From Drauma-Ellisif of the Industrious Barony of Thescorre, come greetings unto all who enter here. [switching hats] Hi, I’m Mari, and I’ll be your blogger this evening. What can I start you off with?
I guess you’ve noticed a change, huh? So have I. A bunch of changes. To the point that the archives of this blog feel like history rather than recent past.
I believe in the value of history, so what I won’t do is delete this blog or its contents and start over. But I’m no longer the Cass who started it or the Woderose who jumped in there. When both your mundane and SCAdian names have changed, maybe you have to look at yourself differently.
don’t know why
i held onto something
that’s been broken for so long
There’s a disconnect in my head about who this blog is really about. Is it about the person I’m healing into? What parts of it are relevant? What do I want you to see? What do I want to look back on, when I reread it? Would I blog more often if I weren’t laden with so much past? What about that past bears exploring?
There’s also a disconnect between what I want to read and what’s being written. Maybe I’m a terrible Googler, but I can’t find very many everyday-life blogs by liberal Christians. There’s lots of “This is the issue today and we must dissect it” out there! And I’m sure that has its place! But where are the women who don’t write sermons? Where are the women who just want to talk about how we navigate the boring bits? Or the broken bits? Where are the women who don’t have book deals?
(I mean, I could probably make something coherent out of the last nine years of writing, but the memoir market’s a little flooded and anyway my first love is fiction.)
I don’t want my personal blogosphere to be an onslaught of Very Special Episodes. That’s what Twitter is for. So I guess if I want to read it, I have to write it. Yes, a VSE now and then, but more than that. A reminder that a candle is lit, not only to show God I’m here but to show you that you are not alone in your daily everything. Coming soon to a platform near you.
Until then, maybe time to contemplate this space and what it was for me. What it became. What it is now and what I will take with me. And to draw a line here, underneath who I was before this year of renewal. Selah. “Pause, and think of that.”
This morning I am… angry? Because of a silly dream.
In the dream I stayed much closer, throughout my adolescence and adulthood, to a woman who in reality was fond of me in a way I never understood. Tough love? Suburban values love? She didn’t understand me either, so fair was fair, but somehow in this dream we were perfectly suited. She would, in other words, have been the ideal mother-in-law. And that’s what my dream self wanted her to be. My mother-in-law. Continue reading
When I was fifteen I complained that I’d missed the revolution, never once dreaming that God was saving me for something bigger than just George W. Bush. Never knowing that there could be bigger in this country to fight.
A lifetime later, on election night in 2016, we children who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 saw what we had to face. Our work.
But when you grow up, the way you go about your work changes. The fire of idealism is tempered by the realities you face. My classmates are now in the married-with-children demographic; I am something of an exception, and even I intend to apply to foster children when the time is right. Do you know how this will be my work? I will take the ones who have the problems I wished I could solve when I was a girl. The ones who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and need someone who will support all the choices. The ones who are LGBTQ+. Tweens and up, the hard placements.
In order to get there, I have to keep my nose clean and become employable.
I watch it because I’m like them, on some level.
You don’t realize how upsetting it is to lose things until you turn around and have lost — other things. Things that sparked joy, but nobody cared. Continue reading
I am looking at a picture of a woman comforting two teenish girls. She has brown hair, they are blonde. Their faces are close together in a triangle of what-did-we-all-eat-for-lunch and she has her arms up around them. They are sitting in some kind of auditorium, I am guessing; the red seat backs are a clue. According to the text with the image, these girls have just “giv[en] their lives to Jesus”.
But Jesus is… love. Jesus is the reason death is less terrifying, for some of us. Jesus said to bring ’em all in.
Why would a child, accepting Jesus into her heart, need to be consoled?
I can see where adults break down in great gasping sobs of catharsis and relief. I did that once, when Allison came over to pray with me. Granted, I then had a panic attack because I misinterpreted her somewh– who are we kidding, big time. She said to me that when the time came, Jesus would meet me where I was, but I read that as “you cannot control the changes to come, and who you are now will not be who you know and like”.
Whoops? P.S. Allison, you were right: He met me where I was, when I was ready.
When I was ready.
Nobody took me to any conference to try Jesus on for size, or be convicted. Holy Mary, can you imagine the size of the panic attack I would’ve had back at the hotel room. To be honest, religious education wasn’t on my mother’s radar until I decided I was Pagan around, what, age 13? Which is usually the age at which children are initiated as adults in their religious traditions (e.g. Confirmation, Bat/Bar Mitzvah). So by then we were well past any conventional starting point anyhow.
