Saturday, April 11, 2015

Because I said so

Did you ever just decide shit?  Guess what world, I now wear blue eyeliner. I wear hats.  I have decided that sexy heels are a necessary part of my life.  I always wanted to be able to pull off sweater dresses, so I up and decided that they make me look sexy and BOOM now I feel sexy in them instead of like a potato.  Does life really work that way?  It can if you want it to.  But I think there are limitations on types of declarations you can make of this nature.  For example, I can't declare that I all of a sudden I don't care about other people. I'm a nice person.  Nothing that happens to me seems to change that.
I can tell you a once upon a time story where I confess that I was once young and innocent and through years and years of being taken advantage of and being emotionally abused, I finally stopped helping people, but I would be full of shit.  The reality is that I love helping people. It makes me happy.  Sometimes I love the wrong people.  I let them get too close to me, I help them, I give them too much of my time, and then they don't appreciate it.  So I become sad for a bit and then I shake it off and find someone new to adopt as my little sister or protege at work and my heart is happy again.  All you have to do to fulfill my little heart is appreciate what I'm doing for you. I don't know why I built this way, but the longer I walk on this earth, the more sure I am about a few things about me.  First off, I love to help people.  I am full of love, forgiveness, understanding, and a stupid amount of empathy.  All I want to do is help.  I am a technical editor at a bank and when people ask me what I love about my job (because I love it passionately), I say that I love how many people I help.  By technical editing?  Yep.  You heard me right.  Second, I'm a happy person.  You can't beat it out of me, and trust me, people have tried.  I've had a good amount of people ask me why I'm so happy all the time when I should be miserable and just as many hate me for not being miserable when they think I deserve.  Seriously, what the hell is wrong with everyone?  Third, I am grateful for everything.  As in EVERYTHING.  I grew up broke, alone, and basically had to learn to fend for myself if I wanted to survive.  I think these three things really can tell you a lot about who I am in the end.
When you look at a kid, do you ever notice how all they want to be is happy?  Dirty, hungry, alone, a little kid will play with a rock and smile.  Absent parents, no money for treats, no toys, that kid will look up at the sky and smile at the shapes in the clouds.  I know because I was that kid.  Those days have never left my heart.  The days where me and my little sister would wander the streets looking for change to go and buy a scoop of ice cream at Thrifty's.  And I'm not sorry.  It has turned me into a person who appreciates everything and takes nothing for granted.  I think just the act of looking after her made me into the type of person to give everything I have to someone else and be satisfied watching their enjoyment. There was never enough for both of us.  Yes, there are times that makes me want to cry, but mostly I think it bonded us to each other and established a special understanding between us that I wouldn't trade for all of the ice cream in the world.
I know people who feel like they deserve the world.  They deserve their big house, fancy kitchens, remodeled bathrooms, new cars, and nice watches.  It should be theirs.  Do you know those people?  What a recipe for misery.  When you feel like you are entitled to everything that you have instead of appreciating everything that you've worked for or been given, you'll never be happy.  Me? I'm excited by someone calling me instead of sending me a text.  I'm excited about receiving a bookmark in the mail from my sister or knowing that I get to visit my other sister across the country and hop in the same bed to talk.  Dude, we get to get in bed together and talk like when we were kids! How exciting is that?  I could afford a plane ticket to see her, her family, and her newborn son, AND I get to be two inches from her face until I make her crazy and she yells at me.  Could anything make me happier?  Absolutely not.  Plus I've convinced myself that flying to see her will help. Bonus on bonus.  I'm the happiest person in the world right now.
Depression runs on both sides of my family.  Both my mother and father suffer from it.  Wouldn't it be nice to declare to the world that I'm never going to be sad again?  Can I do that?  Well, I've tried and it hasn't quite worked for me.  I've dealt with depression on and off throughout my life, more when I was younger and a few times as an adult.  Losing a baby early in pregnancy did it to me.  Having my husband leave me when my daughter was 9 months old pushed me over the edge, and lately I've had it try to put its hands around my throat once more.  I remember depression stealing months of my life and the enjoyment I should've felt raising my daughter.  I will never get those precious months back and I can't change that.  My son is now 6 months old and when I feel those familiar defeating thoughts creep into my mind, I run headlong to see my counselor. HELP ME MOTHER OF GOD HELP ME. Until I get a grip and find myself smiling again.
