woo (hoo) woo

Christianity SOM

This draft is from two years ago, an earlier version of my first post here, Woo fucking woo. I really like it. My writing was better back when I was closer to grad school. I didn’t edit it that much. This is really an introduction to my spiritual journey. At the time I wrote this, I wanted to talk about being in church again, but ironically, I left after joining it, just a few months later, so all my elation as well as the novelty, has worn off.

Please, blog gods and goddesses, forgive me. It’s been 18 months since my last blog post. The drama that I most feared found me. But at the very least, I learned that I was a writer, which was the point of the last blog.

So now, I’m back, to talk about spiritual stuff. Spiritual stuff is probably what I am made of most, and the last blog was veering into almost mysticism anyway. So I might as well pick up where I left off.

But first, a primer.

Before I decided that I wanted to get an MFA in Creative Writing, I was torn about going to seminary. I read a book by theologian Marcus Borg, called Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. I believe I was 30 and it just threw me for a loop. What seminarians learned in seminary and what I heard every Sunday seemed like they were located on different continents and hemispheres. So when I thought about going to seminary, I wanted to go to get that truth that had been hidden from me. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life. One thing that I learned from that book that still bothers me–maybe Jesus didn’t know he was the Son of God while he was on earth? What kind of faith did I have? What was it based on?

I read another book, Divided by Faith, written by two sociologists who surveyed many people regarding white evangelical Christianity. Those responses and their analysis of them reminded me that I was a black woman in a very white, white, white middle-class world. I had been trying to fit in my whole life and I was never met to. What kind of faith community did I have? Who was it comprised of?

Those two books, along with convos I had with a friend who studied theology, were my benediction out of the evangelical jungle and into the deserts of agnosticism. It was lonely out there without a church community, a community of any sort. I had grown up in Presbyterian churches, and then non-denominational/charismatic/evangelical churches. My closest friends were always friends from church, and because of the churches I attended, almost always white.

And I was burned out from church anyway. I served on the worship team. I sang and hit the tambourine on the 2 and 4. I was in a small group/home group/cell group. I went to church whenever it was open. When I was a teenager, my youth group was a sanctuary from the dysfunction brewed by my father’s growing mental health issues. But 12 years later, it had become a chore. Being with people who didn’t really see me, or who chose to see me with their colorblind eyes…trying to “do” community seemed to be my burden alone. And that sounds whiny, which was another reason to leave. Who wants to be a martyr? But truly, race kept creeping up in my relationships–e.g. got kicked out of a wedding party because I didn’t want to chemically alter my hair. And this white woman was marrying a black man. She now has a daughter and I wonder about the hair politics there…

But that’s evangelical Christianity. Very narrow, and not in the “narrow is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven” way. Narrow in its expression of humanity, of God Him/Herself. It’s what my parents found in Ghana while their country was hemorrhaging from coup and coup. And it’s what they taught me. It’s what we all knew and relied on.

I never thought that I would leave church and be dabbling into the things I’m into now. Astrology. Tarot. Crystals. Angels. Woo woo stuff. Or what haters of Harry Potter would call witchcraft.

And yet, Spirit. The Universe. God. Speaks.

I moved down to Florida to get this Mother Fucking Asshole degree and a writer’s community. Well, the drama from my classmates and my blog made that permanently unavailable. So much for dreams and being painfully honest.

I’ve floundered here. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. Never felt like I had a solid foundation here. Geographically speaking, it’s swampland that Mickey Mouse built. It’s meant for transience.

My mom, who believes the church solves all problems, insisted that I found a church community here. And the churches here, in the South–well, I’m from the South. This ain’t Chicago. I didn’t want to live Divided by Faith. I would rather be alone.

Through my floundering, spirituality washed ashore. I got into personal growth stuff pretty deeply in the summer and fall of 2013. And it just increased (I’m skimming over this because I hope to write about it in more detail later) as my problems (read: poverty and unpopularity) increased.

Renewed faith in a higher power is nothing new for me. I had to (had to?) rely on God when I unceremoniously took a year off between high school and college because of my father’s paranoia. Lots of prayer, books, TBN (yes, that’s Trinity Broadcasting Network), and well, eight years later, I graduated from college.

