Bucket List

This is on display here in my hometown. There is chalk available and people write in what they wish to do or accomplish before they do. It was interesting to read the wall. Some of the responses were heart breaking, some thought provoking and some just plain silly. Someone had written in F U C K, but someone else came along and changed the F to an R. Just doesn’t have the same meaning, does it? Changing it to a B might have made more sense, I don’t know.

I haven’t really thought about my bucket list, because that tends to depress me, leading me to regrets about things I have not done, rather than focusing on the fact that life is short and opportunities should not be wasted. I didn’t graduate from college. Not even community college. I attended long enough that I should have graduated, but I didn’t. My early adulthood was a hot mess. Depression, anxiety, family struggles and abandonment issues prevented me from making good decisions. So, yes, graduating from college is something I would write on the “Before I Die” wall. There are so many things I could say, but many of them involve other people involved like “have grandchildren” or “move back to my home state.”  I would like to travel to Canada or California, at the very least. I would very much like to see more of this country, especially the west coast and northern states. My “before I die” list is pretty simple. Learn some crafts, go to school, do a little traveling. I am already pretty blessed with the life I have. I try not to take anything for granted.

What would you write on the wall?IMG_1905

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Judge Not, etc.

As I noted in my last blog post, I have been in and out of churches for a very long time. I have longed for the community of a good church.  I have joined my local Secular Humanist group and attended my first meeting this past Sunday.  The topic of discussion piqued my interest.  A local church group, along with the local police department (in conjunction with the police department? I really don’t know…) held a prayer walk and vigil on the streets where the local prostitutes work. The humanists were appalled by this for a number of reasons, which I’ll get to later.  The last line of the information that was provided for the group meeting was, “Humanists have a better plan.”  Well, OK!  As a woman, I am concerned about this topic.  Too many women are using their bodies to pay for drug habits. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the profession, but I have a heart for the women who feel that this is their only option, for whatever reason.

The group meeting began with introductions and then the facilitator passed out copies of the church’s flyer advertising the prayer walk and vigil, which took place on a recent Saturday morning.  Next, the facilitator read us a personal anecdote about his own experience as a young military man who was approached, along with his buddies, by ladies looking for a “good time”, or has he called it, a “date.”  The only reason he did not partake was that he couldn’t afford it.  I listened and tried to understand where he was coming from.  He preached about the “victim-less” crime and how it should be legalized, blah, blah.  Fortunately, many of the group participants spoke up and took him to task for condoning the exploitation of women (and men).  The talk then turned to how we, as Humanists, could do better.  More on that later.

The group was starting to sound pretty judgy.  The judged the supposed white, middle-class women at the church preaching to mostly women of color.  I shook my head in agreement, but still wondered how we could do better.  Unfortunately, I spent the 60 minutes in the group attempting to explain to these people that church groups do offer a lot to those who are in the midst of crisis.  They want you in church, they invite you to their groups and they can be very hospitable and caring.  I have seen this in my own life with people I have known and not every Christian is judgmental.  Still no good answers to how Humanists could do a better job.  No one really wanted to meet the prostitutes where they were and offer them comfort, a meal or some coffee.  With all the bitching that atheists do about Christians being judgmental, these people were just as bad, if not worse.  At least the Christians they complain about actually do try to help others.  I’m sure there are good Humanist and Atheist groups that help, but this was not it.

I decided to do further research into this church and their ministry and found that the leader is a recovering addict herself, who was welcomed into the church while she was in jail.  The people from the church came to visit her while she was in jail and cared about her in a way that she had never known before.  I also viewed pictures of the event on their Facebook page and saw much diversity in the participants.

No answers or solutions were given during the group time, except that drugs and prostitution should be legalized, thus subjecting them to regulation. I suppose that is one way to look at the problem, but these are people with real issues and they need a lot more than governmental interference.

Religiosity

Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine). Another term less often used is “religiousness”.

I was not brought up in church. I was christened as a baby (no doubt due to family pressure, as my parents, especially my father, were opposed to religious indoctrination), and until the age of 12, never stepped foot in a church.  Our family didn’t pray.  Even the extended family didn’t participate in outward signs of faith, such as saying grace, etc. My parents are both highly intelligent and well-educated.  They had their faults, but were good parents who raised their children to have morals and manners.

I eventually did find my way into the world of religion and church.  40 years later, I still cannot wrap my head around that foreign world.  I am fascinated by the christian culture, yet repulsed by it.  This dichotomy has been plaguing me and hampering my spiritual growth.   Why can’t I sit in church on Sunday and feel content?  I am challenged when I go to church.  I am challenged by my deep desire to believe that the christian god and his son, Jesus Christ, were/are real.  When the pastor speaks of the love that Jesus had for the broken, I am convinced that this time, my doubts and lingering negativity will be replaced by the power of the holy spirit living inside of me.  So, what is it that makes believing in a higher power so difficult?

