Tomorrow marks three weeks of Lent, which is almost half-way to Easter and Lent’s completion. This year I’ve given up posting on Facebook, and instead, I’m writing letters to my friends. This Lenten practice is much easier than last year’s practice because I’m not necessarily adding a daily observance (like fasting and daily yoga). The only thing I’m “doing” every day is NOT checking Facebook, which has been much easier than I thought it would be, and I don’t miss it…much. While benefits and encouragements are present in social media, the chaff seriously outweighs the wheat in this regard.
The real challenge of this year’s Lenten practice comes in finding the “right” things to talk about. What do you put in a letter to people you hardly know or people you’ve only known superficially? In Facebook communication, it’s common to post whatever blurbs come to mind or whatever links I’ve come across online and “liked.” My personal Facebook News Feed usually contains conspiracy theories and calls for political accountability, articles about social justice, science news, progressive Christianity updates, Buddhism quotes, local news updates, articles about yoga and running, and my friends’ personal minutia (from meal photos and family activities to work rants and exercise updates). When I “like” these things or post things like this, I essentially put content “out there” for people to respond to…or not. It’s quite the setup for the introvert who still wishes to share without having to actually interact with people in real life. But it’s all rooted in superficiality, despite how profound or meaningful some of it may be.
But specifically writing to people and assuming they’re interested in the minutia of my life is another thing entirely. My first attempt at a letter to Wendy (the project’s muse) was over 10 handwritten pages, chock-full of spiritual history. And I scrapped it all because after I read it, I knew this complete stranger would likely not care to know quite that much about me. Regardless of that assumption’s veracity, I knew that I wouldn’t care for her to know that much about me. Then I sat on it for a week, trying to find something meaningful to say, something worthy of being written down and made tangible with a fountain pen and yellow, lined paper.
All I could muster up (for both letters) was an update about some of my recent activities (which is really to say an update on running/upcoming races). But running is so not the entirety of my life. Why did I write them both about that? Why didn’t I include writing about the things I’m reading, or about my work? Where is the Venn Diagram of topics that are both sincere and acceptable for polite discourse, whether public (on Facebook) or private in a personal letter?
Looking back on those first two letters, they are more reflective of selfishness and vanity than they are of a sincere attempt at communication. They should have been scrapped too, but I decided that whatever I put down in the last versions was going to be sent, with no edits or revisions; and now my heart is heavy with regret for what I included and for what I didn’t mention. In all the foot-in-mouth posts I’ve put on Facebook (of which there are way too many), I can assure you I never felt as embarrassed as I have since sealing and sending those letters.
My husband tells me I’m an onion, with lots of layers. (Thank you, Shrek, for inspiring my husband to analyze my personality in this way.) He tells me that I am “community oriented” in the sense of coming to someone’s aid or doing something for someone else, but that when I am in need, I rarely, if ever, reach out and ask for help from that same community. (He’s right. I rarely even ask for his help, much less anyone else’s. It’s the sin of pride, and I’m very guilty of it.)
Maybe that’s playing a role in this attempt at fostering deeper communication. Here I am thinking writing letters is the perfect type of interaction for me—the writer; but when it came to choosing superficiality or sincerity, I chose superficiality. More than anything I’m sure this is rooted in fear…fear of sharing my life in all its raw honesty; fear of letting people see me as broken or damaged or vulnerable because I don’t have a happy or “normal” history. I assume people want a happy story, one that inspires (and that is what I try to do on this blog). But in making and living according to that assumption, what I’m really doing is failing to trust them…to trust that they will accept me as I am. And as sorry as I am for that, I’ve lived through enough awkward moments of absolute sincerity and honesty to know that my mistrust is well placed.
I have six more letters to write, and I have an established history with only half of them. This week I’ll spend time on the three people I’ve known well. Though we have fallen out of communication, it’s always been easy for us to pick up without seeming to have missed a beat. I’m hoping that makes it easier to write them and that my letters will be more sincere. If I even get responses from the first two letters, I promise I’ll try harder to drop my prideful veil in reply more than I did in the initial attempts. In the meantime, please accept this song that both explains and apologizes better than I can on my own.
Update: I thought to add some music to set the mood. Press play if you want to listen while you read. The song is Cosmic Love by Florence + Machine. I’ve heard it before writing this post, so I must admit to being inspired while listening to it.
In Christian mythology God created Adam and Eve as his chosen people. They probably weren’t the first people ever, but we like to think they were anyway. They lived in paradise and communion with a God who had only one request: Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But they did, and it was the woman’s fault because this part of our history is told from the perspective of the man. And thus begins the history of humanity’s great guilt trip. Because women were apparently to blame, it is also the history of the great feminine guilt trip, and this guiltiness is the foundation of all life’s hardships. As a woman, I can say I have related to this idea that women suffer more than men because they were more responsible for humanity’s guiltiness. Now I think the extent of a person’s suffering is not related in any way to gender, and original sin is just a way to beat people down into submission using guilt.
The way I see it, the heart of creation is in energy. It seems fitting for me to equate the moment of singularity with God. That energy of matter fought a cosmic battle with anti-matter for our existence, and the matter that survived formed the universe and everything in it. It is mind-boggling that, despite being almost 14 billion years removed from this event, we are still vibrations of that first energy. To think God is finished with creation is evidence of the small-scale on which we live. To see God in that energy, and to see ourselves as an extension of that energy is to see the infinite divinity that has lived in us from the very beginning.