Wow, that was a long preamble to what happened today–

I went back to church, after years of now being there. And today made me tired. I want to talk about it in earnest, with a less foggy head.

This blog post is the first pancake and I’m sorry.

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The Dissolving “I”

embrace the new you SOM

It’s amazing the revelations that one can get in the bathroom.

I wanted to jot this down before I get bogged down in work for the evening. Today, I forced myself to rest, which amounted to trying to treat this crick in my neck, writing an email to a friend, and gorging on Bravo TV shows.

In woo woo land, most recently I’ve been reading/listening to spiritual teacher Matt Kahn, and he recently posted something on his Facebook page that had me thinking. It’s nothing new to me, although a lot of this stuff in this post has some spiritual jargon that even I’m not used to yet. Here are the two things from this post that stuck out to me:

During this crucial stage of awakening, the competing, defending, argumentative, manipulative, seeking, and struggling “I” dissolves out of experience.


As the need or tendency to compete, complain, worry, argue, negotiate, seek, judge, deny, and defend are unraveled out of your energy field, a new sense of self emerges; one that is rooted in cooperation, unity, peace, love, gratitude, abundance, radiance, health, joy, and inspiration, which are the natural characteristics of a soul in form.

Matt goes on and on (and on) about other things, but this dissolving is un-Western–and I love it! Well, I love the idea of it. It’s excruciating. As I face yet another move, having two jobs that I’m not immediately acing and doing well, and feeling trapped by my poverty, lately I haven’t had time to even think about what this is all for–cosmically, universally, spiritually, The Big Picture. It’s probably a good thing because we humans always have to come up with some fucking reason why things are happening. Sometimes, things happen because we made bad choices. Sometimes, things happen because other people made bad choices. And sometimes, things just happen.

So while I was taking a piss, it occurred to me that maybe, the big picture right now is about love. How vague can I be? Let’s drill down deeper with that.

I was telling a friend that I haven’t felt like such a failure in my entire life.  I can barely support myself financially. My composition class students are doing terribly–I’m barely doing that great as a teacher myself. My other job as a part-time tech writer has a very steep learning curve. I have to move again. I lost my car.

There’s another one of those woo woo sayings that really gets on my nerves: things are happening to you, they are happening  for you. I still think that’s some white privileged bullshit, but, at the same time, like many things in life, it’s both/and.

Things are happening to me

It’s almost like I can observe people, places, and things just imploding and exploding all around me. It’s surreal and hyperreal. Unbelievable. What really scares me is if all of those circumstantial things continues. As I’ve probably said before, I’ve never been more spiritual than right now, and my life circumstances have never been harder.

Things are happening for me

So much of my identity has been wrapped up in being good: avoiding getting yelled at by my parents, which, in turn, is about not getting yelled at by my bosses, my landlords, my anyone in some sort of authority over me. There’s been a lot of yelling in my life, but also just a lot of failure. I’m not great at teaching, I’m not great at writing, I’m not great at relationships. My life is just smoldering ash being carried by the wind *places back of hand on my forehead wearily*

Despite my utter lack of adultiness, I deserve love, compassion, and support anyway.

Despite. Because. Especially.

Even though my career life has been lacking–yes, even in light of a hard-fought MFA degree–I felt like I was doing alright until I actually started grad school. My “I” has been bludgeoned by hatred, jealousy, racism, sexism, poverty, loneliness, betrayal, fear, homelessness…so many things. I’m not really sure what’s left, or if, as Matt says, a new self is emerging.

What did emerge in my bathroom was that whomever is emerging, all these horrible circumstances have stripped me of my need to be good and great. I suck at pretty much everything right now, but even still–I deserve compassion. Even when the landlady that I live with is duplicitous–in my mind, I don’t think she deserves love i.e. the reason why I have to move in the first place: her girlfriend is moving in officially a week after I leave. But *gulp* even she–even she–deserves love and compassion, even though, in my eyes, she sucks as a human being.

