Sunday, April 21, 2024

Soup, Faith, and Refinding Gratitude

I wrote this out stream of consciousness and will edit later, so bear with any typos, redundancies, or things that need clarity?

It's pretty honest and raw, so skip it, if not your cup of tea, but this is where I'm at.

So it's turned cold again today, and I was hoping for a big walk in the woods with my husband and the Zigster today, but it'll be a minute now until it warms up.

In the meantime, I thought I'd write a spell 🙂

While awaiting the hormone results, I'm still dealing with the stomach/pelvic pain and bloating, and I've got to be honest - it' not relieving and I'm starting to get nervous.

So I'm eating nothing but soup, salad, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt, drinking nothing but water or apple juice, with one diet pop a day to help relieve gas pressure.  I know, that's TMI, but it's reality.  It's getting old, but it's what ya gotta do.

It seems that one day, I feel like moving around and the next day, pretty tired, but the pressure, pain, bloating is always there.  

On a positive note, interestingly, the hot flashes and night sweats have gotten better on their own, but this is still there, so I do see a colonoscopy in my future.  

It's weird, because the hot flashes and night sweats came first, then this about three days later, but maybe it was a coincidence. Regardless, it's annoying.  

And so I started thinking about faith.

I've had to alter my faith over the years.  Truth be told, I became agnostic in my 20s, studied comparative religion is a sort of unofficial minor upon return to college in 2004/5, then returned to Christianity with a different expectation. Apparently, the way you were raised just doesn't wash off, despite your best efforts 😂 but you CAN find your own version, with enough conscious reflection and practice.

Now, I have had a couple of overly coincidental things happen where I was like "That was weird - hmm, is that you?" but those are rare. Some call them God Winks, I believe.  They don't rescue you or really change anything at all, it's just like an odd moment of something happening that feels like God saying "I see you.  This sucks, that was so wrong. Just know I'm here and I saw that, smh. Here's a small cookie?" 

But mostly, no - nothing but silence and crickets.

I will always hold on to the teachings of Christ because I just believe that is the way we are to treat one another and values to have, although so many Christians today think "Christian values" are about reproduction and gender issues, when that literally has nothing to do with it.

Christianity also has nothing to do with demanding to be the dominant faith or demanding our own personal freedoms, whether faith related or not, either.

No, Christianity is about our own soul, how we handle stuff,  to include stewardship of others and our planet - period.

Growing up evangelical - with a bipolar/schizoaffective mother that sometimes literally believed there were demons in everything from secular music to our chimney, even our vacuum cleaner,  I was taught that faith could move mountains and heal anything and spent much of her time demanding pray stuff away in the name "in the name of Jesus."

In fact, I was the first to realize most of this wasn't faith, it was mental illness, and took a gaslighting beating from family and church because of it, I assure you, but I couldn't help it.  I knew there weren't demons in the chimney, or causing the vacuum cleaner not to work.  I couldn't see the demons and stopped believing that she could because she's some sort of prophetess, just through pure logic and science. 

I mean, if there were demons, why would they waste their time causing your vacuum cleaner not to work just to bother you, when they could wreak greater havoc, doing grander stuff?  😂  

And hey, have you checked the hoses to see if there's a blockage?  Wow, look at that, there's so much cat fur I could knit a sweater, and when we remove it, it works just fine!

Also, every mess she gets herself in or ignored issue or consequence of prior choice is "the devil" rather than her own choices, as well as random bad things that happen to us all sometimes are "demonic" or "witchcraft."

Conversely, when things work out the way she wants them to, it's God, rather than people working their ass off to care for her and clean up messes.

As for my Dad, my father said he believed in God, but was mostly interested in dominating everything and everyone, by force if necessary, and did, often, leaving bruises and scars.

Regardless, both were about forcing or manipulating individual control over their environment rather than changing themselves to cope better with it or acceptance of it. 

What a disappointment it was for me to learn that God clearly doesn't answer prayers about others nor heals, most days.  I so wish that were true, but it's not.  I know Christ says he will, in his name, but I've literally never seen that happen, and to pray that way just sets me up for disappointment.  I mean, I can, of course, if it makes me feel better, but to me, it's not much different than an incantation.

So to me, praying like that, saying A, B, C and D in Jesus' name is not much the thing that Christians fear most, witchcraft - when neither work, and are simply a means of getting things the way you think they should be, the illusion of control.

Now, for a long time, I justified unanswered prayers with free will being involved, and I still think that's much of it.  We were given free will and God isn't going to take that back, just because we pray for it.

People are going to use their free will to do horrible things to each other, sometimes even in Christ's name, and in order to fix that, God would have to take back the right to free will, the power of choice.

