My Boy

Today is my son’s birthday. My beautiful, loving, funny, happy, smart, energetic, inquisitive, science loving, dancing, singing, joke telling, imaginative son. He truly is both my sun and my moon. I will never know how I came to be so lucky. He keeps me going and he makes my life so wonderful. Parenting is so much harder than I ever thought it would be, and it is also so much more rich and rewarding than I ever imagined. Every single moment – even the hardest ones – are a gift. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love him more, or my heart couldn’t possibly get bigger, it happens.

Last night we were talking about his birth story. We used to talk about it a lot. He loved to hear it. I realized a crazy thing. That story – it’s not really his at all. He doesn’t remember it, he doesn’t hold it dear like a fragile, precious thing as I do. He looks at me in wonder, not sure what to think of it or how to imagine it. He asks if he was really that small. That story – it’s really mine. And my mom’s. And it always will be. And the craziest thing is, my mom would have told it even differently than I can. Everyone’s perception is different after all. So this momentous, amazing moment in my life, it’s really all mine. All my memory – all my precious, wonderful thing. 

I wanted to write it down, because today, I am so so happy to have my son, to have this little fire ball of a person in my life. But I am also a little sad – maybe nostalgic. Because this story is also a special thing for my mom and I – and I lost her this summer.  My son is at school this morning – talking about the party he had yesterday and handing out cupcakes. So for that little time I will allow myself the sadness, and then he and I can have a special day together. 

When I was 7 months along in my pregnancy, my husband went to Russia. Yep, you read that right. His family is there and his dad was going to be having heart surgery in the spring, and we knew he wouldn’t be able to go for a little while after we had the baby. He was supposed to be there a month, and we figured he’d be back in plenty of time for the baby. Well, that didn’t happen. He got stuck in Russia because his Russian passport had expired and it took longer than we thought to get him home. So, here I was, 7 and 8 months pregnant, not working, trying to get things ready for the baby, having a baby shower, sitting around watching a lot of tv, waiting for my husband to come home from another country.

I ended up on bed rest at about 36 weeks. The baby’s head was giant, he kept flipping up and down, his head in the right place one day, the wrong place the next. The doctor said my hips were narrow and she was worried I wouldn’t be able to have him naturally. He was like a little contortionist in there. The doc kept saying that he shouldn’t be able to turn over anymore – there wasn’t enough room in there, but he didn’t listen. 

So, my mom came down to help me. She had been here over the weekend for my baby shower, then the day after she went home, I was put on bed rest and she came right back with her work and computer and phone. She tried to work and I laid on the couch or in bed. All day and all night. 

At 37 weeks (still waiting to hear from my husband about when he could come home) the doctor decided we had to induce – and we would schedule it for 38 weeks. She was concerned we would have to do a C section at this point anyway, because of the size of his head. For a few days we ran around to appointments, first we thought we needed to turn him – manually (ugh) – but when we got to that appointment he had put himself back into the proper head down position. We went to the hospital to make sure I was checked in and everything. We called my hubby (I was stressed out about him not being there until the actual labor started). We got my bags ready and finished with the baby things.

3 days before we were going to induce, I went into labor. It was a hard, long labor – I didn’t progress like I was supposed to. I had to have medicine to help me dilate. I was at the hospital for 3 days before he was born. My contractions were 4-2 min apart that whole time – painful and strong, but I have a body like my mom’s and I just had to have some help. My epidural didn’t work. They were worried I would have to have a c section because we couldn’t get him down where he should be. Finally, at the last minute, everything came together  he dropped, I dilated, and after a couple hours of pushing, he came out. He did have the cord wrapped around his neck and we lost the heartbeat for just a few scary seconds. My mom was screaming at me to push – the nurses and everyone else too, but my mom is who I heard. She was there the whole 3 days. Holding my hand, tucking in my feet, telling me to breathe, getting me my ipod, changing the channel, talking to my husband, telling me to stop screaming at the nurses. 

My mom was the first one to see him. She cut his cord. She followed him to be cleaned up and check his fingers and toes. I held him first, but she saw him first. She helped me nurse. She helped me dress him, she helped me take him home. She was there. For his first bath, for his feet being printed, for his first pictures, for his first everything. 

