Sunday, January 29, 2006

Administration Information Police Strike Again

Is there any limit to the lengths the Bush Administration will go to control the information the American people are allowed to receive? This is very, very disturbing...

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

By ANDREW C. REVKIN Published: January 29, 2006

"The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming."

(You'll need to create a log-in to The New York Times online to read the story. Go ahead...its easy, it's free, and having access to a little information never hurts.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Things

I got these for Christmas. As soon as it stops raining, I'll apply them to my politically incorrect but economically necessary truck-beast....

Friday, January 27, 2006

Love and Respect

Two days ago, my husband and I had a serious tiff. In the tense aftermath of the initial salvo, I actually packed up my pillow and blanket and slept in the guest room. It felt…wrong. As far as I can recall (it’s been a loooong thirty years) I’ve never done that before. Never deliberately moved out of the conjugal bed in anger. But I was angry. And due to the nature of the argument (at issue was whether everything/anything I said was valid or required acknowledgement), we had not talked it out or resolved anything by bed-time. I was nowhere near ready to not let the sun set on my anger. The quasi-apologetic kiss that would seal the truce and let the transgression slide, allowing us to share a bed in peace, was not forthcoming. And turning my back in stony silence to the warm body occupying the west side of the mattress was an adolescent drama in which I was too old to partake. So the guest room, it was.

Next morning, I felt foolish, but not foolish enough. I was still angry with the old man, still not ready to bury the hatchet when he walked through the door after work. I wanted so badly to leave a note, take the car, and head for a room at the beach to clear my head. I’d have done it, too…I know it. Except that husband had driven our only trustworthy vehicle to work. And I had a dentist appointment the next day before noon. Ah, how the mundane realities of life conspire to sabotage our more dramatic aspirations! Still, I was determined not to be present when the mighty hunter returned that evening. I spent the day stewing in my own juices, nursing my grievance. And, a half-hour before he was due to arrive home, I took off for…the library.

Why not put my pouting time to good use? I could do some research pursuant to my spiritual seeking. I wasn’t sure how much decent literature I would find on the subject, in our small town’s undistinguished library. It’s important for me to note that my mind was so half-invested in this task, that I left the house without even checking to make sure I had my library card with me. I desultorily scanned the catalog for a volume that might have relevance to my quest; and once I had the book in hand, I staked my claim on a chair near a window, so, with one eye on the state of twilight outside, I could gauge when I had stayed away from home long enough to prove my point. I was not actually committing myself to doing worthwhile research. It was simply as good a way as any to fritter away the time until I could make a dramatic, silent re-entry onto the home-front battlefield.

In the back of my mind, I realized that, once again, I was insulting the Divine by not putting my heart into my quest. I fully expected no return on my stingy investment of the meager, pre-occupied hour and a half I was willing to mete out because I had nothing better to do. But the universe is full of surprises, isn’t it?

The book I chose was a collection of interviews of Native American Wise Women. I’m irritated that the circumstances under which I unearthed this gem of a read have prevented me from remembering either the title or the name of the author. The book spoke to me, though; drove several points of light into the darkness in my soul. Outside, evening turned to a blustery, rain-drenched night. I knew I had to leave for home, or risk escalating the argument with my husband to a pitch I had not intended. Sans library card, I had to abandon the book. But I took the points of light with me.

"Love," said the first interviewee in the book. We were created to have love for all things—the earth, and all people. And respect. That is why we are in trouble now. Because we have no love, and no respect. How that spoke to me! All my life, I have been an emotional chameleon. I mirror whatever feelings are directed at me. If I am loved and respected, I return love and respect. But if I am hated, or dismissed, or ignored, or disrespected, I return those things…sometimes five or ten-fold. I looked at my life and realized that, no, I don’t show love. Or respect. There’s not a person in my life right now—husband, family, or friend—whom I have not felt disrespected by at some point in the recent past. And rather than maintain love and respect in my own soul, regardless of how I believe others have treated me, I have chosen to mirror the slights and hurts. They have become my life.

And, in a greater sense, the environment we all inhabit these days is poisoned by hatred and disrespect. It is next to impossible to reflect patience, love and courtesy while being bombarded by the fretfulness, hatred and rudeness that is our American society. From which there is really no escape, if you ever open a newspaper, turn on the television, listen to the radio, or…just walk outside your front door. Even so, according to this wise Indian woman (they call themselves "Indians" in the book…), we must love and respect. All creation depends upon us doing what we were created to do.

