Huntress of the Lens


Friday, June 4, 2010

With a capital L

I was having an IM conversation with my favorite of Michael's newly-reconnected relatives the other night. That's how we chat, we don't talk on the phone much, we just use facebook chat and have the kind of abbreviated conversations that are possible when two people are typing back and forth. I think this goes easier for me because I type about a million words a minute (with corrections and editing) and I can type almost as fast as I would speak in a conversation. Sometimes with other people I get abbreviated sentences or shorthand thoughts, and I have to decode them and realize that a keyboard is not a second home to everyone I interact with.

She's cool, I'm really getting a chance to know who she is in these little snippets of communication, and yet I always find myself editing what I would really say because I know she's the ambassador to that whole side of the family, and it falls to me to represent Michael and our whole family unit over here. I am aware that people from other places have ideas about California and what Californians are about; read whacky, crazy, liberal, weird. I am almost sure there is no one like me in her little area of the world.

Michael has opted out of facebook (thanks hon) and so I am the voice of "us" that get's passed around dinner tables over the green beans and mashed potatoes in Kentucky. I want them to like me. I wish they could understand me, but I would settle for being tolerated as eccentric. I wore a wedding dress that covered every single tattoo I had at the time, in anticipation of the day when these people would see me and possibly judge me. Looking back, I don't really like the dress I picked, and I ask myself why it mattered so much even then. Just for reference, I looked a bit like a Volkswagen under a white lace car cover with big hair on my wedding day.

I'm even being careful writing here, I don't know if any of them read me, I somehow doubt it, but Aunt Rose told me that someone had looked at my pictures on facebook and said one of them was scary. One? Out of the hundreds of images of me living my unusual life, one picture was scary to someone over there? I try to guess which picture it was, and the answer still eludes me.

I'm careful, because my daily friends, my home-base companions will often say "Oh my God Laura, I can't believe you just said that!" because sometimes I forget to filter what I think is true to make it sound pretty. Where Molly hasn't an unspoken thought, I have a three second delay. That's what maturity will do for you. I have learned not to say things like "The whole angel thing is a bunch of crap, in my opinion." I'm growing.

So at the same time I assume they don't really read me, I'm always afraid that someone will, and that I will offend them. The funniest facet of this behavior is that I only worry when I refer directly to them. I'm doing it right now though.

The other night Sis and I are chatting about this and that and the Big Topic comes up. The subject I always dance around and reply to with "So how's the weather out there?" I'm talking about the Big Guy here, the Lord with a capital L.

In my advanced years I have learned that I do not immediately need to go into my whole dissertation about what I actually believe or don't believe on the topic of Great Big Jesus in the Sky, I can smile and nod and ask about the weather.

"I have bible school for two weeks coming up, do you know what that is?" she asks me a direct question that sunshine and temperature won't answer. "Oh, tell me about that!" (Safe, let her talk, just because I think it's true doesn't mean I have to say it out loud.) "It's for kids, we dress up and act out all the bible stories for them so they'll understand them." before I know it my fingers have replied "Yeah, they used to make me do that when I was little too." "No, they really like it, and it helps to explain what really happened and answer their questions about the bible."

"What really happened." Take a deep breath, count to ten, she's a slow typist and won't notice the lag. "So, I guess if you want them to believe all that when they grow up this is a good way to get them started. Good for you!" I add a positive ending to show that I support her in the things she finds important, but I can feel this turning south. "We don't try to make them believe, we just want them to understand and answer any questions they have." "So if they totally understand what you're saying, and then don't believe a word of it they don't get points deducted and fail the school?"

Long pause.

How did I get myself into this, she's going to ask me, directly what it is I think about all of this and consign me to hell. Shit, I should have asked which character she would be playing.

What followed were a set of questions that I made the best of.
"It's about the Lord, you believe in the Lord don't you?" (archaic designation of aristocratic power and compound titles of others in authority. Relevant currently? No.)
Then there was some Jesus, my eyes were glazing over, I was sitting on my expressive fingertips.
"Don't you believe in evil spirits?" No, I don't believe in evil at all.
"What about Satan?" Oh my God, kill me now.

"BRB, I have to go make some coffee." when I returned she had signed off with "Have to go to bed, luv U guys!"

"The bible isn't relevant to any of my spiritual beliefs" slipped out there somewhere, trying to be polite and yet stand true as who I am. I probably shouldn't have typed that. If I had been talking with Louie I could have added "with all due respect" which is code for "We're not going to argue about this, I love you the whole time our belief systems don't match."

Usually I avoid conversations where it's my turn to delineate my exact spiritual beliefs, and not only with christians. Someone was going on about a "binding spell" as though I were well acquainted with that the other night. Maybe it's the giant Pentacle tattooed on my arm? I have a friend who is a Pagan who shares all sorts of stories about rituals and rites, and plenty of people who assign me to the "Wiccan" team by default. The truth is, I am none of those things, I don't belong to any organized religion or philosophy. I make stuff up as I go along, and have a super-charged connection with the Universe, the Creative Force, whatever you want to call it. I'm not an... anything. I've been put through all of catechism and confirmed, but that didn't stick either.

When I arrived at AA there were two things on the lists of steps and traditions that allowed me to return and find my own version of salvation from myself: The term "God, as we understood him." and "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." That wiggle room that allowed me to understand the Universe in precisely the way I do is what kept me
from fleeing AA like any other religion. I'll use the word God sometimes, it's such a common reference point, but I'm careful with that lest someone think I mean a sentient being up in a heaven somewhere with petty human emotions like anger or jealousy, love or displeasure and a huge red rubber stamp that marks things as:

It's such a labyrinth of social interaction, this God thing, if you're not sitting in a building with a bunch of other people who believe the same things or use the same reference books. My experience of Spirit can be as subtle as the touch of one blade of grass, or as profound as words I hear in my Grandmother's voice. I've come to the conclusion that if you think you can adequately explain it then it's probably not God, and that there is no religion that comes anywhere near comprehending the infinite.

If I am still, it will fill me, or whisper to me, or show me pictures that I see with my eyes that are not eyes. If I act from service or compassion I sometimes have the feeling that there is something using me as a vessel, a tool, a human hand. Beyond that, I have no real explanation for my perception of the Creative Web that encompasses all things. I have a certainty that I'm the type of person who others like to set on fire, tied to a stake.

I took a quiz once, and I've linked the site here. I took it just in case I was aligned with some religion and didn't know it.
I got a 100% match with both Reformed Judaism and Universalist Unitarian (Or something like that.) I know nothing of either religion, but apparently I could talk about God with anyone from these two faiths and our belief systems would not clash.

I would love to see Kentucky's beautiful landscape, and yet I feel terrified to ever make a pilgrimage there; the Sis says she needs to explain it to me in person.

There're plenty of firewood and stakes available if I don't get a good grade in bible school.

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