I am so thankful we had that special time together. Honestly, I’m glad she was there and not my husband in some ways. I hate that my husband had to wait 3 weeks to see him. Had to wait a few days to see pictures. Had to wait to touch him. But I am glad my mom was with me and she wouldn’t have been if my husband was here. He would not have been the rock she was – he wouldn’t have known what I needed.

Those first few nights home she helped me getting up and feeding him. She changed him and burped him and put him back to sleep – I nursed and slept. We were both exhausted and both up all hours of the night.

The first night home he was screaming and screaming like a banshee and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We had gone through all the problem solving – hungry, gassy, cold, hot, are his clothes hurting? What was wrong? My mom figured out his diaper had slid down his bum and his little tushy was hanging out. We pulled them up and the screaming stopped. We had a lot of good laughs about that. 

I am so thankful for my son. I know now how my mom felt about me. There is no love like a mother’s love. 

I am so thankful I have those memories of my mom being able to help me.

I am so thankful for the strength and sunshine my son has given me these last few hard years. It seems an awful burden – to be someone’s reason for living – but he is.

I love you, little man. Like you can never know. 

Happy Birthday.

What not to say to cancer patients.

My dear dear friend was just informed (over the phone by a nurse – ugh) that her cancer is back. After 8 LONG years of being in remission she has to fight this jerk again.

It is very difficult for me to just sit when something like this happens. However my friend lives far away and there isn’t a lot I can do this minute.

So….. I decided to write a post about things that are unhelpful to say to a cancer patient. (yes, this is just my opinion. Some people may disagree. That’s fine – they are allowed.)

1. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” First of all, this has as the first part of the statement the admission that the thing you are battling could kill you. Seriously? That’s what you want a cancer patient to focus on? Second of all, sometimes when you are going through cancer – going through the surgeries or the treatments or the tests or the waiting – you don’t feel strong. Not at all. You feel weak and vulnerable and in need of some strength from others. Or possibly in need of a day or two in bed – with no responsibilities and some funny movies and some tissues. Maybe some tuna noodle casserole. Some days you don’t want to be expected to be strong. Third of all, for me, this statement makes me want to tell “being strong” to screw off and head back to bed. Just because I’m a rebel.

2. Don’t talk about your uncle’s cousin’s brother who died from the same cancer. Or your friend who had to have chemo and was SO SO sick. Or how everyone in your family has had cancer. And died. Really, just don’t talk about death unless they bring it up. And then just listen for the most part.

3. “I’m sure you will be just fine! You are a fighter!” Thanks for the encouragement. What if I’m not sure I have any fight left? What if I’m not sure I will be fine. It feels like an empty statement. Don’t try to be overly positive. (“Well at least you won’t have to shave your legs when you have chemo.”) What would be more helpful is for someone to say “Wow. I have no idea how you must be feeling (even if you think you do). But please know am here for you to talk to. Or to get out of the house. Whatever you need.” AND THEN be there for them when they call. Listen.

4. “Let me know if I can do anything.” Cause honestly, we don’t have the energy to go around asking for help and telling you what we need. We are exhausted. We can’t begin to tell you what we need. We can’t even make ourselves a list of what we need. The best things you can do to help is this: “I am going to bring by dinner tomorrow night around 6. What sounds good?” “The gang at the office want to make some freezer meals for you. Is there anything your family doesn’t like or can’t eat?” (make sure to include some healthy foods in this – often foods brought over are fatty, carb loaded and heavy. Cancer patients need good nutrition. Add some veggies, a salad, or a nice fruit bowl for dessert.) “I can help babysit on Thursdays and Saturdays at these times. For several weeks. Could I take your kids to the park so you can rest?” or “When you have your surgery, I can watch the kids, also, the next few days so your support team can take care of you instead of feeling frazzled. Here is my number.”