Show love. Have respect. I tucked those four words into my heart and took them home with me. And that night, I slept where I belonged.

Addendum 1/28: It occurred to me this morning that the card catalog at the library was online (duh) and I could access it from home. The book is Wisdom’s Daughters: Conversations with Women Elders of Native America by Steve Wall, published in 1993. I just ordered a used copy of it from Barnes & for 5 bucks. It would cost me that much in gas to drive out to the library and back…

Monday, January 23, 2006


Last week, I dropped over to "The Blue Voice," and felt compelled to comment upon a particular posting. Not the rah-rah, "You go!" comment I usually make—TBV is a left-leaning blog penned by folks whose views generally closely mirror my own. But I had to take issue with some statements that I felt went off in a direction that left-wingers, like, say, Hillary Clinton, seem all too prone to go these days.

I was reminded of the—shall we call it a point of disagreement?—when I stopped by Tina’s post on Ride Along With Me, where she linked back to a study pointed out by her husband. It seems the men in the study took measurable pleasure in seeing "bad people" receive painful physical stimuli-—revenge? As opposed to the women partipants, who evidently reacted sympathetically to witnessing anyone--good or bad--receive the electric shocks administered in the study.

This whole scenario hearkened back to an exchange I had with Neil last week at The Blue Voice. He posted an entry lauding the reported killings of some high-ranking Al Queda members in a bombing raid somewhere in Pakistan. He went on, in the comment string, to insist that Osama Bin Laden’s death was absolutely vital in retribution for 9/11. Admitted in so many words that his desire was for revenge, and that revenge was good and proper. Adding that once we attained that revenge, it would of course serve as a deterrent to other terrorists bent on attacking the US.

This just goes to show how even men whose political sympathies don’t necessarily follow the right-wing, war-hawk, get-them-before-they-can-get-us model that kept the Texas Cartel in power in Washington, can rationalize their basest instinctive bloodlust enough to claim it has practical and political merit. Who on earth could credibly conclude that murdering those who have no respect for any human life, not even their own—evidenced by their weapon of choice: young people willing to blow themselves to bits for the glory of taking a few of the godless invaders along with them—would serve as a deterrent? Certainly any thinking person would realize that the execution of those who believe that dying in jihad at the hands of infidels earns them a pass straight to paradise—only calls up longer and longer queues of zealots eager to do the same? In such a case, revenge becomes an emotional luxury in which we are foolhardy to indulge.

But, it’s not revenge. It’s justice. It’s "an eye for an eye." It’s courage. It’s patriotism. It’s proof of our lofty principles and our willingness to defend them. Our males have employed this semantic sleight of hand since we crawled far enough beyond the mouths of our caves to realize that, in order to keep ourselves from wiping out our own species, we needed social codes to curb our violent behavior. And the females…since time immemorial, we are the ones left behind to testify that all this exchange of blood changes nothing. We who have been brushed aside, trapped beneath the combat boots of the men who would ensure our complicity, we shake our heads and endlessly wonder why our men cannot comprehend the futility of their actions. We’re sent home to tend the graves of our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons who acted upon their "noble instincts" at any cost. Or we are ourselves buried, as collateral damage of our mates’ unreasoning lust for blood.

I know. Not every man harbors a violence-obsessed alter ego. Only the ones, it seems, who do the most damage. And not every woman recoils from the blood that stains the hands of her mate. Only the ones whose mournful wails have composed the score of all man’s bloodiest battles throughout time.

I'm sorry, Neil. I know it seems easy for me to pay lip service to adhering to a higher code, to overcoming emotions and thinking rationally about the consequences of the taking of any human life. I live a continent away from Ground Zero. What I know of the tragedy is, at best, second-hand. I didn't personally know anyone, or the family of anyone, killed on 9/11/01 at Osama Bin Laden's command. Still, I have to ask: What wrong, in all history, was ever made right by a vengeful killing? What transgression was ever washed clean in a bucket of blood? When will we ever learn? Thousands of years of human-upon-human violence have not yet given us cause to employ these massive brains, encased in these great skulls, perched upon these peculiarly upright spines, to contrive a way to keep us from destroying one another. From destroying ourselves. We will be the death of us, yet.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

California Dreamin'

A couple of purposeful taps and swipes conjure up a blank page on the monitor. It stares at me, a great, vacant white eye. And I stare back. My mind is as blank as that liquid crystal paper. Not a thought, not an image, not a feeling, transfers from it to my fingers…resting on the keyboard, clasping behind my head, rubbing my eyes in fatigue and frustration. Something, some vital electrical connection between my brain and…everything else…has simply shut down.

