and that I needed to go to school seven blocks from my house. Robbed of my decision, I sat in shock, anger, paralysis. My mother was purposely manipulating my emotions to keep me there. I think it was then that I became stubborn. It was then that I realized how hard I had to fight some things. It was then that the “outbursts” I sometimes get criticized for today (in my professional life surrounded by passive agressive types) became a survival mechanism I had determined I must learn. I had already told people. It had taken so much energy to embrace Boston and to make myself sign up– for me and my future, to choose to grow rather than to hold on to my childhood. And suddenly that couldn’t happen, because what was really important was that I protect my family emotionally, in every way.

The more I think about senior year the more I realize how complicated a time it was for me. I guess it is no wonder that 11 years later I would still be processing so much of it.

April 8, 2007

Happy Easter

Filed under: Spirituality — me @ 3:56 pm

Whether you consider yourself religious/spiritual or not, I hope that any of you that are hoping for a resurrection in your own life or in those you care about find it.

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