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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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.

 

 

It’s not about being a feminist

I stumbled upon a blog post today I thought I would be interested in, I was wrong. The title had something to do with being easy to love, I was curious to hear this woman’s thoughts, so I thought. My curiosity was stifled upon reading the words, “be submissive to your husband.”

Gut reaction? Shock I guess because a full-mouthed “WHAT?!” promptly erupted out of me upon reading the words. All I could think initially was “she can’t be serious” and “there must be something I am missing here.” I could not believe this woman meant exactly what she was saying. I was considering the fact that I don’t know her blog, maybe there is a back story I am missing. That is when I noticed the word “submissive” was actually a link so I clicked on it. As I thought it took me to another posting that served to better explain her meaning of submission. Surely this woman has a different definition of the word and she is going to enlighten her readers here, I was ready for her explanation.

She started this posting explaining that in order to be submissive to your husband it does not require you to be without your own opinions and it does not make you a weak woman, Oh good – She had me worried.. Then she proceeds to talk about the importance of letting your man be head of the household even if you think he is an idiot!

I am doing my absolute best not to judge this woman because she is entitled to her opinion and beliefs as I am to mine that are clearly in contrast. If I don’t like what she is writing then I don’t have to read it but unfortunately I did. I can’t unread her words and being the kind of woman I am I have let out what is banging around inside me now.

She said most women have an issue with the idea of submission because they think they are of higher intelligence therefore better suited to run the household. If that is true I disagree with that idea as well. Am I wrong in thinking that a truly functional relationship should not be a power struggle? Is the idea of mutual respect so very outlandish? Words like compromise and team work and compassion come to mind when I think about the home I hope to create with Todd. It is about love without boundaries or conditions and reciprocal esteem for one another.

The author of the blog was right about one thing, the idea of being submissive is belittling and it makes me angry. However, my feelings on the topic she raises does just stem from the fact that I am woman who demands my free will. This is an issue that reaches beyond gender, race, religion or any other label we as humans put on one another. I do not consider myself a feminist per say, I believe in what is right for all people not just my own gender. This woman is making an argument for submission. She is encouraging free thinking women to submit to another person, to be owned and controlled by another. I wonder how women in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan who are born without freedom would feel about this woman’s ideas? I wonder how members of the Dalit Caste in India would feel  reading her words? I wonder what a girl like Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the face by the Taliban for speaking up for girl’s rights to an education in Pakistan would say to this woman and her notion that we as women should play passive roles in our lives allowing our men to rule.

The woman makes the argument for her religion, she quotes bible verses and states that submitting to your husband is in the bigger picture submitting to her Lord. Call it what you want lady. I am not drinking the cool aid. I was absolutely offended by this backwards suggestion. My disdain comes in part because it goes against what my own feelings and beliefs are but moreover I am deeply offended for the people in the world that are not born into freedom. They have never had the luxury of an opinion. The thought that a woman who clearly takes her own freedoms for granted would encourage others to so willingly throw them away.. It’s nonsense and it’s disrespectful to those who never had the option to begin with.

 

I feel it is important to I reiterate that this woman’s post was based on her religious beliefs and teachings, teachings that I am not personally familiar with. I do not wish to be disrespectful of her beliefs or her relationship. I just have different beliefs and a different relationship.

How to make a point

I had no intention on posting an entry today. My inspiration was not in writing. Instead it was taking me towards painting, which is exactly what I was doing when my blissful silence was broken by a knock at the door.

I heard “shave-and-a-haircut” and of course my first reaction was slight panic for reasons I have stated in previous posts but then I assumed it was my father as that is his knock. This would not be unusual, he has Mondays off and if he was in the area he would absolutely stop by. What was unusual is that he hadn’t called, he would normally call. I considered going to put on something more appropriate as I was bra-less (as I often am when I am home alone for the day without plans for visitors) but decided against it convinced it was just Daddy. I got to the door and looked out the peep-hole to discover I was wrong, much to my dismay. It was our persistent neighborhood religious salesman with a new friend. I would take me a few minutes to go to the back of the house, change into something appropriate and get back to the front door to speak with them so I decided against it. Instead I did something that absolutely infuriated me, I hid behind my front door until they left.

I am exasperated. I feel that I have no choice but to be the person I have not wanted to be during encounters with this man. I do not want to be rude or threatening, I do not want to be the kind of person that hides behind my front door from someone. I want to be able to be honest and respectful in order to relay my message and I want to be respected in return.  The woman who accompanied him on his visit last week understood and appreciated my honesty, however he said nothing during our last encounter after I made my feelings clear so I assume he has chosen to ignore my wishes. So what next?? How do I make my point without becoming this person I have tried so hard not to be? It was difficult enough for me to be as honest as I was the last time because I was concerned about offending them! This man clearly does not care that I feel offended and violated.

I am going to have to give this some thought because clearly I can expect a future visit from him. What I think upsets me most is the disruption to my creative process. I am agitated and now have to try to not only calm down, which I will be able to do easy enough, but also get back into a state of mind that has been shattered. Booger.

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.