It’s 11pm and I can’t sleep


My husband and I atop Glastonbury Tor. 2013

10 Years ago I started this blog. I had just graduated with a Master of Arts in English and I missed the writing and research part of my university experience. I wanted a place to track my thoughts and not write a journal, per se, but interesting articles about my thoughts on various topics. I was not ready to give up writing.  I’m proud of some of the things I’ve written, especially movie and book reviews and my struggles with religion, namely Christianity.  I feel that I’ve lost the heady thrill of college writing and the joy of discovery.

Well, a lot has happened since. It’s been almost a year now since I moved back to the States after splitting from my husband and it’s been almost a year since he died of cancer. The former was planned but the latter was a surprise. I have not written about it except in my personal diary because it’s a long embarrassing and painful story.  What I thought would happen didn’t and what I never thought would happen did. When I left for the UK, I followed a dream. However, that proved to be exactly what it was; a dream. Unreal. Fantastical. Too good to be true. Did I mention I’ve become bitter as well?

Ironically, the only job I could find at my age upon returning to my home state of Illinois, starting completely over again and even with a Master’s degree, was a job in a church doing admin and financials. It pays better than I expected, and even though it IS a church, I don’t think I believe in God any longer even though I give it a half-hearted attempt now and then for old times’ sake. Sure, at work I can talk the talk as good as any of the pastors. But my heart’s not in it. In fact, my heart’s not in much anymore.

I no longer believe in the democratic process once a supreme corporate asshole like Trump got elected. No amount of umbrage on the part of journos, politicos, or anyone with any Washington clout seems able to change that. I tired of being outraged a few months ago. Also, for the first time in 45 years, I’m not attached to the hip to any boy/man that I’ve attempted to earn love from by jumping into the sack first thing. I’m no longer giving everything I have to a relationship that doesn’t give a shit about me. The self-sacrifice I’ve spent my life on has yielded exactly … nothing. In fact, the only thing I look forward to now is not dying of breast cancer or heart disease, both of which have visited me in my life at various points.

I now spend my time working, playing Red Dead Redemption 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and reading books. Those things are my favorite things (except the working part).  I don’t think I was ever cut out to do great or even semi-great things. I just don’t have the energy to invest. I’ve spent it all. I don’t have, nor will I have, any significant goals. I wish that, like Thoreau, I could find my cabin (read electronically wired house) in the woods and retreat into Nature. My best years are behind me, and if that sounds depressed, perhaps it is. Perhaps, too, it’s just reality.

Maybe I’ll write more now. Maybe that’s the therapy I need. We’ll see.


What Used to Be

Budapest Opera HouseI used to be a woman of faith. After a spiritual experience in 1983, I began going to church and the rest  I’ve written about extensively on this blog. Since then I’ve given up my religiosity and my beliefs in certain dogma.  I no longer go to church per se, although I’ve been going to the Quaker meeting house with my husband for a few years now.

I still cling to some notions about Christianity, but the one thing I don’t believe in any longer is prayer.  By prayer I mean an action the believer takes to attempt to move the Maker into changing the Laws of Nature or the minds of other people to affect an outcome.  Now, I believe in meditation and silence and prayer in the sense that it helps the person praying, but I don’t believe that some Divine Being is listening to our prayers and deciding to rearrange the universe to answer them.

What made me realize this is that in times past, my first inclination when faced with bad news is to pray for the a positive outcome that happened to suit me at all times. Now, faced with my husband’s cancer diagnosis, I realize that no amount of praying will change the news of how large or small this tumor is. It just is. It’s been there unknowingly and will continue to be there no matter what I believe in my mind about it. No amount of prayer will affect that. No one will hear this prayer but me.  I don’t mean to say that prayer is not good, but I believe it’s only good for the one doing the praying. It acts as a meditative tool to calm one’s nerve, bolster one’s resolve, and to give someone the much-needed cool-down time before doing or saying something rash.

The reasons I came to this conclusion is by observing the world around me.  Despite a prayer force of billions of people in the world, we still have death, famine, abuse, rape, murder, cancer, wars, and all the evils that man can devise. Despite faith in a Divine Being we still have those idiots who believe that God wants the deaths of everyone who doesn’t believe the way they do. Despite billions of the faithful praying daily we see no discernible difference in the outcomes of cancer deaths or salvation from it by miraculous means. No, I have faith in medicine and science to find the cures for most ills before I have faith in prayer.

