Exploring some not-so-new thoughts and chewing the cud

Life in the time of Covid-19, Novel Coronavirus is kind of a liminal space; a piece of time that is outside of ‘normal’ time, and has given me long moments to chew on ideas. Some I’ve spit out; some I’m lingering over, bitter as they are, because I’m not done with them yet. Others get tucked into the back of the cheek, to be pulled out at a later time for examining and deciding what to do with them.

Cairns, seen while on a #CovidWalk

Here are a few I think I’m done with at this point:

I don’t miss the so-called fellowship of the church, because I’ve seen it to be a very shallow, self-centered, ego-driven, Janus-faced ‘friendship’ where you’re greeted with a warm hug, smile, a brief, ‘how are you’, before they rush off to the next person, and then never hear from them again until the next encounter. And yes, I’ve been guilty of doing this, too, and I cringe when I look back at my church life and see the times I’ve done it to others. I wish I could say that behavior from others is rare, but unfortunately, I’ve experienced it too often, in too many church settings and gatherings, to say that it is rare. I’ve grown tired of the hypocrisy, as well as the underlying sense of being ‘used’ to make others feel better about themselves, when they obviously didn’t give a rip about me or others. I am quite fine with walking away from it for good.

I’m still gnawing away at that bone called ‘hell’, and its companion, the rapture, though.

I thought I was fully done with those beliefs, but I still sometimes catch myself looking into that burning abyss, wondering if I’m imagining it or if it truly is there; a gaping maw waiting for the death sentence to drop, so it can consume those who haven’t spoken that magical prayer? Nah, I can’t believe that, not when I think about it in the context of a parent who loves their kid(s). And if ‘God’ is the epitome of love- the very essence of Love- then I just cannot believe that the idea of hell is real.

But here’s the thing- I did believe in hell at one time; once I was taught about it by well-meaning christian adults. It is a deep seated fear-based belief that is difficult to fully uproot, because its ugly tentacles reach everywhere and bury themselves in the smallest cracks and crevices of the mind. It’s insidious and tenacious, and takes a long time to get every last tiny bit of it pulled up for disposal.

For years after I was shown the evangelical movie titled, ‘Thunder in the Distance’, as a young kid, I lived in terror that my mom- a recent convert to christianity- might at any time just leave me the same as the daughter in the movie disappeared during the ‘rapture’, and I’d be left on my own because I hadn’t said ‘the prayer’.

And when I was thoroughly terrified enough by those ideas, I ‘accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart’, not because I felt loved and cherished by Him, but because I was utterly traumatized and too terrified by the idea of hell to NOT say that prayer, in hopes of not being ‘left behind’.

My entire christian life was based strictly upon fear- fear of my mom being stolen from me. Fear that I was going to be left behind in a ‘horrible, evil, wretched, godless world’. Fear that I was never quite good enough, no matter how much I prayed, how ‘good’ I tried to be, or how many verses I attempted to memorize, and so on. There was no love to be found there, none at all. Not from me to god, nor from god to me. It was all more rules, regs, and good behavior, and let’s hope it’s enough because, gasp!, if it wasn’t, the prayer may not have worked and I’d still be sent to hell.

Hell is one of the most damaging stories (beliefs) a person can tell others about; the psychological damage it does is intense, but no one wants to acknowledge it, let alone discuss it, because the fall out can be devastating.

Where does that leave me? Well, these days, I’m residing in that liminal place of in between: a place of not knowing just what to believe, and of having discarded much of what I used to trust and believe, terrifying though it was to me.

I no longer pray, nor feel the need to do so, or ‘worship’ (whatever that is), but I am discovering that there is a longing within me- a longing for an intimacy and a connection that I’ve never once had previously. I believe that longing and desire is there because, for the first time ever, the threat of hell, and punishment if I don’t get things ‘right,’ is gone. The pressure to always be ‘good, correct, godly’ has been lifted and now, it’s just me being who I am and THAT IS ENOUGH. 

