Friday, June 16, 2017

Adventures In Spirituality: Eye of Newton, Taint of Gecko

FRIENDS,

Before I regale you with tales of being a scary, sexy halloween witch I have to do my usual prologue of afterthoughts from the previous Adventure.

I told myself I could only write about my spiritual adventures if I could do it respectfully. I don’t know how successful I’ve been with that. Obviously my feelings about organized religion are at a low ebb. I don’t have much good to say about it right now, but I will say this—I’m all for what brings people comfort in their lives. And clearly Xtianity has brought much comfort to many people, otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular.

In my last post I mentioned my older friend who talked me into going to Catholic church with him. He was someone I met at work—a major retailer where no human soul should ever have to spend the bulk of its days—and I’m not sure why we gravitated to each other. He was a 43-yr-old Vietnam vet with severe bi-polar & PTSD and I was a 19-yr-old whose *wisdom* was quickly being erased by *knowledge of the world.*

I made him laugh and he made me feel important. As with school, it was hard for me to get along with co-workers my own age. And I think he felt the same way about the older guys he worked with in the stockroom. There was nothing *inappropriate* about our relationship, but everyone assumed there was, even his family.

If they’d known what we really talked about they’d have been sorely disappointed—books, depression, Vietnam and spiritual beliefs. His description of how the Holy Spirit helped him when he was battling the worst of his mental illness inspired me enough to give RELIGION another try. And though it did not work for me as it had for him, I could never begrudge someone their spiritual medicine.

Of course, when I opted out of going to church with him our friendship also fizzled out. I had to do what was right for me and it was a hard lesson in how spiritual bonds can be stronger than human ones.



*********NOW WHAT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR***********

Adventures in Spirituality: WICCA aka Witchcraft

If you really are expecting tales of sexy, scary halloween witches, Spoiler Alert: there are none.

Wicca the religion is not like the witchcraft you see in movies or TV shows. No maniacal CGI-type special FX. Real magick is much more subtle and hard to detect. It doesn’t insult your intelligence, it defies it.

I was first introduced to “Witchcraft as a religion” by another friend with whom my bond was brief but had lasting impact. When I was still in high school I chose to walk everywhere instead of drive. Crazy, i know. All the other kids couldn’t wait to drive and I just wanted to walk & walk.

On one of my long walks this car pulled up next to me and the driver offered me a ride home. It was a guy who’d already graduated but I remembered him from school. I rode with him and we had a decent rapport so we ended up hanging out regularly after that.

On one of our hangs he introduced me to the big blue book of witchcraft which was probably the only book of its kind in print in the ‘80s. I took the book home and looked it over. I thought it was neat, intriguing, novel. But I didn’t take it very seriously. There was lots of how to do spells (for LOVE or MONEY); it was all about rituals and the use of props like candles & knives & bowls.



I didn’t see how any of this arcane stuff could be of practical use in the modern world I inhabited. But I liked reading about how magick was used by the pre-Xtian societies in Europe, and how Wiccans worshipped the goddess aspects of nature. And since a lot of people at my school already thought I was a witch, I thought it would be cool to turn them into frogs or slugs…

but the main credo in the big blue book of witchcraft was The Threefold Karmic Law:

The pre-Xtian version of Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, with the added stipulation that whatever you do comes back to you threefold.

Seeing this repeated throughout the book gave it more plausibility but I still couldn’t embrace Wicca as a “true religion” like my friend did. He was pretty serious about it and would let me in on the spells he did — I remember one money spell he did that involved catching the reflection of the full moon in a bowl of water. It was lovely, and I think he even got the money he’d “cast” for,  but I still wasn’t convinced this was a sound practice. The things I wanted in life were far less tangible than money or love.

My friend & I had a pretty sad falling out (not over Wicca though). In hindsight I realize he was probably a trans female and I found out he committed suicide in 2010. But I’ll always remember him as hugely instrumental in my own quest for knowledge.



Like I said, the years between 18–22 were a pretty reluctant transition from kid to adult. I had my own suicide attempt, a stay in the hospital & it was recommended that I move back home with my family instead of remaining in vagabondage.

Luckily at that time a friend from ballet school had moved back home for similar reasons.  She told me the only thing keeping her going was studying Wicca with a group (coven) in Tampa. I told her I knew a little bit about Wicca and I started going to the Tampa group with her.

It was a legit group—I was expecting a bunch of goth kids with black lips & droopy attitudes. But it was a husband & wife in their 40s, and a few more people of varying ages and genders. The woman in charge (I’ll call her Esmeralda ‘cause why not) was “maternal” and eager to teach us all aspects of Wicca as a philosophy, a religion and a practice in the real world. And she didn’t charge money for it, which reassured me that it wasn’t some kind of scam.



