The Distinct Advantage of a Crappy Childhood

I had an epiphany today talking to a good friend about what adults fear & how we learn those fears. I suppose the greatest adult fear, for single people (divorced or otherwise) is being hurt again.

There is nothing pleasant about an adult break up. Whether you were married five years or living together ten, enough of your life & identity are entwined with another person that the act of separating actually destroys some part of you. Even if it’s just a change of address & no assets or custody need to be split, you are not breaking up to be fancy free & joyful. You are rebuilding.

The house has crumbled (sometimes because both of you were crappy builders, sometimes because one of you took a wrecking ball to a load bearing wall, sometimes because you got the black mould), & it has to come down.

Some people immediately move into a tiny house or a mobile home. “Only room for me & my dog/cat in here! I’m good!” they say, meeting their friends for dinner out, but never inviting anyone in, never making room for another. “I like my space,” they say, in the tiniest space they could cram their broken heart into.

“I’ve already moved on!” says another, whose life becomes a veritable motel…many rooms, nothing permanent. Shameful breakfasts. Always with people but perpetually alone.

Then there’s me. I don’t know what I am. I have zero aversion to being in love again, I know what it is when I see it, & I have no desire to force it. I’ve always been like that. I could easily be hurt again & I know that. But I don’t care. The worst thing that will ever happen to me already has. I therefore willingly wait for & then allow what will come. It’s like being homeless & in no particular rush to find a home. Would I like a home? Of course! Do I want to get locked into a 30 year mortgage I can’t afford with someone who can’t love every key part of me? No. Not at all.

I guess you’d call me a renter.

And it’s not just me. One of the most fearless children I know is a foster kid. I won’t get into the details, but this little one’s life would make you burst into tears. And this child is the friendliest, most outgoing child on the planet, always making sure other kids feel welcome, always putting herself out there to make friends, never afraid of rejection despite her life’s experience.

The truth is, she’s probably horrified by the idea of rejection, but plows on anyhow.

Why?

Why not?

True, the consequences of childhood heartache are not the same as adult heartache. Divorce leaves financial & emotional scars children can’t conceive of. But children’s brains are actually shaped by trauma, & their lives are often directed by trauma for years, sometimes decades after. It’s not always pretty.

But somehow, those kids always try hardest to show love (unless they’re the ones that go super dark, which would be an entirely other post & unrelated to today’s conversation).

I then had a bit of a revelation that I shared with my friend. “I have an advantage I never realized.”

“You do? What’s that?”

“I’ve had longer to heal from my pain. People with idyllic childhoods & youths — they get hurt later & it’s raw for a long time.”

“Yeah, it’s true.”

“But people who were hurt as kids…we have a lot more time to work on it & learn what we need to learn from it.”

“I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”

“You know I’m going to forget this epiphany, right?”

“No, you won’t.”

“Eh, maybe not now that I’ve told you. I usually have these in the shower, then forget them. I’ve probably had this same epiphany 40 times already.”

And now I’m sharing it with all 8 of you that read this blog regularly. Some of you may even comment “Isn’t childhood trauma resilience more like numbing & flattened affect?”

Bitches, have you seen my affect? It ain’t flat. That shit is alive & in colour. It’ll take you to Flavortown, have you meet the mayor & buy you a souvenir foam rubber hand.

Flattened affect my arse. Get out of here with that jive.

But I have another advantage, one that will not make sense to all of you, & that’s okay. It is legit my relationship with Christ, my kvetching to Mary, my ongoing dialogue with God in a language that uses virtually no words & is as crystal clear as light.

Sometimes you can’t see light because it’s so…light, but every now & then — wow.

To live in concert with the Holy Spirit is to pretty much always default to joy, or if not joy, then contentment. I will not lie & tell you people that I am always bloody happy. I am not. I actually took a moment & prayed today for some relief from something, & you know what happened? I ended up carrying a rubbish bin full of water to a random stranger on the street not ten minutes later. WHAT WAS THAT EVEN ABOUT & HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

I don’t know, but the rest of the day was wonderful after that. Basically the Holy Spirit is weird.

And God has a sense of humour. “Oh, you’re feeling a little put out? Well, Sunshine, here’s a guy who needs a rubbish bin filled with water.”

