Category Archives: Rants/Opinions

Still Here :)

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Never fear.  I meant I wanted to sleep in a very literal sense of the word.  So I spent a few days doing nothing but sleeping and trying to come to terms with my new depth of depression.

Scared the shit out of my friend and worried my husband, which sucked, but I’m okay and I think they forgave me.

I think at least part of my bipolar disorder is less mental illness and more how I process life.  I’d just read three books in rapid succession that confirmed for me things I’ve known instinctively since I was a kid, but also made me realize that what I know is the exact opposite of what most people acknowledge.

From an egotist’s perspective, I’m awake, but most of you are asleep.

From a realist’s perspective, I’m half asleep, half blind, and a little over half crazed, but a whole lotta people are more than half way there, so maybe I’m not the worst possible person to have insights I want to share that might be useful.

I dunno.

Maybe.

So here’s my thought for today.

There’s a lot more to life than I will ever know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn it all.

There’s more to learning than just memorizing facts.  Knowledge doesn’t do you much good if you keep it locked up in the musty attic of your thinker.

The coolest part is figuring out how to integrate the knowledge into your every day life.  The bad news is, it often includes learning how to reprogram your unconscious mind, which can be slow, difficult, and painful, but is totally worth it.

It means realizing that you don’t actually live in reality, you live  in a story that is a little bit what you tell yourself, but is mostly colored by conditioning you got before you could think.

Which is why it’s so hard to change.  Most of your reactions have nothing to do with the situation you’re in, or what your conscious mind thinks is happening. It has to do with what you accidentally picked up from parents, siblings, in preschool, or where ever you spent your first six years of life.

So you do what you don’t want to do, and you say what you don’t want to say, and you don’t do things you know you should do, and are generally fucked up most of the time.

Yeah.

And from what I can tell, all the major religions began with people who figured out how to reprogram themselves.  Buddha advocated letting go of attachments and practicing compassion. Jesus talked about loving god, others, and ourselves, and being merciful [compassionate]to all. [exact same concept from a different perspective…letting go of everything vs connecting with everything, but both with the same results: compassion].

And they both taught that it wasn’t easy to reach a point where you can love everyone, or love nothing, but be compassionate either way.

You have to systematically deconstruct all the false impressions, ideas, perceptions you picked up along the way.

I’m most familiar with Jesus, and he’s my favorite anyway, so he’s the one I’ll be expounding on in the future.

For now, though, I think it’s important to know that there are a LOT of programs in your brain. Some of ’em are good and make you do kind, compassionate things, and some of ’em are destructive and false, and make you act like a complete asshole.

So do you have more good programs than bad?  I dunno.  Are you an asshole most of the time, or just once in a while?  And if you’re an asshole more often than not, does that make you a bad person?

I don’t think so. Even serial killers have people in their lives who matter to them, people they value as human beings.  It’s just that instead of cutting people off in traffic or being rude to a waitress, they kill the people who don’t matter.  The serial killer is what lack of compassion looks like when taken to its most violent extreme.

This is reality.

But it’s no excuse not to try.

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Nagalicious Brainworm: Matthew 7

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I can’t get Matthew 7 out of my head.  Which I suppose is a good thing, since Jesus said the Holy Spirit would remind us of his teachings.  I’m still disturbed, though, because I’ve had something else percolating in the back of my brain that worries me a little.

A slight disclaimer: these are just my thoughts and impressions. I’m not using any commentaries or other interpretations of what this chapter means.  It’s mine [and I like to think I’m not completely out of touch with God] but you know:  filter of crap around my heart.

So here goes.

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

[Matt 7:1-6]

I think it’s safe to say most of us know and have heard this particular scripture quoted  on a fairly regular basis.

Here’s what bothers me, though. I know a lot [and I do mean a LOT] of seemingly sincere Christians who talk trash about so-called Welfare Queens [thank you, Ronald Reagan, you jerk] with their iPhones and manicured nails and expensive clothes in the checkout lines with EBT cards.

A lot of those same people [who are incredibly kind in real life] disparage undocumented workers, GLBT people, “Liberals,” drug addicts, unwed mothers, prostitutes, and poor people.

This is textbook ‘judging’. And according to Jesus, these are mere SPECKS. Not only that, but if God judges us all, then everyone who ever had a judgmental attitude toward anyone without asking forgiveness, is being judged in the same measure they used to judge the slut in the checkout line.

I don’t know about you, but that worries me. A lot of people judge like this on a daily basis [I can tell because I see the Facebook posts].  And if God judges in the same measure, what then?

I’ve found that there are two main reasons people judge. One is Pride [à la the Pharisee praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like this sinner here at the altar with me.”]

The other is that we tend to judge others because they have  a character trait that we have and dislike in ourselves.

There are probably others, but those are the two I’ve struggled with the most.

You see, I once sat in the judgment seat against all the examples I listed above. And a lot of the time, I did it with the sincere belief that I was doing the right thing. I believed I was ‘speaking the truth in love’. I believed that line of bullshit about, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

The snag is,  I spoke the truth as I understood it, and most of the time, my understanding was clouded at best, flat out wrong and twisted into wickedness at worst.

