Category Archives: spiritual journey

Bench warmer lessons….

Standard

So this is the year I learn to appreciate the great American sport of football.  Which is admittedly hard when I am watching the most boring game I think I’ve ever tried to watch.  Third quarter and our team is getting obliterated 61-0.  Yikes.

At least the band brought their A-game.  Which is after all the reason I’m being a bench warmer at a game I still barely understand.  Heaven help me, I keep trying.  But daughter is a high school freshman this year, and joined the marching band.  And I figure, if she’s gotta spend her Friday nights at the football game, then one of us should come too.  So far it’s been me, even though hubby knows both more about marching band drills and football.

However, this being the 3rd game of the season, and me being there for all of them so far, I’ve been learning some interesting lessons other than football.  I have a lot more fun watching the people more than the game, I confess.  It’s fascinating being flung back into the high school dynamics, and I’m learning a bit more about my town.  In fact, I’m learning a lot more about my town.

Like, I never realized that the local football game was kinda the place to be if you’re a highly involved parent or local muckety-muck.  I’ve run into more parents and teachers that have been a part of my kids lives over the years in these 3 football nights than probably a half dozen years of school functions combined.

The small city I live in has a very interesting six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon dynamic going on.  On the one hand, we’re part of the greater DC Metro area – which is huge, and busy, and rather anonymous.  On the other hand, my city is only maybe 10 square miles and we have our own school district (unlike the ones around us comprised by whole counties).  So that lends it this (sometimes) bizarre small-town feel.  The best description I ever got was from the owner of a local bookshop I frequent.  She suggested that my town is the sort where you don’t want to just shoot your mouth off at strangers, because you never know where they might turn up next.  Possibly as your child’s teacher, or your local councilman.  You get the idea.

Anyway, in my desperate need to find a new social niche after leaving the organized church, I never once considered attending the local football game.  But after 8 long (and lonely) years of having almost no local social circle, I may have found a place to finally make some new, if not yet friends, at least folks to hang out with.

Because now that I have done most of the hard work of picking apart my psyche and cleaning out the skeletons from my personal spiritual closet, I have been stumbling around trying to find my new “tribe”.  And I never expected I could jump start that process attending a game I don’t (yet) get.

Final score for our team- 64-0.  Ouch.

Final score for me?   Still being determined…..

Advertisements

Did I used to sound like that?

Standard

It was a silly Facebook conversation. It was not an earth-shattering ultra serious, life-or-death discussion. A friend posted a picture and made a funny comment. The photo did in fact touch on religion, but not in a “hater” sort of way. A few of us chimed in something funny, snarky, silly. It was a *Facebook* conversation for crying out loud.

And then along came one of my friend’s Facebook friends (a guy who was also in the group of friends I hung out with in college) and inserts an ultra serious, judgmental, downer comment into the discussion. You could almost hear everyone’s mental brakes screech, <crickets chirp>.

Aside from feeling like a little kid who just got his hand slapped for trying to sneak a cookie, all I could think of was, “Did I used to sound like that?” “When I was a faithful, sold-out Evangelical Christian, did *I* used to sound like that?” So un-loving, so judgmental, so condemning of others’ innocent fun?

Yeesh.

The other thing I wondered, hard on the heels of that first thought, was “Was *he* always like this?” In college, while we weren’t close friends, I remember how much I admired his passionate faith, his offbeat and quirky sense of humor. We were in the Christian clown troupe together, and he had been a lot of fun to clown around with – quite literally. But if I had been an “unwashed heathen” would I have seen this side of him? Or did he only show that side to insiders – his “brothers and sisters in Christ”?

The whole incident put my in mind of a conversation I’d had with another friend from college some years back. I’d only been living in our present city for a couple years, we’d only recently begun to suspect our oldest son of having autism – I think he was maybe 3 when this happened. I’d gotten her phone number from a mutual friend and called to see if she wanted to catch up some time. Now, unlike the other guy, this woman had been a very close friend of mine. I’d been a bridesmaid in her wedding. I don’t know what, exactly, I was expecting from the conversation but it wasn’t what I got.

We were sharing about what had gone on in our lives since last we’d met up. She and her husband had two daughters now. We were holding off on a second child till we figured out more what was going on with our son. I hinted in my conversation about my faith-doubts that had crept in in the middle of this whole experience.

