/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dying Diane

Diane had been struggling with her situation for what seemed like an eternity (although considering the tenure of their marriage and the magnitude of her impending decision, it hadn't been exceptionally long) when she realized her strength was waining and her indignation sadly reducing to resignation. Make no mistake about it: she was not resigning to try to work it out with Dave, for the more they spoke about life and love her contempt for him only grew deeper; rather, she resigned to admitting that her fervent attempts at finding a happier existence were futile and idealistic. She had no earning potential. She loathed the city Dave had dragged her to five years previously, but could not afford to live where she thought she could thrive on a single mothers budget. And most ironically of all, she knew she'd be forced to bear the brunt of the blame, the glares from her children, family, or friends, every time the smallest thing went wrong, because she was the one who left, after all. Poor, innocent Dave. The one whose self-fulfilling prophecy it was to portray a calm and bewildered affect while refusing to listen, understand, communicate or care. Of course Diane was at fault for everything! She wears her heart on her sleeve. Dave remains stoic, but her emotions are palpable. And the more callous Dave behaves, the stronger the emotional undercurrent coursing through Diane's veins. Therefore, the longer he remains apathetic to the volatility of her well-being, the more her exasperation shows and the more resentment she oozes, superficially solidifying Dave's role as victim. Yet, as many of the others don't understand, she has come to him so many times. Expressed her needs. Her desires. Her pain. Her suffering. Yet time and again he turns his back. It's a situation children just can't comprehend -- for they can't see his neglect, only her disdain -- and it pains her so to think they will resent her.

Amidst these thoughts her biggest roadblock, and that which causes her the most distress, is not only her skepticism in what the future holds, but in the more immediate question, where would they live? Because of their current location she has lost her sense of optimism about the world. She has grave doubts that she could find happiness anywhere at all. She feels completely trapped. In Hell. She can no longer see the sun and she genuinely fears that the large cloud looming overhead will simply follow wherever she goes. And she is slowly dying.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doggy Paddling Diane

(This is a continuation of the tale of Dave and Diane, who were introduced in The Basket of Denial: A Short Story.)

Doggy paddling is instinctual, yet inefficient. It requires too much energy to do for long and it doesn't get you far; it merely keeps you afloat. And only for a little while until your muscles tire and cramp and eventually refuse to work. Assuming rescue is not imminent, one must adapt their skills beyond the primitive in order to endure.

Before she actually made the break from Dave (the physical one anyway -- as she had emotionally broken away long before) many thoughts ruminated in Diane's head. She knew in all likelihood she was a hopeless romantic--or was she just hopeless? she wondered. She felt that over time she had learned to keep her expectations of love to be more practical, although she couldn't help subconsciously but to imagine how it could be. There were certain things she intrinsically longed for, certain things that spoke love to her and she couldn't help but feel that she was settling -- there just had to be more to relationships than simply muddling through life together. Sure, that was a big part of it; but in order to feed and nurture the relationship, to keep it from souring, there had to be something sweet added and it only made sense that each partner contribute some of the "sugar." As it turned out, the less sugar Dave added to the relationship, the more bitter Diane grew. And for anyone who knows a lick about psychology, bitter people generally have little sugar to give.

Interestingly, just preceding their most serious marital troubles, Diane felt she was making great strides in her own emotional health. She realized that most of the negative behaviors she had engaged in when younger had dissolved and she was learning to better cope with resentment. Another benefit she encountered as a result of the maturation process was learning to better defend herself from others in a constructive manner, along with developing the ability to do so with less justification and more resolution. However, amidst these advancements challenges also arose. As she became more insightful, the dysfunctional patterns in her relationships became much clearer and, being a person who strives for personal growth, naturally Diane could no longer thrive with them in place. Now, this should have been a good thing -- it was an opportunity to interrupt the cycles and rebuild troubled relationships into healthier ones. Yet unfortunately, some people cling desperately to the adage that ignorance is bliss -- and, as we know from The Basket of Denial, ignorance is not only Dave's condition of choice, it appears to be his adopted religion.

After the initial setbacks and getting nowhere but frustrated, Diane attempted to focus less on her and Dave and more simply on her. The conditions, however, were just too poor: still lacking in sugar and drowning in a sour sea, it was nearly impossible for her to make any emotional gains and, in fact, if anything, she saw herself slipping. She was overwhelmed by frustration and resentment with too few ways to vent or express it. Anchored by Dave and being pulled under by the current of familiar patterns, she regressed to having outbursts of anger and spells of hopelessness. Just the way, she assumed, Dave wanted it to be. For then he could play the part of hero and caretaker -- all the while dismissing his responsibility in the matter -- by picking up the pieces and wordlessly expressing, "see? You need me." Ironically, however, was that seemingly it was the reverse that were true. For how will he continue his delusions when Diane is finally gone? He will have no choice but to further develop his spirituality (the blissfulness of ignorance) lest he succumb to the harshness of the cold and unaccommodating foreign land of Reality -- a place he has heard of, but never ventured to. A place you do not reach easily relying on doggy paddle alone.

But what ultimately happens to Dave is neither here nor there; this chapter is dedicated to Diane and her struggle to grow emotionally. Upon realizing that she had fallen right back to where she began (not in her ultimate goal, rather her emotional health) she began losing all hope that she could become a better person after all. Who was she kidding? She would only be fooling herself if she thought she was capable of nurturing a strong and healthy partnership with anyone. Considering, here she was, these many years later and she was functioning with an unrefined and inefficient method of frantic and desperate movements. She had so desperately wanted to try the breast stroke or the butterfly but, alas, she was not swimming alone and her teammate was not interested in learning anything new -- even at the expense of their own survival. She spent several weeks lamenting the fates of her emotional vitality and romantic future when a spark went off in Diane's head and ignited an epiphany that maybe -- just maybe -- once she was cut lose from the anchor and she rose above the sour sea to catch her breath, her metamorphosis would continue. "After all, it is a biological fact," she thought, "that not a single thing grows in the absence of air."

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Quickie

This is just something I jotted down on a piece of cardboard a while back as I suddenly felt inspired at one of my children's softball games. I could turn it into a much longer post, but will leave it simple for now:

While it isn't the responsibility of others to endow our emotional needs, common philosophy says that love makes the world go 'round. So while we alone must find happiness for ourselves, a life without love is a lonely one indeed. Perhaps truly healthy relationships are those which are maintained not out of need or the sense that the other person "completes" you, but instead of the desire and ability to enhance one another's lives. Simply put: We shouldn't need our partners, but want them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Real America

I think that regardless of which side of the political fence you're on, this may very well change the way you think about America. I know I have shared my strong opinion about Sarah Palin in recent posts, but this video cuts to the chase and goes directly to Wasilla, AK to emphasize what Palin has been saying all along about the humble, honest and patriotic citizens grown in her town.

You would be remiss not to watch this video.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Parodoxical Ideals

Since I recently opened the political can of worms on my last post I feel this would be a good time to broach another bothersome issue before changing the subject. It has been ruffling my feathers for quite some time, and although I'm sharing these thoughts mostly as a way to express my frustrations about society, I welcome comments that may be able to shed some understanding and justification on what I see as contradictory ethics and rampant hypocrisy.

I'm referring to the basic ideology of right-wing politics, aka, the Republican party. Without attempting the daunting task of dissecting a wide array of individual causes, examining their partisan principles in a nutshell exemplifies my point. Now before you accuse me of being an extreme leftist, you should know that a few of my personal stances actually fall within the parameters of elephant territory. One example is that I do not unequivocally oppose capital punishment, especially considering the advancements in the field of forensic science and the accuracy of DNA. In fact, if anything I advocate a more expedient process with fewer appeals and tax dollars spent on executions. I additionally hold moderate views regarding immigration laws and reducing the negative impact illegal immigrants have on our economy.

