Sunday, May 17, 2015

No, Marriage Equality Does Not Threaten Your Religion

It is irritating to me that I feel as though I have to write this post, but I do so I am.

Here we go:

Marriage, historically, is not about religion.    Marriage has traditionally been about property -- a commercial exchange that had very little to do with religion, or love, or even sex and had a lot to do with dowries and bloodlines and power and politics.

If you are going to argue for "traditional" marriage? The tradition of marriage as a property exchange is far older than what you're referencing and -- so that you're aware -- is still how marriage works.

Wait, did you say no? Did you say that I am incorrect?

Then please allow me to submit to you:

The Prenuptial Agreement

The prenup is the best (but not the only) example of the fact that marriage is not a religious institution but a civil and legal one that is -- in many ways -- defined by an exchange and blending of property. If that were not the case, prenuptial agreements would not -- and could not -- exist. If marriage were simply a religious institution, no lawyers would be involved before, to discuss how property is to be protected and distributed in the chance that the marriage fails, and -- if marriage was only religious in nature -- lawyers and judges could not create divorce decrees. Only clergy could.

There are words for societies that let their religious beliefs dictate their laws and the rights of their citizens. There are names for policies designed to oppress groups of people because you think they're worth less than you are.

I hate to think that the United States would be willing to become such a place. I hate to think that it could become a place where something as simple as  -- writing a blog, say -- could be transgressive and threatening and potentially illegal.

Did you say no, no, that couldn't happen? That there is a separation of church and state, and there is freedom of speech?

There SHOULD be a separation of church and state, I agree. But if you start allowing religious beliefs to dictate the legal rights of citizens then you have also to agree that separation of church and state is a myth. Once you start down that path, it is a very short journey to a country ruled by religion -- and you'd better hope that religion is yours, I guess, because otherwise? You could lose a lot.

You could lose everything.

That's another lesson that history teaches.

If you think that I am arguing for a country in which churches are forced to perform marriage ceremonies that are against the code of conduct that their faith demands, however, you are wrong. Marriage is a legal institution. A wedding? Frequently is not. Churches and clergy can feel free to say, no, we won't perform that ceremony and they can do it for a variety of faith-based reasons. I have personal experience with this, as I was not allowed to get married in the church I attended all of my life, due to ... Um ... 

Well, probably the fact that I write stuff Iike this didn't help. 

When that happens? You make other plans because a wedding might be able to be a religious event but ... And here it comes again ... Marriage is always a legal one. As such, if a clergy person won't marry you, it is possible (and easy) to find someone designated as an agent of the law who will and BECAUSE marriage is not a religious institution, your marriage? VALID. Real. You are legally married with all of the rights and legal obligations that come with your newly wed status.

Marriage equality does not threaten your religion. Your religion will be just fine if two people of the same sex are legally allowed to marry. Unfortunately, a religious insistence on marriage inequality being written into law could have a damning impact on the future of this country, creating laws that legalize discrimination and intolerance. 

Who's threatening who?


Friday, May 15, 2015

What Wouldn't Jesus Do?

I am continually amazed... and bothered... by people who argue against loving your gay neighbor and uplifting the poor and taking care of each other but who claim to love and follow Jesus. 

Really, y'all should be ashamed. 

I am not any kind of theology student, but thanks to my parents, spent a LOT of time in a Fundamentalist church, so I know a couple of things (even though I'm a girl, which -- and this is a Fundie joke -- renders my knowledge useless) about Jesus.

I know he fought for the underdog. The poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden? They were Jesus's homies. If you said to Jesus, "I can't serve this person because she's Latina/Muslim/gay/illegal/transgendered/an addict/a Yankees fan" he would look at you sadly. Because Jesus? Did not care about those things. Jesus believed everyone is worthy. Everyone is valuable. Everyone deserves rights and fairness and love simply by virtue of being human and alive, which makes everyone -- everyone!!! -- a child of God.

