Dear Catie, A Happy Self.

When I woke up this morning at 9:00am, I didn’t really have a ‘plan.’ I knew I was off, I knew I wouldn’t have Elijah until tomorrow, and that I had just me, myself, and I for the next 24 hours. It’s a Thursday, but it’s also New Years Day. Is anything open? I bet not, but I bet the movie theater is. For some reason, they’re always open and it kind of makes me feel bad for the workers, but not bad enough that I didn’t get my ass up for the matinee showing of Wild (Starring Reese Witherspoon) at 10:40am.

So in I walk to the theater, having no idea what this movie is about – not even a trailer of it. Someone I loosely know knew of my situation (‘divorced’) and thought to tell me to go see it, with urgency. They were not mistaken in this suggestion. This is my first text after seeing it, to my mother:

It’s about a woman who’s had it all and lost it all and made a lot of mistakes and so she goes on a journey for herself to find the woman her mother always wanted for her (to be her Happy Self). It was just really therapeutic. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should go on a little thing, too.” And then I realized, “I already am.”

It just gives me hope that this isn’t for nothing and I will come out of it all a Happy Self.

It’s true. I really am already on my own adventure. I live by myself (sometimes with Elijah) in a new city I’ve never lived in that is much bigger than the suburbia I grew up in and the small towns I visited. The dynamic of people, their mannerisms, everything is different. At the mall, once the movie was over, I realized that sitting on the bench drinking my smoothie – no one noticed me. No one spoke to me, no one saw me — I wouldn’t even have to go on a hike across the PCT to feel solitude. Life was happening all around me – yet separate from me.

I am not writing this as a depression piece — I actually find this very beautiful. The idea that I can sit in a populated area and simply be beside myself while having the opportunity to reach out and speak to anyone I wanted, it was like a super power.

A lot of my country-living family and relatives have asked me how I can do it, and that all the sirens and noise of the highway must drive me insane. When I began to speak of the ritual at night time when I turn all of the lights out and lay on my bed, stare up at my ceiling and the noise just… enters. Cars on the highway. People in their apartments (speaking softly). The occasional, nightly sirens going off. It’s all a symphony of hyperactive life all around. You will find each of these things – though maybe isolated – in the country. They won’t be as often, and the country leaves a lot of quiet – too much quiet for me. Too much silence for my thoughts to invade where they shouldn’t and cause problems that never were.

But here? Here, it is a symphony. It is music inside of earbuds taped to my head as I drift off to sleep. I am at such peace, yet I am still able to think – and better yet, control where my thoughts linger. I am able to contemplate the last year of my life, where it ‘all went wrong, and then take a deep breath as I release the burden to the sky.

Every day that I am off, I have ventured in to the city – to a location I’ve never been. I’ve been to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or two, a privately owned pharmacy, a coin-laundromat on the other side of town, and even walked a mall I’ve never taken time to bother with. Every day, I put myself out there without going farther than 10 miles from my new home. There’s people of all walks of life here, and I finally feel like I can belong in such a new place without everyone staring at me like I am the new girl. I’m not the new girl in town anymore. I’m the new girl in the city – and that’s exciting. I can walk around with the utmost confidence because no one knows me, no one can snoop up who my family is off a whim of asking ‘granny down the street who’s kin I belong to’ or any of the more ‘comfortable’ details of living in a small town.

And I know this won’t last forever. I know, someday I will find someone up to my level who will sway me to move elsewhere – whether it’s in Texas or not – and my single-living-apartment-adventure will end..

But it’s not about the start or finish. It’s about the journey. It always has been. I have been so focused, the last half year, on reaching the finish line of my grief. I gave up a life I had – a beautiful life that I had with a beautiful family. You will be hard pressed to find more decent and considerate folks than Mr. Donald Dyer and Mrs. Debbie Dyer, my ex-husband’s parents. I will be hard pressed to find a more compassionate man than Matthew was – and remains to be. I am so blessed to call him co-parent to my child, Elijah. That young boy will want for nothing.

As the holidays came upon us, I look on it now like it was all a blur, though at the time it was very much not. Thanksgiving came like a slap to the face. My birthday arrived a week later with news of needing to pack everything up immediately and find a place to live, my dad having hardship that aided this, and then being single for my birthday for the first time in.. at least a decade. Then three weeks blew by as I packed, searched, found, scavenged for the money, and then moved in three days before Christmas. I didn’t even have a tree, let alone the amount of presents I wanted for Elijah – but we’re doing fine. He made out like a bandit. But I was single, once more, for the third anniversary of celebration in a row within a month. Thanksgiving. My birthday. Christmas.