Maybe even saying that is a bridge too far, but if I feel that way about her, then I will feel that way about myself–love gained by performance. As a gifted child, academic things came easily to me, and my identity was built around the praise of my teachers. Now that I’m a professor and not really that great at it, it’s tough to keep going knowing that I suck. Even more so, sometimes it’s hard to keep going at life knowing that I suck at it, that I’m not hitting the standards of success that I have for myself.

For some reason, even as I dissolve in my suckitude, it helps to know that the pain that I feel, besides the harsh discomfort of being alone and being poor, is that old me dissolving. The pain is a sign that I’m getting closer to the me that deserves love. Even further, Matt would say that I can love the one who is in pain, love the one who is sucking so hard at being the me that I want and need to be.

So maybe, I can thank all the people who were complete asshats to me, especially in Florida–who *gulp* also deserve love and compassion–because they all are bringing me closer to the person who does not have to be good and great to receive and deserve love.


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A trip to woo woo land

2015-03-06 11.54.25

Archangel cards–they are like a kinder, gentler tarot card. From top left Archangel Raphael, Archangel Metatron (allegedly, he’s Enoch if I’m not mistaken), Archangel Michael, and Archangel Raziel.

Today, I went to talk to an angel card reader. It’s my fourth time getting some spiritual guidance, and the second time I received it from this person. The last time was a few months ago and life was in flux.

This time, life is still in flux. I don’t know where I’ll be living in a month and a few days. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue to teach. I don’t feel any roots here in Florida. I’m carless. I feel like my life here has been one big interstitial gasp. What’s next? Is it Los Angeles? Do I just like to visit there? Where is home? What should I be doing? Where is my family (my family)?

Today was cool and gloomy in its blahness. Sunshine State my ass. Although yesterday was glorious, a cold front has pushed through to bring temps into the 60s. I woke up with anticipation that ‘d get some answers to my seemingly flatlining life. The angel card reader, who is also a fellow church member, and I sat outside on the porch of this metaphysical bookstore that my therapist in grad school, whom I miss terribly, told me to check out a year ago.

I really had come because I kept seeing the angel number 5 in duplicate and triplicate. For more about those fun things, click here. And it was pissing me off–it still does, sort of. It’s not comforting to know that big changes are coming soon that will be of benefit–it’s not here yet! The number 5 has been around for months and has only grown in intensity this year.

So I opened with that. Of course, the reader replied that of course, this is all good things. As most people are, I care mainly about results, not the promise of results. The multiple 5’s seem like a tease, like a mirage in a desolate wasteland. And I’m so fucking thirsty. I don’t like being teased.

Right now, as it was a few months ago, housing is my #1 concern. I am moving out by April 11th, to somewhere. I know I cannot live on my own. I had forgotten how I had to pay for all those fun utilities like electric, water, internet (we can say the internet is a utility now: yay, Net Neutrality!), cable. I don’t have to pay for that now in my current space. I’ve embraced that I will not be living on my own for a while.

Here’s where I am now starting to get a little squicked out by specificity. Back in the evangelical world, I had been prophesied over, and I had learned that you should just receive the word and file it away; bury it like it’s a time capsule. Now in this realm of spirituality, I’m seeking guidance. So it’s not necessarily about prophetic words–which honestly just mean truth-telling. As an adult, now I have to consider that, yes–people have their own projections of things, so maybe this has nothing to do with me. I have to also trust that God/Spirit/The Universe/Source/the angels flow through this woman, and that she’s a willing vessel for that flow of truth.

Also, I’m emotionally raw. I’m not like the type of raw that would bite someone’s head off (well um…not anymore). I’m just feeling ultra super uber sensitive about everything and everyone. That’s how it goes when you don’t have a permanent home or a reliable way to get around your town. I’m an unempowered Capricorn, which means I don’t really have much to live for (yes, that’s hyperbole).

So the reader says that I am gifted as a teacher. I haven’t even looked at my teaching feedback from my comp class when I was observed two weeks ago (I am also a prideful Capricorn). Her method of talking to me was partly spiritual but partly brass tacks, like she was a life guidance counselor. She talked about how Florida is just not a great place to live because of how conservative it is and how poorly they pay teachers. She got really specific about where I should live–Virginia, specifically NoVA as they call it–Northern Virginia. Ironically, and coincidentally, that’s where my parents started off their lives, right outside of DC in Arlington. In the meantime, she also gave me advice to look in specific schools here–one college and a couple of private schools.