5. When someone tells you that they have cancer, don’t say “My kid has had the flu all week. And you know how I hate vomit.” (yes, that really happened) “I had an ovarian cyst that put me in the hospital once. I totally know how you feel.” I would think this would speak for itself, but apparently it doesn’t. When someone tells you that they have cancer a lot of people don’t know what to say. Try not to fumble for words and just listen. Say “I’m so sorry.” Say “How are you feeling today? Do you want to talk? What is the plan from here forward? Can I go to your doctor’s visits with you?” Etc. Don’t compare, don’t assume you get it.

6. “Wow. That sucks.” Really? Cause I know it sucks. Thanks for the reminder.

7. “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Really? Cause right now I feel like I have a hell of a lot more than I can handle. Not only that, but if I DID believe in the kind of God you are talking about, I wouldn’t believe he/she was sitting somewhere watching me, measuring just exactly how strong I am and giving me JUST the right amount of crap in my life. JUST THE RIGHT amount of hell I can personally handle. Letting me feel just the right amount like I have been abandoned by all of the good in the universe and that I can barely BARELY get through the day laying in bed, much less do anything else. That he knows EXACTLY where my breaking point is, and even though I think it was 2 surgeries and 2 years ago, apparently I was wrong. That image – it doesn’t help.

8. “Everything will be just fine.” Maybe it won’t. And not only that, it’s ok for people to be scared. Say “I know you are scared. I can’t imagine how you feel. I am scared for you. Do you want to talk? Hold hands? Hug? Do you want your Ipod with your “soothing music” playlist? The movie “Footloose?”

9. “My aunt has a natural treatment that CURED her cancer. No, she wasn’t ever actually diagnosed. It’s made out of dirt, dust mites and spring water. It’s only available in Italy – but it totally CURED her.” I am just going to leave it at that.

10. Don’t try to push treatments, different doctors, surgeries, different hospitals, etc. If your friend asks, tell them “this is what I think helped my cancer the most…” “this is the doctor my doctor recommended.” Right now their treatment plan is the only thing they have control over, and they need to feel confident in their decision making. I had a doctor (who I love) send me to a new surgeon. I had another doctor (who I also love) ask me to please go to a different surgeon just for a second opinion. When I said I didn’t want to, she respected that. Turns out I really should have gone to the second doctor. I saw him for the next surgery and he did the one thing that truly turned my course of treatment around. She never said “I told you so” or “You should have listened.”

11. “Oh, I heard that’s the best cancer.” or “Oh, you don’t have to do chemo? You are so lucky.” or “Well, at least it’s not _______ cancer. I know three people who died of that.” There is no best cancer. There is no best cancer treatment. (yes chemo sucks. big. so does radiation, radioactive iodine, surgery, bone marrow transplants, etc.) Everyone’s cancer journey is different, and most of us feel like our road is pretty much sucksville.

12. Don’t ask if they will loose their hair, what their new boobs will feel like, if they will have a lot of scars, etc. Honestly – they don’t know and you don’t need to.

If you DO happen to do any of these things, or worse, just stare at them in horror and avoid them for a week, the harm is not irreparable. But don’t pretend it never happened. Say “I’m sorry I acted like a moron. Can I try again? I’d like to be there for you. I was shocked, but I’d like to show you I can be there.”

The things that are helpful:

ACTION. My mom is my best example of this. If you were having a kid she packed a bag. If you were having surgery, she packed a bag. I ended up in the hospital for a week with sepsis, she packed a bag. I had a cousin who needed surgery and my aunt had something that prevented her from helping. Mom packed a bag. She didn’t ask, she didn’t hesitate. She came to my baby shower one weekend. The very next day after she left I was told I had to go on bedrest. Guess what? She packed a bag, got her work stuff to bring down, and came right back. The next day.

I’m not suggesting you move into your friend’s house or head across the country for someone you haven’t seen in 10 years (unless they ask and you can). But take over dinner. Send a pizza gift certificate. Take a funny movie. Take them out to a movie or dinner if they can go, or take it over to their house if they can’t. Send a card. Make a phone call. Plant some flowers in their planter. Do some laundry. Tell them you know a great housekeeper and you are sending her over on your dime for a couple months. (I wish I could do this for all my cancer friends.) DO something.

Listen.

Hug.

Smile.

Cry.

Follow their cues.

