Monday, October 26, 2015

Meditation Mondays: Plant Flower Beds at the Boundaries

I made this painting for a friend who told me that she wants her life to be more boundaryful, but then I realized that I don’t really know from boundaries either. From etiquette podcasts to Cuddle Parties, I’ve studied the subtleties of yesses and nos for years, but I still have trouble knowing the difference between what I am and what others expect me to be. When I heard this episode of Invisibilia, I wondered if I might just have too many mirror neurons, but I don’t know how one gets tested for that.

Mirror neurons or not, I want to take responsibility for building stronger boundaries. In friendship, I tend to ignore differences or slights or do a lot of one-sided giving until I explode from resentment and become scary to the person—those are my ugliest and most shameful times. In dating, I ignore red flags because every man feels like my last chance to learn to be “more flexible” (Read: more lovable) and then I end up in lots of yucky situations that confirm my darkest fears about the world. This isn’t to say it’s my fault that guys (or friends or churches) are creeps sometimes, only that I want the self-love to walk away more easily when the warning signs come rather than ending up in panic-inducing scenarios over and over.

I’ve always wanted to do whatever someone I liked thought I should do. My sixth grade best friend Jill gave me the nickname “Doormat.” She would ask me to do all kinds of little tasks for her and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing them. Once at a sleepover at her house, I stayed up all night because I didn’t have the courage to ask her to turn off the Enuf Z’ Nuff CD that was on repeat.

I’ve sometimes found positive ways to view and express my tendency toward servitude, most recently by vowing service thorough teaching, but in the end, I always end up in the same place—  feeling spent, worthless, ashamed, invisible, alone.

I think a lot of people, women especially, are raised to feel guilty for taking up space in the world, for having a point of view. So my task now is to notice the little boundaries, to push back in tactful, constructive ways, to say no to the things I don’t like when I can so that my life has room to fill up with what I really want. I have to guard against seeing every friendship, community or date as My Last Chance. I want to teach myself that I don’t have to fight for a space in this world, but I do have to find out what my own space authentically looks like. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thank You Thursdays: Favorite Podcast

No matter what mood I'm in or what kind of day I'm having, Again With This: Beverly Hills 90210 Edition always brings me to my happy place: the Nineties. Full of sassy descriptions of shoulder-paddy fashion, (there are visual aids too) Twin Peaks references, it gives me (somewhat disturbing) insights about how the show shaped my adolescent brain. 

Plus, it's a spinoff of my other favorite cavalcade of pop culture goodness, Extra Hot Great.

Thanks shows!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Meditation Mondays: The Rainbow Wheel of Death

Though I'm taking all the the daily steps to move my life forward, I've been experiencing a deep, dark feeling of stuckness in my personal life. I'm doing my best to see what's good and magical within that stuckness, like this:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Friday: John Lydon on Mental Health, Bettie Page, and Other Awesome Things

I can't seem to make a link happen, but if you Google, "John Lydon world Cafe," you'll find a wonderful interview. Who knew Johnny Rotten could be so comforting?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thank You Thursdays: Library Job and Children's Books

I'm in a dark time right now so I'm starting a new weekly posting routine to help me focus on the positive.

Besides getting lots of hard work done on my memoir publication dream, my favorite thing in my daily life right now is my library after school program job. I get to spend big swaths of time playing Legos, doing lighthearted science projects, and just enjoying time with the neighborhood kids. Today was computer lab day and I had two little girls making up songs and singing different things at the same time--I told them they're the best people ever--and they are! You can see LOTS of their poetry and artwork here:

The weirdest thing about me is that in all of my years of teaching and teacher-training, I never really connected with children's books. I guess I was just too surrounded in the haze of standards and planning anxiety to spend much time just soaking up the language and art. I've decided to read anything the children's librarians hand me, and it makes the world feel bigger and more magical.

Monday, October 12, 2015

About Leaving Church and What Comes Next

Before I try and do my best with the spiritual/community questions I’ve been wrestling, I want to spend a little time acknowledging the personal heartbreak that happened around the same time. There was, as I’ve written a couple of times, a guy I really liked, and there was a morning he’d planned to come to church with me. I was so excited and I told all my friends, but we reached a dealbreaker in the night and he couldn’t come. I felt sad at the loss of him and hurt by his rejection, but I also felt ashamed for getting my hopes up so much, for getting so excited, for telling my friends he was coming and then having to tell them I was wrong. It was humiliating, and it goes along with the fear that comes from leaving the church, that every time I feel like I really belong somewhere, every time I go all in and let my guard down, the rug will be pulled out from under me.

Also there is the simple shame of this: I’m embarrassed about how long everyone knows I have been looking for my guy, how wholeheartedly I’ve tried and come up empty, how many OKCupid questions I’ve racked up over the years, how easily everyone else seems to pair up and slot into their lives and how I just never seem to fit. That pain is too much right now, just part of heartbreak, I guess. It’s relevant and not relevant but mostly I just have to get it out.

Every Wednesday at the library we have Lego Club. The only rules are that you have to make something awesome, and you have to take it apart at the end—no KraGl for us. It’s a beautiful way to look at creativity, but sometimes I wonder if my life isn’t a little bit too much like Lego Club—leaving the Unitarian Society that had been my spiritual home on and off for eight years feels like taking apart a beautiful, bright thing that it took time to build, and I don’t know when the next Lego Club of the Soul will come along. (And let’s not even think about the Lego Club of the Heart!)