Rather than offer sympathy, a prayer, *something* – she began to back away from the conversation. As though I were a pariah for having troubles, for having doubts about my faith in the middle of my crisis. She was acting like my doubts were a communicable disease.   We finished up the conversation, and I knew there was really no point in ever calling back.  She was living in her happy little Christian bubble, and I was disturbing her fragile peace.

Was her faith really so fragile?  Is his?  Maybe this is the *real* reason that Christians always need to be “ready to defend the faith”.  They are not standing up for God.  They are simply warding off their own doubts, and shoring up their own faith fortress.

Honesty in writing

Standard

Over the past month or so I’ve had countless ideas flit through by head and latch onto my brain. Some were whimsical, some were silly, some were thoughtful, some were painful, and some…. some grabbed hold of my insides and set them on fire. Those last ones, the ones that are Real, are the hardest to get past the Editor in my head. Those ideas that bubble up from the depths of my being – they upset my equilibrium. They’re not safe. They’re the ones that I start in a flurry of keystrokes (or pen strokes) but then stop halfway, or finish but don’t publish. Ephemera of a moment’s passion left floating unfinished in the ether. Somehow, I need to get brave.

I got brave enough to leave the church situation that was no longer beneficial behind. I got brave enough to explore all the unanswered questions about my faith. I got brave enough to dive down into the clutter of both my house and my soul to do some deep housecleaning. I made space to create the life I actually want to live right now. The only thing missing is honesty and heart in my writing. It may come out soon like it or not, planned or not. It’s been burning within me like the fury of an unexploded volcano. Been journaling a lot to open the pressure valve and not go crazy. But sooner or later it will work it’s way on here, when I can’t hold back any longer.

It poses a big dilemma for me. All my life, I’ve been proper – well-behaved, polite, God-fearing, well-mannered, kind, considerate (dull?). The good girl, that’s me. These ideas, they’re not good girl ideas. I keep trying to journal them out, stuff them down, ignore them. Now they’re showing up in my dreams. I spend my days chasing my children, and my nights chasing down the twisting hallways of strange buildings, or cities. I find myself battling anarchy in strange Orwellian dystopias, or being shoved, pushed, slid down things even a non-Freudian could see represent a birth canal.

The Muse will not be denied much longer. My very subconscious is fighting back at my efforts. If I encourage it, write what’s actually scorching me from the inside – will I find it worth whatever fallout ensues?

Always check the sanity of your friends

Standard

Hindsight is always 20/20.  And crazy is sometimes hard to detect at close range.  I keep tabs on my fbf (former best friend) through her website.  Ya, I know – but curiosity killed the cat and all that.  It reassures me that I did the right thing in leaving (first the fc – former church – and by default, her).  Having just read her latest bandwagon blitz I am certain that I have.  I used to tease her that she could sell ice to an Eskimo or sand to a person dying of thirst in the Sahara.  But it’s scary true.  And now she’s dragged a whole church into her crazy world.  Her causes very quickly become their causes (or missions).  After watching this woman cycle through at least a dozen “life missions” I am realizing that she’s not that different from a friend (long since lost touch with because of her numerous moves) who used to hatch “get-rich-quick” schemes.  The difference being *that* friend I knew was slightly crazy, and I made allowances for not falling for her schemes – also, her BF was a good friend too (very grounded) and helped reign her in.

I wish I could write a letter to my younger self -it would go something like this:

Hey kid,

Just remember, if you’re starting to feel like you’ve gone crazy, check whether your friend is taking her meds.  It will save you a lot of trouble and heartache.

Love,

Yourself

Nine months – just like a baby…

Standard

Wow. It’s been 9 months since I last did a post here – just like birthing a baby.  And just like a baby it feels as though something new is growing inside of me, waiting to be born.

Of course, the agonizing part is, just like being pregnant, this new thing comes with a crazy rollercoaster ride of mood swings.  Having been through actual pregnancy and birth 3 times I can attest that this feels very emotionally similar.

What is this thing being born within my soul? Well, truthfully, I’m not yet sure.  It’s sort of a Dark Night of the Soul combined with a Leaving Behind Evangelical Christianity, with a dash of Seeking the Divine Feminine and a large helping of Reclaiming my Self.  Or something like that.

