December 11, 2009

Things I am not good at

Posted in Relationships, religion, school and academics, waiting tagged , , , , at 8:14 am by Eostre

There are a lot of things that I am not good at. I am not a very good cook, I am constitutionally incapable of getting up in the morning without hitting the snooze button at least 4 times, I procrastinate and I never “live up to my potential”, but near the top of this list (if not at the top) is waiting. I am really really bad at waiting.

I hate waiting for even the small things, like long lines at Target, so even more so the big things, the things that matter in life. I know, it’s funny, because procrastination is a kind of waiting, but it is self-imposed. I can end that waiting any time I want to. It’s the things that I have no control over that get me upset.

Right now I am procrastinating from writing two papers. I’ve started, kind of, but I have a long way to go before I am finished. And while that is stressing me out, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the things I am waiting for that I have no control over.

I am waiting to know, for sure, what I am going to do with my life. I am waiting for a time when I wont have to precariously live from paycheck to paycheck. I am waiting to finish my degree, and see what happens next. I am waiting to see if there is or isn’t a relationship in my future. I am waiting on a lot of things, and I don’t like it.

Being made to wait takes away my control, and that is something that I can’t stand. I want to control when things happen, and, even though I don’t necessarily have the best track record with making awesome life choices, I still want to control what happens. I don’t want to wait. But I don’t have a choice, I have to wait. I can’t rush any of the things I am waiting on, and it is frustrating as hell. So, while I wait, I will hit the snooze button at least 4 times, not start papers until less than a week before they are due, over-season my food and under-achieve. But, all too often lately, I just end up waiting.

December 4, 2009

A Recovering Catholic?

Posted in Catholic, faith and doubt, Faith Transformations, Family, feminist theology, Spirituality tagged , , , at 7:08 am by Gina Messina

At the end of September my grandfather passed away.  It was a very difficult time for my family.  My grandfather was an amazing person who gave us all so much love and I miss him dearly.  I traveled home to Ohio to celebrate his life and I was honored when my uncle asked if I would participate in the mass by reading a passage from the Book of Wisdom.  In all the years I was a practicing Catholic, I had never participated in a mass in any way.  This would be my very first time, and even though I no longer considered myself a member of the Church, it felt very special to me to have a role in the mass celebrating my grandfather’s life.

It was a beautiful service and I felt a strong connection to my family and to God/dess as I participated in the rituals.  The mass was a great comfort to me.  Although I have claimed to be a “Recovering Catholic,” on that day I had to wonder if this was really true, am I no longer Catholic?  What does it mean to be Catholic?  Do I have to conform to the Vatican rules, or is it true as Rosemary Radford Ruether says that the “Vatican does not equal Catholicism?” 

So many things about my life as a Catholic has been troubling to me and so much of what the Catholic Church claims to be the way of God/dess I believe to be absolutely false.  I am angry at the Catholic Church. I am bitter towards the Catholic Church.  I believe the Catholic Church is abusive.  But can I still be a Catholic?  Can I hold on to that identity?  Can I remain in the Church and struggle against what I believe to be wrong?  Can I fight the fight or will I simply be perpetuating the victimization of women by continuing to participate in what I view as a violent institution that demands the suffering of women? 

While I believed my struggle with these questions had ended and thought my connection to Catholicism was permanently severed, participating in the celebration of my grandfather’s life through a reading at mass propelled me back to my place of questioning.    Am I Catholic?  Was I ever not a Catholic?  Can I make a clean break or will my upbringing and family heritage always keep me in a place of struggle and questioning?  It seems that every time I think I have the answer, I could not be further from it.  I wonder if perhaps living in the question is the answer.  So for now, although I am not sure that I want to call myself a Catholic or a non Catholic, I want to give myself permission to continue to struggle.  Right now living in the question seems to make far more sense than thinking I will ever have the answer.

November 28, 2009

A Woman in Waiting

Posted in Family, fertility, Infertility, Parent, waiting tagged at 4:40 am by Gina Messina

Celebrating Thanksgiving yesterday made it more evident to me than ever that I am in a constant state of waiting.  While of course I am waiting to finish my PhD and I am waiting for my career to officially begin, what I am truly waiting for is family.  Holidays are a time for family and being so far away from home has left me feeling a little lost.  This Thanksgiving my dad flew in to spend the week with me and my husband and we spent the holiday in a restaurant with my brother and his wife.  Our family time consisted of two hours together over a meal someone prepared while missing their own family.  I found it terribly depressing and longed for the days when I was a child and Thanksgiving was a time where nothing else could interrupt the family bond.

