Fresh Grief, All Over Again.

7 years ago today I was sitting at my desk at work when I got the call I had been expecting for weeks. Weirdly, though, it was unexpected. My brother had visited my Dad the night before and Dad had been weirdly lucid and healthy and he even considered that maybe he wasn’t actually dying, that maybe they had gotten the diagnosis wrong. And while we both new that one of the common stages of dying is a weird final rally, sometimes hours before death, we both found ourselves considering the possibility, “Wait. What if he’s not really dying?”

So, in some strange way, some part of me was surprised by the call.

“What? My Dad who is in hospice while his failed kidneys cause his ultimate death…actually died? Huh?”

I’m certain the nurse was perplexed by my shock.

The stress of trying to sell our house last year, and now again, has been some sort of weird grief trigger the last 12 months. I remember feeling like I was really missing him on the anniversary of his death last year, more so than usual, and basically that feeling never left. I think it was the combination of turning 40 and the stress of trying to sell our house on top of a job change last year but the last 12 months have truly felt like the first 12 months all over again.

Actually, more accurately, this last 12 months have felt like the first WEEK all over again. I’ve been crying spontaneously a lot more, I’ve been talking to him out loud in my car like he just died yesterday. I’ve been pulling out things that remind me of Dad and holding them tight, letting the waves of memories wash over me like a depressing cleansing shower.

Oh! And I’ve been looking for a therapist! Although, it may be hard to understand why I would need one.

AHHHH…sarcasm…an instinct stronger than grief.

Let me just say that Flash didn’t help this week (no spoilers!) because Barry time-traveled and got to see people who had died AND DUDE, THAT IS NOT FAIR. I WANT TO SEE MY DAD AGAIN. WHERE IS MY SPEEDSTER?

(Don’t worry…Irrational anger and jealousy towards fictional superheroes is going on my “List of things I should tell my therapist.”)

When I quick smoking back in 2003 I remember reading a pamphlet (remember those?) that said to do ANYTHING you had to do for the first three days. Eat, sleep, cry…whatever you needed to get through those first three days. Don’t worry about being healthy or active or productive, just get the toughest part of the physical addiction beat and THEN get back to trying to live.

That’s what I feel like March has been this year. I’ve just been struggling the whole month to keep my head above water. March is always terrible but this year it was incredibly hard and I just have to get through today and then maybe tomorrow I’ll finally feel better. Today, the anniversary of his death, is the last bad day and then I really need to try to clean myself off and rejoin the living again.

I just have to get through one more day. Then I can wash March and the terrible memories that always come with it, away. At least for the next 11 months.

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Back to square one.

I was a practicing and fully-dedicated Catholic until my Junior or Senior year of high school when I took my first steps into other Christian churches. For the next 10’ish years I would enter a lot of churches, I’d meet several Buddhists, I’d read a lot of books and I’d join a lot of bible studies. I even got full-on baptized in a pool in front of a large Southern Baptist congregation. All in a search for something I fell like I just couldn’t find. I kept doubting my religions selections no matter what they were.

And then, sometime in my late 20s I allowed myself to give up the search for a church or even for religion and I have not – for one second – doubted that decision. I spent the 10 years prior doubting every church I joined, “No…this is just not right for me…” but when I stopped joining churches? I stopped doubting. That was the exact right decision for me and I’ve never looked back. Kim without religion and church is a much better Kim for a ton of reasons that I’ve written about on this blog repeatedly.

I tell you all of this to make sure you believe me when I say: I do not need – or want – religion in my life.

And I tell you that so that you’ll understand why I’m already breaking up with my therapist after 2 sessions.

At the “evaluation” session (the first one, where I lied) there was one question I strongly answered with confidence and unwavering conviction:

“Do you actively belong to any religion or strongly hold religious beliefs?”
“No, except that I strongly believe in NO religion. At least not for me. I have no problem with religion for other people, but I very confidently subscribe to something I refer to as ‘secular humanism.'”

That was probably the ONLY question I answered confidently the whole day.

Fast-forward to session two when we’re talking about the challenges of some change related to food and I can’t even remember what it was exactly, but I remember I was fidgeting with my pen and notebook and I was fighting back tears as we were talking and then…BAM…

“Well, this is where a lot of people turn to faith…faith in whatever God or higher power you subscribe to. I’m not sure where you are now but I know you grew up Catholic so…”

I remembering that stopped the urge to cry DEAD in it’s tracks and I said, “Yeah…Nope. Not for me at all. I’m all for religion for other people but not at all for me.”

I allowed it to pass, thinking maybe she had forgotten the original interview. Although, for me, that’s a HUGE thing to forget. My anti-religion stance should stand out like one of those flags they put on my file at my OB/GYN that indicates: THIS GIRL HAS A SHIT-TON OF MISCARRIAGES. My flag at the therapist office should say, “NO RELIGION” to separate me from the masses.