I might not be a good Christian ... I've been publicly prounonced a crappy one, actually ... But I get the Jesus loves everyone (even you, Yellie, with your shitty Christian-ness) thing.

So. People being mean to other people but at the same time declaring themselves as being FOR Jesus bother me, because I feel like Jesus? Would be sad to see how much meanness is done in his name, how much cruelty is inflicted on his "behalf," and how often he is invoked as a reason to for people to be hateful to each other.

It makes me sad.

And it makes me sad when, as a society, we punish a crime by committing a crime. It makes me sad when we say, as Ron White once put it, "if you kill someone... we'll kill you back" because I don't understand the death penalty on any level, but it is especially confusing to me that it is supported by so many people who claim, sometimes feverishly, that they love and follow Jesus. Because I don't claim to always know what Jesus WOULD do, but I know that he was big on forgiveness and love and redemption, and execution sort of ... Negates ... Anyone's opportunity to turn her or his life around; if I'm remembering my lessons properly, Jesus actually died to offer that opportunity for everyone. Not just some people. Not just good people or people who agree with you or saintly Red Sox fans. ALL PEOPLE.

I don't always know what Jesus would do.

But I feel like I know what he wouldn't do.

Maybe that's the more important question to ask.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bikini. Body.

I have friends -- people I love lot -- who have recently become weight loss crusaders. They are not personal trainers, exactly, as much as lifestyle coaches. Their social media feeds are filled with workouts! Diet shakes! Wraps!

Which ... Okay. I want them to be happy. I want them to be successful.

And I don't want to unfollow them, but I've been thinking lately that I might not have a choice.

*****
I've spoken of this before, but I don't think it can be stressed enough. I was the fat girl growing up, which... Well, it sucked. Children can be mean. I was also the sick, nerdy, fat girl, so getting picked last for everything? Was just the way it was. Being made fun of meant it was a day that ended in "y". That's how it was. Whatever.

I started losing weight in college. For a little while, I looked great. And then I passed into another plane of weight loss, the one where people were afraid for me. The one where people asked me if I was really sick, if I had cancer or some other potentially fatal illness. The one where I was actually afraid I might die.

Then my grandfather did die, and I realized that I needed to -- and wanted to -- live. 

It wasn't an easy decision. 

It wasn't an easy path.

But I'm still here, goddamn it. I'm still here.

*****
I weigh more than I want to weigh. I weigh more than my ex-doctor wants me to weigh. Despite her knowledge of my history she harps on my weight to the point that I avoid her -- even when I'm really sick -- because I can't bear the lecture, and I can't keep my brain from cycling through a horrible litany of the ways in which I am wrong, my body is wrong, and I am not worthy of being here.

This is a lie, by the way.

But it's hard for me to remember it.

*****

When The Fella tells me I'm beautiful? It's hard to stifle the voice in my head that says, "no. But you were once. And you could be again. Just stop eating. It's easy."

*****

For the record? It's not easy.

For the record, it's horrible, painful, and all consuming.

*****

So. I can't sign up with you, coaches and wrap sellers and purveyors of lifestyles. I can't. Because I'm trying to learn to tie my brain and my body together and live in both of them. I'm trying to make our relationship here mildly less dysfunctional. I'm trying to believe that beauty and worth can't be found in a shake or a size or a reading on a scale.

I'm trying to ... And getting better about ... Wrap my arms around the notion that to have a bikini body? You take a body (yours) and put a bikini on it. I already believe that everyone else on this earth is beautiful and amazing and worthy.

I'm still working on the part where I am.

Maybe I always will.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Still We Rise

For Christians, Easter is the most important holiday of the year. It is the holiday that defines the essence of Christianity, the cornerstone of the faith. It is meant to be joyous.

And yet.

Like all holidays, it is easily overtaken with memories and personal meaning. When I think of Easter (poor Christian that I admittedly am), I think of blowing bubbles on my Nana's porch on a foggy Sunday morning. I think of canatas and solos in the choir. I think of spending the afternoon with my friend Neha and her family. I think of the year that my family and I decided that steps should be taken, and I should move in with my grandfather (in the same house where I had once blown bubbles) who had a brain tumor.

