Beer Church

I highly recommend reinventing yourself. I’ve done it probably a hundred times. It somehow manages to strip away the bullshit of the past. At least for a little while. Each time I went through a break up with a boyfriend, I cut my hair in some chaotic way. The hairstyle was usually an effort to communicate that I wanted to be left alone. Don’t talk to me, don’t flirt with me. Just walk away. See the ‘fuck off’ on my forehead? That’s for you. In reality, I was heartbrokenĀ and just wanted someone to really, authentically love me.

I’ve started over so frequently that I’m starting to wonder if I’m actually evolving or if I’m the same or a mixture of both.

Part of the reason for the reboot….public humiliation. Almost five years ago, my (ex) husband and I went to a tiny church and met some really cool people. They were all tattoos, piercings, and cuss words and I felt absolutely at home. Pass the bourbon, take communion, and recite the Celtic prayers. I loved it. About a month in, my ex started having an affair with one of the church members. Our church consisted of about 12 people. So I’d met the woman. We’d had conversations. I’d been to her house. Five years later, I still don’t fully understand what makes people behave in such a cruel way.

I left the church almost immediately. I couldn’t sit in the same room, share the same space they did…all the while smirking at each other in their adulterous triumph. Everyone knew what was happening. The wife is almost always the last to know…especially if the husband is a gifted liar. I parted with one congregation and entered another. I went by my maiden name and it was perfect. No one knew my business. No one knew the shame I felt as a result of my ex’s infidelity. My business wasn’t plastered in their frontal lobes. I was just H…this young, single adult female who wanted to help out. My identity stayed hidden for about 3-4 months and then gradually I let people know who I was and where I’d come from. The beautiful part was that they accepted me. I wasn’t ostracized for getting divorced at 26. I was welcomed for who I was in that moment. Who I’d become in the aftermath.

Fast forward a year of bliss. I’d developed some of the closest relationships of my life. The church members became my extended family. I was particularly fond of the pastor and his wife and children. He was my mentor, my second father. We talked about beer, golf, and god. He taught me many things and helped me recover from the devastating loss of my dignity. I took care of his children, stayed at his house when they went out of town. It was humbling to be so loved by people I respected.

And then it fell apart. Again.

A man and woman whom the pastor trusted, came in and tried to destroy this sanctuary with lies and dissension. They started rumors…fostered bitterness between church members, and everything began to dissolve. I was falsely accused of having an affair with the pastor, my friend…who I cherished. But even before that rumor, there were others. Gun shy, I stepped away from my responsibilities at the church to get some space and clarity. I tried to determine who my friends were…and understand my enemies. And then my pastor died unexpectedly. No goodbyes. No absolution. No closure. He was just gone. My friend. My mentor. Gone. The air was thick with grief and despair and I couldn’t breathe. For months.

So I left. Because it was the only way I knew to survive. And I stayed away for 3 years.

And then I went to beer church. It’s fucking terrifying how much I want to love this small group of people. I do love them…I don’t want to. Bad things tend to happen when I love people. They leave…or they betray me. They shred me. I enteredĀ the group with a fortress built around me. Don’t come close. Stay away. I’m intrigued but I’m frightened. But in their genuine love and compassion, they disassembled my wall brick by brick. And now they know a bit more about who I am. I’m no longer anonymous. I’m vulnerable…standing in the open and petrified that the 3rd attempt at community is going to be my undoing. I don’t know how many more times I can reinvent myself before I run out of ideas. And I hate that I want to risk it again. Jesus Christ. I mean, I look at these people and I want to say, “in our next life…please find me so I can spend as much of my time with you as possible.”

That’s beer church. It’s people, sitting around drinking good booze and talking about life. It’s love. It’s the talking, the loving, the caring….that creeps into the shattered fragments of my heart and heals it.

Advertisements

Merry F-ing Christmas

I’m absolutely NOT in the mood for Christmas this year. Typically, I’m the one begging my husband to decorate in late October. I love the lights, the tree, the millions of random ornaments, all that holiday cheer and shit. This year? Fuck it. I put up my tree in early November in an effort to psych myself into wanting to celebrate. We were supposed to have the little blonde lunatic for the latter part of the holiday break…but custodial wars have eradicated any hope of seeing her before her birthday next September. Additionally, we acquired a kitten that made it his sole mission to de-ornament the fucking tree. Every morning for several weeks, I walked into the living room to discover Christmas carnage. He considers himself a champion for scaling to the very top and knocking off my prized Disney ornament AND chewing through the strand of lights so the damn tree looks like it belongs in Charlie Brown’s Christmas special. The cat should consider itself fortunate that it has nine lives.