 

Edit: I wanted to mention one other thing. My mom was a great nursemaid. She helped me get dressed, prepared sitz baths, helped me learn to nurse, helped me dress wounds, helped me put on a bra when I couldn’t, propped me up in bed when it hurt to lay down, took care of my son and my husband, emptied drains, helped me pull out stitches that had become abscesses (with my dr’s direction). My aunt also came to help me for a week after one surgery and she has always doubted whether or not she helped me. She did. She cleaned my closets, she entertained and exercised my son, she re-potted my plant, she fed us, did laundry, took me to the store, helped me walk down the block, made sure my house was spotless before she left so I didn’t have to worry about that part of things. She made me laugh. She was kind. She was just what I needed. A breath of fresh air and lots of good energy. Everyone can help in their own ways and according to their own personalities. Never doubt that there is something you can do do help someone who needs it. What you can do might be just what they need.

Life is Beautiful

Aside

I heard a song today – one line just floored me:
“Life is beautiful, but it’s complicated. We barely make it.”   (Life is Beautiful by Vega 4)

Really.

Sometimes I feel like I am barely making it. Or like I will barely make it. I mean – really, some times it’s so so hard. It’s so so hurty and brutal and draining.

I know, I know, it’s all about perception. I know that. I know if I find a different way to see it that all that hurty and brutal and draining stuff can actually seem good. Or at least useful and meaningful.

But sometimes – sometimes I just want to feel like I am barely making it and spend a day or two in bed with a good book and some movies and some junk food and myself. Crazy thing about that. Once you are a mom, you don’t get to do that anymore. I know – shocker, huh?

Where was I going with this?

I don’t even know. I guess my point is this:

Life is beautiful. But it’s complicated. We barely make it.

Dissect that a minute and what you get is what life is really all about. It IS beautiful. Truly truly full of beauty and wonderful amazing things. Full of light and color and rainbows and flowers and butterflies and streams and all that jazz. BUT – and here is where it gets complicated – it’s also pretty full of dangers and pain and sadness. I guess we just try to make sure the beauty and joy and the wonder outweighs the rest of it. Part of that is by providing those things to others. Helping other beautiful complicated humans get through it all. And that’s how we make it. Even if it’s just barely.

An open letter to election 2012

Dear election 2012:

Wow. It’s been a crazy couple of months. I have seen a lot of anger and hatred in that time. I have heard a lot of people say things that shock me coming from their mouths. I guess you never really know a person until they show their anger and hatred. 

I have also seen a lot of people come together for what they believe in. Working together, supporting each other, giving to each other. I have seen a lot of volunteering going on, a lot of people concerned about the rights of OTHERS. Not just their own rights. The rights that they want others to have. 

I always wondered what those white college kids felt like when they got in cars and drove down to the south in the 1950’s and 60’s to sit in diners with black kids their same age. To register black people to vote. To march with them and be jailed with them. I always thought “it would have been so much easier for them to stay home, to not make their families mad, to not be physically harmed and to not be outcasts, what made them do it?” Of course I always hoped I too would be one of those people, but I never knew for sure. Until now.

I have a whole lot of family and friends who think gay marriage is wrong and evil. Who thing being gay is wrong and evil for that matter. I don’t believe that. I believe that people are all people – gay, straight, black, white, brown, red… we are all the same at our core. I believe that hating someone (or loving them in spite of) for one small part of their life is sickening and wrong. That’s what I think is wrong and evil. Yep. I said it. Hating someone, thinking they are sinning or evil, wanting to prevent them from having the basic rights that most people enjoy in this country, because they happen to have a certain characteristic is wrong. 

I think it was wrong when women weren’t allowed to vote because they had a vagina. I think it was wrong for black people to have to use a different door and sit in the back of a restaurant because of the color of their skin. I think it was wrong to deny interracial marriage. I think it is wrong to deny someone employment because they have an accent. I think it is wrong to discriminate against someone because they have less money than you. And I think it is wrong to deny gay people the right to marry just because they happen to love someone who possesses the same set of sex determining chromosomes. 

