…and nothing but the truth

Yesterday my bestie loaned me a book that her grandpa recommended: Proof of Heaven by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander. It was a fascinating story chronicling  his decline into a week-long brain-dead coma caused by bacterial meningitis, where he has a near death experience. There was even an adoption theme woven throughout (where the guardian he meets in ‘heaven’ turns out later to be his biological sister that had died right before he reunited with his biological family. It was fascinating to read such a skeptical doctor, with such a great knowledge of medicine and the brain, write about this very personal and beautiful near death experience where he became enlightened spiritually. Super cool.

Except it is all bullshit.

Well, maybe not all, but I gobbled the book up in a few hours the afternoon sunshine, and was so excited that I googled the book. And found a link to an article debunking the whole thing. Well, maybe not debunking the actuality of the experience on the other side, but certainly debunking all the medical aspects of the story. Like how the doctor didn’t have the most rarest form of bacterial meningitis, that according to the doctor (who treated him) it was a medically induced coma and that he was actually conscious during that week, though in a very hallucinatory state.

Ouch.

Of course this back and forth ‘is it true, is it not true?’ thoughts come on the week of Zen pen where were are exploring writing from our soul. To be honest, my soul feels so torn by all of the spiritual mumbo jumbo about. I want to believe…in something…anything. No, I don’t want to believe in something, I want something to be true. I want to have confidence in something. I sometimes even want to believe in the Christian stories that  I was taught as a kid/teenager/young adult. Something. I feel like  I’m floating in the abyss of unbelief, a hungry ghost of a soul, wailing and looking for truth that doesn’t exist.

Except, at one time, that truth existed for me. While not a coma-induced near death experience, I once, at such a low point that I thought of death as an option, had a vision/hallucination/psychotic break(?) where I saw Jesus (at least that’s who I perceived him to be, it was a glowing white robed shining figure) who picked me up in his hand, out of a dark hole, and put me on a grassy field. I wasn’t depressed after that for almost 2 years. It was because of that experience that I was baptized as a Christian and started to attend church regularly. While I’m not proud of my fundie evangelical years, that experience was beautiful and authentic and clearly what I needed in that moment of time.

But here I am now, 12 years later, and not even sure God exists, let alone the whole religion based off some dude who lived a bunch of years ago. It feels like a ‘dark night of the soul,’ if I were to couch it in religious terms, though at this point…what’s a soul anyway?

I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’m tired of feeling lied to, tricked, hoodwinked, duped, and confused.

 

Still: A Disappointed Review

Lauren Winner is one of my dashboard saints. She is in the list of writers and spiritual seekers who influence my own journey. When I was in college I voraciously read her two books “Girl Meets God,” and “Mudhouse Sabbath.” I loved them. Simply loved them. I tried out her “Real Sex” book, and found it less-than-applicable, so I put it down halfway. It’s been years since I’ve thought of her, but finding myself in this confusing spiritual place I decided to pull out a few of my saints and see what they were up to. Anne Lamott’s book isn’t out until November, and I’ve been making do with simply her facebook updates, so seeing that Lauren had published a new book, entitled “Still: Notes on a Mid Faith Crisis,” I knew that I HAD to read it.

I so identified with Lauren’s “character” in her first memoir, as I, too, was wrestling with my own shocking conversion story and jump into a spiritual practice and life that had energy and passion and wasn’t quite as conservative as the faith I grew up with (though there were PLENTY of fundamentalist tendencies I would later see). A mid Faith Crisis? Perhaps a good description of where I am, as it relates to my actions and feelings about church/God/religion/Christianity, etc.

Sadly, with a bursts of shiny quotes I can hang on to, my love of this book stopped at the preface. And in that, the most powerful part of the preface is a quote she uses by some other author:

When the Lord came into me,”  Buddy tells her, “it was such a good feeling. I thought, well I can do anything because of this feeling, but then there was all this stuff to do and to think about, and I don’t remember the feeling all that well.”