So I’m staying in a holding pattern now. I no longer want to force my round peg self into the square hole; it hurts, it’s not real, and it’s not safe. I’m waiting for the truth to arise from the ashes. I ponder what I do know, and pit it against what I’ve learned so far. If it holds up, great. I keep it. If not, I pitch it.

It’s not an easy process; it’s painful, and rather difficult to do. I mean, these are beliefs that have been ingrained in me for many, many years; done so under threat of pain and abandonment, so it is extremely difficult to just kick them to the curbside and not have anything to replace them with, you know? Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our brains. They just want to just grab the next idea/belief and use that to cling to, or sometimes it keeps going back to that rubbish pile to reclaim what was already ditched, because it is very hard to live with the unknowing and that emptiness, but it’s important to do it.

Living within the liminal space can be painful, disorienting, and it’s lonely because no one can truly join you there. It’s freeing in the sense that there are no rules or guidelines, but it’s also a freefall where North is no longer North, and there is no leader to look to for guidance.  And, for me at least, there’s frequently an underlining fear of ‘what if I’m wrong and they were right, after all?’ popping up now and again.

But you know something? I’m finding that, for me, it is worth it.

Take care and #staysafe, y’all.

Honeysuckle flowers

New Year, New me?

Happy February, y’all.

It was a shock to flip the calendar over this morning and see that we are now 32 days into the new year of 2020. Do you realize that we are well beyond the years that most Science Fiction stories took place in?!? ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’ ring a bell? So many of Robert A. Heinlein’s future stories. Hey Marty, it’s no longer ‘Back to the Future’, m’friend, and hover boards are for real! (Well, sort of. ) When did that happen??

As to the current time- things are not quite as bleak in my tiny patch of this world, mainly because I’ve left depression and moved into Survivalville, which is just as ugly a place, but has less depth of feeling. Except for the anger, of course; there’s always the anger (such a pale, weak word for the reality of it) that is an underlying lava flow, with a cold top crust that shatters easily when poked at too hard. And the Black Dog is still singing its mournful song, but quieter now. It’s more a constant background noise that I tune out, but it still vibrates my bones and the deepest part of my heart. On the difficult days, it start howling and screaming, and I try desperately to wrap myself up in a ball around it; wanting to comfort it, pleading for it to stop crying and gnawing on my soul, and sometimes it does. Most times we both end up a shuddering mess of tears and snot, having reached a mutual point of exhaustion and call it quits.

************************************

There’s still no resolution about any of the god-stuff, but lately I’ve been thinking about… well, I suppose it could be called meditation. I’ve read some books by people who have learned the practice for themselves, and how much it changes them, bringing them to the point of healing, and then peace (‘Eat Pray Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert being one of those books), and it sounds like a desirable practice to me.

I’m really no farther along in either deconstruction or reconstruction, and am stuck in a weird pocket of space/time where, while I know God IS, I’m at a loss as to how to connect with Them, let alone knowing who They really are. I’m still a jumbled and messy knot, working on unraveling the truth from the misdirection & lies that have been ingrained in me, and making no headway on it.

Actually, writing that down gave me a pause, because it occurred to me that the majority, if not all, of the ideas/beliefs I’ve looked at so far are false. I can’t think of one thing that I’ve looked at thus far that holds a grain of truth. The ‘salvation prayer’? Only been in existence for about 150 years. Prayer? As I’ve learned it- a form of manipulation to twist god’s arm into doing what I want. Church? Turns out it’s a methodical programming business, training people to obey the man-made rules (heavy on the word ‘man’) and give money, so the so-called leaders can continue to program others. Gag, retch, puke. The Bible? Umm… nope. It is not an instruction manual for today; it’s a collection of letters and documents written to people about a thousand plus years ago and wasn’t intended to be the blueprint of modern life. Hell? Mmm.. I no longer believe it to be the Dantes Inferno that the Church promotes, nor that people are automatically assigned to it if they don’t say (in their heart, of course 🙄) the salvation prayer. My thoughts these days are that many of us, including me, are currently living in hell; tormented, surrounded by lies and ugliness, with no peace at all.