Here’s the thing that still boggles my mind:  I did all this judging with what I believed to be a genuine desire to see people turn from their ‘sin’… I had no idea that I was inflicting deep emotional and spiritual wounds on people I claimed to love.

I didn’t realize that not only was I doing what was wrong [malice,  gossip, slander,  arrogance and boastfulness], I was encouraging the same sin in others.[Romans 1:29,30]

But then..

I guess you could say my eyes were opened.

I  realized that my so-called love wasn’t love at all.

I realized that most of the time, I was just angry that “they” couldn’t see what I saw, that they didn’t agree with my understanding of scripture, that they didn’t live the way I thought they should [and regardless of the fact that I had scripture I could use to back me up, I was really just pissed off that they didn’t interpret scripture the way I did].

Sure, I thought I was right, [which should have been a red flag], but I couldn’t see my own ‘plank’ of pride because I was too busy focusing on all the specks around me.

I live every day with the knowledge that I took what was sacred and threw it to the ‘dog’ that was my own twisted heart. I was the pig that trampled the pearls. I turned the greatest love the world has ever seen and I used it as a weapon of destruction.

Because although I had deceived myself into believing that I was doing what was right, with the right motives, the truth is, I was just rationalizing my own wickedness. The wolf in sheep’s clothing was me.

Listen, the truth is, judgment, when heaped upon innocent heads by the guilty , breaks the spirit, even if you never say the words out loud.

And after you realize what you’ve done, how much pain you’ve caused, and how little you can do to heal the scars you’ve left on the hearts of others, trust me when I say, your soul shatters.

For this reason alone, I deserve Dante’s Inferno.

So needless to say, all those comments about poor people, etc. are a pretty big trigger for me. Sometimes, I handle it with grace. Others, I repay evil for evil and start flinging bricks.

I see and recognize that I sometimes use ignorant, assholian posts by others as an excuse to focus on someone, anyone else’s judgmental attitude besides my own.

But other times, I see the path to destruction they’re on, a path that I traveled on for far too long, and I just want to scream, “Stop!  Turn around! Go back! That way leads to death.”

I struggle every day with the knowledge that I have personally caused untold suffering with my thoughtless words, insensitive heart, and judgmental attitude.  I live with the knowledge that I can do precisely nothing to fix it,  take it back, or heal those wounds.

Even worse [for me, at least] is the knowledge that I can’t prevent others from being thoughtless, insensitive, or judgmental. I can’t do much to protect their victims, and I can do even less to change the behavior or hearts of anyone but myself.

So there’s the first part of my thoughts on Matt 7.

Straws and Camels

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Back in April, I wrote a post about why the thought of Mitt Romney as president scared the living hell out of me.  I talked about the Paul Ryan budget, how it slashes social safety net programs, and how, if enacted, would essentially make what I do here with J impossible.

You may have noticed that Paul Ryan is now the Republican candidate for Vice President.  While there are at least five instances of Mitt Romney supporting and agreeing completely with the Ryan budget, there is also video of him saying that he has his own budget that isn’t the same as Ryan’s.  At this point, nobody really knows what the hell Mitt Romney actually stands for, but last night, former President Bill Clinton spoke at length about the Republican ticket and their budget policies.

He reminded everyone that the Ryan budget will not only change Medicare to a voucher system for everyone under 55, he brought up something else that no one has really been talking about. It also cuts Medicaid spending by 1/3.

Clinton stated, and the fact checkers have verified, that two-thirds of Medicaid spending goes toward nursing home care for the elderly and people with disabilities and serious illnesses.

The money my husband and I get paid for taking care of my brother comes directly from the Medicaid Waiver program. His medical equipment, including his electric wheelchair and communication device, as well as the Chux, adult briefs, catheter supplies, and co-pays for medical services and medications that Medicare doesn’t cover also come directly from the Medicaid program.

In my April post, I gave a lot of details about the costs associated with taking care of J.  About 3/4 of the money we get paid working with J goes directly toward the expenses of taking care of him. Our added costs for housing, utilities, monthly fuel bills, insurance, medical care, travel expenses, cleaning supplies, and other out-of-pocket expenses for J’s needs amount to well over $1000 a month.

When you figure in how much it would cost us to pay out-of-pocket for medical equipment, medical supplies, and medications, the costs are astronomical.  There is absolutely no way we could come close to covering the extra $1000 we already pay per month if it wasn’t for Medicaid.  Trying to pay for the other stuff is a sick joke.

From the time I was a child, one of the most important values my parents instilled in me was that we take care of our family, no matter what the cost.  My dad took over the family farm before I was born, and shared the income equally with his parents and brother, in spite of the fact that he did the vast majority of the work.  He’s an excellent farmer, but it wasn’t exactly his dream job.  He sacrificed his own dreams to make sure his family was taken care of.

My mother paid for my grandma’s medications and helped her out financially for years, and when Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Mom took her into her own home and did her best to take care of her for two years until dealing with the strain became impossible. She wrecked her own health in the process.

So three and a half years ago when J became critically ill, my husband and I uprooted our family and moved 180 miles back home to take care of him.