Now I know all the arguments for and against such things, but this has come from years of experience and it hasn’t come lightly. I’ve struggled mightily to keep an innocent faith in God, Jesus, and prayer, but at some point I had to face the cruel facts of reality. So, as I face the cruel facts of an uncertain future with a cancer diagnosis, I will face it with prayer like I always do, but I have no expectation that the cancer will disappear. I don’t believe it’s some kind of test or sent by God to make me more faithful. How awful to believe such things! I am of the idea that we will do everything available to us to stop it or at least slow it down. I have every expectation that prayer will make me calmer and able to face it. I suppose that makes me the double-minded man in the book of James, doesn’t it? Ah well, better that than be in denial about the cruelties of nature.

Same Shit, Different Day

The Housewives TarotAs if all of this were not enough, we’ve now found out that my husband probably has cancer. Well, now what? He is of the belief that no amount of stewing over it makes it change, which is true. However, that also means that he’s adopted the same devil-may-care attitude about this that he did about marriage and exclusivity. Eh, he shrugs, no big deal.  It is what it is.

Now it leaves me in a new position of becoming even more of a carer. This I always expected since he is 13 years older than me, but it tests one when you realize that no matter what you do, it doesn’t make any difference. About my failed dreams about our marriage, I have railed and screamed and cried, been angry and belligerent all in the face of unconcern from my husband. So, I’ve pretty much reached the end of my care meter in any direction. He’s got cancer? Sigh, well let’s just get on with it and plan as we go along. He’s unconcerned so why should I be? It’s the tone of our whole ‘marriage’.  At least now I will be forced to have a plan for the future rather than exist in limbo.

I just feel like such an idiot. It’s so disheartening to see he’s skyping his new ‘friend’ when I go to bed at night and he’s skyping her when I get up in the morning. This is all so reminiscent of how we were when we met online that it’s really difficult NOT to make parallel assumptions. He thinks I’m being silly of course. So, I’ve gone back to my separate bedroom.  I did enjoy sleeping with him until I realized I was kind of a consolation prize after one of his gabfests. We haven’t had any sort of sexual contact in months, so it’s just as well.  Besides, I enjoy sleeping alone and his sleep habits are usually disruptive. I sometimes relent from loneliness and go back to sleep with him a couple of nights, but it is always short-lived.  I don’t miss it that much.

Sometimes I think the only reason he brought me here was to be carer to him in his old age. Any claims that I supposedly had as a wife are long gone, if they were ever there. If he doesn’t care, why should I? That’s the problem with women, perhaps we CARE too much.

Water Under the Bridge

cropped-annex-clift-montgomery-a-place-in-the-sun_01.jpgIt’s been a long time since I posted here. I was starting a new life and feeling excited about a new marriage and living in another country way back in 2011. Now my life is far from what I imagined it to be. I am living in that new country, but my exciting new life has fallen from the perfect marriage to the same old song.

I gave my all to someone who has, in turn, begun to give their all to someone else. Karma is indeed a bitch. What you do to others in this life will indeed come back to you a hundred-fold.  I see that now and have experienced it.

All I’ve ever wanted in life was for someone to care for me, to love me, and provide comfort when I was down. I was more than willing to give that in return, but it always seemed so one-sided. I’ve lived my entire life without comfort. My mother could not give it because she was so wrapped up in her own pain that she had nothing left to give. My father had disappeared when I was 2 or 3 so there was no comfort from that quarter. My step-father provided only pain, not comfort to my sister, my mother, and me. My sister was in her own world, so we had no one not even each other. We each lived separately in our own house of pain.

I then married a man who provided for us and our children, yet did not know how to love or comfort either. He was depressed over lack of work much of the time and did what his father did. Retreat into himself. I spent 30 years with someone who did not know me, nor care to know me, let alone comfort me. But it was safe and it was easy. And I taught my kids to be individuals so that they don’t even turn to me or their father when in pain. The cycle continues.

Then I met a man I gave my whole heart to, because he cultivated it carefully and a bit selfishly online. He wished to be free of his spouse; or so I believe. I thought I was the only one he’d experienced this with. Despite my thinking I was smart, it turned out I was incredibly naive. I thought someone loved me, finally. I was just another in a succession of attempts to find excitement online. He seemed interested in me. He said all the right words. I fell for it. I needed love desperately. I wanted comfort.  I came into the new relationship willing to give everything that I had or I tried to anyway. I literally gave up my entire life in one place and moved to another with nothing left to my name. It wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. He wanted more and I wasn’t it. Soon there were others.

I mourn for the dream I had. But it was stupid because I was the only one dreaming it. Marriage should be about two people dreaming together.  I’ve seen some couples achieve that, but I’ve not experienced it. Perhaps at my age I never will.  It is so painful to see someone close computer windows as you come into the room so you won’t see who they are talking to. It’s like walking into the room at a gathering with a few people who immediately shut up when you come in. What were they saying? Was it about you or just something they don’t care for you to be in on? It is so painful to accidentally read the excitement in the greeting that someone else has emailed your husband. It is painful to watch your spouse wait until you are out of the room, asleep, or gone so they can continue their affair with someone else online.

