2007 mid-ish year recap

wherein kelly throws herself a whiny pity party and decides upon review that she really doesn’t care about the tense shifting and inconsistent capitalization enough to do anything about it.

let’s recap, shall we?

January
bad: found out my dad’s “spots” were very terminal pancreatic cancer

February
good: *finally* sold our damn house.
bittersweet: found out friends were pregnant (what? i’m not allowed to be happy and a wee bit jealous?)
bad: work-related stress comes to a serious head, resulting in more than one panic attack.

March
bad -“the flood” -work falls to bitty, bitty chaotic pieces
bittersweet: found out my cousin was pregnant (see above)
good: found out I was pregnant
(it should be noted that the flood, rachel’s pregnancy and my discovery were all the same damn day)
bad: dad spends the month in and out of the hospital thanks to pneumonia, random fevers, and life-threatening blood clots.
bad: low progesterone issues threaten my pregnancy
bad: trip to new york is cancelled.
worst week so far: the one where it looked like i was going to miscarry, my dad was going to die, and we should have been spending a great week in newyork with my inlaws.

fuck march

April
good: low progesterone issues taper off as i enter the second trimester
bad: my dad dies.

fuck april

May
bad: my dad’s first not-birthday
good: the first annual “Bob Valentine Memorial Day at the Casino”
bad: Nancy (my mother in law)’s cancer has spread to her brain.

fuck the hell out of may.

June
good: baby and i pass the 18week checkup with flying colors, even if we didn’t discover the gender
good: trip to seattle with 4 of my closest friends (oh, and ryan)
good: work seems to be turning around with the help of some restructuring/new hires
bad: my mentor leaves the company, leaving me at “the helm” of this new restructuring
bad: my first birthday in 20+ years where my father doesn’t call me at 10:50 to say happy birthday
good/bad: the radiation treatments clearly help Nancy, but greatly fatigue her/cause complications

seattle aside, fuck june, too.

July
bad: blockage in Nancy’s digestive system is irreparable. she comes home to die.
bittersweet: more rushed than we’d like, we move out of our crappy apartment and into our sexy loft. loft is largely empty as we left most of our stuff behind.
good: baby is officially declared a girl
bad: my grandmother (the only grandparent i have left) is diagnosed with chronic pulmonary distress.
good: looks like she’s just an 89 year old woman with 89 year old lungs. it’s not great, but it’s not life-threatening.
bad: Nancy dies. her wake is 3 months to the day that my father died.
good: we register for “stuff” at babiesrus as a helpful distraction.
good: will and gina arrive a week early.

i’d fuck july if i had the strength.

August
good: will and gina’s presence in our home makes it feel like home.
bad: the week i took off to support my family throws the restructuring at work out of whack. yes, there were other reasons, but had i been there…
bad: stress of life and work and physical stress of baby causes painful acid reflux and i loose a weekend to feebleness and vomiting. takes a week to get my appetite back.
good: when we can squeeze it in, we move forward with baby things like building furniture and registering at target.
good: we find almost a week where we can focus on our loft and our upcoming baby. there is still much to do.
bad: life and work stress, coupled with the fact that i’m less and less physically capable of doing things, cause me to start having panic attacks again.
good: i start taking anti-depressants after talking with my doctor.
good: surprise trip to peoria to see nickelcreek and fiona apple.
bad: very close friends who’ve been together for 5 years end their relationship.
second worst week of the year: watching a friend grieve over the loss of her relationship and trying to help when she wants to be left alone to die. feeling more helpless than with either death.
good: my replacement at work is a rockstar. it gets easier every week to let a little work-stress go.
bad: nancy’s father (grandpa fritz) is diagnosed with colon cancer.
good: grandpa fritz has a very successful surgery to remove the cancer. is pronounced “good for 10 more years”. he is 91.
bad: grandpa’s sutures fail. he returns for additional surgery. it is successful (thusfar), but requires a ventilator, feeding tube. none of which he wants.

fuck august.

fuck it harder than any other month, in no small part because of all the months that have come before it, weighing it down so heavily.