I let it slide although suddenly I started noticing religions themed books on her shelf and I started feeling very uncomfortable.

Then we started talking about forgiveness v/s reconciliation and I REALLY enjoyed where this was going and I was getting teary again and then…BAM…

“This is where, for a lot of people and for me for sure, Grace comes in. I couldn’t forgive without the Grace of God to help me…”

And I was out. I mentally checked out for the last 10 minutes and found myself torn between being A) Super-angry that this therapist could not offer me any help outside of religion and B) Super-upset I was going to have to start looking again.

I went out to my car and cried a bit because – OH MY GOD – searching for a therapist was SO HARD. And I was hurt because I’m 100% certain there are ways to counsel someone through their grief and their sadness without God and yet, here I was, basically ONLY being given God as an option 2 days before the anniversary of my Dad’s death.

Here’s the thing. Had she talked about meditation or yoga or peaceful hikes in the woods I would have been ALL OVER THAT. I’m very much supportive of using the spiritual nature of the world to achieve peace from grief. Just don’t stick “God” in there and don’t make it sound like the only way I’ll be able to forgive is with the help of that God.

I – of course – let Twitter in on the drama and Twitter did not let me down in validating my anger/hurt. I was especially happy that several people were Christians and still did NOT want God as part of their therapy. And many were getting therapy actively where God was not even brought up and it is THEIR RELIGION. So, obviously I should be able to be counseled without God.

I don’t know. I like her. And if I made a friend who suffered like I do but also was Christian? I’d totally recommend them to her. She has valuable experience but when her first two proposals for solutions (and really, the ONLY proposals for solutions she made) required a belief in something I don’t believe in? Totally not going to work at all.

I’ve landed on that slide in Candyland that makes you go ALL THE WAY BACK to the beginning. Here’s to adding a new question to my screening process, “Will this therapist be able to help me if I don’t subscribe to a religion?”

Why I’m Not A Fan Of The “We’re All Sinners!” Welcome Message

I fell into a comment thread of an article this morning where Christians were debating whether or not they should accept the LGBT community into their churches and it just saddened me because even the “Pro-acceptance” group posed it like, “My church accepts me and I’m a sinner! Of course we should accept gay people!”

And this is where my problem lies with the vocal support of the LGBT community by Christians. It often falls back to that premise. “We are all sinners!”

You know what I want? I want Christian supporter to say, “I do not believe homosexuality is a sin so why would I not welcome my gay neighbor?” And then leave it at that. Because the second you say, “I’m not perfect either!” you are implying that their homosexuality belongs in the list of “things that make us not perfect” and I find that contrary to the message I would want a struggling child to hear.

If my child is in the church and they are starting to realize they’re gay, I want them to hear voices that say,”I do not believe homosexuality is a sin!” And when someone spouts biblical references I want that person to say, “Yes. I’m choosing to ignore that part just like I choose to ignore other parts about what fabrics I can wear and what foods I can eat.”

I don’t want to hear Christians say they should welcome gay members like they welcome alcoholics or gluttons. I want Christians to say they look at gay relationships no differently than they look at straight relationships. It would be lovely to hear a Christian say, “I still think sex should be saved for marriage though, and I think that applies to gay sex too…” because that would be the most hilariously equalizing declaration I think I could hear.

“We are going to apply our fundamentalist beliefs about sex and marriage to ALL types of relationships!”

I would actually truly love that!

I just think the message sounds GREAT when it’s one Christian trying to convince another Christian to open their arms to the LGBT community. So, they keep using it. But when you deliver this message to a struggling gay person looking for a church home: “I will not shun you because you are gay, because I’m a sinner too.” Then it doesn’t come off the same. It says, “That love and companionship you are looking for in someone of the same gender, it makes you imperfect just like me! Welcome!”

It just doesn’t sound as welcoming as they think it sounds.

And maybe the faith doesn’t allow for those declarations of “Homosexuality is not a sin!” and I guess if it doesn’t, that’s my problem. If my kid decides some day he wants to shirk the secularism I raised him under, and find a church home, I want him to find one that looks at heterosexual relationships EXACTLY THE SAME as homosexual relationships. If John and Suzie aren’t considered to be sinning by enjoying healthy sexual relationship inside the bonds of marriage, then Joe and Frank shouldn’t be either. I don’t want him to have to settle on a church that says, “We welcome Joe and Frank just like Jesus welcomed sinners!”

Unless, of course, Joe and Frank are bank robbers too. Then feel free to group them in with the “sinner” label, just don’t do it SOLELY because they have sex each other, unless you consider John and Suzie sinners for the same reason.

Faith.

I ran a really fun race this weekend with some really fun ladies and for that 5 hours I just was loving life and nature and my friends and my body and everything else in the world.
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But then the other 43 hours of Saturday and Sunday I could not shake my fog of disappointment in humanity. I like to call myself a Secular Humanist because I have no religious foundation in my life, but I have strong convictions about humanity and the potential for good that lies within us as a species.