Did I tell you about the time the Bishop of El Salvador needed a ride to a Dodger game? And back? So I couldn’t swear in a car in LA rush hour traffic for TWO HOURS?

The Holy Spirit, y’all.

Let’s just all agree right now, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, whatever — right now that there are Things and Machinations of incomprehensible beauty & the one thing we can agree on is that they will occur whether we think we are ready for them or not.

Our job is to respond with grace.

What is fear keeping you from enjoying? Who is anger stopping you from loving?

I also wrote this, which is specifically geared toward people who have Survived.

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What in the actual

I am trying to remember my dream from last night because I know it was Significant. I fell asleep in tearful prayer (apparently the glutening is still a thing, despite my slight improvement in symptoms), and I prayed to remember anything told me. But it seems I have been shown things instead (which happens).

I can’t remember the beginning at all, but eventually it seemed to unfold that I worked at a thrift store run by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. We were all of us encouraged to shop there, too, so we did. I think my Facebook friend Eric was my coworker somehow.

I had been looking through make-up (something I would never buy used) when a girl (maybe Meghan from Reno?) brought me an empire-waisted blue top with 3/4 lace cuffed sleeves. It seemed cute to me in the dream, so I tried it on. It didn’t quite fit over my clothes. She found another that was more of an Easter green & that was a little too big, but quite comfortable. Everybody thought it looked really good although I looked pregnant.

I had no time to take it off because Bishop Diane was visiting. She set her shoes (shearling-lined wooden clogs with a bit of a heel) aside & asked me to try them on in front of everybody. They were comfortable, but I felt like something was off. I touched the top of my head, which was sticky.

I went into a bathroom & there was dried dirt caked on my face (that I assumed came from the top I was wearing) & it looked like a bird had crapped fuchsia glitter slime onto the top of my head. I could see it & feel it, but nobody else noticed it. I was pointing it out to people, but nobody could see it.

Suddenly I was in a subway station and Jimmie was hovering over the far platform in the lotus position. “Everything I have said is as it is,” he intoned with a smile, which is interesting, because in the real world, he has been trying to help me understand something.

Then the “screen” of my mind went blank, and the cat flew in with an envelop & a wax stamp.

This cat.He stamped the envelop with an elaborate, pretty black seal & handed it to me, saying in a kitty voice “Here!” Then I distinctly heard Jesus say, “This is my official seal; these were your answers. Wake up.”

And I did.

The seal was a very wispy, delicate version of this, but in a circle with some leafy looking embellishments:

To say that I am confused is an understatement. I am also really tired. Jesus wanted me to only get 6 hours of sleep (well, Him & the cat).

Purity

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, & from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, & worthily magnify thy holy name, though Christ our Lord. Amen.

Isn’t it amazing what you take on board & find playing on repeat in your mind at 11:27 PM on a Tuesday night?

Whenever we say this prayer at the start of mass, two things happen. First, it doesn’t matter what priest is leading it. I will always hear Father Davies’ Welshy Londony voice in my head.

Second, I tend to place a lot of emphasis, when I recite it, on the “all desires known.”

This is because I literally have no idea what I want half the time. I figure God knows what I will not admit to myself. I have ideas about what I want, & then I move toward those things, & then God laughs & says, “Oh, child, that is funny. My dear creature. Hilarious.”

He’s not wrong. I’ve talked about babies & dusty crackers in one of my books. God does not want me to put that wretched thing in my mouth, & I let him lead. Now I am trying to let him lead completely, without even trying to do anything.

This is producing results that have me saying things to him like “This makes legit zero sense.”

And God responds enthusiastically, “Oh, you think that was crazy? Hold my beer!”

If God knows all my desires, and this is where I’m going, I am a much stranger person than I thought. Like, seriously, flawlessly bizarre. I wouldn’t even know how to describe some things that have happened without sounding like I was trying to story board a fourth season of Twin Peaks.

It’s all real, but it’s not normal.

It’s certainly not bad. It is a series of gentle, free (or nearly free) and sometimes ludicrously joyous happenings that are seemingly unrelated. A teenager tells me after five minutes of conversation that I am now her best friend. A small child describes sharks and yogurt to me in grave, exacting detail. A friend sings “Don’t Fear the Reaper” to me the same way Carol Burnett might. On a warm afternoon, I am somehow the center of a very attentive universe, when my plan that day was to serve. I get sick again, & the cat kneads me for the first time since I rescued him. I have a job I love, friends who care, and a DJ who just mashed up David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” with Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie.”