Sometimes it pushes so strongly from the inside that I feel like I’ll go crazy if I don’t go *do* something.  Sort of an existential “itchy feet” wanderlust kind of feeling.  Other days I want to create my own little private sanctuary and go hide from the world (like today – it’s been a loooong concert/SOL/14 hour days kind of week).

It’s hard because, by it’s very nature, it’s not a communal experience.  I have been alone and lonely a lot.  It’s a journey without a guide or companions.  Books have been the closest thing to companions.  How does one take a journey with no map?  I don’t even know my destination, let alone when I might reach it.

And I’ve become more of a square peg than ever – I haven’t even shared the journey with my mother (not that she’s asked, but she wouldn’t understand).  I’ve been tentatively involved with but avoiding “our” new church.  Even the mainline Protestants in this part of the country are too Evangelical for my taste now.

I’ve explored (mostly through books) many different Faiths – Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Wicca.  But I still feel like a little kid trying on somebody else’s clothes.  I can’t just pick up a new religion and go on my merry way.  I can’t just relent (or repent, or whatever) and pick up my old one either.  To deny everything I’ve learned and experienced these past two years and shove myself back in that mold (the good Christian wife and mother) would cause my soul to shrivel up and die, never to rise again.

So here I hang, in limbo.  I don’t *like* limbo. I was raised in a family where ambiguity was never discussed, and tolerated only when unavoidable.  I live in fear of the day some well meaning stranger brings up religion.  I expect I’ll either stand there with my mouth hanging open unable to speak, or else regale them with my life story.  My boundaries are all screwed up right now – I have to think really hard about how to “act normal”.  Normal flew out the window 2 years ago and hasn’t been seen since.

Good grief – if only I could figure out what to *call* myself that would help.  And I’m searching for a visible symbol that I can wear to remind me that I went on this unintended journey in the first place in order to *preserve* my sanity.

My husband thinks that the problem is that I’m too smart and I think too much.  Guess I’m in good company with all of history’s other “heretics” then….

How does an empath look for a church?

Standard

I seem to be a walking oxymoron these days.  I’m a Christian who is fascinated by and deeply respects other faith traditions.  I believe that it’s possible to keep your faith and your politics separate from each other.  And I am (seemingly) an empath who is trying to find a church to call home for me and my family.

There are no books that talk about this.  I am getting very discouraged.  I also wonder from time to time if maybe I’m the crazy one?  I’ve had numerous friends rave about their churches.  I’ve read numerous websites and reviews raving about local churches.  I’ve actually walked into maybe a dozen or more to see for myself.  The best of them simply felt “dead” to me.  And the worst?  One of them a couple years ago, the horrible psychic “stuff” rolling off the *pastor* sent me scurrying out halfway through the service.  One just this past weekend left me feeling like my soul needed a shower.  Both of those left me physically shaking for the rest of the day.

What the heck is going on in the churches today?  Seems like I have a choice of The Dead Church, The Cultic Church, and The Mentally Ill Church.  Gaaah!  If this is truly all that’s available in my area, perhaps I’m better off without a church “family”.

Assuming it’s God that gave me this gift (I’ve had it all my life, and have never prayed to other gods or entities about its usage) *how* does He expect me to go through the church hunting process without leaving pieces of my soul scattered around my city? I’ve been part of 4 churches in the almost 11 years we’ve lived here.  Two of the churches the only reason we left is they had split and were dying, and with a young family we could not help “bail out” the sinking ship any longer.  Had they stayed sane, we would have stayed.

I know, I know, churches are full of people and no church is perfect.  I can live with “not perfect”.  I can’t live with a church full of mentally disturbed or angry people feeding off my energy like the emotional vampires they are.  Just extricated myself from one of those situations.  Not going back into one….EVER….if I can help it.  I value my newly rediscovered sanity too much.

And the worst part?  ‘Twould seem my gift is getting stronger.  *Much* stronger, now that I have some understanding of what, exactly, it is.  I am trying to learn how to control it – so far it’s working about as well as trying to teach myself to play guitar.  I can manage a few chords to accompany myself on a simple song, but it would go a whole lot faster and better with a teacher.  How does a lifelong Christian find a teacher to help her learn to be a balanced and healthy empath?

