Happy Independence Day! Today is a day to celebrate freedom from oppression and freedom to believe as our consciences dictate. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a hallmark moment and a precursor for the development of the democracy that Americans hold sacred. Our country is in a painful place today, and our community connections and our international relationships have sustained damage that at times feels irreversible. We are watching horrific injustices unfold on our own soil and struggling to find the most effective use of the power afforded us in a democracy to make desperately needed changes. But the American spirit that I cherish, characterized by service, honor, diversity, and personal and religious freedoms is a fighting spirit, and there are too many warmhearted, intelligent, progressive, and generous souls here to warrant my ever giving up on our ability to do the right thing. I value the ideals upon which this country was founded, even in their imperfection. I value our history of offering asylum and freedom and opportunity to the marginalized and the suffering. Those ideals and these passionate, truth-seeking individuals will be the spark that TRULY makes America great again.
The best things in life are free…
This is one of those sayings that we have heard many times, and we just accept it as truth. And the Beatles helped convinced us, didn’t they?
I, however, live in the “everything has a cost” camp, which at a glance, appears to be where all the cynical kids play. I am here to argue that we are indeed the hopeful campers. Everything that matters in life has cost me something. That’s in part why it matters to me. To prove my point, I’ll illuminate my top three.
My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. I know that we Christians like to say it costs us nothing, and I agree that God’s grace is a free gift. But I’m talking about the choice, every day, to put my spiritual life at the forefront. To really examine what God/dess would have me do, and align my behaviors accordingly. It’s painful, friends. And costly. There are plenty of times I would prefer to shout at someone in anger or (this one is the biggie for me) keep score and seek revenge. Choosing not to engage in those behaviors is a challenge for people like me.
My children come just after God, and anyone with kids will tell you that parenthood isn’t free from struggle and sacrifice. Need I go on?
And my number three is the development of my nonprofit organization and my writing life–because they are intertwined. I’ve been writing since I could spell “writing,” and it is my saving grace. I can say this without fear of sacrilege because for me, the Divine is born in me through my words. When I set out to be a writer, as you can imagine, I got nods and smiles and pats on the head. While some of my peers earned business degrees and went on to celebrate with gargantuan salaries, and others followed a different bliss, maybe one similar to mine in teaching or social services (which I did for a while, too), I was fighting to find MY bliss and live MY truth, as I felt the Universe had asked me to do. I’m not suggesting that my friends aren’t living authentic lives; I’m saying that the predictable schedules and income and the safety those things offer are the things I had to give up to BE a writer–to step into my truest self and honor who I was created to become. I had to risk not making rent. I had to skip the summer trips to the beach. At one time I was working FIVE part-time jobs! I had to piece together a living that would keep us fed and also feed my soul. I had to eschew romance and instead choose the quiet solitude wherein I could hear the voice of God/dess whispering to me. My children paid for it too, which was at times painful to watch–its images full of triggers for guilt, questions, and self-doubt (the mommy’s Holy Trinity).
These are things I value most. And they were not free. I love my relationship with God. It is a highly personal one, and it is my compass in all earthly matters. My children are my heart. They have brought me greater joy than any other experience in life. And my time at the keyboard or notebook is filled with moments during which I am most fully alive. The price tag for all three was crazy high. But totally worth it.
What are your top three, and how much are you willing to pay for them?
I was chatting with a friend today about how scary it is to be putting myself out there like I am with my writing. All my secrets are exposed. No more mystery or wonder for new people meeting me. They can just come here and learn about my fears and mistakes, and visit all my skeletons. Men who might want to date me can find my weaknesses, employers can decide if I am worthy for their upstanding company, and so on.
Her response? You must keep being honest. Your posts are engaging exactly BECAUSE you are naked. People need you, and you need to know that you can do this.
I knew when God whispered in my ear a few years ago that I had to start coaching others to live more creatively and to tell their stories, that He also meant I was going to have to tell my stories. Not just the ones with the happy endings, either. I knew it would cost me. But I know better than to say no to the big guy.
So I started thinking that really, everything has a cost. Every choice we make, is, in essence, a letting-go-of all the other options. Every time we get out of bed in the morning, we let go of the safety of staying curled up in our warm blanket. Every time we get in our cars, we let go of the option of staying home, or of taking the train. Every time we make love to someone new, we let go of the security of hiding our bodies and our souls from that person just a little while longer. It’s that small, and it’s that big.
