Musings of My Mind

"To a great mind, nothing is little." Sherlock Holmes

The Tarnished Golden Child

I’m going to tell you a story today, friends. A story about a little boy. Not very long after he was born, this little boy finds himself in grave danger. War has ravaged his homeland and it is no longer safe for him. Under attack from the enemy, our little hero becomes an orphan. Lost and alone, our infant child is raised by the leader of the opposing country. He’s raised as a prince among men; an heir to the throne. Only as an adult is he told the truth; that he is actually adopted and a son of the people he’s been declaring war against on his father’s behalf.

What does he do?

Well, that depends entirely on who we are talking about. You see, this story is the story of two of the greatest figures in modern storytelling. This is the story of Moses. This is the story of Loki. Are you a little bit weirded out by the fact that these two characters have the same origin story? I was too, at first.
After all, Loki is a villain. Misunderstood and dreamy, but a villain nonetheless. Moses is a hero. Misunderstood and dreamy (when played by Christian Bale as in the upcoming Ridley Scott epic), but a hero nonetheless.

These two men are so, so different. And yet, come from very similar places. How did one turn into everyone’s favorite villain and the other into one of the Old Testament’s biggest inspirations?

Choices. Loki grew up bitter that Thor was always Odin’s favorite. He felt second-rate and unloved. Instead of channeling his feelings into growth or positivity, he channeled them into anger and rage. When he found out he was adopted, it was the final piece of proof that he didn’t belong on Asgard and that he would never love or forgive those who had wronged him.

Moses grew up Pharaoh’s favorite, but that didn’t make his life easier than Loki’s necessarily. He still found himself at odds with a brother and trying to please a father that wasn’t easily pleased. When Moses found out he was adopted, he was angry as well. But after realizing who he was and where he came from; after humanizing the Hebrews, Moses understood that he could choose to let this break him or force him to grow. He chose the latter.

If you’re familiar with the Moses story, you know that he never really got the hang of making the right choice the first time. But he always tried. He always listened. He always figured it out in the end.

In a culture of self-help books and ready-made excuses, it is all too easy to blame our circumstances for who we are. Sometimes, life is really, really bad. Our circumstances are so far from ideal that we can’t even see on iota of positivity. It’s okay to feel lost and discouraged and sad. But what you do next is where the real power lies. Will you be a Loki, turning hurt into rage that hurts other people? Or will you be a Moses? Turning hurt into healing for a nation, even if you do screw up all along the way?

Dumbledore said it best: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are…”

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Tangled Threads

Driving away from church this afternoon, I reached for my phone to call my mother. It’s an urge that hasn’t happened in a good while, so it caught me by surprise. You see, I wanted my mother because I was crying I was crying because my dear friend Dixon, who has been essential in getting me through Mom’s death, is moving to North Carolina. Tomorrow. In my sadness over losing him, I was reminded of the sadness of losing my mother. But if I had never lost my mother; I wouldn’t have the depth of friendship with Dixon that I do, so…

Tangled. Life is tangled. And I absolutely hate it. I like my fiction to be tangled. Stories with plot twists and unexpected connections; stories that aren’t easily unraveled; these are the best stories. Real life, however, should be linear. Organized. A equals B and B equals C and A equals C and everything makes sense. It’s organized and color-coded. Simple. Neat. Completely unrealistic.

We tend to think of life like a giant line of dominoes. Each one standing precariously, knocked over by the one before it. Life event A causes the first domino to fall, and in succession, the others fall. In order and one at a time. Instead, life is more like time. The Doctor (bastion of wisdom that he is) describes time as “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.” It’s not linear, it’s not subjective, and it makes absolutely no sense.

The threads of life are tangled. The good comes from the bad comes from the good ad infinitum. Some days, we can’t tell the difference. Most days, I’m not sure there is a difference. The world is a knotted place. But it’s the ropes with knots that help us hang on. It’s the ropes with knots that keep boats from drifting. It’s the ropes with knots that keeps a team of climbers connected.

So, when I get a glimpse of the knots and tangles as I did today, may I not be frustrated. May I not get lost in trying to unravel it. May I welcome the glorious mess that is life in a fallen world and hang on to the knots for dear life.

Darkness

I once sat in my college dorm room, staring at the marks on my arms. They had stopped bleeding but were still red. That was my favorite part. The blood was messy, but the pain was welcome. Self-harm was my way of coping with things that felt overwhelming or out of control. The temptation is there still. When things got really bad, I thought of taking that next step. Of finishing the job.

Many times in my life have I lamented that I wasn’t strong enough to do it. To take that last step. Because at the time, I thought that it took strength to give in to the darkness.