september – december
good: apple day
bad: the first apple day with no nancy. the first apple day in 5 years with no fritzs because they’re all in chicago watching over grandpa’s beside.
bad: grandpa will likely not see halloween.
good: impending births of many loved children, including my own.
good: declaring myself “pagan enough” to count halloween as the new year and hopefully separating charlotte’s birth from the year that preceded it.
deathly frightening and exiting: charlotte’s arrival
bittersweet: there is still so very much to do.
bittersweet: showers for charlotte, which will have a few palpable absences.
good: will and gina will likely still be in town when charlotte arrives
bad: will and gina will leave days later for their new home in DC.
bittersweet: thanksgiving, christmas and so many alterations to loved traditions.
good: there will be a tattoo on me in some form or another to mark this year on my skin as permanently as it’s been marked on my soul.

may it be that i find the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

this happened last year, too

there’s something about lent that makes me want to go back to church. i’m guessing it’s a fairly decent mix of the whole “do something to make yourself a better/stronger” person, lots of pre-lenten advertising in the form of mardi gras, and those random folks with smudges on their head on ash wednesday saying loud and clear “you like the ritual of the mass, remember?”

the thing that always pushes me over the “go to mass” reluctant hill is the little voice in the back of my head that says “and the music. you know how you love the music of the mass. just go. be happy.”

so i go. and then i get to mass and i remember: you don’t sing happy music at lent because you’re supposed to be sad.

dammat. now i’ve got to sit through 6 weeks of doldrums music just to sing a hosanna and an alleluia and foley song other than “one bread, one body” ever again.

sigh…i suppose it’s as decent a penance as anything.

palms for the poor

sunday was palm sunday. sometime saturday i did the math and figured out that easter was probably next weekend, which meant that palm sunday was sunday (or “tomorrow” from my past pluperfect tense perspective of the day before). i decided that i should go to church.

i’d been putting it off, mostly because the last time was so moving, i was worried about disappointing myself with the next trip because they can’t all be that cool. well, i suppose they can be, but like most things, expecting and trying to force it is the best way to guarantee it’s not going to happen. the great communion question was also weighing pretty heavily on my mind. how will i know it’s the right time if i never go back?

palm sunday, however, was inexplicably different from the general “i should probably go to church” feeling i’ve had off and on since about november. all day saturday and the parts of sunday before mass i felt this urge. it should be noted that is was a standard urge, not something mystical coming from deep-within/far-outside of me. it was just a sort of nagging “you should go to church, it’s palm sunday.” why palm sunday? i have no idea. it just seemed right to go and pick up some palms and get all splashed with holy water. a sort of semi-re-induction, if you will. i also didn’t want to not-go before easter. and palm sunday is the last sunday before easter.

so i went.

…and i showed up 30 minutes late because i had the wrong start time. mass would have been mostly over if it hadn’t been palm sunday. as it was, they were about 1/3 of the way through the special palm sunday gospel reading of the passion. i didn’t realize my error until i was sitting down. i was a bit curious as to why everyone was looking at me like i was 30 minutes late instead of “almost late” though.

i missed the sprinkling of the palms, although an usher was kind enough to give me one. i also missed the first section of the mass. the section that basically purifies you and makes you “clean” for communion. without it, you really, really shouldn’t take communion. i think the specific bit that you need is the kyrie (lord have mercy etc). anyway, i knew enough to know that if i was going to play by the ritual’s rules, i wasn’t going to take communion. i was also pretty bummed because the sprinkling was something i was looking forward to, as kind of a mini re-baptism. (i’m gonna feel pretty crappy if there’s no sprinkling, the catholics who read this can steer me right)

so then i started obsessing and arguing with myself about the whole thing, trying to argue my way in and out of the possibility of taking communion. this went on all mass. when i wasn’t chiding myself for focusing on the guy wearing a health-mask in front of me or the fussy child next to me, or the guy a couple rows back who was overly proud of the fact that he’d replaced all the masculine-god references in the response with “god,” i was telling myself to shut up about the communion thing. “you get to focus on two things,” i told myself. “what’s going on at the front, or what should be going on inside of you.”