Despite an acquired distaste for all things Christian(ist), I did read and learn about the Bible. I took an interest in the meta, too, fiction like The Red Tent and The Dovekeepers, interest in the lives of people who were various flavors of Christian, how they saw our secular world, that sort of thing. My mother told me the other day that I’d learned an astonishing amount, for someone who had never seen the inside of a Sunday school.
Informed consent was the name of my game. No way was I messing with a spirituality I didn’t understand. (Again.)
Which makes me wonder: what are these parents doing to their children? Why are those girls crying about Jesus? What have their lives been, that allowing God to take some of their burdens would drive them to tears? What sins do they think they’re expiating in surrendering? How can something feel good in that way when you are an innocent? And no, the answer is not “maybe they aren’t innocent”.
We adults maybe need to chat about the things our children are hearing about How To Be Good At God. Like. It is completely accidental that my style is fairly modest — I just don’t enjoy showing my lingerie to the world, it’s a me thing, and I feel undignified if people can see up my skirts. That is a lot of baggage right there from, drumroll, years of being considered a sex object by secular men. I never listened when it was my fellow young women doing me down for my bare legs, the same way they couldn’t shame me into curbing my drunken-sailor tongue.
But damned if these Secret Keeper people don’t feel the need to inform preteens that they, too, are reasons for their ~brothers in Christ~ to stumble. That link is not safe for under-18s, by the way. By which I mean I don’t want a single vulnerable child to accidentally be indoctrinated.
Who we are in God’s eyes should be between us and God. Not us, God, and a carefully vetted committee of adults who then turn around and dictate what is and is not acceptable, calling it “ministry” to give it some aura of authority. Not us, God, and a self-righteous pair of sisters from Big Hair, Texas.
A child’s faith is for glee, and acceptance, and growing up a decent human being. A child’s faith is not for atonement. May God strike me down if I’m the reason for a child’s doubt or sorrow. May God banish me into the outer darkness should I hurt one of his own.
What I wish I’d said to her that day:
There’s a switch in my brain, and sometimes it gets flipped. I don’t know which English will come out of my mouth when that happens. At least I’m more or less assured it’ll be English, which my mum can’t say.
When that switch flips, I’m stuck and it’s piss-my-pants embarrassing to try and flip it back. If I’m caught out. You know, by nosy parkers who want to know where I’m from. Which is a question I can’t actually answer in one sentence anyway. Back before the first Gulf War, the one you probably weren’t even born for, people were deployed to places they could bring their families. Could even raise them. So it’s sheer misfortune that my dad, two years before he retired, got his ticket back here, where I was born but couldn’t remember. We’d all have been happier staying put in Bavaria. We had a good thing going there, and nobody seemed to care that I was different.
All my life here I’ve only ever felt different and it’s questions like “where are you from?” that make me wonder whether I should hand in my passport.
Now piss off back to Miami, you brainless wanker.
The summer I was nineteen, I seriously questioned my gender identity. Sort of.
What I questioned, rather than something intrinsic to myself, was who I was to the rest of the world. I distinctly recall wondering why I had to be a girlfriend, for instance, because that word seemed wrong to me. I still based a lot of my self-worth off how others saw me. Or who wanted me. If I’m honest, a chunk of the thought process went “I’m into guys who are into guys. Therefore, I should be a guy.”
I lit a candle in my heart one day.
I didn’t ask for much. I didn’t know how to ask. You didn’t know the people I did, but maybe you knew people like them, who turned church into a place to hear how foul you were. Maybe you knew people who stood between you and God without even realizing it.
They called themselves my friends while trying to beat God into me. A, I had a belief system at the time, and B, they weren’t exactly living their church. All I could see was hypocrisy. I needed them to help me and they turned their backs. It didn’t help that I’d turned into a giant hellbitch (I have the journal entries to prove it).
I swung very low before I swung up again. I went to college — I left college. I went to a different college — I left, then I went back to it because it was the first truly nurturing environment I had known. I met Ann there. Ann was the first therapist who taught me things worth knowing. She showed me how to take charge of who I was and make me my own again. I met Maria and she gave me my voice back by teaching me to be a voice for others.
Years still passed before I reached out to my friend Allison and begged her to come pray with me. To my surprise, she came in the middle of snow, at night. After she left I trembled with anxiety: what was this? She said God will find me and change me, but what if I’m not ready? Only as that candle inside me began to burn more steadily did I learn that I had to be ready in order to change. When the time came, I welcomed the changes in myself because they represented growth.
I met my pastor this time last year, more or less.
I was baptized Catholic, lo these many moons ago. There’s photographic proof, and my christening gown still hangs in my mother’s closet. Yet my mother and I could not find solace in Mass anymore. She’s been fed up with Rome for years; I saw a stripping of the altars, a craven retreat from ritual in an attempt to win young, fresh souls. And we both wondered: is this it? Where is God in this building? So we drove one town over one Sunday to this tiny congregation of Episcopalians.