We can pray for protection from others, or even illness, but quite honestly, that's also a rare answered prayer. 

Thus, I am left with all we can do is pray for strength to do what we need to do, get done what we need to get done, and to endure it. 

Speaking of free will, that also means us and our poor choices to get ourselves into our own messes.  Choices have consequences. 

I mean, I smoke and have eaten poorly, in this life.  Bad food was cheaper than good food, and better, and I began smoking as a coping skill in a poor moment in my 20s that became an addiction that prayer doesn't seem to make a dent in.  

Because as a virtually supportless single mom, healing from wounds and working two jobs or a job and school, when you can't afford to do things that other white people take for granted every day, your joy is found in small things like playtime with your child, a walk outside in nature, cheap good food, and a good nighttime smoke in the quiet, and a good four hours of sleep, if you're lucky.

But there are consequences for those poorer coping skills of bad food, too much caffeine, and smoking - consequences that God doesn't "deliver" you from -  and it's NOT because he's merciless, leaving you to lie in the bed you made, NOR is it because you didn't pray the right way or hard enough.  

It's because he often just ... doesn't.  

In fact, God doesn't have anything to do with it, especially if we put ourselves in these situations, but even if it's beyond our control.

He certainly didn't spare me from homelessness during the recession for a several months, several transcription companies that I worked for either outsourced to India or went bankrupt, nor did he spare me from the assumptions, unkindness, and cruelty that came my way because of it - assumptions that I must be a drug addict or drunk, mentally ill, or a criminal, though countless people lost their jobs and homes during that time.  

And I was still working, too, now waiting tables part-time (no one was hiring full time), but people weren't leaving tips during that time.  

In fact, someone literally wrote on their receipt "Sorry, times are tight, can't tip" with a sad face.  

(For those who don't know, servers, at that time, only made $2.35 an hour and are dependent on tips in America.) 

I'm thinking, "Then don't eat out at a sit-down restaurant, eat take out, I certainly can't afford to," but whatever.  

Even when she returned and did the same thing, I gave the same good service, just because it's the right thing to do. 

Sure, I was emotionally wounded, you might even say crippled or even broken from trauma, after certain family events and an abusive exhusband,  but none of those things that people assumed as to why I was homeless were true - I have never used drugs, have a drink on a rare occasion, and have never committed a crime of any sort, even when I could have while that broke, and the only mental illness I have is PTSD, depression and severe anxiety, and I've been checked many times over to be sure after my mother's illness.

People like to blame you when bad things happen to you because they don't want to look at themselves or a broken economic system.

Believe me, at the time, no one was harder on me and blaming me for my troubles than me - until I realized this can't all be my fault.

I can take responsibility for poor choices, sure - but I'm also not powerful to control companies going bankrupt or the economy. I wave my magic wand and make people my mom sane, my dysfunctional family see each other or themselves more clearly, or my ex-husband to leave me alone and to be free of the abuse that I had now unchosen.  

So there were certain things that no matter what I did or didn't do, were just that way and I had no control over them. 

So like many, I have had more than my share of suffering, some of which I chose and unchose too late, but most of which I didn't, either born into, targeted while being vulnerable (like while homeless), or were just random -  wrong place at the wrong time.

Regardless, I was ill-prepared to deal with them other than prayer, as I was taught, which yielded absolutely nothing.

I did pray, but prayer did absolutely nothing to stop or change any of it.  I could change myself, how I coped, even assertiveness, but often that just made it worse because when you're that low and begging for work, you better be grateful for whatever comes along, even if they literally spit on you, right?

So what I was left with acceptance - people are going to do what they're going to do, politicians, corporations, and the economy is going to do what it's going to do, and all you can do is cope with/accept it and find joy in the little things and be grateful for the smallest things, even one moment.  

Like someone said "thank you."  Someone smiled at you.  Your "sisters" at the shelter had your back and you had theirs, if you had something and they didn't or vice versa, you trade.

And in that gratitude, one of the things that I also focused on was my health.  I was thin, I got a lot of walking exercise, never got sick - but unfortunately, not enough to make major changes to the unhealthy habits I had like smoking and cheap bad food - which may now be catching up with me. 🥹

Now, most Christians believe that bad things only happening to bad people, when I've found the opposite to be true, leaving myself completely out of that equation.

I have seen the worst representative of humanity rising in the ranks, their selfishness, game-playing, bullying, abuse, and even criminality be applauded in real life, personally and nationally, as if this were a reality TV show and the winner proves "survival of the fittest," when all it REALLY means is, the worst representatives of our species know they can't win based their own actual merit and truth, so they cheat, which has nothing to do with evolution, it has to do with choice.