However, the conglomerate of Republican ideals is riddled with contradiction. Interestingly--and although I would never be so cavalier as to say all--it is relatively safe to say that most right-wing citizens practice and/or value Christianity (in fact, some even say they vote for the conservative candidate primarily as a result of religious views). For this reason I find it extraordinarily intriguing that these very same conservatives not only support, but often fight for such issues as the death penalty, gun rights, and going to war! Equally ironic is that one of their big ticket issues is maintaining low taxes (including for the wealthy and multi-million dollar corporations) while simultaneously demanding we spend oodles of government funds on not only maintaining a super-sized military, but attacking every country posing some sort of perceived threat, realistic or not. Meanwhile, our children are receiving the worst educations of nearly any civilized country, our natural resources are rapidly declining, and the rest of the world is losing respect for the United Bullies of America--issues that left unchecked have me wondering just exactly how we expect to be the world super power in future generations?

Secondly, I find it rather peculiar that so many of the Jesus-followers who vehemently oppose abortion rights also oppose government aid to the needy! Admittedly, our welfare system is extremely flawed and in desperate need of reform, but how can anyone be so callous as to support allocating billions of dollars for bombing and rebuilding other countries, yet advocate abandoning the less-fortunate citizens of our own? And how can people be so naive to think that a society benefits from dictating our human rights and then refusing to help the people affected by those very regulations? And how, pray tell, do these belief-systems coalesce with the teachings of their supposed Savior?

I honestly can't make the logical connection between Christianity and the Republican party as there seems to be a gigantic gap between these religious and political ideals. Let's simplify: Pro guns. Pro war. Pro big business. Pro God.


On the flip side we have: Anti-welfare. Anti-public eduction. Anti-gay rights. Anti-stem-cell research. Aka, anti-progress.

It would seem that Republicans oppose anything that doesn't directly aid in lining their pockets or mirror their assumed morals. (Morals, mind you, which preclude victims of rape from ending an unwanted pregnancy, yet tolerate tax dollars contributing to the killings of innocent children and babies in far away lands because, although unfortunate, those means are justifiable.)

Again, I am perplexed. Pro life. Pro war. Now take a moment to stop and digest the irony in these words: Pro life. Pro war.

I certainly wouldn't suggest that either side is free from corruption or exempt from contradictions, but based on its fundamental principles, the Republican party is plagued with hypocrisy. Whether or not you agree, I have come to this conclusion: After boiling down all the bureaucracy of partisanship to get to the bottom line lies one fundamental difference between left and right, blue and red, donkey and elephant: A Republican fights for himself, while a Democrat fights for the people.

Interestingly, it isn't the Christian dominated party which prioritizes human rights over profit and power.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Palin, the Political Poison

There's no sense in beating around the bush: I'm scared. As in genuinely nervous and fearful regarding the direction of this country. Considering our current economic state I suppose almost anyone could rightfully make the same claim; yet for me, the fear that Sarah Palin could very well be the Commander-in-Chief of this nation in the not-so-distant future supercedes our present day recession. I admit I have spent the greater part of my life politically apathetic. I didn't follow the elections all that closely, nor did I watch the televised debates thoroughly or even gave much credence to what the media was buzzing about. That is, until now.

Although I've been leaning towards Barack Obama for a while, I still didn't feel a great sense of urgency regarding the election until McCain made his infamous VP selection, who contrary to popular belief is no Mary Magdalene. Granted, I have never been her #1 fan but the more I learn about her and the more I see of her, the more red flags that begin to wave and the more my instinctive alarms go off. For Palin, people, is nothing more than a fresh and polished, but very poisonous apple.

Personally, I have not heard one positive thing this woman "stands for." In fact, she evades answering questions like typhoid fever. Anyone who is naive enough to think she makes a good candidate because she is an unseasoned, "six-pack Joe" is a bloody fool. It takes a lot of manipulation tactics to be as evasive as she is and who is better suited to grandstanding than a politician? It doesn't take several terms as Senator to develop these skills; for some, it just comes naturally.

She has complained about how much Katie Couric annoyed her because she claims Couric was trying to "trap" her into being straight-forward. She has misquoted and misinterpreted Madeleine Albright to insinuate that any woman who does not vote for her is going to Hell. She has flat-out stated that instead of answering interviewers questions she wanted to talk about what the Americans really care about, which in her professional opinion--is bashing Obama. She ignored Gwen Ifill, the moderator of the vice-presidential debate, continuing on with her own selfish agenda.

Sidestepping the whole issue that I firmly believe in the separation of church and state, a distinction that she clearly seems unable to recognize, this woman, who wasn't even a terrific governor of an underpopulated state, has absolutely no business being in the running in the first place. Anyone with a lick of sense knows she was chosen solely as a publicity tactic and not for merit, credentials or experience. Her loyalties do not lie among the people of this nation--that is more than evident! She has but one goal and two strategies to get there. Realizing that she actually has a shot at becoming this country's first female VP and possibly first female president, her eyes are fixed firmly upon the white house as she eagerly licks her chops.

To anyone who reads between the lines (as we all should do before casting a vote in an election as important as this) her strategies are as obvious as her aspiration. Her first line of defense to avoid giving concrete, credible answers is to create a diversion by slewing verbal arsenals at Obama with any means necessary. The reason is obvious: when you lack any merit by which to elevate yourself, you must tear your opponent down.

Her second gimmick to fool Americans into forgetting her deficits is attempting to create the illusion of some great alliance by affiliating herself with the country's "everyday" citizens. If she is such an average Joe who understands and empathizes with the plights of the people, why, praytell, is she against women's rights? Why is she against abortion, yet simultaneously against programs to help the impoverished, such as young, unwed mothers? WHY are women in the state she governs forced to buy their own rape kits? Does this sound like someone who really gives a God-forsaken damn?

So what, she's attractive. She goes to church. She's a mom. The last time I checked these weren't valid qualifications to run the United States of America! For crying out loud, if we think George W. Bush is a joke, then she's the punchline! She simply can not be trusted and she is using the aforementioned qualities to her benefit to paint a superficial appearance for which to hide the manipulative and selfish person residing within.

Contrary to what you're probably thinking, I would not go so far as to classify myself as a democrat. While I do share more of the liberal ideology, I readily admit many of our systems need serious reform. Yet, under no circumstances do I want our country to take two steps back for every one we've taken. As much as I would like to see a woman in power, it must be the right woman. One who advocates justice, progression, and social values. Most importantly, one with integrity.

(A thank you to Pentad's blog which led me to some of these links.)




Friday, October 3, 2008

Flying High

I must admit something before beginning: I am not completely sober or in a traditional state-of-mind. After all, I am on a cross-country flight to return home from yet another intoxicating trip to one of my favorite places. There was honestly no pun intended on the adjective chosen to describe my escape; however, intoxicating is amusingly appropriate considering the “cups” of wine I've recently consumed on this flight coupled with the fact that I've had very little to eat, and am listening to some of my favorite tunes thanks to Apple technology (which even under normal circumstances can take me to another time and place). I honestly can not describe the feeling I get while in and around Los Angeles. Add good music to a perfect ambiance and I become completely entranced. Interestingly, after a long hiatus from visiting in which I convinced myself I would no longer benefit in the same way that I used to, I discovered, then confirmed, on my last two trips respectively, that the city of angels will always have a hold over me.