I understand all that now because I’m in the exact same place my predecessor was when I was the recipient of those exciting emails and texts and Skype late at night. I remember the exciting sense of newness and feeling alive. I remember feeling a whole world opening up and someone liking what I wrote and writing exciting things back. I remember. I remember. I wish someone felt that for me now because I remember feeling it once.

I want comforting. I need an arm around me right now. I want love. But no one will ever love me like I want/need to be loved. It’s too late for me, but it might not be too late for you.

“Cursed is the One Who Trusts in Man..”

People who’ve read this blog know my struggles. They know the problems I’ve had with faith and with churches and with the bible.  I’ve turned my back on all three and I’ve turned to one or the other at various times since then. At one time, I thought I had the answers. Now I know I don’t. It’s clear to me that I will never have peace about it. When things are at their toughest I know where I choose to turn, but faith has to be more than just a fail-safe method when faced with hard times, illness, or even death.

During my recent struggles with major life changes (moving, divorce, illnesses) I’ve sometimes turned back to those things I swore I wouldn’t and I’m still confronted with the same old platitudes that make no sense to me. The bible is full of them. Church is full of them. Yet no one can explain what they mean or how it should be lived. For example, I am going to attend a series of studies put on by a local non-denominational church for those going through separation and divorce. I’m doing it for the support mainly, but of course there will be bible study and discussion. None of my hard questions are ever really answered there. I’m convinced that no one will be able to answer them, but studying them is still something I’m willing to entertain. Well, to set the tone of the support group, a series of emails are being mailed to me with short devotions about divorce. In yesterday’s devotion I was struck by this:

When you are making decisions regarding a new relationship, do not make any decisions based on your feelings. Feelings are temporal and not always rational, no matter how strongly you may feel them. Be wise and take the time to grow and to build your life on a strong foundation…The Bible says you should not depend on humans—yourself or other people—to be strong for you. You must only depend on God. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD'” (Jeremiah 17:5).

I can’t begin to tell you how many times Christians have said this in worship, in bible study, in prayer meetings, on television, on the internet, everywhere. Yet, no one can tell me what that really means. First, how can any human being NOT rely on feelings when feelings are all we have to communicate danger, anger, fright, love, etc.? What does it mean to shut down all feelings when decision making? I’d like an example. When faced with two decisions of equal weight and import, feelings are always the deciding factor, aren’t they? And what does it mean when someone writes “do not depend on humans–yourself or other people–to be strong for you. You must only depend on God.”??

God is an immaterial entity that does not directly interact with human beings in any discernibly supernatural way. When we need groceries do we pray for them? No, we wait until we have money and we buy them. Or someone takes pity on us and gives them to us. Was God being depended on in this situation or people? I’d say the people. Yet, we are “cursed” if we turn to them for help and not “the Lord.” Harsh. Christians always like to say that other Christians are “God with skin on.” Yet when Christians fail to help other Christians the failure is always on the part of those who “lacked faith.” This is cheap simplistic faith in my opinion.  If faith is true and worth anything, it needs to wrestle with the hard issues and not fall back on plastic platitudes that mean nothing in reality.

I am really struggling still with questions like these and how that’s supposed to play out in reality and I’ve been “converted” since 1983! I can’t settle for the easy answers because they mean nothing. Some Christians say they have numerous answers to “prayer” yet others say theirs are never answered. Would any of us dare to say that those who don’t receive are at fault for “lack of faith” or “depending too much on people for strength?”  I wouldn’t dare say that. Arrogance doesn’t become us in that instance. There are times that I’d really, really like to rely on my faith again, especially when things get tough. But, in the midst of it, I’m reminded of the less than comforting answers like those above. So, I’m still going to that bible study, which starts in September. And I’m going armed with questions like these. Any thoughts before I go?

Do We Really Need Religion or Simply Pragmatism?

If I’m anything, I’d like to think I’m practical. To be precise, I like to think that I my life is ” Of, relating to, governed by, or acquired through practice or action, rather than theory, speculation, or ideals” (online dictionary). I also like to think that what follows from this state of being is pragmatism; ” Dealing or concerned with facts or actual occurrences; practical.” (ibid). You see, I love to ponder ideas and toss around theories just as much as the next person. But, I do not see how tossing about of said theories does anyone a whit of good unless it brings about some practical action. This is why politics frustrates me. This is why religion frustrates me. Both are ideals and theories that usually bring about no change at all. Why? Because no one can agree on what these changes are supposed to be AND these theories are not well practiced as a group, only as an individual choice.

