I’ve almost come to the point of not enough.
What was your mother like? she asked, with pad and expensive pen in hand.
Like any mother, maybe. Locked in the bathroom, in the tub crying. Taking litte blue pills when she thought I wasn’t looking.
Dad would come home and always pick the bathroom lock. Try to soothe her in his rough around the edges ways, sit on the floor at the edge of the tub until he could get her to crawl out, off balance and dripping wet and cold from the hours-old water.
Mostly what he did helped, but her cry eyes would swell for days, and she always tried to line them with wax pencil, thinking it hid her secrets behind what she called a smoky eye. She seemed to think a melancholy look was beautiful.
I thought sometimes she faked the crying in the bathroom thing for attention. But Dad said no, that if she didn’t hide in the bath, she’d have walked out into our Wyoming desert with the coyotes, lain down in the sagebrush, and we’d have never found her again.
I wondered why she didn’t just leave us if she was so unhappy. Go to California or something, someplace with sun and not so much snow and coal. But I knew in my heart she was too faithful and loving and afraid to know what real leaving was.
Dying, she could do, if she’d have loved us just a little less. But she loved us more than the sun, more than the God she wrestled with, more than the stones and bones and Bibles she kept in her special drawer, and mostly she loved us more than herself.
And that was maybe what saved us all.
I don’t enjoy feeling like someone is angry at me, and not knowing what I did. No one enjoys it, I’m sure. It does seem like some people deal with it a bit better than others, though. Water off a duck’s back and such. Wish I could be that way. But instead, I’m a dweller. An over-analyzer. And possibly somewhat paranoid.
Character flaw. Just adding it to the list now. Some days I feel there are just far too many flaws than time to fix them.
I’m tired today, and so grateful it’s Friday. My job is a heavy backpack that I like to sling onto the floor with a clunk once Friday at five rolls around. Then comes the disappointment over those all too high Friday night expectations. I’m not 25 any more. Hell, I don’t know if I was ever 25. I’ve been a mom since 18. On once you’re a mom, there seems to be no age but your child’s.
I’m out of energy, out of motivation, and running out of hope in this dead end high desert disaster. The barrenness sometimes seeps right into me, gets me to the core, and I have to do what I can with books and home facials and online shopping to get to another day.
My life is measured by the delivery of Amazon boxes.
At least it’s something.
My life on the high desert. It’s been nearly three years, and I’ve not yet fully acclimated. I’d consider the ocean to be my natural habitat, but this high desert home is dry and acidic. It has its own strange beauty (the deer and the antelope know), and at times it sweeps me away with its vast emptiness and grand, violet-blue sky. But the openness of it is discomforting, disquieting.
There is a book I read in college, Giants in the Earth, about an immigrant woman from Norway, who is led by her husband to the prairies of South Dakota. The vastness overcomes her, and she climbs into her steamer trunk to escape the desolation, to hide from the emptiness, to cocoon.
Sometimes think I’ll climb into my closet, curl up in a back corner in my smallest kitty-cat self, and try to relearn how to breathe.
Instead, though, I play with mineral pigments and soaps, a buy sparkly costume jewelry. I reorganize my writing desk and bookshelves. I watch documentaries and ridiculously embarrassing historical dramas. Anything with jewelry and extravagant fashion.
I like pretty things.
I have blogged for a number of years. So many evolutions have occurred, so many life changes. Reading back makes me tired. I love blogging. There is something so satisfying about writing out the heart, knowing that someone unknown may read it, and possibly relate. And there is something about public writing that holds one accountable, even if the writing is anonymously written, and anonymously read.
This blog is more a journal than anything. I am not here to teach, to advise or inspire. I am not in any position to guide anyone else, although there can be lessons learned from the mistakes I’ve so often made.
Primarily, I am writing here in order to keep my sense of self solid, to hear bones rattling in an empty house. The high desert sometimes suffocates, and this might be a place I come to breathe.
Is it ironic that I went back to church today?
