New Entry Soon To Arrive (NESTA)
Anyone else feel like they have to work to maintain sanity? The more I talk to people the more I realize that this isn’t exactly normal. But I feel like I have to keep pretty close tabs on my mental state otherwise I go a little crazy. Also, basil is my favorite smell in the world. That and honeysuckle, and vacuum cleaner.
I woke up yesterday morning and the first thought in my mind after “that was an awesome Harry Potter dream” was “I need to go to Maine TODAY”. So I got out of bed, put some bread in the toaster, hula hooped while I waited for it to brown, ate my breakfast, then got in the car and started to make my way on up to the glorious Maine.
I’ve been more or less living out of my car for the past month, like some kind of awesome gypsy-vagabond woman (in reality I’m more like a crazy bag lady with a predilection for accumulating twist-ties and other useless items, but gypsy-vagabond sounds much cooler). The transitory life style can get kind of old, but one of the major upsides is that I can leave where I am at any moment since I’m already packed. I can drop everything and pursue adventure whenever I so please.
After 7 hours in the car, I started to see familiar sights. Suburban Propane, the giant paint-chipped statue of a guy in an apron, Hamilton’s Dairy Barn (nee Avril’s Ice Cream). I went from intermittent smiling to downright giddiness as I pulled on to that blessed Fairway Drive. Stepping into the cabin evoked feeling that I imagine must be similar to what a monk feels upon entering a monastery.
Everything seems sacred here. Even the most menial actions are wrought with significance. Washing my face, for example. Instead of a chore that stood between me and sleep, it was magically cleansing, in every way possible. Maybe it’s because the air is cleaner and the water softer. Maybe it’s the disconnectedness from TV, internet, light, and noise. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of being in a place that harbors innumerable childhood memories. It’s probably a combination of everything. If I could achieve this level of mindfulness and joy in my daily life, I’m pretty sure I would be on par with the Dalai Lama.
I plan to avoid the internet as much as possible while I’m here, which won’t be difficult because I have to travel to a “Tim Hortons” for internet access. But I’m here today to get a few last recipes and crafty project ideas from the internet to put onto my computer. So adieu for now.
My mother and I were talking the other day about The Doughnut Man. For those of you who are fortunate enough to not know The Doughnut Man, he was a popular… personality in the Christian realm. He made videos and tapes that taught children how to be good little Christians, because “life without Jesus is like a doughnut, ‘cuz there’s a hole in the middle of your heart”. From day one Christians are taught that anyone who does not practice their particular brand of Christianity is a sad, lonely, miserable, probably evil person. This teaching perpetuates such disfunction, the gravity of which I am just now coming to fully realize.
When you walk through life with the constant message that anyone who is not like you is in a much worse position, you put yourself on a pedestal. You end up either pitying or snubbing anyone who is unlike you. I think this can help explain the intense judgement that goes on within and by church communities. The more I started to realize this, the more I was able to free myself from constricting prejudices towards people.
Another element that ties into this is the idea that Christians are in a place to save the rest of humanity, and humanity is lost and depraved and therefor has nothing to offer Christians. This manifests especially in the mission field (excuse the Christian jargon) because missionaries are held in such high esteem. They are seen as these saintly beings who swoop in and save everyone from eternal damnation. The lessons we can learn from other cultures and just from other individuals are so valuable, yet are being lost because their source is not seen as biblical. The other day I was talking to a Christian about Ghandi and she said “well I can’t view him as a good person who I would try to act like because he’s not a Christian”. Even after clarification she reiterated that the things he did weren’t necessarily good because they weren’t from God. It’s so important to listen to and appreciate and value every human being. It’s just crazy to me that a person can completely disregard a lifetime of world-changing acts of peace and love because that person didn’t “proclaim Jesus as his Lord and savior”.
All this being said, I think life without spirituality is incomplete, if not vapid. But my view of spirituality is not Jesus-centric. I think spirituality is recognizing that there are things beyond one’s self. It’s allowing yourself to be humbled by the enormity of the universe. This can take form even in things that are considered cold and clinical, such as science. To revel in the complexity of what we know about this earth and the vastness of what we have yet to learn can be immensely spiritual. I think it is important to constantly seek growth and betterment by subscribing to a morality that extends beyond the self. So maybe the Doughnut Man was just preaching a severely distorted version of an important truth.
I came across a post on a blog where tons of women listed the best lessons they ever learned from their mother. This inspired me! And since I’m not one for material gifts and all that nonsense, what better gift is there than WORDS for the woman who instilled in me a profound love for the English language. Which leads me to number one.
1. “Reading is the best thing you can do for your brain”. I blame you for my borderline obsessive grammar/spelling/vocabulary related tendencies. Because of you I actually get enjoyment from reading and expanding my mind. Thank you for letting me do crossword puzzles over your shoulder.
2. “People who do drugs grow up to be evil baby slayers”. You tried your damndest to instill in us children a moral compass. It’s saved me from a lot of strife. But I also thank you for being flexible in your ideals and perception. For example, at one point a mere utterance of Nelson’s laugh from The Simpsons elicited the famous phrase “that’s lewd, crude, and degrading to our family values”. The Simpsons is now one of your favorite shows.
