This is an inner journey. A journey of the spiritual and mundane and about being human. An imperfect journey. My journey.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reflections on Father's Day

As I sipped at my first cup of coffee this morning and scrolled through Facebook reading all the wonderful Father's Day memories and tributes and memories, I was struck by the fact that my own connection to a patriarchal figure was tenuous at best. I am the result of a one night stand between my biological father and mother who were divorced at the time. Times being what they were in the 1950's, a hurried shotgun wedding was undertaken to legitimize my legal status and satisfy both my mother's father and the Roman Catholic Church. An equally rapid divorce followed, and I was shipped off to be raised by my mother's parents for the next 18 years.

Both of my parents remarried. After my father was discharged from the Army, he married a wonderful older Creole woman of color and was immediately shunned by my mother's side of the family for good. My mother, or the other hand, continued to make marriage into a past time, marrying two more times  (for a total of five marriages, with numerous hook-ups in between). To be brutal about it, some people just aren't cut out to be parents.

My father visited me at Christmas and on the birthday we share up until the time I was thirteen. He had been a cook in the Army ( like my maternal grandfather), specifically a baker. After the military, he went to work in an upscale boutique dessert shop making cakes and candies; he smelled of chocolate when he stopped by to leave the child support check with my grandparents. On our too few visits together he taught me to decorate cakes and hand-dip chocolates. ( The result is that today, I make wicked-good butter creams from scratch.) The last time I saw him was when I was in the hospital after having my tonsils removed. My last memory of him was as a shadowy figure with a nimbus of light around him as he stood in the doorway to my room. I was still too drugged-up from the surgery to remember anything other than he said he loved me.  After that  night, I never saw him again.

My mother's parents raised me in a modest home. Pop was the local fire chief; Mom was a homemaker whose hobbies included crochet and alcohol. Unlike friends my age, there are virtually no childhood photographs of me after the age of five. I suspect it's because I have my father's features: my step-brother and I look exactly like him. More to the point, I do not look like anyone on my mother's side of the family which have very obviously Sicilian. Most of my formative years were spent staying out of the way or hiding from my grandparents to avoid being in the line of fire during one of their epic arguments; saying their relationship was volatile would be a kindness and an understatement. On those rare occasions when Pop took an interest in me-usually during one of Mom's lengthy drinking binges, I would accompany him on one of his side jobs doing general contracting, or we'd spend time in the kitchen. Pop had been a cook in the Army, and it was something he was particularly good at because he'd received an excellent education at the Cooks and Bakers School at Fort Dix. He taught both Mom and I to cook. Our time in the kitchen is my most positive snap shot memory of him, and all the other miserable crap from my childhood falls away when I think of it.

After both my father and grandfather died, two wonderful men were introduced into my life and became my Dads of Choice. Forest and George were both accomplished in their chosen professions, and well respected in the community. They were the fathers of grown biological children when they came into my life, and quite frankly, they redeemed all other males in my eyes. To qualify that statement, I am keenly aware of their faults, but some how that just made them that much more genuine.

I can add my friend John Denver to those who have been influential and gave me insight to the complexity of what it is to be a man. A side from his long, illustrious career as a renowned entertainer, he was the best example I can think of in how to turn fame into stewardship. He was just as much a humanitarian as anything else and he cared-he suffered-for the world. His greatest joy, however, was being a father. Being a father is what drove his desire to preserve the natural resources of our planet, it was behind nearly every charitable endeavor he involved himself in: ending hunger, worldwide environmental causes, serving the disenfranchised, space exploration. His fame became a stepping stone into all of these areas, and he participated not for himself, but for generations to come.

We honor our fathers- whether of blood or choice- on this day which is set aside to give thanks for their support and nurture. I believe it's a day out of time when we should sit back and think about all the things that make a man a Father, and exactly what parenting is.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Good For The Soul: Venting and Rants

               "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."~ Thomas Jefferson

I am a little ashamed that I've neglected this blog; it's not that I stopped meditating and making self-examination. Just the opposite; self-examination is never ending and it takes a lot of time.
I confess that I've been writing for my other blog, the one my esoteric alter ego finds fun and which allows be to be somewhat anonymous, because I at times find it difficult to write when I'm the subject.   I'm still fighting that part of my upbringing that whispers in my ear late at night that people who write about themselves are egotistical and narcissistic. Those who know and abide by the rules of etiquette reserve the opportunity to speak up when they have been prompted. Nice girls don't bring attention to themselves, ever, unless they've done something to earn the admiration and praise of others.

Occasionally I need to throw out the conventional, ignore the rules and force myself to have feelings I don't want to face and say things that make me (and others) uncomfortable. Now might be one of those times.

