Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Jesus loving non-christian

This post is about the Big R...RELIGION.  Actually it is about identity and spirituality too.  Before I debate the current, I need to visit the past.

I was born to a Catholic mother and an father whose own father was a non practicing German Jew.  My grandfather was a leader in the Jewish Youth league in Germany.  He spent some time in prison for his faith and along with his brother Ernst, managed to move to South Africa and avoided the concentration camps of so many of his fellow believers.  He did not marry a Jewish woman and did not practice his faith in SA.  I am not really sure what or who my father believes in but I know the past 6 years and all the shit our family have gone through along with losing my nephew Ben 10 years ago had him thinking.

My mom was born in Holland to strict Catholics and attended a convent in South Africa when they emigrated here.  Many of the nuns were cruel and unkind and the reason why my mom stutters to this day.  We were raised Catholic, got baptized, went to mass, had 1st Holy Communion and later confirmation.  My many questions re confession, the bible, the trinity etc were frowned upon by my catechism teacher.  I walked with God back then, I have always walked with him.  I never had a love relationship though and much of the Catholic guilt and rituals were part of the package.  After school I only did the Christmas and Easter thing.  And then at age 25 my Daniel was born and I came face to face with God as I grabbed my slippery vernix and blood coated infant and pulled him onto my chest.  This is your boy to raise, he does not belong to you but I have entrusted him to you.  I knew I would need to give him back to the world and he would have a specific purpose and role to play.  The gifts that God would bless him with would come with responsibility.  I still know that and so does Daniel.

Anyway, I looked radiant after he was born.  I could see something in my tired face, I could see I had experienced something life changing and it wasn't just becoming a mother.  Between trying to get the hang of mothering and dealing with a shattered heart and the sole responsibility of maintaining and paying for my home and raising my boy, I felt very deserted by this God who had paid me such a brief visit.  I continued to question though, to ponder and crave more.  I felt like I couldn't possibly be a Christian because I could never be that well behaved.  I had not learned the gift of grace yet.  I pondered about Buddhism as a maybe for me but mostly I ran after Daniel and healed that shattered heart I was left with.  When he was 3 I attended a Christian service at a church in Camps and that day it all changed.  Something happened and when I walked out the church with a golf ball sized lump in my throat it changed into a river of tears when a random stranger asked if I had enjoyed the service.  It was November 14th 1999.  Someone prayed for me and just like that I was now a Christian.  I learned plenty along the way, some I have kept and some I have discarded.  This post will get far too long if I go into detail so I will try keep it short.  I did The Alpha course which is designed for new Christians and I GOT it.  Jesus loved me.  Yes I know I sound like a sticker or a kids song but He loved me.  ME?  Non virginal single mother, weed smoking, lapsed catholic, prone to swearing on occasion, drinking too much at times ME.  In fact He thought I was incredibly precious and beautiful and fascinating and so worthy of 100% love and acceptance.  He might not love all I had done and was yet to do but me, ah, I was His girl.  For the 1st year I would sit in church and cry the whole service.  How could I be worthy?  Grace is one thing but for me?  The cross became more than a fashion accessory Madonna wore for her concerts.  This simple symbol represented that this gift of redemption and grace was not to be taken lightly and I had a second chance.  I had a constant guide who would ever so gently nudge me in the right direction.  And when I took the wrong path and would have to deal with the inevitable consequences, I never got an I told you so, I got a hand offered to pull me up and a new chance to try again.  Grace.

And then I got sucked into others opinions and rules and ideas of how it should happen.  Being new I questioned my own truth and it got clouded by their truth.  I followed the straight and narrow path for a long time but I always had questions and sometimes I would look back and wander if I hadn't perhaps taken the wrong path.  Could their be other paths leading to the same destination?  Other modes of transport?   I had the obvious questions too like how can the earth be 6000 years old?  Why can't creationism and evolution co-exist.  A world created by God and evolved over millions of years.  Many stories in the bible became symbolic because my rational sensible mind could not quite get 2 elephants walking side by side next to 2 beetles (we have 250 000 species, which ones did he choose?)    Did they watch all the people they knew drowning in this flood as they sat in their big boat?  The guy in the whale?   The lady turned to salt?  I have a hundred other examples.  I also struggled to reconcile the violent harsh God of the old testament who would kill all the baby boys under the age of 2 because they did not have a splash of red on their door.  Thousands murdered in wars.  Only a select few group of people who mattered?  Why were the others created?