It was a lot of grief, a lot of pain they don’t tell you about. I remember texting my mother the day of Christmas, prepared to beg that I stay home because it was all too much. But instead, I decided it was time to get out of bed. It was time to go see my family – because that’s what it is about and I lost sight of that. I went and had the best time at my stepfather’s parents’ house with the whole family, eating, laughing, playing games. My sister, her best friend, and I went to the movies for a double feature and I didn’t get home until the early morning next day.

I feel like I was prepared for New Years Ever, and then Day. I had made it through the past month with my head above water, and a strong mind. Crying is alright, and grief is a place I went for the holidays, but the important thing to remember is not to live there. This, too, shall pass.

New Years Eve was a blast. New Years Day was a revelation, not because of the first day of a new year but because of the events that happened on it.

It’s time to stop grieving.

It’s time to let it go.

It’s time to be a Happy Me.

Dear Catie, Hippy Jesus and Hamptons Jesus.

I know I’ve been talking a lot about religion lately – whether I’m for it, against it, in the middle of figuring out what the fuck about it.

I’m a hot mess about religion, let me tell you – except I don’t need to tell you because you already know (as does anyone else who’s reading this blog.)

(I’m pretty sure God reads our blog.)

So, what threw me off of religion this time was yet another argument I had with my cousin about religion. My cousin grew up with religion in her life. I did not. She has been going to church since she was born. I started (consentually) going in my teenage years (because I wanted to hang out with the cute boys) and then seriously when I was about twenty-years-old. This was during my ‘I want to find Jesus to save my marriage, because I heard you can’t have a marriage without Jesus in it’ phase. When that fell through – and didn’t ‘fix’ my marriage, I gave up again. Then when my marriage fell apart (I am not blaming this on religion at all, by the way, readers), I went back to church to try again.

As you recall, it. was. fantastic. I found people who believed in the same kind of Jesus as I did. This is a direct quote from myself when I was speaking with our mutual friend Melisha / Lareia.

“Shit has been so damn difficult lately, and it’s made me think about religion a lot.

I am torn between Religion and God. I believe God exists, but I just wish I found a group of people who felt the same about him as me – and that’s hard to find. Even more so, I feel like it’s about the relationship between myself and God. Not the relationship between Religion and I. But just like a new friend you’ve met and think is totally awesome and great and all that, you want to introduce them to your friends and you want your friends to like them too because you like your friends and you like this new friend and it would just be so much simpler if you had more than just the two of you to hang out with.

That’s what kills me. I don’t have friends who know my ‘friend’ / God the way I do, or don’t see Him the way I do, or whatever. Now, this isn’t just a ‘I have friends who are atheists’ cry, this is a ‘I have friends who have a different kind of friend named God that they think have rules and regulations on how to be friends and etiquette and blah blah. Like, their God (in my metaphor) is from the Hamptons and there are rules of being that classy and that great. Don’t air dirty laundry. Don’t talk filthy. Don’t wear certain clothing. People can see you, so be on your best behavior 100% of the time.

Meanwhile, me and the God I know and love are kickin’ it back in our sweatpants watching Netflix marathons. We talk about all kind of things – things I’m proud of and things I’m not. And when it’s just us I feel so great and fantastic. I’m relaxed. I feel like I’ve got my shit together – even if the laundry’s not done.

But I still have friends who don’t know him, or they think he belongs in the Hamptons, and I just.. It’s hard. It’s like, not only does believing in him narrow the field of people who I could potentially get along with / date, but even further still, the Him that I believe him narrows the field even more to impossible percentages.

So then, with it being so small a number of people that I’ve met that feel the same, I’ve begun to think in the back of my mind: What if I am in the wrong? What if it’s MEANT to have all the damn rules and Hamptons shit? I mean, he’s GOD, shouldn’t he be treated like royalty like the Hamptons kids?

Or what if my God is an imaginary friend? What if he doesn’t actually exist and I’ve made him up because I seriously cannot deal with life sometimes and rather than feeling like my misery and existence is all for nothing and why not just die today, I made up a story about a creator who gives it purpose, suddenly?

Shit is hard. But no matter how many times I’ve tried, I cannot shake the feeling that he’s real. So, I’m back to the scenario of my God being too chill and loving like a hippy than like the Hamptom kids want.

Ugh. I hope all of that made sense to you. I have the Hampton kids analogy because I wasn’t born in to religion. I wasn’t forced to go to church or anything. I didn’t know about God until I was a teenager, and then I only went because it was the ‘cool thing to do’ in my circle of friends. Then when Elijah was born, I tried discovering more about it, but was shunned because of my circumstance by the Southern Baptist churches and like minded churches.