Editing this entry a little while ago made me wonder if I didn't sound just a teensy bit more angry than the situation warranted. The simple truth is that I wasn't angry at all, I was more exasperated than anything else...Since I'm convinced that indulging in venting and rants are good for the soul, here are some of my current pet peeves for you to relate to as they apply and which I suspect you share too:

  • I am tired of being a "good girl". I did not choose to be stereotyped as a paragon of propriety, it came with the job. Although I believe being a member of the clergy has a certain debt of expectation to the public ( and I believe I do try to hold up my end when needed), I am an imperfect, complex being with a lot of quirks. There are quite a few chinks in my armor. I was a human being before I was ordained - and by the grace of the God of Understanding, I will retain that gift. Humans aren't always nice to one another or to themselves. My clerical collar is not tattooed on or nailed into place. It comes off during my private time, and yes, I do have private moments. There are days when I don't feel like putting on my game face  and today has been one of them.

  • I am sick of being diplomatic when faced with the overt stupidity and blissful ignorance of others. There are days I can barely hold my tongue and want to choke the life out of some people with my bare hands.

  • At 200 pounds I am hardly demure and coquettish, so I will skip that pretense on the days my acting skills are limited. Stop trying to guilt me about being fat by pretending you're concerned about my health; we both know it's only to validate  the perverted idea of perfection touted by the media that you've bought into. Don't try to make it about me, when it's actually about you and your unresolved weight issues. Humans come in all shapes and sizes and none of us actually look like supermodels or rock stars without the intervention of a plastic surgeon. Let's just enjoy being together for who we are and drop it, shall we?

  • Ditto to all of you who think that being a vegetarian or vegan makes you a superior and nobler member of the species. No one is going to give you a medal for your dietary choices. Live and let live and stop giving the rest of us unsolicited advice about our food choices. You aren't going to change my mind or my eating habits by being smarmy. ( Note: I have been blessed by the friendship of several fine individuals who are one or the other, and none of them feel compelled to inflict their personal control issues about food on the rest of our little circle of acquaintances.)

  • I am finding that more and more often I can no longer manage a beatific Mona Lisa smile when someone who should really know better asks me how I managed to get myself gang raped, or how I ended up in a homeless shelter when I could no longer cope with the PTSD from the experience. Instead of conspiratorially whispering about my perceived character flaws or the state of my mental health (which no doubt lead to my circumstances, at least according to the gossip and active imagination of a few at coffee hour.)  Try asking if there is anything you can do to be supportive or helpful toward improving my lot in life. Just because most of you are members of the Care Committee does not mean you are caring. This kind of mean-spirited behavior is probably a contributing factor as to why your children live on the other side of the country and seldom visit.

  • I want to fix the person who so casually asks why I'm still dealing with depression when, it's "obvious to them" that I have nothing to be depressed about with a stare that will instantly vaporize them. And yes, there are  still days when I am feeling worthless and have so little hope for the future that I am still considering stepping off the curb in front of a truck. I don't want your pity, but I don't need your lack of sensitivity, either.

  • There have been days when I have wanted to be anything but professional and scream at the people who think they are so much more cool, clever and elite  than I am to knock it off and stop acting like conceited assholes. There are no awards for being overbearingly obnoxious, no matter how cute or important you think are. Not everyone thinks you are as irresistibly awesome  and adorable as you do. Try to get over yourself before someone else with even less tolerance for fools comes along and forcibly helps you to do so.

  • Like Tartar Sauce the Grumpy Cat,  I want to look at those of you who are insufferably perky and just say "NO". Bombarding everyone around you with warm fuzzies and quoting Oprah does not not make you credible, so wipe that insipid smile off your face. Some times life sucks, so deal with it.

For those of you who have read this and have come to the conclusion that I'm the biggest bitch you've ever imagined, you're probably right...and I'm not apologizing for it...because I am owning it. And  I'll tell you something else...facing all of your faults and hurts and confronting your own shadow is probably the most healing thing you will ever do in your life. It's a matter of faith to be able to look at yourself  and acknowledge that some parts of you aren't so nice and rosy. Life is messy and dealing with your personal baggage is no picnic in the park, because it's not supposed to be. It's a constant battle to sort out what's authentic and to keep your integrity intact. Honesty is not pretty. You may not always like what I have to say, but you will be able to trust me. I have learned that embracing my crap isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's sad that we've been brained washed (again, by the media and pop culture) into thinking confrontation is always negative, when in fact, conflict might be just what's needed to remove the obstacles to your journey.  I don't know about you, but I want to feel and experience my life-even the bad stuff.  I need  the ups and downs, the good and not-so-good to believe in humanity and embrace living authentically. You have to get your hands dirty to plant a garden. You have to dig deep and get muddy before you can put out the seeds of things that will eventually blossom and ultimately nourish your soul.