I remember as a child waking up on Thanksgiving morning and watching the parade on television with my brother and sister while my mom baked her famous cheesecake and pumpkin pie.  She would always give us each a slice right out of the oven…although they were meant to be chilled desserts to this day there is nothing quite like the taste of my mom’s warm pumpkin pie.  Then we would spend the day at my grandparents with aunts, uncles, and cousins…often with our own football game being played in the front yard.

Today, my mom is no longer with us.  I miss her dearly and cannot remember what the last holiday we spent together was like.  I keep waiting for my grief to end, for my every move to not focus on what it would be like if mom were here.  I wonder if having children will allow me to carry on family tradition in my own way and heal some of the wound I feel so deeply in my heart.  However, dealing with infertility has left me waiting for a child.  I have waited for round after round of fertility treatments to work, I wait month after month hoping for a miracle and wonder if there is any end in sight of this cycle that has left me in limbo. 

Of course I truly appreciate that I spent this holiday with my dad, my brother, sister in law, and my wonderful husband.  I just feel like something is missing from my life and my sense of family.  There really is not anything like the mother child bond and I desperately need to have that in my life.  And so I am waiting, waiting for my grief to lessen, waiting for a child to love and teach the value of family, and waiting for a sense of family that nurtures my soul the way it did when I was a child.

November 24, 2009

Little baby Hope

Posted in waiting at 9:04 am by LadySophie

I am by nature a hard driving, fast moving, ambitious person. I do not wait well. But I find that sometimes it has been the only path ahead of me. I make a list and want to accomplish everything on it…in one day. So far, my wedding planning is moving at that pace. My dissertation checklist is not moving quite as fast though.

If I move too fast, then I miss so much around me. Waiting forces my mind to slow down, my eyes to focus on the world and other people. If I had my way, I would have been married at age 18. I thought I was ready and felt so impatient in the waiting. I tried hard to “make it happen” along the way but I couldn’t. As I look back at the last ten years of waiting in particular, I would not trade a minute of what I have experienced. I was dating a guy that seemed like a good match and was just ready to be done dating. I resigned myself to being with him and felt hope die inside me.

As long as we are waiting, hope is alive. Hope for something we desire, we dream of. When I settle, I feel a part of my soul being silenced. How different it is now that what I hoped for has come. I feel an even greater sense of hope for the future. My soul is expanding and not shrinking.

My friend says you cannot kill hope. It keeps rising to the surface. Somehow, hope grew in the waiting – like an expectant mother feeling her baby growing inside.

November 22, 2009

Why I Wait Within The Mormon Church

Posted in Family, feminism, the Mormon church, waiting at 10:42 pm by Gaia

Attending my Mormon congregation is a struggle for me sometimes. A lot of the rhetoric I hear over the pulpit about gender roles and identity, “us” vs. “the world”, exclusivity, and black and white statements in general – not to mention a lack of focus on the social gospel – drive me up a wall.

But despite all of that, I am somewhat committed to staying at least a partially active member, to waiting for the Church to change. I can locate a few reasons for this.

1. Mike. He’s the best human male I’ve ever met. Hands down. Kind, ethical, compassionate, thoughtful. And really smart. Sure, there are some things I would change (e.g. his politics and lesser interest in helping animals), but overall he is an incredibly good person. And the LDS Church helped produce him. I can’t forget that. Every time I wonder why I stay, I look at him and know that the Church can indeed do very good things for some people and teach some very good principles. It helped fashion a marvelous human being in Mike.

2. While I find a lot of Joseph Smith’s actions, particularly during the Nauvoo period deeply problematic, I like his radical vision of a new religion. I find compelling his vision for the divine potential of humans, male and female. I like his radical approach to battling poverty through the United Order. I think his ideas about the spiritual and divine potential of women were particularly revolutionary, as when he “turned the key” to the women’s Relief Society and organized them “in the order of the priesthood.” I think our present day Church institution has unfortunately retreated from the liberated vision Joseph Smith had for women.