I'm lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) even to be on this plane. It was far too close a call whether or not I would make my flight. Far too close even for me. My general laid back, “it'll be fine, relax” nature is actually what nearly caused me to miss it in the first place. In other words, I wanted to extract every second I could before departing and therefore dicked around too long this morning focused on the elements that lay in my favor--such as my flight was out of Orange County instead of LAX, which is not only much smaller, but also much closer—and neglected to give enough credence to the negating factors including the fact I still had to return the rental car as well as fill it up with gas before so. Nor did I anticipate the many other things that could go wrong and only do so when one is suffering a time crunch of critical importance. On the bright side, I felt justified in the fact that I simply had no choice but to test the limits of the cherry red Mustang as I made my way down the 405 towards John Wayne airport. The combination of speed, fresh air, good music and adrenaline made for a very nice drive indeed. Yet the adventure was far from over.

Skipping the rest of the many gory details (yes, I even cut in line--ironically, at the advice of airport employees)--except to say that it would have made for some interesting, if not humorous footage had I been the subject of some ridiculous reality series--I will say that I have spent the last hour or two (really have no idea) enjoying my amphetamine and alcohol induced state of being (both perfectly legal and neither of which I abuse, mind you) reflecting on how wonderful and simultaneously bitter-sweet life can be.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Basket Of Denial: A Short Story

Once upon a time there was a fictitious man named Dave who, although fictitious, bore grave importance because he was so very representative of the many men and women living in the alternate universe of non-fiction, aka reality, who shared the same condition. In an interesting twist, not only was Dave himself fictitious but so were many of the beliefs in his head. This is because the poor fella was afflicted with what we in the real world call denial. My definition for this condition: A stubborn and selfishly motivated disillusionment about certain facts of reality which, if accepted as truth would rob bearer of his or her blissful ignorance. Well, this creates a problem since in order to maintain self-preservation the bearer must choose to ignore or deny said facts and, since denying them does not actually make them any less real, the cycle continues.

So back to Dave. Dave was in denial about a lot of things that he didn't wish to be true ranging from his parents' emotional abuse, to his children's issues, to his own negligent and often foolish behaviors. He consistently made excuses, manipulated facts, and swept things under the rug, somehow believing that he would not have to deal with such problems if he ignored them long enough. Now if only his family members were able to join him in the depths of his mythological mind, they too may have been able to ignore these situations. But unfortunately they reside in the real world where not only do the issues remain, but left untreated, intensify. Because of this, Dave's refusal to see things for what they really were slowly destroyed the bridge between him and his loved-ones.

With the almighty wisdom bestowed upon me as narrator, I analogize this practicing of incessant denial to putting all of your eggs into one basket. After all, maintaining denial is nothing short of banking on the premise that either your beliefs are true or will eventually be accepted as true the longer you protest. Yet this unhealthy mind game can only function for so long before frustration and resentment moves any capable and responsible beneficiaries of the behavior to demand change or incite it themselves, usually via ultimatum or a parting of the ways. At least that's what happened to Dave.

One morning Dave woke up to find that his wife, Diane, was actually serious all those times she said she'd had enough. It was now too late; she was gone. He suddenly became aware that his tightly woven universe was unraveling although he really shouldn't have been surprised—after all, the basket had slowly been slipping from his grip for quite some time now as Diane had repeatedly shared her frustrations and discontent with him. She was desperate for growth and vitality; he was desperate not to change. Ever. And he had successfully prevented any for years. What he hadn't expected, however, was that she would finally draw the parallel of this situation to one she had learned long ago in discipling her children: idle threats are quickly defeated -- one must follow through their alleged intent or become equally guilty in fueling the flames of the vicious cycle. Naturally, Dave hadn't counted on this realization.

Now, a person of merit (or at least of compassion) would find a way to win her back. But Dave? He just lost his grip. On the basket of denial, that is. At the moment the basket made its last contact with his skin--his fingers desperately fumbling, reaching for the handle--his unwise investment was finally realized, yet again too late. Burning into one's memory the sights and sounds of a life falling apart, was the unforgettable scene of spilling eggs accompanied by a sharp and poignant noise that echoed like a choir of shattering glass as one by one each fragile piece of the past tumbled slowly and dramatically to the ground.

In the aftermath the shattered shards of shell lie loosely bound together by the slimy remnants of life that was once contained within. Hoping to salvage something from the mess, Dave soon discovered that scramble as they may to repair the damage, neither all the kings horses nor all the kings men can put a blind man's basket (fictitious or otherwise) back together again.

Morals of the story?

1) The truth hurts, but denial doesn't change it.

2) Waiting until it's too late is just that.

My prescription for this condition: Reality. And now.

Please note that it does not come in liquid form, only non-coated, hard to swallow tablets. Must be swallowed whole. Do not crush or break.

Possible side effects: vertigo, confusion, disgruntle, upset stomach. (If you begin experiencing hallucinations, need not fear, this is not a side effect, just the part of the world you have refused to see.)

The End.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What I Know

Life is a continual learning process and I am currently in the process of learning that we often never arrive at the answer we are in search of--at least not overnight and not in the way we expect.

In essence, I ran away to Paris. I ran for several reasons, not the least of which was to simply escape. I needed, not wanted, but needed some time away from my relentless troubles and, quite frankly, from my life. I thought by getting out of the thick of it I would be able to better decipher which course I should take at this crucial crossroads in my life while simultaneously evaluating what it is I really do want. Yet once basking in the magnificent and fascinating city that is Paris, the last thing I wanted to do was pause to contemplate my problems! I may not have developed any epiphanies as to which solution shall best repair my ruinous path, but I do feel that I have grown some, changed some, and realized a few things that deep down I've probably known all along. I was reminded of my personal strength and resolve which actually bears greater value in the outcome of this story than the choice itself. In other words, I essentially arrived at my answer; it just didn't come to me in the form I was originally anticipating.

I surmise it is rather fitting that living in the City of Lights for a few weeks would illuminate the dusty bulb in my head and aid the rediscovery of certain knowledge that had spent far too much time in the dark (rather than referring to my time there as visiting or staying in Paris, I have deliberately phrased it so that the verb would more suitably reflect the action--for living is precisely what I did). It is ironic that being thousands of miles from home and adopting a foreign lifestyle is what brought me closer to what was once so familiar; for at one time I was much more in tune with my strength and determination. I was living quite differently than I do now, and very contentedly so.

Over the past several months I have allowed the depths of the unknown to weigh heavily upon me, hindering any action one way or another. Now, in light of my Parisian adventure, I plan to focus less on what I don't know and more on what I do know.

I know that I alone am responsible for my happiness, and am therefore becoming more committed to said pursuit.

I know I don't need oodles of material possessions, such as my big house or perfectly dressed children to be happy. It amazes me that as we get used to having nice things we begin to feel defined by them and eventually lose our true identities and self-worth to meaningless objects. I have learned that in reality “all this” contributes very little, if any, to my overall happiness. I am certainly not ready to give up all modern comforts, but I can just as certainly be comfortable with less—exceedingly so if I were more fulfilled and enriched in the other areas of my life.

I know that I need more than a life of domesticity to feel satisfied, happy and whole. I need novelty and adventure every so often to feel alive. I would also greatly benefit by experiencing a sense of accomplishment, particularly if I could turn an interest I am passionate about into a way to financially provide for myself.

I know that always playing it safe constrains one's spirit. Just as we can't expect great things to happen if we don't take risks, we can't expect things to improve if we don't incite change. Nor can we expect to live our lives to their fullest potential if we always dismiss our discontent and insatiable yearning.

