Be good to yourself

I’ll be honest, I’m not feeling very inspired to write this post. The past few days have been weird and hard, my anxiety has been through the roof, and I’m emotionally exhausted, which tends to end up translating itself into me having a difficult time engaging in anything creative. However, I promised myself I’d be consistent on this blog, so here I am.

I know I’ll be okay, but right now it’s really difficult to think around the “my stomach is in knots, and my heart is randomly pounding like I’ve just run a marathon” feeling. It honestly just sucks. So the only thing I have right now is that I’m trying to be kind to myself, trying to take care of myself, and waiting for this to pass. I hope you all are, too.


A letter to my daughter

Dear Auri,

Today is International Women’s Day, 2018, and you are 5 years old. All day long I’ve seen inspiring posts from strong women, and it’s made me think of you, the legacy I want to leave you, and the future I want to build for you. So my precious girl, here are the things I want you to not only know in your head, but truly believe and act upon, in the deepest parts of who you are as you make your way in this world.

1) I want you to know that gentleness and strength are not mutually exclusive. That kindness does not mean you shouldn’t stand up for yourself. That being nurturing does not exempt you from the right to have ambition and goals.

2) I want you to love others, sincerely, passionately, and always be open to differences-in opinion, in upbringing, in experience.

3) I want you to have confidence in your appearance, wear what you want, and express yourself however you desire while at the same time refusing to blame yourself when others use your appearance to excuse their actions. It took Mommy nearly thirty years to recognize that for the toxic lie that it was, and my hope is that, for you, it will be an inconceivable, easily dismissed blip on your mental radar.

4) I want you to love yourself, to know your value, and be a powerful woman who uses her intelligence and compassion to stand up to evil, inequality, and injustice and stand for others.

5) I want you to believe that you can change the world, that you can make it better, and that you can inspire other women (and men) to do the same.

Love always and forever,

Even if it makes me blind…

There’s this song by an electronic artist named San Holo called Light. There aren’t many lyrics (as is typical of electronic music), but the main ones always make me pause. They are as follows: “Even if it makes me blind, I just want to see the light. Breathe in, leave it all behind. I just want to see the light.” I often think about the way those lines can be taken, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it can go one of two ways.

Either you think, “wow, why would you do something to intentionally cause yourself pain or inhibit you (blind you)?” I don’t necessarily consider this a bad perspective to take, all things considered. There is a time to think through, and avoid relationships, or situations which are toxic to your mental or physical well being.

However, there is also a second perspective to take on these lyrics, which is the camp I find myself falling into more often. That of looking at the truth full on, accepting it, and changing your perspective even when it hurts like hell. I’ve found this happening to me a lot in recent years. I looked at the evidence for my religious beliefs (fundamental Christianity) found it lacking (in many regards) and changed my mind. It hurts. So much. But I think, being at a point where I’m more on the outside looking in, I’ve finally been able to see the harmful aspects of it (for example homophobia, xenophobia (amongst the intensely conservative branch of Christianity), etc.) and find that I’m grateful that I’m not a contributing factor in that ugliness-either because I was driven by a false sense of what was right, or because I was trying to remain loyal and true to a cause.

Now I find myself “seeing the light”, as it were, over a completely different issue: Gun control. Five years ago, I was proudly libertarian, pro 2nd Amendment, and bought into the line touted that more gun control would only lead to more deaths of innocent people. I no longer think that way. This post by Hank Green was the beginning of a drastic shift in my perceptions and beliefs about gun control and whether or not it is effective in saving lives:

I’m not saying I have all the answers, because I don’t and never will. What I am saying is that I want those who are adamant that all kinds of weapons should be available to the average citizen to really assess their motives. Why should that be a thing? AR-15s are not necessary for self-defense. They are not necessary for hunting. I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about guns, but I’m certain that if Nicholas Cruz had walked into that school with a handgun or a shotgun nowhere near as many people would have been killed or injured.

