Personal Jesus

I always felt, at least I guess I feel like I’ve always thought this way; that, if there is a god, or God, then he or she will know I am a good and loving person, and that I try always to be guided by a strong moral compass, and that if there is ANYthing even remotely like heaven, then I will surely go there because I am “good.”  My brain never could understand how an “all loving god” would be loving to only some.  The word “all” seemed to be misconstrued or misunderstood, in my ever so humble opinion.

Nothing that was ever read from the bible to my ears spoke to me.  Nothing about catechism class ever spoke to me.  I went to the classes because my parents made me, and I questioned early on how there were any more people on the planet if god supposedly only made Adam and Eve and they only had two sons.  Then later in 5th grade questioned a catechism class mom as to why it was any of her business whether a woman wanted to have a baby or not when she tried to recruit me for a right to life march and wanted me to glue gruesome pictures onto poster board.  Both of those childhood experiences got me a ‘talking to‘ from the priest, who never made me feel anything like I thought church should make a person feel, so to say that by 6th grade I was finished, is true.  Nothing about the religion, or the mass services, the man speaking from the book, or the CCD classes ever made me feel at all included or connected to any god, if there was or is one.

I feel like I always believed that there was something much bigger than just us, or just this solar system, that earth can hardly be the only one like this in such a vast unending universe…if there are billions of galaxies, how can anybody believe we are the only  which sustains life??  I don’t know how old I was when I began to use my free will to think the way I wanted, and not think much, at all, for what was being taught to me.

I believe in a myriad of ideas, concepts, and beautiful loving notions about what it means to be a human, and interact with others on this planet that we call home, but my daily “mantra” if you will, my one true commandment, comes from my father, and has been a part of me for all of my life.  Despite being brought up in the catholic church and being an altar boy as a child, and making me start life as a catholic person, my dad used an expression and still uses it,  “make plenty of deposits in your karmic bank” that forced him to have to explain to a wee girl, what is karma,  w and I truly believe THAT, more than anything I was ever taught by anybody, is what has influenced me, been my one true goal, and has been the basis of my “faith” in this life.  It seems that I was, unintentionally guided by my dad perhaps, to be a Buddhist if anything!!!

I have done some wrong in this life.  I have done things for which I am sorry, ashamed, and that have hurt other people.  My one darkness that I kept a secret for more than 25 years finally broke open when I gathered the courage and accepted the consequences of the “telling,” and in shame and apology I asked the universe to free me from the cloud that hung over me.   I feel pretty confident that if, when I die, there is really a god, or God, or anything remotely like what my Nana believed to be true, that my goodness and rightness will be enough…

Some believe that you have to accept that a good and kind man in history called Jesus is the son of God, and that he is your savior, in order to get to heaven.  Some believe that you have to be one of a select chosen few to get to heaven.  Some believe that you have to get “right” with God, whatever that must mean…I suppose all of them are perfectly valid for those who choose to believe what they believe…What I think is that IF there is God and IF there is heaven, then surely he, or she, is not going to turn anybody away…even the bad guys, because, from what I have been told there is a whole lot of forgiveness going on up there in the unknown, and even the most despicable humans can be forgiven…it seems too confusing and contradicting to me and therefore, it never sat right with me as anything to believe in.

For many young adults, going off to college and being around professors with different ideas and beliefs and theories, and peers from other kinds of families and communities, is what sets us onto our own paths and ways of thinking as grown-ups…we finally get to be around adults who are not our parents with ideas that are new and they share.  While this was true for me in so many ways, particularly as I began the study for my second of two majors, in feminist theory and women’s history, it was a children’s book that I think moved me the most towards the way I think still to this day.  I bought it when I was 22 for my little girl for her fourth birthday, called “The Mountains of Tibet”  In this story a little boy dreams to see the world but he grows up, works as a woodcutter, has a family, grows old, and thinks about how he never left his valley and as he nears death realizes that he never went anywhere he dreamed to go…and upon his death, in a place that is ‘both very dark and very bright,’ he hears a voice asking him questions about the life he has just finished living and what might he want to do next…you really must read it if you have not, and the illustrations are exquisite and the story is superb…and the fact of the matter is, a preschooler and a college student, on the same cold January night, reading together at bedtime, discovered a way to think about living, and death, that has stuck with us both ever since.  (The Mountains of Tibet, by Mordicai Gerstein, published in 1987, if you are interested)