We learned about spells, circles, tools and all the goddesses from different cultures and which aspect of nature each represented, and of course the threefold law was applied to everything we did. One thing Esmeralda specialized in was natural healing. 

We made healthy potions to drink and grew herbs to put in food & incense (this was before all that kind of stuff got heavily commodified by the New Age Industrial Complex, which I’ll definitely mention in a later post). 

Witch Craft is all about healing. It was ancient pre-Xtian medicine. When the Celts or Gauls or Native American or ancient Egyptian peoples were sick or injured, they went to the “witches.” The wise women & men who knew which herbs, flowers, barks, or other natural materials healed which wounds. 

I was initiated into the coven in a detailed ceremony on the Summer solstice. (1990 I think). After that I became more of a “solitary practitioner.” I was busy with work, school and social life but still found time to commune with nature regularly, and to channel my intentions for a better life through the 4 elements.




I would say Wicca as a religion was far more effective at lifting me out of a bad place and putting me back onto a more positive track than Xtianity was. It felt more real to me than praying to a big Daddy-o who thought I was a shitty little sinner, but loved me anyway.

Wiccan philosophy advocates meditations before any performance of spells or circles. Meditating was really difficult considering how stressed out I was back then, but with effort I was able to do it, and even able to reclaim some of the clairvoyant tendencies I had as a young teen. Wiccan meditations are short & direct, unlike the endless meditations practiced in Zen Buddhism (later post).

So the 20s snowballed along crazily, and I disengaged from the active practice of Wicca, but I still held all the teachings & philosophies close to my heart and tried to live by them. When I finally did go to college and had to take a lot of organic science courses, all the things I learned in my Wiccan studies helped me out. And actually Chemistry deepened my understanding of the scientific properties of witchcraft.

I guess all along I had this need to believe that spirit & science were not exclusive of each other; I didn’t need to understand every detail of their synthesis, but I needed to know it was there. It was too much to ask of me to “just have faith in the man upstairs.”  

My step father had jokingly called Tante Venice a witch, and though she never mentioned Wicca explicitly when I visited her, part of witchcraft is developing a divine sense. Tante Venice was a gifted diviner; her method of divining was one that we also learned at Esmeralda’s. 
[SPOILER ALERT: we all have the potential to get in touch with our own divine senses. It’s not a “gift” that only a few are “blessed” with. (have I ever said how much I hate the word “blessed”? I don’t know why, it’s just one of those moist, slacksy words that gets my goat) Anyway…we are all capable of being clairvoyant, psychic, intuitive at the very least. It takes some understanding and effort though.]



Wow, this is LONG. Sorry it’s not a How To Manual for using your magic powers to do neon telekinetic tricks for your friends. If you want to learn more about Wicca the religion see if you can find the big blue book, I’m sure it’s still out there. Or you can message me if you have valid questions. Just, please, disregard all the Hollywood B.S. you’ve been programmed with. 


NEXT TIME, in The Octopus Diary, more exploratory Esoterica, including meeting Moonchild & how much we had in common spiritually, my attempts at anger management through Zen Buddhist meditation, and a psychic safari. Stay with me, y’all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ADVENTURES IN SPIRITUALITY: You Name It

Oh Hello Friends,

I hope you’re enjoying Adventures in Spirituality so far. Before I launch into the next chapter I just want to make clear that I’m not trying to be all victim-y in telling these stories. I’m also not trying to be “the hero who overcame their demons, clap for me!”

(BTW I didn’t conquer the eating disorder til I was 24 & started having cardioid symptoms. It was a cold turkey, do-or-die, DIY affair. No gods or doctors involved).

I realize most *demons* are conquered over the course of a lifetime—it’s usually not a neat little battle wrapped up with a victory parade. 

My Xtianity Adventure ended on a note of finality, but there have been many other Xtian adventures sprinkled throughout my life & they may be mentioned in upcoming chapters. Be prepared.

In the past year (and under the new administration) there seems to have been a *Xtian Explosion.* Everywhere I go there are chunky gold crucifixes dangling from necks (or dainty diamond ones), praise-the-lord bumper stickers, or Xtian music blaring into my ear canals (esp at the barbershop).  

2010s Xtianity has mutated slightly from the Xtianity I experienced in the 80s.

‘80s Xtianity was all about FEAR. Of death. and homosexuality. and sorrow. and loneliness.