I’m not merely describing—poorly—a stubborn case of writers’ block. It’s life block. My body continues to perform the motions. I get out of bed, attend to my chores, do what needs to be done. I even make noises that sound as if I am both physically and mentally present in the moment. But, inside my head, I’ve taken to my bed. My will is prostrate, too overwhelmed to rise, too maxed out to care, too apathetic to act. It’s as if my mind and my flesh are no longer connected. The body, trained so well by half a century of habit, accustomed to continuing, goes on and on and on, in the face of every trial and challenge, large or small. But the mind has finally been brought, by one thought too many, one nearly weightless last straw added to the burden, to a grinding, groaning halt.

How odd it feels to press on through life in this disjointed, disconnected way. My body feels rather lonely, even traitorous, to be forging ahead without my mind. But it cannot subside. It fears going ahead alone less than it fears stopping. As much as it can feel fear at all, since it seems to have left 90% of its ability to feel behind, with my mind. Feeling is so overrated. And inconvenient.

One thought that my brain has formed has hung around long enough, and rattled loud enough, for my disconnected body to hear. "This cannot go on." Something must be done, a flame held to some wick, to light a fire hot enough to fuse the two parts of my being back into one. A flame? The sun? Where is the sun?

I know. It’s gone south. To California. So perhaps I should go there, too. Just to see what might happen.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I dug this out of the archives of my private journal...

When we reach a certain age, we craft our saws, sledges, and axes and hack our way through the chains that bind us to the old ways. We vow never to be slaves to whatever drove our parents. We belong to no one but ourselves, and we stand at the beginning of life’s road ready to head down it. Maybe a little to the right or left… Maybe down the straggling, almost invisible path that meanders along beside the road, sometimes disappears into the undergrowth, then comes back out, crosses, disappears and rejoins… I don’t think we ever envision throwing a rope around Mom and Dad’s waists and following them, step by step, right down the middle of their road. But the rope appears as if by magic, binds us against our will to the womb which surrounded us even after birth—our parents’ lives. What they did. What they believed. What they loved. What they hated. What they strove for. What was so much a part of the fabric of their being that the strong fibers of the warp and weft extend to and around their children as well.

So, here I am, fifty years old. And I’m standing on the road…maybe a little off to one side, but still attached, by that indestructible line, to my parents’ lives. Dad has crossed over, and Mom is dwindling, but their legacy is now as solid as they ever were. It goes on before me in their stead, sometimes guiding when I would have lost my way, more often pulling against where I really need to go. There is no reason to be where I am. There are no progeny attached to me as I was to my parents. Their lives were largely defined by post-war suburbia, and five children, and all the stuff that entailed, and working to acquire and maintain that stuff. Then retiring…taking a little time to enjoy for themselves the stuff they worked so hard to get and keep.

For five decades I have stepped along in my parents’ footprints, but the surrounding landscape has looked less and less inviting. From time to time, I see roads running parallel to the one I’m on. Just far enough away that I can see that the things along those highways are the things I want and need. But the rope that binds me is too short. I KNOW it can be stretched…I’ve seen others do it. But the secret has so far eluded me. I gaze hungrily at those parallel roads as I trudge along behind my parents, the frayed ends of the fabric of our familyflapping in the wind behind me. How do I transform that selvage into wings?

Friday, January 13, 2006


Yes, I snagged a new template. Not one of the fancier ones I’ve seen out there (which I find I am technologically challenged enough not to be able to utilize…) But I just had to brighten things up around here a little bit.

