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April 2009

Get Real

I managed to give myself a little panic attack this weekend. Signed up for a food service without taking the time to research the company first. The things I'll do after a glass of wine. I tell you. Couple that we the fact that I sat through church for absolutely what reason I don't know, that I'm getting ready to fly out of the country for the first time in my life, Trouble's birthday party is on Saturday, I'm cooking Easter dinner on Sunday and driving to Boston on Monday night, I think the panic attack is understandable.

I'm not used to being off kilter, I don't make rash decisions, and I don't like change. Blackstone isn't used to seeing me lose my cool. It's only happened a handful of times in my life. Generally it's reserved for big events - getting married, buying a house, changing jobs. And it doesn't usually last long. I'm a person who knows how to make a decision and stick to it, for better or worse. I will research the change in question, Google it to death, wrestle with it in my mind for weeks, sleep on it, and generally after all that, I can take a deep breath and know I've made the best decision possible. Occasionally, it doesn't turn out to be the best decision. I've learned I can live with that too. But I hate being wrong. Hate looking stupid infinitely more than being wrong. I will relive the mistakes, the embarrassments over and over in my mind for the rest of my life. When I develop Alzheimers in my old age, there is no doubt that the mistakes are the ones that will stay with me. When I forget my kids and my husband, can't remember my own name or where I live, I will still remember every stupid thing I've said, every public fall I've taken, every line I've fallen for. There aren't many of them, but they eat away at me, make me scream with frustration at myself at random moments in my life years later. I'll be driving in the car yelling for no reason and scare the begeezers out of my kids who are wondering what the hell just happened, because nothing happened, not now anyway. I'm a million miles away torturing myself for no good reason, and they're in present watching their mother act like a crazy person.

Blackstone tells me that I've never admitted to him that I hate change before. I suppose I may give off the impression of embracing change because I am forward thinking and rather unpredictable. That's not change. That's me being the same brand of unusual and introverted I've been my whole life. I want to like change. I want to be a great world traveler. I'm not. I like structure and order in my chaotic and liberal life. I spend my life looking at seemingly random and unexplainable problems and I apply order and reasoning to derive a solution. My way of thinking is simultaneously minute and all-encompassing. It may be radical or bizarre, but it does not make me a free-spirit or easy-going. I am likely the antithesis of the free-spirit. I am relentless, thorough and intense.

Blackstone tells me this crazy feeling I had of not being able to find my center, of not being able to reason or research myself into serenity, that other people suffer from this more than I do. Well, I suppose all I can conclusively draw from that is that  he suffers from it more than I do. It's just about the worst feeling in the world, to feel as if something inside you is spinning and you can't make it stop. It's like your heart is nauseous or something. Luckily, my head normally rules my heart, which for me, is as it should be.


Palm Sunday

I went to church this past Sunday. Now, it's not like I haven't had reason to step in a church in the past decade or so. I've been to weddings and funerals, a first communion. God hasn't seen fit to strike me down for crossing the threshold or anything. Of course, that very well may be because there isn't one. But this past Sunday Blackstone decided to check out one the local churches and I decided to go with him. While our views on religion may seem, on the surface, to fall on opposite sides of the fence. In reality, the difference is almost negligible. Our views, feelings are almost completely in parallel, except he believes in God, and I really don't. I'm willing to allow that no one can know the truth, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go. I'm not sure I'm right. I don't understand how you can be sure you're right. But another difference between us is that he likes going to church. He likes the structure of it, and finds the experience relaxing, even if he does find disagreement with most of the same issues I do. I, on the other hand, find church completely unsettling.

We went to a local church where we know many members of the congregation. These are people I see every week. Truly wonderful people that I am happy to have in my life. But I sit next to these people in a church and I feel so conspicuous, so out of place, so unbelievably uncomfortable. It's about as much fun as a root canal. It reminds me of Hawthorne's short story Young Goodman Brown, where the guy is lured out to the middle of the woods and realizes he and his wife are being indoctrinated into this Satanic cult that the entire town belongs to, but he refuses and the rest of his life has to live in his town, his own home, as an outsider. A functioning member of the community, a husband, who now has to spend his life with this unsettling feeling, not knowing if what happened was just a dream or if the entire town belongs to this cult and he is, underneath all the day-to-day on-goings, really on outcast. Yeah, that's kind of how I feel at church, except swapping Satan for God, night for day, and the woods for a church. But that feeling, that you're all alone while surrounded by people, that everyone else understands, everyone else belongs and you don't. Oh, the theme is still the same for me. I feel like I'm sitting there and either I have completely lost my mind, or everyone else in the building has. We can't both be right, can we? But life just isn't that black and white. We have to allow that we both can be right, which goes against all logic, and is enough to drive me completely batty.

What I do miss about not going to church, is the coming together of the community. What I don't understand is why we can't have that without God and the Bible. This confuses the hell out of Blackstone. How do you have church without God? I don't know that we'd have to call it church, but why do we have to have God to bring a community together to do good works, support and help one another, remind one another about the important things in life, like love and kindness, peace and charity. I appreciate the moral education the church can provide to children and the moral compass it can be for adults. What I hate is how it's deemed necessary to praise God, shout out to Jesus, and read the words of long dead white men as if they were the words of God. I don't see why we need religion to be good people. I don't understand why we need to have our behavior rewarded with heaven or condemned to hell for motivation as to doing the right thing. Can't we just do the right thing because it is the right thing? Couldn't we still have the Ten Commandments without God and the Bible, just because it's the right way to live? Well, maybe not all ten of them. We'd have to drop that one about the idols and having no other gods. That should just make it easier. Fewer to remember.

Granted people need structure, guidance, rules and enforcement. It is human nature to look out for you and your own before all others. We have a government, laws and jails for that. I believe that without order, without law, the world would fall into chaos. I just don't believe that the same is true for God and religion. I know there are many other people that have studied the basic history of religion, how it originated to explain what the science wasn't there to explain yet. I know other people accept the theory of evolution and the Big Bang. What I don't understand is how so many of these people sit in a church and don't feel as alone, confused and scared as I am. Not by the fact that I don't have a path, that my soul is in turmoil, but because I most assuredly am not. I'm not just uncertain that I'm not like them, I'm positive to the center or my being that I'm not. It scares me because I know what I believe, because I feel so alone. Because at any moment I'm waiting for their eyes to glaze over, for them to tie me up and carry me to some god forsaken place in the woods where they do away with all the non-believers.

And many of you, my good friends and readers, lord knows what you think of me now. I do not think you're crazy. I do not think you're brainwashed. Which means I have to allow that these other wonderful people in my community, they're not going to declare me a witch and burn me at the stake. I can breathe a little easier now, well, at least a little easier than Young Goodman Brown, anyway. My center has been shaken a bit lately though. I'm telling myself it's good to be shaken a little now and then. The growing always comes with discomfort.