We were faced with a choice between putting J in a nursing home, letting my parents try to take care of him themselves, in spite of the fact that they were both in their 60s and had health issues of their own, or moving back to take care of him ourselves.

So we moved.

I’ve written pretty extensively about some of the difficulties we’ve had, so I won’t go into it much here, except to say that it’s been hard. Trying to raise our three kids and take care of J, who was critically ill for the first year we lived here is the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. In fact, it was impossible to meet everyone’s needs. My kids were pretty much on their own, even though I was in the house, my marriage was put way on the back burner, and my own needs didn’t even figure into the equation for a long time.

It’s still a constant struggle to try to find a balance when there’s just too much to be done and not enough me to go around.  A lot of the time, we’re just treading water, hoping we don’t drown.

Which leads me back to the Romney/Ryan ticket and politics. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are both pretty open about wanting to cut Medicaid and other entitlements. Ryan has talked about privatizing Social Security [another benefit that J gets, without which, we would have to pay for his food, personal care items, clothing, etc. out-of-pocket as well].

Basically, privatizing Social Security would mean giving SS money to the banks to invest as they see fit and try to grow the fund.  We all remember what happened when the banks were given access to the money we had in commercial banks and allowed to use it for investment banking, right? In eight years, they managed to tank our entire economy.

Back in April, I basically bled all over my keyboard and wrote one of the most difficult posts of my entire life. It also signaled my official ‘coming out’ as a liberal to my family and friends, most of whom were, and still are, staunch conservatives.

Admitting to the people I loved most that I could no longer pretend to be something I wasn’t, in spite of the fact that all of them had passionately conservative political views, was not easy, to say the least.  In fact, if I’d been able to quiet my conscience and continue to lie about it, it may very well have made my life easier, at least for the time being.

But at that point, I’d been hiding my spiritual, emotional, and political journey from almost everyone for years, and eventually, it just became too much. It felt like I was betraying myself and more importantly, my kids, by not speaking out and telling the truth.

I’ve always insisted that the one thing we ALWAYS do in our family is tell the truth.  Honesty is so important to me that when my kids were little, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell them that Santa Claus was real because it wasn’t true.

I know that seems ridiculous, but for me, being lied to is the worst kind of betrayal, and under no circumstances was I going to do that to my babies. I don’t always give them every detail, but it’s always been a policy in our house that if the kids ask a question, I will give them an honest answer, no matter what.

Well, eventually, I realized that I was hiding a lot of myself from the people around me. I was always honest with Steve, and he stood by me and listened to me through all my struggles to figure out exactly what I believe and why.

I joined Facebook after we moved to take care of J in order to try to keep in touch with our friends in St. Joe, so it made sense to me that since cyberspace was the only place I could really go, I could tell the truth about my life on Facebook.

Well, it turned out you’re not actually supposed to talk about real stuff on Facebook. I suspect a better name for it might be ‘Maskbook’ or ‘Fakebook’ but whatever.  Part of the transformation I underwent during that time included tearing away every mask I’d ever put on and learning to just be me. The real me.

I figured if I was going to teach my kids what it means to be honest, I needed to be honest with myself first, and then with everyone else.

Yeah, well. First and foremost, I’ve always been a dreamer.

One of the things I love most, and happen to be relatively good at is writing. I’ve been writing regularly through online journaling for eight years or so now. A lot of the stuff I write is crap, but some of it is good enough that when I go back and read it later, it doesn’t even seem like I wrote it.

I suspect this may end up being crap, but oh well.

I think initially, I used Facebook instead of the blog because I’d kind of burnt myself out on blogging.  I also liked that there’s no counter on Facebook. Unless someone comments or hits the like button, you never know if anyone saw it or not. When you know people are reading your words, and you know how many, you tend to gauge ‘success’ by the number of hits.

So why am I back on the blog?  Well, I’ve pretty much outworn my welcome on Facebook. It’s an election year, and I have some political opinions that are less than mainstream in my group of friends. I knew that going in, which is why I was so scared of posting about politics in the first place.  It wasn’t so much that I wanted to piss everyone off, it was just that I felt like I’d spent so many years contorting myself into the person others expected me to be, I’d forgotten who I was.

And once I found myself again, the most amazing thing happened. I actually liked me! Go figure. :-/

So, I began testing the waters and posting some opinions, and then I waited to see if people would leave my friends list in droves. For a while, they did.  On the one hand, I get it. Everyone has preferences, and some people hate politics or stories about poop, so naturally, some people were going to leave.

It still kinda hurts, but I do understand. The times when I really had a hard time with the whole ‘Facebook De-Friending Drama’ is when someone would post a disagreement on my wall about something I’d posted and get irate when I defended myself. When you have an argument with someone, it takes longer than a day to forget about the disagreement, and when your friends list gets one number smaller, well, it’s pretty easy to figure out that someone got pissed and left.

I’ve always had issues with people storming off angry, so even on something as goofy as a Facebook Fight, it feels like unfinished business. It also reminds me of Jr. High, and when the people leaving in a huff are people you once respected as a mentor and friend, well, it’s a little harder not to take that personally.