This past week has been…well, the only word I can settle on to describe it is dark. The weather has continued to be 90% hideous, abounding in pelting rain, charcoal gray skies, and general gloom. And over the weekend, I descended into the pit of suffering and despair that accompanies a major dental crisis. There is nothing quite like the excruciating pain of an infected molar, especially when one waits three days "to see if it will get better on its own" before one breaks down and calls a dentist. By the time I was reclining under the hypodermics in the seat of torture, I was literally ready to blow my own head off, if it meant relief from the agony. I know this sound melodramatic, but that’s exactly the space I was in.

So, this dental incident, on top of my post-holiday gloom and my disastrous "seeking" episode, have served to push me right to, if not over, the edge of a major depression episode. My life has been a continuous dance along the rim of that crevasse, but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in…at least not too far. I’ve always at least been able to haul my ass out of bed in the morning, shower, fix my hair, maybe put on some make-up, and go through the motions of life. Since coming home from the dentist Tuesday afternoon, I seem to have suffered a complete melt-down. I’ve taken mostly to my bed and hibernated for the last three days. I don’t feel that sick...just extremely sorry for myself. I feel myself sinking…

In an effort to stop the slide, I knew I had to change the colors of this journal to something a little easier on the eyes. All that black was like tuning into the bottom of the pit. This template is called "Sunburnt," I think. Which is what I wish I was, right now.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Seeking IV

Announcements, a song, and a prayer later, I headed gratefully toward the back of the church. Not quickly enough of course… The forest of hand-shakers had already sprouted up between me and the door. I plastered a smile over the disappointment that I’m sure must have been plain as a measles rash on my face, stuck out my hand, and made nice words come out of my mouth. I followed my husband through the little crowd, trusting him to read my distress and lead me out to the car as quickly as politely possible. To my utter torment, mere feet from freedom, he turned right instead of left, up the stairs toward the dreaded coffee and donuts. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I begged off to find a restroom, composed myself in the porcelain solitude, and strode back to the vestibule with renewed resolve. I shooed my husband toward the door, making lame excuses to the assembled donut-pushers to the effect that we had to go out and search for a more Weight-Watchers-friendly meal. Finally, we were out on the sidewalk. Safely in the car with the big gray building receding behind us, I let my eyes fill with the tears that were overflowing from my heart.

Tears? Why wasn’t I laughing? It really was funny. This experiment had been a disaster from start to finish. I couldn’t have—wouldn’t have—scripted a more cliché small-town religious experience if I’d been paid to do it. Still, the tears welled. My disappointment pummeled my sense of humor into submission. I felt…gypped. In the back of my mind were all those exhortations, recalled from the Pentecostal years, that God honored an honest seeker. I definitely did not feel honored. So, maybe I had received the answer I had been looking for about God…that I had been right, after all. That the omnipotent Architect of the Universe had no need or desire for an intimate relationship with me. That perhaps the world’s religions really are merely elaborate codes created by mankind in an effort to provide answers to the answerless questions, and to protect and defend some of man’s most basic tendencies…not all of which are positive. It would be so easy for me to climb up on my high horse, slightly wounded but resolute, and ride off into the sunset, secure in the knowledge that "God the Father" is a fantasy, and faith is a joke.

But, of course, it’s not that easy. I could not really claim that God hadn’t honored my honest seeking. How honest was I, after all? How seriously had I considered this "search?" How much thought and effort had I put into finding a place, a group, a person that would be able to answer my grave spiritual questions? If there is a God, he knows my history. He knows that my answers will not be found in a brief, stand-offish visit to a stagnant small-town ritual.

Examining my real incentive for this renewed interest in "church," I have to say that spiritual renewal is only half the motivation. Or maybe less than half. What I really crave is community. Friendship. Connection. A life outside my own head. Someone, something that can pull the energy outside of myself before I implode. I had found all these things in a congregation in the past, some twenty-odd years ago, in the bosom of our tiny Pentecostal church. I suppose I reasoned that if I unearthed a church that provided me with the community I craved, any quenching of my spiritual hunger would be a fortunate side-benefit. Unfortunately, I learned something about myself. I was physically unable to "go through the motions" of the rituals in order to gain the prize of connection with the community. Presented with the words in black and white, and asked to recite them, I could not treat them as some kind of incantation through which I could qualify myself for fellowship with these people…no matter how badly I needed that fellowship. In short, no matter what they may tell you in the self-help books, a church is no place to go looking for friends. Not for me, anyway.