This horrific school shooting in Florida on Wednesday is what got me thinking about life and death and beliefs and ideas about what might be next, if anything.  I found myself thinking with sadness from the perspective of a teenager, shot and bleeding and perhaps knowing, that moment, that she is not going to live to do any of the things she dreamed of doing.  Or a boy as he is falling to the ground, maybe trying to remember when he left the house and hoping that he told his mom he loved her.  Or a teacher, terrified for his own life but knowing those kids were counting on him to be brave and somehow in the most unknowing of circumstances, know what to do.  Or the cops, how scary it must be to have no idea how bad it’s going to be and what they will encounter upon arrival.  Or the parents, seeing and hearing the news and waiting, the inexplicably painful number of minutes it must have been for the text message or phone call to come through that their child is okay.  Or the parents who did not get that call or text…I can’t imagine that anguish, my child has not yet been accounted for, my child is dead, how will I take one more breath in this life when I have to now think about burying my child…and I find myself thinking too about the shooter… Where was his moral compass?  What did he believe?  How could he DO something like that?  and so on, and so on, and so on…

I just have found myself having these thoughts, with every news story, press conference, or gun control discussion I read…thinking about each of these perspectives and what it means to be alive, and then soon not to be alive, and what do we believe about “what’s next.”  What I know for sure is that my wish for each of those victims is that, at that final moment, they were not afraid.  I hope whatever comes to us, at the moment we move from the alive to the not alive, is beautiful no matter what we believe.

I have friends who are deeply faithful Christians, I have friends who are Jewish, I know someone who is Hindu, I know a few who are Buddhist,  and I have friends who are agnostic and atheist, and I don’t believe that any one of them is more right than the others, and I have loving feelings for all of them.  I also believe in my heart that if there is anything perfect and eternal after death, other than just being fired to ashes, or decomposing in a pine box, they all, we all, get to enjoy it.  They let me be free to be me, and I let them free to be them.  I feel pretty strongly that trying to be a good person, an honest person, a loving person, a kind person, an empathetic person are all tenets that I can get behind, and I suppose any religion would think these principles for living are what’s important.  I hope I’m right.

 

 

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the Effort with the Ease

Relationships are often difficult.  It warmed my heart and settled my mind recently when I heard these words, read aloud during my morning yoga class, to balance the effort with the ease and I thought it might possibly be the best description of how to be in a relationship that I’ve ever heard. Surely there have been countless ways people have described how to be a partner, how to BE human with another human, but these words, so profound, yet simultaneously simple, touched me.  Being part of a pair, this conscious coupling in which two people choose to participate, every day, not just on a day that is “supposed” to be romantic or loving, but EVERY day that we make a choice to BE WITH another person, is what Valentine’s Day means to me.  This February day is a reminder to myself that I am choosing this person to be my person and recognizing that truly, the only thing that really MAKES two people a couple and KEEPS them together is the choice they make to remain so.  Argue all you want if you like about shared assets, expenses of splitting up, housing affordability issues, who will take the pets, distribution of retirement funds…whatever, the fact to me is that we decide daily we are going to share our life with this person, we choose, and that is the only thing that makes a couple, a couple.

I am the daughter of a man and woman who have loved each other for almost 52 years and the older I get, the more I understand, it is a choice they made, over and over, to continue to be together.  I have some girlfriends from high school who now love men they first loved as boys, and have grown up and grown in love with the same person for thirty years.  I love that I know these women, and I sometimes envy what they found when they found it.  When you fall in love late in life, as I have, you miss most, if not all, of the magical moments of firsts…picking out our first sofa, announcing our engagement, planning a honeymoon, deciding where to buy a house, watching with fear and joy, as a recently peed upon plastic stick turns from clear to blue…all of those firsts, this man I love right now, my person, he shared all of those magical moments with somebody else.  It’s sometimes very hard to handle, if I find myself thinking about it, so I try not to think about it too much, but it’s a loss of sorts; meeting somebody who seems so perfect for you, but you met them too late to share any of those magical moments and experience any of those firsts.  The loss does not diminish the present joy, it’s just an observation that sometimes makes me long for what was not and never could be now…

I’ve learned over time and lessons in living, that being content in your present is another choice, and for me, trying not to dwell too much, if at all, on what could have been or wasn’t, is very important to my level of happiness.  I try to accept all of my life as a culmination of the choices I’ve made and accept my present tense without much regret, and that too is a choice.  It’s EASY to focus on the negative, it is EASY to fall into the shoulda-woulda-coulda, and the wishing for other things, but I think, in the big picture, ALL aspects of relationships are essentially boiled down to this; what we choose to think about and how we choose to think about it…as she said, the effort with the ease…

I find that my life is more beautiful when I focus on the positives and the pluses and try to let the negatives go in one ear and out the other.  I like what my teacher read, to balance the effort with the ease…We can find ourselves consumed with how we’ve been hurt, what went wrong, why so-and-so made such a terrible decision, why so-and-so failed us, and that ends up taking a lot of effort on our part to accept, forgive, move on, but when we zoom in on the good, the fun, the joyful times, it is so easy…so easy to choose love and be positive.  I think the more happy thoughts you have, the more you find you can be happy about, and at least for me, in this later phase of my life, it seems to be the way things are going.