I don’t even know who I am any more.

Is this what #blessed looks like? It’s weird, you guys. Smiling randomly to yourself all day is weird.

All desires known.” Well, what else do I want, Lord? Where TF does this crazy train go?

If you have that opening riff in your head right now, I have won.

The Examen

Something I should do more often, because I am gradually observing its effects, is the examen. Most of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and some of you are saying, “Yes, for the 50th time already!”

This is a form of Ignatian prayer that…oh, this is just much easier. Here:

The one I do is a spoken, guided examen (or meditation, for those of you who need that word to feel spiritual but not religious) from the Pray As You Go app. It’s accompanied by Purcell’s “Hear My Prayer, Oh Lord,” which is super helpful to get in the spirit of things. More importantly, to get in The Spirit.

It seems pretty simple, right? But when you glance over your day with the caveat that you will see what is important to God, it changes the review. You are simultaneously drawn to things you would otherwise find unimportant, & repulsed by things you kind of overlooked before. This is not meant as a form of self torment, but as a reality check. You are neither as good or evil as you think much of the time.

Your life is also much more lovely that you think. Really.

For example…I was having a bit of a difficult day yesterday. I am tired of being sick. So tired. I dragged myself to church because I really enjoy church, but it was also the annual parish meeting. We elect vestry & the folks who will go to diocesan convention. I was nominated for the latter, but am so new to the parish that I’m the last alternate. And that’s okay.

It was a long meeting. I took a lot of medication. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and weepy, but not actually weeping, and I was inexplicably annoyed. Then my team won, & is going to the Super Bowl, & that’s good, but I was still really fragile, which is a thing I do not enjoy.

During the Examen I was able to see where illness was making me mopey and where moments of genuine, really lovely joy occurred (& weirdly, they had nothing to do with the Pats’ victory).

Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, I found moments of hilarity I’d forgotten about, was able to correctly see incidents I had previously assigned negative connotations to, and more deeply understood some of my own unhealed parts. I was able to forgive them & realize that they were amplified by illness.

Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, I could see the many faces that had turned to me that day, and see their expressions anew. I could see where people were looking to me for comfort or affirmation. I could see it was not just me yearning for human acknowledgement (nobody, not even church people, wants to hug you when you’re sick), but others looking for it from me (and then recoiling in terror because I am sick).

There are still some things I don’t understand today, and that’s okay. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we understand virtually nothing anyway.

New questions have been brought up, new challenges. Some are really scary. Some are ones I’ve wrestled with for the past 12 years (or more), & I should probably set them aside until I am well.

I am frequently accused of being too patient, but in some areas, I really am not patient enough.

In a lot of ways, things were much easier to understand when I was a very sad, afraid person, because I always had a rock solid framework of misery through which to view the world, and I was always right. But I now realize I was right because my viewpoint couldn’t help but create my reality.

Oh my God, what would happen if my rock solid framework was simply following Christ, as in yesterday’s gospel and homily? What reality will that create? Can you even imagine? The idea is terrifying and exciting and magnificent.

I am struggling free of this net. Now what shall I do, flopping about on this boat deck, gasping for air?

It is interesting that I identify with the fish and less with the fishermen in the gospel.

Maybe I should pray about that tonight.

Here are some books I have written.

A poem on the edge of a new year

Upon the Board

Expectation in suspension

This is the hovering, the inhalation

The sips of certainty drowned by torrents of wonder

How impervious now to failure we think we are

Surely this will be executed with no splash

A pike, a double twist, and abundant prayer

Fervent at every breath of every waking moment

And catching in the apnea of evening during precious minutes of sleep

A longing moan for More of the Lord Our God

Fill the spaces scourged of joy

Smooth the scars jagged and wary

Grant us peace in our day and

In thy mercy keep us free from sin

Except the mild ones we crave

Let’s have a few of those from time to time to laugh about and smile

And only tell those few whose eyes will twinkle

While You wonder if we ever read Paul’s letters and You know full well we did and that we believe so earnestly in salvation that we think it’s probably okay

And what is sin anyway and

Isn’t everything kind of a sin anyhow and

It was like that when I got here

And thank You for Your love or

Surely there’s a place for me in hell right next to Henry Miller & my

Punishment is having to listen to him recite his own

Awful books

For eternity

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This world

These are the vibes today, right here:

1 John 2:15-17: Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

“What is she upset about now? Ugh–the Bible.” Yeah, I know you.