3. I wait within the Church because I now realize I can choose what to believe in. I wait because I now realize that I have the privilege, the right, and the responsibility to embrace those wonderful LDS ideas that empower me and to reject the ones that don’t. And this realization – that I can choose what to believe in, that Mormonism is not an all or nothing proposition – has liberated me. By rejecting the ideas that tear me down and hurt me (men presiding in the family, women having to hearken unto husbands, a circumscribed definition of womanhood, polygamy as my eternal future), I am now at liberty to embrace the ideas which I love that are also a part of my faith. It inspires me to know that the Jesus we Mormons believe in is the same Jesus who went out of his way to include and teach the outcasts of society, to break taboos, and to uplift all humans despite race, sex, or class. That is the Jesus I accept and love, and any ideas that have crept into Mormonism that go against that, I roundly reject.

4. I wait because I know that leaders need to be allowed to make mistakes and grow. At this point in my spiritual life, I am on a religious journey that privileges my own conception of God’s wishes and my own conscience (i.e. personal revelation/the Spirit) over the statements of Church Authorities. I now realize that all human beings, including Church leaders, are subject to their own cultural contexts, and that even the wisest, most wonderful leaders can allow unfortunate cultural ideas to creep into their conceptions of the gospel. I am trying to be more compassionate towards these leaders. After all, they are human, and I am human. And I know that I make mistakes too.

5. I wait because of my own fallibility. This realization of my own fallibility has also profoundly affected my relationship with the Church. Just as I need the Divine to forgive me for all the mistakes I make, I know that I need to forgive the institutional Church for the mistakes it makes. It’s not easy to do. I am hurt by the ways women are routinely shut out from the general Church hierarchy, by the ways women’s voices and ideas are lost or ignored in nearly all Church talks and lessons. But I need to give the Church time to progress. This is the gospel of progression; it is also the Church of progression. And I have reason to hope that it will indeed progress with time. (After all, blacks did eventually get the priesthood.)

6. I also wait within the Church because, in order for the Church to progress, it needs people like me. The Church benefits from having all types of people of various ethnic backgrounds, ideologies, and political persuasions. The more types of people it has, the more types of people it can help. Besides, this is my church too. If progressive, liberal people keep leaving the Church, it will be left with a population that grows steadily more conservative and homogeneous in ideology. This would negatively impact its ability to be the inclusive and compassionate church I know it has the potential to be.

November 20, 2009

The Church of O: Practicing Oprah

Posted in feminism, Oprah, Spirituality tagged , , , , at 4:22 pm by Gina Messina

Although our topic for this week is waiting, at the last minute I decided to veer off track when I heard that Oprah would be going off the air.  There is much to be said about her and what she has offered to both women and men over the last near 25 years.  While Oprah is a leading talk show host and media queen, she is also one of America’s most influential spiritual leaders.  With over 26 million viewers, Oprah Winfrey has created a congregation that is inspired daily by the sermons preached from her pulpit.  Her message is simple: “Live your best life.”  According to the Gospel of Oprah, you have a duty to make yourself happy.  Although her parishioners are mostly women, men also partake in looking to Oprah for guidance on health, happiness, and salvation, including Barack Obama who referred to Oprah as his “host” during a speech on his religious beliefs in Iowa on December 10, 2007.

Viewing Oprah can be seen as a religious process.  Everyday people make time to turn on their television and listen to an hour of inspiration directly from the gospel of Oprah.  It becomes a ritual of attending “church.” Parishioners attend the service, listen to the message and then take that message, evaluate it, and apply it to their lives.  Further, the viewers go out and spread the message.  Oprah’s congregation is eager to share Oprah’s message for the day with family, friends, and even the stranger in the grocery store.  With her show airing daily in 132 countries and 205 television markets, Oprah is preaching to a much larger congregation than any other evangelist.    

Oprah not only reaches her congregation via her talk show, she has a multimedia empire through which her followers are able to her message.  The talk show host, producer, philanthropist, and spiritual guru speaks to her congregation through O Magazine, O Magazine at Home, the Oprah Book Club, Oprah and Friends on XM Radio, and Harpo Productions. In each of her media outlets, Oprah only ties her name to products that promote her message of empowerment, self-improvement, and self-actualization. 

Using self-disclosure, confession, and honest talk, Oprah has encouraged her parishioners to enter a new phase of life.  She calls for the sharing of inner life experience to shed negativity and emerge empowered with a new self worth.  A symbol of spiritual renewal, Oprah is a catalyst for a new religion in America.  She has redefined the religious experience.  As a spiritual leader Oprah Winfrey has influenced millions with her vision of possibilities and message of self love. 

