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.

 

 

 

 

Epiphany

Have you ever had a thought which you were afraid to share because it would make you feel vulnerable or silly? Fear not, dear reader, I will be your surrogate. Vulnerable is kinda my thing.

I had a thought when I was praying/meditating/lying on the floor-“I give myself permission to love myself to wellness.” Maybe you read that, see touchy-feely, new-agey buzzwords and think, “whatever dude.”

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But…this is radical for me. Love myself? I often don’t even like myself, and my attempts at self-improvement/growth were to shore up a surfeit, to overcome a shortcoming, to fix something I didn’t like. And most of those attempts have failed.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

I used to be a positive person. Genuinely, annoyingly optimistic. Cheerful, even. This is who I was. I oftentimes still didn’t like myself, but it wasn’t too hard for me to find the silver lining in everything. As stress built up, I was less and less able to find the good, and eventually stopped looking.

This isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to shake me up, force me to refocus, to examine my motivations, to guard my heart, to be a fierce bodhisattva, to be exceedingly honest with myself.

It will be really uncomfortable at first to get to know myself. It will probably hurt a little.

How will I do this journey? I don’t know yet. But I do know it will take sleep, yoga, jiu jitsu, journaling, service, prayer, quiet, eating differently, and again, yoga. And likely more I’ve not yet considered.

And the Earth will stop spinning as I, Zach Morris-like, pause time and hang out with the man in the mirror.

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Make that change

No, of course not. I’m still going to be married, and have 3 daughters,  a full time job, be a full-time student, be a busy church elder, have hobbies and friends, and somewhere in there have time to change careers and occasionally use the restroom.

I am choosing a challenging path, because it is drastic. It’s what I need. It’s Theodore Roosevelt’s strenuous life, but it’s my life.

I am taking responsibility for the life I want to live. I give myself permission to love myself to wellness.

 

 

 

Finding the challenge

*Trigger Warning* This post discusses the loss/potential loss of a child.

I’ve been feeling quite burnt out lately. The culprits are sleep deprivation, and the permanent high anxiety of parenting a child with Dravet Syndrome. The hypervigilance is crushing me. Normally I’m annoyingly,genuinely positive. Ebullient. Effervescent. I can pick out the silver lining from a mile away, and turn a negative into a motivating challenge, but no dice. I haven’t been able to do so this time. I believe it can be done. I have faith I can find a way to make this a driving factor, but I haven’t found just how to stitch it together.

I feel like a whole person who is moving toward wellness. I feel more resilient everyday until a major setback. I know if I can turn the corner and be motivated instead of overburdened,  I would be a much more effective, happy, and alive person.

So much has changed in the last year. We drove a Mazda towing a U-Haul trailer with 3 kids and a dog from coastal Virginia to the Northeastern corner of Utah, by way of Texas. We went to Hawaii. I got a promotion. We’re actually living the life we’ve been dreaming of for years. We have achieved major life goals- we bought a house with a fireplace on a quiet street in a walkable neighborhood. We’re near bike/hiking trails and coffee. We wanted to be engaged in our community, and we are. We have great neighbors. We have chickens and a kickass garden. My wife and I are both in school for creative writing. We’re plugged into a church that is dedicated on making Earth suck less for it  and her inhabitants. I genuinely enjoy my work and coworkers.

This is what we wanted. I am grateful. I need more friends, but our life largely looks like what we’ve been hoping for. Things are good.

Except….

Yeah. Sweet Paloma, who steals food and hugs strangers. The monkey baby who moves furniture to facilitate better climbing and sometimes does.not.sleep. She’ll get tired and crappy, but literally stay awake until 4am. In those moments, it’s tough to think about the amazing life we’ve been able to craft, but incredibly easy to think “I might actually die. I might for realsies just drop dead, because, as the formula reads, >3 hours sleep/night  x (weeks)=death“.

Thus, the first challenge is finding the challenge. What am I responsible for? What’s something I can control or influence? How can I go from just surviving (barely) as a victim of circumstance to having a fire in my belly again? What can I change my thinking about? Would I rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?

I am grateful for the all-nighters, even when they’re killing me. My stress level is high. My hair is thinning rapidly. Like Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element, I am one bad haircut from just being a bald dude forever.

I’m grateful because it means this condition hasn’t robbed me of my child, as it can,  at any moment, forever. Any of us can die at any moment, but her likelihood is insanely higher.

I’m not okay with that. I haven’t perfected non-attachment. I don’t know how to be a person who has suffered the loss of a child. I know people who have endured it, but I might not be made of the same stuff as they, and I don’t want to find out. I don’t think this is an idea I’m likely to be able to frame positively.

I don’t think I have to accept it. I think I can hate it and freak out about it for the rest of my life if I have a commitment to grattitude. Maybe that’s my challenge.

After Selah’s accident, I made it a point to write a list of everything I was grateful for. Electricity for her life-support equipment. Coffee. Medical insurance. Oxygen. A place to sleep. Indoor plumbing. The list got easier as I went on. It was difficult to intentionally cultivate gratitude, but I did it.

I get snarky and a bit jaded at times. I get tired or hungry and bitchy. In those moments (and now- I have a bad cold, and am feeling miserable), I can still be grateful, and I can still have joy.

I was talking to someone about joy, about how I didn’t view joy as superficial bliss, like “Walkin’ on sunshine.” Joy is funky and subterranean. Joy smells like tree roots. It lives deep down, right next to hope. It’s always there, no matter the weather on the surface world.

I challenge myself to seek gratitude and joy, especially when I want to scream at a bad driver or roll my eyes. Especially when I’m being a petulant little shit or I’m running late or the dog steals my socks.

I choose joy.