’10s Xtianity seems to be a gilded agenda of HATE. It’s emboldened, it’s militant (not that 80s Xtianity wasn’t militant), but this new brand seems less … benign. Less about trying to do the right thing for fetuses and more about condemning those who made it out of the womb.

Look, I KNOW not all Xtians are bad & hateful people. I KNOW gay & trans people are embracing Xrist at an alarming rate. I’ve been invited to join their churches & politely declined. I even understand the reasons why. If I thought I could handle Godding-it-up for the sake of the community I would surely do it, but my aversion is deeply rooted & y’all gonna have to do it without me. 

I know Jesus loves me as much as he loves Mrs. Chunky-gold-cross with the double-wide stroller full of grandbabies. Right?

I also know not all gay & trans people are shining examples of humility & gratitude. But gay & trans people have been asked to keep themselves hidden in ways that Xtians have not. It’s inhumane to expect people to hide themselves in closets, even if they are not a majority. So forgive us if we come bursting out of that closet too quickly or loudly. We’re all humans trying to live in a severely overpopulated world. It’s madness.



In my Xtianity Adventure I steered clear of mentioning my gender issues. Because gender issues were not allowed—in the 80s, in my family—and I kept them buried deep in my unconscious at that time. The eating disorder wasn’t just a by-product of stress but also an attempt to stave off the wrong puberty.

And now that I’ve started puberty in middle age to become who i always felt I was, it has caused some dissonance in the family I recently reunited with. I won’t say much about it right now, but trust me when I say XTIANITY is at the root of this dissonance. 

This does nothing to help my hostile feelings toward said religion. I understand I have to share this world with lots & lots of people who think I’m…Wrong. Crazy. Delusional. Immoral. Dangerous to children’s fragile little minds.

Probably nothing I say to these people will convey the amount of pain & self-doubt I carried in my own fragile little mind as a child. And that’s the exact thing they’re trying to protect their children from by not allowing them to *see* me.

I’m trying hard not to feel “bad” and “wrong” in this situation. I’ve felt “bad” and “wrong” too many times in my life. I’m not any badder or wronger than any other person who made it out of the womb & lived to tell.

Lately it’s hard for me to hold onto my courage & self esteem on a daily—hourly—basis. And my hope in exploring Spiritual Adventures is that I find my own way to cope with what’s going on in the macrocosmic world as well as my personal microcosm. So bear with me if this gets long & tedious, as it already has.



************************

All right. Let’s go with—New Age, Wicca, Zen Mastery & other Esoterica

This next chapter of Advent in Spirit may be a little more convoluted — my affair w/ upper-case God was quick and unfulfilling. But my quest for meaning in life, for comfort in a world that is loud, obnoxious & unaware of its own shittiness…well, that’s been a fascinating and fulfilling quest. 

When I turned 14 I started having these lucid dreams that would come true in real life. Of course it freaked me out at first. I was young and had never heard anyone else report their dreams coming true in the real world. 

After it happened a few times, I worked up the courage to tell my mom. I expected her to not believe me & tell me I was imagining things. But she actually seemed interested. And she said she was going to book me an appointment w/ her psychic Tante Venice.

I knew my mom had a psychic. When she & my dad were getting divorced & she met this new man she was interested in, I knew she went to a psychic to ask if her exciting new romance was going to blossom & the psychic had said Yes! So my mom loved the psychic and went to her occasionally, when she felt the need.



I didn’t equate my lucid dreaming with someone who predicted romantic bliss until I met Tante Venice. She knew a lot about dreams, and feelings and reincarnation and past lives and spirit guides and angels and Native American culture and even Jesusy Xtian culture. 
There was so much more to the *psychic thing* than foretelling of romance!

After my first visit with her I felt my mind expand exponentially. My head was a big polygon of clarity until 9th grade started & I was surrounded by kids my age again. Then, well…you know what happened—I got an eating disorder & turned to Xtianity!!

It still amazes me that that happened after I had managed to grasp the metaphysical workings of the Unconscious. But…as i would learn over and over, even firm grasps are prey to entropy. The mind needs to wander, the grasp must loosen.

Of course, after my mind wandered into church & back out again, it substantiated my belief in a Spirit World that was not dogmatic & unnatural & scripted in language only men in black skirts could translate for me, a world that existed within the human anatomy, as well as outside of it, in the heavens & the earth.

I would visit Tante Venice every so often throughout my teens & 20s, whenever I felt the need, or was feeling particularly unclear. I met other *psychics* in my life too, and it’s true that for every good and honest one there are dozens of frauds out to make a buck on people who are lost, lonely, desperate for answers they can’t seem to find within themselves. 

