Sunday, September 27, 2009

Functional, Just

This week's consisted primarily of struggling to keep going despite the whole household being afflicted with a particularly virulent cold. The boys and I stayed home Wednesday, but are really still just getting over it. Still, we were all up and out the door before 6 yesterday morning, off to check in other volunteers for Walk Now for Autism Speaks Philadelphia. The Walk event is one of our favorite things that the boys and I do together every year. We've spent the rest of the weekend recovering, though, with naps and nebulizers and lots of loafing.

There's not really much else to tell. Congested lungs make my brain work very sluggishly. Just getting in to work and accomplishing a few tasks there pretty much sapped my abilities. Still, during my son's guitar lesson, I started reading Bel Canto (by Ann Patchett). Over the past several weeks, apart from Reviving Ophelia and snatches of poetry, I had been reading (I blush to admit) the first four books of the Marked series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. The books were passed on to me, and I can enjoy the hell out of light reading. Then I have to remind myself that my brain will go mushy if I don't read things that are written with an eye to beauty and excellence. Also I might forget the sheer joy of really good writing.

My friends tell me I am doing okay. With this cold, I haven't had any energy to spare to worry about whether I am doing okay or not. It's been all getting the kids cared for and getting them to school, getting to work, and sleeping. I have been sleeping and just lying down so much, I continue to be surprised that I can still sleep more. I am starting to use some of the time to just think and work on mapping out plans.

Wow. I could put my head down and fall asleep on the keyboard. I've already promised to avoid depressing posts; I promise no more of these exceedingly dull posts, either!

A man can tolerate anything except a succession of ordinary days. -- Goethe

Monday, September 21, 2009

Starting Over

Wow. Okay, no more of the really depressing posts that I've been putting out lately. Good thing I restrained myself yesterday. Either I really am, at this point, a miserable and misanthropic reactionist or there has been a small army of idiocy-spouting men around me like a cloud of pesty flies. Add that to the head cold and the fact, which I eventually realized, that I forgot to take meds yesterday morning and it is no surprise that by yesterday afternoon I was a complete basket case.

A hot shower, getting up and about, taking the meds and splurging on pizza for dinner started to turn things around. Papa Johns also, I think, mistakenly gave me an extra free pizza with my free pizza coupon, which made it even better (I did have the delivery guy check, though, or I would feel like I had stolen it. Guilt on top of depression is very bad. I'm sensitive to guilt).

My older son and I have this stinky cold. He was planning to stay home from school today, but it wasn't happening. Not after all the prep I did to be sure I got the kids to school on time (and I did). Also he just likes to stay home, so I have to push him. I like to stay home, too, but this is real life. I follow my mom's premise, which is that if a kid is really sick, he will be able to convince you of it or he's going to school. I can remember finally getting her to check my temperature once in third grade, with my school uniform on, to find that I had a fever of 103. That was the first time I'd ever had the flu. Yuck.

Anyway, please bear with me. I suppose though that the only one who thought I'd get through the major life changes and disappointments without days like these, was me. Silly Barb. But I'm still pushing through to the other side.

We don't have to live great lives. We just have to understand and survive the ones we've got. --Andre Dubus, Voices from the Moon

Sunday, September 20, 2009


After posting last night, I was thinking that it's no wonder I don't have a loyal troop of readers. Yesterday's writing was not insightfully witty or funny or comforting, or even well written. I wondered if I should have posted at all. When we met for lunch this week, one of my friends cringed at the idea of having one's thoughts posted on the Internet, especially when a few years down the road those thoughts might change significantly. But, I pointed out, if I write at all, that is something I have to accept.

When I find that someone else has expressed things that I feel myself, it is both comforting and encouraging. Wow, I think, I am not completely crazy after all, or if I am, I am no more crazy than a lot of other people. I can live with that.

By your stumbling the world is perfected. -- Sri Aurobindo
My friend Suzy has told me, with regard to divorce and rebuilding life, "after this everything else will seem easy." There are times when I repeat that to myself like a mantra. I have faith that it is true, I just haven't reached the "after" part yet. I am still in it. If I write about divorce five or ten years from now, I won't remember it as it really happened. The recounting would sound like a smooth progression of discovering this and realizing that and voila, life got better. Reality is much messier.