And possibly most importantly of all, I know that I am strong and completely capable. If I can manage to survive a slew of misadventures while traveling alone in a foreign country--ready to go back for more before it is even over--I surmise I can hold my own in most situations. I utilized my own judgment and instincts, explaining myself to no one. And wouldn't you know: every situation was successfully resolved. Not only that, being on my own much of the time allowed me the luxury of enjoying each moment without the pollution of interruptions or the pressure to hurry. I was happier than I've been in a very long time and even made more friends in my three weeks there than in my five years here.

I guess in some ways I did have an epiphany regarding my future and taking a crack at independence in the big, bad world. The answer I found wasn't exactly whether or not I should do it. The answer I found was that I can do it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

La Joie De Vivre

In spite of suffering initial homesickness and a great many misadventures, I am currently faring much better than my own predictions at the commencement of this Parisienne expedition. At the peak of my loneliness and longing for my children I quite literally dreaded the duration of my stay. For what could I possibly do here for nearly three weeks? I proceeded to diagnose myself as clinically insane for booking a solo voyage to a foreign country for a period of longer than four or five days. However, as I have discovered it requires a certain amount of time to fully enjoy the destination and reap the benefits of getting away. The first days are extremely stressful as you must not only become geographically acclimated, but culturally as well.

I have visited many of the “must-see” sights of Paris, and although there are still a few specific things I would like to do, I can now slow down and actually enjoy this beautiful and historic mecca. There is a very distinct difference between seeing a place and experiencing it. When visiting for only a few days and going from one tourist attraction to another, so very much gets missed. It is difficult, if not impossible, to really get the essence of a place when you only scratch the surface and hastily at that.

More than on any other journey I have felt the freedom to aimlessly walk in search of only whatever it is that lies around the corner. I found a marvelous long-cut back to my apartment by getting off at a different metro station. It is a little further away but well-worth it. When I ascend to the top of the stairs from the metro station and emerge at ground level I am immediately surrounded by Le Louvre and the Palais Royal. Then I get to cut through the Palais Royal gardens and under a long canopy of trees that extends the length of the gardens. On one side of what feels like my secret path are cute cafes for outdoor dining and on the other are the palace fountains naturally fit for a queen. This walk home c'est tres magnifique!

Another example to the benefit of an extended stay is how on a traditional vacation I may have considered today a bit of a waste because I did not have my camera nor did I mentally check anything off my to-do list. Yet taking things one day at a time and implementing a “joie de vivre” mindset I realize what a truly wonderful day it was, albeit completely spontaneous and unexpected. I was fortunate and pleasantly surprised to have good company who showed me many beautiful places I never would have seen otherwise. We were in no hurry and had no particular destination. Throughout our meandering we experienced a mix of clouds, sunshine, and a sudden downpour. The weather was so erratic it may possibly cause me to falsely recollect today's journey as not one, but several.

On a few occasions the setting was so spectacular I was compelled to simply stop and soak it in. I just stood there, literally savoring the place, the sights, the sounds, the moment. At one time I leaned on a railing on a bridge of the Seine enjoying the most amazing view. I remember equally enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face as it simultaneously illuminated the scene before me. Adding to the perfect ambiance, a band was playing music in the street. Then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the bells of Notre Dame began ringing just a few short yards away. It was purely magical; that is la joie de vivre.

In between some of the more extraordinary moments it recently occurred to me that I have not done much, if any, thinking about the things I came here to think about. Yet, I also came here to get away from many things and that I have done. In the process of realizing that I haven't had any epiphanies about my situation, I have realized that there is no deadline by which I must reach a definitive conclusion. Instead of thinking, analyzing, and weighing my problems I am learning to take things one day at a time. Often the bigger picture is just too overwhelming. With the mentality that every little decision I make could affect the next decision and the next and the next, it puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on anything I do! I am slowly learning to roll with the punches—and I have had many punches to roll with over the last week, let me tell you. Granted the things happening here aren't likely to affect the rest of my life, I would surmise that learning to have joie de vivre is a definite step in the right direction. In fact, that may just affect the rest of my life more than anything else.

Now, anyone want to see a picture of my super nasty blister?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Forget The Ending

We all seem to be searching for that proverbial happy ending. The truth of the matter is, life is not a fairy tale. At times it resembles a romantic comedy, others a horror flick. Other times still it may appear like a long and drawn out documentary where you almost feel the need to check your own pulse. Regardless of genre, real life rarely ties up all its loose ends before the closing credits.

A common expression reminds us that it's not the destination but the journey that is important. Naturally I have always understood the fundamental concept, but oddly, I think now for the first time I finally get it. As in, really get it.

When I decided to address this topic my initial intent was conveying that happy endings don't just happen. We must produce them. Each life is far more than any particular moment; it is greater still than the sum of its parts because more valuable than the experiences themselves are our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. How we perceive life will effect how we live it.

Yet upon further examination I pondered, “what is a happy ending?” For unlike a book with tangible parameters--a concise beginning and end--our lives are always in a state of metamorphosis, constantly changing and evolving. Is a happy ending judged merely by the state of our existence as we approach our final moments? Surely that is not what people spend their lives striving, worrying, and fighting so hard to achieve. Perhaps we should aspire for happy endings to our many different chapters, as opposed to narrowing our focus on the entire volume.

As happiness waxes and wanes throughout our life's story, some chapters will end well while others will not. It is the lessons we take from one chapter to help improve the next that provides a good and worthy script; a script that combined with the inevitable tribulations brims with many happy endings.

A great number of us spend far too much of our lifetime working toward a certain goal. Yet once reached and many years invested, then what? Either we stagnate on a disappointing plateau, or we set a new goal. This pattern accomplishes little more than to produce a vicious cycle. Like a dog chasing it's tail, you are constantly moving but never really getting anywhere. I certainly do not suggest that we avoid setting goals for ourselves, rather that they not become our primary objective. Sadly, people often get so focused on their accomplishments that all other facets of life become neglected. In our perpetual quest for happy endings it seems much of the time we overlook the greater meaning.

We should enjoy life like we do a good book that is thoroughly engrossing and rewarding to read. Imagine how the words come together painting a picture in your mind. You instinctively savor the images they conjure and the feelings they evoke. Obviously, it would be counterproductive to hurriedly skim the text in a race to reach your goal of getting to the end. The integrity of the story would be lost, negating the very reason to read it in the first place. One must appreciate the rich details and depth of character development in order to derive the significance of that very last sentence for it is irrelevant without the hundreds of pages preceding it. Likewise, in life, profundity does not rise from mediocrity.

Instead of considering my ailing marriage as a grievous conclusion to a major chapter, I am choosing to regard it as an opportunity for a happy beginning in the next installment. While I certainly don't know what direction my storyline will take, perhaps these past few years were merely preparation for the next chapter. Maybe my future chapters have even greater things in store than the tale I had envisioned. Maybe--just maybe--this unfortunate circumstance is truly a happy ending in disguise.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Only The Real Thing

I am on a mission. This is no bargain hunt, either. Cheap imitations will not be accepted. Nor last resorts. Nor second-hand goods. It must be 100% authentic, for this is far too critical to settle for less. I am not out to find the best that has ever been. That would be an impossible quest. I am merely out to discover, and then implement, my best -- flawed and imperfect as it is. Regardless of quality, it must be genuine. It must be true.

I know that the path to self is a continuous one, forever winding and twisting until the moment of our final breath. However, I have recently covered a lot of distance in quite a short time and am closer than ever to me. The trail is hot with many clues and I can not afford to let it go cold.