Unfortunately there are fraudulent people in every profession. From the Church, to the mental health, medical & legal professions, to the arts. The old adage about money corrupting is so very true, and money combined with ego is even more PROBLEMATIC [my favorite word >: / ].



It was probably around the age of 17 when my ego started corrupting my spiritual world. Once I had knowledge that I was communing with the spirit world, I felt this sense that I was “gifted.”

And once I thought I had a “gift” I attempted to “share” it with others. I tried to be a Tante Venice to kids my age. Kids who weren’t ready to even consider ideas outside the bounds of black & white/good & evil/Sunday school dualities. At first it was cool to have people come to me for “big advice on their big feelings.” But eventually it left me frustrated & angry. People expected permanent, absolute answers from me and weren’t willing to look inside themselves for those same answers. 

I recognized how my own beliefs were morphing simply by trying to share them with others. I lost touch with the comfort and certainty I’d felt before and started feeling doubt and a deepening dislike for people. There were plenty of kids who did NOT like what I said, and who called me a witch and a Satanist or just plain crazy To them there was only one God and he was the Big Daddy they were afraid to disobey.

I went back to exploring spiritual paths on my own. At 19, I found myself in a difficult predicament—a huge unexpected predicament that I had no earthly intellectual resources to handle on my own—and I had an older friend who convinced me to return to Church. Catholic Church.

I attended The Church with him several times and fell into my bizarre pathological relationship with God where I was doubting and questioning more than I was feeling safe and sound. I felt very swept away from my centered unconscious self. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that the Catholic experience wasn’t helping me help myself and I disengaged quickly.

I remained pretty lost and out of touch with my spiritual side from 19—21. The transition from childhood to adulthood can knock anyone from their fulcrum. When I was balanced enough to start searching for a spiritual path again I decided I wanted something that was a strong blend of the nameless Spiritualism I’d learned from Tante Venice and the organized, tangible religions I saw other people practicing.



I decided to see what Wicca was all about. 


Well, I think that’s a good place to stop for now. Next time in The Octopus Diary I’ll share Adventures in Spirituality: Witchcraft! Yay!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Adventures In Spirituality: Xtianity (cont.)

Allright, FRIENDS, here’s the rest of the story:

**************************

Well, that turned out to be a joke. The kids in Campus Life were not “going through” anything but the motions of being teenagers who just happened to be raised Xtian. There was no depth, no personal torment. As with everything in HS, it was all about meeting members of the opposite sex. Pre-web Xtian Mingle. It was the shallowest, most naive group of kids I’d met since Kindergarten, literally.

The message at all the meetings was about “living forever” or “having eternal life through the grace of Jesus X your divine saviour” or being pardoned for being alive on Earth and then being allowed to live rent-free in Heaven for an amount of time I couldn’t conceive of. In other words, DEATH. Again the fear of dying was the only message I was able to pry out of all the gibberish spoken by the moderators of the group.

One of the meetings was even held at a funeral home, with a closed casket front & center & all this fear-mongering about “you’re going to shrivel up into a pathetic wraith & rot & decompose into a skeleton—unless you accept Jesus into your heart!”—

no mention of all the shriveling & decomposure that could happen whilst still alive—

  and at the end of the meeting the adult in charge ominously approached the casket & flung open its lid & out came a bunch of helium balloons! A visual metaphor for what dying would be like IF & only if you took Jesus X your lord & saviour into your life RIGHT NOW!! Even at 15, I found it childish & groanworthy. The rest of the kids were crying & hugging & shouting Amen!



So I abandoned Campus Life and returned to praying alone. Neurotically. Compulsively. Through the Fall of 10th grade I fought hard to maintain my “hunger artist” status. If I slipped up and ate one morsel of food, I would end up bingeing, and purging. The guilt was crippling, and my “faith in God” was hard to hold onto.

Perhaps because I had a dickish, judgmental dad (& step-dad), it was easier for me to believe in a wrathful God than a loving one.  I felt mocked and toyed with by this “one true God” I was praying to. It makes one a bit paranoid to feel “watched over” by a patriarchal superpower & the effect it had on me was pretty grim! It made me think later of those self-flagellating monks (the Opus Dei). My flagellation was in the form of starvation though; I went from 85# to 80 to 78 to 75 to 73…

Obviously, I was doing Xtianity wrong, and it was making me batshit crazy. When I studied religions again later in life I learned of some religious phenomena that were actually mass hallucinations caused by famine or moldy bread, etc… and I wondered if that’s what had happened to me in 10th grade. 