I realize, now, that I have two separate issues to grapple with: my spiritual confusion, and my social isolation. It is possible that the resolution of one might lead to the resolution of the other… I could find all my answers in the right church community. But I need to choose one issue to solve at a time. Which means two things: I need to decide which of these things I more desperately need resolved. And I must determine which of them I have the greatest chance of dealing with successfully. Given my natural tendency toward introspection and solitude, I'm thinking the spiritual quest will get the nod. I'm much more likely to find at least the trailhead to that path in the place where I spend the most time--inside myself. And it is to be hoped that The Creator, unlike human beings, will accept me with all my warts, quirks, personality disorders, and fears, once I make up my mind which path to The Almighty works for me.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

No W's

Seeking III

How did I go about selecting a church to be square one of my odyssey? Did I go to the library and research the founders, philosophies, and activities of different denominations? Did I make appointments with local pastors to sit and discuss my spiritual status? Did I ask people I knew to recommend a good church? Those sound like intelligent, solid courses of action, don’t they? So, of course, I didn’t do any of those things. I did what any self-respecting twenty-first century American does when she discerns a need for something: I recalled a catchy television ad campaign. The United Methodists. Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. Shots of attractive people of all ages, colors, ethnic backgrounds, and possibly even sexual orientations, streaming into their church, looking happy, accepted and fulfilled. I suppose I figured that, given the tenor of the times, any sect that advertised nationally about having "open minds" was worth looking into.

The extent of my research was to locate the closest United Methodist Church. I found it up the highway about ten miles, in the next town. A largish, slightly ramshackle gray frame building with yellowed stained-glass windows. I drove by it and peered at it curiously, cautiously, as if the building itself might whisper something to me. Insidiously, it planted itself in the back of my mind, like a seed from a years-old, forgotten packet. Months, maybe even a year or more, went by, and that germ of faint attraction lay there, unresponsive, until I finally took it for granted that nothing was going to come of it. Until the flood of my post-holiday gloom washed over it and coaxed it to sprout. When I decided I needed a church, there it was, in all its faded glory. It seemed as good a place to start as any.

I don’t know what I expected to find when I walked through the doors last Sunday morning. Perhaps if I had given my expectations a little more reflection I might have been better prepared…might have even decided to look a little deeper into the thing before making the plunge. But I think I didn’t want to think about it. The story of my life has been to cogitate myself right out of doing things, making changes, going forward. I am the queen of coming up with reasons not to do things. My heart was sore enough that I didn’t think it was a good time to put my knee-jerk excessive caution into gear. I needed something and I had to start somewhere.

I had pictured walking through those doors into the congregation in the commercial—a diverse crowd of happy, progressive Christians of all ages. What actually greeted me—effusively, at the door, standing between me and a safe, anonymous seat in the back of the church—was an assembly of about fifty souls, easily eighty percent of whom were over seventy. They were sweet…they really were. But the red flag began to climb up the mast as soon as I started making my way through the gamut of outstretched, welcoming, wrinkled hands. I wish I could say it got better after I finally achieved safe haven in a pew. But then, of course, after the candle-lighting and the processioning, the minister exhorted us to "extend the peace of Christ" to each other, and we were hand-shaking and hugging all over again. This was no surprise, however, so I put myself on auto-pilot and participated in this ritual to the best of my stand-offish ability.

Song service consisted of a bunch of well-known Christmas songs played with a flourish by a lively organist, in a key impossibly high (or low) for me to sing in. Still, I sang along as well as I could, breaking into alto harmony when I couldn’t reach the high notes. Then the eleven-voice, mostly septuagenarian choir came forward and completely botched a performance of a sweet little German Christmas lullaby. I have long considered the existence of beautiful sacred music one of the transcendent proofs of the existence of God… And I wasn’t expecting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but perhaps a tuneful rendition of some selection, appropriately chosen to fit the talents of the well-meaning little choir, would have gone much further toward thawing my heart than all the handshakes and hugs they could muster. As it was, I struggled politely not to cringe, shake my head, or put my fingers in my ears as they massacred that poor little song. Yes, it was as bad as all that. I was embarrassed for them.

