Righteous

The word righteous has come up three times so far this year. I do not remember this word coming into my life once in the last ten years.

Yes Universe, I am listening exactly what message are you trying to send me right now?

Two of the times this word came up was in the context of two completely unrelated people “acting self-righteous”. My skin crawled a bit each time that judgement was used but I moved on.

The third time it was my mother telling me that I am kind and righteous in the form of a compliment. I know her words were well intentioned but that word being used to describe me took me from skin-crawling to feeling completely covered in slimy shame and disgust.

Apparently I have a problem with this word. I have been sitting with this truth for weeks in order to understand it better.

I emailed one of my soul friends at one point and asked her what the word meant to her and what her first reaction to the word was.

She emailed me back the following:

First thought, used today as old-school surfer slang. Second, of or pertaining to goodness. Third, negative connotation related to disparaging accusations like “self-righteous”.

I emailed her back and agreed those were my thoughts and reactions to the word as well but in reverse.

My first thought/reaction is the judgement statement around being “self-righteous”.

My second thought has to do with pureness and goodness.

My third thought takes me to a Jeff Spicoli type character riding a wave in California.

spicoli

I guess it is a matter of perspective, and the experiences guiding the perspective of myself and my soul friend are different so it makes sense that we would come at this word from different directions.

I am realizing I struggle with this word for two reasons (there might be more than two reasons but so far two main reasons have risen to the surface for me).

  1. The Us vs Them mentality. What is the difference between myself, who my mother referred to as righteous, and the other individuals who have been labeled as self-righteous? My truth: very little. Compassion tells me that very little separates me from these individuals. These individuals are both righteous AND self-righteous, just as I am both righteous AND self-righteous, just as we all are both righteous AND self-righteous. Righteous is white light and Self-Righteous is black darkness, together the white and the black, the light and dark come together in truth: GRAY.
  2. Religious undertones. For me this word takes me straight to the church, it takes me to a place of pain and ridicule and otherness. My truth is that if this is a matter of Us vs. Them, I am on the Them side of that fence, not the Us.

The second struggle is my truer struggle I think. I already know my truth when it comes to Us vs. Them mentality, if that was my only issue I would have moved on quickly without giving it much thought because I am sound in my truth. The reason I was so triggered and felt myself linger in this place of feeling triggered was because of my second struggle.

Righteous is word that belongs to the church and I will never again belong to the church so that word can never ever be part of me.

Wrong.

I can reclaim righteous. I can reclaim it much like I reclaimed the word sacred. Sacred was another word that for a long time I felt like could never belong to me because of my experiences with the church. Then I found my own truth around spirituality and realized my truth was sacred.

I do not know what reclaiming righteous will look like for me. I do know it will have nothing to do with Us vs. Them, and it will have nothing to do with religious doctrine. These thing I know, the rest is yet to be seen.

righteous

For now I found this and it felt true.

 

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Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As for  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgiveness  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

The Non-believer bible study equivalent

college park infusion tea

I will be writing a separate post about my experiences while volunteering with Ronald McDonald house this weekend. This post is in regards to an observation I made while interacting with the group I volunteered with.

Last week I reached out to a girlfriend about volunteer opportunities. Specifically, if she had suggestions on any I would maybe enjoy. I was unsure whether she volunteers or not but knowing her as well as I do I had a feeling she probably did. I was right. She mentioned that her bible study group had plans to cook a meal for the Ronald McDonald house over the weekend and invited me to join them. I did not hesitate to reply with an enthusiastic yes! This is an organization I have been interested in for a while but was unsure how to offer help. I was excited to have the opportunity now.

It was a great experience. I came home feeling fulfilled and full of purpose as I do after volunteering.

This evening Todd and I decided to go to dinner. Today was technically the anniversary of our engagement so we decided to use that as an excuse not to cook. (I was uninterested in being in another hot kitchen after spending two hours in one earlier in the day). Over dinner we were discussing the books we are both currently reading then we got on to the topic of documentaries. He was filling me in on a religious documentary he recently watched and that led into our next discussion.

I need to set up this next discussion for you by giving some background.

Something that I really enjoyed today that was different from other times I have volunteered was the fact that I was part of a group. Today I was working alongside like minded individuals interested in the greater good. The conversation was stimulating, the positive energy shared among the group was infectious, it felt really nice not only to give of myself but feel apart of something within this group. After our work was done we went to lunch together and the conversations continued. I really enjoyed the company of my friend and her friends. The only detail that really made me feel separate from the group was the religion factor. As this was my friend’s bible study group at times discussion of religion would come up, which I am completely comfortable with but I just do not happen to relate with. Some of her friends shared specific stories regarding their faith which I could totally identify with, I was easily able to empathize with the feeling of taking a leap of faith and having to trust that things will work out. None of these feeling are attached to religion for me though. For me these scenarios involved faith in myself or others, conviction in my decisions and believing in my abilities.