but all i could do was focus on the fact that i missed the first part of the mass and how that negated any opportunities to take communion.

eventually i hit the go-no-go part of the mass. and i started arguing with myself again. of course there was no sign. i hadn’t been focusing on anything at all the entire time. i wasn’t in place where i could hear anything, so why even bother listening? plus, i can’t go anyway because i wasn’t there at the right time. even if it was the time to go, i wasn’t going to go. of course, it’s not like that really matters when i’m picking and choosing which rules to support not that it really mattered because it was technically arbitrary and nobody around me probably knew why they were judging me even if was paying attention to the people around me which i wasn’t, honest.

finally one of the many non-mystical voices in my head shouted above the others, “would you just shut up and go take communion already?”

so i did.

boy was that weird.

it’s a bizarre feeling to want to giggle and to cry at the same time. euphoria and relief, mixed with some extreme self-consciousness (what if i say the wrong words, what if the priest calls me out, what if lightning strikes? what if someone notices that i’m about ready to burst out laughing? what will they think when they see the tears in my eyes?) is fun, but not fun.

i picked up the host and put it in my mouth, and said “amen” and crossed myself, and it was a little like i’d never left (which made me want to cry/giggle some more). it felt huge to be part of such an ancient ritual again.

so…um…yeah. there’s that. first communion in a catholic church in over 13 years.

religious re-conversion: phase 2

so remember how i went to church last year before advent and had that great “hooray, i’m catholic!” moment? i bet you’re wondering what happened next, aren’t you?

the answer, sadly, is: nothing.

didn’t go back, didn’t give anything up for lent, nadda. work/life has gotten so tiring/crazy that i haven’t really had the urge. oh sure, around 11:30 on sunday i think “i probably should have gone. i didn’t do anything useful with this time anyway” but never enough to actually do something about.

this past week, some friends came into town. one of them is catholic and made plans to visit her old church, the church i went to past november, and sing in the choir (the choir of 3 when she was there that is still the choir of 3 when she is there–do a tenor and an alto a choir make? i really don’t think so :). i had debated back and forth going with her, but going with her brought into play potential awkward social situations that i wasn’t ready for. i knew deep down that saturday night i would chicken out and she’d be on her own. she had a broken foot, however, and while she didn’t necessarily need help getting around and driving, it was always welcome. saturday afternoon, as i was driving home on a near-empty tank of gas in the only car she could drive, i realized i had 2 options: get gas now, or get gas with her on the way to church. as cowardly as i am, i’m not going to make crutches-girl get her own gas, ever, much less on her pokey way to pray. my solution was obvious: get gas now. :)

fortunately, everyone was at the gas station, and in my way, so i said “f*ck it. i’ll just go to church.”

we came in from a side-entrance and early enough that the place was pretty empty, so after situating her with the rest of the choir, i took my seat. after looking around at the growing congregation, i realized i forgot that there was a little booklet (missalette?) that i’m supposed to pick up at the door so i can follow along with the parts of the mass that change. when i went back out to pick it up, they weren’t in an obvious place and there were people kind of everywhere, with other things to do (not quite angry!jesus at the temple, but certainly there). so i just kind of spun around in a helpless circle for a moment until someone said “are you looking for a booklet, hon?” and i said blushing and quite relieved, “yes. thank you.” then i took a book and blushed some more and said, “i don’t do this very often.” and she smiled and said, “well, we’re glad to have you.”

and i believed her, and that was cool.

then the actual mass began. i was dismayed that since it’s lent, all the songs i like to sing are unsung because they’re happy and jubilant and lent is a time for quiet, but since i couldn’t really do anything about that (except come back during easter where it’s all jubilant all the time), i let it go.

that’s when things started to go weird on me.

over the past couple of years, when i was able to be really connected to my meditation practices, i’d get this sort of different-conscious feeling.

as an angry anti-catholic that was forced to go to mass as a highschool/college student, i was a passive participant. i stood/sat/knelt when i needed to, but there was no talking, no all-group-prayer-ing, and certainly no signs of the cross. it took a while to learn to resist the impulses, but eventually i got it down.