Then I started looking for nondenominational churches, and I always remember thinking that big churchs that have fancy shit in them must be Hampton like — but the one I found “IBC – Irving Bible Church” is huge, and has a lot of people. So much people that I feel like not everyone in the room is watching me as an outsider, but also that there’s so many people that they split in to study groups for those of even more like-minds… So people like me can find each other, but also more specifically, people like me in my age group, or people like me with kids as a SINGLE parent… That’s one I’d never seen before.”

So, my darling cousin (whom I love enormously, which is why this hurt so much) and I were speaking about a mutual friend we have. This mutual friend has become pregnant outside of wedlock with a guy she fell in love with (at 18/19 years old..sound familiar?) and so now they’re engaged to be wed and are moving to California for it all (where his family lives) and my cousin is.. just not having it.

But that’s besides the point. That just started our little debate, in which Hannah said she couldn’t support anything about any of that, because she’s recently decided that in her ‘faith journey’, she’s going to adopt Admonishment. Admonishment is defined as follows:

“to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner”

“to indicate duties or obligations to”

Now, I understand that this is meant as “gentle and earnest” manners, but to me, it also reads in as a lot of… judging others, disapproving of them, and then suggesting what they ought to do for their own good — which, you know, I just love to hear about. And in addition, there is way too little room between the boundaries of stepping on that line or over it when trying to do this in the most gentle way possible.

Anyway, I don’t believe in getting in other’s business like that, or telling them what they should do or shouldn’t. I don’t feel like it is my job to judge anyone for their sins. That’s God’s job. It’s not my job to see if they’re truly repenting or if they ‘deserve’ Heaven or not. Why would you try? We don’t deserve Heaven, or God’s love. That’s the whole point. We will never be worthy, YET HE LOVES US. How crazy and unconditional is that?

What’s that word I just used? Unconditional? I feel like religion based upon ‘do this or don’t benefit’ or ‘do this and you’re damned’ is kind of against the whole ‘died for our sins’ policy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you ask me for advice, or it’s something life-threatening to you or another, I will probably say, “Hey, think about this before you do it, because it could be a bad time.” But am I going to look down on you? Am I going to judge you, you heathen? No. I am not perfect, and that would make me come off as holier than thou. Which, I personally feel, this Admonishment movement with Hannah is making her come out to be.

We fight all the time over it, and this argument we had the other day.. broke me. I said fuck it. I said if this is how religion is, then why the fuck would I believe in it? It’s so hopeless. I cannot strive with the anxiety every day of wondering if I have been good enough, or if one of my friends is going to fucking judge me because of whatever mistake I made forever. And I love Hannah. I love her so damn much it hurts that we fight like this, over something so vulnerable for me, something so personal to me. To have what I believe, and have struggled so hard to believe shut down as false, to be told I’m doing it wrong, to be told that my God is not the same, not the correct God…

I mean, fuck it, right?

 

So I gave up on Him for a little while. I mean, Hannah has been doing this her entire life, right? So she has all the authority on this over me. I should trust her, believe her. Even if it makes me never want to look towards Him again.

 

And then I had a thought.

 

Miranda. God knows you. He knows you exactly where you are right now in your life, in your past, and in your future – should you choose it. He knows what He’d like, and he knows what you’ll choose. He meets you where you’re at, and he takes you and lifts you up. He is in everything you appreciate, everything you struggle with – guiding you from the straying path. And even in this, even in an argument about Him, He still waits. He knows what hurt it’s causing. He knows that moderation is key. He knows that while mistakes happen, strive for Faith, Hope, and Love. He is forgiving, while condemning – something I believe only he can do, truly and deeply, as he is not human, and he is not prone to these mistakes that humans are – which, again, is why I don’t think we have the right or capacity to do so. Especially those of us without training, education in this specific field, and seminar.

 

So, I still love Him. Thank goodness, He still loves me and I don’t have to worry about how many mistakes I make that will finally make Him leave me. Hannah is going to be how she is, and I can’t change that, but.. I can just not talk to her about God. She just may have to be one of those people who can’t hang with my chill Jesus, and that’s hard – because we’re so close – but it’s also what keeps me sane and I would rather get along with Jesus than with her without him.

 

I hope any of this made sense. I love you, Catie.