Around Thanksgiving break that year, I knew I had to figure out once & for all if I was a beloved & faithful Xtian, or find a different method for dealing with the eating disorder. So I got on my knees and begged, Please God please, if you can help me, if you are there, if you can hear me, if I’m worth saving, PLEASE give me a sign that I’m doing the right thing, that you are listening and everything will be okay…

I asked God to show “himself” to me on the way to school the next day, in the form of some animal. Have a butterfly land on my nose, or a bunny rabbit dash across the sidewalk in front of me, so I would know “he” was a loving & attentive God and that i should continue to pray to “him.”



Well…I left for school that morning, as always very early so i didn’t have to see my family.

I was anxious to hear from God. Or not. I guess I was anxious to get on with life either as a Xtian or as something else. I was sick of feeling desperate & sick.

I walked through my neighborhood, and saw no bunnies or skylarks or panda bears. I made it out to the main street and no butterfly landed on my nose. I was starting to despair and neurotically question God’s love for me once again. I got to the bridge that spanned Phillippi Creek.

Because it was in a school zone the bridge had a protective fence between the parapet & road, to keep the kids from falling into traffic I guess. As I began my walk through the fenced portion, wondering if maybe I’d see an alligator in the creek and know God was with me…

…a car came speeding past, lost control and slammed into the fence ahead of me. The fence was laid into the parapet about 20 feet in front of me. The car was banged up but kept going (and since it was a school zone, there was a cop nearby and it didn’t get far). I had to turn around, get off the bridge & walk to school in the road.

Please excuse my shoddy 1-point perspective sketch—I just did it really quick


But that was my sign! That was the definitive answer I was looking for.

I know signs are signs and it’s all in how you interpret them. I know many people would interpret that as an amazing miracle from God! You could’ve been smooshed like a bug on that bridge and God chose to let you live! 

But I had asked for a specific kind of sign and got something completely different. I interpreted this to mean, STOP. Turn around and take a different path. You’re brave enough and strong enough to walk alone. All the answers are inside you, quit asking to have them spelled out for you. 



So that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t necessarily stop believing in (lower case) god, or spirits, or guardian angels, but I gave up using spirituality as a drug and started dealing with my problems in proactive, tangible ways. I dropped the pious Xtian act and remembered who I was— a foul-mouthed rebel who didn’t need the approval of misogynist sheeple (or deities) who thought 75# was an attractive look.

*********************

While that sudden catharsis didn’t CURE the eating disorder, it did flick a switch in my brain and I was able to get back to being a real person who cared about things other than weight & food & being a “perfect” “girl.”

I started eating again (if I got over 90-95# I would still throw up, but it wasn’t ruling my life). I switched from gymnastics to ballet, I returned to writing and drawing. I accrued some new interests & friends & had a social life again. I kept my mind & body as far from Xtianity as possible, though it is definitely a pervasive specter in our culture.

So, what did I do to satisfy that human need to believe in a higher power? 

Stay tuned for Adventures in Spirituality: New Age, Wicca, Zen Mastery & Other Esoterica

Coming Soon

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Adventures In Spirituality: Xtianity

ALOHA FRIENDS,

It’s summer & that means it’s time for one of my famous Summer Series here in The Octopus Diary. And this year I’m giving you Adventures In Spirituality! We’re in the middle of a global holy war, if you didn’t notice, and everyone’s spirituality is running rampant. It’s annoying the fuck out of me, but I’m trying to handle it like a grown up because…I finally am a grown up. FINALLY.

I will be exploring — and generously sharing with you—my own forays into different religions/schools of thought and their resulting epiphanies, or lack thereof.

But, VT, you might argue, there is so much important stuff going on in the world, why would you want to talk about your own experiences instead of commenting on the state of the world like everyone else is doing??

And I’m so glad you asked. I do love to comment on what’s going on in the world, like everyone else, but I save it for Rattle Responds. (Look it up. And participate in it. Because I need more competition from other writers & poets…)

I also realize that writing essay-length blog posts is NOT in fashion anymore. We live in the age of the pithy, succinct Facebook post (or character-enforced Tweet). No one has time to read several pages worth of laborious mental/emotional synthesis by some washed up Gen X hermit. 

Give us the pith and we’ll give you 73 “likes” 5 “loves” 3 “wows” 2 “hahas” (from those emotionally immature friends who don’t get that just because you’re pithy doesn’t mean you’re not completely sincere in your backhanded, reverse-psyche way) and maybe a “flower” if there’s some overly effeminate Hallmark holiday looming.