I don’t mind debating, in fact, it’s something I enjoy immensely when it’s done properly.  I love writing, and I love research, so learning things and sharing what I’ve learned is something that feels like flying to me. I enjoy having my opinions challenged, and I love it when people bring up points I hadn’t thought of and basically give me something else to study.

I don’t mind being wrong any more than anyone else does. It’s embarrassing sometimes, but the older I get the more I realize just how little I know about the world, so it’s a lot easier now than it was when I was younger.

One of the things I don’t deal well with, though, is when someone quotes a ‘fact’ that is demonstrably untrue and then refuses to admit that their statement has been thoroughly debunked. This is not how debating is supposed to work.

Everyone is biased, and a lot of people aren’t above using some spin, including me, but I do not deliberately quote lies and call them truth.

Ever.

And when someone else does, it makes me irate.

And now we’re back to Romney/Ryan.  Romney and Ryan have both been caught in outright lies.  These aren’t your typical bias, distortions or spin, these are straight up bullshit fairy tales worthy of the National Inquirer.

The blatant, shameless dishonesty that has been exhibited by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan just in the past couple of weeks would have been more than enough for me to either refuse to vote at all or switch parties if I was still a staunch Republican like the rest of my family.

However, even without the lies, there’s the fact of the Ryan Budget and what it does to Medicaid and Medicare.  I am not lying or even exaggerating when I tell you that if J were to lose 1/3 of the money he gets for all the care he needs, we would not be able to afford to take care of him.

J’s life, and our lives, would end as we know it.  We would lose our house. We would not be able to afford utilities or decent food. J has to have Ensure because he can’t chew, and his food cost per month is at least $200.00. On Steve’s income alone, our food budget for the five of us was about $300.00 a month.  So without Medicaid, either J would go hungry or we would.

The house we could afford on Steve’s income alone in St. Joe was a tiny three bedroom, one bath house that was a whopping 927 square feet.  We couldn’t begin to fit J and all of his stuff into that house with the rest of us.

This is real.  If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win the election in November, and if their plan to cut Medicaid goes forward, they will be sentencing my family to a life of  poverty. They will greatly shorten J’s lifespan, and they will put us in a position where we have to choose between taking care of J and taking care of our kids.

I am a mother first.

One of the things that has been so disheartening for me is how a few of my own relatives have reacted to my becoming a Democrat.  The reactions have ranged from disappointment, to anger, to condescending arrogance, to accusations of being a Communist [now conveniently called ‘socialism’].

I’ve had to deal with being attacked personally, first on my Facebook wall, and then when I refused to be cowed on my own page, on their news feeds as rants and random Facebook memes that include how stupid and evil ‘liberals’ are.

I never dreamed I’d be a black sheep in my family, considering I’m a stable, happily married mother of three, who is also taking care of her adult quadriplegic brother, but here I am.

To find out that some of my own family values hearing what they want to hear and believing lies just because they back up their own ideas has been beyond infuriating to me.

To realize that people in my own family will vote for a man in November who will sentence me to an even more impossible life than the one I’m currently living is heartbreaking.

To know that some of the people in my family would rather hate President Obama based on nothing more than lies and spin from the worst news network in the history of television fills me with white-hot rage.

And I guess this is why I’m writing this one last [potential] Facebook political post, and why I’m finally talking about the people in my very own family who have treated me with less compassion, understanding, and mercy than I would expect from a stranger.

Some of the same people who showed me that when family needs you, you do whatever you have to do to make sure they’re taken care of, the people I’ve respected and loved since I was a child, are the people who now refuse to listen to me, accuse me of being a communist, treat me like I’m an idiot unworthy of anything but contempt, and in November, they will vote for a man who will choose to enact a budget that will very likely end my life, the life of my family, and the life of my brother as we’ve known it.

I know it’s crass to air dirty laundry on the Internet, and if I choose to post this on Facebook, I may very well burn some bridges with people I’ve loved all my life, but this is my reality.  This is the anxiety, stress, and agonizing pain I live with every day.  The people I believed would always be there for me have already shut me out, whether they realize it or not.  Stubbornness and the need to be ‘right’ has taken precedence over any willingness to understand me and where I’m coming from.

People always say to ‘vote your conscience’ which is often a way to tell people to vote against abortion.  Well, that’s your right, of course. But when you go defend the unborn, keep in mind that the candidates who would outlaw abortion are the very same people who believe that the life of my entire family is not worthy of consideration.  That is the real choice you face.

Heavy Heart

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I keep seeing this thing posted on Facebook, and every time, I can’t help but think about what it was like for me to live hand to mouth for about fourteen years.  My husband and I got married when we were both in our early twenties. We might as well have been children, for all the life experience we had.

Steve had even been married before, but naive doesn’t even come close to describing how inexperienced we were.  We started out living in a house where room and board were provided as part of our salary. Neither one of us had ever owned a house before, and although we’d always lived in houses, we had no clue what kind of maintenance they required.