I also have seen crime go unpunished based on the color of skin, gender, faith, and money, as well as merciless justice resulting in loss of life, based on the same.

I have seen the strong abuse the weak and convince everyone else the weak brought it on themselves or deserved it, making themselves the victim.

I have seen horribly abusive, criminal people get away with things their entire life and die peacefully, without remorse, while their victims die penniless and in pain.

Conversely, I have seen gentle, selfless, Godly people die of cancer and killed in car accidents by drunk drivers who walk away without a scratch. 

I have seen innocent children die in tornadoes, from cancer, or in car accidents, Christian or not.

So if you want to try to tell me bad things only happen to bad people, or people who weren't Christian enough or didn't pray the right way, sell it somewhere else, I'm not buying.

So I turn to the Catholic form of faith, at least on this concept - that suffering is just a part of life, and  Christianity does not shield you from it, only provides comfort.

And even more than that - suffering can sanctify, if you allow it to.  In fact, suffering creates sainthood, in the Catholic faith.

I also turn to Buddhist philosophy on this one - everything suffers at some point and the goal is to end all suffering, not just for ourselves, but all living things.

Well, I'm no saint, but I would say that this part is true -  I AM a much better person due to the unusual amount of suffering in my life, so there's that?  😂

That and $8 bucks will get me a coffee at Starbucks, right? 

But I'm also wounded, have triggers - many have healed, but others remain.

And for better or worse, I'm more assertive than I used to be - I still give much benefit of the doubt, but I put a cap on crap much sooner, I don't give as many chances.

And until now, I have been spared in the health department, at least.

But now, that may be changing - because this stomach/pelvic pain isn't going away.

Now, I CAN pray for it to go away, as is natural when in trouble, I guess - but where to put my expectations?

If I expect it to go away because I prayed the right way or because I think I'm a good person, that is a sure fire wire to be disappointed.

So my best hope is prayer for the strength to endure the worst case scenario, which may or may not even happen.

For the strength to continuing working, continuing caring for my family and those I care about, and to endure whatever I need to do to get this better, both physically and financially, and yes, to continue with this soup and salad diet, as well as work on not smoking!

That's about all I can do, which I will do/get done, regardless of if God helps me out with it or not, because I have to!

I really wish I could believe again as my Mom believes, that God would intervene and change stuff for me, but I can't - life hasn't gone that way for me, and other people are doing these things for her anyway. 

Someone once said I should pray for more mercy as well as strength, which I did - but that went unanswered, too - well, except the past 5 years or so - until now?

So what I'm left with is acceptance - acceptance of what cannot be changed or is too late to change - what I can't control now, anyway, right?

Acceptance, deep breathing relaxation, and focusing on gratitude for what I do have, as well as finding joy in the little things, which I became an expert at years ago - that's all I got.  Will it be enough?

If anyone stumbles across this blog and knows a better way to pray that actually works, feel free. 

Because I'll be honest with you, at this point, I'm left wondering what is the value of being a Christian or believing in anything anyway?

I haven't really found any benefit - other than being a steward for others and the planet is, doing unto others as you would have done unto you is, as they say, is truly it's own reward.  I can feel like I handled things in a way that I'm proud of, according to my values, even if other Christians don't think so.

But one thing I AM good at, that I remembered last night, is finding gratitude, joy, and comfort in my environment.

So I looked up at the pink and purple sky at sunset, the "Gone With the Wind" sky. 

I remembered to focus on the constants for comfort - how people for centuries have looked up at that same sky and cloud pattern in reflection for centuries - never the exact same pattern, but the same overall sky from where I sit, for centuries.


The same stars, in the same place and pattern according to our world's seasonal tilt, for centuries.   

The same birds returning every spring, at the same time, like a welcome friend, for centuries.

I'm also grateful for nature itself, the wonders found within it. 

I'm grateful for finding an OB/GYN that is listening to me.

I'm grateful for the new eye doctor, who gave me the best eyeglasses prescription I've ever had.

I'm grateful for a new second contract, with kind people to work with.

I'm grateful that though we haven't been able to afford vacations this year, we have enough to cover what we need, when there were many times before I didn't.

I'm grateful for my wonderful caring husband, as well as others around me checking in.

I'm grateful for my heart and my joy, Ziggy pug.

So I guess as far as comfort, I can find my own - but will it hold when trouble comes?

Because I'm super world weary.

Then again, I've survived much more than I ever would've though I could, that's for sure, and I'm sure I will this too (like I have a choice), so no worries. 

What I can say is I will do my best to keep on, keeping on, despite it, finding the strength and courage to do so though feeling world weary, still counting things in gratitude and finding my joy in the little things 😊


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