I've never taken any drugs.  Not that there's anything wrong with taking them, but I just haven't.  I've been evaluated plenty, but for me, talking usually does the trick.  Once I recognize that I'm deciding to be miserable or I'm letting someone make me unhappy for no good reason, I can usually climb out of it, sweatpants and carton of empty cookies in tow.  I find that when I spend too much time focusing on other people and not paying attention to anything I need, I become depressed.  My counselor always tells me that if I spend just half of the time I spend trying to live for someone else on myself, the world would open up before me.  So I've been trying to do things that make me smile.  I've been working on my house to make it mine.  New pulls on doors, fixing broken cabinets, buying new towels, framing new pictures.  I was even able to afford to put new granite counter tops in the kitchen with a 60/40 sink and the touchless faucet of my dreams.  I've come a long way.  Should I start singing Drake?  Started from the bottom, now we're here...should I start wearing every gold chain, even when I'm in the house? LOL
But sincerely, my eyes water when I think about the nice kitchen I'm about to have.  I bought this house. I saved for it, sacrificed for it.  And my hard work paid off.  I am gratified by the success I feel in my career.  I am slowly coming upon a place where I want to write a book and not just talk about it or use it as an excuse to buy a new laptop. In fact, the last laptop I bought was a gift for someone else because I think that person will be much more grateful for it than I could ever be.  So it's for her, not for me.  I have never had more than two cents to rub together and my life shows it.  I don't run the washer unless it's full, the water is never on full blast, the lights are always turned off, there is no wasting of food.  Poor child, broke college student, struggling single mom.  These things all link together.  Now I'm a proud home owner who is about to have a new kitchen.  I'm just going to cry because I'm so damn happy and grateful.  And I don't want to post pics on Facebook because I'm afraid it'll make someone feel bad.  Don't feel bad, just come over and cook in my kitchen with me.  I've got a whole cupboard of pasta and there's always enough for you to come join me.
My path to God continues, although I do feel like he is laughing at me sometimes.  Our creator must have a sense of humor.  I wonder how He gives me the strength to endure what I have and still love, smile, and act considerate.  Lately I've been thinking perhaps I had to feel trapped and miserable to understand how truly free I can be and know that no matter what I do in my life, I am still loved.  That's a hard concept to wrap my mind around.  Can you imagine a place where no matter what you do, God still loves you?  Good decisions and bad, you are still ok.  I want to go there.  Let's go, come on, you and me.  Lose your temper, tell someone to fuck off, stomp you foot, then take a deep breath. We all lose it.  Go apologize and do your best tomorrow.  Do not take the sins of today with you.  Start again.  Life is hard, but my heart is not.
There have been so many times that I've wanted to build that iron fortress around myself again and just back off, but I can't.  Sadly, I threw my blow torch away and I am unable to weld.  I'm going to sit here in the sun until I feel better and when the shade comes, I'm going to get the fuck up and move into the sun again.  No really, that's my plan.  People can fight around you, they can pick up a sword and threaten you, but they can't make you fight.  The days of revenge, self-hatred, punishment, and bloodshed are gone. I'm not destructive.  I just want to play with my kids, have dinner with a friend so I can look at a smiling face, then maybe read a chapter of a book, take a hot shower, and go to bed.
Dear God, thank you for knowing who I am.  Thank you for your guidance and protection.  Thank you for giving me the strength to make it through each day.  You know the burdens I carry and I know when it becomes to much for me, you carry me so I can rest.  Thank you for not giving up on me.  Thank you for trying to teach me time and time again the lessons that I cannot seem to learn.  I trust that you will lead me down the right path, even if I don't understand where I am going sometimes.  Thank you for my children.  They prove to me that heaven and innocence exist and most days I think those are the same thing.  Thank you for my suffering because it has brought me appreciation.  Thank you for showing me pain and hatred because it makes me recognize and appreciate safety and love.  Dear God, please protect my family.  Look after them in their darkest hours, even if they do not know how to ask you for help.  Please remember those who reach out to me to help me and show them the love that I feel for them when I fail at showing them myself.  Dear God, please help me rest.  Please focus my mind and my heart.  While I may have free will to chose my own path, the path I chose it to you.  While I am not perfect, I am faithful to you and to those I love.  Bring peace to my heart.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)    

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Boss Bitch

I have always been filled with big sisterly advice, if that's a thing.  I don't know why. I wander through my life with an irrepressible urge to cut out all of the bullshit and be real.  The older I get, the more inclined I am to look into someone's eyes across the table and give them some real advice, even if 10 other people are listening.  Because, who cares?  Don't you ever get tired of people who pretend all the time?  Look, I know your life isn't a series of happy photos on Instagram and delightful Facebook updates.  I'm not an idiot and I'm not letting your malarky make me feel bad about my own dreary existence.  Instead, I'm willing to admit all of the mistakes that I've made in the past, acknowledge that I'm still fucking my life up, and try to tell you what I've learned or I'm learning. I do this for two reasons.  1. Maybe it will help you not make the same mistakes that I've made.  Please learn from my past, which is equal parts the stupidity of youth and good intentions gone bad. 2. Maybe it will speak to someone who is going through something similar and make them feel less alone.