I wish I could play you the memory of a smallish woman in her collar and robes, her hair neatly pixied. I wish you could hear the choir doing the old classics that had been cast aside. To a woman raised on those classics, on classical in general, to hear something beautiful again was literally a religious experience.
(Which isn’t to say I’m totally opposed to modern music with a spiritual bent. But make it good music.)
I wish you could hear her say, “This is the Lord’s table and all are welcome.” And mean it. Even me, even the girl who independent-studied her way through faith to the point of never making a big-deal First Communion. Even I am welcome. So one Sunday, without telling anyone beforehand, I tasted my first consecrated wafer and wine.
Now my church is discussing outreach, and how to connect with the masses of unchurched young adults. People like you, who are spiritual, but who don’t assemble to worship — what? And vegan lunches just won’t be food enough for your souls. I feel that most keenly. If someone, even two years ago, had suggested that to me, I would have side-eyed them so hard.
I want to build you a place of peace.
I want you to feel safe, that nobody will take advantage of your youth or confusion. Or your sadness. Or, when you experience it, your joy. I want you never to hear that God doesn’t love you for something that is inherently you. God created all of me, long after he sent his son to fulfill the law. God created me in context. God gave me a heart to love and a mind to think. I like to think I am nothing special in this regard.
The divine spark lights us all. We were made equal, set next to one another in the hope that we would be good to each other. We were made to live our mission and our truth. So I will never pray for you to find a church. I will pray for you to be who you were made to be.
I will keep my candle lit in the darkness and hope that it is part of what guides you to whatever you eventually call home.
Louise Slaughter put me on a plane in 2003 for a week that would change my life. This is what I have told her daughter, that her mother was the one who made sure I boarded. That I am studying now to be a paralegal, with the goal of working for Legal Aid.
Until just this morning, listening to an imam speak of the respect Louise showed to all her people, I don’t think I put the two together.
That week in late February, fifteen years ago, was the first time I really stepped out of who I was, into who I could someday become. When you are sixteen, nearly seventeen, deeply depressed and as such very self-involved, you don’t think of the future or your fellow human. You think of what such a trip will mean to the person you are at that moment: the one whose parents have saved so you can do what the other politically-interested kids are doing.
Months of nightmares and, I’m sure, some lingering trauma from being seven and nearly crashing in a commuter plane almost stopped me. But, of course, against the force of my ghosts, there was Louise M. Slaughter, on her own way down to Washington. On the same plane. And when she decides you are going with her, you are going with her. She cajoled, she coaxed, she grandmothered. I can’t put it down to the Dramamine alone: she drove back the terror.
She had no way of knowing who or what I was. I never got to tell her, once I grew up enough to be worth knowing, that I had loftier aims than I ever thought I could have. Would be alive to have, even. All she knew was that a young woman needed to get down to D.C.
I’ll be honest: I’m not sure what we did in our conference rooms. A lot of that week is a blur. What sticks is who I was outside the boundaries of the hotel and the program. What sticks is being a person who could navigate Capitol Hill well enough to meet with members of Congress. For the first time in my life, I was viewed as someone who had every right to grab lunch in a federal cafeteria, even if my stomach was in too many knots to eat it. I didn’t need to hold anyone’s hand crossing the street anymore.
Whatever else is blurred, the first real independence in my life stands out.
Years went by after that. I slid down, and down, and down the hill, into a crevasse of mental illness. The next independence I gained, I squandered. But the independence after that… I started to learn how to use it. I ascended Maslow’s hierarchy of needs like others tackle Mount Everest. Slowly, and with more help than I will ever feel I deserved, I became this person, who learned to care about what lay beyond my nose.
I went back to school a couple of times, looking for some way to serve, and now I think I’ve got it down. I’ve found where I can be useful to society and earn a living wage. (First rule of air disasters: Put on your own oxygen mask before you help the person next to you. You can’t save anyone else if you are gasping for breath.) I am in therapy with a wonderful lady whose mission is to help me unlock the trauma and deal with it, finally. I’m told I can even look to the medical profession for help with what has turned out to be a nasty case of motion sickness. There are therapies.
I seek out opportunities for civic involvement now. I look for the meek, so I can help them inherit the earth. If they want my help. I don’t assume. But I do ask.
Everything changed. Yes, I may regret that the flight home was so rough; yes, I may shake my head at the person I was before I gained some real control over myself. But it all had to happen to get me to where I am now.
If not for Louise, God only knows where I would be instead.
“Who do you wanna be?”
I think that was the missing link all along.