Well…fuck that. I will blog away into my octogenarian sunset. I’m not here to find cleverer ways to say what everyone else is saying. And I definitely won’t call you on the phone & yak away. I’ve read the social contract and it does NOT allow me to speak of the kinds of big feelings I have. It also forbids us to live inside our heads as much as I do, so arrest me, or ostracize me, or pity me… I will handle it. 

I always handle it. I’m handling it right now. Yanking myself out of a GREAT DEPRESSION with only a handful of gabapentin, a keyboard full of letters, and a rusty fish hook.

************************

And now for our feature presentation — ADVENTURES IN SPIRITUALITY PART ONE:

XTIANITY 

I never know where to begin my stories. They all pretty much begin when I began, but I know I can’t start all stories from that point. So I’ll start this one with the Eating Disorder.

Around age 14 I became very stressed out by life—High School and all the gross shallow peer pressure that went along with it. Aside from getting good grades, being athletic (gymnastics), and all the fall-out from divorces & step-families going on at home there was this other huge responsibility I had as a female-bodied teenager:

BE SKINNY


In fact, it seemed, that was my MOST important job as a teen girl. Just. Don’t. Be. Fat.


It was the 80s, for God’s sake. We were a very unevolved and unloving race.



I’ll spare you the details, but somewhere in the middle of 9th grade I learned to vomit up everything I ate so i wouldn’t be unpleasant for my parents and peers to behold. It worked well. I went from 110# (considered “heavy” by most of the females around me) to 95# within 2 weeks of starting the binge-purge process. Then I hovered between 90 — 95# for the rest of 9th grade. Everyone commented on how much better I looked!

No one knew the nightmarish obsession I was beholden to. I felt very out of control. I cared about nothing but finding time alone to eat & eat & eat myself silly and then throw up. It isolated me from friends & family. It wrought havoc on my brain chemistry. It stopped my menstrual cycle. It eclipsed my love of gymnastics, art, writing. My teeth hurt.

But damn I looked good & everyone said so. I got more positive attention for being thin than I’d ever gotten for anything else in my life.

But I felt awful. Almost as awful as I would feel as an alcoholic later in life—that’s how addictive & controlling disordered eating can be, But I still thought of it as something I could stop if I really wanted to—it was a CHOICE and I just had to find the willpower to quit!



Sometime during the summer between 9th & 10th grades i did find that “willpower.” Summer is a less stressful time and I was able to find this monastic, ascetic headspace that allowed me to quit eating altogether.

Yeah! The very best antidote to the binge-purge grotesquery was to not eat at all! And I had found the power to do that! Jeez, i felt powerful! And the great thing was, I got even skinnier. I started 10th grade around 85# and —you guessed it—everyone showered me with praise for my “supersleek” “figure.”

While I felt very powerful I also felt vulnerable to falling back into my old pattern of desperate binge-purging. I needed to be so, so strong, stronger than I believed i could be on my own—

because once school started & all those pressures came flooding back in, the urge to overeat was returning,

so I did what anyone would do: I turned to “God.” That’s right. I “decided” to “become” a Xtian. Right there in my room, I said “God, I know I haven’t believed in you for the first 15 years of my life but now that I need your help, I do.” Or something like that. Whatever I said, it brought me immediate comfort. I felt like, wow, I have “someone” super-powerful on my side. And “he’s” going to keep me strong and skinny and acceptable and happy.



[a brief word about my early history with Xtianity, the religion America was founded upon: I had no real history with it. I was not raised in any religion. My parents could’nt’ve cared less about church, bedtime prayers, saying grace at dinner—all of that stuff was foreign to me & seemed bizarre when I’d spend the night w/ friends whose families did do those things.

I can’t remember how old I was the first time I stepped foot in a church, but I know I didn’t like it. I was a “nature kid” and church seemed to renounce anything “natural.” It was like the library in its insistence upon quiet, but there was only one book, and it seemed full of gibberish to my inquiring mind. And the smell! The smell of church was…dead paper, slowed synapses, and stale dentures. I was so glad I wasn’t made to go to church regularly like some other kids i knew.

When I was 7 or 8, a new family moved into our neighborhood & my parents befriended them. This family convinced my parents to attend their church—aren’t churches always looking for new members?—and I was forced to attend with them.

Church of The Redeemer in downtown Sarasota was (still is) a beautiful Episcopal church, much fancier than the small, humble churches I’d first been exposed to. High ceilings, elaborate stained glass, theatrical altar set up w/ yuuuge dangly Jesus on the cross tilted slightly, almost stage-diving into the congregation.

But there was no mistaking that it was a church. The smell, the gibberish, the pursed lips & minds, the clasped hands and renunciation of the natural world.

