Category Archives: Hope

Instead of suicide, I’m throwing myself a Pity Party

Instead of suicide, I’m throwing myself a Pity Party

My baby girl is getting married today. For her and her beau, it’s a day of joy and celebration. It would be for me, too, except for the fact that I have been told I would not be welcome there.

My future son-in-law’s parents are conservative and Christian. Rather than offend their sensibilities, since I am a Trans* woman, I have been told not to come. Instead, my “normal” younger brother will be giving my daughter away.

In a way, I’m not surprised. Indeed, I should have been able to predict it—after all, she was raised in a household dominated by her grandmother, who was definitely the controlling Alpha female. Indeed, it took me years after her mother and I divorced that I was able to see that I had been in an abusive relationship.

When I was involuntarily outed—by my ex’s brother—to my family, my father and my daughters immediately stopped all contact with me. It wasn’t until nine years later that my father reached out to me. My older daughter, with whom I had been reunited years earlier, called me and said, “You need to call your daddy. He wants to talk with you.”

My father had had a stroke the previous year, and his health had steadily declined. Now he was bedridden. He and my step-mother had attended a few therapy sessions about me, and he was ready. After an hour-long telephone conversation, we ended by telling each other, “I love you.”

That was a Friday. The following Monday, my wife suggested we drive down to see my dad. We live in upstate New York, and he in Maryland. Apparently my two brothers had flown in to visit him, and had already been there a couple of weeks.
Tuesday morning we loaded the truck and headed down to Maryland. We hadn’t been on the road 30 minutes when my daughter called. “”Your daddy’s gone,” she said.

We continued our trip in silence. Rochester to Hagerstown was about an 8 hour drive, with stops for meals and refueling. It was dark when we arrived, and after a couple hours of conversation, we found a motel and checked in. The plan was for all of us to meet at the funeral home the next morning.

My younger brother was there, as were my daughters and my eldest grandson, the one who had adored my father. I finally reconnected with my younger daughter. It was a loving reconciliation.

A year or so later, I made a futile attempt to move back to Seattle. Futile, because I had forgotten that under Washington state law, between first and last months’ rents, as well as a damage deposit, it would have cost me a minimum of $2400 just to move into the cheapest apartment available.

I ended up taking the train back to Rochester, but not before my younger daughter visited me a few times. I also got the chance to spend time with my older daughter and my grandchildren.

Then, as Don Henley once sang, “I got the call today I didn’t want to hear.”

I told myself it didn’t matter, that she would change her mind. I knew I was fooling myself when she didn’t even have the courage to call me herself. Instead, she saddled her sister with that onerous duty.

And so today is the wedding. At first, when my older daughter texted me how unhappy she was that I wasn’t there, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. After a while, I got up and got dressed, ate breakfast, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and knew that today was going to be a hard day for me. All of my mental issues—my depression, anxiety disorders, dysphoria—are beating inside my brain. The wolf is howling at the door, demanding to be let in. I’ve been crying off and on for the past two hours and considering my options.

As they always do when my depression spirals out of control, my first thoughts were of self-harm. I wanted to die. But then my mantra kicked in: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and I knew that no matter how this day goes, I will still be here tomorrow. Hell, I don’t even have any razor blades in the house!

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?—Khalil Gibran, “On Joy and Sorrow”

And so I continue. Writing this story suffices for today’s therapy. I’m going shopping with my BFF later today, and we’ve got a full agenda…to be closed out with pizza for dinner….

A Cup of Bitterness

A Cup of Bitterness

As I was growing up in a tea-drinking family, my mother’s universal remedy for just about every conceivable ailment was a cup of tea and a side of cinnamon toast. This was so ingrained in me that even now–at the age of 67–I still find comfort in a cup of tea.

“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” ~Bernard-Paul Heroux

Changing Tastes

But as George Orwell tells us,

“…I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than 20 weak ones. All true tea-lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes….” ~George Orwell, “A Nice Cup of Tea,” Evening Standard, 12 January 1946

In my own case, I find it to be true. Oh, I’m not ready to go full-on Orwell in my habits–I still prefer milk and sweetener in my cuppa–but neither am I content with the tea of my youth: weak, insipid tea brewed from a bag and served with so much milk and sugar that it might as well have been called tea-flavored milk.

But I’ve slowly been cutting back on the additives. Less sweetener, less milk result in a more astringent taste. A slight bitterness. Sometimes I’ll add some Tea Masala, that Indian blend of spices that results in what I call Masala Chai, and most people erroneously refer to as “Chai tea,” not realizing that the very word “Chai” means “tea.” So they’re ordering a cup of tea tea.


Then again, what else would you expect from the nation that gave us the baseball team called “The The Angels Angels”? And just why in the hell did they move them from Brooklyn in the first place?

But I digress.

Flavored Teas

With the exception of Masala Chai, I find the idea of adding flavors to tea quite abhorrent. You are no longer drinking tea but rather some watered-down Kool-aid substitute.

And that’s why, with rare exceptions on the even rarer exceptions that I go to a restaurant, I won’t order tea. This is simply that American restaurants don’t know how to make a proper cup of tea. And why do we spell it “rest-o-RANT” but pronounce it “REST-ront,” anyway?