I’m not really interested in living above the Mason-Dixon line, or anywhere near it. It’s still snowing up there! On the other hand, I like money. I like it a lot. And I’m not making much down here. Nothing and no one is holding me down here, and that’s a good thing.

For life here, she saw me living with an older woman downtown in a house. This woman would respect my space. With my car situation, she saw me leasing a car and gave me a specific monthly payment on the car, which I was like–dang, that’s specific.

Then I brought up grad school and how painful it was. I wasn’t necessarily feeling some kind of way about my former thesis advisor, but she felt some energy there. Yay forgiveness, etc. She taught me how to cut through that. I feel more energy towards my classmates than towards the former advisor.  At the same time, I feel like just doing a blanket forgiveness/letting go ceremony for those kids–because I do not have the time.

I asked about my desire to have a family. As like last time, getting clear on my career and becoming more financially stable first was the order of my priorities. It’s been a very lonely, isolating time. This extended period of crisis has left me with few true friends–and that’s the way life tends to go. I should not be surprise. Nevertheless, companionship is pretty important to me. I don’t want to tweet about how my day was when it’s a scattershot in terms of who will listen. Although it was good to hear that I am getting extra support from the angels/God/The Universe-as-Cosmic-Sadist, and although it’s really hard for me to even admit this to myself, I do want in-house love support–both to give and to receive. It’s just not coming now. And it won’t be in the form of a rescue. I’m a tomboy anyway–we do the rescuing. I’m finally in a place where I can feel the actual pangs and aches of a partnerless life.

There were so many times down here that I know I wouldn’t have suffered as much, or suffered at all, if I had a partner in life–or so I think. I could be wrong. I could be deep into a fantasy. Or, I could be right. These pangs and aches aren’t soul crushing. No, fucking with my housing and transportation is what crushes my soul. It’s more of a phantom limb pain. Maybe. It’s not even about the person, per se. It’s more about a role that I want to play. Well, two roles to be exact: wife and mother. Motherhood is in the cards, but the card reader only saw one child. I want four so we’ll see how that goes. She said that maybe the dude would have his own kid(s), and it’s funny because I was imagining earlier this week if I could be a stepmom. Strange thoughts and synchronicities.

Overall, these struggles allegedly have to do with letting go of false beliefs that there isn’t enough, and that comes from my father’s side. It’s also interesting we talk about my father’s side because my mom talked a little bit about my father’s side and how little she knew of it. What my mother does know isn’t very uplifting–there’s some deep, dark shit lurking in that bloodline. I explained to the card reader of how my father acted like there wasn’t enough, so much so that he went to prison for it.

It’s hard to feel like there’s more than enough when you’ve been in positions where you’re not sure where you will sleep that night or how you will get to work the following day. It’s hard to believe in an abundant universe that is working all of this for your good. Is it cod liver oil good or chicken pot pie good or kale salad good or Metamucil good or cotton candy good or what, really? What kind of “good” are we talking about? That’s why the 5s fucking everywhere are so frustrating. When I think of life-changing good, I think of all of my problems solved or manageable, especially not thinking about where the hell the rent money will come from, or how I will pay this bill or that bill. I’m done with his adolescent spiritual growth spurt because it’s bruising my soul from the outside in.

Emotionally, though, sitting there–I felt like I couldn’t be truly honest with her. I felt a bit of a boundary that we had both erected. I couldn’t bear to ask about the guy I met on the beach in July and still think about. Or to press about those classmates from grad school. At least I could talk about the despair that wants to kill me. Or, put another way, a despair I’d like to escape through death.

This brings me back to my tween diaries from junior high, where I confessed my desire of a boyfriend and a best friend. I really would like someone where I can say all that stuff and not be judged. At the very least, I’d love to be in therapy again.

Back to my suicidality…it’s like batting around a ball of yarn. The yarn will never ever fully unravel. When I was talking to the card reader today, I didn’t feel that despair at all. But I wasn’t asking in the sunshine of hope either. I felt nothing except the coolness of the late morning. Maybe there was a bit of fretting, but not the gnawing desperation to really be OK, to be happy, to feel safe. Maybe that dreadful beast had taken a nap while I was there.

