Real Life: Small doses of sanity, big doses of reality.
LET'S STOP MARCHING OVER EACH OTHER
Over the past week, it seems as though a recent women’s march has sparked quite a bit of social media conversation and outrage. The roots of the women’s movement stem from an election that has divided friends, neighbors, and communities in incalculable ways. Without getting too involved with my personal political opinions, I thought it might be best to discuss something that is positive: love.
For most folks, the word love may equate to flowery fields filled with people being kind and communing together in peace. I mean, who doesn’t want that? Creating a world of peace, love, and joy is something we should all aspire to. Humanity, the same humanity that connects us together no matter where we live, what color our skin is, what religion we follow or don’t follow, where we fit within societal tiers, or how we choose to live out our days on earth, beseeches us to take note of our sameness before we see our differences. Humanity begs us to be kind and to love one another…no matter what.
As I watched my own newsfeed hastily overflow with opinions about the 4.5 million women and men that gathered across the globe peacefully, I began to see the word “love” tossed around as though it was a weapon. “If these women loved our country, why not give monies to charities and local needs? Why march and cause such a ruckus?” Another comment I saw stated firmly that “this march was a waste of time. There was no love involved. These women were filthy and I want nothing to do with them.” Others posted about “doing something better” like a national day of service. To that, I say, “bravo”! And at the same time, I had to scratch my head and ask myself, “Why didn’t these women do that already? There has always been a need. Why tear down another movement for the one you could have empowered with action?”
As one that had sundries of friends involved with the marches across the globe, I was bewildered at the disparaging generalization of these women I love and admire. I know that many of my friends work tirelessly in their communities, in charities, and make huge financial contributions where needed, when possible. And though there were signs carried and things said that I felt were a bit crass or unnecessary, I also believe in freedom of speech. The country we are all fighting about was built on that freedom. So, I took away the good and moved on. I realize, if I don’t like something, I have the choice to walk away or stop looking. The truth is: we have varying skill sets and talents when it comes to expression and communication. Some folks are flamboyant and colorful and leave their mark in an instance. Some people are shy and laid back and carry a quiet power. And many people are waiting for the perfect moment to speak up, wondering what their first message should be. There is no textbook way to get our feelings out. For most of us, we will spend the rest of our lives learning how to be expressive and emotive. All across social media people have been taking sides, in the name of love, asking for love to prevail, yet, it seems as though love is the missing element. Is it because we want our side to be more right than another’s? Let’s face it, tribalism can be a great thing. The sense of belonging or feeling welcome delivers a certain amount of emotional and mental well-being. It feels good to belong. But let's not forget that at any given moment any of us can find ourselves feeling ostracized from our tribe as we grow, learn, and become. It happens in religion, families, workplaces, and it is happening with political currents and opinions today. People are being ousted for feeling the way they do.
You see, love is not perfect, and sometimes love wages a war within us to become passionate, make a stand, say things we have never dared to or ever would, fight back, or do things that are out of our comfort zone. Love creates passion. This country is built on every kind of love based principle there is. Love is not always pretty. Wars have been waged because of love for freedom. Long ago women forged a movement because they valued and loved an idea that they should have the right to vote and been seen as equals. It changed our world, for good. Men and women have taken arms and killed for love of country. Battles ensued to free people from slavery and injustices and those battle will never end as long as we remain human, filled with human qualities. Love was at the root of all these instances. Love was the motivator for many.
But there is a softer side of love that can heal the divides and hurts we all feel. After a war or battle, I’m sure there are regrets, whether admitted or not. Regrets humble us. Love can be a motivator that nudges us to ask more questions or learn what is in a person’s heart. Love can force us to shine brightly. Simple statements like “help me understand what you meant or why you feel the way you do” can go a long way too. If things are going awry, we can move on and stop adding fuel to a fire. Love gives us choices. I’m the first to admit that I’m not thrilled to see the mess we have made…and we have made it by being complacent, uninterested, uneducated, and allowing bigotry, sexism, and sundries of other unruly behaviors to be an accepted norm. I for one value those people that are willing to rise up, speak out and try to change things for posterity and humanity in whatever way they see fit. And I don’t think there is just one voice or way that will make the difference. I think we all need to start being more honest, kind, and more willing to hear each other out. Every cause has importance, even if it is for just one soul.