As you see, I’ve kicked a lot of things to the curb. I still sometimes wander back over to the pile and rummage through it, because there’s been nothing to replace the ideas with yet, and to make sure they deserve to be left there- you know, the whole ‘baby & bathwater’ thing- and so far, it’s all stayed there in its ugly little pile and I’ve walked away, hands in pockets and whistling. In other words, I’m comfortable now with having ditched those beliefs.

And that’s a good beginning.

Careening untethered through life

I haven’t had much of anything to say these past few months; I’ve been fighting against depression and trying to find a way out of that oh, so deep hole of blackness and mostly failing.

No one wants to read about that. They want, instead, the bright and glorious stories of the successes in overcoming the Black Dog. They want to read, and nod along to, those cheery platitudes of freedom; of the light-hearted encouragement of well-meaning folk who have never heard the song of the Black Dog playing in the background (or foreground) of their lives.

I don’t have that to give and certainly don’t have it to write about; I’ve been grinding on, as my friend Keith, who died recently, would say to me.

Grinding through each day and night, with teeth and fists clenched, or just dragging myself through time because that is what is required of me.

**********************

Giving up the ideas I once thought were Truth have been devastating, and certainly have undermined the ground of my life, but that is not wholly to blame for where I find myself these past months. It does, however, play a goodly part of contributing to the howling of the Dog, especially since I have yet to unearth that which would replace those lies and near lies.

Prayer is gone. Worship songs, worship services, and the like, turn my stomach and fill my mind with thoughts as, Why does ‘god’ want that from us? It’s like going to a friend and singing to them about how much I love them, need them, long for them to be part of my life.

How awkward and uncomfortable for both of us.

***********************

I’ve been left with a void and Nature abhors a vacuum (as does my cat) so it has done its best to fill it, but has succeeded in only driving me deeper into the abyss of loneliness… of unknowing… of spinning, dizzy and sick, without guidance through each day and night, with dying hope.

But….

Day still follows each night, although I find little of joy in it.

My cat still needs me, appreciates me, and cuddles with me.

I still grind on, even without knowing why or having a reason to do so.

And tomorrow will be another day.

Maybe that will be the day I’ll unearth a new found love, or the beginnings of understanding, or at least the head of the pathway towards the Truth that will begin to fill the void and silence the Dog.

(Texas Hill Country)

I’ve dumped the trash, but now what?

I met with a friend for a late lunch today and recognized something new about this grey, liminal space I’m in: I’m still so angry about the well-meaning (?) lies the church has fed me, that I can’t rationally discuss anything about it, ‘it’ being religious beliefs.

Furthermore, since I’ve yet to uncover any new truth(s), I have nothing to say to anyone.

I feel as though I’m so empty inside, that I’m rattling around in my own skin, which is rather unpleasant and irritates me and has caused me to be very prickly, much like the cactus photo I’ve shared.

Pretty, but don’t get too close.

Those things I had once believed now make me very angry, but I mainly stay silent because I have virtually nothing to refute it with, and that is extremely frustrating.

My hope is that I will eventually learn what is trustworthy and true, and will be able to be filled with them.

(My thanks to @nanciec13 and Kat Myrman. You two helped me capture some of these floaty thoughts I’ve been having in words tonight.)

Growth can hurt

I discovered how much I’ve grown over and weekend, although that might not be the best word for it,so let’s say, I’ve changed.

I went to see Avengers: Endgame with a small group of friends (my 2nd time seeing it, their 1st) and we stood around afterwards discussing it, as one does.

Except, they were hyper-spiritualizing the characters, and commenting on how character A represented holy spirit, B demonstrated grace, and so on.

And it made me sick.

A year or so ago, I’d be right there with them, doing my best to tie in some kind of christian spirituality with the behaviors, but still feeling a sense of fakeness & hollowness while joining in. Saturday, all I felt was disgust and an overwhelming sense of being alone. It was like watching a bad TV show where each person tries to outdo the others; eagerly interrupting each other with more outlandish ideas, and egging each other on.