We ended our session with a handshake (I oddly wanted a hug, but she is technically an angel therapy practioner). I went into the store and took a while to find some candles to burn: one for finding the love of my life, one for cleansing a home of negative energy, one for friendship, and one for financial help. I also bought some incense to burn as well (wealth and riches–told ya I was a Capricorn). I came home and started burning all the candles except the one the cleanses the energy of a place.

I decided to try to do some work, but I had been feeling tired. The weather wasn’t helping either. I wrote my supervisor about some procedure that I had to do with my work. She wrote me back speedily and then asked if she could give me more hours since she is going to be on maternity leave soon. I currently work 20 hours and this increase would put me at 30 hours. And this would start on March 20th. What a way to celebrate the new season of spring. I’d be doing some editing and contributing with other content. I’m so grateful that this is occurring. That financial help candle (it has honeysuckle oil) was pretty handy. I hadn’t even been burning it for half an hour. It’s still burning now, almost 12 hours later.

Even though I’m not sure if I will end up living in the same town that my parents started their American lives in, I do have a little more hope that I will be OK. I had it even before I got the 10 hour a week increase in my workload. Even if I was a bit wary and reluctant to spill my guts, and even if the shame monsters were tugging at me as I shared what I felt comfortable to share–I did spill some of my guts, and I did share. I wasn’t alone. Someone care to show me how to take care of myself.

I’m tired: physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, energetically–in all ways tired. The advice to reach out to my guardian angels feels like work, but it’s work I need to do in order to get the despair monster to stop torturing me, in order to sleep better, in order not to feel that existential exhaustion. All these fears of being unheard, unseen, unknown…I even have them with Spirit. Am I really in a Universe loves and knows me? It has felt quite uncaring, while I drove around the city with so much stuff in my now gone car. When I had to move before that. When I had to move before that. When I was in over my head financially because I was too hopeful about how I’d be oh so gainfully employed.

I really wanted to write about this because I may have had some energetic exchange with the card reader and with burning these candles. I fell asleep later this afternoon and I didn’t think I needed to. It was hard to focus today–to know that I do have a great job and family waiting for me, that I will come out of this swampy morass called Florida more than OK. Things were unhinging and unmooring and unsettling. They still are.

I also wanted to make this blog post yet another time capsule to bury in my subconsciousness. Who knows if any of this will pan out? After my reading, I at least emailed the Dean saying that I’d teach in the fall–but who knows if I actually will do that? I do know that even if I am tired, I can still pray, saying, “I’m too tired to pray. Please, just be here with me now.”

My faith is flagging, but at least that gaping maw of despair and heartache has been shut up for the day. I have some potential answers, some potential paths to ponder and, maybe, to take.

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Just Enough Light

light dave barry SOMDuring Christmastime, I drove back to my hometown of Birmingham, AL. Maybe I shouldn’t call it my hometown. I have four hometowns now. I was born in OKC, then lived in Nashville for three years, then moved to Nashville when I was newly eight years old on December 30, 1985. I have no idea why I remember that date so clearly. I left for college when I was almost 19 and lived in Chicago for almost 15 years. Hometown is a loaded word.

The drive was pretty boring in the beginning–well, in comparison to the rest of the drive. The skies were leaden grey and flat, which actually made the barren trees and landscape more beautiful to me for some reason. I should say that the drive was without incident until it started to pour about 30 minutes away from Tallahassee, where I was going to have dinner with some friends.

Floridian rain is something I had grown accustomed to living in Orlando for over two years now. It’s more like a monsoon, rain coming down in blinding sheets, with windshield wipers whipping vigorously, almost to no avail. For it to be raining so hard during the winter was strange. Usually this type of rain came in the summer, during the afternoon. The overhead signs said that Leon County was under a tornado watch. Not much I could do about that. I had dinner and caught up with my friends and I called my mom to let her know I was about 5 hours away. I really should have left earlier but I wanted to pray at church and talk to the associate minister before coming. Christmastime for me, especially as an adult, has always been fraught with drama and separation. This was the first time in my adult life that I was actually looking forward to going home, which says more about my time here in Mickey Mouse Land than it does about Sweet Home Alabama. I prayed so that there would be peace and harmony. But leaving town at around 2:30pm, even with gaining an hour in central time, was probably not the smartest decision.