Social media grants people a chance to use their voices and explore who they are. I value that because I have a feeling there are a lot of lonely, hurting souls out there that need to be heard and validated, probably more than ever. Let’s all remember that just because we have been granted a small view into another’s life that we know very much about that person. We don’t. I'd be devastated to think I pushed someone off their emotional ledge because of my words or actions.
Love is and always will be the answer. And love has many beautiful faces. (Go look in the mirror and see one.) Love is a faith. An action. Breath to a soul. A current that streams through every one of us making us the same. At some point, humanity needs to be our focus despite our differences and opinions. I saw a lot of humanity and love in pictures and video from the marches. Usually, we see what we want to and need to.
I will be making a much bigger effort to be actively engaged in making the changes I want for my children and future grandchildren. Even if you and I are fighting for completely opposite things, I hope we can all be civil and give each other room through this very challenging time in history. You and I…well, we were made to help each other through this difficult thing called life.
Sue Krupa 1/23/2017
FALLING OUT OF LOVE WITH RELIGION
I remember the first time I sat in church with my mother and brothers. My mom and dad had terminated their fifteen-year marriage a year before. Mom was becoming unhinged and free falling into depression. Later, a personality disorder known as borderline personality disorder would take hold of her and never let go, but that is another story in itself.
Our broken family had trials that seemed interminable. We needed a God, or at least I did. It was the only way I could find hope in an austere childhood riddled with death, abuse, and utter chaos. Had I known then what I know now, I would have preferred to find a God not tied to religion. Let me tell you why.
I was born into Catholicism, but later converted, or should I say was forced to join the Mormon Church because my mother did. I was 7 years young. Through the years I became accustomed to the idea of religion but always grappled with elements of being handed a set of beliefs that were never mine. For those that know anything about the Mormon culture, there is a strong sense of conformity and believing that cannot be escaped. To fit in, it is best that a person attempts to structure their beliefs to align with the fold. Otherwise, you become an “other”.
The first epiphany regarding my spirit surfaced when I uncovered that black members of our church could not hold the priesthood. In the Mormon Church, having the priesthood, or being linked to the patriarchy is key to being seen as successful and a worthy male. Even at age 12 years old, I comprehended that something was wrong with this bigoted notion that skin color was cursed. Why had God created so many astounding, beautiful hues and versions of children? If God was about love, why would he discriminate and ask me to, inside a church no less? Something began to stir deep within me and I could not discount it.
Since I was living in a home where mental illness was at the helm, I could not speak freely or ask questions. I was an inquisitive child being stifled. Instead, I had to accept things and roll with the upsetting punches. When I learned about the Mormon heaven, my spirit shook with an indelible sadness. As a child from a broken home it was frightening to discover that there were 3 kingdoms with the potential to break families and loved ones apart. Grace had been replaced with earning a reward. If you did not earn entrance to the highest kingdom within the tier system, you would be separated from loved ones, forever. My young spirit wept. The Mormon God was not altruistic or merciful. Of course, people had all sorts of theories about how it would work in the end. Myths prevailed about a spiritual prison where people could accept or ascertain things after they died. However, there was no real doctrine to back these incongruous claims. I sat in Primary in between my triplet brothers with tears rolling down my face, singing songs about families being together knowing that our family was doomed. The Mormon heaven became a heaven I did not want to be a part of.
The things I was learning always seemed to unnerve my inner child. Any kind of sexual or natural feeling were chastised immediately, causing onerous shame. The constant push for marriage loomed like a pendulum hanging over me. Here I was sculpting my talents and abilities to make my way in the world and yet I felt as though the church wanted to dictate my every move through cleverly crafted messages. Free agency was another falsehood.