So when we had to move into a place of our own, we had no idea the responsibilities that came with buying a house.  All we knew was that we couldn’t afford rent on a decent apartment, and that a house payment was about $150-$200 less per month, so we bought a house.

Not long after that, a high pressure salesman came into our house and swore we’d save enough money on utilities to pay for these windows he was selling. We believed him.  He lied.

About a month later, after our ‘remorse clause’ time was up, I was fired from my job.  Now we had one paycheck and it wasn’t enough to cover all of our expenses. It was too late to cancel the windows, and I was traumatized from being fired and depressed as hell, so we did our best.

Three months later, I was pregnant with our first child. We had health insurance, but we couldn’t begin to afford the co-pays, let alone the deductible.  And then, I had complications.  Life threatening complications.

All this time, we would go along, struggling to pay the bills and to keep us both clothed and fed, and there was never enough money to do everything. We had no idea how to budget, and our parents hadn’t done much to pass on any wisdom because they weren’t much better at budgeting than we were, they just made more money so it didn’t matter.

The story is long, because it spans over fourteen years, but the short[er] version is, we made some bad financial choices. We were on Medicaid and WIC because we made almost no money. Neither one of us had a college education, and Steve was the only income. I was on bedrest for all three of my pregnancies, and since the only jobs I was qualified for were minimum wage, I couldn’t afford daycare if I had worked.

We were poor. When Steve worked as a tow truck driver, we never knew from one week to the next if he was going to get a decent sized paycheck, so budgeting was impossible.  Some weeks, we didn’t have enough to pay the bills, and other weeks, we’d have an average month’s worth of money.

It was either feast or famine, and mostly famine. Much of the time, the choice was literally, do I pay bills or do I buy food?  My kids never went hungry, but eventually, we did lose our house to foreclosure.

So during the famine weeks, I prioritized buying food over paying debts. And during the ‘feast weeks’ we should have saved it for the dry times, but when there wasn’t enough money, we went without so much, that when we had a little extra, instead of saving it like we should have, we bought some of the things we’d needed but gone without.

There was this underlying sense of deprivation, desperation, this deeply irrational fear that if I didn’t buy something I wanted with the money, I’d never get another chance to have it.

It took me years to figure out how to control myself and ignore the desperation to have nice things, and even then, I could only go so long before I would be desperate again. The thing that finally kicked it was giving myself permission to splurge once in a while.  I would go until I felt like I would explode, and then I’d spend $20 or $30 on something special, and more often than not, it was something for Steve or the kids.

It served the same purpose. I’d gotten something we wanted instead of a need.  After a while, only getting the necessities feels like starvation. We never went hungry, but we went for years just buying the cheapest things we could find, which meant going without healthy food much of the time.

I remember my dad telling me stories about going to town with his parents and brother and sisters, and my grandma would give each of them a nickel or some small coin from her egg money, and every time, my dad would go buy some candy. Usually licorice, which is disgusting, or peanut clusters,but that was his thing.  He could have gone without and saved it up for something that would have lasted longer, but he loved candy, and it was something special, a luxury that he almost never got.

He used to tell me how mortified he was to go to school with patches on his jeans.  Kids were cruel to each other even in the 1950s.  He would take his lunch to school, and a lot of time, it was a homemade biscuit or homemade bread, and in his day, that was a reason to be ashamed.  Wealthy families bought their bread from the store.

The thing is, it hurts to see other people with nice things and to know that you can’t afford it. And when you get the chance, if it bothers you enough, you’re going to buy it, just so you can fit in.

After Steve and I were married, we would see friends our age, and they had nice cars, nice houses, and had more than enough money, and it felt like we always had second-hand stuff. We were always struggling, and I hated it.

We spent thirteen years never quite making ends meet, never quite having enough of what we needed, let alone the stuff we wanted.  And sometimes, when I got the chance, I just bought stuff because I wanted it.  It felt like buying candy after going without for far too long.

So when I see someone with a phone or a manicure, or tattoos in the checkout line and they’re using an EBT card, or WIC vouchers, I don’t think to myself that they don’t deserve it.  I think about that desperate feeling of lack, the never having quite enough to meet your needs, and the uncontrollable urge that hits you after you’ve gone without for so long.

Sometimes, a tattoo represents hope. Sometimes cigarettes mean the difference between sanity and screaming until your throat bleeds. Sometimes a manicure means the difference between feeling hideously ugly and being pretty enough to love.  And when you live in a constant state of stress, anxiety, and desperation, sometimes drugs and beer are the only escape you have from a reality that is too gray and stark and threadbare to be borne anymore.

Because as much as we like to pretend that we have control over our own lives, sometimes, things just don’t get better.

Sometimes, you’re trapped in a desperate life and there’s no way out.

Sometimes, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps means working your ass off at a job that pays less than a living wage, and struggling on, knowing deep down that it’s all you’re ever going to have.

There is more to being poor than laziness. There is more to a human being than a tattoo or manicure, and to stand and judge someone you’ve never met, who you will never see again, for using food stamps or welfare…well, that was me, and if I’d known what you were thinking, it would have broken my heart.