I left the restaurant, aided by Google Maps, which lead me to a police blockage. The windy, dark streets of this hilly town were flooded. I went through a flooded intersection, again, against my better judgment, and made it back on the I-10 to join the 231. Rain is still assaulting my vision, but at least the I-10 was well lit.

The 231 which took me over the Florida-Alabama border, was more like a major street than a highway. I turned on my high beams because I couldn’t see much at all. There was one point where my high beams gave me just enough light to see another bend in the road, but the rest of the road was obscured in darkness. And I was angry about it, as if I could do anything about it. My hands ached as I was white-knuckling this drive. I fumed as the Google Maps’ estimated arrival time go from 11:45pm to 12:15am. I couldn’t drive any faster than 60mph, which honestly might have been too fast.

The darkness, the wetness, the length of the drive–these were all conditions that combined into a state of being that I didn’t want to be in: on the way. I wanted to already be at my mom’s place, asleep, to have stopped moving.

My life during and after grad school has been a similar journey. When I saw that my high beams didn’t illuminate miles ahead, maybe just 100 feet, I realized that I had been viewing my life in this way.

Right now, I’m on a stormy journey. I’m underemployed, stuck in a housing situation where I’ve been mistreated and taken advantage of, and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life. My life seemed to have an illuminated path, miles and miles ahead. When I chose to go to grad school, I didn’t really know what would happen next after graduation. I was OK with that when I had a crappy-but-at-least-it-paid-something job. But I was let go in July. That was six months ago today.

Since then, I left an emotionally abusive housing situation, was homeless for about two months (airbnb + staying at a friend’s house), and now I’m here, with another yet another uncomfortable housing situation. I am a tutor without any students, a part-time grant writer waiting to get paid for work that I did in November, and soon-to-be adjunct prof for one class. If all of those things were actually active, I’d be OK. But I don’t know what happens next. Should I move back home to Birmingham? Should I look into moving into LA again?

I’ve always known what would happen next–or so I thought. Medicine was supposed to be a clear path. But then I realized a few years ago that I wasn’t that great at college science. The dream changed. Died. Transformed.

As much as I am a planner, a Capricorn, a firstborn, fiercely independent in all ways, this stretch of the journey has been annoying. But on that road in Southern Alabama, I realized that I am never meant to know the whole way, even with GPS, even with my high beams on. While I was driving, I kind of laughed to myself that I would assume that my high beams would illuminate more of the road than they were designed to.

So then, it comes down to trust. Trust in my ability to drive my car. Trust that I can follow a path. Trust that the light given is enough for this stretch of the journey. Maybe even trust in the Universe to protect and guide me through these dark badlands (of my life). That’s always been a tough one, though, because the badlands seem to have stretched all throughout my life, even when I didn’t know it.

In helping my mother downsize stuff in her home, we came across my father’s financial documents. My father is somewhere in Atlanta, bipolar and unmedicated. Some of the things we came across were shut off notices from the electric company (my mom never knew), old checks he never cashed, an article about him in the newspaper about possible fraud when I was in junior high (neither my mom nor I knew about it), and evidence that he could have possibly saved the house from foreclosure. His unraveling mind, plus his unwillingness to seek help for his condition, put us at risk. I learned so much that night that just floored me.

One could say that my mom’s fervent prayers, along with her friends’ prayers, kept us safe. For now, that’s what I’ll go along with, even though another part of me wants to go off the road and say that trusting someone who was clearly insane was also putting us at risk. But that’s a whole other convo about emotional abuse that belongs in another post or a book.

One thing that having the whole road illuminated can do is have me mentally check out. I already know what will happen. I don’t have to be as alert. I can multi-task. I can rest my brain for a bit. That isn’t necessarily bad. It’s not to say that the journey would be any less harrowing or difficult. It just means that I can prepare for what’s ahead, have a bit more (perceived) control over my circumstances. That’s what medicine would have given me: a train track to stay on and keep on until I reached the destination of Doctorland.