These are but a few of the thoughts I have whilst enjoying that all-important first cup of tea of the day. There are some mornings when all that gets me out of bed in the first place is the whistling of the kettle when my roommate boils his own pot of water to pour over the coffee grounds in his French press coffee maker.

And not even that works all of the time. Sometimes my depression is as black as my roomie’s coffee.

Still, I continue to find beauty, comfort, and bitterness in a cup of tea.

What If I Told You That Jesus DIDN’T Die For Your Sins?

What If I Told You That Jesus DIDN’T Die For Your Sins?

Yes, yes, I know…this is supposed to be a religion-free zone. But in the United States, the state and religion are also supposed to be separated, and they’re not. So this post is going to be a potpourri of observations I’ve made over the course of my life, and how I ended up an atheist. I mean no disrespect to anyone’s religion, so please bear with me.

The major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have their roots in older beliefs that were grounded in blood sacrifice. Consequently, Christianity in particular has had since its very inception its own roots in the belief that a blood sacrifice is required as an atonement for sins (wrongdoings) and as its main tenet.

“Jesus died for your sins” is the very foundation of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. One worships Christ crucified (hence, the crucifix), and the other worships Christ risen (hence, the empty cross).

Everything else is just window-dressing: Jews don’t recognize Christ as the Messiah, Protestants don’t recognize the pope as the vicar of Christ on earth, and Southern Baptists don’t recognize each other at Hooter’s.

I maintain that the whole concept of blood sacrifice is a holdover from before the Dark Ages and has nothing whatsoever to do with the mission of Christ.

Want proof? If God truly required a blood sacrifice of his own son, why not have him crucified as an infant, to save time? Then there would have been no need for the humiliation and suffering he underwent at the hands of the Romans.

Yes, it was the Romans and not the Jews who were  responsible for the crucifixion. Consider: the Jewish priesthood accused Jesus of blasphemy, the scriptural punishment for which was death by stoning. Crucifixion, on the other hand, was Rome’s punishment for enemies of the state.

Pontius Pilate knew exactly what he was doing when he had Christ crucified as an enemy of the state, which is why he hung the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” As a descendant of David, Jesus could rightfully claim to be the king of the House of Israel; Pilate said to the Jews, “Okay, here’s your king. He’s DEAD. Any questions?”

Later, when Christianity became one of the religions of the Roman Empire, and later still, the official religion, the powers that be realized that they had a real problem in the fact that they themselves had killed their own savior! What do do? Hey, let’s blame it on the Jews! Nobody really likes them, and besides, as the winners, we get to write the history!

Now That We’ve Eliminated the Need For Blood Sacrifice…

Where does that leave us? My theory is that over the past 21 centuries, we’ve lost sight of the true purpose of Christ’s mission, which was not to die for us, but to be an example of how to live.

Why do churches rely so heavily on the morality of the Old Testament, and all but completely ignore Christ’s message (read The Beatitudes) as well as the example he lived?

Christ cleansed the temple of the hawkers and vendors who had made it their home, but many churches today demand 10% of your earnings. He advocated feeding the poor, housing the homeless, and healing the sick. And we’re all witness to what that has become in the United States.

Christ Didn’t Die For Your Sins

For make no mistake: if Christ was truly one with god, then he, too, would have been all-powerful and would have had no problem smiting his enemies.

Rather he lived his life as an example of how everyone should live their lives. And in the end, as the supreme example, he died for his beliefs, showing us that it is better to die for your beliefs than to kill for them.

And that’s a lesson we’ve conveniently forgotten over the past 2000 years.

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

cohen

“I would like to remind
the management
that the drinks are watered
and the hat-check girl
has syphilis
and the band is composed
of former ss monsters.
However since it is
new year’s eve
and i have lip cancer
i will place my
paper hat on my
concussion and dance.”

–Leonard Cohen

The title of this entry is a quote from T. S. Eliot, Ol’ Possum himself. For a poet, he seemed to be very much in tune with the principles of Eastern mysticism, or quantum physics, the modern science which seems to be a scientific way of proving its tenets.

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.”

What I find the most interesting about my own writing is that no matter how much I plan, or how many outlines I create, when I actually sit down and start to write, the writing itself takes over and controls me.

I first noticed this when I took a class entitled “Selected Masterpieces of American Literature at university. Most of us who took the class knew from the previous semester that what we were going to be doing was reading and studying on William Faulkner novel a week. One newcomer, who hadn’t been in on “the secret,” complained to the professor that the course title was rather deceptive. “Well, he replied, “these books are classics of American literature, and I selected them, so I don’t see the problem.”

For our final paper we had a choice: write a scholarly paper related to Faulkner or his works, or write a short story emulating his style.

I chose the former.

But when I finally printed out the results, I realized that once again the mule had taken the lead and wandered down dusty backroads, past corn and cotton fields, and somehow ended up in Faulkner’s backyard in Oxford, Mississippi.

It’s the same with this post: I was going to recap the past year of my life, and maybe compare it with what I hoped the coming year would be like. But there’s this mule, see….

I’d Like To Close the Year With a Ray of Hope

And once again, to do that, I’m going to quote William Faulkner. This time, it is the text of his acceptance speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1950:

Ladies and gentlemen,


I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.