Still, I told myself that my unrealistically high expectations were to blame for spoiling the experience for me thus far. Surely the sermon would provide at least a taste of what I was craving. I realized I had been hungering for an inspiring, topical spiritual message, the like of which I haven’t heard since I backed painfully away from Pentecostalism years ago. Ah, but those men could preach! Those forty-minute homilies that took a moral message, attached it to a skeleton of biblical references, and then fleshed it out with anecdotes and exhortations, turning it into a spiritual feast big enough to gnaw upon for days. Sadly, the good-hearted Methodist minister’s rambling, stuttered message, which he read almost verbatim from his inadequate notes, proved yet another disappointment.

And then came the spiritual meat of the morning: The New Years Rededication Communion Service. Which turned out to be a chanted exchange between the leader and the congregation, read from the little pamphlet that had been tucked into my hand as I entered. It reminded me for all the world of the "dead" Catholic service I had rejected back in my teens. The rote recitation of the same words every Sunday, without feeling them in your heart or suffering the inconvenience of thinking about them, was one of the things that had driven me away from the stiflingly traditional Catholic mass. I felt that if I couldn’t say the words from my heart, and mean them, they shouldn’t come out of my mouth at all. Standing in the little Methodist church, thirty-five years and twenty-five hundred miles removed from that fervent little 70’s hippie, that same conviction gripped my heart and closed my mouth. As the congregation, including my husband, read the words of the Methodist profession of faith out loud from the pamphlet, I remained conspicuously silent. And felt miserably out of place. I did not belong here. I did not believe what these people were saying. I didn’t know what I believed. I certainly wasn’t ready to profess anything.

As the Communicants streamed toward the altar, I seriously considered turning tail and sneaking out the back door. But I could not find it in my heart to insult the little assembly, or embarrass myself, so blatantly. I gripped the back of the pew in front of me and resolved to complete my half of the bargain as best I could. I would carry this through to the end…or at least to the point of making a graceful exit.

To be continued…

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Seeking II

For a whole rainbow of reasons, I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of "shopping" for a religion. For one thing, I was born into the "One True Church," which, as a matter of policy, frowned heavily upon any such practice. Hellfire licked at the heels of the Catholic who even considered the possibility of finding "more" or "better" at an altar without a crucifix hanging above it and flanked right and left by curtained confessionals. The lingering affect of having cut my teeth on that spiritual provincialism is a persistent unease with the perceived disloyalty of going from church to church until you find one you can live with.

Childhood prohibitions aside, I simply lack the social "eptitude" required for the search. One of the primary functions of any church body worth its tithe is to make new-comers feel welcome. Very welcome. Extremely welcome. Way too welcome. For a devout wallflower like me, whose modus operundi in any social situation is to hang back and disappear into the woodwork until I’m comfortable enough to stretch a testing toe toward the waters, all those warm handshakes, friendly hugs, and ebullent invitations to coffee and donuts after service are enough to send me screaming toward the exit before the first candle is lit. It is a cultural ritual for which the most enthusiasm I can muster is to simply grit my teeth and bear it.

And then, there is the problem of my left-leaning political philosophies. I challenge anyone who is not a card-carrying conservative, or at least willing to fake the credentials in the interest of peace, to wade into the arena of Faith without fear of being burned at the stake, or worse. I know I won’t be happy being a closet liberal in a right-wing world. Been there and done that, and I have no intention of doing it again.

Considering all this, I must have felt, ultimately, a deep need for things of the spirit; acute enough to give me the courage to set my qualms aside and launch a quest for a spiritual home. Loneliness and fear can be powerful motivators. The loneliness of a life lived to an ever-increasing degree inside my own head; the fear of moving ever more swiftly toward the end of that life, and having no idea what might lie beyond. And needing to believe that something does, if only to calm my fears enough for me to be able make it to the end without losing my mind. Does this constitute a deep spiritual need? I suppose not. But I guess I thought that desperation for human connection and a need for reassurance on the question of an afterlife were good enough reasons to embark upon the search. Perhaps the purity of my motivation, or lack thereof, was responsible for the outcome of the visit to the first church on my list.

to be continued...

Monday, January 02, 2006


Facing the blank page of my future, I’ve been inclined to reach into the past for things to fill it. Increasingly, I have looked back at my life, at times when I was "happy" or felt "fulfilled," and tried to analyze the circumstances, identify the thing that made me happy, so that I could go after it again. I remembered being happy at my "dream job…" For many, many years, I quested after another one. To the point that job hunting was my job for nearly a decade. And I never found it. Whether my focus was too narrow, or my standards set impossibly high, the next perfect opportunity never presented itself. I gave up and finally started my own business. Which, I realize now, was the answer all along.