The rebuilding is really renovating; it's like having your only bathroom torn up in stages. It is not so fun or convenient to have the room's interiors exposed and only partly functional while you still have to make use of it. Without a thorough overhaul, the faucet will still drip and the inner walls will continue to rot and mold. Likewise, if I'm realizing that somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that sex is something that happens to you, or that it is okay to be put down then those false premises have to come to the surface. Then they can be taken apart and replaced with parts that work. In the meantime, things are going to be a bit messy for me. The only alternative is to keep having the same experience, the same relationship that I have had in the past, and I would really prefer not to do that.

What is uncomfortable to me right now is how much I unintentionally expose about myself when I am writing stories. I am even more transparent when writing fiction than when I am blogging. At least I have some control when I write here. I have sufficient courage to spell out the things I am ready to share, but at the moment, not quite enough to risk more exposure than that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Yesterday was not an easy day. I don't want to say it was a bad day. I am employed, my kids are safe and healthy. The basics are good. Despite continuously tweaking our morning schedule, though, I got the boys to school a few minutes late, which has been a frequent problem for us since the middle of last year (ok, and off and on since they started school, to be honest). I had an email from school that I was wanted to come in to discuss the latenesses (to which my internal response was that they can bite me). I later had a phone call from my son's teacher, to tell me he had run off from the class twice during the day. This would be the child with Asperger's Syndrome, and he didn't run off into the woods, thank God, but had to be tracked down and coaxed back into the group, which is behavior not popular with teachers. I get that.

With the various factors I am juggling, I still feel like I have, or should have, "BAD MOM" tattooed across my forehead. I felt that at the very least, some of the school staff probably think so. Does it count that I really am trying? That yes, life has been much too chaotic and unpredictable for my kids but I'm working on it? It just doesn't change overnight. Honestly, the fact that I've been working and getting the kids to school without interruption for the past few years is the best I can do. It will keep getting better. That is the plan.

I came home feeling pretty low. After dinner, while I sat outside with a couple of different neighbors and a friend of theirs, the guys started joking about porn. Ok, whatever. But one of them began to joke about some website having, or about the idea of one having features like "Blonde, Busty and Bruised," or "Latina and Low Self-Esteem." My internal response to that is WTF? I said nothing, but came in after a moment.

On the one hand, I would hate to have every stupid thing I've said while drinking held against me. I would have no friends left, especially after college. On the other hand, ignoring comments like that, for the sake of not making waves and of being liked by people I considered friends, is just one of the ways that I have compromised myself for years. And for any woman who has ever been in a relationship that was abusive in some way, comments like that put the speaker into the camp with Them. Worse, I felt in that moment all the shame of every past abuse, like recovery is one more delusion.
a few soft words have sent many a woman to her back with her
thighs flung open & eager / a few more / will find us standin up &
speakin in our own tongue to whomever we goddamn please.
--Ntozake Shange, "wow yr just like a man"

Honestly, I don't know if the intent had been to make a joke about the people to whom internet porn is targeted, or what. I was just stunned. Also I was surprised by how low it brought me. I cried, and tried to reason out why I felt so lost. I am barely functional at work, failing to do enough for the kids and I came home wanting to regroup with friends, and that too was a failure. I tried thinking of the expression that when you come to the point where all you've got is God, you have everything you need. I'm not feeling it. I'm not saying it isn't true but so far I am not feeling it.

The worst part is that this man has, I am certain, no idea how insulted I was that he made the comment in front of me, or how much it hurt. I don't think I could successfully explain it to him either. If there can be such a gap between a woman's perception and a man's, can we (women) ever be in relationship with them (men)? I am not even thinking about romantic relationships, but simple coexistence. For the moment, it seems hopeless to me. As I process the experience, though, I hope that changes. I know I am hypersensitive right now to just about everything, but I am also resolved not to tell myself that abuse and disrespect don't matter, not anymore. I am not sure how to be true to that without becoming strident or hysterical, but I will work it out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doing it Longer

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. -- F.P. Jones
When my first child was six or seven months old, I can remember one afternoon of trying to get him to sleep for his nap. That little snugglebunny was never a good sleeper, though in all other ways an excellent baby. I would try everything, shifting him from my shoulder to my cradled arms to laying him on his belly over my forearms and still he continued to wiggle and fuss. On this occasion, I was closer than I had ever been to shaking him. I was trying to relax, knowing that my tension wasn’t going to help him to relax. My eyes were stinging with tears I was too frustrated to cry. I kept swinging him gently from side to side while I tried to calm myself down.

After a few more minutes, I realized the Bunny (still his family nickname, ten years later) had fallen asleep. Oh! I thought. What had seemed to work, and proved afterward to work more often than anything else, was that I had continued the same thing but longer. The changing from this position to that, from the swing to my arms, had been preventing him from fussing through his distraction to the point where he could sleep.