And that I loved it?
Sunday MorningI Complacencies of the peignoir, and late Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, And the green freedom of a cockatoo Upon a rug mingle to dissipate The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. She dreams a little, and she feels the dark Encroachment of that old catastrophe, As a calm darkens among water-lights. The pungent oranges and bright, green wings Seem things in some procession of the dead, Winding across wide water, without sound. The day is like wide water, without sound, Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet Over the seas, to silent Palestine, Dominion of the blood and sepulchre. II Why should she give her bounty to the dead? What is divinity if it can come Only in silent shadows and in dreams? Shall she not find in comforts of the sun, In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else In any balm or beauty of the earth, Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven? Divinity must live within herself: Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch. These are the measures destined for her soul. III Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth. No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind He moved among us, as a muttering king, Magnificent, would move among his hinds, Until our blood, commingling, virginal, With heaven, brought such requital to desire The very hinds discerned it, in a star. Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be The blood of paradise? And shall the earth Seem all of paradise that we shall know? The sky will be much friendlier then than now, A part of labor and a part of pain, And next in glory to enduring love, Not this dividing and indifferent blue. IV She says, “I am content when wakened birds, Before they fly, test the reality Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings; But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields Return no more, where, then, is paradise?” There is not any haunt of prophecy, Nor any old chimera of the grave, Neither the golden underground, nor isle Melodious, where spirits gat them home, Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured As April’s green endures; or will endure Like her remembrance of awakened birds, Or her desire for June and evening, tipped By the consummation of the swallow’s wings. V She says, “But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss.” Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams And our desires. Although she strews the leaves Of sure obliteration on our paths, The path sick sorrow took, the many paths Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love Whispered a little out of tenderness, She makes the willow shiver in the sun For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet. She causes boys to pile new plums and pears On disregarded plate. The maidens taste And stray impassioned in the littering leaves. VI Is there no change of death in paradise? Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs Hang always heavy in that perfect sky, Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth, With rivers like our own that seek for seas They never find, the same receding shores That never touch with inarticulate pang? Why set the pear upon those river-banks Or spice the shores with odors of the plum? Alas, that they should wear our colors there, The silken weavings of our afternoons, And pick the strings of our insipid lutes! Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, Within whose burning bosom we devise Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly. VII Supple and turbulent, a ring of men Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn Their boisterous devotion to the sun, Not as a god, but as a god might be, Naked among them, like a savage source. Their chant shall be a chant of paradise, Out of their blood, returning to the sky; And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice, The windy lake wherein their lord delights, The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills, That choir among themselves long afterward. They shall know well the heavenly fellowship Of men that perish and of summer morn. And whence they came and whither they shall go The dew upon their feet shall manifest. VIII She hears, upon that water without sound, A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine Is not the porch of spirits lingering. It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.” We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, Of that wide water, inescapable. Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
From Harmonium (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.
I haven’t known what I am for some time, now.
It’s not that I don’t believe in the God of the Christian faith. It’s not that I don’t have faith that he exists. I’m actually quite certain that he does exist, in some form or another. It’s that I have no faith in what he is. Truth be told, I think he is an uncaring, aloof asshole. Unreliable. Cold.
The final marker for the death of my former faith was laid down on December 14, 2012. Oh yes, I’d had troubles with Christianity before then. It was a slow dying, one that I fought hard, and by the end, I was clutching at my Bible with every bit of please help me that I could muster. But it wasn’t enough. All my clinging, my pleading wasn’t enough to salvage what was left of the strong convictions and sureties I’d carried with me for almost 40 years. Does that make me weak? To some, yes. But I know otherwise.
I go through phases. At times, I am completely stable and balanced in knowing what I don’t know. I feel good and solid in my earth-bound spirituality, knowing that, yes, there is something behind it all, inside of it all, around us all. For me, nature-based spirituality is more sensible, more attainable, and even more comforting than my old our-father-who-art-in-heaven beliefs. Some may ask what’s so comforting about nature? Well, it’s the surety of it that I find so peace-inducing. We generally know what to expect from nature.