And I just stood outside the circle and realized how foolish they sounded, and was sadly disappointed that we couldn’t discuss the absolutely incredible movie experience we had just had.

… I lost myself?

Super quick post, since I’m running late for work, but wanted to throw this down on ‘paper’, since that’s how I process.

I’m feeling a loss of connection.

Let me rephrase that – I’ve been feeling the loss, but just now recognized what it is I’ve been feeling & sensing.

I’m no longer part of anything. No church. No close friends, since they don’t get where I am and I can no longer relate to their beliefs; conversations are now stunted and no longer flow.

Another layer of depression has sunk its black claws into me, and I’m struggling with all that entails- nothing holds any kind of enjoyment for me.

Not all of this stems from the deconstruction process, but my god, when you realize that the majority of what you’ve been taught is wrong, it really does something to a person.

It’s thrown me into a nasty tailspin and I’m struggling to find a way out of it, but the earth is rushing up towards me at an unprecedented rate and I feel I’m running out of time.

Easter, Passover, Pascha sameach

This holiday (holy day) used to mean something to me.

It was more than just the obligatory basket of chocolate, candy, and the occasional stuffed animal. It was getting up before dawn; enduring the cold drive in the darkness, while only half awake, dressed in a brand new outfit and shoes that did nothing to keep me warm. It was the stumbling trudge up to the top of the hill in the semi-darkness, dodging tombstones and grave markers, to await the dawning of the new day and the happy shouts of, He has risen! Alleluia! as the sun slipped over the horizon. It was the many people around us, smiling, laughing, and crying as they hugged and wished each other a blessed Easter, and the pastor leading us to sing songs in an unintentional imitation of the birds surrounding us.

Granted, my mom took us only the one time, but it was seared into my mind and feels like we did it every year. This is the only memory of Pascha/Easter that I recall clearly.

This holiday used to mean a freshness in my soul; the belief that, yet again, I didn’t have to fear the reaper coming for me; that the world was made anew, and all things were possible for them who believed.

Now?

Now it’s a hollow thing to me. Another day I can sleep in, and don’t have to go to my job. It’s an ache inside where the joy (pretended or otherwise) once resided, and that semi-secure sense that today, Jesus has risen again, and I was safe from the torment and torture of hell.

Today, as I write this, is Saturday; the in-between day when we remember that Jesus was dead and in hell, wrestling death for the keys to it. A day of quiet contemplation and mourning. Of remembering the loss, yet looking to tomorrow and the story of his rising up.

But here I sit, instead, looking out at the sunlight shining off the new leaves of the magnolia & oak trees and I feel duped. I’m feeling empty, sad, hollow, alone, somewhat resentful that what was is no longer, and hurt by the loss of the ‘holiday’ and its previous experiences.

I’m pretty sure that I still believe Jesus lived, taught, loved, went to his death, and has risen to live again (although, truth be told, that last part still doesn’t compute with me. I don’t understand how someone can die- brain and heart totally stopped & not living- and then pop back up and be alive again).

But the meaning behind his life/death/life has been lost for me.

It’s no longer about how his death ‘paid the price’ so I (and anyone else, *as long as they ‘profess’*, mind you) don’t have to be sent to hell, since I no longer agree with, or believe, the atonement theory. I’ve read that his willingness to allow himself to be murdered is about revealing to the human race the depth of his love for us and all creation. It is what the Trinity held for us & creation all along.

That fits better, but still doesn’t fill that empty place within my heart & mind. It’s kind of like a multi shaped building block, where a section of it fits into the spot, but most of the hole is still left empty.

And so, that’s where I’m at today. Uncomfortable with the events going on around me, yet missing the pomp & circumstance of the celebration, and knowing that, even if I tried to attend a service, it would only be an empty shell of lies and I’d be left feeling worse.