That memory surfaced recently, as I have been considering changing jobs. I don’t love the job I have now, though in this economy I am grateful that I have a fairly secure job. I work with terrific people, and the company exists to provide services to people with disabilities, so I can be proud of that. The work itself is far from what I’d like to be doing, and a better salary would be a great thing.

In this case, I am remembering the experiences of having the same frustrations in the past, and changing from one desk job to another. None of them got me much closer to doing what I really want to do, which is primarily to write. Public speaking and even some form of counseling or life coaching might be great along with it, but the real thing is to write. Changing jobs might bring in a little more money but would most of all distract me from writing for some time. I have enough experience to recognize a pattern before I make the same mistake again. It hasn’t been a mistake in the past, really, just part of the experience that helps me to know now what is not going to work.

Right now I need to fuss through the uncomfortable period of writing and working my paid job. There’s not a lot of time, and I feel somewhat guilty for the (paid) time I spend at work that I am actually writing. But if I keep doing what I’m doing, and keep looking for ways to do it better – through classes, writers group, continuing to blog though I find it embarrassing and, of course, lots of reading – instead of changing everything else around me, eventually I am going to get where I want to be. Which would be writing.



I remember when there were shelves full of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (Mary Pipher). The title caught my eye, with its suggested image of a different story for Shakespeare's tragic character. The subtitle spoke to me, as well, and I am sure that at some point I read the blurb on the book’s cover. I was twenty-five, not drinking for a time, newly diagnosed with (and medicated for) chronic clinical depression.

I did not buy the book. I was spending carefully on books of poetry and fiction that I enjoyed. Now I recognize that I felt a desperate determination that I would not need to read it. It’s okay, I got it, I was telling myself. I’m not quite Ophelia, not quite dead, not quite beaten yet. I can figure out the paradoxical requirements that our society has for young women, and I can do it own my own. The work also smacked of feminism, that label that makes most of us cringe, whether we admit to it or not.

People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a prostitute or a door mat. – Rebecca West
Last week, I requested Reviving Ophelia through my bookswap ( In the discoveries and the rebuilding in my life now, I hoped that the book would take me a little further in identifying and correcting inaccurate judgements about my life.

The book arrived yesterday, and I’ve begun to read. It is, of course, my story, as much as it is the story of so many women today. Confronted with impossible demands to meet in being acceptable in our culture (don't obsess about looks, but look good; be smart but not too smart; be sexy but not a slut...), we grew confused and angry or confused and depressed, or all the above. Choices were invariably made that compounded the confusion.

The key for me at the moment is the space to forgive myself. I was intelligent enough and intuitive enough to recognize that it was impossible to be all the things I felt were required, but I did not know how to sort out the options and to choose for myself. I am still just doing that now, at thirty-nine. So many of us are, though, and tragically, so many more are still just deadened to feeling anything, in trying to be everything.

Regrouping after divorce involves slowly sifting backward, reclaiming my true self from years of trying to be someone else. That goes back much further than the time when I got married because I was already confused then. Reviving Ophelia provides a context in which I can process the confusion, then continue to move forward but this time as the subject of my own life, as Pipher writes, not the object of someone else's.
The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think. -- Edwin Schlossberg

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Divorce and Timing

I think I am ready to stop the daily emails that I have been getting from They are an excellent resource, but I’m not sure that they are a good fit. First, they seem to target those who did not make the choice to split, who were surprised by it, not the (I’m inferring) godless filers. Second, while there is a good amount, even a surprising amount, of pain for the one who made the choice, I am finding that I have already worked through so much of the grief, the disillusionment, and the need to face reality in order to effect change. I thought in the beginning of counseling, two to three years ago, that the process might allow the reality of the relationship to change, to become something better. Then, I accepted that it wasn’t going to happen, hence the divorce.

That hurt isn’t over, but it is resolving. When the guilt issues surface I can cope, even at times like the other night, when my eight year old son woke up crying, having just dreamt that I told him that I don’t love him anymore, and just “gave him away to some other people.” I reminded myself that before the split, the kids were asking other tough questions about the dynamics in our household, so nothing would have been easy for them. I accept responsibility for the consequences of my choice, but that’s not the same as sliding downward into guilt and shame.
No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.—Martha Beck, Leaving the Saints

Some of the good advice that Divorce Care offers would have been good for me a year ago, but I wasn’t certain about divorcing then. Once I committed to the decision, I was bolting out of the gate with my usual excess of enthusiasm for a difficult decision made. It would have been good to know more then, about the inherent danger of exploring another emotional interest too soon – there’s too much going on to process; everything hurts more, and it takes longer to recover.