All of my doubts and my negative thoughts are echoed and sometimes shared by other christians.  I temporarily  no longer felt alone, wracked by my inability to have “good enough” faith.  I wanted to be like Jesus, but the christian faith requires the belief of the omnipotent god that created this world.  The explanations by the faithful for the condition of the world and the people that god created seem hollow.  It’s a fallen world.  Heaven is our real destination, if you are a christian.  Christians are told that in order to experience this afterlife, one must be a chrisitan.  No Jews, Buddhists, etc.  will be going to heaven.  I scratched my head and wondered and then another pat answer was given to me in an attempt to explain this.  I didn’t like the answer, but I still struggled to believe.  I continued to pray, read the bible, go to church.  I did these things because I want to do the right things.

To compound the theological questions, there is the christian culture that gnaws away at my desire for religious maturity.  I didn’t  want to be an immature christian, so I worked very hard at not associating with those people who call themselves christians but don’t practice what they preach.  I know, christians are only human and can be just as horrible as non-christians.  I practiced forgiveness and grace as I try to do with most people.  We are all struggling, we should hold each other accountable.  I think there is a scripture about iron sharpening iron and bearing each other’s burdens.  I’ve done that.  Check.

So, what is lacking?  Is it that I didn’t have a relationship with god?  Well, I can’t say I haven’t tried.  Many, many prayers have been said and I have listened. I thought that relationships involved two-way communication, but I’m not hearing anyone answering.

I wanted to start another paragraph here and rant about the horrible, unspeakable suffering in this world, but I’m not going to.  Everyone already knows this.  Personally, I see it every day in the deteriorating health of a man who has thousands of people praying for him daily.  So-called god is not answering the prayers of his own mother, the epitome of religious goodness.  God, the deity that created the entire world, has either chosen not to intervene in the lives of his flock, is intervening in ways that are mysterious and unfathomable, or does not exist at all.  Of course, most believers choose the second answer and they will find all kinds of ways to back up that belief.  Paul suffered.  Ok, I can buy that (if you believe in biblical stories). So, why continue to pray for anything, at all?  God already knows how fucked up the world is and every day babies get raped and murdered, good people suffer horribly in the worst ways imaginable and yet the god who answers prayers allows these atrocities.  I don’t hate him.  I merely have no use for him anymore.  I still want to have a religious epiphany, but I am no longer seeking it.  Praying does not hold a place anymore in my life. Church is fine when it does good, but I can do good without it.  I never did find a church community that embraced me, uplifted me and carried me through the hard times, like it was supposed to do, so I won’t be losing that.  I will just be losing the 40 year quest for that that has left me bitter and angry.  Bitterness and angry will be replaced by contentment, acceptance and I will finally put my searching to rest.  And I will rest.

Helpless, Woe is Me

I want to preface this post by saying that I have been through shit in my life.  Divorce, abuse, familial estrangement, mental illness, job loss, health issues, etc.  I could go on but I’ll just leave that there.   I have never asked for help or cried out to friends and family about my situation.  There have been rough financial times in my past when my children were small. I have always found ways to make it through by cutting back expenses, or by making difficult choices such as going back to work when my children were small.  Our home was never large and sometimes we shared a car.  Many cold mornings I bundled my son, put him in his car seat and drove my ex husband to work.  I made the heart wrenching decision to work when my kids were small so that we could afford the bare necessities and some extras for them, such as rec sports, music lessons, and even private school when we had to.  It’s what grown ups do.  Put on our big girl or big boy pants and make hard decisions that aren’t necessarily our first choice.

My own parents got married young and had two children 16 months apart.  From what I’ve been told, we lived in a shack while my father finished his degree and my mother took care of us.  After that, we moved out of state (from all family) for my father’s job.  Our childhood home was small and my parents rented it until they could afford something else.  (still not a mansion)  I don’t ever remember my parents burdening us with the struggles they had to endure.  Life was simpler then, I suppose.

I had to use WIC.  I’ve used food stamps and food banks in my adult life. I have worked when I could barely get out of bed due to the worst depression anyone could have had.  I was pregnant at the time, by the way.  I have had an abortion when my ex and I found out I was pregnant before we were ready for a child.

I was in a shitty marriage with two children, but I never once ran back to my parents like a child.

When you are an adult, you don’t make bad financial decisions over and over again and then expect your parents and friends to bail you out.  I have a friend who has done this and I am finding it very hard to respect her.  I feel that an adult friendship requires some level of respect and I don’t respect her anymore.  I even called her therapist’s office to pay for her therapy sessions a few months ago.  Then, bam, a month later she is posting on Facebook how sad and depressed she is because her parents aren’t alive anymore to bail her out financially or emotionally.  Sooner or later, you must grow up.She can’t even bring herself to help out with the selling of her parents’ house.  I guess her brother and sister will have to take on that burden.   I won’t be friends with people who are so foolish and immature. I just can’t do it.