sunday, however, when my hand twitched to cross myself, i let it. and something marvelous occurred to me.

before, i stopped crossing myself because i wasn’t sure i bought into the holy trinity thing, and because i was irritated that so many people around me were sheep, blindly following, saying, doing when they really didn’t think about it. the hypocracy of other parishioners was why i left. which is silly really, since who cares about them? but anyway.

sunday, it hit me that while there are 100 different historical, symbolic reasons for why it’s done, there was one that never occurred to me. you do it because it’s a signal to the rest of you that you’re in church. it’s like stretching before you run, or tuning your instrument before you play. and for me, personally, who cares what the others think and do, everything that happens during a mass can keep me in that beautiful open moment that i can occasionally achieve during meditation, just as easily as staring at a candle flame, or focusing on my breathing, or any other “trick” i’d learned to focus. for me, it’s this odd combination of being both more and less aware of what’s going on around. everything is extra still. it’s…indescribable, really, unless you’ve been there, but it’s pretty nifty feeling. sunday i discovered that if i let it, signs of the cross, “mindless” responses, kneeling, sitting, standing, it can all be used to help sustain that moment.

and that is so very cool.

it kept going, too. when we hit the nicene creed, i thought “you can’t say this. this is a statement of beliefs, most of which you either flat out don’t agree with, or are very skeptical of. you probably don’t even know it anymore. you’d have to read it from that booklet, and that’s pretty lame, so stand here and be quiet like you always do and try not to let them creep you out too much.” but a little, growing voice from either deep within or far beyond said, “just act as if and see what happens.”

so i did.

and it reinforced what i’d felt earlier. the words don’t have to be important. i’ve chanted nonsense, or something i came up with over and over again while meditating because it distracts a few senses and keeps them from pulling me out of focus. the creed had the potential to be the exact same thing. and it was. bonus cool: i could only follow when i wasn’t thinking about it. the minute i paid attention to the fact that i was saying it, or tried to figure out what was coming next, i dropped both the words and that cool buzzing feeling.

it didn’t stop there though.

when it came time for intercessions, and i was deep in the buzzing stage of being un/aware of everything around me, an unbidden thought came to the surface again:

: you should pray for nancy
:: i don’t believe in praying for things like that. you know that.
: yeah. i know. you should pray for her anyway.
:: no. it’s not my place to ask for anything.
: fine. don’t pray. just open your mind and flood it with images of nancy and allow all the grief to bleed out of you and add it to the pain that’s leaking out of everyone around you right now.
:: but that’s … praying…. kinda…only not asking for anything so it doesn’t bother me and is actually quite a good feeling.
: (you’re welcome)

are you getting tired of hearing how cool this all is? too bad, cuz i’m still. not. done. yet.

communion.

i just cannot do it yet, and it’s because to me, that’s it. when i take communion, i can’t pretend i’m here on the sidelines. a portion of me feels like i should have announce myself first. like i need to ask someone’s permission to partake after denouncing the whole thing (and taking communion in other churches) for 10+ years. even though the rest of me says that’s a silly thing, i’m still nervous about it. i’m worried i won’t do it right. i’m worried that lightning will strike me down when i get up there (okay, not really, but kinda). as i was loosing my faith (before i became super angry) i felt uncomfortable partaking because it felt wrong and disrespectful. it is the only part of the mass that doesn’t pass my “you’re doing it for yourself, forget the rest of them” hurdle. this is a very big deal, so i must treat it accordingly.

the thing is, not taking communion makes it awkward. i have to get up anyway, and step out into the aisle so that others can get by and it draws attention to me (even if it’s only the attention of 6 people) and makes me uncomfortable. and i hate that. having to deal with communion has actually kept me away before.