Overall, though, I’m doing pretty damned well, all things considered. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, but I get up. I am frightened that I’ll fail as a single parent, as an aspiring writer, as a human being. But the fear doesn’t stop me. There are rare but amazing moments when I feel my rhythm, have a sense of momentum that pushes me through the worst slumps. For the first time in years, I am able to visualize things improving, even steadily improving. Hallelujah, I have goals! And I have hope that I'll achieve them.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Music and Latte, and Nicole Zell

Last month, Jenn and I met some other friends at the Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville, PA (the Steel City and the town are fantastic). We went to see the Dave Spencer Trio, which we enjoyed though I found it confusing that the Trio appears to be a duo, Dave and Eli. Eli is a very creative percussionist, and fun to watch.

I don’t write more about music because I am so aware of my own ignorance. I would like to write more about getting out to hear music and about the way it affects people. It’s new to me, the getting out for live music, and I love it, I mean really love it. In the earliest years with my kids, I forgot almost everything that I loved except them. It’s a fairly common mommy syndrome. Following that, there was the insanity of my ex-husband’s illness and the difficulties that had always been involved in my marriage.

Then, a few years ago, some new friends asked, “Well, what kind of music do you like?” And I couldn’t remember. It was awful, suddenly confronting how far I had gotten from myself. So, I found my old CD’s and tapes. I went out to see the friends’ bands play. I was singing with the choir at my church. I listen to music differently, now. I challenge the kids to name the instruments we hear when we’re listening to the radio, and I listen more carefully myself.

At that Steel City Coffee House show, the opener was a young woman named Nicole Zell, who is all of fourteen years old. She is amazing. Nicole sang some of her own songs, as well as covering songs by well-known artists including Tracy Chapman. Her fingers looked thin and frail but play guitar with agility. The passion in her performance was surprising, though maybe it shouldn't have been. In our teens we lack experience, not passion.

I was only one of several women who were struck by this young woman who knows her gifts and is encouraged in them. Only one of several women who envied that, not with a bitter envy but one that wants to see young women like Nicole flourish and even encourage more young women, only wishing we had dared so much, so young. At one point Nicole's dad accompanied her on bass guitar, and I wondered if she realized how fortunate she is to have that in her life.

See, I don’t really know how to write about music. There would be more about the music itself, if I had written right after the show but I was kind of struck dumb. At the end of the night, I’d met Nicole’s eyes a couple times and wanted to tell her “Hey, you are amazing,” but I just couldn’t do it.

Later, I was sipping my excellent latte and was annoyed by one talkative show-goer who was a distraction. It was mortifying to realize that a few months back at a different venue, I had been that guy, only worse. I am a much better listener drinking latte than wine, I’ve realized. Plus I am getting out a little more often, so it doesn’t feel so much like an escape, like I will never get out again. It is easier to relax, to just listen, taking it all in.

Still Losing Sleep

Ah, yes, "Sleep - worth all the rest..." Last night's interrupted sleep was due not to obsessive thinking, or even passionate fantasies, but to loose window screens. They rattled and banged in the wind and rain. If he could be aware of my inattentiveness to these details, my dad would roll over in his grave.

So I am thinking of Dad, and how easy it was as a kid to take for granted all the attention he put into the details. Yes, he took it to the extreme, and he could be cranky and irritable. But he maintained the house and yard and fed, clothed and educated eight children. Yes, eight. The first four went to private colleges, too. Once I moved out on my own (and paid my own bills, just for me) I began to appreciate him a little more. Fortunately, he was still living and I could tell him that. Then I had a child and really began to understand the responsibility. As my boys get older, I am sure I will continue to have new insights into both my parents' hard work and love.

No, I will not be writing about 9/11. I don't have the words to do justice to the subject.

Other things are swirling around in my tired brain, though, so I imagine this will be a multi-post day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


For the second day in a row, I woke up at three this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep until after four. There’s an adage that a hungry man is an angry man; the parallel would be that a sleepless Barb is a miserable Barb. Just ask my kids.

I’m not sure what it is, but in the past year I have had other stretches of doing the same thing. I wake up, thinking I will just roll over and go back to sleep as usual. Nope. I try the happy daydreaming that used to soothe me to sleep, but no, that makes me start thinking and I am lost. The thinking becomes processing, or just obsessing.