When I signed the membership book at the Unitarian Society of Germantown in 2009, it was a huge deal to me—I had found a lot of spirituality in secular life, but I’d been without a steady and official faith since the age of ten, at the moment that I sat in Catholic Church and realized that it was just stories, and moreover, that it was stories that didn’t make sense to me. (Side note: My dad once told me that he stopped believing in Catholicism when we kids were born—he just couldn’t see how a baby could be born with sin. Aw, that’s nice.) For a long time, I thought not making it as a Catholic meant that I wasn’t entitled to a relationship with God, that I couldn’t really be safe in a religion, and maybe that is still true.

Every so often, when I felt like I wanted to make more of a commitment to Unitarianism, I even made a monetary pledge, just a token amount, but similar to the way that my wedding ring kept getting not-worn, my pledge checks went unpaid more often than not. Similarly, although we were supposed to wear nametags to be more approachable to the other attendees, I never could bring myself to wear one. You can either see that as keeping things at arms’ length or liking to be free, maybe both are true.

The first time I left the Unitarian Society of Germantown, about three years ago, it was because of something that happened in Small Group Ministry. One of the women in the group had struck up a friendship with a married guy from the congregation, I guess what might be called an emotional affair, and he got a crush on her. The lady felt upset and constrained by this, said it made her not want to come to church anymore. Without the man’s side of the story, the group instantly united against him. They closed ranks in a way that terrified me, the leader even offering to tell the minister on the man.

I got angry all the way down to my guts that they would gang up on him so quickly, that they wouldn’t show him compassion—I mean, who hasn’t had a crush before, for god’s sake? As a poly person, I became deeply aware that though they claimed to welcome all expressions of sexuality, the church still existed for the old reasons: To jealously guard the boundaries of heteronormative marriage, even uniting against errant feelings. My voice came all the way up from my belly and I said “It’s LOVE, the most powerful thing in the universe, and who do you think you are to control it?”

I took that as my cue to leave the group and the church and delve deeply into love research, which was scary and fruitful and well-documented.

I found my way back to USG, though, and though I could never really settle into a Small Group again, I did have long conversations with the minister about love and poly—I felt like I could be a voice for the organic side spirituality and the unpredictable nature of love. Without really noticing, I built an entire circle of friends from the USG community, whom I loved very dearly.

Then the pope came. I’ve already said that the way the pope’s visit impeded traffic felt like a citywide metaphor for the way they’d colonized and oppressed so many bodies, including my own. It felt like there was no place safe from the grip of paternalism, that there wasn’t room to be ourselves and grow. I am so grateful to that feeling for helping me realize how much the Catholic Church still lived in me, and how much I wanted it out.

When USG announced that they would be televising the papal mass, I was at first shocked, but I realized it could be comforting—who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by thoughtful, liberal friends who, like me, believed in fighting for equality and justice?

But then, the Monday morning of Pope Week, I passed my church on the way to work like I always do and saw the sign: “Welcome, Pope Francis.” I sobbed all the way to work. I tried to share my dismay with the pastors and via the church facebook groups, but people’s responses let me know that as a congregation, we were not doing what I thought we were doing. In their rush to embrace this “more liberal” pope, they forgot women. They forgot GLBT equality. They forgot thousands of raped children. They forgot to stand up for those who need it. Just as in that small group meeting, they closed ranks, and the only way for me to stay sane was to walk away.

I was angry, scared, and lonely, but also curious. I got in the car and drove over to the other Unitarian Society in my neighborhood to see what was on their sign. It said “Building Beloved Community.” I took note of the other denominations’ signs around town that week, and no other church said “Welcome Pope Francis”—They had their own sermon topics and their own lives. They had backbone, and I decided that I would too. In that moment, I felt kinship with my Catholic aunts, who were angry at the pope for being too liberal—from waaaaaaay over here other end of the political spectrum, I could see their point—let’s believe in what we believe in.

Just like with the guy, there’s sadness and shame and loss in letting USG go. Just like him, it wasn’t a mistake to try, but it ended up a bad match, and I can only keep trying and keep hoping for something more fitting to come along.

Right at this moment, I can’t really believe there is such a thing as liberal religion, or maybe liberal isn’t good enough. I want radical, wild religion, the Earth’s religion, something deeper that can’t be contained in the same rituals, the same creepy group dynamics that have oppressed us for all of our thinking lives. Maybe that isn’t religion at all, maybe it’s just connection to the deep, sometimes dark, wild spirituality within. I’m going to look for chances to touch that divinity any way I can, mostly by just being here, loving nature, loving love, and making stuff.

Meditation Mondays: Charlie the Unicorn

So I've decided to go back to the blog's roots, but instead of doing weekly motivation, I'm going to share things that make me totally geek out about the power and weirdness of creativity. When my niece and nephews showed me this, aside from laughing my ass off, I thought jeez this is bonkers, and somebody worked real hard just so it could exist. How do people come UP with things? It makes me feel like there's a candy mountain worth of goodness in the world, for everyone's taking.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Trying Some New Dreams: Tutoring and Creative Coaching

I already know I want 2016 to be my year of creative entrepreneurship, but I hope these lil' posters are a good start. If you don't mind, please pass them along to anyone who might be interested.