Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Losing My Religion

I have not been going to church and for this I am feeling guilty. How long has it been, this absence? Months, which is shameful to admit. I like to think that God notices when I go to church and He is happy. It makes me feel very bad to think that God notices when I don't go to church and that makes him extremely pissed. Is this what being a God-fearing Christian is about?
That phrase, God-fearing, has always confused me. If God is so loving, then why should I be afraid of Him? I worry that I will die while in this No-Church-Phase of my life, and when I get to the gates you always hear about, St. Peter (or whomever is there) is going to tell me, "Nah, you can't come in. You should've gone to church. Bet you're wishing you'd thought about that more now, huh, Missy?"
But then I think about Emily Dickinson and how she said Nature was her Church, and I think about my favorite brother-in-law, and how when his boys were growing up, they didn't attend church either; instead, they sat around as a family and read the Bible, and I gotta say, this BIL is one of the most God-fearing (?) men I've ever met. He can quote Scripture like he's telling you the Wednesday night ABC line-up. I think about how God came to me in my little room in Ruskin Heights, how my mother and dad never once talked about Jesus or God or church and somehow Jesus talked with me as I played with my Barbies, back when I was four or five years old and just learning about being alive in the world ~ that eating too much cake gave me diarrhea, and that when my parents yelled at each other, that wasn't a right way to act around me because it scared me and made me cry.
I think about the Catholic Church and how it scares me, that if THEY knew how I feel about abortion (right to choose), they'd kick me out. I am a fraud: I don't go to confession, and never have. I worry about that, too, on those days when I DO go to Mass, when I'm walking up to receive communion (which I love: it thrills me, the body and blood of Christ), I think I am committing an act of dishonesty before the Lord, that I should not eat and drink of Him when I haven't the balls to confess my sins to a priest. That's what we Catholics are supposed to do: Tell a priest what we do that's wrong, what's unholy, what's displeasing to God. Only I've never done it, the confession part. Even when I was going through classes to become Catholic (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), which was to have culminated in making my First Holy Confession before my First Holy Communion, the line got too long and before I could get inside for quiet time, the opportunity closed. I meant to go the next Saturday, before Mass, but then that week got away from me, and the next, and before I knew it, I was Not Confessing for twenty-eight years.
Now, it seems too late. Doesn't it? Now, I feel that I should speak directly to God because that makes more sense to me. Doesn't it?
I have decided to confess here, to see if I feel better.
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession, even though I have been a (sort-of)practicing Catholic for all of my married life. Lately, I have been doing all kinds of bad things, and I need to tell you that I am sorry for the choices I have made, for what I have done, and for what I have failed to do.
Yesterday, I sold a gold cross to a sketchy We-Buy-Gold place because I needed some quick cash.
I have had impure thoughts about other men, namely Bradley Cooper and that handsome man on the All-State car insurance commercials. Sometimes when I am with my husband, I think of Brad Pitt.
Throughout the years, I have occasionally regretted being a mother ~ because it's so damn hard, Lord, this parenting thing. Sometimes I really suck. I have wondered what my life would be had I never had children. Would I be a famous magazine editor? Would I have a closet filled with designer clothing? Would I be a size 6? Would my husband wear a suit and buy me expensive jewelry? Would I be happy or disturbed and suicidal?
This thought, the one about questioning motherhood, shames me the most, Lord, because I know children are one of your finest gifts to humanity, your most glorious gift to me, and I love my children, I would take bullets for my children (which is more likely to happen these days, considering the world is going crazy and a person can't see a movie without being shot), but sometimes I have thought, "I am not cut out for this parenting gig," and I feel that I have failed. (I frequently think of that sad, sad, SAD scene in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," where the lead character (Ashley Judd) puts on her fur coat and heads to confession, crying while she tells the priest that she just wanted to be famous, and that motherhood was killing her soul.)
I once thought of killing my husband for the insurance money, but that thought lasted only a few minutes. That was years ago, back when the children were small and I had to work from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and my husband traveled six months out of the year (the hardest years of my life).
I feel resentment toward my husband, Lord, and I know this is wrong because he is a good, good man, and he is a hard worker, but why does he get to love his job and get paid well for it, and I ended up hating teaching and having panic attacks 'cause the undisciplined children in my class were such assholes.
Forgive me, Lord, for leaving teaching because it was too hard and I thought my principal was a supreme douchebag. I think often of the many students I loved, and how at times teaching was the best job in the world, but then I am reminded of the deranged seventh-grade boy who couldn't keep his hands off his winker and I had to give him Cheez-Its to distract him ~ how gross and stupid an idea that idiotic school psychologist had, and how unfair to the normal children in the room, who could keep their hands out of their pants but instead of being rewarded with little orange crackers had to wait until lunch to consume modified food products that gave them horrible gas.
Now that I am unemployed, I have become a lazy person, Lord, and have been known to watch television from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., starting with "Good Morning, America," and ending with "The Chew." Meanwhile, dog hair and cat hair accumulate below the kitchen island and mold grows new mold in the shower and instead of taking care of household business, I am watching Carla Hall and Daphne Oz dish about chicken wings.
Lord, I have coveted my neighbor's goods. I would like to have a house on a lot that backed to the lake and have a screened-in porch like Celina and Paul's. Why does she get to have Pottery Barn furniture in her house and original artwork that isn't purchased from a direct salesperson?
I have failed to memorize Scripture like I promised. I know just a few passages by heart. I consistently pass over Bible posts while scrolling on Facebook. Apparently it is more important to my eternal soul that I look at first birthday pictures of my friend's grandchild, or note that parmesan cheese makes a great coating for chicken, if first soaked in Greek yogurt.

Mostly, it's the guilt that gets me. I know I SHOULD go to church; I SHOULD read my Bible; I SHOULD pray regularly and with great focus, but I don't, I don't, I don't.
To assuage my guilt, I tell myself it is my husband's fault, that he and I cannot agree on a church to attend, and that is why we don't go. I want the church close to our house, like 2.4 miles close, whereas he wants to go to some rural outfit that takes us thirty minutes on a roller-coaster hill to get to. I would be perfectly happy attending a non-denominational Christian church, but my husband insists our house of worship be a Catholic one.
There is the issue of sleep, and how I suck at getting up early in the morning. It has been a lifelong goal to become a Morning Person ~ I know I would get more done that way ~ but dragging my sleepy self out of flannel sheets in the a.m. has never been an easy task. I should do it for God, get up the first time the alarm signals. Get up! Stop being lazy! Realize that waking in the morning is a Gift and I should treasure it.
I feel pretty bad about writing this post, especially the part about not always being grateful for my children. For this I am deeply ashamed. I know, however, that God knows I am ashamed and He knows I feel bad. He knows that because I am human I am going to mess up. I am going to say and do stupid things. I am doing to think rotten thoughts.
Anne Lamott wrote about the Church of 80 Percent, how she had a friend who pastored such a place. For now, in the state that I am in mentally and emotionally, I gotta start going to that church. I can be good 80 percent of the time.
I think.

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