One of my friends suggested that someone else is thinking of me and some connection pulls me to consciousness, but how likely is that? It’s definitely not that I have had enough sleep. It concerns me because as a pattern it can be another symptom of clinical depression, and I don’t need to think about having to reevaluate meds right now. Really it is just making it harder to get up and get the kids to school on time. In fact, worrying about being able to do that is probably the source of the problem, in a vicious circle. I worry about being a slacker mom, and we are definitely not yet back on the school day schedule.

I Have Lived and I Have Loved
Author Unknown (Recorded on Love and Desire, an Anthology of
Poems, Dove Books on Tape)

I have lived and I have loved;
I have waked and I have slept;
I have sung and I have danced;
I have smiled and I have wept;
I have won and I have wasted treasure;

I have had my fill of pleasure;
And all these things were weariness,
And some of them were dreariness.
And all these things - but two things
Were emptiness and pain:
And Love - it was the best of them;
And Sleep - worth all the rest of them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


On Sunday, I went to the annual Labor Day Barbecue that friends of mine have. The first thing Meg said when she saw me is "You look happy!" I hadn't seen her since the same barbecue last year (it didn't seem like a whole year went by). In the meantime, she referred me to a friend of hers who handled my divorce.

It is strange to hear, not for the first time, that I seem happier. Sure, I am aware that I am under less stress in many ways, but most of the time I seem to be just treading water and feeling a whole lot of pain. Have I lost touch with what happiness is, and expect too much? Or are there degrees of happiness, like freedom, and I'm getting there, just not all at once?
But even when I am at a loss to define
the essence of freedom
I know full well the meaning
of captivity.
-- Adam Zagajewski (translated by Anthony Graham)


I was looking through one of my journals for the Carolyn Heilbrun quote, because I can't stand to misquote someone. I came across one of the first excerpts of poetry that I'd copied down:
How far is it?
How far is it now?
The gigantic gorilla interiors
Of the wheels move, they appal me -
What do wheels eat, these wheels
Fixed to their arcs like gods,
The silver leash of the will -
Inexorable. And their pride!
All the gods know is destinations.
-- from "Getting There," by Sylvia Plath

At the time, I really didn't even understand it, I felt it. The rhythm and the words got under the surface of me and made things move. I am glad I developed the habit of writing things down that have that effect; I begin to get it now, fixed to the arcs of wheels, knowing there are destinations I would not have chosen for myself, but for which I am bound.

Incidentally, I think if I can ever use the word "inexorable" in a poem successfully, I will have arrived at one destination, at least.

Carolyn Heilbrun Quote

The quote I mentioned a couple posts ago comes from:
And, above all other prohibitions, what has been forbidden to women is anger, together with the open admission of the desire for power and control over one's life (which inevitably means accepting some degree of power and control over other lives). -- Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Writing a Woman's Life

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chocolate Cake

One of the best unofficial perks of my job is the cake for birthdays. It’s not just getting a cake, as in any cake from a grocery store’s bakery. Cake in general doesn’t impress me. As an avid chocolate lover I find chocolate cake disappointing. And I am very particular about frosting. That light, whipped-cream tasting stuff is not, in my opinion, worth the calories.

Frosting, or icing (the Phillyism is icening), should be like my mom used to make it. She would use a stick of butter and some milk, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. I don’t know if there were any other ingredients, unless you wanted chocolate icing: then cocoa powder was added, and probably more sugar until it tasted right. There was an enormous mixing bowl that attached to a base built right into the counter top. Was that the norm for houses built around 1965?

This department only gets cake from a specific Pennsylvania Dutch bakery in the Lansdale PA area. I am not going to say where, or everyone will want to go and get the chocolate cake and then there will be none left for us. Or it will cost more. They might even start selling it on the Internet. It would become an overnight boom and before long the quality would go down, making it ordinary, disappointing cake.

Okay, wait, I’m projecting. OUR chocolate cake is really, really chocolatey. An eight-inch (diameter) cake feels like it weighs five pounds (that would make the Internet thing slightly less practical). And it has real buttercream frosting, similar to the Mom-made kind I remember. My mom’s background is Pennsylvania Dutch as well as Irish, so that makes sense.

Today would be such a good day for cake. A Happy Friday cake. A the-bastards-haven’t-beaten-us-yet cake. Just-for-the-hell-of-it cake. End of summer? Labor Day weekend? School starts in a few days? Or just an unbirthday cake, for all those non-birthdays in the year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


"You are always going to love me, right? No matter what." My eight year old son asks me this almost every night before he can go to sleep. He has always asked, possibly because he has some special needs and is to some degree aware that he is not always met with acceptance and love in the world. Maybe it is only my imagination that he asks more often, now that his dad and I are not together.