“not wanting to be in the way is not a valid reason to get communion,” a voice told me. and i agreed.

and then it happened again.

after the lamb of god (or, the “agnus dei” since we were singing in latin), we say “lord, i am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and i shall be healed.”

now, to me, this was one of the squicky parts of the mass: i’m not worthy? please! i’ve sat through all of this and i’m in control of my faith and i say i’m worthy so i’m worthy, so who are you to tell me to say i’m not, stupid church.

only not.

this time, i said the words, but what i heard in my head was “these are great words because they turn you completely over to the experience you’re enjoying so much and there will come a time when you’ll say these words, and you’ll know it’s time to go for communion. it may happen next week, it may not happen for years, it may not even happen, but if it does, this will be the moment, so you no longer need to worry about when/how you’ll know.”

i didn’t take communion, but i did have a pretty powerful experience, and aside from a few moments in st. patrick’s cathedral in ny when we visited it a few years ago (no mass), it’s the only time i’ve felt like that within a church.

i was worried that i would lose the connection i get in ritual i create for myself when i came back to ritual created by others.

not so worried anymore.

shine like the sun

i’m taking a break from the bathroom updating. don’t worry, pictures have been taken and i’ll post day 5 and 6 later today most likely.

there’s some stuff that’s been mulling around in my head for a few months now and i had an epiphany of sorts on sunday. purging onto paper is always a nice way to help sort out my thoughts/path forward, so that’s what i’m going to do.

let’s start with a disclaimer, though, shall we? i mean no offense to any one currently practicing an organized religion of any sort. i am of the belief that it’s all good, and just because your church does not meet my needs does not mean that i think it’s “wrong” (or a waste of your time, or whatever). if that one statement offends you because you do believe that your church is right and the rest of us are going to burn in hell (or not attain enlightenment or whathaveyou) you’d best move on. you’re not going to care for what happens next, and i’m not going to apologize for having an open mind.

next i suppose we need some history, so that if you read this, you know where i’m coming from, and why i might think the way i do about certain things. i’ll try to be brief, but if you know me, you know that’s not possible.

…sigh…

i just wrote a 5 page essay and i hadn’t even gotten to the point… let’s try this again.

i was a late-comer to catholicsm (about 6th grade) so learned it from a slightly different perspective than most of my peers. i attended a catholic high school and a jesuit university. i went from being so devout at 14 that i seriously considered a life of service (i.e. becoming a nun) to so angry at the church/god i couldn’t see straight at 18. eventually i mellowed into agnosticism. i still found the idea of religion fascinating though, and took pretty much every opportunity to research and talk to people from all sorts of faiths (not just christianty).

when i figured out (for myself) that there was value in the journey in this life regardless of what happened in any next life, i turned to paganism. why paganism? because it was a build-it-yourself sort of religion where i could explore ritual on my own without centuries of other people’s ideas to really get in my way. looking ahead, i knew that i would eventually get back into organized religion. it’s the natural progression that we go through culturally and individually. i assumed it would be christian-based. you stick with what you know, and even though i craved the intense, ancient ritual of juadism or islam, it’s too different from what i wanted. i also knew i’d be steering very clear of the evangelical, born-again, charismatic christian churches. i still have not lost the belief that every faith is just a valid as another, so a religion in direct, active opposition to that belief was not for me. i was on the fence about it resolving back to catholicism, because that’s the one i’ve picked apart for it’s flaws more than any other.

i figured the first foray would be to universal unitarianism, but it turns out, my next step was to UCC (united church of christ). i didn’t even realize it until yesterday,

how does this happen? my husband’s parents are UCC and we’d been going to the big celebrations (christmas and easter with a few random sundays throughout the year) there for a few years. we were married there. while i kept myself at arms distance, i still felt welcomed and that my personal journey/philosophy was not in conflict with the church’s views. i actually took communion when it was offered. to me, coming from and rejecting catholicism, this was a big thing. two years ago ryan and i joined the choir because i need to sing and it was a great way to spend time with his parents.

i know what you’re thinking.

you take communion, you attend regularly, and you sing in the choir. how do you not feel like a member of the church? i don’t have a good answer for you, other than it just snuck up on me.

the music is what gets me. singing along with music in my car, even when it’s choral/sacred stuff just doesn’t cut it. it helps, and not being able to do that compounds the stress it’s supposed to relieve. there is something about singing within a congregation or a choir/chorus that fills a void inside me. i am happier when i’m in a choir. i just am. i would hate getting up on a sunday and go to mass, but once i was there, and the music started, i’d feel better. it kept me going to mass long after i started distancing myself from catholicism.