I’ve found over these chapters in this love story that I’m in, when I focus on the times we laughed together, ate great meals together, remembering his face, and oh that smile, the first time I ever saw it, my brain immediately brings me back to the overjoy.  When I think about the simplest things, like the first time he made coffee for me, or the not so simple things, like when he nursed me in unimaginable ways after unexpected complications after surgery, my brain immediately brings me back to the overjoy.  There are, if we try, far more beautiful things to think about and dwell on that are happy and loving, but we, each of us who choose to be part of a couple,  have to choose to think that way.  We have to balance the effort with the ease, because you see, I know this much is true; if you focus over and over on the negative, the annoying, the frustrating, the angry, the times that were not good the times that were sad or hurtful or painful in any way, those negative thoughts are so powerful, for some reason often so much more powerful than the lighter and happier thoughts, that they take over your gray matter so fast and the relationship disintegrates, a bit more day by day, until the sound of them chewing or the way they squeeze the toothpaste becomes the final straw.

The stores were filled these last weeks with mushy romantic cards with bad illustrations and corny wording, and none of the cards said what my teacher made me think about; I choose you, I will continue to try every day to do what I can to show love and be love, and balance the effort with the ease.

 

 

1st and Ten, do it again (clap clap)

Last night I watched as the man I love worked his way through every emotion known to football fans world wide…excitement, anticipation, nervousness, stress, worry, anger, frustration, sadness, and annoyance sprinkled with dread, culminating in a climactic rush of pure youthful joy and life-long prayers answered, and then inexplicable bewilderment, as the clock ticked down to :00 in the fourth quarter. The man I love waited his whole life for the moment that arrived last night, at around 10:15 pm EST, in our flu infested living room, in front of our new flat screen television, with us donning our NFL apparel, and it did my heart good to see him that happy.

I was a cheerleader…for all of my youth, and throughout my teens and senior year of high school, I was a cheerleader, and do you want to know a secret?  Not until the fall of 2012 did I know what that cheer meant, “1st and Ten, do it again!”  I joined Pop Warner sports as a young child and tried out for the cheerleading squad every season, every year, for all of my wonder years, and it was not until I was a middle-aged woman with grandchildren, that I learned anything at all about football; you see I grew up in a non sports oriented household,  and fell in love, late in life, with a man who LOVES sports.  My father could think of a dozen things (or more) off the top of his head that he would rather do than sit inside and watch some sort of sport on television, and my boyfriend could think of a dozen things (or more) off the top of his head that he would rather ignore so that he could sit inside and watch some sort of sport on television.

In the 5.5 years that I have loved this man there have been more sporting events on my television than in the entire 40 plus years of my life prior to my meeting him, and none have made him as happy as watching his beloved Eagles win the Super Bowl last night.  We met, this sports lover and I, in the wee morning hours of a hot July, and indeed I think that September he was shocked, or might have thought I was joking, when he learned that I did not watch football, did not follow football, and knew nothing, at all, about football.  “I thought you were a cheerleader?” he asked one day, and I explained that yes, we just did the cheers based on what the coach told us was happening on the field behind us.  Sure, many of the girls probably knew the sport well or understood what was happening on the field upon which we were jumping and cheering, but I wasn’t one of them.  I had never watched a game on television until that fall of 2012, and despite a youth lived clapping gleefully about offense and defense, I could not have given you any bit of information about the game itself, other than that I did know that ‘offense’ meant you/your team/the team, whatever… had possession of the ball and was trying to make a touchdown.  I did not have a father interested in sports, and did not have brothers, and never had a boyfriend who was into sports, so it was not that I didn’t like sports, I simply didn’t know sports.

I only knew two of the songs from the super hyped half-time show last night, and thought it a rather funny turn of events, that I knew more about the football game going on, and the season that had just ended, than of the entertainment…my how the times have changed!  This was my 6th season as a football watcher/Eagles supporter and last night’s game was so exciting to watch.  After this many seasons I now yell/clap/and loudly say things like “Come On!” and since that very first game, I ask questions, if not every game, indeed throughout the season, so that I now understand, quite a lot, about the rules and what is happening, and I admit that I do enjoy watching much more than I EVER imagined I would.  To be honest, if we were to break up tomorrow, this sports lover and I, I doubt I would ever watch a football game again, but as long as I love this man who loves the Eagles, I am going to continue to cheer, and at least now I finally know what the words all mean!