Tag Archives: Catholic

Joy

20 Apr

I hear that it’s a holiday – a holy day – today. I hear it’s called Easter.

I don’t know what that word conjures up for you, when you hear it. A Midwestern-bred Catholic who decided to expand to the larger term of “Christian” in her early college years and now claims no grand ability to judge the Ultimate Truths of the universe, calling herself no one dogmatic label but saying she is open to learning, to questioning, to experiencing, and to revising ideas – the word “Easter” conjures up a lot of rather disparate images for me.

Countless Easter baskets, each of them packed with neon green and pink and purple plastic shavings, filled to the brim with garishly designed chocolate-encasing wrappers, maybe even some of those 25 cent plastic Easter eggs you can buy at every discount and drug store right around this time of year. Probably some horrid but oh-so-delicious chocolate mockery of a rabbit. (Seriously, why do those things even exist? “Here, kiddo, today’s all about celebrating new life, NOW RIP ITS HEAD OFF WITH YOUR SALIVA-DRIPPING TEETH AND FEAST UPON ITS CORPSE WHILE ITS MELTING BODY SMEARS ALL OVER YOUR FACE!”)

Uh, yeah. Easter baskets.

There are images of family parties that pop up, too. Somebody – usually my grandmother, I think – probably made a ham. Not that I’d be eating it, thank you very much. There would be some Easter egg hunt, little plastic capsules filled with quarters and dimes and HOLY FUCK THIS ONE HAS FIVE DOLLARS strewn around the front yard or the backyard or the living room, if the weather were too wet or the adults got too lazy. I’d participate for maybe ten years or so, then help moderate for the littler ones as I got older. (“Hey, three-year-old cousin, stick with me and you’ll be good to go. I’ve got inside information.”)

For a long stretch of years, there are images of church. Me and my younger sister and my mother and every other female there decked out in our best dress, many of us probably having bought a new one just for the occasion. (Why are Easter dresses a thing? Why must small children be bedecked in white fluff and nonsense that they’re only going to complain makes them uncomfortable and probably get grass stains all over within five minutes? Why don’t we all just wear jeans? The day’s about freedom, yes?)

A lot of those years, the church-going was fairly mindless. You went to church on Easter because that’s just what people did. It was like stopping at red lights or eating soup with a spoon. That’s just the way things worked. You stood outside in the cold (because of course Missouri would decide to revert back to freezing temperatures instead of the spring it had been inching toward – I mean, wouldn’t want to overheat the occasion or anything by venturing above 60 degrees Fahrenheit…) and waited for a really long time and got really bored and then you went inside and the adults around you mumbled some stuff and belted some songs and went through this routine of sitting and standing and kneeling and sitting and kneeling and standing and burning weird-smelling stuff and generally doing lots more waiting and being bored…

And then in my first two or so years of college, there was nobody around to tell me I had to go to Easter mass. Or even what Easter mass to go to. I went because at that time, I wanted to. I went because the Catholic and then broader Christian faith held meaning for me. Helped me get through the fucking large amount of hurting I was going through at the time. A day where I could go to the Pentecostal church the next suburb over and throw my hands in the air and sing as loudly as I could in a room full of people clapping their hands and waving their bodies and smiling at me, at each other, at the ceiling past where they imagined their God to be, where we could make noise and stomp our feet and feel things because that’s just what we wanted to do, just how we wanted to show our belief and our thanks, and whatever we brought to the table, our God would find that acceptable? Would find it good?

I went to that kind of mass for a while.

And now, Easter, being a word associated with that set of religions that I’ve become not entirely sure about… it brings up flashbacks of scenes of doubt and anger – at the God I had been taught to believe in, at the men I had been told to believe. Discomfort and hesitation, because the book I was told to put so much stock in had some passages that seemed to not make sense, or to exclude people I knew were damn good people, better than a lot of the Christians I knew – more loving, more supportive, more accepting, better parents and spouses and partners and friends, sometimes even better believers – I was being told that I was supposed to “pray for their souls,” because they were sinning. Or something like that. There was a whole sector, multiples sectors of human life, human experience, that had so many rules and regulations, many of them seemingly arbitrary, that the joy there… just died.

I thought Easter was explicitly about the opposite of joy dying.

My journey of faith and un-faith and re-faith and not-quite-faith and whatever the hell the proper words for the dynamic spot of saying I don’t know all the answers and I’m just going to love and serve people and celebrate this earth and its inhabitants as best I can and hope that any deity out there will look on and understand my story, understand that I am doing the best I can in the place I am at – I don’t know exactly what to call that, but the story of getting there is long intricate and person and complicated, and that’s not exactly what I’m trying to talk about here.

What am I trying to talk about? Well, now that you’ve got an incredibly long backstory, what I’m trying to say is that I hear today is a day called Easter. A holy day. A day of celebrating that we humans, with our quirks and differences and imperfections and doubts and diversity, are free and loved. A day of celebrating the joy that can be in life.

So. Whoever you are, however you are, I wish you joy today. Joy in being completely you, without boundaries or prejudices. Joy in loving as fully as you can, without any disapproval from lookers-on. Joy in being who you are, how you know you were created. Male, female, transgender, gender queer, intersex, agender – whatever the word you understand for yourself. Straight, gay, lesbian, hetero or homo, pansexual or asexual, questioning or certain or experimenting or just trying to be okay – because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re all doing, the entire human race, just trying to be okay – whatever your titles or creeds or other arbitrary delineations we draw between us who are all made of skin and bone and muscle, hearts and lungs and brains and hands: I wish you joy. In being you. In being free. In being loved.