so we sang with the UCC church. it wasn’t the same as the music in a catholic church, but it worked. there was very little in the service that i actively objected to. it only happened during baptism. i forget the actual wordings, but the stuff about original sin i cannot agree with. it’s a beautiful baby who hasn’t done a thing to hurt anyone. how can you say it’s evil/impure?

anyway, let’s not get too tangent-y. we’re approaching that 5 page essay again, and just now getting to the point.

this summer i attended 2 catholic weddings (one was full-mass) and a memorial mass. that’s more mass in 3 months than i’d experienced in the 5 years before that. and the music. oh god the music. i’d forgotten how much i loved the music. the glory to god, the alleluias, the hosanna. not to mention all the songs interspersed in the mass. it brought tears to my eyes (it’s doing so right now, actually). its amazing how the same music can sound so joyful, and yet can be such a release for sadness as well.

after the memorial mass, which was itself an intense reminder of how much faith can bring to a person’s life, i started thinking about checking out the catholic churches around my house. i went so far as to figure out which one was “mine” as well as get some advice from a friend who happened to be catholic, in the same general area, and shares my feelings about the music. i sort of let the idea die since then. i’m shy and socially awkward, and actually going into an unfamiliar church where they might descend upon me with enthusiasm i could not match freaks me out.

then sunday happened. for all sorts of reasons, we hadn’t gone back to the choir at the UCC church for the fall session (there’s no choir over the summer). ryan’s parents invited us to brunch and the late service to sing with the choir anyway. the music is simple enough, and we’re both decent enough singers that sight-reading puts us on par with the choir as a whole, that this was not a daunting idea.

the church had changed over the summer.

perhaps things might have gone differently if i had been introduced to these changes one at a time, but they didn’t just move my cheese, they served me hummus instead. i’m a fan of hummus, but not when i’m expecting cheese.

to start with, the church’s population was aging rapidly, without a real influx of youth, so they were (and have been) trying to get more young people involved. the last service of every sunday was now a “celebration” service with more (and trendier) music and a slightly different format. they had been doing this on the 5th sunday of every month with the old pastor, but either i’d never attended one, or the format got juiced while i was away. there was an excessive amount of 80’s pop-esque music about how much we love god, and it’s great to worship and the like. it’s the sort of music that turns my stomach because of the schmatlz factor. it’s not a choice i’d make, and if the whole thing changed to this format, i would be unhappy, but it didn’t bother me that much on sunday. none of the bits of music that are always sung were sung, though, and i missed that.

adding just a bit to freak-factor of sunday was the first song we sang at the service. short of christmas music, the odd spiritual that snuck its way into the choir, an arrangement of beethoven’s 9th (or 5th?) symphony, and this one hippy pop song from the 70’s (morning has broken) we have never, ever sung a song at this church that i’ve sung in a catholic church. nothing that i associate with my love of catholic music anyway.

until yesterday when we stared with “on eagles wings.”

was it a coincidence or was it providence messing with the music director’s mind so that the first time i’m back at my church after entertaining the idea of going back to a catholic church i sing my favorite catholic song? what was the point? to say “you don’t belong here?” or “make this your home?” i will never know. i’m glad i was there to sing it, though :)

it was also “world communion” day, one of the 6ish days in the church calendar that they give communion, and for this service they did things a little different than the others. instead of passing around a plate of bread and a tower of little cups of wine, there was a plate at the front and a single glass of wine and the patrons were welcome to help themselves. do what? coming from a catholic tradition the sigle cup wasn’t too too off-putting except that there was nobody policing it. it was just sitting there. i don’t think anyone touched it.

one of the things that i like about communion at this church is that everyone takes it at the same time. the cups/bread are passed out (one then the other) and once everyone’s got a piece we eat. because it’s something we do together, as an expression of our community. apparently a very long time ago (30+ years?) they used to do it “the catholic way” (their words, not mine) and everyone progressed to the front. they tried that last holy(maundy) thursday because some members thought it might be a nice change, but it was not well received.