 

Miranda

P.S. This gif is hilarious, because as punny as it is, this is literal bible thumping:

 

Dear Catie, I’m grasping at straws. (Warning: Rage)

Okay, real talk. Just so you know, Catie, I am not yelling at you, and as a disclaimer to you and our religious readers, I am not trying to ‘diss’ on any of you, or your Gods. In fact, the world would be fantastic if we could all just agree to love each other because that’s what we’re supposed to freaking do, but I digress. Actually, I digress a lot in this post. Ugh.

 

These are the things that I feel or know:

  • I know that we are not alone in this universe or else-wise. There is so much untouched and undiscovered that we can’t be the only aliens alive.
  • Despite attempting to see the other side of things, I cannot in my heart or sound mind assume that everything is for nothing, and that the creation of it all wasn’t the work of some greater power, some fantastic God or Goddess, a high power – if you will.
  • Things in my life have happened that are so miraculous or coincidental that I have a hard time second-guessing them as proof of either karma or divine intervention.

What I would like to believe:

  • That God exists. One God. A solo, single god. Be it that all the religions are just talking about the same god under different names or one or the other is wrong and it’s actually this guy not the other. I’d like to believe that one exists.
  • That whomever this God is, he is merciful. That he realizes not everyone at all times is going to be on point all the time – or even the majority of the time. That he won’t belittle them or show them the door just because – as humans – we continue to fail.
  • That God truly does forgive, and doesn’t hold the grudges of the things you’ve begged forgiveness for.
  • That God saves. That his son really did die on the cross so that you could make those mistakes.
  • That the bible isn’t just a string of great moral stories fabricated by man to explain the things around them that they didn’t understand, and also to grant us a great sense of morals to follow by so we don’t all kill each other like morons.

Believe me, fellow readers who are of a religion, that I am in no way trying to bash your religion. I am not trying to cause doubt in your minds. I am not trying to shit all over Jesus. What I am trying to say is there are things that I know and have cemented in my mind, body, and spirit and then… there are things that I just really wish I felt the same about. But the honest truth is, I have a hard time, a really hard time, with just about everything in the ‘What I would like to believe’ section. I don’t want to doubt it. I don’t want to disbelieve what millions upon millions of other Christians so readily believe and have gone past the trials of not believing. I do.

I’ve been trying to think of the reasons why I can’t wrap  my head around them just yet, and a lot of it has to do with:

  • Guilt / Shame of my life and some the choices I have made. (I’ve made some really good ones, but… we all stumble.)
  • Pressure of very strict religious environments and their lack of acceptance of pretty much anything I’ve ever felt needed some mercy and understanding.
  • People I know directly who are so devout and mean well, but truly, they just push and push and do not understand that they are driving a wedge between myself and wanting to talk to them about anything other than the weather – which, by the way didn’t you know, is a gift from God for those of us who haven’t royally screwed up today/this week/this month/this year.

I’m being catty. I don’t want to be catty, but I’m about to explode. I felt like I almost had a grasp on God, and having a relationship with him, and screw anyone else and all the organized religion that everyone wanted to push on me, and the communities that scrutinized me, and forget them because I had a God that was forgiving and loved me despite my flaws and was working in my heart in the most beautiful ways.

But wait, I’m doing it wrong. He’s merciful… if you deserve it. He forgives you… if you really try to change. He loves you… if you love him back. You can have him… if you change absolutely all of your ways and shed off any sin you currently practice.

Weird. It sounds like he’s becoming a human being instead of an Almighty God. But wait, this wasn’t his doing. This is some of his followers. This is humans, talking about him. This is humans talking about him to me.

Slowly, I began to realize that nothing makes me want to give up religion altogether and stop struggling to believe… more than the people who follow him.

I. Absolutely. Love and Adore. The people who make me feel this way, and it breaks my heart. I also recognize that I, myself, am giving them the permission to get under my skin and grind my gears with their pressure. It is not their fault I am being pushed away, not really. I am within my own power and right to not give them that chance, to not let them in. So I haven’t been. When religion comes up, I bottle up and bow out. When something is said I don’t agree with, I give up even wanting to argue the issue — especially on social medias, where everyone is a winner as long as someone agrees with you. 

I wish I knew others who felt about Him the same way I do – without the bullshit of condemning me and all of that shaming, guilting. We all get it, okay? Just because my sins are on the surface and yours are well hidden doesn’t make you any different from me. People make it so hard to love God with all of their damn nit-picking and rules and … I could rant for days on this agitating experience.

I’m ranting.

I’m sorry.