I know, now, that I would have gone down to the south in one of those cars, given the chance. Would have marched and registered voters. I have stood up for what I believe in despite my family and friends’ opinions, I voted for civil rights for others yesterday, and I am proud of all of the other people who did too.

I have also been privileged to reaffirm my passion for women’s rights in the last year or more. I have always been interested in and passionate about women’s issues. They came to the forefront this election in many ways and I was thankful for the chance to discuss them with many people, to explain my positions and why I have them. I am thankful to all of my friends who cast a vote for women’s rights in this election. 

Amazingly we saw people of color and the lower class again targeted by voting laws. We saw a surge in the correction and monitoring of voter rights activists. THANKFULLY we saw a record number of people of color turn out to vote this year. 

When people tell me that “they have all the rights they need, so civil rights don’t really speak to them.” I wonder. I wonder how they don’t see what I see. I wonder how they don’t see the giant chasm between the white male upper class and the rest of us. I wonder how it is that they can be so blind to the privilege that allows them not to see. 

Finally, I spoke to quite a few people who thought that it was foolish to vote based on these issues. That the economy is our only concern and that I should not “throw my vote away” on civil rights and women’s rights issues. To them I say that these issues are as important to me as the economy. Also, I believe that the president has done a great job so far in making the economy better and in ensuring that we will continue to improve. He has (despite road blocks at every turn from Congress) made a huge impact in not only the economy but in health care reform and in the rights of others.

I am proud today.

I am proud that I stood up for what I believe in. I am proud my friends and family did too. 

I am lucky and thankful to live in a country that allows me the freedom to express my true feelings. To debate with those I know about them. To speak out against our government, or to show my support as I feel is warranted. I am lucky to be as privileged as I am, and I am happy that I have a chance to continue to break down that system of privilege and help others.  

Election 2012 – you have been a wild ride. And I will never forget the passion and drive you awoke in me.

 

 

Those goofy Russians!

We have a few people from the Russian community who live near us. We often see them out at the store, walking, coming home from work. Yesterday, (sunday Nov 4) my husband was coming home from dropping his mother off at work. He saw one of said neighbors walking home. She rushed at him waving her arms and wanting him to stop. Now this particular lady is a little prone to dramatics. She is in her 50’s and dresses in very fancy clothes with very high heels all the time. So the idea of her rushing at his car waving her arms and calling to him makes me laugh.

She says “Today is the voting day, right?” (she received her citizenship the last year or so)

He says “no, it’s Tuesday.”

She says “where do I register?”

He says “you can’t – you had to register by the beginning of last month.”

She looking panicked – “WHAT? Will they arrest me if I don’t vote????”

True story. 

Just a little perspective.

Sing for us, Donnie Wahlberg!

ON A LIGHTER NOTE.

I never really was into NKOTB like some of my friends. In high school I had a friend who was simply GA GA over them. I thought they were cute, and I listened if they were on, but I was into more …. eclectic music. 

I do, however, love Donnie Wahlberg. (Ok, I like Mark too – but mostly for his yummy yummy body – I like Donnie for his brains.) I feel like I should be standing up and saying “my name is Ashley – I have a problem.” 

Two days ago I was on hold with a doctors office and much to my surprise this song came on:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbIEwIwYz-c
(That’s “The Right Stuff” If you aren’t in the mood to watch the NKOTB dance and sing.) PS, Donnie, loving the hair.

I also happened to watch “Blue Bloods” on my DVR that day. Which got me thinking. I would LOVE to see Donnie sing in one of his shows/movies. I think it would be such a fun touch.

Donnie, seriously dude, sing for us.

 

(PS – in looking at NKOTB videos, I realized that they apparently did a tour in the past couple years. So, apparently he is still singing. Which I think is awesome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hn_c7g2Av4&list=UUS9lJwUApBCwvyC36COgAbQ&index=3&feature=plcp – now, give us a little taste in your shows.)

PPS, I have a cousin who grew up with the Wahlbergs. Cool.

Leading an Introspective Life/ My beliefs may be different than yours but….

The saying goes that opinions are like elbows – everyone has them. Or armpits – they all have one and they all stink. Or like orgasms – mine is more important and I don’t care about yours…. You get the drift.

