religion

I grew up Catholic, then met a boy two years older who was smart and tall and loved me like I was his last breath. He was an atheist, but he called me his angel.

I have to give him credit, because I never questioned things before him. He made me skeptical. Later, cynical. I questioned the anxiety I felt at home, and why my family injected into my heart more fear than love. I questioned my future in “some sort of science” and realized my hands couldn’t stand to spend their energy with numbers and figures but chose art instead. I questioned even that: my writing was so frivolous and childish compared to his–his made me feel emotions I never thought about when writing my silly science fiction and high-octane adventure. Eventually, I even questioned our relationship. We broke it off after maybe half a year or so.

I was an atheist. Then an agnostic. I used science and logic above all else, and when others touted faith I labelled them as ignorant.

That lasted awhile. It’s hard to be an atheist when you’re afraid of ghosts. Not necessarily that I believe in ghosts, but long hallways and creaks in the night do frighten me more than they ever would an atheist. Perhaps an atheist would be afraid of these sounds but first think of burglars, you argue. True, I say. But I don’t think of burglars, I think of ghosts.

Spirits, maybe. Spirits would probably be more politically correct.

Thanks to that first love of mine, I also stopped performing so much of my life. I had told him it would be hard for him to meet my friends, as I acted so differently around him than I did them. I told him everything, you see. He knew me better than I did, myself. He found this confusing.

Aren’t you yourself, with me?

Yes.

Then why aren’t you yourself with them?

Again, it was something I had never questioned before.

With this loss of performance, I stopped performing atheism as well. There are mysteries in the world we can’t explain, I said to myself but never out loud. I was afraid to out myself as a faltering academic to my scientific friends. They’d say I was going off the rails. Drama kids and their yoga bullshit. They’re getting to her, they’d say. Or not. I was so worried about what they’d say.

In any case, I was a secret agnostic, hiding both from my religious family and vehemently anti-regilious friends. And I stayed that way for quite some time.

Then I graduated college.

They say God comes to you in times of need. I turned instead to Wicca. Don’t people always? I feel like Wicca wouldn’t still exist if not for college kids experiencing some sort of crisis.

I put off job applications to learn tarot cards. I swept off the top of a bookcase to make my little alter and burned candles at midnight. I meditated with crystals clutched deep in the pit of my palms.

I don’t really believe in it. But what it has been doing is calming my anxiety–ah, did you notice the tense change? I’m still in this phase of life.

The thing about Wicca is it’s kind of silly, but isn’t all religion? What’s the difference, between praying on your knees or meditating in a lotus position? Eating Jesus’s bread and body versus lighting a handful of candles? Eh. Maybe it’s because Catholicism is so pagan, honestly. So many crazy traditions ripped from local religions. Maybe it’s me getting back to my roots after all, but roots that extend deeper than just the Christian ones.

It’s silly. It’s silly, and I know it’s a phase. And I don’t believe in the gods, and the goddesses, and that the elements are blessing me, or whatever…but I do believe in the calming power of meditation. And sitting in front of a candle with some pretty stones and plants and dried roses is like sitting before a gorgeous altar in a church. It makes things feel sacred and calm. It makes things feel right.

I need some ritual in my life of turbulence. It’s been so insane. I disappeared into the mountains to teach ski lessons after graduation, then decided to teach high school English and get my masters, and now I’m in limbo waiting for someone to give ol’underqualified me a job. Of course I turn to something for certainty.

Bottom line is that I don’t know why I’m doing this, or anything else. And you, metaphorical “you” who still reads this blog: you know I only come back to this place when I’m depressed. Maybe it’s manifested itself in strange customs and rituals this time instead of slicing open my thighs with a pocket knife. So this is probably healthier.

All I know is, it’s making me less anxious. And I’m not scared of creaks in the hallway at night any more. So. Who knows. Whatever.

suffering the heat

It’s 96? It’s supposed to be 96. Degrees. Outside.

Does that confuse people on the other system? Probably not by now. People must hate the United States, for many reasons, but mainly for its overexposure. That’s not the correct use of that word, is it? For a Word Major, I’m awful at words.

You can’t watch a movie without being reminded of the United States. You can’t watch the news, either…again, for many reasons.

I hate the news.

Sometimes I feel like people who aren’t depressed are the real crazy ones. How could you watch the news—any news—and blink and shrug and go about your day? How can you just know that there is so much suffering—

This is why I have a problem with “God,” anyway. And this is so typical, I know, such originality coming from good ol’Introvert Playground. But again, again, again, how could a God allow so much suffering?

I hate knowing that one day I will get a papercut and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Life is full of papercuts, and bee stings, and stubbed toes, and broken hearts, and funerals, and shampoo in the eyes and splinters in the thumbs and dead people taking up all the slots on TV.

Television is suffering. Even the fake stuff, the shows and movies, they’re all about suffering. Even comedy is about suffering. It’s like we know we live in the gallows but only the depressed people feel like talking about the elephant in the room. And then everyone gets mad at them for doing so.

“What can be done? Just don’t think about it.”

Okay. I won’t think about the world. But can I think about myself, and all the disappointments I can’t prevent for myself? Failures, rejections, heartbreak?

How does any girl live past thirteen? She feels the pain of a menstrual cycle for the first time and is so happy. It’s the second month that it sinks in. It is going to hurt this bad for so-and-so days every month for forty years. It’s a prison sentence.

I feel trapped by my body. It is strange and alien to me, a vessel to hold my pain.

The Breath of a Church Organ

Today I conducted an interview from inside a church organ. The man who restored the 130+ year old organ with his father explained how the air flowed through the reservoir and into the pipes. We sat in a space below and behind these pipes, hidden from view, studying the enormous inner workings of the beautiful instrument. His father sat at the console, pressed the keys, and I was instantly surrounded by music.

Inside the womb of the organ, I could see the whole thing breathe as it created the sound that filled the church. The reservoir was like a lung, sucking in pressurized air and deflating as it exhaled into the pipes. The pipes—over a thousand of them—were like long metallic necks, stretching up like herons.

I could have stayed there forever. I probably would have gone deaf eventually, but honestly, I could have stayed there forever. I wrote notes leaning on the reservoir, and it was like my notebook was floating. The wall behind me vibrated with the lower pipes. The chimes, dangling from the opposite wall, sang along with the mingling chords. I could see it all happening. I could hear it all happening. It was alive, and so was I.

On the way home, singing to the radio, I thought about how my body was like an organ. I had lungs pushing air out my throat, making my vocal chords vibrate and sing. An organ is like a part of the body. Perhaps that’s why it’s called an “organ.”