I know now that every single day my arms stay clean; that every single day I remain breathing is the strongest thing I can do. Some days are harder than others. That’s okay. I’m allowed to teeter on the edge of the abyss. I’m even allowed to fall in. But I know now how to ask for help. I know who to call when my mind gets ugly. I fight my way back to the light.

Some days the darkness calls and it feels so tempting. My skin burns with remembered pain and all I want is to give in. It would be so much easier that way. Then I think about the way my cat purrs when he’s really happy. Or how much I want to see the new series of Sherlock.

I think about the woman my Mom believed I was and I want to be that woman.

Even when I feel alone, I know that somewhere, there is a person who loves me. It might be just one person, but they are out there. For them, I cling to the light.

Know this: if you are here and seeing these words; I am that one person. I love you and I would notice your absence.

Darkness hides often behind the brightest smiles. The people around you may be quietly suffering. Let them know you are listening.

And if you know what the weight of darkness feels like, please reach out. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a friend or family member, you can come to me. You can also find help and resources in your community through the National Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255.

Bread Crumbs

We’ve been telling the story of Hansel and Gretel in one form or another for hundreds of years. When the Brothers Grimm first published the story in 1812, there’s no way they could have understood how pervasive one tiny point of their story would be.

Bread crumbs.

Everyone knows about bread crumbs. Tech support uses the virtual bread crumbs a virus leaves to trace the source and fix the problem. Kids use bread crumbs to find their way back to the things they hide in the back of the closet or under the bed. Bread crumbs in whatever form are used to lead us back to the place we started or the things we lost.

Bread crumbs.

Literal bread crumbs get everywhere. Every. Where. The better the bread (crusty and delicious), the more the crumbs. They get on the table, on the plate, on your lap, on the floor. Seriously. I have a special talent for getting bread crumbs everywhere.

Today at work, my department all ate lunch together. It was unplanned and completely hodgepodge. I had picked up a baguette at the store to go with my salad and everyone was really excited to see those delicious carbs. Before long, everyone had taken a piece of bread for themselves. We laughed and talked and shared bread. In its purest form, we had communion. The bread crumbs all over the office lead to my desk, where people knew they could tell stories or help themselves to seconds.

Every Sunday, I kneel at the altar and open my hands to accept the gift of the Body. At St. B’s, we don’t use loaves of bread. We use wafers. Wafers don’t leave physical crumbs. What they do leave, however, is a reminder. A mark. The crumbs that lead me back to the table week after week. A mark that reminds me I have been accepted as a member of the body. A memorial of my redemption.

In short, the crumbs of the Eucharist lead me to Christ.

But what about the crumbs the Eucharist leaves on me? Do others see those? Am I surrounding myself with crumbs that lead back to me or to the table?

Where do your crumbs lead?

Den of Geeks and Men of God

The other day, I happened to find myself in the comic book store after work.(No idea how that happened.) I haven’t been into comics and comic culture for long, but I’ve been a geek forever and I practically live on the internet; so I know that there’s often a bit of an attitude toward women who are interested in nerdy things, especially comics. So, walking into the store, I braced myself for the worst.

There were quite a few people in the store. I was the only female, but the guys only glanced in my direction. I may have been interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the new issues that came out this week. Besides one slight encounter with an employee who told me I totally didn’t want what I was looking for because it surely wasn’t my taste (I told him a thing), I had no issues. I was an anonymous stranger in a store, just like everyone else.

I left the comic book store slightly disappointed (they didn’t have the thing) and really starving. You know what I passed on the way home? Chick-Fil-A.

An aside on CFA: I know that their CEO supports things that we don’t
want him to support. So, I apologize to my LGBTQI friends that
sometimes, my love for really good chicken overwhelms my moral compass.

So, I stop at CFA, bastion of Christian service and light. Eating there practically counts as tithing, that’s how closely related Christians see CFA and the church. I’m standing in line, waiting to order, when a guy gets in line behind me. No big deal, right? Wrong. First, he gets WAY TOO CLOSE to me. Then, he decides to comment to his friend about my purple hair. “The weird girls…they’re always the freaks in bed.” And then, dear reader…”She’s got a good ass too. Purple hair and a good ass? I’d do her.”

Be proud of me, friends. I did not punch the guy. I did not yell at him. I did not kick him in his manhood and laugh while he cried. I ignored him, waiting until we were side by side at the counter to risk a glance. The guy was wearing a mission trip t-shirt. You and I both know that church attendance is no reflection of inward thought. We all know Christians who make our Christ look terrible. But we also know that they are a really loud minority. I’m confident that most Christians are amazing, loving, accepting people. Please don’t comment about how awful Christians are or how I’m being mean to Christians.