Yeah, that sums me up pretty well.

The rest of the book read like random thoughts, mixed with metaphor and some prose/poetry combination. While I resonated with the overall feeling of questions and stuckness of “staring against a blank wall.”

But the magic I felt during her first memoir was gone. The breathless reading and relating was gone. Perhaps its more of a testament to where we both feel we are, but I did leave, feeling rather disappointed.

Jesus Loves Me This I Know?

Boof’s sister is getting married on Sunday, and we have “hired” my parents to come over for the weekend to help care for Potamus. They are very exuburant in their love for Potamus, with my dad always saying things like “say hi grampy!” in this funny voice. I was on-call today and so while I was taking calls and doing paperwork, Potamus got a little fussy. In the only way she really knows how, my mom bounced him on the exercise ball and sang songs ranging from “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to “Jesus Loves Me.”

For some reason, when she broke out in her rendition of “Jesus Loves Me,” I got internally annoyed. Like I wanted her to ASK if it was okay to sing a song about Jesus, and not just assume that I was okay with it. But that thought process felt squicky to me, especially since we attend a church (Boof is practically an ordained minister after all), and I am an ordained elder in my church (though we only attend about 3 times a year).

I thin I was triggered because I was raised, and left, the fundamentalist conservative Christian upbringing that my parents raised me in (and the version of Christianity that they still believe). When my mom sang that song I didn’t hear it as “Jesus loves you, even if you’re gay or democrat,” but as I was raised “Jesus loves you…but it’s conditional and you might go to hell if you screw up.” Yes, my father did actually tell me two weeks ago that the Republican platform was the most “christlike” and that democrats were evil. When I turned and said, “well, I guess this conversation is over since you just called me evil.” That’s not a message I want Potamus hearing. I don’t want Potamus to be taught religion or politics  from my parents. My insides feel very twisted as I even think about it. And yet, I want him to also authentically know his grandparents, in all of their imperfections. I want to feel okay about him learning to sing “Jesus Loves Me” from my parents, but I just…don’t…yet.

Boof and I have even talked about it…how we’re going to approach the religion/spirituality conversations someday.  What we’ll answer when the questions come from inquiring little minds. Boof is more relaxed about it, growing up in a very open, and yet clearly Christian environment. He’s just not that worried about how we’re going to handle the whole religion/spirituality conversations as Potamus grows up.

Are you going to raise your kids with religion? Is it the same or different from how you were raised? How do you handle family members with differing religous/spiritual beliefs?

My brother and his wife had a baby about 3 weeks ago. I went and saw them a few days after the birth, and then yesterday I learn that my brother was in a car-accident.

He has been drinking again.

And apparently taking her prescription pain pills.

And they have been separated for a week.

My heart hurts so much. I am looking at pictures of him holding his sweet daughter and I can’t help but ache for him, and his daughter, and his wife, and the pain that addiction brings into our lives here on Earth. To be honest, their relationship is tumultous at best, volatile at worst, with a combination of her bi-polar and his addictions, but it’s always been the two of them working through it. They’ve been separated more times that I could probably count in the short 5 years of their marriage.

But now there’s a baby involved.

A sweet, innocent bundle of dark hair and love, that is here on Earth experiencing turmoil from the beginning. I feel sad. And angry. Angry at my brother for his choices, at his wife for hers, at God and the World for all of the pain we must endure in this lifetime.

I look at my sleeping boy and think back to times when Post Partum Depression has raised its ugly head within me, and the stress that Boof and I have been in, and under, with work and life and love, and yet this pain we have experienced in our own little world does not seem to compare to my brother’s pain.

Not to mention, I go to work everyday with families on the brink of collapse or implosion or explosion. It all seems to much to bear at times. Like I want to curl up and sleep forever, with the sweet breath of my baby on my face, my dog curled at my feet, and my love holding my hand.

Will I ever stop crying for all the pain I see around me and in me?