But lately? Lately that’s been a hard faith to hold onto and I find myself – like Thomas – doubting that thing I have put my faith in. First we have the wave of the suicide bombings in Brussels and Lahore and every place between those two events. I like to have hope that violent extremism could not grow in communities where we took the time to care for our neighbors, so I have this utopian view of the world we could build some day but that view is faltering and I find myself struggling.

Then there’s the crazy anti-anti-discrimination law that just pass in North Carolina. It’s frustrating for so many reasons but it also has had me “accidentally” stumble upon comment threads where people have such twisted views and I’m torn between wanting to explain things to each and everyone of them. Or at the very least send them this resource on terminology. But then I see how widespread the ignorance is and I find myself surprised a law like this has passed in other states.

And this hatred in the US towards refugees is just causing me to pull my hair out. We have such a complicated vetting process that there are at LEAST 19 million ways for terrorists who mean us harm to get in our country that are 19 million times easier than coming in as a refugee. If someone wants to do us harm, they’re not going to try to get in as a refugee because A) It takes forever and B) There is a boat-load of scrutiny in the process. There are travel and student visas that are 100% faster and require one fraction of the examination.

And then there’s our house. I rushed home after a killer 25K this weekend to get my house ready to show and put the cats in the garage and took down the gates and picked up a few things and then they never came by. The agent waited for them and they never showed up because they forgot and it had me wondering, “Does this person treat the seller of a house so casually like getting the house ready to show is just NO BIG DEAL?” Why would someone do that? I almost started crying when I got the message in the middle of an egg hunt. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME?

So I’m struggling to have faith in humanity today. I wish I could just go back to my sheltered world of trail running with my friends for a little while. But I can’t. And I feel this compulsive need to constantly speak out against the ignorance in the hope of changing a few minds. So I post the random Facebook posts reminding people of some of these fact. And I write the blog entries putting links out into the universe so other people can spread the wealth of information around. And I say a silent prayer to All Gods Listening to PLEASE, give us a humans a chance to be better before wiping us out with a meteor.

Bragging About My Kid Part 8,972.

The first time we toured the University of Montevallo I knew E would go to school there. I describe it as being full of lovely artsy weirdos and it seemed like they would welcome him with open arms. And they did. He has done things at that school I didn’t even know he cared about, like joined a Fraternity, and then became President of that Fraternity. He became super-involved with College Night which is a campus competition (the longest Homecoming type tradition in the state) and this year ran for the Purple Side Leader which would mean – during his Senior year next year – he’d lead his half of the college towards a Purple Victory. (PV!)

College Night and Purple v/s Gold yields all of this weird/hilarious traditions. Like which side of the stairs on one building you can use, and what you do when you see the Montevallo sign coming into town, and you hold the PEACE sign, NOT the Thumbs Up sign because THAT is what the GOLDS do, jeez Mom. You love all things Purple and Cow (the color and the mascot) and you call Freshmen Baby Purples and you take care of them like they were your own children which creates these lineages and you have Purple Weddings where you “marry” someone on the Purple side so you can care for your Baby Purple together and it’s INSANE and WONDERFUL and I’ve loved watching him get into every aspect of it.

So, yeah. Of course he had to run for Purple Leader. His blood has run Purple since his freshman year. We funded his campaign with a huge $200 donation for buttons and stickers. I answered some Photoshop Questions as he designed his graphics and I fawned all over him on Facebook when he launched his campaign page. Look at his photos! (Remember: Purple and Cows, it’s their thing. The story of him and the cows are HILARIOUS. The poor farmer who owned them was so perplexed by the photo session.)

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The photos were taken by his friend Cocoa who has also done our family photos, she’s great. She goes to Montevallo too and has an amazing travel photo page and her Senior project is all about Montevallo and it’s AMAZING. I’m so glad she took his campaign photos because she just captured him (AND THE COW!) beautifully.

ANYWAY…

HE WON! He will be the Male Purple Leader of College Night next year and I’m so excited because he wanted this SO BAD. He might have called me a tiny bit tipsy afterwards and it was hilarious because I could just feel his joy but also his terror (WAIT. WHAT HAVE I DONE? I AM NEVER GOING TO SLEEP AGAIN!) but also his excitement and I was SO worried he wouldn’t win and I’m SO glad he did because now I don’t have to sell our house As Is Cash Only to fund his emergency therapy needs.

I’m happy he found a home in college. A family. I’m happy he found things to pour his heart into. I’m happy he found people to embrace him. His Facebook wall is FULL of messages of love and congratulations and it’s just so nice to see the world loves him like I do. He’s amazing and that’s pretty damn impressive since most days I’m barely able to make it out of the house without losing my shit.

My Dad would be in such awe of him. He’d say the same thing about E that we used to joke about my brother. “How did HE end up so normal and good with people while the two of us are over here holding down the fort as the Mayors of Awkward Town?”

Proud of this kid. He’s in for a wild ride.