I don’t believe that human beings are meant to practice group-think or that whole societies are ever going to be so in tune that they act as one. Some have this ideal, yet I don’t think it will ever happen. Why? Because evolution demands that we are concerned first and foremost with our own survival and all that entails. We are here to find food, find shelter, procreate, and stay alive and that’s about it. All else is icing on the cake, so to speak. I don’t believe in “higher purposes.” I don’t believe that we are here to “love” to “dream” or to “create.” These are merely bi-products of living a leisurely and secure life. When you are in the throes of trying to survive you may employ creativity to distract you from the meanness of life, but we are not born to do these things. Sure, sure, you can provide an example otherwise. Can’t we all? But at its heart, life is about survival. I’ve always thought it so and I’ve always operated on that premise.

So when people argue about politics or religion, they aren’t arguing about practical things. They are arguing about whose ideas are the most IDEAL for society. What should we strive for? What is the point of living. You know, that’s great to perhaps wonder that. But what about food? What about shelter? And what about those who don’t have either? What do we do with the violent of our society? How do we protect our selves, our homes, and our family? That, to me, is more important than anything else. Religion is not about survival. Religion is all about having too much time on our hands to think and ponder about the “whys” and “wherefores” of life already being lived. I think we tend to forget about that when it comes election time or when it comes to passing religion on to the young. What’s the purpose of it? Do we do it to further our life here and now or do we pass along unworkable ideals and thoughts of a life “hereafter?” Rather than be focused on “hot-button” issues that have nothing to do with our own survival and how to keep an ordered and civil society, we should be focused ideas that actually work.

In the wonderful online ‘zine Bad Subjects, John Duncan writes about secular progressives and what they think about politics and religion. He writes:

If we take progressivism, the left, etc., to embody an approach to politics in which human discourse and action are mobilized in order to struggle for social and political conditions more in accord with the legitimate claims of justice — claims which are themselves always being debated, tested, and revised — then progressives have no need for religion. Echoing the eighteenth century enlightenment, we argue that justice requires human struggle for improved conditions in the world — that is, in “this” world — whereas religions strain to find nonexistent metaphysical entities beyond the world.

Religious adherents might argue that our ability to improve conditions in the world depends on our relationship to what transcends it, a position which in the early fourteenth century Dante Alighieri famously symbolized at the end of his Purgatorio by representing the worldly paradise as necessarily empty — only by transcending the worldly as such in order to receive guidance from what lies beyond it can we hope to establish the best possible worldly existence. However, for the faithless this position is both a non-starter and a source of concern. It is a non-starter because we do not believe in metaphysical entities that transcend the world, and so we do not believe they have any bearing on the causes of justice. It is a source of concern because such metaphysical entities constitute the inspirational grounds for fundamental features of the discourse and action of our religious allies, but they are not available for rational evaluation.

One of the core values of an enlightened politics is that all stakeholders be involved in open and rational discussion that leads to policy and its implementation. If the secular progressive believes progressive politics to be a strictly secular affair, whereas the religious progressive claims to have access to extra-worldly insights that both transcend and ground his or her politics, then it is theoretically possible for the religious progressive and the secular progressive to be divided. It seems likely that metaphysical insights will trump the merely political if ever a conflict arises between them, and so we have some trouble understanding those who claim to be in solidarity with us but at the same time are capable of metaphysical suspensions of progressive politics, to borrow very freely from Søren Kierkegaard, who in Fear and Trembling (1843) famously characterized Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to kill his son Isaac as a “teleological suspension of the ethical.” The possibility of such suspensions is alive wherever religion reaches beyond the merely real world and its struggles. If a choice had to be made between God and worldly justice, our ways could very well part, for we do not believe in God.

And I would say, believing in God does not promote justice; just the opposite. More injustice has been perpetrated in the name of religion than justice has been dispensed by the same religion, and I mean ALL religions. Leave off the argument about which is “true” religion or not. Such arguments only detract from the real issues at hand. Since no one knows what will happen after death, why do so many look forward to it? Why do so many worry about it? I believe it’s because they have no real, practical solution to the problems right now and looking forward to heaven is the perfect way to relieve oneself of the responsibility of action. Prayer is not action at all, because apparently God is not listening. Prayer has not been shown to change anything except perhaps the pray-er. Great, but kids are still starving or are abused.

Look, I don’t claim to be a proponent of the “right” or the “left.” To me extremism is extremism no matter how idealistic their goals; and perhaps that’s why they are extremists. Their goals are TOO idealistic. There is nothing practical or pragmatic to be had in the world of extremist politics and extremist religions and in that respect, both are a huge burden on a society that just wants to survive, take care of loved ones, and just be left alone. Far from being depressing, I find that a practical work to change things here and now to be exciting and hopeful, far more hopeful than a fiery apocalyptic confrontation looked forward to by millions of religionists around the world. It’s truly a “Big Brother” world if Apocalypticism becomes the language of “hope and change.”