The email I had from today was about the losses of divorce, big and small, the ones expected and the ones that surprise us. My kids' confidence in the unbreakable nature of family love is a big loss. For them, primarily, we make every effort to have both parents in their lives as much as possible, to put aside our own resentments and bitterness. It will be a long time before they can understand why this divorce has happened, why they have experienced such a big loss.

I haven't uncovered an answer to supply at the end of the post, which is always the neater way to write. I chose divorce and brought this loss into the lives of my two boys. In Writing a Woman's Life, Carolyn Heilbrun observes that so often women struggle with accepting responsibility for their lives, a responsibility which includes having impact on the lives of others. One friend of mine is struggling with the question of whether to end her marriage, too, and her only difficulty at this point is that question of the impact on the children. It's a real question, I am not downplaying it.

I could not stay in my marriage any more; I am not going to justify that here. Here, where I am now, the question is how do I best help my children to grow and be healthy with their parents apart. I know that now they are not as confident in family or in me, specifically, as they were before. That is a loss.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Euonymus in a Poem

Her father's euonymus shines as we talk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six o'clock news and a lime juice and gin.
-- from "A Subaltern's Love Song" by John Betjeman


Escaping from the office for a walk, I see that the line of bushes on the far side of the parking lot are becoming tinged with red. I wonder how anything so green can also be partly red as the colors are complements, opposites on a color wheel; they don't mix at all. But they share space on individual leaves on these bushes which will be scarlet in another month. I remember how gorgeous they have been in the past three years and imagine them as they will be again. The blue of the late summer sky with the deep greens and hints of changing color make me wish I knew how to paint. I wish the same thing every year at about this time.

I know the variety is called euonymous, or burning bush. Two years ago I was so captivated by the color and its dramatic effect at the end of the day, that I went to a friend with landscaping experience just to ask him if he knew the name of the bush. He probably thought I was merely flirting, which I may have been, but I remembered the name. Some day I will have a euonymous bush so it will light up my yard like a flame in the autumn, though I will try to forget the failure of the flirting. For now I will watch the color of the bushes change, imagining the swinging from one side of a wheel to the other. I am waiting for autumn, and waiting to forget.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Yesterday I quoted unfashionably from the Bible. In college I'd taken a course on the Bible as Literature, but didn't do very well in it, in part because at that time I was not able to separate the writing from the religious aspects of it with which I was raised. I am Christian, and I'm certainly not embarrassed about God but would be very embarrassed to be associated with a great number of people who call themselves Christian.

I remember finding it a little shocking that one of the songs on a Bible Song tape I used to play with the kids included the chorus, "Everybody talking about heaven ain't going there." It plays through my head though, when I am around certain self-proclaimed Christians who attempt to enlighten everyone around them. That makes about as much sense to me as going to another country and quoting the Constitution to its citizens. The general response would be a blank look that clearly asks "And...?"

There are people in the Church who realize this isn't Christlike behavior. I once heard Paul Sheppard teach on the idea that people are out there in the world trying to correct people according to biblical lights who are not believers in them. It doesn't make sense and is frankly offensive. Gandhi once said that after reading the Bible, he would have considered becoming Christian "if I didn't know so many Christians." I don't want to be one of those.

One of the problems I observe in promoting a dogmatic Christian religion to the world is that the promoters aren't even free to love because they are too busy trying to determine whether the people who need it, deserve it. It becomes much simpler when we remember all of us need it, while none of us really deserve it. I don't mean that I think we are all worthless, but only that we all have in us the pettiness, spite and even violence that are part of human nature. We all deserve love from each other, or don't deserve it, pretty equally.

Tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God's love, a love we don't even have to earn. --Madeleine L'Engle
I have no skill with Christian Apologetics. I can't argue anyone into faith in God, let alone God as I understand Him. I am no better able to understand or explain how electricity is generated and shared through power lines. The inability doesn't stop me from using electricity, though. I don't pretend to be a model follower of my God, but I have a relationship with God as I understand Him that underlies everything in my life. I respect every other person's search to know God, a higher power, the Source of light and of life - under whatever name - according to your own experience, trusting that truth will be revealed according to its own purpose and not mine.

Do you need proof of God? Does one light a torch to see the sun? --Chinese proverb