Keeping the sabbath holy

I’ve written much¬†about the spiritual crisis I started about 2.5 years ago. It got dark at times. It’s largely resolved, but featured a period of faithlessness, and a careful examining of what I believe and what it means about how I should live my life.

Church has been a constant, notwithstanding a few weeks here and there. However, since moving to Albuquerque, it’s been difficult to find the right church. We scouted a bunch of places online before arriving, and thought we’d found *our* place. Their social media presence expresses concern in the same things I care about, they’re plugged into the community, all good things. However, after 2 visits, I was unable to see any men between 25-50. The kids were shushed by a deaf lady. Instrumental versions of several patriotic songs were played to celebrate 4th of July, which made my vehement dedication to separation of church and state itch all over.

I don’t want everyone in the world to be like me, but maybe having contemporaries in similar stages of life would be nice. I still need friends. And I understand many people experience being “the only one in the room” on a regular basis, but I don’t want to be a permanent outlier in my faith community. The nursery was in disrepair-it has been a long time since toddlers were there. As a parent of a toddler with Dravet Syndrome, this is an issue.

On the drive to lunch (after ducking out a side door to avoid mingling with the septuagenarians), we all said some variation of “What if we just don’t go to church anymore?” Over Jason’s Deli sandwiches and sweet tea, Lindsay and I both confessed we missed Ogden.

I clarified. I missed people in Ogden, our old church, and the coffee shops, which were many and excellent.

Our old church, the one where we felt so comfortable? 2 families with kids, and rarely did they attend at the same time. That’s all I needed. A few more would have been nice, but it was enough. I like older (including the elderly) people, I just don’t want to hang out exclusively with old people all the time. Not only does it make the necessary evil of small talk difficult, but there’s a disconnect in values, frames of reference, and communication styles. Though this may lead to a wider perspective and deep discussions, it might also lead to me being told hip hop is just noise, and they ain’t even heard that new Chance jawn tho.

Life will never be perfect, but I’m not ready to give up trying. It may mean casting a wider net. I went to a Buddhist meditation class on Thursday. I largely enjoyed the experience, and managed to not fall asleep, even with long stretches of silence. I was a little put off by a little of the dharma talk-there was a short portion about disembodied spirits (which cause illness because they think humans mean them harm) being assuaged by offerings of food. Though that’s not the weirdest thing I’ve heard in a religious setting, it made me uncomfortable.

You see, I grew up with a stringent dark/light binary. Either you were actively reading your bible and praisin’ the Lord, or you were being molested by demons. There was a gross fascination with the occult and Satan. Demons loomed large on my conscience, and I spent more time being afraid of being possessed or descended upon by a fanged tormentor than I was trying to live like Jesus, or the distilled version of simply trying to not be a jerk. It could happen anywhere, anytime. I had anxiety and recurring nightmares about it. Listening to a Color Me Badd song, doing yoga, teaching kids about dinosaurs, watching a movie starring Kevin Spacey were all portals to hades.*I am purposely not linking to videos or articles stating a belief in these statements, because I don’t want to. Google at your own discretion.*

I’m not expecting evil around every corner anymore. Not demons or botulism or ISIS. It is freeing to not focus on negative potential events. Sure, I still lock my doors and keep an eye out for crackheads, pyramid schemes, and wolves, but bad things that might (and totally might not too, you guys) happen don’t consume all my operating RAM. It’s taken me a long time to arrive at a place where I reclaimed the right to worry about what I want to, and use my thoughts as I see fit, and I will fiercely protect it.

And any church I might consider being involved with is just going to have to deal with it.

 

 

 

 

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Thank God

Yesterday was stressful- I thoroughly Good Fridayed. I felt like I had a lot of loose ends for an event I was supposed to be planning. I rear-ended someone in the course of running errands (minor-everything was ok), but everything went fine. The event was a blast, and not the miasma of confusion and ruination I projected it would be.