Clearly, I am no longer the young girl who walked down the aisle over a decade ago. As I emerge from naive to painfully aware and self-confident, realizing my potential has become an important quest. One that I am not content with allowing anyone else, including societal roles, defining for me.

Unfortunately, I am currently suffering circumstances which impede my progress rendering my mission impossible. For where I presently reside there is too much stress and chaos to accomplish the task at hand—with so many distractions and influences bearing down on me right and left, I am unable to think clearly about the future. Informed and confident decisions are rarely made in the heat of battle; for that is when survival mode takes over. It is a shoot first, ask questions later mentality when you are in so deep that you can actually hear the bullets whizzing by your head. You don't know whether to duck, jump or dart because there is no time to think or analyze your next move. In survival mode, you are forced to act immediately and rather than strive for the best outcome, you simply hope to make it out alive.

In order to effectively strategize you must step off the battlefield, although mine is not inundated with loads of mass destruction, but rather an insidious form of warfare. Like many types of poisonous gas you can not detect it, yet you notice your health declining as the toxins slowly eat away at your vitality. You eventually become weak, exhausted and apathetic to the cause; even dangerously indifferent to your own survival.

It is additionally disheartening when it is one of your own delivering the poison which is slowly killing you. Even if they did not consciously intend you harm, it is their incessant carelessness and disregard for your well-being that has made it difficult for you to breathe. Ironically, and possibly the cruelest of all, while their actions were destroying your inner core they were simultaneously portraying themselves the victim. What audacity to blame you for your ailing spirit when it was they who supplied the source of your pain! As much as you would like to forgive, it is hard to accept apologies when they continue to demonstrate, and seemingly always will, this same reckless abandon to your health and vitality.

It is therefore difficult for me to see the bigger picture and accomplish my mission while among those same toxic fumes that clouded my vision and deteriorated my livelihood. I desperately need some fresh air so that I may gain a fresh perspective. For this reason, I am organizing a reprieve that will get me out of the war zone and afford me the opportunity to think--not just react. I do not want to get further down my path to look back and have regrets as a result of strategizing in survival mode. I want to not only survive, but to come out with a renewed zest for life. I want to not only be comfortable, but happy and proud to wear the skin I am in.

I plan to return energized and ready to make a fresh start, regardless of what that may be.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Life Or Limb

I stand hovering at the edge of the cliff. I peer over to gage whether or not I feel I can make the jump. I'm not quite sure. Although it is a long way down it is the fear in not knowing what lies at the bottom of this infinitely vast canyon delaying my decision. Since I am, at least, too sensible to lunge in unpreparedly my maneuvers are done in a deliberate manner which will not only serve to buffer the fall, but will allow a way back up in the event that The Great Unknown turns out to be worse than my fate here on the cliff.

I haven't always been teetering. For even before living near the safe center of this plateau, I resided in a canyon similar to the one I currently regard so mysteriously. Back when my adulthood was still in its infancy, I had had to make the climb just to acquire the elevated flatland on which I now stand. Upon landing I was afforded a better view of my future than I had ever had and it seemed as though I had reached the top of the world.

At the onset I was shown a particularly favorable season and my naivety and optimism prevented me from questioning the longitude of those ideal conditions. I failed to realize that the sun god works his magic, shining extra brightly upon the arrival of a newcomer. Although he does not intend to deceive, he eventually becomes weary and can not afford the energy it takes to continue the act of always radiating such warmth. Now clouds too often cover what used to shine so frequently and the love I had found which inspired me to climb here in the first place, the love that once felt so pure and real and unconditional appears darker in the shadows where I am not so blinded by the magic of the sun's early light.

Although things naturally change and evolve, much of what was displayed was more illusion than reality. It has taken a long time before I looked beyond superficial appearances to realize that my mate who shows affection with a touch or a squeeze, lacks the deeper and more important functions of compassion. It's as if his vision of love developed from a gesture he had seen in a black and white snapshot.

It isn't entirely his fault, for his upbringing was one of great dysfunction where love was taught to be conditional, not absolute. Seeking his mother's affection he attempted to warm her cold and unpredictable state with a stroke or a hug, getting little in return. Yet, there comes a time in each life where personal responsibility must be taken for one's own shortcomings. Throughout our union, he has repeatedly allowed the very wolves that raised him to prey on me as they do him, while defending their predatory actions. No amount of pleading or desperation could save me. Any attempts I made at self-preservation were condemned and destroyed. Even in other instances when I have been victim to crime and misfortune he, my one partner in this land, he who claims to love me, has repeatedly denied aid as I lie begging for his helping hand. By leaving me to fend for myself even in my darkest hours, it has forced me to conjure up strength and find my resolve. Ironically, he lacked the foresight to predict that these very traits would serve to his detriment when I utilize them to make the leap from the
cyclical fate of this linear plateau.

The most difficult part is that I have built my entire life upon this flatland. And while it has supplied a good resting place, render a lasting environment for growth and development, it does not. The stifling climate has limited my creativity and depleted my loving nature. My enthusiastic "what if's" have changed to regrettable '"if only's". I fear if I stay it will suck my spirit dry.

A more simple creature might be satisfied with nothing more than the shelter and stability provided. But I did not choose my mate solely for his capacity to successfully hunt and gather wood. Looking no deeper than this there are surely other hunters even more proficient that I could pursue. Yet I long for more. I long to live. I envision a land where the sun shines regularly and where there are other creatures who also appreciate that our short lives do not have to solely revolve around familiarity and responsibilities. I envision finding a soul who shares common ideals whilst enjoying the adventure of growth and discovery. Even before embarking with another, I envision further continuance of self exploration which will be enhanced by resuming sole responsibility over my life and making my own decisions--decisions which aren't affected by one who, as history has shown, frequently doles poor counsel. And I must redevelop my instincts which, when listened to, generally lead me in the right direction. Spending many years under the influence of one man's simplistic trains of thought has caused me to lose confidence in my ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Recently I did something slightly more than hover. Practicing some preliminary steps, I descended just far enough to gander into the dark abyss, watching for any obvious hazards should I jump. I first collected a piece of timber and ignited the end so I could illuminate, albeit scarcely, the land below. The unforgiving flames approaching my fierce grip on the makeshift torch ensured my viewing time was limited, but I bravely clutched it for as long as I was able--for in order to execute this plan, one must overcome a fear of getting burned. I was able to shed just enough light to reduce my anxieties and plot my next move. I know it is time to start strapping up, as I am not getting any younger.

I do not expect those who measure success in outward appearances or pride themselves in their practical nature to understand my plight. One may ask, why risk life or limb to venture to an unknown place that hints at possibilities but promises nothing?

A valid inquiry, yet I challenge the value of life and limb if your spirit is already gone.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Me & My Karma

Amazingly, even on the brink of succumbing to my stress, I am told by an extremely reliable (albeit online) source that I have good karma! This test is scientifically sound, I am quite certain.

With the help of my emotional strength and my karma, I shall soon overcome my hardships. Now, pardon me, while I resume my meditations.

Your Karmic Alignment is: Zen Intuition!

Zen Intuition

My results:

Score: 15 You have a direct perception of truth. You are very keen and don't use it to take advantage. When you commit positive deeds, you don't do them to get ahead, you do positive deeds simply because it makes you feel good. Your intentions are almost always meant well and all this positive karmaic energy is bound to come back to you in a great way!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Forgive Me, Father, For I Have Grown

Being a bit overwhelmed right now with the deck life is dealing me, my blogging life has temporarily taken a back seat to the issues which are presently front and center; hence, the infrequency of my recent posts. However, following suit to my last few writings, my focus today will instead be an entirely different personal struggle than the more pressing situations currently plaguing me.

