Dirty Water

My phone chirps with a message.  I smile when I see the name of the sender.  She’s a young mom with two young children and another one on the way and our friendship is a sweet and honest one that often leaves me feeling motherly and proud of her.   Usually her texts bring laughter or cute pictures of her beautiful chubby baby girl smiling out of my phone. As I start to read her text, I can feel the smile sliding off of my face.  From the exclamation marks and happy face with hearts emoji sprinkled between her words, I can tell that she was expects a response along the lines of “That’s fantastic!  How beautiful!  I’m so happy for him! ❤ ❤ ❤ ”  I actually start to send this completely fraudulent endorsement but my God spark whispers in my mind before I hit “send.” “No,” the sparks says, “that’s not how you really feel. Only speak the truth.”  I balk…If I respond in truth, my text will say “That breaks my heart…I am sorry this happened. 😦 ”  I can’t do that…she’s so excited and it would be easier to just go along with it and let her keep feeling her groovy little groove. My truth will fuck up her groove.  I just can’t be this young beautiful woman’s groovy groove fucker upper.  I respond with just three hearts and no words…a safe loving response that deftly bridges the situational chasm between my blunt truth and her groovy groove.

“My son has been attending vacation Bible school this week and he told the preacher he wants to accept Jesus Chris as his personal lord and savior!!! 🙂 ❤ 🙂  The kids are having a special program at the end of this week and he’s getting baptized as part of it!!! 🙂 “

The vacation bible school her son is attending is the same one I attended when I was his age in our small hometown.  I remember the pressure to please all of the adults in the program and “graduate” with the other “good kids” by reciting the “personal lord and savior” catchphrase and and getting dunked in water during the end of the week program.  My childhood church had a hot tub in a room hidden behind the wall above the choir seats directly behind the pulpit in the sanctuary.  When it was time to baptize, the doors to this secret room would be rolled open to either side; effectively creating a stage.  And, like my friend’s son will be later this week, I was on that stage for the most special part of the special program at the end of the week.

I remember standing in line on the stairs leading up to the “stage” with the other graduating sinners from my bible school class.  I was actually excited in the promise that I could be “washed of all of my sins” and finally be a good girl who made my mom proud and didn’t have dirty secrets inside.  It seemed like such an easy thing to do…say the words, hold my breath, get wet and exit the hot tub a good little girl who didn’t feel dirty and ashamed.  I wish now I could go back and snatch myself out of that line and run as far away from that church as I could get.  I wish that I could go back and tell the preacher and the do-gooder vbs teachers to fuck off for their packaged ritualized salvation without regard to the risk of selling false hope to children.  I wish that I could forget how, after emerging from the water and climbing the stairs out of that warm chlorinated water, I felt so ashamed and guilty.  I wish I could go back and hug my little self and say “It’s ok, honey. These assholes are just putting on a show and you’re just a prop in their show…don’t take it personally.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  You didn’t make that water dirty. ”

Over the years as I’ve healed and sought a true relationship with my creator, I’ve become increasingly intolerant of religion and the ugliness in this world being created in the name of religion.  I’m enraged by the sanctified and judgmental assholes who spout hate, exclusion and selfishness from a false platform of faith in God while recklessly proselytizing young children through the lure of free babysitting. I’m sickened by the thought of children being told to simply show up for a week of pizza, games and bible lessons and be handed salvation like a diploma once the week is over. I hate the emptiness of that promise to children in a world that is so entirely fucked up.  From personal experience I know how badly false promises and canned gospel can really fuck up a kid who’s already fucked up.

My thinking I was so dirty that I tainted my baptismal water as a young girl was a fairly constant point of discussion with my therapist over the past several years.  It was a revelation that came from a discussion about my confusion over faith and redemption and a key that turned a lock in my subconscious; shining a light on my deep longstanding battle with the demons of shame and self-hatred. I’m so grateful for this light and for the chance to overcome the damage careless religion inflicted on my soul as a child in order to find a true and healing walk of faith. I’m so glad that after more than 35 years after my dip in the hot tub, I’ve finally managed to wring that dirty water out of my soul.

All This Fucking Peace

I long, as every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou

“One day’s worth of grace at at time,” I tell myself daily.  Sometimes it works and I’m all wiggly inside from feeling all groovy with my infantile walk in faith. Infantile isn’t even really an adequate term for the undeveloped and ineffective sense I have each day I navigate this daily “God-sparked ride on a meat covered skeleton.” (I have no clue who wrote that, but I’m too bleh to Google…so anyway…) Maybe my doctor is right and I am bipolar.  Or maybe I’m right and I’m actually experiencing a crisis of faith triggered by a spiritual awakening.  Either way, it’s a crisis.  Truly.  And as I sit here and write, I’m not completely sure if I’m on my way down the rabbit hole or on my way up out of it.