Lately I have been sharing my opinions about a lot of things in a lot of ways. The political goings on in our country lately have gotten me all riled up. I am not even sharing why I think one candidate is better or worse than another. I am sharing about broader political issues – abortion, rape (WHY is rape even a political issue????), birth control access, women’s wages, civil rights, gay rights, religion in the workplace/political arena/government, health care, and more.

I have had a lot of push and pull from friends and family lately too. Which, let’s face it, is to be expected if you are so openly sharing your opinion with the whole world via facebook or blogging. I don’t mind open, honest, level headed discussions. I actually enjoy them. They help me firm up my opinions and help me see the issue from the point of view of someone who has a different opinion. 

The funny thing is, many of my friends and family seem upset with me or even offended by my opinion. Or seem to think I may not realize why my opinion is “wrong” and try to explain to me why I should or should not be feeling this particular way.

I honestly sat down to write a post on abortion and being pro choice, and what that means to me, and why I feel the way I do. I decided, however, that my views are much larger than that, and perhaps I need to do some ‘splainin. 

First, a little back ground. I am pretty liberal. I am not the most liberal person I know. But I am on that side of the liberal spectrum – out there with the extreme liberals. I was not raised to be liberal. My father and his family are real extreme conservatives. My mom was what I think I would call an open minded moderate. Our family was very religious in a very conservative religion. My home town is white, middle class, republican/conservative. When I was younger there was no racial diversity at all, no openly homosexual people, no “being different” and being accepted. I think it has changed a little.

In 1980 I was 5. There was a lot of goings on in our house with the Reagan/Carter race in full swing. My father was always involved in politics and I can imagine that is why I was interested in this particular race – I must have heard a lot about it at home. I asked my father who he was going to vote for and he said we don’t really talk about that or ask people that. I told him I thought he should vote for Jimmy Carter. I am sure the poor man thought he was in for a doozy of a ride with me. 

I haven’t changed. I am not a product of my upbringing. I have always had my own opinions and I have always known how I felt about things. I can remember when I was maybe 9 being upset because in our church they would talk about how the girls should go to college in case their husbands died and they needed to work. It upset me because my mom worked. She worked, she enjoyed it, she did wonderful things in her work with special ed kids. She made a difference in people’s lives in her work. She was a good mom who always took care of us, so why was it “wrong” for her to work? I knew how I felt about that from a young age. 

What I am building up to here is that I find that some people think that I have the opinions I have because I follow other people like me. Some people seem to feel I have not examined my positions on some issues, or that I have not fully realized that there are other options for me to examine, or that I simply don’t think it through. 

This could not be further from the truth. 

I lead a fairly introspective life. I have examined my feelings about just about everything on this earth. 

For example: I feel like some people think I am very women’s rights oriented because it is the “trendy” thing to do, or the “extreme” thing to do. Or the expected thing, or the non expected… etc. This is not the case. I have studied women’s issues for quite some time – including quite a few classes in college – not to date myself – but over 15 years ago. I have continued to study on my own since then. I find these “issues” hit home with me. They are all things I care about. They are all things I love to learn about. There are a lot of things that inspire passion in me. Women’s issues are some of them. 