No conditions. No reservations.

Only joy.

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Justified

6 Mar

I have always felt the need to justify my existence. I’m not really sure when it started; I have no particular experience to point to, no exact moment in time when I can remember its instillment. There is neither any gradual buildup that I can trace; this need has just always been there, within me, existing.

Perhaps it’s from the early Catholic training I received, the anti-hedonistic education I received since birth. Perhaps it is the messages, subtle and otherwise, that pleasure should never  be a reason, only an unhoped for side effect of righteousness, to be found only after death in a heavenly afterlife. Perhaps it’s that I was raised in an environment of business and consequences; my father, a self-employed salesman, and my mother, a harried keeper who ran around cleaning up after him. There were costs to life, and if you did not put in the effort to stay ahead of them, debt was an inevitability. Therefore one must justify every expenditure, and behind that, every whim. Can you pay the price of what you want? Can you afford the cost of what you are asking for? Are you providing enough return for this air, this water, this space that you are soaking up and taking in? Because if not, then there will be someone to come collect your dues from you. And you may not like what they take.

Perhaps it is that – I can remember creating powerpoint presentation as a fourth grader whenever I wanted to ask my parents for something: a book, a dog, a birthday party. Here, mother and father, are the reasons I want this thing. Here are the reasons that I am sure this is truly something of value to me, something worth your funding, not just some passing fancy that you will not see the returns of. Let me explain the form of my liquidated joy. Let me explain why this matters. Let me explain how giving me this thing will pay off for you, too. Let me show you how this happiness of mine is a worthwhile venture for your capital. Let me use these graphs and these bullet points and these arguments and persuasions to prove to you that I – that is, this thing that I want – is not just a risk. Let me show you why it is worth it.

Let me show you why I am worth it.

Or perhaps, perhaps it’s really that the universe somehow screwed up royally when I was born, and I was brought into this world with a piece of antimatter snuck into my core. And it’s been sitting there ever since, slowly annihilating me from the inside, destroying my internal and leaving me empty and so I have always felt this need for external, objective justification of myself because it is the fodder I have fed this antimatter core, the material I have been using to build myself up and keep the destruction at bay. I have needed to constantly build myself up because there is something else within me constantly tearing myself down. I have needed to prove myself to create a positive existence within myself that is being constantly drawn toward the negative.

Alright, alright, it’s probably not that I’ve got a bit of antimatter in me. But you have to admit, that would be more exciting.

And so I don’t know. I don’t know why I feel this constant imperative to show to myself – because it is to myself, really – over and over and over again that it is all right for me to exist. That is okay for me to be happy. The idea of doing something, well and truly and solely for my own pleasure – that is still an idea I am learning to be comfortable with. I mean, I’m still learning to be comfortable at all. In my body, in my mind, in my relationships. There is always some latent dissatisfaction, some missing piece, some screw up enfolded in the obscurity of a past that I somehow didn’t quite catch, that holds me back from every being truly happy. I mean, most days, my goal is just to not go crazy. Recently, a day without breaking down crying on my dorm room floor has been what’s counted as success.

Maybe I’ve just distorted that line about “everyone is here for a reason,” the whole “your life has a purpose” spiel. There’s a reason for me?! My life has a purpose?! What if I’m screwing up and not following through on what that reason for me is?! What if I’m doing it wrong?! What if I fail, don’t ever fulfill what my purpose was supposed to be?! What if I just fall short?! Every breath for me is a beat of “am I doing it? am I doing it? did I do it now? is this okay? oh god oh god oh god oh god…”

Heh. And people wonder why I have anxiety…

No, I am not looking for you to tell me that I am justified. I am not looking for you to tell me the right answer, to insist that I am alright, that it’s all okay, that I am good. You see, that’s part of the tricky business of the internal ruckus of mine. I require outside feedback to let me know that I am okay (because I couldn’t ever just trust myself, could I? that’s not objective observation…), but if I feel that it was given because I asked for it – well then, that just voids it right there. It’s like leading a witness in court. You said that because I directed you to. You may really mean it, but my brain doesn’t care about that. Nope, the only praise I can accept is the kind that has been spontaneously and freely given, that I have earned but not fished for.

(By the way, Miss Kim, I’m going to tell you again that I love you forever for the random messages you send me at like two in the afternoon while you’re at work that just pop up on my facebook chat telling me I’m pretty. You are a glorious, wonderful human being and I cannot exist without you. Also, I’m probably going to buy a mattress soon, like, for realsies and probably just have it delivered straight to the apartment, because fuck transporting queen-sized mattresses in a compact.)

I hope you all have a best friend like Miss Kim. Like Miss Kim, mind you. Because Miss Kim is mine. All mine.

*Ahem.* But really, I do. And I hope even more that perhaps this best friend is in fact some part of you. That perhaps you do not need an external positivity feed like I do. That perhaps you already have your own sense of justification, built into the infrastructure of yourself.

That would be nice.

But if you don’t – well, I understand. I’m here with you, too. And here’s to hoping that one day, we will be able to tear out that pesky piece of antimatter (using proper protective gloves, of course, gotta be careful when handling antimatter…) and finally fill that whole with some brick of justification that will finally stay and stick.

And until then, here’s to searching.