I’ve actually had some forward momentum. At least one thing in my life is working out, and that’s huge. When everything has gone meshugena, getting one vital component sorted is wonderful. Finding a place to serve is wonderful.

I also find delirious pockets of happiness and laughter mixed with serenity and understanding here and there. They are usually at church, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

I am getting really far away from having any interest in what happens day to day and more stoked about what happens from age to age. This is utterly impractical and completely unfashionable, but I find that the constants in the human experience inspire the most passion. Love, birth, loss, rebirth, connection, meaning…this is not making front page news, and that’s fine.

The front page news is so depressing and triggering for a lot of us right now that I’m about to hide in a hermitage. Thankfully, throwing myself into work has about the same effect.

Facebook is a dumpster fire of misinformation. People share whatever version of affairs affirms their beliefs. People don’t talk to each other. There is yelling and point making, but no conversation. I imagine Twitter is the same way, but I just can’t bear to look at it anymore.

“Pride in our achievements.” Likes and retweets. Clicks. A lot people pay bills this way now. Heck, clicks paid my cellular bill this month. I’m not knocking this new economy, but I am asking you to read more than headlines. Click on the info embedded in stories. Get a fuller picture.

Pray. If you don’t pray, mocking those who do is just kind of weird. It’s like hating someone for imagining a better world. Nobody wants to be the bully in the after school special…except on the Internet.

I’m going to make myself sad. Okay, here’s the deal. You comment with a happy or at least pleasant thing that’s happened to you, in the world or in spite of it. Because that’s what spiritual joy is…taking pleasure in the connection to God and others despite the general crapitude of the world.

Let’s rain down sunshine on this piece. The things of this world are meh.

If you are so moved, donations are always kindly accepted. Thank you!

Because I Have To

I am only writing something tonight because Richard messaged me earlier today & told me he likes these. Nothing happened today, but I like Richard & want him to be happy.

 

This font is not comforting.


Really the only thing I can disclose from my day is that I returned to Target & it was not awful this time. Both my contacts & new glasses should be here in 7-10 days.

I ate delicious leftovers, watched Blacklist (which featured a truly delicious Ressler & Tom fight) & now I’m here. I don’t hurt very much, but my muscles are being very odd. I think my ankle wants to pop out again.

 Many wonderful things occurred that a few of us are chalking up to the work of God. For two weeks, a group of us have been praying & lighting candles for a friend’s cousin & another friend’s child. Today, the cousin (in a coma, not expected to live) woke up, & the child’s biopsy was good news.
When prayer is answered, as y’all know, I am not surprised. This does not dull my delight at the good news one whit. It’s like tracking a package & then the package gets here. God hears us.

I don’t pray for Him to subvert His will, but I do tell Him what I would like for that person, or their family, then add the legal caveat that He knows better & He probably already had something fabulous planned.

When I lose someone, I have to ask “Please help me to grieve properly. I am a robot & it comes out sideways & you know I suck at this feelings crap.” 

I’ve had to do this twice this year. Each time, something amazing happened. The Sunday after the Horrible Wednesday when my aunt, friend, & cat Persephone died, I had not slept. I got dressed & went to the early Mass & lit candles & prayed & sobbed, openly, in front of people. If you know me, you are stunned. This is not a thing I do. Our Deacon & Canon gave me big hugs & talked to me. I went home feeling more at peace.

When Neil died recently, I did not sob the Sunday after (I had done most of my sobbing & wailing at home that week). But I went to High Mass & two of my church friends who knew came to me & gave me great hugs. Christopher just looked at me & knew. Ed came & sat in the pew & reached over. Poor Ed had recently lost his mother, but he was empathizing with me over my cat. Both gestures were so kind & comforting. My church family is amazing.

My online prayer family is also amazing. We don’t all agree on denominations or who is the Son of God even, but we heed the call to prayer & go cuckoo bananas. For years, I have joined with friends of all faiths in prayer & seen amazing results. You believe what you want; I believe in outstanding medical care & miracles.

I guess today was actually pretty eventful after all.