I recently had a discussion in which a friend told me that women’s rights doesn’t resonate with her because she feels like she has all the rights she could want or need, so she didn’t need to worry about it. Paraphrasing. To me this is sad. I am a white middle class identifying as straight woman with a husband and a son. I have quite a lot of privilege in this country. The woman I am talking about is similar – in fact she is also christian, has a college degree, is in fairly good health, and has more than one child. She may be just a peg higher than me on the privilege ladder. The thing is, that working on women’s issues isn’t really about women who look like me. I mean – in the long run it is, it affects all women – but really working on women’s issues benefits the women who have less than I do. Less privilege, less ability to move about in society, less choice in their lives. Working on women’s issues is more important to the women who are poor, who are battered, who are unable to get an education, who are living on the streets, who are being sold into sex slavery. Women’s issues aren’t just about whether or not I can get the same wage as a man doing the same job should I choose to go back to work (although it is about that too – and by the way, I can’t – women STILL make 70 cents on the dollar in most states compared to men). They aren’t JUST about that. Fighting for the rights of all women – in all the world – is about so much more. It is about the right to vote, the right to marry whom we choose or not marry at all, it is about the right to access necessary health care, it is about the right to be able to walk alone without a husband or son with us, it is about the right to the same education as a man, about the right to being able to work in the field of our choice AND being paid the same, about the right to have children or not have children as we choose, about the right to our body being our own and not the property of our male relatives. It is about stopping honor killings and sex slavery human trafficking and child brides and more. Just 93 years ago women in the US weren’t allowed to vote. 163 years ago the first woman graduated with a medical degree. In 1987 the first co-ed class was enrolled in Columbia College. In 1993 the last US state made marital rape illegal. That means before that, a husband could not be tried for raping his wife, even though that is a commonly used abuse tactic. These are the reasons I am involved in women’s rights – and many more.

Here is another example: some of my friends/family think I don’t go to church because it’s inconvenient, it cuts into my fun, it doesn’t fit into my schedule, I don’t like following the rules, etc. I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in organized religion. I think it is a way to control the masses. The only organized religion I have found to actually feel somewhat comfortable or “right” to me is Buddhism  And if you know anything about Buddhism, the basic tenants of Buddhism are to become your very best self and to create love and light in the world. It is based in introspection, meditation, finding the calm within yourself, ending suffering, and finding peace. It is far different to me than any other religion I have learned about – in which the believers follow what an omnipotent being tells them to do without looking into their hearts to find whether that matches up with their own truth. Or perhaps by looking into their own hearts to find where they don’t match up with the omnipotent being in order to find out where their OWN faults lie instead. I simply don’t believe in these things. I am spiritual. I believe in increasing my own happiness, peace and wisdom in many ways. I believe in helping others, being kind, doing the right thing. I just don’t think “the right thing” is written in any books – it’s inside of me. I believe in following my heart and mind and finding the best path for me and my family. I believe in the energy of the universe and that we are all a part of that, connected to each other. 

What I do and don’t believe isn’t just random. It isn’t just my “default” mode. It isn’t the easy or simple or convenient thing. What I do and don’t believe has been studied, looked at, turned upside down, meditated on, tested out, and pored through. 

Some people who have known me a long time think that I am just randomly going through life. That because I had a rough young adult hood I just gave up trying and didn’t form my own beliefs. They think that because I dropped out of college I don’t care about learning. They think that because I went through a phase of partying and basically not living an adult life that I must not have adult thoughts and beliefs. Actually, I feel like I went through those parts of my life BECAUSE of all the introspection and finding myself I needed to do. I was so different from the people I knew and grew up with and loved. I felt like I was “wrong” or “needed to change” or “constantly fighting” and I think that helped to cause a lot of my problems. I wondered what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t simply accept it all and be like everyone else I knew. I felt tortured and “defective”. I wish I had known there were a thousand people just like me out there, just waiting to find each other. I think it would have helped. 

So, friends and family – who I love and who love me – when I share my opinion with you, please know that you aren’t expected to agree. You aren’t expected to have the same belief or the same ideas as me. I respect other people’s views and own truths. But please know, I am not sharing something that has come lightly to me. Please know I am not sharing something that is arbitrary, simple, or thrown together. I have come to these conclusions from a lot of work and “soul searching” and I truly feel like this idea/belief is what’s best for me in my life – and I also probably feel like it’s best for society at large.

I try really hard not to sweep aside other people’s opinions too. I really try hard to listen to how they feel and why. It is much more difficult for me to do when the reasoning or belief is based on “because that’s what God said” or “because that’s what my church says”, but I know that most of my family and friends have also searched their soul and found their truths too. 

I guess in conclusion what I really want people to know is that assuming that someone who believes differently than you hasn’t gone through a process (sometimes a long and involved one) to get to that belief can be foolish. Leading an introspective/examined life does not guarantee we will all come to the same conclusions, it does not mean that we will all agree. Maybe there is more than one truth in this world. Just maybe more than one belief system can be “right”.