Coincidentally, it was at this age that I was becoming aware of mortality. I was flipped out about death & dying. I was starting to despair of my parents being taken from me, and most scarily of all I was aware that I was going to die. Definitely someday, but maybe tomorrow. Maybe as soon as I closed my eyes to sleep at night. You just never knew…
i know a lot of kids freak out about the whole death thing when they become aware of it, but our church attendance coinciding with my death knowledge was pretty scary because as far as I could tell…

…Church was all about death. It was all very morbid. Jesus’ death would not keep us from dying but would somehow ensure that we would stay alive in some weird place that looked … really boring & unnatural where little babies with flapping penises lived, but there were no vagina’d babies, and i really didn’t believe such a place existed but I also was terrified of “dying all the way” so i tried, I tried to believe in a place where you could stay a little bit alive even though you were dead…

We attended that church until I was about 9. Then I think my parents grew tired of it all. My brother & I had our weekend sports activities and we bowed out quietly, and I left all thoughts of Xtianity and Jesus and penis-angels behind, though I continued to flip out about death til I was about 11…

Wow, that was not brief…]



ANYWAY, back to 15-yr-old me calling on God to keep me safe from the scary eating disorder—

My intentions were completely sincere—I wanted with all my heart to feel the love of Jesus that so many others claimed to feel. I wanted to be a good Xtian. I assumed a pious style in my life. I stopped “thinking bad thoughts” whatever that means to a 15-yr-old: cuss words, budding sexuality (which was next to nil for an 85# non-menstruating waif like myself). I even started dressing differently; I ditched my usual wardrobe of black T-shirts & jeans and adopted the heinous brights of the preppy culture which ruled my school & the mid-80s in general.

I prayed constantly, obsessive-compulsively, against the urge to overeat, or eat at all.

When I told my mom I was a Xtian now, she seemed pleased. But she said I would have to go to church to be a real Xtian, because one thing she learned from her own foray into Xtianity was that you must not interpret the Bible for yourself, you must have it translated for you by a professional Xtian. She said she would be happy to take me to church on Sundays.

I didn’t like the sound of that, but I did start going to church just because…I wanted to do this right. I wanted God to notice me & love me & help me. Deep down I still thought church was bullshit, mostly because of the other people I saw attending.

I actually loved praying by myself, but I hated praying with a bunch of smiley-faced denture heads who couldn’t possibly know why I needed God’s help. It was still all about death as far as I could tell—

So & so’s mother is in the hospital dying of such & such, we lost this parishioner & that parishioner last week, the Jones’s precious little baby was born w/ a hole in its heart, let us pray—

there was no prayer for the kind of sickness I had. 


After a few trial Sundays, I told my mom I was giving up on church and that I would attend Campus Life at school instead. I thought it might be more helpful to be Xtian with Xtians my own age, and maybe meet someone who understood what I was going through… 



******************

Okay. This has gotten really long and I have other stuff to do. SO…stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of this story, coming in a few days!

Sorry I don't have new art for you. I’m working on a really cool, different sort of art project for the summer— syringe art!!! Be prepared for it, you won’t believe it. Also, I will release my first issue of The Octopus Review, poems by people who are not me, on Jun 21 [the summer solstice (yes I know it’s not officially summer yet, but I live in FL & school is out) so keep your submissions coming please!]



Take care my little sunbeams!












Thursday, May 25, 2017

Confessions Of A Tree Falling In A Forest

FRIENDINISTAS,

The other day I bought some plants for the yard. I know, that’s so unlike me. My relationship to any living things that aren’t cats is pretty questionable. [ask me about bamboo & pumpkins. No, don’t]

But we’re trying to create a lush green wall between us & the neighbors—just for our own privacy & comfort—no problems w/ the neighbors in this ‘hood.

So I scouted out a nice spot for the new plants—a sun dappled area between two large pines. I stood there a moment, picturing the potential lushness & fertility.  Moonchild joined me & we remarked what a nice part of the yard it was, how we should bring our chairs over & spend more time there.

Then we went inside because it was noon & too hot to start digging & planting. I planned to return later in the afternoon. So we did our indoor stuff for a few hours, which included binge-watching Kimmy Schmidt Season 3. We started an episode around 5 o’clock & after that one I was going to head out to the yard.

Well…about halfway through the episode we heard a loud boom. Moonchild asked Was that thunder?? And if I hadn’t caught sight of a shadowy figure that looked like one of Danaerys’s dragons flying through the yard I would’ve said Yeah, that was thunder.

