On Sunday we went back to The Bridge.
[In order to truly understand this post, you should go read Crystal's blog post with the notes she used for her talk. You will not be disappointed.]
It should come as zero shock that this wasn't the first time we've been back to my favorite "church" since the death of our Year of Sundays blog, nor that it definitely won't be the last. I'd had a rough week (obviously) and knew that no matter what Crystal decided to talk about, it would be something I needed to hear.
And because no story is complete without me dropping a sexual reference into it, I just want y'all to know that we forgot to set our alarm and completely overslept, which forced us to choose between making it to our good friend's sermon on time or getting our usual Sunday morning rocks off.
We chose The Bridge.
So basically The Bridge is better than SEX. (WITH JOEL!)
(Or at least worth a lazy late afternoon rain check).
Crystal's talk (which I refuse to call a sermon because it totally wasn't one) was about - OF ALL THINGS - voice. It was basically about singing out loud, a topic with which I've been struggling recently. She started by talking about being in an abusive marriage and how when she got out of it, she went a little buck wild and had fun and that she thought she was TOTALLY FINE AND OKAY simply because she'd left the marriage.
Obviously, much like me, she was NOT okay. Neither of us was fixed just because we left.
We were both left with what Crystal calls "the hand over her mouth" and what I think of as The Voices.
When you have that hand over your mouth, you learn to scream a lot so people can hear you. Even then, your true voice is muffled. And when you finally take the hand away, like I did after my divorce, you keep on screaming for a while, which is EXACTLY why this blog has been so up and down for the past two years. I'm still screaming, even though the hand is gone.
But I'm only screaming so I can hear MYSELF.
So here's the part where I over share. Crystal gave us a writing assignment, which naturally tickled my cockles. On the front of a piece of paper I was supposed to write the bad stuff The Voices tell me. Crystal wanted us to choose one word to describe our negative voice, but I'm all PUNK ROCK, so I just hyphenated three words instead:
I underlined it. Because it's how I've felt my entire life.
Then beneath it, I wrote all the things I fear are true about me. The things the people who were supposed to love me have reinforced my whole life. The things I'm still terrified might be true. The things that keep me from being my true self.
Crystal then asked us to string them all together into a more elegant soliloquy of self-flagellation, but I wasn't able to do that.
Don't you love that the pastor's wife has such a potty mouth? If nothing else, this should totally explain why I heart The Bridge so hard. Crystal went there and was gritty and ugly and beautiful.
Anyway, even without the sentences, I was proud I could at least write my list. Now that I've had time to reflect, I could easily add more to that list, but I'll spare you.
I'm terrified that I'm:
- Too loud
- A Bad Mother
- A Bad Daughter
- A Bad Wife
- A Liar
- A fraud
The hardest part for me is that I've been blocking all of this for so long. I've been faking it my whole life, pretending everything was FINE. I'M SO OKAY!! Just look at me (and my 309 pounds) I'M FINE!!! LET'S JUST PRETEND EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL. But now that I'm not so fine anymore, my brain is not a pleasant place to reside. I self-reflect to the point that it's basically a never-ending film reel of self-flagellation. I'll have a feeling, I'll easily locate who/what/where it came from and then I'll beat myself up for still feeling it even though I intellectually know better.
Thank you, therapy!
Goddamn it (pun intended), it feels like a rabbit hole I'll never climb out of. My fingernails aren't sharp enough to claw my way out. Yet.
The good news is that I know I'm smack dab in the ugly part. I'm not hopeless. I know I'll get through this muck and be who I'm meant to be. Let me say that again:
The only thing I want out of life is to BE MYSELF.
It's the first line of the mandafesto: BE WHO YOU ARE
I think the subtext of that is: AND DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR IT. To anyone. Ever.
Sadly I'm not there yet. I'm too afraid of scaring off the man who fell in love with me SPECIFICALLY for my manifesto. I'm no Alanis Morisette, but I'm pretty sure that's more ironic than rain on your wedding day.
But my GUT voice? The one Crystal was trying to remind me of? It's there. I know her. I know her SO FUCKING WELL. That Amanda is my best friend. She's the one who's gotten me through all the crap. She's the reason you're still reading this blog and the reason I've never been suicidal.
"Our gut voices were created to shout light into the darkness, bring liberation to ourselves and others. Our gut voices were created to make people laugh, bring joy in the midst of heartache, to bring freedom where there is not. This is way more exciting shit than the loneliness and self-hatred the other voice brings."
This exercise seemed easier for Joel than me, mostly because he wasn't crying the whole time. His gut voice told him to look out the window. He should be PAID (handsomely) to look out the fucking window. To read the Atlantic Monthly and surf the Internet and lose himself in thought because THAT'S where his genius blossoms. It's where his ideas are born and his ideas are worth a king's ransom.
It seems harder for me. What IS my purpose? I feel like I wear far too many hats, all of which I love too much to pick one singular purpose. I'm a mom. And a writer. And a lover. And a Brazilian waxer. And a damn good cook. And a chicken owner. And a woman who likes to dress up and wear makeup and who changes her hair color a lot. I'm more open about my inner life than most people I've ever met. Joel doesn't call me The Notorious TMI for nothing!
But all of that? It's just me trying my good goddamnest to BE OKAY with being me. Which is both my most difficult and most important destination. I think we all want to be okay, right?
After the ugly part, Crystal had us flip our papers over and write what our own voices were trying to scream through the hands that were covering them. (She actually had us scream OUT LOUD what the voices were saying, both with our hands over our own mouths and then, if we were brave enough, without them.) (Joel and I were both brave enough.)
It turns out my inner voice is screaming:
And the only thing I could think of to write under that was my manifesto, which I looked up on my phone as a reminder. (Then I set it as my iPhone wallpaper because it felt appropriate.)So my voice is simple and clear. It says:
You live your manifesto
(not just hang it on the wall)
and that TRUTH
helps others live theirs.
Looks like I have my work cut out for me.
Being there at The Bridge on Sunday proved one of Joel's favorite truths: you can only be in the right place at the right time if you actually show up.
I'm glad we did.
My favorite part of that Sunday, however, had absolutely nothing to do with me. (SHOCKING, I know.) As we were hanging out afterwards and ordaining Crystal so she could give a blessing to an out of town attendee (ORDAINED BY ATHEISTS! How can I not love this church!?), the food church began handing out sacks of groceries to the hungry like they do every Sunday. This week's bags were filled with bread and berries and fresh produce and random Oregon-grown goodness of all kinds. But then I noticed that several people were also walking away with big cellophane-wrapped bunches of fresh flowers (donated by Trader Joe's).
Just get that image in your head because my phone sucks and it's too dark at The Bridge for me to take a picture:
People who are hungry enough to line up outside of church every Sunday for a sack of groceries walking away with not only food, but flowers.
Flowers for the hungry.
It was so beautiful, I cried. Again.