The point of this isn’t to make a value judgment on one group of people or another. It’s simply to remind Christians that everything we do is a reflection on the Christ we claim to serve. May it also serve to remind us to never judge people based on what we know of their kind of people. People, I’ve found, will surprise you.

If you’ll excuse me, I have new comics to read.

Why Dolores Umbridge Is Worse Than Satan

The story of Lucifer is actually one that I find incredibly interesting. Any of you that have known me for very long know that I’m obsessed with angels and this therefore comes as no surprise. For those that may not know the story, Lucifer was an angel of God. He was a beautiful creature, destined for greatness at the right hand of the Father.

So what happened? Lucifer got so wrapped up in how amazing he was, how smart he was, and how beautiful he was that he decided he needed to be raised to the level of God. (We’ll save how much I relate to this pride for another post but…geez.) Lucifer’s pride is what caused his problems. It was only after he was cast down that the real problems started. Lucifer’s issues were all self-centered.

Dolores Umbridge was prideful, don’t get me wrong. She saw herself as the savior of wizardom. But her evil was not based in pride or narcissism. Umbridge was pure, unadulterated vitriol and prejudice. Her goal was not to raise herself up. What the Lady in Pink did is tear everyone down, inch by inch. This is a subtle but very important difference.

These are also the people that are hardest to spot. Umbridge seemed so sweet and normal to those who weren’t suffering at her hands. Had Harry reported her abuse, no one would have believed him. Take it from someone who knows: women that seem sweet and well-meaning can get away with murder as long as we do it with a smile. If you add a Southern accent, you’ll get people to help you hide the body.

The moral of the Umbridge story is two-fold for me. On the one hand, it is important to keep your eyes open. Be aware of what is happening around you. You never know who might be suffering at the hands of someone seemingly innocuous.

More importantly, Umbridge and Lucifer remind me of how key it is to be aware of my attitudes toward myself and others. Pride goeth before the fall, but falling is preferable to dragging down an entire group of people with me. Am I lifting myself up or pushing others down?

Dolores Umbridge climbed to notoriety on the broken backs of those around her. May I use my intellect and talent to build a ladder out of grand ideas instead of crushing other people to achieve success.

The Gospel and The World Cup

GUYS. I love soccer.

In May, I didn’t know anything about soccer. When the World Cup started, I watched because obviously that’s what you do.

BUT GUYS. I love soccer. It’s amazing and exciting and challenging and so much awesome packed into 90 minutes.

One of the things I like most about watching the World Cup is seeing the teams and fans interact with one another. Soccer players will finish playing hard against one another and then hug. Often, they even trade jerseys as a sign of respect and camaraderie. The fans will bond over the mutual experience of sport, win or lose. Soccer/football is a community. It is a lifestyle. Our teams may fight one another on the pitch, but when the 90 minutes are done, everyone is once again on the universal team of sport.

Can anyone remember the last time we saw that much community in the Church? When teams didn’t matter because we are all playing for the same goal?

Me neither.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that Christians can’t be sports fans because we need to be focused on Jesus and not on how Olivier Giroud gives the best hugs or how Tim Howard needs to be canonized. What I am saying is that we, as individual believers, need to focus more on the ties that bind rather than the thorns that tear us apart.

Let us greet one another with the unity and respect that only love in a common thing can bring. After all, what we have in common in undeniably the most important commonality there is.

The Nashvengers Initiative

One of the most difficult things about losing Mama is the idea of all the things that she will not be around for. We had the kind of relationship where I talked to her 6 days out of 7. I could ask her the most mundane things. “Mama, what’s the best way to cook this?” “Mama, how do I get this stain out of my shirt?” “Mama, how mad would you be if I got a tattoo?” 

She always had an answer. She was better than Google. (Though she would often call me and ask me to Google things.)

So, with my mother gone, I’ve worried about that void in my life. But God has reminded me that I have, at my disposal, everything I could need. 

I have Lauren, Kristin, Erica, and Jessamyn, who are all amazing mothers. If/When the time comes for me, I know that any one of them would answer my panicked, middle-of-the-night phone call. “The baby is breathing weird and it sounds like this and oh my oh my what do I do?!” They’ll know. 

I have Courtney, who is one of the most practical people I’ve ever met. She’ll know how to adjust a cake recipe, how to hang a shelf, and how to get a stain out of my favorite white button-up. Also, she brings with her Anabel and Ron, who surely wouldn’t mind an extra kid now and then. 