And honestly, I’ve tried to be fair about the issue, and tried to keep my head down, but I am so so tired of innocent people, particularly children, being continually targeted while we do absolutely nothing to protect them. I’m tired of the massive amounts of politicians who are in the NRA’s pockets choosing money over lives. So here I am. Just a mom wanting a safer world, where I don’t have to fear for my child’s life while she attempts to get an education. These kids are begging for protection, and I can’t just say/do nothing anymore.

True Love

“But what if we were known as people in true pursuit of love, a people committed to representing it well? What if we were known for constantly showing up to wrestle the needs and questions around us, and what if we took it so far as to be honest about our own?” ~ Jamie Tworkowski, If You Feel Too Much

Today, the day where we traditionally celebrate love, a hate filled human being walked into a school and ended the lives of 17 innocent people. I talk a lot about keeping a tight grip on hope, but I’m not going to lie, when things like this happen (and they happen with alarming frequency, with no sign of stopping) the foremost thought on my mind is “fuck humanity, and our inability to stop hurting and destroying each other. I give up.” I eventually have to make the choice to force myself out of that thought, and try to focus on the things and people in my life that give it beauty, joy, and love, because living with that kind of rage is not a way to live. It’s a way to exist.

So now I sit here on the couch, so very aware of, humbled, and grateful that my little girl is peacefully and safely sleeping upstairs. Unable to fathom the agony that other parents are entering into as they face the rest of their lives without their children. I am reminded of the hard truth that love isn’t always about those happy feelings, the sex, the romance, or the laughter. It’s also about entering into the lives of those who feel broken beyond repair, helping shoulder the weight of their pain, and recognizing that so many question do not and will never have answers.

What it comes down to is this-to the parents of those precious children who were murdered today: I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. I’m sorry that you will not get to see your children grow up, have their own children, and fulfill their dreams. I’m sorry for the years of love that were violently stolen from you. I hope that you have people around you who will stand next to you, carry the weight of your pain, and your unanswerable questions. May you find peace in the midst of the confusion. Hope in the midst of the darkness. Joy in the midst of the tears. And may love always be there to hold you up.

All my love.

Accepting the contradictions

I am currently about three quarters of the way through “Jesus, Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman. I highly recommend this author, no matter what state of belief or unbelief you may currently be in. He knows how to explain things in a way that challenges you but is also easy to understand. His attitude is not arrogant or an attempt to dissuade anyone from faith, but merely to present objective facts, and let you decide what that means for you, personally. My husband had been urging me for the last couple years to read his books, but driven by a fierce desperation to cling to my faith, I refused. The thought of having something I held so dear-something I was convinced was the only reason I was able to keep on living-completely obliterated, was beyond what I felt I was capable of handling. Perhaps I was right. Or perhaps I would have been able to face the truth, and find myself still standing. I will never know.

I remember as a kid reading the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and having, not exactly full on doubt, but more these blips of uncertainty about the differences in the story of Christ amongst the four stories, particularly his death and resurrection. I never allowed myself to ruminate on them because I a) didn’t really have anybody in my life who would be open to discussing the differences with me b) to allow myself to go headfirst into full on doubts and where that would lead was, in my mind, akin to heresy, and c) I think looking back, that deep down I knew I was not capable of handling the dread and fear that going down that particular path would cause. So, I stuffed the uncertainty down, made excuses, continued to see what I wanted to see, and stayed a committed Christian who placed my faith, and hope for the next decade and a half in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

What I do know is that, right now, I am finally FINALLY able to take a good solid look at the book behind the beliefs I clung to so fiercely for over 20 years, and truly see and accept the discrepancies in the different accounts of Jesus life and ministry. I don’t have to make up reasons as to why every single account of Christ’s death, resurrection, and the events following it are different. I don’t have to rationalize why one gospel account emphasizes one aspect of who Jesus was, while another one emphasizes something completely contradictory. They are different because the people who wrote them were different people, who were trying to impart what they considered important, to future generations. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that maybe the Bible is not the inspired, infallible word of God. That is up to each of us, individually, to decide.