And I think of the years after my marriage ended, when I had no marriage and no church and no faith and felt terribly and horribly alone.

Easter is meant to represent the love of a God who wants the best for His children. It is meant to be celebrated accordingly. 

But to me? It felt lonely. A celebration for people who had hope when I couldn't recognize it.

*****

Hope, by the way, is a strange creature. It's like a faithful dog. It doesn't leave you -- despite how you may banish it -- and will sneak back into the house, belly low to the ground, because it loves you and wants to be near you. I have (and this is just my experience) found that it comes back, determined and eager, long after there is any justification for its presence. Which is to say this: hope will find you when you no longer know if you can find it. It will nuzzle warmly against your heart and beg for a space in your life even at those moments when you have forgotten all about it.

You may not be able to find it in yourself to embrace it. You might be too tired or too anxious or too sad. Hope won't care. 

It will wait for you.

And it will be saying, "You are not ready for me. I get it. But when you are? I will be here and eager to hold you."

*****

The future -- and the present -- and the past, when it comes to it? They don't always resemble what we want them to. That is a fact.

But hope -- who snuggles up and doesn't let go -- reminds us that the best future is a result of outcomes and struggles and learning. It tells us that there is a reason. It tells us that where we have been and where we are will help us to arrive at a glorious and inspired future.

If we believe.

If we can trust.

*****
I am a terrible Christian by the standards of the church I grew up in. Divorced, painfully liberal, headstrong, determined, bossy, disobedient.

For all of that, I feel like I know this to be true: the message of Easter is one of hope. The notion that things can be terrible and seem hopeless -- because what's more terrible and hopeless than being betrayed by the ones you love and left for dead? -- and that despite that, despite everything, despite how bad it looks... You can survive. You can triumph.

You can have hope. 

The Christians say that this was God's gift: sacrifice with the hope of salvation.

I think that the gift is the idea that you can be as low as you can possibly be and yet still get up and face the promise of another day.

We can all be knocked down and hurt and defeated.

And still we rise. We all can rise. Every one of us.

That, to me, is the lesson of Easter. That hope and love are the most powerful forces in the world.

We rise.

We all can rise.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Letting Your Freak Flag Fly

I've had a Goodreads account for a while. I love the idea of telling people what I'm reading, talking about reading, sharing good books. 

You may have noticed that I said I love the idea.

My account has sat, untouched and unused, pretty much since the day I set it up.

Because there's this thing about my reading, and that thing is this:

It's not... Exactly ... Normal.

*****
I don't recall learning to read. I don't remember learning to walk, either, though, and of the two skills? I'm much better at the former, though I suspect that the latter would be improved if I didn't so often attempt it with my nose in a book.

The reality is this: I taught myself, somehow, and I did it before preschool. There has always been reading in my life. It is like air, water, and food, and just as necessary as other items on this list.

That is, perhaps, weird,  but it's not the WEIRD weird bit.

No, the WEIRD weird bit is the pace at which I read.

That's the part that makes me a freak.

*****
It's human nature to try to impose reason on things we don't understand. 

It's not super enjoyable when you are that which is not understood.

*****

"I don't think you're really reading. I think you're skimming." (Nope, I only do that with cookbooks. And math texts.)

"Did you take a speed reading course? You must have." (No.)

"Is this your thing? Like Rainman? Do you have Asperger's?" (I guess that's possible. It might explain some other things about me as well.)

"Could you NOT read ahead?" (spoken by every teacher ever and... I'm sorry, I had too much time and got bored so I kept going)

"You're a freak." 

"That's so weird."

"You're a freak."

*****

When someone says, " I wish I could do that," I think, no, you don't. Unless you like feeling like a freak. Unless you like being called one.

*****

How fast DO I read, is the question. I don't exactly know, so here's an anecdote:

I got home at 11:18 this morning.