At the end of our time together more than one of her friends eagerly encouraged me to join their bible study group, commenting on how I am exactly the kind of person they would love to have involved. I thanked them and told them how much I appreciated them including me in their group today and how much I enjoyed myself as well as their company. I never did mention that I am a nonbeliever. It goes back to being in the closet. I do not deny my feelings on religion when asked directly what they are but I also do not broadcast my beliefs (or what some would consider lack there of). There are a few reasons for this, one is appropriateness. I was raised and still do believe that it is inappropriate to discuss controversial topics openly with anyone who you are not intimately acquainted with, and even then appropriateness might be questionable.

I did not mind at all that religion and God were open topics over lunch today as I was the outsider crashing their church event, however I did not choose to comment on anything religious in nature. I kept my responses neutral and genuine to what my relatable experiences have been. ‘

So back to dinner with Todd. This is not the first time I have had these thoughts and feelings but as a nonbeliever/humanist I do feel that I/we (we being any nonbeliever not specifically just Todd and myself) miss out on the element of community and involvement one gets when affiliated with a Church/Temple/Synagogue/Mosque etc.

I do feel connected and a sense of camaraderie among those I have met that share my views but it certainly is not the same as the experiences I had when involved with church as a preteen. There was absolutely a sense of community and interconectivity. There was a place for me to be with people of like values and be apart of meaningful activities. Every summer I was involved with whatever musical the youth group was putting on. It gave me a sense of purpose when not in school and gave me something constructive to do. We would beach trips and service work to do. I liked feeling apart of something worthwhile and do feel like I am missing that.

The thing is I know in my heart that I am not the only nonbeliever that feels this way. As a humanist (a label I am still deciding if I want) my interest in the betterment of humanity I feel lends itself to wanting to feel a connection to others and the world. I would love to have meetings for an hour or two with like minded people to discuss science, culture, literature and social issues as well as global issues. I do not think theism needs to have anything to do with it.

I guess I do feel a bit left out. And if that is what it means to be able to keep my convictions I am willing to accept that, just not quite yet. I do feel like there is more to be had and am hoping that in my travels this “more” I seek will come about organically as I feel all good things do. Living in College Park has helped with these feelings. There is a strong sense of community thanks to block parties and local events that encourage everyone to get out and get involved. Ultimately I have a lot of life left to live and a lot of people yet to meet.

How soon is too soon to have “The Talk”?

birds bees

My parents and I never had the birds and bees talk. Maybe they were waiting, I don’t know. I ended up figuring things out on my own and not because I was curious about boys, but because boys became curious about me.

I remember the first time I heard the word “sex”. I was 9 or 10, in the third grade and in my best friend’s bedroom. I was sitting on a stool in front of her open closet doors listening to her and our other friend talking when I heard the word “sex” and immediately said, “Don’t you mean six?” She replied that No, she meant Sex to which I replied, “What’s sex?”

Both girls started laughing. I was immediately embarrassed. Apparently I was a dummy for not knowing, I wanted to disappear. My best friend then proceeded to explain to me that sex is when two people are naked in the same room together. I remember thinking to myself, “I didn’t know there was a name for that”. What I said to them though is that I had sex lots of times, like I had sex with my brother when we younger and we used to take baths together. At first the girls gave me a strange look but I asked them, “Didn’t you used to take baths with your siblings when you were little.” They agreed they had. And since you are naked when you bathe we all agreed that we had all had sex with our siblings. Thank goodness we did not go around saying this to people! Can you imagine?? For the record, I have never had sex with my brother. haha.

Needless to say a few years later when we reached the age in school for sex-ed we ALL realized we had never had sex with our brothers like we previously thought. It didn’t matter by that point though because we never talked about it again after that day. Not for any particular reason, there was just no interest. It’s like we had the conversation and then went right back to dancing and singing to Madonna tapes like we always did. Who cares about being naked with your brother when you were little anyway? Not us, that’s for sure.

Sex-ed really didn’t help further my understanding of the act of sex much. I did find out about periods though. That was an awkward couple of days following. Periods were all anyone wanted to talk about. Every time a girl would get up to use the bathroom everyone would start to whisper, “Oh so and so must be on her period”. I didn’t go pee at school for a week. It made for a very long week.

By middle school my Catholic upbringing had helped a little with my understanding of sex. I had a very rudimentary understanding of what happens, thought it was disgusting and knew that I didn’t have to worry about it until I wanted to get married anyway. Thank God, one less thing to worry about in middle school. Sex didn’t come up again until 8th grade when I was in the girls restroom before home-room one morning with my girlfriend that I rode to school with. Two other girls we knew walked in gossiping about how one of the boys we knew from class brought a “condom” to school in his backpack and was showing everyone. I made the mistake again of immediately admitting my nativity to this new word I had never heard before. And again I was met with laughter. Humiliated by sex once again, good grief. My friend explained what they were for and we all agreed that was gross and he was gross for carrying one around.