 

Having a Moment

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Wow. I joined Facebook in 2009, and in that time, became FB friends with three of my former pastors’ wives.  I wasn’t very close to the first one who left, so I wasn’t all that surprised when she defriended me.

The second one left after I disagreed with her about politics. She posted a comment on something I’d written, and I disagreed and told her so.  She got completely irrational and was using a lot of exclamation points by the end of our conversation, and a few days later, I noticed that her name had disappeared from my friends list.

Your number of friends is listed right on your front page, so if you knew how many friends you had, you can’t help but notice when the number gets smaller.  If it’s someone you talk to on Facebook quite a bit, you remember them and just have to check the list to see who’s missing.  If someone leaves that I haven’t spoken to in a long time, I don’t worry about it too much. But I knew I’d pissed off my former pastor’s wife, so I naturally noticed that she’d gone.

Yesterday, my list got one person smaller. I looked at my list and noticed that the people I care about the most and could remember in about ten minutes were still present and accounted for. But this morning, I remembered I hadn’t seen a post by someone who posts quite a bit, so I went to her page to see if I’d missed an illness or something.

You guessed it. The button said, “Add Friend.”

This was the third and final former pastor’s wife.

Now, I know better than most that Christians are just people, and they’re all human, but this one was shocking because when last I’d spoken to her [and not that long ago] we’d been fine. I knew we disagreed on politics, but we just didn’t go there.  We had enough other stuff to keep in touch about, so I just figured I’d avoid commenting on her completely batshit crazy political posts, and she would continue to ignore my occasionally obnoxious, but amazingly fact-based ones [don’t even start. I never post anything I haven’t double checked to be true].

Here’s what gets me, though. I’m a liberal, and such a minority in my group of family and friends that I think I’m beginning to understand how the one biracial kid in my school must have felt being outnumbered and hated by virtually everyone around him. In fact, I’ve let it affect what I post on Facebook, because as much as they’ll deny it, conservatives [and especially conservative Christians] are positively venomous when they disagree with you.

They also assume that you can’t possibly be a good person or a Christian if you’re liberal. Now, I’m not a Christian anymore, but I became a liberal WAY before I deconverted.  One may very well have led to the other, because in order to be a liberal, you have to be willing to admit you’re wrong.  Once I realized that so many things I’d been told and believed about politics were blatantly false,  [and since those things were told to me by my religious leaders…that led me to question Christianity, too] I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Oddly, I’m actually more considerate and genuinely care about the people around me WAY more than I did before, but very few Christians will even admit the possibility that what I say is true.

So this final pastor’s wife de-friending me shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve known on an intellectual level that she was extremely judgmental and very likely disagreed with me about politics on a very deep level. I suppose I should be happy she just defriended me instead of yelling at me before she left, but on an emotional level, I’m pissed. And I’m pissed because I’m also hurt.

I guess on some level I really really want to be wrong.  I want to believe that everyone can rise above hatred and prejudice and love each other in spite of our differences.  I keep hoping that we’re moving forward instead of backward, and every time some dumbass state passes a new law aimed at subjugating women, or the GLBT community, or some other historically marginalized group of people in ‘God’s’ name, I just sit here flabbergasted as people on FB applaud and scream craziness about taking over the country for God.  And with the same breath, they condemn Muslim theocracies for being evil…seriously?  Talk about the pot and kettle.

All the evidence seems to be pointing to religion being the instigator of all this evil, and that goes against everything I want to believe.  There’s a part of me that wishes I’d just stayed asleep, uninformed, and brainwashed.  Because now, I’m stuck in the middle of a bunch of maniacs who would probably like to beat the hell out of me [or at least get me to shut the fuck up] and I’ve never felt so unspeakably lonely in my life.

How can one person ever make a difference when they’re so outnumbered and considered less than intelligent for disagreeing?  And the damnedest thing is, I’m not wrong, and I’m not stupid. But my voice is being systematically chipped away at.  I can’t even count the number of things I don’t post because I’m actually afraid someone is going to start yelling at me. Or calling me on the phone to beg me to stop talking about what I believe in.

How is it possible that the people who say they love me want me to lie about who I am?  And if I say something they don’t like, they de-friend me?  Is that what love looks like?  Seriously?  How can anyone love their opinions more than they love a fellow human being?

 

Right now, I pretty much hate everyone.  Thanks for nothing.

Change of Heart

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Good grief.  So I did a little research about US history in the past decade and the more I read, the more I stand firm.

For those who think I must have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday and hit my head really hard [because who in their right mind would think the way I do?!?], I’ll tell you now, it took me eight years of fact checking and wrestling with my conscience to finally accept that I’d been manipulated into fighting for something I disagree with all the way down to my soul.

Because I spent those eight years researching and struggling to find the truth, you can rest assured that even though I somehow came to a conclusion that a lot of people disagree with, I didn’t do it on a whim, and I didn’t do it without a LOT of serious thought and prayer about how to handle my change of heart.