I have Sarah, who can remind me that all the best superheroes have a tragedy in their past. And Victoria, who will say that all the best villains have a tragedy in their past; and really, aren’t villains more interesting? 

I have Jeff, David, and Carla, who can somehow find the perfect song to reflect the mood of the situation. They understand the power of music in all times of life. 

I have R, who is watching her mother live with the same disease and who can understand all too well what it’s been like. 

All of these amazing people can fall into several different categories, but I list them like this because I really am flabbergasted by the love and wisdom and talent that I am surrounded by. Amazing people who will remind me that I am loved. That I am not alone. That Time Lords and their Companions; Consulting Detectives and their Doctors; Demon Hunting Brothers and their Angel have all suffered tragedy and been stronger for it. They remind me of the power of stories. This is a plot twist that will impact the rest of my story. As well it should. And that is okay. But it will not break me. 

These people hold me together when I can’t do it myself. Each one of them has come to me this week with a jagged piece of my soul and put it back where it belonged, using duct tape or glue or nails to help it stay. 

And, when there’s nothing left to say, they send me pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch to make me smile. 

That, dear readers, is love. 

A Note On How Christians Suck At Death

It has been 36 hours since my Mama died and I have come to the conclusion that the way Christians do death is stupid. 

Let me elaborate. 

No one wants to say that she died. She’s gone, or passed away, or gone to be in glory. All of these things are true. But also, she died. It’s crass and ugly and so is death. This is really just a symptom of the bigger problem. 

It seems that Christians focus so much on what happens after death that we forget life. People from her church that offer their condolences are offering platitudes about how she’s free from pain and rejoicing with Jesus. “Don’t be sad,” they all tell me, “she’s in a better place.” Again, this is true. I am beyond thankful for my faith–and hers–in Christ and that her eternity is sealed. But really, this is not about her. It is about me. It is about us. Those of us that are left. As Hazel Grace Lancaster said, “Funerals, I had decided, are for the living.”

Her happiness and freedom from trouble does not erase the life she lived or the memories she left behind. It does not change the fact that I had to call my Grandpa and tell him his daughter was gone. It does not change the fact that my mother will not be at my wedding or meet any children I may have. 

She left a hole in the lives of many and dammit, we are allowed to be sad. So while the peace of God is keeping me from having a mental breakdown; please don’t remind me she is in a better place. Acknowledge my grief. Let it be okay with you. If you want to say something, tell me that you love me. Tell me that the situation sucks. If you knew Mama, tell me your favorite story about her. Just please don’t tell me to be happy. 

Knowing My Place

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve encountered people who aren’t happy with my existence in their lives. Something about me is displeasing or offensive. A coworker told me that “fat girls with glasses should know their place.” A person waiting in line with me said that he admired I try to dress girly since I’m obviously not dainty. Strangers hearing me talk about business admonished that a woman should know where she belongs, and it is not in any decision making role. 

The entire time I was growing up, I was told that women could be anything they wanted to be. You could be a doctor or lawyer or even President! This is all in addition to being a wife and mother. That was a given. Also, to be feminine meant to be small. Dainty and demure go hand in hand. The world was my oyster. As long as I was Betty Draper. I’ve always had opinions and never been hesitant to share them. Girls don’t do that. I’ve always known I was smarter than many of the boys in my classes. It’s good to be smart, but don’t flaunt it. I spent my whole life trying to find ways to take up less space, literally and figuratively. I associated my size with somehow being butch. (If you’ve met me, you know that skirts are my favorite thing and I cried when my pearl necklace broke. I’m prissy as hell and I love it.) Girly girls, REAL girls, they were skinny. My personality and opinions were loud. The world’s short attention span didn’t need to be wasted on me. Girls were a waste of time, unless you were pretty. I didn’t qualify so I belonged in the corner. Someone would call me when a quirky sidekick was needed. 

FUCK. THAT. 

Many, many, many years later and I realize that women are women. It doesn’t matter how you dress or what you like or what you do or who you love or what anatomy you were born with. If you look in the mirror and see a woman; you are a woman. We are like flowers of the fields: endless variety and equal in beauty. 

We have our place too. WHEREVER WE FUCKING WANT. You can be interested in all the things because you are a human. You can do anything because you are a human. Careers, hobbies, interests…the world belongs to us because we will take it by force if we have to. 

So, sorry people. I’m not going away. I will not shrink in size because you don’t like my shape. I’m gorgeous and you can suck it. I will not be silent. If I am the smartest person in the room; I will let you know it. I will not apologize for my interests, weird though they may be. My opinion is valuable and I will make sure you know that. 

Do not go quietly into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of your light.