Women across the country, including Melissa Ethridge, have claimed Oprah to be their religion.  They have turned to Oprah for their spiritual fix and have been inspired by Oprah’s message.  Oprah has provided them with a spirituality that no church can offer.  In the Church of O women are not oppressed, in the Church of O women to do not need to suffer, in the Church of O, happiness is a must.  Women receive tools for real life and are not made to feel guilty about it.

A midrash: The Ark and the Flood

Posted in midrash at 4:42 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

The following is from a guest contributer, Jan Chase. We’re so glad she is sharing this wonderful re-imagining with us!

Gaia had given birth to many creatures including humans. And as S/He watched the way they treated each other, she was appalled. They were made in Her image, yet as they lived on earth, they seemed to become denser and denser, even forgetting their own spiritual nature. Oh my, What was a Creator to do? Well they were her thought creations. She must have done something wrong for this fighting and killing, and greed and pain to be happening. So as if she has burned a bunch of cookies in the oven, she thought she would throw them out and begin again. Obviously they were not enjoying this unfolding of consciousness, nor was she. And hadn’t that been the point! As they evolved so would S/He and as S/He evolved, so would they. But this becoming less and less conscious and less and less conscientious was not working for anyone. So how should S/He put these being out of their misery and begin again?

S/He thought about fire, but thought better. And as she thought about this deed, SH/e choked up, for even though this great experiment had not worked out the way S/He had planned, S/He felt a great loss and sadness to think that they would be no more and S/He began to weep. Her tears encircled the earth like a great mist, which condensed and fell like rain upon the earth. Suddenly S/He knew just what to do.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 19, 2009

not waiting anymore

Posted in waiting tagged at 2:04 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

What is she really waiting for?

I’ve spent most of my life waiting. I used to mark the days on my big wall calender with big colorful X’s and then scribble through the entire box. I didn’t realize what I was doing until my roommate at the time commented on it. She said, “You look like you are counting down the days for something.” And I always was. I was counting down the days until a vacation in school. Or until the boy I liked at the time returned from India. Or for the day I would finally get my braces off. There was always some moment I was trying to get to, as if in that moment, I would be truly happy.

And my life right now, so uncertain and unstable, could be described as a whole metaphorical waiting room. There are huge questions that have still to be answered for my life, and nothing really is final, even though, for most people at my age, that isn’t the case. I’m 29 and I guess I am still waiting on The Permanent Things: a husband, my house to own, a better car, a family (maybe), to have sex, my career. I mean, when I think of The American Dream, my life sort of falls short.

The Last Kiss is one of my favorite movies. It is about this guy who is 30 with a great job and he is about to have a child, but he is hesitant to get married and ends up having an affair because he feels like, after marriage, there “won’t be anymore surprises.” Well, that’s really all my life is, a big bag of surprises.

I don’t know what really happened, if I just don’t care about those “permanent” things as much as I used to or if I’m just used to not having them, but I’m much better now at living in the moment and loving it for what it is. I can look at what I don’t have as a void, but it isn’t really. I live in a beautiful house, I have some amazingly beautiful close girl friends (one of whom I get to live with), I live close to the ocean and downtown LA and a whole host of other amazing places. I’m not saying that waiting is a bad thing. In fact, sometimes I feel I can be too content at times. Waiting and desiring for something can be beautiful too, because of love, because you want something so much. And it is wonderful to want. But for me, I guess now, I’m working toward various things (you know, I’m getting “out there,” and I’m progressing in school, making relationships and all that), but at the same time, I’m in a period where I’m not really sitting on the window ledge, my hair blowing in the wind, peering out for my Prince Charming, (a metaphor for all that is good in the future). I used to do that a lot. But now I’ve backed away from the window, leaving it open, but enjoying the world inside the tower as well as stepping outside of it, noticing what is surrounding me, instead of what I hope will someday be.