At about noonish I decided to read Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. I stopped at one point and took a bath. I also called my mom and worked on a puzzle, so... Not nonstop reading.

It's 336 pages long.

I finished it about an hour ago.

*****

I'm obviously a little angsty about all of this. Which is why I never used Goodreads. I get enough grief about the reading thing from people who know me well and love me. I didn't want any more. I have enough wackiness in my life without inviting extra wackiness.

But The Fella uses it,  and I know I like to see what people are reading.

And. Speaking of The Fella? He appreciates that I love to read because he loves to read too, and makes me feel ... Not so weird about it. 

Like it's okay.

And if I devour books? He just says, "did you eat all of the words with your eyes?" And we laugh.

So maybe?  I can fly this freak flag. And if you're on Goodreads?  You should find me.

I can probably recommend a book or two.

To read at whatever pace you wish.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sometimes, You Just Have To Realize

I was working on a difficult project that kept getting more daunting when it dawned on me: I was trying to reinvent the automobile? But what I needed was a boat. 

I stopped trying to perfect the car and changed the way I was thinking about the whole thing. I took the parts I could use and began rebuilding what I wanted and actually needed, instead of what I thought I was supposed to have.

You can accomplish amazing things if you are only able to let go of your preconceived notions. Embrace possibility and you can do what you thought was impossible.

If you need a boat? Don't build a car.

Trust me on this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Something There Is That Loves A Wall

I recently had the experience of someone telling me that I was thought of as mean, and not very approachable.

As you can probably imagine, this bothered me. It bothered me a lot. So of course, I did what I do: texted people for a second (and third, and fourth) opinion (which, by the way, resulted in a beloved friend sending me a cheese care package -- yes, Jess, cheese DOES make everything better!) and then went to Facebook to do some grousing and get some reassurance.

My friends -- who love me, and who are the best people in the world -- immediately let me know that the person who said this to me was off his rocker. Of course they did. They're my friends. At that moment, though, that was what I most needed to hear. I needed an affirmation that I am what I believe myself to be: a person who is kind. A person who is approachable.

They made me feel one hundred times better.

Still,  it's been on my mind.

*****

On Friday,  I had lunch with the person who said that I was being unkind and difficult. I should say now, to be perfectly clear, that this is a person who I really like and respect; this is probably a major reason as to why his words bothered me so much.

I was not prepared for the turn the conversation took.

"We have been through some difficult situations," he said. "You were frequently put in an impossible position. I think it has impacted you. I think that you sometimes react in ways that don't reflect who I know you are as a result. You're quicker to snap. You're slower to help."

The first time he said it to me, there was no framing. It was an offhand, and somewhat hurtful, comment. Framed like this, though? I had two realizations.

Realization one was this: this man is not trying to cut me down. He is concerned and is trying to help me. And he is right -- we have been through some situations that can best be described as scarring. I have also personally -- outside of his experience with me  -- been through some other, equally scarring things. 

Realization two was a bit more sobering, and that was this: it ws the truth. 

And that? Will have to change.

*****
I know some fundamental truths about myself. I know that I have literally given someone the shirt off my back. I know that I will not ever ignore someone in distress, whether it is a stranger or a friend. I have stopped to help at the scenes of accidents. I have held a stranger's hand while we waited for help. I have -- again, literally-- given up my home to assist someone else. I know that, fundamentally, I am kind. I know that, at the heart of things, I want to help others.

I also know that that has caused me some grief, and that as result, I may have put up some walls. I didn't realize I was doing it, necessarily -- I'm self aware,  but not THAT self aware -- but I can see them now. They're not super high, but they are indeed present.

They're also not working. They're not keeping other people out as much as they're isolating me. 

That's not protection from mistakes. 

That's punishment for having made them.

*****
Tearing down walls is painstaking, careful business. It turns out, though, that if you're lucky -- if you're really, really lucky -- people will be there to help you. One brick at a time. 

Until you're fully back in the sunlight, which is where you always belonged.