As I have mentioned, there are very few in my life to whom I have expressed what I feel to be the truth about religion and Christianity. One of the people I envision being the most difficult to talk to about this is my father. My dad is quite conservative in nearly every aspect, religion and guns being no exception (which, by the way, I have always found to be an interesting combination of causes).

My father was very strict, to say the least. I don't believe it was by design, rather out of intolerance and a lack of patience. I spent much of my childhood hating him. Since then, his temper has retreated and he regularly expresses an appreciation for family. A few years ago he conveyed a heartfelt apology for the kind of father he had been. We now have a relationship
based on respect and we both enjoy sharing and discussing our common interests. However, knowing the Christian mentality all too well, I have to wonder if he would accept and respect my personal ideals.

My sentiment is that any parent should be proud of a child who has developed a healthy and productive philosophy on life and who simply wishes for a better world, regardless of whether or not they hold “traditional” values. However, as we often hear, parents don't always show their children unconditional love when the child proves to take a different path than the parent would have chosen for them.
Interestingly, I received an email from my dad this weekend regarding the death of Charlton Heston. In the email, among conveying his love for my brother and I, he included the famous man's most important life lessons.

“-Stay active and true to your beliefs.
-Guard your freedoms.
-Don't be afraid to take a stand.

-Family and friends are important.

-Don't forget your mentors.

-Your values WILL change as you get older, that's a part of life.
-Strive for self-improvement... ALWAYS.
-Above all... KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR...especially when faced with extreme
difficulty or when times are darkest.”

I must wonder if, by this message, my dad is encouraging us to stay active and true to our beliefs, or to his beliefs—as, at least for me, there is a huge distinction between the former and the latter. Now that he has opened the door, metaphorically speaking, I do not foresee a better opportunity to “take a stand” and share my beliefs with him.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I Wish...

I wish that I were wrong. I really do. While there's an element of satisfaction in having certain contentions confirmed, the greater truth is that it really does dishearten me that there isn't more honesty, more open discussion and more objective analysis involved in what are some of the most prevalent issues of our time. I wish more people would engage a realistic perspective in order to formulate realistic solutions to the modern concerns that plague American society, instead of blindly rattling off impractical ideals which developed two millennia ago in a vastly different time and place; or worse, neglecting that the issues exist at all because they do not coalesce with their preconceived notions. I wish more could realize the wrong-doing in their judgmental behaviors and realize how their attitudes too often forsake the very principles they so fervently claim to deem above all else.

I also wish to emphasize that I by no means classify each and every Christian to impose the issues I address. Whereas nearly every person I know, including many friends and nearly all of my family are Christians, I absolutely do not contend that they are a conglomerate of bad, malicious people! I merely wish there was more awareness to the undeniable effects religion has on the world, its societies, and its individuals. While I respect and understand those who find comfort in the spirituality religion provides them, what I will never understand is how so many are able to justify manipulating their belief system to fit their behavior, as opposed to the other way around. Disguising arrogant self-righteousness in a pious concern for non-Christians only fools fellow members of the faith.

Personally, I believe that good Christians are simply good people who practice Christianity. I do not believe Christianity breeds good people. I do expect that most individuals follow their faith for the right intentions; however, it is an unfortunate reality that many become brainwashed in their quest for answers and pursuit for peace. This is a multi-faceted phenomenon, but one contributing element is the inherent trust that is unquestioningly rendered to religious figures. Religious figures may be well-spoken, motivational, and many times sincere, but are nevertheless human and therefore biased by personal opinions and interpretations. Yet whether their message is right or wrong, they possess the uncanny ability to spin their words in a way which hypnotizes the congregation into obedience.

Another facet contributing to individuals becoming unwittingly conditioned is the practice of continually repeating the same ideas. Repetition is a proven persuasion method, which is often utilized in advertising because of it's effectiveness. As we repeatedly hear the same message again and again, we slowly begin to accept it as truth, especially when surrounded by like-minded people. With continuous exposure since birth to the same ideas, and little to no introduction to any other ideology, it is no wonder many people cling so tightly to their religious convictions.

On that note, I never set out to find hypocrisy in the church. I didn't want to find holes in the theories, or inconsistencies in the practices or sexist ideals in nearly every facet of the scripture. For heaven's sake, that was my foundation. That was everything I was taught to hold sacred and dear. I didn't just wake up one morning and decide to strip my Christian label, hence leaving myself out in the cold with few to turn to. As of today, there are less than a handful of people in my life who know how I truly feel.

As a result of the notable lack in religious diversity in this country, religious tolerance is also in short supply. People discovering that they are able to find fulfillment outside of Christianity tend to be grossly misunderstood. The Christian community is not reputed for it's gracious acceptance toward an individual who no longer wishes to pursue the religion. Resulting from this, as well as the previously mentioned multitude of circumstances, it commanded nearly half of my life and a great deal of soul-searching to deprogram myself from the immense guilt that I was conditioned to suffer for thinking that possibly this
isn't the
one and only truth prevailing over the universe!

I wish the devout, as well as the not-so, would understand that although I have stripped myself of the Christian label, I am no less valuable, no less moral, no less compassionate than I ever was. In fact, the only things that have changed within me have been for the better, such as a cultivation of awareness and acceptance.

I do confess. I, too used to have a preconceived notion about non-believers. I thought they were either ignorant or simply being defiant--rebels without a cause who just weren't interested in seeing the good in the world. In hindsight, I am flabbergasted at what an unfair, ignorant attitude that is! While I can't speak for all others, I know that my reasons for evolving into agnosticism are pure, sound, well thought out, and well-intentioned. In actuality, the logic is the very opposite of what fundamentalists would tend to argue. Contrary to Christian perceptions, I have not “lost my way.” I have found my way. For it isn't about rejection; it is about acceptance. It is about discovering what I believe to be a more rational, tolerant and healthier way of living. I have realized that without the parameters, rules, and bureaucracy of religion, I am able to live a better life—one with less prejudice, less condemnation, less hypocrisy, and all-around more joy. In the ultimate irony, by removing myself from the cult of Christianity, I am now able to live in a manner which more closely resembles the advocation of Christ.

My wish now is that others would appreciate and honor my convictions.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thou Shall Not Waste Thy Pity On Me

Of the many inaccurate notions a fair number of Christians tend to subject onto others, this may be one of the more bothersome. I find it egocentric, insulting, ironic, unfounded and yes, even humorous.

The practice in question is the one in which a Christian becomes stricken with sadness upon the discovery of some lost soul who is lacking the guidance of Christ. Firstly, I was curious if their pity targets all non-Christians, including followers of other faiths, or if it is merely the non-believers they feel sorry for. However, as I pondered the topic more thoroughly, it occurred to me that the distinction is a moot point. The bottom line remains the same.

I sincerely have great difficulty fathoming the narrow-mindedness of this phenomenon. It is indisputably egotistical to assume that just because something is paramount in one's life, the same is inevitably true for others. It is a warped and dangerous ideology, indeed, when one is so thoroughly conditioned that they are ignorant to any perception outside their own.