As soon as we knew for sure that the kid wasn’t coming to visit for Christmas, I took down every single decoration and put them back in the boxes. Now the kitten has nowhere to hide. Take that, you little shit. There’s so much more to this I-Hate-Christmas diatribe that I can’t say here…because legal system. I admit, I’ve let this entire situation rob me of my holiday joy…but it’s difficult to be excited about a holiday that centers on family when part of my family isn’t here. If I didn’t have obligatory events for the next two days, I’d seriously consider being a hermit and binge watching episodes of the West Wing.

Relatives, friends, and random ass people tell me to stay positive and focus on the end goal, but I need to be allowed to wallow occasionally. I’m not laying in bed every damn day eating bon-bon’s (WTF is a bon-bon anyway?), refusing to shower or go to work. I’m still living and moving forward. But holidays feel like the clock has stopped ticking and I’m trapped in yuletide hell. I’m watching the world be festive and content, meanwhile I’m too pissed to paint or drink or do any measure of self-soothing activities. I’m angry and sad all the goddamn time.

Ironically, the only time I feel some semblance of peace is when I’m having a beer with friends…because most of them don’t know about the custodial nightmare my husband and I are enduring. And when people don’t know, they don’t ask questions and they don’t offer bullshit advice. They simply conjure up happier topics of conversation over good music and beverages and allow me to escape reality for a little while. I’d like to hope that next Christmas will be better but for now, I’ll just be satisfied to survive this Christmas with an ounce of grace. And maybe a pint of really great beer.

The Struggle is Real

Pain makes me have A.D.D. Particularly emotional pain. Perhaps I should clarify, pain makes me unable to focus on anything but the source of my frustration. Eating, thinking, painting, conversing…everything suffers because of this ONE issue I can’t seem to resolve. So far this afternoon, I’ve had a few conversations, sketched several paintings, and written a page or two of my thesis. Productivity occurs when I’m just distracted enough to forget that my heart is broken. But the moment I’m reminded, I may as well turn my computer off and grab a beer. Emotional struggles are like a one-way ticket to the couch. I can’t even listen to music. It’s like everything becomes irritating as hell. None of my coping skills are working. I’m just fucking angry and sad…almost all the time. I want to bite things or break things or do something besides feel helpless.

There is a perpetual ache in my chest and tears threaten to fall. Today is one of those days when stillness makes me want to rage. Everywhere I look there are reminders. Seriously, everywhere. I’m sitting in a room full of reminders and I want to pitch a tantrum and destroy everything. I don’t know how to escape. I’m either trapped in the space or trapped within myself, unable to turn off my brain. God, I wish I didn’t give a shit. This would be so much easier. Out of sight, out of mind. I could toss the physical reminders into a barrel and light a match. Poof, gone. But I can’t do it because…reasons. Tangible reminders make it more difficult to let go of the emotional attachment. And I’m getting tired of holding on…

I don’t know if I’ve ever been this chronically troubled in my life. The struggle is real.

Sound and Fury

Yesterday, I met Frank Schaeffer.

Frank. Schaeffer.

Friends, you probably don’t know the significance of this moment (give me time, I’ll elaborate). Many of you may not even recognize his name and that’s okay. In the art world, he’s…magnificent. If you like texture and color, reminiscent of VanGogh (a personal favorite), check out Frank’s work (www.frankschaefferart.com). Truly extraordinary. He’s the most famous person I’ve ever met. But more than that, he’s human. He’s just like the rest of us. Knowing of the tormented emotional and mental backgrounds of many of history’s famous artists, I wonder what motivates Frank’s brush to move across the canvas in the manner it does. Why does he choose those colors or the specific designs? What’s the meaning? What thoughts are coursing through his brain, down his arm, and out the tip of his paintbrush?

What you also may not know about Frank Schaeffer is that he’s a New York Times best-selling author for both fiction and non-fiction publications. Another element I believe many artists share…the constant need to move the thoughts from the confines of our craniums out into the universe. Whether that’s through a painting, a blog post, or a novel, etc. The words have to come out. The feelings must evacuate us, lest we become consumed by them. Perhaps my ruminations are simply projections of my own need to create, but that’s a deeper discussion for another time.

Yesterday, Frank spoke at a church I attended at The World of Beer (the only worthy church location). Church scares the shit out of me. I went because a friend of mine told me I should meet Frank because Frank was “my kind of people.” By “my kind of people,” my friend means that Frank doesn’t bullshit, likes beer, participates in deep conversations, and gives a damn about the people in his life. My friend’s assessment was accurate. The moment Frank started to speak, I was captivated. I felt like he stepped inside my brain and walked around for a while. It was the most soothing, most invigorating speech I’d heard in years.