The great human/feminine guiltiness (original sin) is rooted in the attempt to limit and control creation, which includes our infinite source of energy. Of course putting a box around infinity is impossible, and since this infinite source is the fundamental nature of being, we have consequently put ourselves into boxes that cannot contain our natures. Similarly, that the laws of physics demonstrate an orderliness of observing and measuring energy does not mean that the universe is controlled. In fact, the laws of physics only exist because the rate at which we are vibrating is relatively slow enough to be measurable, and sometimes it is only theoretically measurable.
Early in our existence, our primordial matter vibrated at such fast speeds and high temperatures that we were essentially a huge nuclear ball full of chaos. We may yet return to chaotic energy, but because humanity has only existed in relative physical orderliness, we rely on it and apply it to every aspect of our existence. Our orderliness is just as much part of our nature as our chaotic energy source, and the struggle between the two seems to me to be an internal, metaphysical reflection of the cosmic struggle between matter and anti-matter. The dichotomous nature of our existence then goes back to the beginning of everything.
To explain this existence and to explain the ancient energy pulling us to question our creation, we have the idea of God and orderly religious systems. Do not feel discouraged or think that God is any less real. Life’s memory of singularity exists in all of us. That we may call it God because of how we have evolved illustrates the deep metaphysical connection to it. However, I do have a hunch that our various misrepresentations of our metaphysical compulsion (i.e., singularity/God) are a natural attempt to control everything.
To return to the basic positive energy of my primordial creation, I am trying to practice mindfulness. To that end, I have been more reflective and introspective of late. I have come across an idea that the heart of existence is an infinitely expanding positive force. I relate this force to love, which will be the primary focus of this discussion.
From an early age, I yearned for love. I think that by living in poverty, I learned what a deep longing was. But I also think that from living in an environment largely filled with resentment, anger, and disgust, the object of my obsessive longing was the idea of love, and my deepest poverty was one of love. I was consequently drawn to religion as a way by which I might know love, and it has served that purpose well. However, because religion is a human, cultural institution, it is focused on controlling us primarily by manipulating our definition of love. From my childhood I learned that the people society assumes should love you actually don’t. From religion I learned that love is there, but only for certain people, and only under certain circumstances. Thus began my ambitious journey to be acceptable—to be loveable.
My first experience with a deep, true love was through the Cole family. I dated their son in high school, and they welcomed me into their family. Of course at first I had to get acclimated to their family dynamic. But once I let go of how sorry I felt for myself for not having what they had and allowed myself to receive their love, it transformed me. That “first love” experience was mostly with their son, and it was the best first love a girl could ever have. I am grateful for it because Evin set the bar pretty high and his family has an eternal place in my being and my continual creation.
But because the urge to define, limit, and control everything got in the way, that relationship ended. It was in the loss of that great source of love that I received my first glimpse of the compulsion toward the primordial energy of love. Feeling more impoverished than ever and crying out to know God’s love with everything—every molecule—of my existence, I received a response. I knew how infinitely sustaining that energy was and I have spoken of that experience to several people. I was utterly convinced not only of God’s existence, but also that He loved me. I knew that with that love, I could go freely into the world.
With all the confidence and invincibility of a 17-year old, I entered the world, knowing I had been filled with God’s love. In spite of my positive outlook, I had a fundamental flaw: I did not realize I was carrying around the previous 17 years of my life, and along with it, my perspective of myself. Though I had just begun to see myself as the recipient of a great source of love, I had accumulated 17 years worth of reasons why I was not loveable, and that takes some time to unlearn. Thankfully, the last 11 years has been filled with more love and positivity than the first 17, and the distance I have from my childhood has loosened its grasp on my identity. The practice of letting go to be better equipped to receive love is a discipline that has required a great deal of focus.
Through additional encounters with people like James Owens, who redefined the word “father” for me, Dr. Ruth McDowell Cook who redefined “mother,” or Mary and Amanda who redefined “sister,” or Howard who redefined both “teacher” and “student,” I have experienced beautiful, sustaining love. They have helped wash away the feeling of self loathing because the love they have does not attempt to limit or control. Their only desire for me was that I be free—of my past, of my burdens, of my sinfulness and guiltiness. Similarly, the love I receive from my husband is my great gift of love from the universe. Never before have I been so amazed by a single person’s ability to endure hardship for the sake of love than in what my husband, Daniel, has demonstrated for me. The love between us is deeper than our existence, and I think the closest understanding I have of this is the concept of the soul-mate. We are intertwined on such a deep level that it feels as though we have always existed as parts of one another.
Being the recipient of such deep wells of love has been amazing, yet lacking in one fundamental area. Holding on to all the reasons I was unlovable, I prevented myself from fully receiving what has been so freely given to me. In practicing “letting go” in the discipline of mindfulness, I am also letting go of how I had previously defined myself. Now, I see that I have enough positive memories of love to hold onto, and I can let that be my foundation. I can cast off the cloak of shame, along with the yoke of my great human/feminine guilt, and I can embrace the infinite energy that is liberating, cosmic love. I can let go of my suffering now. This is still a work in progress, and I think striving for a balance between the positive, liberating, infinite love (matter) and negative, controlling, limited energy (anti-matter) is the very nature of metaphysical vibrating existence. The result will determine whether I exist or not. To succumb to my suffering is to let the anti-matter energy win, but to give in to love is to let the matter energy win.
As always thank you for reading. Your feedback is much appreciated.