A few months later one of my best friend’s who had a boyfriend, a very big deal for my group of friends as none of us were really allowed to date, explained in detail about how when they went to the movies over the weekend they didn’t exactly watch the movie the whole time. Nothing too terrible happened, they made out and he tried to get to first base. I had no clue there were bases. (Big surprise- clearly I was the last to know anything about this sex stuff). This time I chose not to ask questions. Knowing that he tried to grab her boob made me uncomfortable enough, I didn’t want to hear what else is involved in these bases. I never did like baseball much anyway. At that time I still called my boobs my private parts. Growing up Catholic that’s how it was, these parts are private. They didn’t even really have names. Everything under my clothes were pretty much collectively “my private parts” and you were not supposed to let people see or touch your private parts. That was fine by me because it was a non-issue. At that time I thought there was Sex and there was Kissing and no in between. When I suddenly found out there was this gray area where boys would want to touch your boobs I was terrified.

Most things were like this for me growing up. What I mean is, I was naive and things were very black and white. At least that is how I understood them. Drinking is bad, this was very black and white. Drugs are bad AND they are all the same, Marijuana is equivalent to Cocaine. This was very black and white. Sex is for when you are married and no one is ever allowed to see or touch your private parts. This was very black and white.

I am not even necessarily saying this is what my parents told me or taught me directly. These are the lessons the church taught us growing up and my parents never contradicted it nor did we have conversations about any of it. I think this may partly be because I never asked. I think had I come to them they would have discussed any of these topics with me, we have always had a very open relationship. I also think it is because my parents have always played a very active role in my life so they felt they knew what was going on with me and if anything came up where they felt these talks were needed then they would have had them.

All I can think is they knew we, my brother and I, were good kids and they didn’t think the talks were needed yet. The thing is though it doesn’t matter how good your kid is. If you don’t tell them, someone else will and someone you don’t want telling them. Better to hear it from you than the pimply faced kid that has no clue what they are talking about and is suddenly going to introduce the element of peer pressure that your kid is not prepared for. Sure, it is an uncomfortable conversation but your kid is curious and maybe  too embarrassed to ask, wouldn’t you rather they hear it from you?

Looking back at it I absolutely wish I had a better handle on a lot of things before I was in a situation where I was ill-equipped to deal with what was going on around me. Luckily things turned out alright for me, I made it out of my teens alive and in tact but that isn’t completely true for everyone. I am absolutely not saying it is the parent’s fault either when something goes awry. I am speaking strictly from my own experience when I say I just wish I had been better prepared. I love my parents, they did great. This is nothing on them but for me, when I have kids, I might do things slightly different.

 

 

Follow up to “Being in the closet”

The religious salesman came knocking at my door again this morning. The same one from before. I was satisfied with how I handle his first visit because I was polite, listened to his message and accepted his material. Had I known that my quiet politeness was going to be misconstrued as willingness to accept future visits I would have still be polite but vocal about no future need for information.

Heres the thing, annoyance about this interruption in otherwise quiet, productive day does not just stem from not wanting to buy what he is trying to sell me. My annoyance exists on many levels,

1. When I know I have no reason to leave the house on any given day chances are I am not gonna bother with a bra. – It’s just me and the furniture, there is really no need to get gussied up.

2. Relating to number one, I may wait to take a shower until 3:00 if I feel so inclined.

3. We had a violent crime take place in our neighborhood a few months ago, unexpected knocks at my door rattle me a bit.

4. This is my “me time”, I don’t like to be bothered regardless of what it is.

The fact that he shoving religion in my face just intensifies my annoyance with the interruption, it isn’t the true cause of my annoyance.

So, there I was, sitting in my old scraggly Counting Crows t-shirt and worn out gym shorts, bra-less of course, hair in a knot on my head, coffee cup in hand, watching a Ted Talk on Introversion, when I hear “knock – knock” at the front door. My first reaction is a slight pang of fear followed by agitation. I get up, throw on a maxi dress (sans bra), and head for the door. I peek through my peep-hole to see the friendly neighborhood religion salesman and sigh, I realized it is time for me to come out of the closet to this man.

I opened the door to, “Hi Jill! Do you remember me I was here the other day” as he is handing me two new brochures on why everything I choose to believe in is wrong. I smile politely and say, “Yes of course, good morning.” He starts in on his spiel and I stop him, “I’m sorry I should have mentioned this the last time you were here as I certainly do not want to waste your time or gas money, we are not religious and your visits are actually a bit of an imposition. I appreciate and respect what you believe and what you do and hope that you will respect our position as well. I am happy to accept your pamphlets today but ask that you respect our privacy going forward and take our home off of your route.” He was accompanied by a lady today and she was surprisingly appreciative of my honesty, commenting on how she wished more people would just be honest as these visits do eat into their gas and time. I accepted his information again and wished them luck with their mission and thanked them for their understanding.