After he concluded, the group of us migrated outdoors for beer and more conversation. I kept feeling the need to talk to Frank directly but like a good introvert, I found an excuse to avoid it. He’s talking to someone else, he’s eating, he’s busy. I’ll just sit here and read his latest book and pine for the moment when I can sit in his proximity. If you’ve never met Frank, you’re missing out. This man looks you in the eyes, holds your hand, hugs you, and talks to you like you matter. He exudes such compassionate energy.

A moment presented itself (thanks to an opening provided by my friend) and I began discussing art with Frank. I’m a painter…and for me, “art is not a thing, it is a way.” Frank and I sat together for over half an hour discussing art. He poured buckets and buckets of encouragement into my mind and soul and rendered me quite speechless. In fact, the entire drive home from the event, I could hardly concentrate on anything else.

I’ve been reading his book (“Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God“) off and on since yesterday and in it, he quotes Macbeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing
.”

Frank has his own reasons for including the text and it carries a specific meaning relevant to the book’s content. But when I read those lines of Shakespeare, I reflected on part of Frank’s talk (in front of 15 people at a random bar church in Arlington, Texas) yesterday. We’re sucking the creativity out of life. We’re stressing out about all the bullshit…the career, the bills, the mediocrity, and we’re losing touch with ourselves, with who we’re supposed to be. We neglect our souls, we discard our families…and for what? The sound a fury of a society who expects us to think and behave like a bunch of fucking robots.

10153757_10152769178890991_2185585892178701466_n

Life is so much more than sound and fury… Life is “giving love, creating beauty, and finding peace.”

Just to be with Her

I haven’t written in a while. There are many reasons why, but it boils down to being busy as hell. Honestly, I’d like to write something life-changing or poetic or remotely inspiring, but I don’t have it in me at the moment. I’m tired. I’m weary. My brain is clusterfucked with the monumental to-do lists and the triple checking and the living, breathing, enduring of every day life. Sometimes I think I have OCD but it manifests in sleepless nights, acid reflux, and irritability.

I spent half the summer with my 8 year old step-daughter. I don’t really like children, but I LOVE her. I love her more than I ever thought I could love another person beyond my husband and parents. I don’t even love my brother as much as I love this child. Blondie and I were very much in the establishing rapport phase of our relationship when she came to our home in early June; but by the end of the month, we were buddies, sleepover mates, and swimming partners. Her voice, her laugh, her soulful blue eyes, and her ridiculous tan…so many things to love and cherish about her. The shitty part is that I only get 8 weeks a year with her. Before long she’ll be too big for piggy back rides and bedtime stories. I just want to press pause on her development so that she stays this sweet little blonde tornado who loves to shower my home in Barbies and pink.

Parenting totally fucks with your selfishness…or at least it should. In one phone call last year, I went from knowing there was this tiny child 2,000 miles away to literally holding and laughing with her. She went from abstract concept to actual human in one conversation. One decision. Now, all my conversations somehow involve her, my calendar year revolves around her flights to and from our house, and my office is now her bedroom. Nothing is the same. And I could tell you that it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made (it is…) but….parenting is difficult. Talking to and relating to her is as easy as breathing, but there’s all this extra shit that many people don’t take into account: Co-parenting with her mom, custody arrangements, court documents, and that constant worry for her safety. When will it stop???? Life was so much easier before all of this. But was it as rewarding? I have no idea. I was content before when it was just me and her dad; and now, I’m in this mental and emotional state of agitation and it just never fucking leaves me. It’s like a leach attached to my heart, sucking all of my ideas and thoughts and feelings and redirecting them from me to her. I don’t like it. Can’t I just go back? Parenting is a conscious choice every moment of every day. I’ll never be able to go back and start over without the knowledge of her existence.

In the last few months, I’ve learned that contrary to popular opinion, your children don’t have to love you back. They don’t even have to like you. Just like building any relationship, love and respect and trust are cultivated over time. I’d like to think I’ve earned all three in the months I’ve spent getting to know my step-daughter. We have a good relationship and I’m thankful. I just wish the entire situation was…easier. Not the fatigue or the other selfish bits, but the process of parenting a child when there’s 2,000 miles of distance separating us. I wish it was out of sight, out of mind but I’m not that great at compartmentalizing anymore. And Blondie needs to know that someone out there loves her, makes wishes on stars for her, and would cross oceans and planetary systems, just to be with her.