I’ve placed myself squarely in the middle of the most isolated place I could find and I’ve separated myself from almost everyone I know.  It’s time to find out the answer once and for all…Am I a middle-aged woman having her last and final breakdown before acquiescing to my incurable madness?  Am I a broken woman healing from  lifetime of emotional turmoil and damn-near-epic path of destruction? Are my daily mood swings the result of an incurable chemical imbalance in my brain or am I just experiencing a completely reasonable imbalance due to my recent choice to move away from everything and almost everyone I’ve known?  Am I doing the right thing for myself and my mental health or am I once again choosing my own happiness over the best interests of my children? Am I completely batshit crazy or am I more sane that I’ve ever been before?

When my old friends text me and ask how I’m doing, I’ve very quick to answer with my token answer “It’s so beautiful and peaceful down here.”  Aligned with my self-aligning quest to always speak the truth, I’m being honest.  My new home is beautiful.  And my new home is peaceful; a nine-acre tract of lush timber with fawns lying by my pond, extraordinary vibrantly colored butterflies, the constant chorus of singing birds, a comfortable hammock in which I can relax and enjoy all the beauty around me and, the real bazinga, the almost complete absence of the toxicity of human beings. Complete and absolute isolation in nature….my dream for the past four years.

Seeing this place for the first time and writing up a contract to buy it that same day wasn’t the result of my past characteristic nature to be impulsive.  I’ve dreamed of finding a writing retreat in nature for many years and, while there are some finishing touches needed to truly make this my dream home (read fish in my pond and chickens in a coop), this home and property are perfect.  My new home is exactly what I have dreamed of and planned for…the place where I could finally find peace.  “Lynette,” I say to myself when I struggling to be peaceful, “what in the hell is wrong with you?  You’re in your dream home and you’re still not happy?  I mean look around! How in the hell can you live in a place like this an not be peaceful? Look at all of this fucking peace!”

The truth, as I’m discovering, is that I can’t buy peace and I cannot find peace.  Instead the task before me is to become peaceful.  Just now I’m starting to recognize the error in my thinking I could obtain peace like a commodity.  If I had stopped for a moment to truly examine my expectations in finding peace by moving to a peaceful place, I’d like to think I would have made an adjustment…made things a little easier for myself as I navigated all of these decisions and big life changes.  But better late than never, I guess.  It’s become clear to me that I can buy property and a home that provides the kind of boundless beauty only nature can display and isolation from the toxicity of others and an incubator for my gestational faith and inner tranquility, but that is extent of my purchasing power when it comes to peace. My new home is not a cure…it’s a place to heal…a sanctuary where healing can take place. I am living in a peaceful place and I’m isolated, but I’m in the constant companionship of the one person who threatens my peace the most. And in order to heal, I have to meet, get to know and learn to love the one person I’ve hated most all my life…myself.

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to avoid myself and succeeding in the most spectacularly destructive ways by creating personas and existences built upon the expectations and approval of others. I bobbed and weaved and evaded reality like a champion until four years ago when I was right-hooked by life and knocked on my ass.  Looking back I find some level of grudging, and perhaps questionable in terms of mental health, respect for myself in the acknowledging the lengths I traveled and the stamina I demonstrated in maintaining a life, in the form of multiple false lives, other than my own.  Today, however, I have no stage upon which to portray a character for others. No more smoke and mirrors, no more costumes, props and engineered realities…only excruciating isolation forcing me to face, examine, conquer my demons. The only path to true peace for myself is to find myself…and be myself.

So each day, even on the bad ones, I’m going to remind myself that I’m not striving for perfection.  Instead I’m striving for progress.  I’m going to follow my original plan and read, write, paint and pray in a way that leads me through this existential crisis.  On the bad days, I’ll remember that I’m experiencing my own authenticity and forgive myself when my own soul itches in all the wrong places or feels blistered in the places it rubs.  I’m going to get used to my own company and learn how to feel comfortable in my own skin while I focus on the beauty around me when I’m having a hard time finding it within myself.  On the good days I’m going to take the time to reflect on the bittersweet blessings that have brought me to this beautiful sanctuary and just breath in all that is around me.  And maybe someday, if I keep focusing on the good and finding my reasons to be grateful, I’ll be able to say “It’s so peaceful here” regardless of where I’m standing.