This encounter went incredibly well and to me is just a testament to what I have said before, there is no need for the harsh line that is drawn between believers and non-believers. We should all be respectful of each other’s beliefs regardless of what they are.

Being in the Closet

A subject I rarely talk about has come up organically throughout this week so many times that I have decided I can no longer ignore it. It started on Tuesday, I was on the phone with my brother making plans for the weekend. We were making plans for Saturday night, we are double dating, and he was asking if I was planning to go to Grandpa’s mass at church. Let me explain what “Grandpa’s mass” is..

In the Catholic faith, which a good porting of my family are members of, there is a point in the mass when they say specific prayers regarding people or situations going on in the world. The reader will say something to the effect of “For all those who were killed in the 9/11 bombings, we pray to the Lord” and the response from everyone in the congregation is “Lord hear our prayer”. Well if you have lost a family member you can pay whoever it is at the church to include their name in that portion of the mass. That is why my grandmother refers to it as “Grandpa’s mass”, someone has paid for his name to be included.

I love my family and miss my grandfather dearly but I do not attend these masses when they come up. I feel it is exploitive to ask a person to pay to have their family member mentioned. I just think there could be another way. I would feel differently if the entire mass was devoted to his memory and it was all about him and his life, but that would almost be like a second funeral so that doesn’t make a lot of sense I suppose. Either way, if Todd and I can help it we save going to church for funerals and weddings only.

So my answer to my brother was no. No church for us, we will see you all after for dinner and painting.

The topic came up again that same day when I was scanning my “reader” on WordPress. Most of the blogs I follow are either Social Workers who share their stories and feelings about the field or fellow INFPs. There is one that I enjoy that is unrelated to either topic though, Godless in Dixie. I think he is great. I like his writing style, he is clever and informed. I definitely share some opinions with him. I noticed he had a post about proof versus lack of proof and the church’s argument on the subject. It was interesting for sure.

Then when scheduling an appointment to meet with an officiant someone other than the person I was expecting to hear back from called. He is with the same company but he is a reverend. The person I thought I was reaching out to is not religiously affiliated at all. I enjoyed my conversation with the reverend, he is sweet and has a calming nature which I always gravitate towards in people. I ended up hoping that things work it out and we can use him but then had to inform him of us not being religious. He went to a christian college and studied religion, this is his background. I was afraid of offending him, you never know how people are going to take it when you inform them of your lack of religion. He was fine. He is all about making our ceremony personal and about us and our story, no religion required. I was relieved.

The final straw that led to this post came yesterday when I received a visit from some religious salesmen at my front door. Yes, that is how I describe them because isn’t that what they are doing? Going door to door trying to sell you on God? They were nice guys and just because I have no interest in what they are selling is no reason for me to be rude. I listened to their pitch about the bible verses that prove there is a God and why atheists are wrong. I then accepted their pamphlet on the dangers of pornography addiction and bid them farewell.

Todd and I do not consider ourselves full on atheists. We do not believe in God but cannot say with certainty that there is zero possibility of something, what we do not know but just something. We definitely do not believe in organized religion, however. This is not to say we don’t believe in anything. Myself, I am highly superstitious and there is no rational in that at all, believe me I am aware. But I am superstitious anyway. I also kind of believe in ghosts. None of this makes any sense, I realize. But for me beliefs are an ala carte thing, you pick and choose what you want to believe in. I am not atheist/agnostic because I think I am too smart for religion or I think science can explain everything (although I do think science can explain a lot). For me it is as simple as God and religion work really well for some people and just don’t happen to fit for me. I think no differently of believers, I can completely see the merit in having faith and how it helps people. It just doesn’t help me, that’s all.

It is a hard thing to come out and say though. It is something that Todd and I kind of consider ourselves in the closet about. We do not deny our lack of faith if brought up but we do not choose to address it either. In my family there are some people who would take issue and for me it just isn’t worth upsetting my grandmother, you know? If she asked me directly I would not deny my feelings but I would feel bad that what works for me may hurt her heart, which isn’t what I want. My immediate family knows, my friends know.

It just feels like there is such a hard-line between believers and non-believers in our society. The believers want to save the non-believers and the non-believers think the believers are fools for believing. I just don’t feel that way. I think religion and faith, like so many other things in life, is a very personal choice. I don’t think it is something to judge someone by. There are good people who care about being good people and it has nothing to do with religion or lack of.. it is because it is the right thing to do and that’s it. To me there is no wrong or right choice on this subject, there is just choice.