Fast forward to 2014 and I have left that narrow path that only allow a few access to God.  That discredit millions of people as not knowing God because they call Him by another name.  Am I sad they don't know Jesus?  Yes, I want them to have that same love and grace and acceptance and not be bound by such strict rules and formulas and conditions of worth.  I love my church and I love the people who go there.  I love the worship and the presence of God that is so tangible there.  (And yes I know I can experience Him anywhere)   What I don't love about the greater church, is the deception.  We would rather have gay people deny who they are, lie to those they love and even deceive someone by marrying them than be who God created them to be.  We base their ability to parent on their sexuality.  We don't allow them to marry the person they love and some don't even believe they will go to heaven or can possibly know and love God.  I believe people are born gay and do not choose to be gay.  We find evil and sin where it doesn't exist.  We turn something innocent into something dark without even really questioning what we believe and what our gut tells us.  We are animals in spiritual captivity who have lost the gift of discernment.  Questions are seen as rebellion and disobedience.  When I read Eat, Pray, Love she spoke about forming your own religion.  We all have a one-on-one personal unique relationship with God so how can we have 1 exact formula.  It has taken me many years but I am in a place where I listen to my gut and what the Holy Spirit is telling me.  I always err on the side of love.  If I get it wrong and I stand before Him one day I would rather He told me I loved too much than be given points for blind obedience.  God is love, yet another sticker...  But He is.  He is magnificent huge mysterious all encompassing love, I just can't believe He sweats the small stuff like do your kids watch Harry Potter, or is Halloween evil, acupuncture, Tinkerbell or a hundred other random things people like to get excited about.  He is GOD.  He creates and He loves and He guides and He protects and He strengthens and He comforts.

PS, I love my friends Christian and non and those odd ball people like myself somewhere in between.  Please don't send me scriptures or try and convince me to squeeze myself into your shoes and walk your path.  I will get lost sometimes, stumble and graze my knee, skip along, walk, run and occasionally jump on His back for a piggy back ride but know the path I walk is my own spiritual journey with the very same God who walks with you on yours. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Handing over the baton

I am now at the grand young and old age of 43.  Some days I feel like I am twenty and I look down in amazement at the top of my hands which betray my age more than any other part of my body. 

Growing up we are given a title, an identity.  This sounds somewhat conceited so please forgive any inadvertent vanity but my role was The Pretty One.  The Model.  Mel-the-model.  I have always been a sensitive soul and a deep thinker so I took no pride in the fact that I was a model.  It hardly takes a genius to wear whatever the stylist has handed you and pose for a few photographs.  I never fitted the scene because I was quiet and shy and the dramatic me-me-me types I met who did my hair, my face, my wardrobe and took my pics basically ignored this quiet teenager who they probably dubbed stupid or boring.  I didn't care.  My face was my air ticket and my travel bug was insatiable.  I would shut up and smile and wear boiling hot clothes in summer and splash in icy water in my bikini if it meant I could see Paris, Milan, Madrid, Hamburg, Miami, Rio, Salvador.  I could sail on fancy yachts and ride horses bareback on the beach.  I smiled quietly on the inside and I took all the perks modeling had to offer as I protected my mind, body and soul from drugs, sex, gossip, apathy, vanity.  It was not a nice world.

At age 20 I quit.  Enough already of the BS of the business.  I had made enough money to be independent, to buy my car, to travel, to support myself.  Life went on but I knew I could use my looks in other ways.  I suppose if I was a die hard feminist I would refuse to be treated any differently based on the fact of being attractive or not attractive.  I am afraid I was more of a realist and I knew when it came to getting what I wanted being The Pretty One could be milked a while longer.  I met Gary at age 30 and I know looks are important for him.  He likes to call me his trophy wife but I do not play the role very well.  Being completely non materialistic I refuse to wear the brands that supposedly dictate success and status.  He knows better than to buy me anything expensive or labeled.

As time goes by my looks of course fade and I used to wander what it would feel like not to be noticed anymore and to blend into the crowd.  Would I mind?  What would my new identity be?   Gary jokingly calls me the aging beauty.  Emphasis on AGING.  This is not a fish for compliments because at most I will are lovely for your age. FOR YOUR AGE.  And it is OK.  It really is because here is the thing.  The years of life that have taken away my youth and my looks have bestowed other gifts upon me.  Lasting gifts like insight and wisdom and compassion and curiosity.  Grace and tolerance and a brave heart.

What is being pretty?  It is fleeting.  I can be attractive and sexy and still look good for myself and my man and I will be all that.  I will never let myself go because I enjoy my femininity and I want Gary to feel pride when he has his old trophy on his arm.  I, myself, want to feel attractive regardless of my age.  So, the time has come for me to pass the baton to my lovely daughters.  I will NOT be that jealous competitive mother desperately hanging onto her youth.  I will stand back in pride and watch my lovely girls grow into themselves reminding them all the time of what makes them truly lovely.