As a 30 year old woman, who has spent the majority of the last four years doing little else but doubting everything I believe, first by force as I watched my husband walk confidently into apostasy and atheism, then reluctantly beginning my own apostate journey, the only thing I know for certain is this: At some point, you have to look at your beliefs and be honest about them. Look at the challenges, look at the inaccuracies, perhaps even appreciate the good things they may have brought to your life, and then find the confidence to continue in them or walk away. The important thing is to make that choice on your own terms with dignity, grace, and peace.

That is my wish for you all.

The value of fantasy

“Fantasy is not an escape from our world. It is an invitation to go deeper into it.” – Andrew Slack

At first glance, this quote honestly didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I remember hearing it at a Harry Potter panel during Nerdcon Nerdfighteria last year, and I made sure to save it in notes on my phone. Every so often over the almost-year since I would glance at it, and think “that is making me feel something significant, but I’m not sure what it is or why I’m feeling it so intensely.” After taking the time to sit down and specifically think about it, this is what I concluded:

When I think of Harry Potter, as much as I love the magical elements and the crazy shenanigans Harry, Ron, and Hermione get up to, what really stands out to me and what I connect to is their humanity. Harry is a flawed character who (just like me) often feels inadequate for the role he finds himself in. In spite of those feelings, he continually chooses the bonds of friendship, loyalty, and love which by extension leads to the courage and sacrifice which ends up inspiring others and saving the world.

Harry was never portrayed as a remarkable or exceptionally skilled, but love and hope wielded by ordinary hands have the extraordinary ability of fighting against the darkness of hatred and injustice. That is a truth that transcends fantasy and unbelievable elements, and helps us, simple, ordinary, unremarkable individuals believe that with love we can change the world and inspire others to do the same. They laid the foundation for me, specifically, as a teenager when I first started reading Harry Potter, to view the world and people different from me with more compassionate and empathetic eyes. Not seeing them merely as people to be pitied or “saved” (evangelical upbringing, holla) but as complex human beings with stories and backgrounds just as deserving to be heard and respected as my own.

That is powerful, and that is how Harry Potter (and other fantasy) challenges and invites us to become more connected to our world.

Fandom Phenomenon

There is a particular show (I won’t name, so as not to ruin it for anyone) with actors I really like. From everything I’ve seen of them, they are the kind of people who inspire kindness, and are trying to make the world a better place. I genuinely admire them, as well as their work on the show. My feelings concerning its fandom are far different. There is so much hatefulness and vitriol over what, when it comes down to it, are simply differing interpretations about different aspects of the show, that I have no desire to align myself with the fandom.

As someone who loves books, and well written and acted tv shows, I understand feeling passionate and emotionally connected to a story. They are capable of inspiring people to great things, kickstarting creativity, and offering hope and joy. I understand how upsetting it can be when you feel something you love and have invested in being seemingly threatened, and the need to defend something which may have helped define your humanity.

Stories have power-no doubt about it. But…the fact of the matter is those stories, as much as they mean to us, aren’t real, but the people who are being attacked for a differing opinion over a fictitious story are real. They have real feelings, and words can hurt and scar for a lifetime. Being passionate about something you love is not an excuse to tear others down. Ever. It’s possible to disagree with someone (even strongly) and do it in a way that is kind, respectful, and well thought out. Name calling, insulting someone’s intelligence, or making assumptions about a person’s character based on something they enjoy or see in fiction is just…messed up.

Is this something that is common across all fandoms and I just notice it more with this one because I care so much about the show and the actors? My blossoming humanistic sensibilities want to believe it’s a rare phenomenon. At any rate, I’ll enjoy from a distance, and pretend it’s uncommon.