3. On a related note, you’ve helped me recognize, just through who you are, the incomprehensible resilience of humans, as well as our capability to change and grow. Because of this I’m able to see humans as dynamic, multi-faceted beings that can’t be summed up in snapshot judgments.
4. “The only constant in life is change”. Still trying to come to terms with this one, but at least you’ve given me a head start.
5. “I don’t care who you bring home. They can be black, white, male, female, or no one at all. As long as you’re happy”. This speaks for itself.
6. Thank you for giving me positive reinforcement for even the smallest things. Though it may have set me up for frustration when things like parallel parking or massive defecations elicit apathetic responses from friends.
7. You’ve opened me up to a world of mindfulness, critical thinking, and honesty that goes beyond what I can say here.
8. “You know what could help that? Fiber.” It’s true… Fiber really does make everything better.
There are many more things I could list, but let’s not get all sappy and whatnot. You carried me in your body for 9 months then pushed me out of your birth canal, and I suppose you could have stopped there. But thank you for going beyond that. Happy Mother’s Day to the best pony dancer this side of the Mississippi.
The school year is over, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it. I think while school was going on I felt guilty about doing anything productive because I knew that there was school work I should be doing. But now I can take the time to do wonderful, nourishing things, read what I want, cook what I want, etc.
I firmly believe that everything in life comes down to balance. What is healthy, good, right, is almost always the median between two extremes. Lately I’ve been thinking about this in terms of nurturing myself vs. challenging myself. I think it’s one of the most challenging balances to strike in any situation. This train of thought came about in my recent yoga practice. I constantly want to push myself to grow in my practice, becoming stronger and more flexible. But recently I took this a little too far and I ended up pulling something in my back. It’s vital that in yoga and in life we listen to our bodies in order to prevent injury. But sometimes our brain can convince us that we can’t do something when we really can. So the key is finding the balance between not going to far and pushing ourselves just outside our realm of comfort.
Another realm this affects is my feelings towards Christianity. I’m angry about the stupidity of churches, and I need to allow myself realize and nurture these feelings (trying to suppress things never does any good). However, there comes a point where I’m just letting these feeling occupy all my thoughts. I need to push myself to transform negativity into something positive (Thich Nhat Hanh style), which requires a level of discomfort.
I think one of the main things that has helped me begin to discern where this balance is is intention. Whether I am contentedly allowing myself to just be where I am, or if I am pushing myself to grow, it’s important to evaluate intentions. For example, in yoga if I’m doing something that is perhaps overly strenuous for the sake of being as flexible as the person next to me, that’s unhealthy. Not only will it lead to injury but it’s completely going against the point of yoga. The best I can do is just that; the best I can do. With Christianity, if I’m just allowing negativity to fester because it’s comfortable, it’s easy, it’s what I know, etc., that’s unhealthy. If I’m doing it as a means of really evaluating myself and what upsets me, that’s definitely healthier.
In other news, I’ve decided definitively (it’s been in the back of my mind for years) that I am going to get certified as a yoga instructor. I can’t imagine any job that would make me happier. It’s not what I plan to do as a main career, but who knows how things may develop? Maybe someday I’ll start a whole holistic health empire with me as a nutritionist and yoga instructor, and my sister as the resident holistic therapist. And I shall rule the holistic galaxy.
I’m on a Ravel kick lately. More so than usual, that is.
I just went to a church in Philadelphia. It was an interesting experience. If you told me to close my eyes and envision what I think church should be like, I would imagine something that resembled this church that I went to, at least structurally and theologically. The sermon was intelligent and talked about emotions and rationality in a healthy way. The bible wasn’t taken literally or severely distorted for the sake of manipulation. From what I know of the church, they are very active in actually doing things to help others. The worship was not horrible gut-wrenching contemporary Christian music, it was relaxed, there was a fairly diverse smattering of people there, and everyone was really nice (and not in the “welcome, become our best friend” creepy kind of way). Sure I could complain that it was a bit of a hipster scene and I might not feel so welcome if I was over 31 or otherwise divergent from the majority of people there, and I have a pretty strong stance on demographic exclusive churches. But no church is perfect.
Now this all being said, I was still uncomfortable at the service. I don’t know why! Maybe after all these tirades about what’s wrong with the church, I’m the one with the problem. But maybe not.
Maybe I will never find a church that I feel comfortable in, maybe it’s just because of where I am in my life, or maybe some people weren’t made to function spiritually within a church environment. The latter possibility is what I’ve been thinking about mostly since I left the service. My spirituality is so dear and personal to me that it feels wrong to make it a corporate affair. But I think that churches are important and I know that some people thrive in that kind of spiritual community.
Maybe I should not overthink it for now and just let things be, or maybe I should hyper-analyze everything. A confusing mix of the two will probably be the outcome.
And sorry that last post was kind of crazy and rambling, that’s what happens when you don’t sleep and your mind is filled with crazy American Indian mythology.