For example, it is no less ridiculous for a Christian to be sad when another person doesn't derive joy from Christianity than it is for me to grieve for someone whose life is not enriched by the
pleasure of photography. Applying the same tunnel vision I could argue, “seeing the world through the eye of a lens enhances life in so many ways that it makes me sad for those who don't experience it's joys.” Likewise, you could apply it to anyone who has chosen different means for fulfillment. Such as someone who has chosen not to have children. Or not to join the country club. Or has no appreciation for the opera. For just as one man's trash is another man's treasure, one woman's misery is another woman's joy. Ultimately, every human being wants for the same thing: to be healthy and happy. Why would anyone concern themselves with the manner in which others use to accomplish this, so long as no one else suffers as a result?

In that regard, thou shall not waste thy pity on me, for I hath not wasted my pity on thou. Although I find the relentless persistence in the pursuit to convince the world to adopt Christianity's insubstantial theories to be a trite pathetic, I personally, reserve sadness for more appropriate recipients. I experience sorrow for the helpless victims of abuse, disease, war, and poverty. I shudder at the thought of abused and neglected children, and mothers with chronically ill babies, and people whose lives have been destroyed by war—a war all too often fought for faith. However, I find no rhyme or reason in affording heartache for the choices made by witting adults.

So, if any Christian wish take pity on my soul, they may wallow in their sorrow. I would only imagine there are many more grievous circumstances to better occupy their hearts.

Contrary to the dark veil they envision looming overhead, I am no less "complete" without religion! In fact, I continue to grow more enlightened and fulfilled the more I learn about myself and the world as a result of overcoming my Christian conditioning and it's bureaucratic double-standards. I am not lost without divine leadership. I am not less of a person. I am not the one missing the bigger picture. Those of us who have 20/20 vision unclouded by religious hypocrisy and propaganda do not suffer from it's absence--hence the very reason we choose not to incorporate it into our lives. I, myself, consider it a tragedy that so many individuals are unable to find a greater purpose without the doctrine of a supernatural deity guiding their way to a rewarding afterlife. Having the strength to acknowledge that my life is not the product of a predetermined course demands that I embody the integrity to accept that my behavior, as well as my happiness, are my own responsibility. For me, it makes no sense to trust such critical matters to anyone else, especially to one of a hypothetical nature.

Along with the presumption that faith brings joy and happiness, it is suggested time and again that religion is a valuable means in cultivating morals; however, real-world studies show that religion actually has the contrary effect! In fact, non-religious countries have the lowest crime rates on earth. Norway, a highly secular nation, where only 10% of the population identify themselves as Christian, has been rated the most peaceful country in the world by the Global Peace Index. The Human Development Index, a similar measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living, has ranked Norway No. 1 every year for the last five years.

In addition to the aforementioned statistics, Gregory Paul acquired data from 18 developed democracies, comparing the correlation of societal health to religiosity and secularism. Here is what he found:

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion…None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction.” Within the United States “the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest” have “markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast where…secularization approaches European norms”. His conclusion asserted that, “the more secular, pro-evolution democracies…come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life”.” *

For all those still clinging to the myth that religion serves to better humanity, simply take a moment and think in terms of how religion has actually, not perceivably, affected the world throughout history. If you do this honestly, you will envision a great deal of religious-rooted violence which has gone on as long as religion itself, predating recorded history, all the way up to the ongoing tragedies of today which are being carried out as you read these very words. Thousands of years of conflict, hate, genocide, terrorism and millions upon millions of senseless deaths...all in the name of God! There is not enough good in this world to justify the grief and horror caused by religion alone.

The math is elementary. When you add up the total assets and deficits gained and lost, it becomes painfully evident that the net worth of religion is anything but profitable. Forgo your biases, and chew on that.

Now, please remind me. Who is it the Christians feel sorry for?

* Gregory Paul – The Journal of Religion and Society, volume 7

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My First-Ever Peep Show

I admit to enjoying feeling seductive at times.

However, I am actually more naive than most people would probably expect.

Heck, I've never even been to a strip club! Never experienced XXX, Live! Nude!
Girls! The closest thing I've seen to anything remotely "dirty" is the lame cop that inevitably arrives to every bachelorette party.

Until a couple of days ago, when I received this image via email displaying none other than a rather graphic peep show.

I'm afraid I must confess, it looks pretty damn *

What do you think?

Live CHICKS and Playboy BUNNIES!

If that isn't some sweet pole action, I don't know what is!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ra Ra Sis Boom Ba, Go Jesus!

I'm practicing my display of good sportsmanship. I have recently been informed by a reader of one of my articles that I lack this quality, also known as fair-mindedness and good character, if I uphold my personal right to freedom of religion by not subscribing myself to literature which advocates Christ as our Savior.

This message was insinuated in a comment that was left on my post entitled My Sunday Sermon: Modern Mythology. Naturally (and involuntarily) brought up as Christian (as are most individuals born and raised in the United States) this post gave an honest and personal account detailing my moment of epiphany that forever altered my perceptions regarding religion. I didn't “abandon” god out of malice or disappointing life events. In fact, I have even spent years in denial regarding my agnosticism. My views evolved as a result of the parallels between Christianity and ancient mythology--in comparing modern beliefs versus obsolete. The move toward rejecting religion to guide my life was merely a result of my maturation and learning to think for myself. It is truly a shame that Christians so often feel threatened by this practice.

In truth I did not abandon a god at all, for the only thing I feel there is to abandon is a fictitious ideology. In the end, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” I find this to be a very powerful statement, as Christians not only reject polytheistic religions, but any god which is not “their” god. Even the religions that theoretically glorify the same deity no doubt do it wrong--so long as Jesus is not at the helm their efforts and sacrifices are in vain!

Or, so say the fair-minded Christians.

I received several comments to my Modern Mythology post including additional insights, shows of support, and even probes into my thoughts, all of which provided an interesting perspective. In each response, whether or not the submitter agreed with my position it was evident that they had read the post with fair and thoughtful consideration. That is until I received a comment with a Christian prescription. As if it promised to be just the cure for my agnostic ailments, he advertised, “Just for YOU!“

Before concluding his solicitation for me to read The Case For Christ, he commanded, “be a good sport!

Be a good sport? Am I missing something here? Am I somehow indebted to his team? Obviously this individual knew that it would not be an easy sale to convince the author of the aforementioned post to oblige his request; therefore, he tried a common persuasion technique used in advertising by attempting to undercut my integrity for failure to buy what he's selling.

Here is my formal response:

“I have been a good sport for all of my 33 years! I have spent my time in Sunday school. I have spent my time on mission trips. I have spent my time reading the bible and listening to sermons and biting my tongue as dogmatic hypocrisy is spewed all around me. And I continue to exemplify good sportsmanship each and every day by respecting others' right to believe as they choose.

Now, what have you done to be a good sport?

Have you objectively considered an alternative to your beliefs? Have you accepted that there is no right or wrong religious doctrine? Do you accept others' rights to believe as they choose and respect their boundaries to be free from futile attempts, like yours, to convince them otherwise?

If you, sir, are man enough to be a good sport, check out religioustolerance.org.”

Now, Ra Ra Sis Boom Ba, Go Open Your Minds!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I Can't Like Mean Girls

In considering an adjective for this title, I knew I had a responsibility to be accurate and concise. After all, when airing grievances in a manner accessible to every soul who has access to the Internet, rational people know better than to indiscriminately throw unfavorable words around. It is especially advisable to heed caution when the word in question is “mean” and the objects it modifies live nearby.

I therefore consulted my faithful online reference which provided several definitions for “mean,” all of which faultlessly fit the bill when describing these loathsome ladies. The first entry: “selfish in a petty way; unkind.” Marveling at the accuracy thus far, I continued, “cruel, spiteful, or malicious.” I nodded in accord. My source went on to list half of a dozen other descriptions including, but not limited to, “offensive, troublesome, selfish, unaccommodating, nasty.” Yes! We have a winner! May the record reflect that this qualifier was meticulously chosen.