At the end of the day, it was good. Kind of like hiking, when about halfway through you doubt your decision-making faculties and elucidate on all the ways you were sure to die, but at the end, all that doubt and anxiety was really getting your hackles up over nothing, and hiking isn’t the worst thing.

We have three chickens. My favorite is Beyonce. The other two were being all Mean Girls and not letting her hang out. They’d venture across the yard without Bey, and hog the food. I made a point to petting and scratching her as I tucked them in every night for a few weeks. At first she was resistant, and did not appreciate me being in her space. Now she lets me pick her up and carry her around. Bella has started hanging out with Beyonce, and leaves Alice Walker to do her own thing. It’s very interesting, but Beyonce doesn’t need fairweather friends.

My whole family has been sick, and I really hope I don’t get it. I had a cold from November to February. The main reason I don’t want to get sick is because we’re doing a lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) event at jiu jitsu on Monday. We all bought masks. I am really looking forward to it, I know it will be a blast. I’ll take a million pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I watched a documentary on Netflix, Monk With A Camera, about a Buddhist monk who was also a photographer, as the title would suggest. It was more than that he came from a family high fashion, his father was a diplomat, but still, apt title. I enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to a photography class semester after next. The Dalai Lama was in the movie. I’ve seen him in a lot of things, and I’m always taken at his big, genuine laugh, which he is quick to share. He has deep joy and peace, even though he constantly deals with ameliorating intense suffering. His laugh is effective medicine.

The best medicine for me right now is sleep. Adieu.

 

Back

Ok, so Nanowrimo was a bust, but I enjoyed it. I wrote 10k words, so I achieved 1/5th of my goal, but I’ve never written anything so long before. My laptop died toward the beginning of the month, and I’ve been sick forever, but so what. I wrote well, and will keep chipping away at it. I learned quite a bit, and at some points, it did write itself- the characters and settings took over. What I had plotted seemed inauthentic or inorganic, and the story moved itself along.

I started my 2nd semester at school, and I’m finally getting at my creative writing coursework.

I blogged about growing a mustache for Movember at The Good Men Project, which involved 2 things I dislike, growing a moustache and taking selfies. It was a fun exercise, and I’ll make an annual tradition of it.

I haven’t written about it before, but I had some unhealthy negative attachment to two people in my past. I’m fairly certain I’ll never see them again, but my righteous indignation quickly turned to pride and ego whenever I thought about them, even though I haven’t seen either of them in more than a year. A good friend sent Lindsay Pema Chodron’s amazing book,¬†The Places That Scare You. In it, an exercise is introduced. It was simple, and this is my even simpler version:

I want happiness and the things which foster happiness for:
1) Yourself or a close loved one
2) A friend
3) A neutral person-casual acquaintance/stranger
4) A difficult person
5) The whole world

I thought step 4 was going to suck, but I decided to go ahead with it.

Ho.Ly.Crap.

After spending a few minutes of sitting quietly and thinking this through, then saying it out loud, I was flushed with forgiveness and peace. My heart has long been hardened to these people, after all, they *wronged* me. All negativity released. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to take a road trip with either of them soon, in fact, I’m perfectly fine not seeing them ever again, but I felt no claim to the negativity of the past. I no longer felt I had to retain ownership of how I allowed them to project their suffering on to me and take it on as my own suffering.

This was life-changing for me. I’m realizing I have self-worth issues, (which is really for another post or series of posts) and I kept feeding it by holding on to negativity. I am free of this burden.

I “forgave” them in the Christian sense a long time ago, but it still hurt. It ain’t hurt no more.

On the heels of such experience, I have long been dedicated to pursuing justice. I want to continue to do this work in a way that doesn’t involve just writing half-baked political screeds on the internet. I do want to continue to engage and impact culture, but I’m going to have to find a more effective way to do so.

I have no solutions at the moment.

But, although I am sick, my heart is at peace and my mind is uncluttered, and I’m going to bed, which in many situations is the wisest and most spiritual thing one can do.

I want happiness and the things which foster happiness for you.