I need a solution.  I cannot simply “wish” my gift away any more than someone with cancer can “wish” their disease gone.  I do not want to continue as  a Christian in exile, but I will not be part of a “church” that simply sucks me dry.

The nature of a gift

Standard

All my life I have felt as though I were “different” from others around me.  Never quite fit in at school, never quite fit in at home, was teased a lot, told I was “too sensitive”, was thought to be a lot younger than I am (or conversely, referred to as an “old soul”, and seemed to inspire either a bizarre protectiveness or utter disdain from most of the people I met.

A year or so into my bizarre spiritual journey, I found myself not only attending a Unitarian church, but also checking out their Wicca meeting.  I thought it would be interesting to spend time with a group of folks who think so completely differently about their spirituality.  It was.  It turned out to be highly informative too.  I happened to mention during the discussion that I had a strange aversion to spending time in crowded places (like Walmart and grocery stores).  That I came home from them feeling utterly drained, even though being out-n-about causes me no anxiety and I don’t suffer from agoraphobia.  One of them immediately piped up, “Ohhhh, you’re an empath!”

I’m a…..what?  Thank goodness for Google.  I spent the next few weeks doing  a lot of research.  Empaths are people who, among other things, have a psychic ability called clairsentience.  Which, boiled down, means they can feel things – energy and emotions – that most people can’t (or, at an early age, chose not to).  There’s some argument about whether or how much of the ability can be learned.  And it’s not necessarily a weird, woo woo king of thing.  Think of it as simply some of us were born knowing how to use slightly more than the average 5% brain capacity most “normal” folks do.

I’m an empath.  Huh.  Just saying it feels like being at an AA meeting or something.  “Hi, my name is…… and I’m an empath.”  Weird.  And not easily reconcilable with my Christian upbringing.  So I did what I always do – more research.

And… here’s where the heretic in me comes out.  I think that the Christian community *recognizes* this ability.  They just call it something else – in Christian terms, I have the Gift of Discernment.  By the test of Occam’s Razor,  and from conversations with other Christians who claim to have this gift, it would seem we share similar experiences with those who call it a psychic gift.

I’m not going to argue theology. But knowing that the secular world has a name for my gift (and research to back it up, though relatively new) makes me feel less alone.  It also makes many of the weird experiences in my life make a little more sense.  Here’s a list of some of them……

1.  People were *always* telling me I was too sensitive and/or that I needed to grow a thicker skin.

2.  I always got teased in school, even though I was quiet and studious and did my best to be unnoticeable.  I learned how to be a chameleon as a coping mechanism.  (Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.)

3.  I have very few “neutral” relationships.  I constantly have the odd experience of people seeming to love me or hate me from the first moment, sometimes before I’ve even opened my mouth.

4.  In public places (mall, grocery store, churches I’m visiting) I’ll have people start staring at me for no apparent reason and I’ll feel their disdain, even though I generally do not dress in a flashy manner and always try to act considerately.

5.  People are always opening up and telling me their life stories, sometimes in the oddest places (like in line at the store, or at the bus stop).

6.  I have always been the “counselor” for family and friends.  Most of the time I have enjoyed this.  Sometimes I’ve had someone glom onto me who I wished would go away.

7.  I seem to attract a disproportionate number of nuts and whackos in public places.  I’ve had strangers in a mall or bookstore come up and tell me a sob story and ask for money.  I’ve had people come up and pick fights with me (unprovoked) who I’ve never seen or spoken to before.

8.  People are always bumping into me (when I’m walking around) or causing me near misses while I’m driving – almost as though I don’t take up any space – like they don’t even “see” me and are surprised to find someone there.  This has happened a disquieting amount lately – and anyone who knows me knows I drive very defensively and am not in the habit of charging around.

9. Sometimes I “know” things.  I know when someone’s depressed even though they are chatting away happily.  I’ve known twice now before someone died that it would be the last time I’d see them in person (my husband’s grandpa and my dad).  I know that a trip, or event, will go badly or cause some fallout even as I’m getting ready for it.  Many times I’ll know who’s on the phone when it rings…..without looking at the caller ID.  There’s other things too, but those give you a general idea.