On that note, I really hate mean people. A lot. And bullies, they especially suck. Lurking in halls and on playgrounds of schools, they scope out victims to taunt, torment, and intimidate. Although there was the occasional jerk who pestered me as a child, oddly enough, I was never truly bullied until adulthood. By the time you're married, have children, and are socializing with other demographically similar people, you would never expect to materialize as someone's mission to seek and destroy. Particularly, when the destroyer is somebody you considered a friend. Of course, we all come to realize at one time or another, that life rarely follows along as expected.

Before I begin detailing my four year stint moonlighting as a mad woman's destroy toy, let's go back about, oh, twenty years or so and revisit the mid-80's when I was in grade school--I promise I will write you back to the future, so forget about the DeLorean already. Back in the days of the Michaels J. Fox and Jackson, I lived on Arrowhead Drive. Kelly's house was on the adjacent C-shaped street which happened to intersect with mine at two points, thereby earning the name Arrowhead Circle. A mean girl by trade, Kelly was far from nice to anyone, although her appearance wouldn't have lent one to believe she had any business pointing out others' imperfections. For starter's (although unfair things by which to measure someone), being several pounds overweight and wearing glasses didn't exactly earn her any popularity points. And since it had a mind of it's own, her unruly blond hair must have demanded all of her brain function. I never understood what she hoped to accomplish by name calling; it seemed even more counter-intuitive considering she was the poster-child for a good comeback. I realize, in hindsight, that it must have been her own lack of esteem, and possibly a less than ideal family life that provoked her hateful behavior.

Many of us have something about our appearance we wish we could change--something we hope others don't notice, or at least won't point out. The magnitude of the imperfection is not necessarily indicative of the impact it has on our self-confidence. In school more than anywhere else, so much importance is placed on conformity and the perfect ideal that it sadly represses individuality. I personally endured insecurities throughout elementary school for two reasons: Firstly, I was taller than most of my classmates and, secondly, because one of my eyes failed to choose a single color to represent. I claim to having blue eyes, although my right iris is markedly sixty percent brown. Despite it no longer embarrassing me, at the time I may as well have had an extra thumb. It isn't immediately detectable at first glance, but I was never spared the moment of discovery due to the sudden gasp and the litany of questions that ensued.

Kelly was one year ahead of me, so luckily I never had the misfortune of sharing a classroom and the neighborhood with her. I remember going to her house just one time. Although she had practically begged me to come over, she insisted on choosing everything we did, further reinforcing my dislike for her. I ran out of patience when she ordered me to have the ugly Barbie, the likes of which had obviously been awarded a less-than-professional haircut. What hair did remain was so stiff, pointy and unkempt, this doll's coiffure resembled a collection of giant-size nose clippings. How was I ever to acquire Ken's affections displaying this second-rate sleaze while Kelly proudly flaunted a silky-haired bombshell? Fed up with the shenanigans, I left to go home, despite her pleas otherwise.

The next day at school she approached me during lunch, seemingly miffed that I had prematurely departed the festivities the previous day. Attempting to humiliate me, she raised her voice and shot straight for my Achilles heel. “Why is your eye like that?” she loudly interrogated. Without hesitation, I simply countered, “why are you fat like that?” She subsequently retreated, appearing to have regretted her inquiry. Two can play this game, I thought.

I know. I know. An eye for an eye is so Old Testament. Yet you must admit that when it comes to mean girls, even the smallest vindication can do wonders for the soul. In hindsight, I have yearned for those days of simplicity, back when you could resolve conflict with a petty one-liner.

Not having encountered such characters since grade school, I was blind-sided to have stumbled upon an entire herd of bullies right here in the Tar Heel State residing in all-too-close proximity to me. I don't contend that the state itself breeds them, as most aren't native to the area. You may remember Mad Cow and Nutcake, the bovine and the tart, who provide for very rotten neighbors and regrettably live on either side of me. Yet, as undesirable as the these two are, they serve as mere appetizers for today's special. Please take a seat and allow me to introduce you to: The Vulture. With the surname of Byrd and a predatory personality, this moniker lends a flawless characterization.

When we relocated four years ago, a number of other employees also transferred from the same city, including my husband's boss and new wife, The Vulture (that's right―lucky freaking me). We immediately developed a bond with several of the families, including theirs and Nutcake's and I felt incredibly fortunate to have this built-in network. Initially, we were all quite close, and spending many holidays together even commenced a few annual traditions. Our Thanksgiving celebrations were such a blast it gave me something entirely new to be thankful for. We enjoyed some great parties, without a doubt. Practically a family, four of us women inadvertently became the KC Girls, referring to our previous place of residence.

Sadly, the serenity did not forever last, as the KC gang was doomed to failure even prior to it's establishment. Leading to it's demise, Nutcake and The Vulture collectively comprised 50%, constituting half of the flock clinically unstable. For the record, nobody has ever questioned that Nutcake is nutty. She wears crazy on her sleeve like white on rice, and apparently for that reason, people tend to put up with her egocentricities and crassness. Although both narcissistic, the Vulture is an entirely different species. Much more insidious and clever in her manipulations, her unpredictable behavior teeters precariously on the brink of violence, making her a very dangerous breed. At the root of her evil lies an intense hunger for conflict and control. As a master manipulator, she sees others only for what benefit they may provide and, not unlike a game of chess, strategically plays them like pawns.

For reasons which I am still not privy to, she quickly singled me out as the designated recipient of her bullying. Probably this, combined with her grossly competitive nature, is why she chose to implicate my child into her twisted plot. Hoping to lure me into a sadistic tug-of-war, she repeatedly fabricated lies about my daughter. She preceded each tale with a very conniving, “I'm not trying to start trouble, but...” Along with being false, the claims were extremely petty and nonsensical to say the least.

Apparently having foiled all her previous attempts by not reacting in the hostile manner she was expecting to invoke, she decided to step it up a notch. One particular Friday I was going to be throwing a party and was expecting several families, including hers, over that night. The morning of the scheduled event, she called to inform me that her daughter would miss most of the party due to another function. Then she announced that they were also taking the other girls attending our party―all the girls, that is, except for mine. My daughter, who had been looking forward to these girls coming over for weeks, and who had never been anything but soft-spoken and polite to The Vulture, was being used as a pawn in this dysfunctional mind-game. Rather than commence an ugly confrontation, I expressed disappointment on my child's behalf, and quickly ended the conversation. As I sat there stunned, and only moments after hanging up, the phone rang again. No sooner had I answered before The Vulture swooped in on me like a raving lunatic with an intensity I have never before or since endured from anyone. In a fit of rage she informed me that she is going to invite whomever she wants to go with her daughter, and no body has the right to make her feel guilty about it! In her purely evil dialect, this foul fowl then proceeded to rant on about a myriad of other self-serving quests. Having been ambushed into a state of shock, I can honestly not recall how long it all lasted or in what manner it came to an end.

Later that day she put on her acting cloak, and at the strong advisement of her husband, pretended to apologize. Wanting to believe it was sincere, I accepted. However, this display of hatefulness was merely the opening act in her pattern of sabotaging anything in which she is not the center. Over the last few years, I have endured a great many more trials and tribulations at the talons of this carnivorous creature, for The Vulture is a mean girl that far too much enjoys the limelight to retire her performances.

This, my friends (and I do not use that term loosely), is the first chapter in my chronicles illustrating why I just can't like mean girls.