At the end of the day, I want so badly to believe in God. The same God that every other Christian believes in, rejoices in, and prays to. I want Him to love me so badly because I get that I am not perfect, and never will be, and that’s why He completes me. I want Him to wrap His arms around me and sing to me in the car when He plays that special song just for me – because He knows that’s how I hear Him best – and He knows that because He is God. When I think of Him alone, I am content and peaceful and feel like I can do this.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but I wanted to be open and honest about my feelings. Hopefully, in time, I’ll have posts about how great life is with Him in my life, but today is not that day. Today is a day of great struggle, as now I’m fighting against myself and the world.

Wish me luck,

Mojo

 

Dear Catie, My grandfather’s miracle.

This is a conversation I had with my grandfather to the best of my memory. The conversation happened a couple of months ago.

So by miracle, I mean once in a lifetime, unbelievable opportunity.

My grandpa was in the Navy and doesn’t EVER talk about what happened during his time because it was during Vietnam and that shit was cray cray and very shady. And he’s not proud of Vietnam, but also he’s not allowed to say anything, right? Well, unlike my father, he’s very sentimental. He loves us all (he has 3 daughters, 8 granddaughters myself included, and Eli.) He is surrounded by women in the family because until Eli that’s all we had. Men were only married in, So he’s not hardened or anything. But anytime Vietnam is mentioned, you can just tell by the way he slowly excuses himself from the room that it’s a no-touch topic.

Well. You know what is normally known as Thanksgiving for most Americans, and they all get together with their family and eat Lunch or Dinner? Well, my family does that every Sunday.

So, One Sunday a few months ago, my grandpa pulls me aside. He knows I’m the one who enjoys history while my other cousins are all about other girly things. He pulls me aside to tell me a story, which I just engross myself in because (in a way, I think) I am his favorite in these times, and I want him to know that. And he begins to speak:

“You know I was in the Navy, right?” Submarines?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, this stays between you, myself, and your grandmother.”

“Do you know what a Navy Seal is?”

“Kind of. They’re the super bad ass of Navy? All secretive and special rank?”

“More or less. You hear about them today because news is hard to keep secret. But back then, it was very much honored to keep secrets. Vietnam wouldn’t fly today.”

“Okay.”

“Well, one time, we had this mission to coast the area around Vietnam – I can’t tell you where, I”m sorry – and we just had to keep an eye on things. We were stationed there for so long, and it was dangerous because if we were detected.. Well.”

I nod.

“And since we were stationed in the area, we got orders to play hostess to 8 Navy Seals who were going to go on an operation nearby.”

I nod.

“We housed them for about three days. During this time, we weren’t allowed to talk to them, bother them, and most of us never saw their faces. Better not to know. Three days later, and we were asked to get them closer to the surface, towards the beach for their mission.”

“So we do, and they depart, and we go back to our section with orders to return when the time is ready and pick them up at the rendezvous point. When it was time, we went to pick them up – but something had gone wrong.”

“They were slaughtered on their way out, but still, they were us – they were American, so our active leader told us to search – long and hard – for ANY survivors of the 8.”

“We didn’t find any bodies but one of the 8, and he was face up in the water, but not moving, seemingly dead. We pulled him up, medical attention saw him immediately and we went back under to hiding.”

“Within the next few days, we met up to transport him to safety elsewhere, and by that time, we had learned her DID survive, and was conscious but not talking. By the Grace of God, I saw his face when he was being moved and I reached out and I touched his hand. I don’t know why, I just figured if it were me, and I”m in a lonely career where I just lost my other 7, I’d want to know there was a reason to stay.”
“And that was the last I saw of him.”

It’s at this point, that I assume that is the end of the tale, but he begins again, shaking.

“Now..That was decades ago, Miranda.”

“But just the other day, I was up in Denison getting my car serviced, and I”ve been going to the dealership up there for the services for years upon years, so I know the Director, and we were conversing.”

“In comes a man who’s in the same boat as me. Known the Director for years, old like I am, and you know me, I’ve never met a stranger, so we hit it off.”

“We get on to the topic of our service history in the military – both Navy.”

“We can’t give too much detail, but we skirt around it, and I am the member of the Navy. And he is the Seal.”

“And when we realized it..”

“How we are such small players in a huge world where he could have been anywhere – or as he put it – that day he could have died..”

“And we didn’t even know each other’s names, or anything about their location..”

“.. And here he was, and when we realized the connection, we never cried so hard.”

“He hugged me, shook my hand, and thanked me. Said he wouldn’t be here if not for me.”

So, by this point, I’m crying and stunned. And he pats my shoulder, and says, “If that’s not evidence of the miracles in this world, I don’t know what is.”

Just. Wow.

-Mojo