I’m in a weird place in my life in which I’ve never been. There’s not really a name for it, but it’s this kind of free floating position. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it free floating, since that generally connotes a feeling of freedom. While that is part of it, uncertainty and confusion are more prevalently what I’m feeling.
For the first 16 years of my life, I knew what I believed in terms of faith, spirituality, and my related position in life. There was a lot of misguidedness to what I believed, and I was manipulated into believing it, but it was comfortable. Now for the past several years I’ve been slowly and painstakingly divesting myself of the lies I had been taught and I’m still going through this process, but up until now I’ve always had these certain beliefs at the center of my personal belief system and identity. I’ve reached a point where I feel like some of the longest standing and most deeply seeded untruths have been erradicated, but what does that leave me with?
This unlearning of all the nonsense I was taught in church has always seemed such a long and daunting process that I never foresaw or planned for being in the position where I’ve made sizeable progress, so perhaps I’ve been purging more than I’ve been taking in, if that makes any sense. The whole process is very freeing, but as I alluded to before, with that freedom comes uncertainty. Maybe it’s the way people feel in an earthquake. One of my friends who experienced an earthquake said the earth was rippling like it was made of liquid. She became physically sick just from the fact she always percieved the earth as solid and sturdy and then the ground took on a completely different physical form, destroying her perception.
This all isn’t to say that I have no belief system whatsoever. I have very strong beliefs in the areas that I do have beliefs in. Maybe this feeling of being uprooted is just exacerbated by the uncertain transitioning place I’m in in life. It’s funny because this all came about the other day when it snowed unexpectedly. Naturally, I was horrified at the sight of snow on the ground and I was trying to talk myself down by saying “it’s ok, the trees may be covered with snow but they have these wonderful deep roots in the warm earth to keep them alive”. And maybe it’s because I’ve been reading this crazy American Indian novel about oneness with the earth but I was like “OH JEEZ, WHAT AM I ROOTED IN?!?!?!?!”
It’s exciting. I have a chance to develop a belief system as a mature, reasoning adult instead of as an impressionable child in a dysfunctional, manipulative church environment.
In other news, I’ve now had two dreams about Sufjan Stevens, we’re really good dream friends now (we both love roasted vegetables and he took off his cloak and mask for me at his house party because he knew I wouldn’t be like “ohhhh Sufjan I love you and want to marry you”. Everyone else at his house party was a douche and would have accosted him if he wasn’t disguised. I’m just glad I accidentally drove into the lake behind his house so I had a way to start a conversation.)
Perhaps I should consider changing the name of this blog to “How Church Has Messed Me Up”. All in due time.
I’ve been thinking about how and why my unfortunate Evangelical upbringing interplays with my seemingly inescapable judgmental attitude towards people. I realize that judgment stems from deep-seeded conditioning that we are subjected to in our every day lives. Therefore, part of the solution is learning to recognize these seedlings of judgment when they begin to grow and consciously repudiate them. So this is an attempt to analyze the source of my unfair, perfunctory judgment of people.
What did the church teach me about how to view other people? Well, I was taught from infancy that anybody who is not a Christian leads a miserable, vapid life devoid of any true meaning or fulfillment. So it was implied and even openly stated that because we are God’s people, we are in a place to judge another person’s quality of life. This myth of Christian omniscience was perpetuated through the idea that as long as someone is a Christian, they are a good person. The sole criteria (according to family members) for any future husband of mine was that he would be “a good Christian man who loves Jesus”. Whether he loves me or not was an after thought. This idea that we can immediately judge and ultimately decide if a person is “good” puts deluded Christians into a place of imagined judgmental authority.
I attended a lecture on race relations and overcoming racial barriers a week or two ago. The speaker spoke of her struggles with racism and how she overcame them. At the end, an audience member asked how we can overcome prejudices that are so deeply ingrained in us. In response, the speaker went on to laud the power of prayer, the holy spirit, and developing a “relationship with God”. WHAT?! First of all, this implies that we have no responsibility in overcoming our own issues. We leave all the work to chance and outside forces and hope for the best. Second, this implies that only if we subscribe to a certain brand of Christianity can we overcome racial barriers and other issues. If that were the case, the outlook for the future of human rights, equality, or any ethical matter would be horribly bleak because it implies that non-Christians would be unable to contribute anything. Some of the greatest contributions to humanity have been made by non-Christians.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, because Christians so often work only in extremes. Amongst all these messages that we are in a place to judge others, the message, “judge not lest ye be judged” is manipulated to make Christians feel guilty about using healthy discernment. We are told that any and every kind of judgment is bad, which results in so many people silencing their intuition that God put in them to keep us from danger. “Sure that guy may SEEM like a totally creepy pedophile/murderer, but he’s a Christian and you must refrain from judging him… show him love by welcoming him into your home to hang out with you and your small children!”. “That girl seems moderately unstable an completely immature, but you should hire her as a counselor at your church because that’s just your sinful judgment speaking”. It’s as if some people are trying to prove their lack of judgment by making obviously idiotic and sometimes dangerous decisions about people.
I suppose what this means for me is years of learning to listen to my voices of intuition and discernment. It also means years of learning to quiet the voices that tell me I’m in a place to judge people.