what made this service a little irritating was that instead of the standard white-bread, you also had your choice of matzo crackers, pita, or flat german rye-bread to eat. because it’s world communion day, you see, and other religions (including the ones that UCC evolved from) have different ways of breaking bread. there was no host. there was no mention of catholicism as an origin. nothing. unconsecrated hosts are not hard to come by, just head to your local catholic supply store and pick some up. i think they’re pretty cheap, too. i don’t think anyone there (besides me maybe) would have touched it, but if you’re going to play both the “whole world” and the “our origins” card, you need to make the effort. it’s rude, disrespectful, and feeds old anti-catholic sentiments not to make mention of it.

and then there was the new interim pastor. (here’s were i’m going to try not to get offensive, but i probably will) the old pastor retired earlier in the year, and this was the first service i’d attended with “the new guy.” in a nutshell, he is everything that comes to mind when i think of a protestant minister. his voice was weak and high-pitched. he was constantly drawing attention to his mic as he turned it off and on. he was already acting like every one’s best friend, even if he didn’t know you from adam. his sermon was about finding salvation and all the things we can do now to secure ourselves a place in heaven. he reminded me of a car salesman who’s primary method of selling you the car is to talk to you as if you’ve already decided on it. i was not there because i was worried about eternal life. i do not do good things because it earns me points in some great book. he made reference to giving money several times, and not in a “please help your church” way, but in the “giving us money makes god happy” way.

his entire attitude felt false and superficial to me, but i can see how in another church, with another congregation he would be very well received. some religions are based on redemption, and with them, he’d fit right in. it’s just not what i’m about, and not the message this particular UCC church had ever sent me. you do good because doing good feels good, and makes everyone’s life easier. jesus was a very good example of this.

it always amazed me that some protestants weren’t “loyal” to their sect of choice. but sitting there, next to ryan’s sister who kept saying over and over “this is not my church” i understood how important the pastor/lead minister was to a church community.

in an hour, this man had destroyed the comfort level i had developed over the past few years. this wouldn’t have happened in a catholic church. sure, the pastors come and go and certainly their personalities have an effect on the church community, but not mass. mass is mass is mass and for all the cheese moving and the song changing that might take place, it’s still mass.

and that’s when the epiphany hit me.

i’m catholic.

i need to sing in a choir (or with a congregation if there’s enough general singing going on). the UCC church, under the previous leadership was doing okay, but only because i had really forgotten about the power of the music of the mass. if i’m going to “sit through” all that other stuff so i can sing, why not do it in a place where you maximize the power of the music, where the ritual itself resonates on some level and won’t get all shaken up when someone new shows up.

i’d be happiest singing in a catholic church, but some serious issues still remain. i stopped taking catholic communion long before my self-excommunication because i felt it would be disrespectful to their tradition. i wasn’t playing by all the rules, after all. so, i can’t just walk up there next time like nothing happened. i have to go to confession first. except that one of the things i dislike most about catholicism is the concept of the sacrament of reconciliation.

ironically, my reaction to “not wanting to confess my sins to a priest” is to think “i need to find a good priest and talk about this stuff.” i still don’t know if i can bring myself to attend a mass, though.

the shy factor is still there, and there’s another one: pride.

it infuriated me in high school when teachers found out about my not-real atheism and agnosticism and nodded wisely saying “you’ll be back” and negated pretty much my entire exploration. i really, really don’t want them to be “right.” yes, even though they’re the narrow minded jerks and i’ll never see them again, and my pride/stubbornness shouldn’t affect me in that way, it still irritates me.

my husband, while being very supportive and a good listener, and is willing to attend mass with me (some/most of the time) has a completely selfish reason to be excited. turning catholic and living in st. louis pretty much means we have our pick of communities to live in, regardless of the public schools, which will make affording our next house possible…it also negates the main not-money reason we can’t buy a loft.

it should be noted that is not to say we’re going shopping any time soon, if ever, no matter what ryan tells you.