We know that storms come. We know that the sun will rise in the East. We know that ice forms on the lake in the winter. We know when to watch for fawns and robins’ eggs and ducklings. So many things in nature are essentially promised. There is great comfort in unbroken promises. Nature is powerful, and can bring about great destruction, too. Scary, sad, awful things that we aren’t expecting at that time. But, even still, we know that earthquakes and hurricanes still exist, and that they are more likely in certain areas and during certain times.
I once watched a documentary about penguin babies. To be honest, I have watched many documentaries about penguins and their babies, but this particular documentary has stood out in my mind for many years. These penguin babies were hidden by their parents in little seaside hills in Australia. This type of penguin is the smallest penguin in the world, and as you can imagine, the babies are unbearably adorable. The parents swim out to sea to find food in order to feed their babies, and are often gone so long, that the tiny babies have died by the time they return.
A scientist in the documentary who has studied and watched these “fairy penguins”, as they are called, for years, said that it made her sad when the babies perished. She said that many people would call nature cruel for allowing, or perhaps causing, the babies to die. She went on to say that nature was not, in fact, cruel. Nature is neutral. It just essentially is what it is. I thought that was so simple and profound. So sensible. Yes, nature just is.
And perhaps it’s this philosophy that has contributed to my departure from Christianity. If nature, being so powerful, is not cruel, yet not loving, it is simply neutral. If God, being so powerful, allows bad things to happen to the innocent among us, then he must not be loving. As such, he is either cruel, which Christianity states is untrue, or he is neutral. Like nature. Emotionless.
But aren’t we told in Sunday School that God is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful? Those are not descriptions that denote neutrality, or that denote a lack of emotion. We are told that God is vengeful. Jealous. So, obviously, God has emotion. Jesus wept. I can’t tell you how many books and essays I’ve read on the topic of why bad things happen to good people. And by good people, I am not referring to myself. Primarily, I’m referring to children, and the horrendous things that adults seem to repeatedly do to them. Pages and pages and pages of reading on where is God when bad things happen. And after all that reading, the conclusion that I haven’t been able to chase away is that God is there, but he just isn’t powerful enough, or doesn’t care enough, to fix what’s happening. To stop it. So he just goes on letting it happen.
I’m told that God doesn’t do bad things to people, people do bad things to people. So, by virtue of that argument, if I sit and watch while someone is beating up one of my children, if I just let it happen because the bully has free agency, or some such nonsense, then what kind of parent am I? A shitty one.
And so, I have deduced that God is a shitty parent, and I’ve essentially disowned him as dysfunctional and lacking. I will try to talk to him every once in a while. Just to see if things have changed. But so far, no luck. Oh, he’s there. He’s just got more important things to do than saving abused children, feeding the starved, healing the terminally ill. And he is certainly too busy to help me get the job I’ve applied for or to help ease my depression.
After Sandy Hook, a cousin posted on Facebook (the worst place on earth to interact with the insufferable) that if prayer had been allowed in school, God would have been there for the Sandy Hook children and teachers. I came undone, tried to reason with her over private messages, and she wouldn’t budge (and, to be fair, neither would I). In the end, I told her that if that is the kind of god she believed in, then her god was a dick, and I’d have no more of him.
I still stand behind every word I wrote.
None-the-less, the void that is left, after the leaving, after the disowning, is still achy sometimes. Most of the time, I can cushion it with feathers and flowers, with a ray of sun or two, a cuddle with my puppy, but not always. Don’t tell me it’s a god-sized hole that’s needing filled. Don’t quote Bible verses. And, sweet mother of all that’s holy, don’t tell me you’ll pray for me. Pray for yourself. Pray for children who are suffering. Pray for something that matters. And I hope that your prayers will work better than mine ever did. I strongly doubt they will, but I sincerely hope they do.