So guess what I am now...The interesting positive one!   Seriously.  My doc loves me, he keeps me there for ages and we chat about so much stuff.  He thinks I am an interesting person with views worth hearing.  Then I met my Chairo the other day and he told me I was a really positive and interesting person.  It was one of the nicest compliments I have ever received and I thought right, I had a good long time of being TPO and now I am TIO.  Time to go, Sofie has a casting.  Kiddie modelling for now but I will decide later if I will allow them into that world I once inhabited.   Feeling liberated!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Life with Dilbert

Acceptance, that is the stage where I find myself after 2 long years of battling Dystonia.  WTF is Dystonia?  Dystonia involves involuntary contraction of muscles that normally work in cooperation, so that a body part is held in an unusual and often painful position as a result. Dystonia can affect any body part, and can result in both embarrassment and the inability to perform daily activities.   Mine is called oromandibular or lingual dystonia, sometimes also known as Tardive Dyskynesia.  My jaw, my tongue, my palate.  I have decided to name my Dystonia and his name is Dilbert.

This stage of acceptance brings both peace and grief at the same time.  I call myself hope junkie as I am the eternal optimist, the idealist.  I crash and burn often yet somehow when I catch a glimmer of that magical elixir called hope I breath a little faster and before I know it I am flying with possibilities and what ifs in Magic-land.  Sometimes they really do come true and sometimes I am hurtling back to earth with the bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth.  I remember googling my crazy side effects of the anti-depressant I was on and copying the link in a mail to my sister and husband.  I was in so much pain and so freaked out and when I read: months, years and sometimes forever I freaked out.  FOREVER?   What do you mean FOREVER?  I cannot do another day of this, not one more day.  Well guess f*cking what?  You can and you will and you have to.  Over 700 days, I have lived with this for over 700 days.  Not because I am brave or strong, because I have young children and a husband so I cannot take my own life.

Have I thought about it?  Oh yes.  Very much so.  I have tried various medications to tame or even kill Dilbert and the one made me so suicidal.  I thought about taking my own life every day.  Many times a day.  It came to a head on the 2nd of April and I raged all day, literally fighting for my life that day.  It was the classical battle between good and evil with death standing very close and pulling me little by little closer to the edge.  I prayed and prayed all day and ironically it was the suicide of my own grandmother that meant I had to stay.  I was not going to take on that legacy and not going to do that to my mother or my children or Gary.  To be THAT family spoken about in hushed tones.  When Gary came home we had a chat and he called my doc that said depression was a side effect of those meds and I went off immediately.  The suicidal thoughts also went away.  Geez it was a hard and scary time for me.  I remember my birthday tea on the 9th of April, exactly 1 week later and looking at my friends thinking if only you knew how close I was to not being here just 1 week before.  But enough of that, its horrible just writing about it.  And no, I don't want to talk about it.

So what am I writing about?  I suppose in the light of Dystonia awareness month I am writing to try and explain what life is like for me.  I posted a clip of myself showing my spasms on FB.  It was ugly and embarrassing but also a little liberating.  When you are trying so damn hard to be normal and act normal but actually you are dealing with a neuro movement disorder 24-7 you never quite feel normal.  Its a lonely place to be.  Apart from the pain the worst part is speech.  I have to talk against my tongue.  Its very hard and very tiring and it makes it hurt far worse.  That makes me feel disabled which in turn makes me super cross.  I blame Lilly the drug company for making Cymgen (Cymbalta generic) and then denying responsibility.  I blame my hard as nails don't give a f*ck psychiatrist who prescribed the meds, reported my case but then when Lilly said it doesn't cause Dystonia she washed her hands off me and hasn't answered a single mail since.  Her time will come, we are all held accountable for what we do and do not do. 

So how do I manage?  I suck sweets, I have a baby teether, I drink lots of hot tea, cold water.  I use masses of lip-ice/chapstick.  I try not to talk on the phone and save my speech for when my kids get home and I need to do homework.  I cannot read them stories anymore and it makes me sad.  If I say something and they don't hear me (its hard to speak clearly) I want to cry at the thought of having to say it again.  Thank God I can write and thank God I don't have it in the rest of my body.  I can exercise so I do.  One gift of Dystonia...becoming a triathlete.  Its my great big F-you to Dilbert.  I am sorry I have to swear so often.  It helps with the cross bit.  I am not a loud or screaming type but sometimes I want to collapse on the floor and rage at the world like a 2 year old crying and yelling.  Itsnotfair Itsnotfair Itsnotfair.  Then I watch clips of people with it all over or really bad facial grimaces and parts of me feels guilty because I am mild in comparison and parts of me so afraid that mine could get worse.  I saw a clip today that was so horrendous I thought no way would I live like that.  But then I thought I need to hold Daniel's baby for the first time one day and I need to button up the back of my daughters' wedding dresses like my mother did for us girls.  I have to stay and I have to just hope that it never gets worse.  I have to hope that I can manage it better and maybe, just maybe, I might even hope that they find a cure for it and I can have my life back.  Its possible that I do not have to do 40 more years of this.     

PS:  I have thought about what the hell I am going to do once I graduate and I start my career as a counselor with the real possibility of not managing to speak for lengthy periods.  My response...hope junkie thinks in the next 2 years somehow something happens and it lessens or stops and I just open my great big mouth and talk.  Fluent, easy, painless.  Please God.