Telling you my stories means I have to let go of the desire for you to only know my pretty parts. You know, the parts where I am educated, published, happily single and the mother of three beautiful and successful children who adore me? You might discover that I have, in fact, said unspeakably cruel things to each of my children at one time or another–things I can never take back, things they can never unhear. You might discover that I am up to my eyeballs in student loan debt and barely make a living wage and wonder why in the hell I took out all those loans just to be a teacher and starving writer. You might learn that my first book, non-fiction, barely sold enough copies for me to buy groceries for a few months. And…you might discover that as much as I love my independence and my alone time, there are nights when I cry myself to sleep wondering if I will die alone and turn into Alinda soup before anyone finds me.
There you have it. Now you can officially be unimpressed with me. And that has to be okay. Because I can’t preach to you to live your truth if I can’t live mine.
The bottom line for me is always this: I can choose to shut it down, to never risk myself. I can choose to build walls to keep out the hurt, the disappointment, the judgment. But that shutdown means I don’t get to experience joy, wonder, curiosity, love, or sexual pleasure, and those walls also keep out the people and things I so desperately seek to hold close to me. Nothing is free in this life. My dad was right about that. We just have to decide what we want more than safety, and then go get that thing, even if we must do it completely naked.
In truth and love,
My divorce has been final for five years (and two days). I, being me, have spent some serious time reflecting during my divorsersary. (It’s my blog. I can make up words). The traditional five-year anniversary element is wood, but I haven’t seen any of that in a while, so let’s make it chocolate instead. After twenty years of marriage, I’m not sure why I expected that divorce would be a blissful journey to independence. There have, of course, been moments of bliss, but they were rare in years one and two. They did begin to show their pretty little faces in years three and four. In year five, however, I learned this: Bliss is mine for the taking. It was always there, waiting for me to be ready. That’s not all I learned, though. In fact, here is what I know today about my self and about surviving (and embracing) divorce and single motherhood:
- I always believed I was a thinker, trying to be a feeler. Then I thought I was a feeler who intellectualized to cope with pain. Today, I am a woman who trusts her heart, and uses her brain.
- Life hurts really fucking bad sometimes.
- Wine (see #2)
- The devil really IS in the details, but so is God.
- I am not invisible.
- I am stronger than I thought. Strength looks way different than I expected.
- I am more sensitive and vulnerable than I thought. And I’m okay with that.
- I am happy now that I was a bookworm in high school while my friends were eating at Chili’s with their boyfriends. Dating is overrated. Books are orgasmically good.
- I am a member of a community.
- The middle of the bed feels AMAZING!
- I can (and will) do anything to put food on the table. On a related note, Pinot Grigio is three bucks a bottle at Trader Joe’s.
- I’m a bad-ass ninja warrior.
- My kids are evidence that love is a good thing, and also proof that I know how to do it. So take that, Tinder a-holes.
I will stop at a baker’s dozen. It works for donuts, right?
In Truth and Love,
I love my church. I say this at the risk of turning away readers, because for some people, the word “church” is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. Others find the word even more upsetting, because, unfortunately there are way too many people out there who have suffered spiritual abuse, and so they connect the word “God” with something unspeakable. I ask that you stick with me, though. Trust this stranger for just a few minutes and hear me out. Let me share with you my thoughts on why church-y people have become the enemy.
To offer an analogy, here are my thoughts on marriage. I tend to be somewhat anti-marriage, when in reality, the institution (love that word) isn’t always the problem; it’s often the spouses who have made it a dirty word for me. I know two, yes, exactly TWO happily married couples, out of the dozens of married friends I have. Depressing, isn’t it? I am trying to not eschew marriage completely (although it isn’t right for me at this time) and to stay open to its potential goodness. I think people see religion the same way. So many people have done so many ugly things in the name of the church, that just the mention of God is frightening.
I’ll be honest. I am a Jesus freak. Yet, I don’t think you need to love Jesus, or even know Him, to “get it.” or to get me. I really hope my pastor isn’t reading this. What I am trying to say is that I am a Christian because I believe in the essence of what Jesus is. I believe that selflessness, unconditional love, service, and yes, even miracles, are what make life worth living. I think they exist, and I think we all have the capacity to be loving without limits. I do personally have a relationship with a power I believe to be God/Jesus, but I recognize that maybe those guys really are named George and Jane. Who the heck knows? That’s why it is called “faith.”
I am saddened that so many monstrosities have been performed in the name of God. I’d be pretty pissed if someone went out and robbed a liquor store and spray painted my name on the door when he left. It might cause people to doubt me. It might cause people to judge me. It might cause people to feel hurt because they trusted me. Now Alinda is the bad guy. I know it’s simplifying things, but I think about weird stuff like that. I do know, however, that there is a power way bigger and way smarter than I, a power that isn’t destroyed by His name being sullied. He is bigger than that. I suspect Jesus loves it when someone spray paints his name on a door. It gets people talking.
I don’t have any answers, and I can’t convince you that God is good. But I hope that you might feel compelled to at least start thinking about it.
In Truth and Love,