But that’s not the road I’m on anymore.

I’m already in the weeds now, but this is all to say I can only trust in the light that I am given, to drive down the road that I’m on, and I cannot curse the darkness anymore. I can say that this stretch of the journey has been scary, infuriating, painful, disempowering, and lonely. But I’m still driving, to some place called home (not heaven). I’m just not sure where that is just yet. And I can only go as fast as I’m going now.

But I have just enough light for the next stretch of the journey, and all I can do is wish myself Godspeed and keep going.

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Woo fucking woo

spirituality SOMWell, here I am, and there you are. Hello.

About a month or so ago, I drafted a post that was detailing how I came from stubborn apathetic agnosticism to yucking it up in what I call WooWooLand (or more like woowooland). It was turning into a long, meandering essay. I’ll work on that for another time. I’m pretty sure this will turn into a long, meandering essay anyway.

The past 18+ months have been brutal. Over two years ago, I left Chi-town for O-town: the land of Mickey Mouse, tourists that are perpetually lost and can’t drive, tons of South Florida replants, speeders, car wrecks, more Rebel flag sightings that I can count, scary domestic violence reports on local news, lots of  scary, blinding rain, and my dream community that never appeared. Oh, and beaches.

I was drowning in culture shock, of how monochrome everything was, of how really different I was, especially racially. How is it at age 34, coming from Bombingham and Chicago, that race was so much more in my face, beating me around, making me feel less than human? How was that even possible? And then being a grad student, my finances went into a black hole pretty quickly after my first year because I didn’t have stipend support from my fellowship. After many, many, many job searches, I couldn’t find anything. A job found me in August, with its shitty pay and less than desirable work culture. By December, I had to give up my apartment and live in a house with a classmate of mine.

Simultaneously, I had been exploring personal growth/New Age/woo woo shit. I needed support and I wasn’t getting it from anyone except my therapist. I wish I had journaled that experience because it was strange, trying on all these programs that promoted positive thinking and tried to empower people. I look forward to writing about how privilege enables so much of this to happen, and also how it’s so much related to the prosperity gospel that I had run away from when I moved to Chicago from Birmingham. But those experiences and insights will be for another post.

Somehow, I made it through grad school, living with a gazillion people that didn’t really know me but knew each other really well, having a really weird energetic stand-off of a confusing romantic sort with a classmate (I don’t even know if I can write about that, because I still don’t get what happened), turning my part-time job into a full-time job, my thesis advisor pulling the plug on my thesis defense at the last minute, switching thesis advisors and bringing on a new committee member, paying for the summer term, successfully defending my thesis, losing my awful job because my integrity couldn’t stand it, finding a new place to live, losing that place because with whom I was living was mentally unstable and emotionally abusive, getting part-time work for a company in LA, and then setting off on a month-long odyssey around town through airbnb while trying to stay off the streets.

Somewhere inside of me, there is a trashheap of emotions that I’ll eventually need to sort through and identify and then discard again. I’m leaving so much out, like how I didn’t really get along with my classmates, which broke my expectations’ heart, but those are the main lowlights.

A growing silence from people I knew, loved, and cared about tried to choke my humanity and my dignity. It’s still there, but it doesn’t have its grubby hands on my neck any longer. I just accept it and soon it will be

My therapist from school basically kept me alive. I played with suicidal ideation like a cat would play with a dead mouse, just bat it around knowing that things had been unbearable, unlivable, untenable. Life could not go on this way, but hell, I’m resilient, more than most, and I will keep on resilienting, even if I am tired of resilienting.

As I thrust my hands into the fertile earth of a new spirituality, my sessions with my therapist became more about energy and astrology and my intuition and what I felt the Universe was asking me to do (trust, trust, and then trust some more). She told me to check out this metaphysical bookshop near the end of our time together, which lead me to three women doing three different readings, all involving angels. The second woman told me to go to the church that I am attending now, which is Christian, but a different type of woo woo than, say, a charismatic or Pentecostal church would be. Can you say past-life regression? Without choking on the term? Not sure yet, wow, this is pretty fucking woo woo, shit.