I was shocked to find that once I stopped taking someone else’s word for it on what the truth was and set out to find it on my own, my own perception was WAY different than what I’d been taught.  If I’m being honest here, I felt seriously betrayed and lied to.  How is it nobody had ever told me the unvarnished truth?  Why did everything have to be tarnished and sullied by ‘spin’ to make the other side sound utterly evil? I should say that I don’t think these people told me falsehoods out of malice or any intent to harm me.  They genuinely believed what they were saying.

Once I listened, really listened, to what the other side was saying, I found that there was no way I could continue on the path I’d been following for years.  And then came the guilt.  How had I been so blind?

The fact is, it was my own fault.  Growing up, I was pretty much a free spirit.  My whole philosophy centered around love, which included being compassionate and trying to figure out a way that everyone could have enough to have their basic needs met.

I was kind of a hippie, which, in the 90s was something I didn’t talk about much. And I guess I was also a closet communist [in the same way the hippies were, with their Communes].  Because see, in my heart of hearts, I’m perfectly okay with working and pooling resources with others and sharing everything equally so that we all have enough.

You can’t even imagine how exhilarated I was the first time I read Acts.  Holy crapoli!  These people shared everything with each other!  To my mind and heart, this is a beautiful thing.  No one cares about who has the most ‘stuff’ because it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we all have enough to live the lives we were created to live, whether that means writing poetry, working in a garden, sewing clothes, being a nurse or doctor, or whatever.  Reaching as much of our own potential as we want is the only goal because we don’t have to scrape and fight for our basic needs to be met.  It’s already taken care of.

I saw the picture in Acts as a model for us to live by.  Needless to say, I was devastated when the people I cared about not only didn’t receive the idea with enthusiasm, but actually became hostile.

Here’s the thing, though, when we’re ruled by love and compassion for each other above all else, it’s not about who deserves what based on what they’ve done or not done.  It’s about seeing a need and filling it, because it’s the right thing to do, and because it’s also what we would have done to us.

So it didn’t take long for me to realize that regardless of what people say, love is always conditional, which is why Communism in practice is not a good thing.  If people could get over their greed and selfishness, it would work brilliantly, but because we’re so worried about having what we want, we’re willing to prevent others from having their needs met, and we’re even gleeful about it, because they don’t deserve it because they didn’t earn it.

I found myself disillusioned and even horrified when I realized this.  I managed to think that way for a few years, and I’m still struggling with the soul-deep scars it left behind.  What bothers me the most is that I learned about this judgmental, conditional take on love in the exact same place I was taught that even though I would never be able to earn it, Jesus came to earth and became man so that I would not be lost.  So that I could have what I really needed: Life, and that abundantly.

I still don’t understand how people can claim to love others when their words and actions toward the weakest, most desolate of souls shows nothing but contempt and ‘Keep your hands off my shit. If you want some, go get it yourself.”

I’m pretty good with words, but I don’t even know how to express to you how utterly sad and hopeless and desolate I feel right now. And I have for a long time.  In fact, ultimately, this is what caused me to basically cut ties with all things Christian.  For a while, I was so angry with God I couldn’t even talk to him, let alone follow him.  I hated the church for a while, too, and I’m still unspeakably disappointed in how badly it’s gotten twisted.

Recent events have gotten me praying again, and I think I’m slowly beginning to come back around to wanting a relationship with God, but I’m having to test the waters all over again and try to figure out if He can actually be trusted or not.  Because based on my personal experience, I’m just not sure anymore.  I was lied to and victimized in so many ways by Religion, and it managed to bring out the very worst in me while almost obliterating everything that was good.  I don’t know how or why my experience was so incredibly different than what most people talk about, but it was.  And now I’m left here, trying to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out if it’s even worth another shot.

And in an odd way, all of this started with an election a few years ago, where I believed a man who claimed that God was guiding him, and then a few short months later,  watched in horror as he showed with his actions that he had no idea what love, compassion and stewardship looked like.  Oh, he was loving and compassionate to our countrymen and anyone else who followed his real religion of “Democracy… Or Else,” but he didn’t bat an eye when it came to disregarding the freedom of others, or their human rights.

And before anyone dares go off on me about 9/11 and our human rights, you can just back off.  That eye for an eye bullshit died with Jesus on the Cross, and two wrongs DON’T make a right.  Gitmo was wrong.  Indefinitely imprisoning a human being who has not been officially charged with anything is wrong.  Torture is wrong.  And just because someone else does it is NOT a valid argument to justify that behavior in ourselves.

I’m frustrated, sad, and downright angry right now.  I brought up a lot of stuff writing this post that I still haven’t worked through yet, and it was a little ahead of schedule for some of it.  I’m taking baby steps in regards to God, and that’s what’s best for me right now.  I know all the ‘comforts’ Christians like to offer in cases like mine, because I used to say them to others.  I finally see just how little good they do.  This goes a lot deeper than some cliche on an embroidered napkin.

I’m not sure where this path is going.  I feel that maybe I’ll end up stronger for it, but I gotta say, it kinda sucks right now.  And there’s nothing anybody can really do about it, either, except maybe pray for me.  I want the truth, no matter what that may be.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  I guess the bright side is, the more lies, distortions, and untruths I find, the closer I am to finding the real truth, right?  Heh.  Great.  This should only take what, another thousand years or so?