Instead I ran to the window to see what the flying shadow was. And there, right where we’d been standing earlier, was a big chunky limb that had fallen from one of the pine trees. 15 minutes before I was scheduled to be standing there again. It was big enough to do some serious skull, neck, or shoulder damage. Possibly a fatal blow.

As we stood there in shock & puzzlement, I had three rapid-fire thoughts:

A) wow, our guardian angels are hard at work today

B) wow, what vengeful deity is out to get us??

and finally my inner Zen master came through with C) wow, timing may not be everything but it sure is something


********************

Friends, I promised I was going to start a summer blog series called Adventures In Spirituality. And I am going to do that. I’m looking forward to doing it actually. I’ve been very busy, and…I must admit…

….I’m falling into a GREAT DEPRESSION again. I’m not (too) ashamed that I struggle with depression. I know a lot of people do. But I don’t like to go on & on about it in my sacred blog space which I reserve for fun stuff like stream-of-conscious poetry.

When I went through this in 2014, I only told a few close friends & didn’t write much about it. But I’m seeing lots of folks going through some size or shape of depression these days—and surprisingly, it’s mostly GUYS who are talking about it. So it feels kind of gender appropriate for me to join in.

Usually when I’m feeling depressed I stay busier than usual & refrain from bothering people; I do art therapy, I write, sing, read awesome books; I talk to Moonchild until he reminds me I’m not any worse at being human than anyone else. I seek professional help if needed.

I’ve already done all of those things ^^^^ this year and I keep spiraling down. Being “busy” doesn’t really cure depression—it often adds stress & anxiety to the equation. Or it holds it at bay until you’re un-busy again. But it’s impossible to sit still when you are deep in the shit, as I seem to be now.

The thing I didn’t get until recently is: if you struggled with depression in your youth it doesn’t necessarily get better with time, it usually gets worse. The more you know about the world, the harder it is to distract yourself. The more medications you’ve tried, the harder it is to find ones that work. All medications lose their effectiveness over time.

And some even leave you feeling worse over time. That’s why I tried so hard, for so long to manage without medication. But I caved in 2014 & latched onto the big pharma-tit…It was a necessary evil at the time. I felt relief from the indescribable anguish that was plaguing me, but I also felt exploited, gauged, monitored & profiled by the corporate health care beast.

[Oh, did I tell you I lost insurance coverage last week? They (United) decided my “condition” didn’t meet the standards of approval for coverage of the medication I’m using to treat it. I suppose this will be happening to many of us. It feels very violating to be reviewed as unfit for coverage.] 

I miss the days when the liquor store was my pharmacy.

The death of Chris Cornell really hit me hard. I’ve read a lot about his struggle in the week since he passed & I marvel at what a valiant fighter he was. Especially in light of the nihilistic movement he was part of. He was the one I’d assumed had found that magic combination of strength / love / creative talent / medicine / realistic expectations.

But even with that auspicious alignment of elements, depression can kick you right into the abyss.



Suicide has been a big presence in my life lately. Last summer a friend committed suicide & it left me questioning everything I’d assumed about “pushing through it” or “staying busy” or “not bothering people with your personal shit.” Because if anyone was able to push through & stay busy & not burden others it was her. 

Until she couldn’t do it anymore.

Then I read the Tiptree biography and found yet another literary hero who ended his(her) own life. So many, many literary heroes end their own lives. I used to take comfort in knowing this author or that one had been as depressed as me—that I at least was in good company. Now it scares me, and makes them much more human to me (though no less heroic).  

The show 13 Reasons Why slunk its cold tentacles around my heart in April.

And this week Cornell’s passing has me just … just….what? Asking for strength? Striving for clarity? Willing myself not to do the same thing to my own loved ones?

It’s a precarious time for me to be delving into Spirituality because I feel vulnerable to the temptation of Big Answers. I sometimes yearn for Bigger Answers than I’ve already received on this plane, but I’ve also come to terms with knowing that I’m not supposed to know everything. 

[Like why did a tree limb narrowly miss falling on my head the other day??]



I also know it’s risky to talk (write) about “religion & politics.” And for good reason—peoples’ religious & political beliefs tend to define the core of their beings. So I will try to tread carefully & not use my dickish Blog Emperor voice when relaying my personal stories.

So get ready! Next time in The Octopus Diary—Adventures in Spirituality: Xtianity Part One

I’lll also keep you updated on the “medical situation” if I can bear to write about it.

I’m also still accepting submissions of personal, political, heartfelt, newsworthy, ranting & surreally raving poetry.


Also….if you are not a Friendinista, you are not required to read this. You CAN look away.