I've been told I'm the most unsafe safe person to tell secrets to because of this stupid blog. Oh, I would never tell your secrets, my love. Your secrets are still locked safely in my heart, but mine? No, I have no desire to keep secrets.  You can have all of mine, all of you can.  Talk amongst yourself and come to your own conclusions and that's fine. You can't put all of this out there and expect no judgement.  That's stupid.  What started as my private diary a decade ago is now very public and read world wide, and you know what? I'm proud of that.  I'm proud of myself for putting it out there and I'm happy that anyone has taken an interest.  So I write on about my small existence and my small issues and victory.  Baby steps.  Baby steps on my tightrope walk of a life.
So here I am, inching forward. Step by step. Breath by breath. Only perfect balance is acceptable on the tightrope walk of my life. I take a deep breath in of the cool air around me.  Laundry basket balanced on my head, work laptop in the upturned palm of my left hand, and both kids hanging from my right.  I can hear the sharks swimming beneath me.  I hear the insults hurled in my direction from the shores.  You shouldn't put up with this life.  You shouldn't be buying that.  Don't you know your place is at home? You should do better.  You should try harder.  Figure it out. Get it together.  There is no sanctuary for me anymore from these things, no rest, no breaks, no hiding places.  And so I inch on.  There are days when I can turn my head to look behind me and see that my path was not always a tight rope. I remember days when my yellow brick road was wide and I had room to skip and play. I remember field to run in and trees to climb. And I was not alone.  Different paths curled out in front of me and I had no fear of what was to come. I was so sure that no matter which path I turned down, everything would be ok.  Today on my tightrope, I still have faith that I will be ok.
Even in the most uncertain of circumstances, I can always imagine worse.  Shark infested waters are not so scary when you were once a shark yourself.  Some days I want to let the basket fall from my head, let my laptop sink to the sandy bottom, toss my kids on my shoulders and jump into the water.  How many times have I taken comfort standing in the water in Laguna Beach with sharks swimming around my legs?  Quite literally more than once.  It is not a mistake that my daughter's favorite animal is a shark.  She is my little fireball. My tiny fierce one, so much like her mother.  I don't know if that day of release will ever find me.  Today, no matter how heavy my load feels, my arms remain outstretched and I continue forward.  Day after day.  Keep moving.
Yes, my life is completely screwed up.  But it is not without its moments of love and happiness.  It is not without hope.  I have faith in that.  I, however, am still an impatient person.  I also feel like my ability to put up with bullshit lessens by the day.  There are days when I'd like to sit down with Taylor Swift and shake her.  Honey, stop.  You're so young and innocent.  Honestly, "All you had to do was stay" is a bunch of shit.  People need to do more than take up oxygen and space in your life. I'm listening to "wildest dreams" and I love the beat, I do. It's so catchy when you sing "say you'll remember me...standing in a nice dress, looking at the sunset.  Red lips and rosy cheeks, say you'll see me again even if it's just pretend." But shut up.  Don't ask to be remembered looking fucking pretty. It doesn't actually matter.  But you're young and cute and you don't get it.  Or maybe nobody wants to listen to songs about people who need to see the value in someone else instead of just looking like they are a good person.  Maybe it's easier to be remembered as pretty instead of someone who took the time to get to know someone and try to help them.  Have you ever tried to really be there for someone? Listen to them instead of waiting for your turn to speak.  Be a force of positive change for them.  Grab them by the hand and pull them to their feet when they don't feel like they can stand.  I want to be that person.  Remember me that way, ok?  Fuck the pretty dress and red lips.