ARGH!

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So am I the only one who sees the sick irony of our country today?  I hear so many people talking about the government trying to steal our money, and how evil President Obama is for trying to create a healthcare bill that will enable the poorest of us to have access to affordable healthcare, and frankly, I do not understand how we can have so little compassion for our fellow human beings.

How is it possible that we claim to be Christians, but refuse his call to love and compassion as long as we or someone we care about isn’t in trouble? And sometimes even then, we pretty much just offer to ‘pray’.

I went without health insurance for five and a half years, and spent another five years without enough money for the co-pays so I could get the help I needed.  I got a helluva lot sicker than I needed to because I couldn’t afford to see a doctor when my issues were mild.  I remember what it’s like to hope and pray I didn’t get sick and end up in the hospital because there was no way I could pay the bill.

I remember what it was like to go in to the ER without health insurance and be sent home with some pills when I probably should have been admitted and undergone some actual medical testing.  And the few times I did end up getting tested for something [only after we had insurance, but not quite enough to cover my expenses] I remember sobbing because there was no way I could pay the medical bill and feed my kids, too.

I also remember being on Medicaid and going into a doctor’s office for my kids and being treated like I was an uneducated piece of trailer trash who didn’t deserve any respect because I was part of the problem in America, sucking on the government tit. I remember going into the WIC office to get vouchers, and jumping through the hoops of proving I was poor, just so I could pay for formula so my kids could live.  I hated all of it, but I had no choice.  We were in a situation where I couldn’t work because of my health, and Steve had a job, but it didn’t pay well enough to cover our living expenses, let alone pay for health insurance [which wasn’t offered where he worked].

So yeah, I’m all for a healthcare plan that gives the poor access to medical care.  And I’m willing to pay for it even though I’m still not rich, and still living paycheck to paycheck.  Because the ends finally meet at the end, and I’m willing to share what little I have so that others have an opportunity to live a life that’s just a little bit easier than what I’ve been through.

If that makes me a bleeding heart liberal or a moron, then so be it.  At least I never, EVER forget that each and every person on the planet has a soul that is just as sacred as mine is, a human being that is just as deserving of dignity and respect as I am.  Not because they’re extraordinary, or even decent human beings, but because they were created in the image of God, and bear his reflection, no matter how dim it may seem to me.

As for why I support the government using my tax money to help the poor, well, it’s because the people who were supposed to do it dropped the ball in a bad way.  Yeah. I’m talking about the majority of the citizens of the US because most of us claim to be Christians.

If we had taken up the responsibility given to us by Christ himself and taken care of the poor, the weak, the widows, prisoners, and disabled, the government would never have had to step in in the first place.  But we didn’t.  We didn’t give a shit, and let them suffer and die alone.

And so when the government says, “You know what, this is wrong.  We need to do something about it,” Those same “Christians”, who refused to offer succor to the helpless on their own, stand up in protest, saying their money is being stolen from them.

At least the government is trying to help.  Christians today seem more concerned about having their huge church buildings and social clubs than actually doing something useful that will not only give someone immediate relief from suffering, but have eternal consequences as well.  I think it’s a sad sad day when a government as corrupt as ours seems to have more compassion for the weak and helpless than the people who were charged with being a “light in the darkness”.

I can’t count the number of massive buildings I see on the outskirts of town and when I get to looking at them, find out they’re church buildings worth millions of dollars, that cost thousands each week to keep up, that are open for ‘business’ a whopping two or three days a week.  If that was a business, it would be closed down in no time.  I’m sorry, but if you give a quarter of a million dollars to various charities or missionaries or whatever, but spend millions on maintaining your building, where are you really storing your treasures?

I fell into the trap for a long time that said if the political candidate claimed to be a Christian and was against abortion, I was morally obligated to vote for that person.  But once I got to looking at how these people voted for the already born, I found that they did nothing to prevent child abuse, nothing to make sure our children get a good education [and the one time they tried, after it became clear it wasn’t going to work out the way they’d hoped, and became a nightmare for everyone involved, they did nothing to fix it], and were all for killing or at the very least disrespecting anyone who doesn’t believe in Christianity.  Not only that, but they did nothing to make sure that anyone who can’t afford exorbitant insurance premiums and co-pays have access to decent healthcare.

How in the bleeding hell is it better to have no access to healthcare than to have some?!?  How is it better to pay an HMO countless thousands of dollars to tell you that since you’re probably terminal, they aren’t going to pay for your chemo?  Or that since you’re schizophrenic, you’re better off living on the streets with no medication or money than in an institution?  And how much of an asshole does it make the people who say that stuff out loud, whether literally or figuratively through their voting?

Who are you to tell anyone they don’t deserve medication because they don’t have a job?  Who are you to judge someone who doesn’t have a job as unworthy of compassion?  You don’t know their story.  You don’t know how they ended up where they are.  As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that I was never uneducated trailer trash, and even if I had been, I would still deserve to be treated with respect by virtue of my being a living entity on this planet.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done to  me.”  If that’s true, how many ‘Christians’ are gonna feel like shitheels when they see the one they claim to serve?