But it fits. It really fits. And I don’t have to try. I’m in a church that accepts and embraces everyone. Yes, everyone.

Fast forwarding a bit, I’m at a friend’s house, through church, through a book study that was being held here. They are letting me stay until the end of this month. I sang at church last Sunday. I just had a really good phone interview for a grant writing position at a place that is aligned with my job experience. It was also strange because a woman that I will probably live with, she works in the same field and we had been talking about it two days prior. Strange, or by design, I feel so much more encouraged about my life.

I stupidly look at friends who are 10 years my junior, having seemingly fabulous lives, jobs, loves, families, or at least all the fabulosity that they are allowing through social media. It’s been soul-crushing, because they most likely will not have had to face homelessness twice in a year, or wonder what the point is of listing someone’s name as an emergency contact, or really go through it like I did. It’s stupid to compare, since we all are on different journeys.

One phrase that has stuck with me during my spiritual fumbling around in the dark is this: I am not going through this for nothing: this humiliation, this abandonment, this stripping of things and people and places that I have clearly used to define myself. Who am I outside of a permanent address, a decent credit score, a life partner, a family of my own, a job that helps me fulfill my life purpose and supports me financially, friends, out of all of these things that I want, let alone need.

Let me sound like the spiritual snobs I hate. Maybe all of us are asked, are invited, to answer this question, maybe more than once.  A lot of us will decline the invitation, skim the surface like a speedboat, and then die. And that will be it. Some of us will accept the invitation and dive deep to answer the question. Some of us, circumstantially, will almost be forced to answer the question.

Who am I?

I didn’t set out to have this question asked or answered. I came down here to write a memoir, learn to write better and then enjoy Florida. And I’ve done all of those things, just not in the mathematical-shortest-distance-between-two-points sort of way.

Usually, no one sets out to answer this question. You are invited to answer it. After a year of excruciating inquiry, I can say that I am not my job, relationship status, number of friends, church, amount of money in my bank account (which is currently red). I’m not as stripped of my race, gender, and sexual orientation (yet), but I am stripped, like a beat of piece of furniture, waiting to be refinished.

I can honestly say that if my shit time in O-town hadn’t occurred, I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t have grown. I’m still be skimming the surface, avoiding the depths, the depths of racism, sexism, class privilege, the things that hamper the lives of millions and millions of people everyday, including my own. The depths of my secret people pleasing masked as severe avoidance. The depths of my depths.

Am I grateful yet? Not fully, not really? The bounty of this fierce harvest has not yet yielded. But it will. I got to the place of being grateful for having a safe place to sleep every night, even if it involved an early police visit (not me, for someone else), of having food to eat, of being clothed. Everything got really present, is really present. I don’t know where I will spend Thanksgiving. I don’t know when I’ll go up to Alabama for Christmas. I don’t even know what’s happening tomorrow besides 4 loads of laundry. And I don’t really care, nor have the time and space to care. The present is all I have.

Cliche, cliche, cliche.

Can’t really get that from everything being as I want it. When everything goes to shit, what do you do?

Well, you get on that woo woo shit, go deeper in it, look at the synchronicities–was that really just a coincidence? You’re seeing 44 and 2:22 and 1:11 on the clock all the time, and 8’s are following you around and you have a lot of private tarot readings with yourself and see what the Universe is saying you should know right now. You keep letting go of all those pesky expectations  you had about your time here, you embrace the people that have been put in your life as fellow travelers and teachers. You hope you’re able to thank those hard ass teachers later, even if you can’t right now.

You finally get to that place of incessant gratitude because you suck at being a self-sufficient adult. You can only be grateful for eating a Hot Pocket, relishing all that hot gooey cheese and cholesterol. You can only be grateful for the apples that your airbnb host gives you as you travel back into town, back to your friends’ house, friends who were concerned about your whereabouts, friends that invited you to stay with them. Even still, you can only be grateful that you got to even experience the green, rolling hills of Lake County, these steep hills of Florida that remind you of home, that call for your return.

You can only be grateful.

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