Still, I’m not really happy, and I’m a far cry from fulfilled. There’s a huge hole in my life, the one that used to be filled with family and friends. Again, it’s taken me nearly a decade to realize that the feeble attempts I have made to fill that hole have failed dismally. I’ve tried joining a gym, taking classes, volunteering… I’m such a solitary soul, these things don’t work for me. I go to the gym, or the class, or the job, get down to the business at hand, and go home. I don’t mean to be anti-social. I just…am. And it looks like I am not destined to encounter that kind group who will see past my social ineptitude and take me under its wing.

Recently, I’ve realized there is another emptiness in my life—a spiritual void. Shortly after my sister’s death, I walked away from faith in the traditional Christian concept of God. I wasn’t angry with God, not really. I simply realized that there were too many inconsistencies between the great benevolent parent-in-the-sky I have been led to believe in, and the things that actually happened on this earth. That I was no more interested in having a personal relationship with the unknowable, omnipotent Architect of creation than It was in having one with me. The recent ugly tide of self-righteous, xenophobic, intolerant fundamentalism has done nothing to soften my heart, or call me toward seeking a renewed relationship with the Almighty.

Lately, though, I’ve discovered that life’s earliest lessons, the ones written on the heart when the heart was still soft and clean and eager to accept them, are the hardest ones to unlearn. That God who was branded upon my soul, practically in my infancy,is still there…at least, I think He is. Finally, my ever more desperate loneliness has led me to reach for that last diminishing light from my past. All my other feeble attempts to find a community that will have me have failed. In some convoluted way, I half-believed that perhaps it was because I had turned my back on God that I had become so lonely and disconnected. How easy it was to pull that kind of logic out of the deep recesses of my soul, where I had thought it long turned to dust from disuse.

At last, I decided that perhaps there might be a church out there somewhere that could restore my faith…in God, in people, in myself. So, Sunday morning, January 1, 2006, I stepped out of my head and into the first church I had entered voluntarily, with a mind to reconciliation, in a very, very long time.

To be continued….

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Thoughts for the New Year

Last night, for the first time in years, we went out for New Years Eve. Dressed up and everything…to the extent that Oregonians dress up for anything. I looked decent, in a drapey, bohemian Stevie Nicks sort of way...showing the slow graceful glow of age…

The name of the band—"Acoustic Minds"—attracted me. It sounded intimate. Thoughtful. Tuneful. A band, perhaps, that could be appreciated without sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears.

They were young. They were good. We sat through all three sets, strapped on our shiny befeathered party hats and tooted our cardboard horns at midnight. It was a pleasant evening. Significantly different than the last several new years, which we have rung in surrounded by family…that family around whom I always feel I need to be bobbing and weaving.

Will this deviation from our traditional keeping of the holiday portend a similar departure from the routine in the coming year? One can only hope. This morning I realized that as of December 26, 2005, I had stiffened my spine and determined to march off in exactly the same direction as I had 365 days prior. Up to my eyeballs in family estrangements, I had resolved to turn around, dust off my hands, and go off in search of a life to replace the one I wanted but couldn’t have. The one where I have been beating upon a door seven years closed.

In 2006, I want…more. More of something. Anything. I want to load up my life with so many things that, by the time the holiday season rolls around in 2006, I may or may not have room to squeeze in those people who have let me know plainly that I have not the importance in their lives that they have in mine. It only makes sense… You can only knock on a locked door for so long before you realize it’s never going to open.

At the dawn of each of the last six new years, I’ve made the same sad decision to walk away from that door. But the world has turned, changed, gone forward without me. I’m out of phase. I’m a twentieth-century seeker in a twenty-first century reality. My skills are rusty; my contacts outdated. Still, each year, I get a little further down the road before the brick wall of pure aloneness rises in front of me. Blocks the road and sends me creeping back to that same old familiar doorstep.

May this be the year that I finally break through that wall. Reach through the hole and grasp a new reality. One with warm bodies to welcome and enfold me. Or at least restrain me from turning back toward that old, locked door.