If Christ’s teachings had any truth, then love and mercy were the answers to life’s toughest questions. Yet, church lessons propelled me into places that felt uncomfortable and ungodly. I saw no need for ornate temples, monitored donations, lessons that had nothing to do with Christ, proclamations about LGBT people making them the poster children for sin, and the constant debasing about feeling and being human, never mind a woman. I was consciously peeling back layers disguised as dogma only to find agenda and dishonesty. God was becoming small.
How tragic it is to witness what fear can do to a soul. By my early thirties, I was living a fear based life because of the religious teachings ingrained in me. The damages were finally apparent. What was even more troubling was that I was a good person and yet the church had me questioning if that was true. All my life I had been listening to others tell me what was true and how much they knew, and the only thing I knew was that love and people mattered. A cognitive dissonance scream was shrieking in my head and heart.
It’s as if a sky within my own soul had opened and my life’s surroundings had transformed. Mormonism had professed that I needed its messages to be happy, but the further I stepped away from religiosity, the happier I felt. Ask any Mormon leader why I felt that and they will point their finger at Satan. But, I knew better at this point in my life. I realized that I had to be responsible for my choices and actions. My spiritual matrix was evolving. I was not going to doubt my doubts as the church insisted, I was going to embrace them, hold them, and cherish them, at any cost.
I began to unravel in a thoughtful, healthy way, though most deemed me an apostate without knowing me. I became a driven reader studying anything I could get my hands on. One of the most dismaying moments in my journey was uncovering the mounds of lies I had been taught in the church about the church. Literal history was being reshaped because people had found the internet and were using it. Things once labeled “anti- Mormon” were now published in essays and books. Startling events concerning polygamy and polyandry surfaced as an embarrassment to Joseph Smith, the church founder. Learning of his sexual prowess chilled me to the bone. Evidence of a magic rock surfaced and the storyline of translation became one more illusion of truth that had vanished. I felt duped. Stupid. The years of gas lighting by leaders and teachers was staring back at me in life’s mirror. I had doubted myself and every bright, brilliant piece of light shining in me because religion had stretched its tentacle arms around me and convinced me I was wrong to think for myself.
Staring at the Book of Mormon one afternoon, which I never placed much faith in, I recognized that had I been born in Islam I would have known the Quran and its teachings. Had I been born in Israel I would have been handed the Talmud or Tanak to study. If Japan had been my birthplace I would have practiced Shinto rituals. But, I was born in America and handed Christianity by birth, Mormonism by default. Every light bulb flipped on right then. People around the world were worshipping thousands of God’s all thinking they were right too. I happened upon the term, “confirmation bias” and realized I was simply favoring information that confirmed previously existing beliefs or biases I was handed in society and by my family. There was no one true anything anymore.
My eyes were new. My soul could be touched by an exquisite piece of music or a touching film and I felt the same exact feelings I equated to religion. A stranger could light me up with their smile or a kind word. Nature and its divine gifts cradled me. Goodness and light were everywhere. I was part of that light. Everyone was. The burdensome shame and guilt I carried lifted as I felt a renewal of soulful love surround me in my humanity. Religion had not made me good. My choices and heart had.
Faith is as messy as we are. I now trust that my Maker or whatever might be out there appreciates my messiness, the eccentric colors I have created in life’s palette and paint with every day, and the mistakes I have made and will make. I am a piece of unframed artwork that has no end. My potential is limitless. My crisscrossed and jagged lines that skirmish with the edges of perfection and preconceived ideas are some of my best artwork.
For now, I am a happy humanist that still has faith and beliefs in many beautiful, meaningful things, though they are no longer bound to religion. I am also the first to admit that I hope there is a “something more”. But, for now, I have fallen out of love with religion. I prefer to trust my heart until I leave this earth and get the real answers of what lies ahead. I didn’t lose my faith; I simply found my truth.