Since I was a little girl, I dreamt of getting married to a boy with a beautiful last name. Part of me is a poet, and I adore words, the sounds and the tastes of them. I would sit and write down my first name with a whole host of lovely last names which belonged to boys I didn’t know: Constantine, Michaels, Rachel. . . (this was in elementary school and well, beyond, mind you.) But I guess around age 26 I got tired of waiting. A change in my last name would be so much more than beautiful; it would signal a new dimension in my life, a slightly new identity. And I realized I didn’t have to necessarily wait for Augustus Constantine to ask for my hand in marriage. I could change my own name myself. So I did. Not to Constantine, but to a last name that made more sense for me. A bold move. But it meant so much.

So sometimes, I admit, I’m lonely or anxious for the things I want, because I do want. Sometimes badly. But I’ve really practiced reminding myself that my life is pretty blessed as it is. There is always something I need to be doing in the present moment that is, at the very least, a distraction, and at best, productive to making my life the best it can be for the present and perhaps the future.

November 12, 2009

Jesus loves Orthodox people too?

Posted in Faith Transformations, interfaith experiences at 7:15 am by Eostre

Mary and JesusI hate to harp on the whole “I was naive and sheltered and now I am an aware and savvy grad student” thing, but with this weeks topic it was too good to pass up. When I started college I made friends with a girl who had been raised Eastern Orthodox, and was still (mostly) a part of that denomination. For me, this was an interfaith experience! We stayed up late many many nights talking over the issues of converting from the Orthodox Church to “Christianity”. That’s right, you read that correctly. To my 18-year-old self Orthodox faith with it’s sad eyed Jesus icons and pedo-baptism was alien and thus, well, unorthodox.

We would stay out all night talking very seriously about whether or not she needed to be re-baptized, and if venerating the saints was idolatry. Of course, the answer we came up with was yes on both counts. With the strict formalities (she had to cover her head when she went to church! Oh no!) and strange liturgies, she might as well have been bowing towards Mecca, and we both felt it.

Now I would like to say that this ended with me going to church with her and realizing that hey, the Orthodox (and even Catholics!) are just like me! But it didn’t. We drifted apart, and as far as I know she is still a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church (which for the record I fully recognize as Christian, now) and it wasn’t until a couple years later, when I was a junior in college, that I accepted that Christianity takes many forms, and wearing a head scarf or using wine instead of grape juice doesn’t really matter in the end. If anything, I identify more with liturgical traditions now than I do with Evangelical denominations.

So this wasn’t an interfaith experience in the strictest sense, but it is what imediately came to mind when I started thinking about this weeks topic. Like Gina said, religious literacy is abysmal in America, and I would add to that by saying that it is even worse in the Church. When presented with a tradition that predated mine by thousands of years I had no idea how to react. I hadn’t even heard of Orthodoxy before I met my friend, and I was attending a religious university!  All of my inter-religious knowledge came from a perspective of evangelism and conversion, which is pretty narrow. I can’t help but think that I missed out, and that thousands of kids just like me did too.  I was lucky, was able to break out and interact with people who actually did have a different faith than I did, but it could just have easily gone the other way.

I was lucky. I had professors who pushed me to understand different faiths and different perspectives. I wish everyone could be so lucky. And really, with the world the way it is just now, Jesus has a good reason to have sad eyes, so maybe the Orthodox Church got it right.

November 11, 2009

Different is Good

Posted in interfaith experiences, Relationships at 1:45 am by LadySophie

Is there anything more difficult than meshing two differing worldviews? I want to approach our weekly topic from a different direction. Can you be sincere, heart friends with someone who differs with you in deep, meaningful ways? They are liberal and you are conservative. Can you be close friends with someone who has a core religious belief that is directly in contrast to your own? They believe in God and you do not. I always have people in my circles that are quite different from who I am. I love the diversity and the richness of it all.

This romantic relationship in my life has helped me think about meshing two different lives. We are both used to being single and have some deep rooted ideas about how things “should” be done. He is used to being a parent, I am not. He is about to start professional school, I am just finishing. He is Filipino, I am Texan/ Californian. He is a careful saver of money, I am a skilled spender of money. We are talking about merging our lives and it is easy to focus on differences.

The same is true for interfaith conversations. Do we focus on similarities or differences?

He loves to learn and so do I. He keeps his faith at the center of his life and so do I. We have no idea where our lives are headed, but that doesn’t seem to bother either one of us too much. We keep circling back to those things and finding common ground.

Can we apply the same strategy to interfaith relationships? To friendships with political opposites? I think we can. I have some kind of tireless hope that people can overcome differences and arrive at sincere, meaningful relationships. 101_0109

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