I know my reputation. I'm the Boss Bitch. I'm the Elitist. I'm the one who handles her shit, takes care of everything, and makes it look easy.  I don't fantasize about speaking up when I'm upset or taking control of a situation.  That's my life.  I fantasize about being quiet. About being taken care of.  My favorite daydream is to be invited on a family walk to the nearest park where dad/husband has packed a picnic and the kids are all ready. I just put on my sandals and sunglasses and we are all together. He takes me in his arms and kisses me in front of the kids and anyone else watching. He is proud to have me at his side.  He knows my flaws and loves me for me. I feel safe with him. The kids feel safe with their family.  We eat sandwiches and fruit and drink juice boxes and the sun shines.  The baby tries to eat the grass and my 5 year old wants to fly a kite. And I'm happy. Pipe dreams of the girl stuck on a tightrope that can't see past the fog in front of her.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Is this the good news?

So I've been reading this book: Good news for WEARY WOMEN by Elyse M Fitzpatrick.  I'm typing it like that because that is literally how it is capitalized. I couldn't make up something so random.  I love how the font in the title even changes fonts on me.  Am I being an asshole? An Elitist asshole?  Probably, but I feel like if I have been giving this critical brain, well trained in dissecting literature through the earning of two degrees in English, I might as well use it.  Eating a box of chocolate while I do so is just a bonus.  So here we are, looking at my very first Christian novel with a head full of questions.
First of all, I would like to point out that I am well aware that the woman who wrote this book had nothing but the best of intentions when she wrote it. And Christian literature in the realm of what I can only assume is a self help manual for women who see themselves marginalized by society, burdened by the church, and disenchanted with their lives of being an indentured servant.  I was so hopeful when I started reading this book.  I felt like it spoke to me until I really started reading it.  I'm not going to go through the whole thing.  Let's say this: this is a book full of the desire to free women of the rules that are put on them that have nothing to do with scripture.  They are pieces of scripture that are elaborated upon by people through their practice of the religion that set us up to either feel prideful or inadequate.  That, my friends, is a good message.  The book tells you to read your bible, understand that you are already good enough, and move on with life.  You should be imperfect, you should accept God's grace, and you should not feel superior to anyone, period.  God has said that you are enough.  And believe me when I tell you in agreement that you are.
But there are places where Ms. Fitzpatrick falls off the rails on her logic and I want to point out the biggest offense she makes, in my opinion.  As a reader, I felt that our author feels a strong need to justify Christianity as the "right" religion and point out that everyone else is wrong.  Through justifying Christianity, she seems to justify her book.  The astounding way that she accomplishes this is my accusing all other religions of being based on karma and Christianity not requiring you to be or do good to get any "goodies" as she calls them.  She says, "Every other religion in the world is based on the principle of karma: be good so you can feel good and good things will happen to you.  This is not Christianity.  Christianity stands in the direct opposition to works-based religion and karma" (pg 31).  Wow, Elyse, it must have taken you quite a bit of time to become an expert on every religion in the world to make such a bold claim that every single one of them is based on the idea of karma.  Except I was not raised Christian.  And I've spent quite a bit of time researching other world religions...and while there are some that do most definitely revolve around the idea of karma, not all of them would appreciate your vast generalization.
Honestly I think the thing that pisses me off the most about this is not being disrespectful to other religions in order to prove your point. It's that she contradicts herself in her own book.  As she is discussing what we as Christians must to in order to receive God's favor and love and this is what she has to say: "'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' they asked (John 6:28). Rather than tell them to get home and get to work, He answered in the most astounding way: 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent' (verse 29)." (pg 18).  Ok, so let me get this straight: In order to receive the grace of God, you have to believe in Jesus and the words of God.  Is that it?  So if you have faith then you receive the love and protection of God.  So if you do x then you get y?  If you behave a certain way then you get "goodies".  Sounds like your definition of karma to me, my dear.  I didn't make this up.  These are her definitions and her finer pointing in these bizarre circular arguments in this book.  And this isn't the only instance of it.  Let me say this: If you're going to jump up and down and say that you are speaking for the best religion, please do your research first and have enough decency to realize that throwing mud on someone else and their beliefs does not make you look cleaner.  In fact, you're the one looking pretty dirty to me at the moment.  Here's why this argument doesn't work and will never work for Christians: If as she says, God knows and loves you regardless of your flaws or your actions because His son died to purify you and be perfect for you, then nobody would be going to hell.  Despite your agnostic tendencies or your propensity to doubt God, you would still be loved, forgiven, and welcomed home to Heaven.  There would be no need for self improvement, no repentance, or confession.  None of it would matter because you're perfect and loved as is.  Pipe dreams that would put monstrous business into bankruptcy.