10.  Even when I go to bed early and sleep for 8-9 hours, if I remember dreaming I’ll feel like I’ve actually been out-and-about all night.

11.  When my dad died, I was surprised to discover I could feel his actual spirit presence still around.  No, this was not simply memory and remembrance.  It had *location*.  Mostly he was around his own house – I got the idea he was making sure my mom was okay.  And then, his presence very definitely “left” somewhere around a year or so later.  One day when we went to visit, his spirit was simply “not there” anymore.  However I am pretty certain he was with me in the hospital when I was giving birth to his unseen 3rd grandchild.

12.  I have sometimes felt like I was being watched by unseen beings – call them angels, call them demons – some had good intent and some ill.  NO, I don’t hear voices in my head (or suffer from mental illness.)

13.  At certain times (particularly the “old festival” times of solstice and equinox) I have the odd feeling of straddling the seen and unseen worlds.  Though I’ve been a Christian all my life, Halloween night (Samhaim) feels different, special, hallowed, like it’s name.  Maybe it’s just all that Celtic DNA in me.

14.  I always feel ill and tired when someone around me is sick.  It’s worst with my kids – almost like they get better by sucking their healing out of me.  I have to be very careful to get lots of extra sleep and TLC.  Many times I can’t and I will immediately get sick after they’re all better.

15.  I have always had very vivid dreams/nightmares – some of them have been prophetic (though generally they only regard my own life events).

16.  I seem to have an uncanny ability to help people heal, either with massage or praying and laying hands on them.  That said, they have always been minor injuries/ailments.  I’ve never prayed over and laid hands on someone with, say, cancer.  And since I now know I am an only self-trained empath, I think it would be a bad idea to try (for my sake) unless it was for a loved one.

17.  I get deja vu an awful lot.

18.  I am very sensitive to changes in the weather, especially when the barometric pressure drops.  I will suddenly feel headachy, flu-ish, and very tired.  After the front passes I’ll start feeling better.

19.  I’m very sensitive to loud noises and strong smells.  Being at a loud crowded party drains me very quickly, even if I’m having fun.

20.  I sometimes feel physically ill watching horrible news stories and graphic movies.  I avoid them whenever possible.

21.  Animals seem to glom onto me all the time (whether I want them to or not).  Now, I love animals, but it’s hard when your friend’s two big dogs suddenly want to vie for your lap space.

22.  I used to get anxious and depressed at home alone – until we adopted our cat.  Laugh if you want but it feels like he helps keep the negative energy away from me.

Okay, that’s just the short list – I’m sure I could think of more if I sat here longer.

The point is, if I am really an empath, it explains an awful lot about the strange things that have happened all my life.  Evidently others who identify with this have had very similar experiences.

I’ve been reading up on how others who are empaths cope.  One especially helpful thing I learned is that many untrained empaths walk around wide open, like a giant psychic sponge – absorbing all the energy around them.  Evidently if a person is an unaware empath, she unknowingly projects her aura *away* from herself, thus preventing it from being the spiritual protective layer it’s supposed to be.  Also, others can sense this power, or difference, and react by either being unnaturally attracted or repelled – even though they are completely unaware of why.

I tried some of the meditation exercises yesterday, and being more aware of my mind at places where I’d previously been *very* uncomfortable (like, at the bus stop, where I spend half my life waiting for my kids’ buses).  I realized that I have (probably ever since I was a little girl) “protected” myself from negative emotions by sending out “psychic feelers” wherever I go.  I do this quite regularly and unconsciously.  Without even realizing it I am making waves in the psychic atmosphere, and it is *this* that people are reacting to.

I made an effort yesterday to mentally “draw my aura in” and keep my feelings to myself and not unconsciously go probing around in other people’s heads.  It’s hard – like a muscle that’s never been used.  Hard too because I’m curious by nature. But I came home feeling so much less drained and so much happier.  I’ve evidently been invading people’s privacy without even realizing it.  Oops.  Ignorance is rarely actually bliss.

How odd to think that my subconscious recognized this a long time ago.  For years my favorite books and shows have involved people who suddenly find themselves with unusual abilities that they didn’t know they had, and need to figure out how to deal with them.