I'm so angry about this because I love so much of what she says in the book.  I want to believe there is no todo list.  I want to know that my neighbor's expectations of me do not match God's.  Have faith, believe, and know that God walks with you.  Know that he is listening and loves you and whatever happens is exactly what is supposed to happen.  The thing that bothers me about this book is it tries to explain to much.  It wants to dismiss your fears and questions and instead it causes new ones.  The idea of bad things happening to good people is brought up and the author is struggling with why these things happen. In Chapter 7 she talks about the end of her mother in law's life, who she regarded as a righteous woman. She says, "What I didn't understand was why God would allow someone who had devoted her life to Him to suffer so much terror during her last few months. Why didn't the Lord just take her" (pg 137)?  She goes on to talk about how God rent the heavens and sent down His only son and passed on his blessing to us saying that he is pleased with us like he is with his son.  Ok.  Jesus got into the mud with us and purified the waters for our baptisms.  "When He was stripped naked and shamed and beaten and nailed to a tree, when He no longer had the assurance of his father's presence, He still called His Father "my God" and asked that anguished question 'Why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34). And in his final breath, when He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), He was saying it for us" (pgs 151-52).  So Jesus has suffered and wiped the slate clean for us. Ok.  Are you going to tell us why bad things happen to "good" people now?  Wait for it..."So what do we do about the mess we're in? We give it to Him, believing He will take care of it all.  We trust that even though we may not understand everything He loves us and will care for us forever" (pg 156).  Honey, I don't mean to sound rude, but reading this as a non-Christian, this sounds crackers crazy.  Bad things happen to good people because God loves us.  If you think he has forsaken you, then you just doing understand and if you do question it, you're trying to say you know better than God.  Heavy sigh.  This sounds to me like a really convenient way to say that you're not privy to the big plan, so shut your mouth and keep your head down and be grateful that one day you'll be taken care of, even if it's not on this earth or in this realm.  In fact, it doesn't seem so far off from some of those other pesky karma-based religions who say if you have faith and die for it, you're going to get an armful of virgins in return.  But that's just me.
I don't think you can gloss over this shit.  She says so much good stuff.  SO much.  She talks about how women don't have to be put into a box.  How we can be who we are and talk to God and raise kids and not be perfect.  If she can point out why some of these rules don't make sense, why does she feel the need to trash karma, other religions, and give us a warning to shut our mouths and have faith if we want our eternal reward?  Don't look to forgive yourself, don't try and be perfect, don't do anything but believe.  But you know, believe in the right thing, because apparently God is wrong in some other religions.  Oh and definitely don't question.  Shhhhhhhh.
You know, I'm not saying I can do better.  I'm not a religious motivational speaker.  I'm just a woman who was given a book and gave it a chance.  And I realize that nobody is perfect and neither is any religion.  But the disappointment is real.  I feel like in the last few months I've really been looking for the good in Christianity, and I felt I had been led to this book for a reason.  The woman who gave it to me would tell me to focus on the good messages and forget the bad.  I get that.  Take the good with you.  But if you don't learn to discern between the good and bad, then I feel like you are left marching holding a flag for a cause that you either don't fully understand or that you don't believe in.
You want to know what I think?  I think God is God.  It doesn't matter how the message was brought down or if you claim a religious organization or not.  If God loves you by virtue of being YOU, then you're fine.  If he know you and you're chosen by him to deserve his love, then there's nothing else to be done.  You don't need to be saved, bound, gagged, and dragged into any religious building.  I don't need to be dunked or spritzed with water or sign any declaration.  No public displays of anything.  I don't even think you need to always have faith.  If God has created you this way, then that is how you are.  Flawed, full of doubts, confused, angry, unsure.  We falter, we question, we receive his grace because this is how it should be.  His plan is always intact and you cannot derail it with your rebellious behavior.
I'm glad I read the book.  It gave me something to think about and it started me back on a path of reading a little bit each night before bed.  It's been a long time since I've done anything like that and for that alone I am grateful.  I feel like figuring out my feelings on organized religion and God are a lifelong struggle and I'm 34 years and some change into it.  Now I'll wait and see what conversation or book presents itself to me next and go on from there.