Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Julia Sweeney's Letting Go Of God

Flipping through the channels this morning, I caught about a half an hour of Julia's new Showtime monologue. I really needed to get up and get moving, but her down-to-earth delivery and insightful commentary reeled me in and wouldn't let me go. Jorge finally nudged me..."we can catch the rest when it airs again. We've got work to do." He was right, so we turned off the television and started our day.

If you haven't seen, read, or listened to Julia's work, the title is actually pretty revealing. This is her journey from a Catholic upbringing, to exploration of New Age mysticism, to spiritual investigation to the realization that, much to her initial dismay, there is no God. She talks about the massive shift that takes place in her own mind after this discovery and all the ways her world and relationships are forced to shift. Julia's very faithful family is extremely disappointed (Mom and Dad even stop talking to her for a short time) and has a hard time relating to her as a "Non-theist."

What hooked me was Julia's description of her relationship with God pre-understanding of his non-presence in her life. She describes herself talking to God everyday, viewing new people and experiences as gifts from God or at the very least....there for a reason. She talks aobut losing people in her life to disease, to circumstance, to age, and her feeling that there was something else out there. Something bigger, and something with a plan. The feeling was strong and real and certainly worth believing in...or was it?

I've had those same feelings and those same conversations. I experienced the reality of someone close to me dying before I was eight years old. I was too young to fully grasp the meaning and permanancy of someone being "gone," but old enough to wrestle with the pain and introspective enough to ask myself and ask God why terrible things happen. I clearly remember feeling the presence of something greater in my life. I clearly remember feeling that even though there wasn't an answer with words, there was an answer. A deeper answer, an energy that stayed with me. Over the course of my life, I've spent many days being angry at God but always sensing that he or she or whatever God is...was there. Everytime I'm tempted to let God go, something brings me back. I'm intrigued that Julia Sweeney actually let that possibility become a reality. I wonder what keeps some of us from crossing that line while others find themselves walking in a world without a creator.

Like Julia, it feels like I've always been hunting around for the "right" spirituality. I was raised Methodist and still feel a strong connection to Christianity, but there are several aspects of the church that just don't click for me. It doesn't make sense that one must accept Christ as savior to receive His gifts. Why would God force such a thing? Why would there be a prerequisite to a genuine relationship with Him? It feels unfair to me, like something humans made up because that's what we do...make up rules to create separtation between ourselves.

I tend to be more liberal in my Christianity, finding Jesus' message to be more about love, respect, and our equality in the eyes of God. I think Jesus showed us what it is like to be a human committed to God, to a better way of life. I'm constantly questioning, constantly finding new truths and new red herrings. I've read Deepak Chopra, practiced meditation, studied reiki, investigated the chakras, gone through the Bible twice (yes, all the way through), and particpated in discussions aimed at finding what is real. Something worth believing in.

At the end, all of it leaves me at first with a feeling of connectedness, an uplifting air of something mysterious but so beautiful that it only can be felt but not understood.

And then it leaves me feeling empty. Very empty. Not unlike the emptiness I feel when someone goes back on their word, neglects to be present in a conversation, or fails to be honest about themselves. I think they have good intentions, but many spiritual leaders and writers push their own God agenda..and are quite gifted at sharing it in a way that feels like it isn't an agenda at all. Isn't it possible that there is no "right" way to experience God, that God doesn't want anything of us?

Having not finished the show, I don't know if it's this empty feeling that lead Julia to determine "we invented God, God did not invent us." I know much of her journey was intellectual and the rational examination of a lot of the hogwash that people purport to be true. But I can imagine that the emptiness of words, the lack of tangible experiences could push her in the direction of believing that God simply does not exist. Not to mention the mind-numbingness of sorting through all the spiritual leaders out there who to claim to have the definitive answers on God. Everyone seems to know exactly what God wants...so how come they all tell us he wants different things?

I haven't let go of God. In the moments when I am quiet, away from the rest of the world, the endless chatter, the rush of ambitions, the frazzled souls, I feel God with me. Maybe it is just a projection of my human brain, or a sense of my own self, but I haven't come to that conclusion. Unlike Miss Sweeney, my endless journey through the spiritual hills and valleys has not led me to believe that God is fiction; only that the stories we tell ourselves about Him are.

Julia Sweeney's Blog: http://juliasweeney.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Save America

I came up with the concept, and Jorge created the design for this little number. Made for the Fashion "Conscience," the message isn't about ideology. It's not about a lean to the left or a lean to the right; it's about we Americans standing up for our country and fighting for a better way of life....regardless of party, religious background, or culture. It's about recognizing that we've lost our voice, but that we have the power to take it back. And take it back we must.

We've allowed our leaders to lie to us, act unscrupulously on our behalf, take selfish risks with our money, and put profit before people for way too long. This nation was created by the people, for the people...and the people have unfortunately positioned themselves firmly in the backseat. We let everyone else do the driving and complain to ourselves instead of those behind the wheel.

These days the media chases news, not stories and truth. Politicians are slaves to corporate backing and the majority of them care more about their titles and terms; not serving us as they are supposed to be doing. The government bails out the banks and the businesses, and leaves the individuals shackled with the burdens of their shady ethics and mismanagement. The "little guy" is left to pull up their bootstraps and pray for things to get better.

And we're letting it happen.

Not all of us, of course. I know there are many people out there saying "no, not any more." But a lot of us feel powerless against these formidable foes. We're deceived by a representative who promised to be transparent--and watch as no one holds him accountable. We're mistreated by a company who fails to deliver on a brand promise--and we're out the cash. We're at the receiving end of a hike in credit card fees--even though we've always paid on time. It's difficult to know which end is up when the world around us exudes irrationality and a mixed-up moral code

To bring this country back from the brink of disaster, we have to dig down deep and find the words to express our anger, our outrage, our commitment to making this world a place we can all be proud to call home.

Save America: It's Up To US!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Girl In The Sky

Running faster, picking up speed, here I go now
No can one can stop me
I’m wearing the cloak of protection
I’ve had it always
only found it yesterday.

Feet pound against pavement, snug in my shoes
I’m breathing fast and in control
The ground gets farther and farther away
Don’t need it
I’m flying now.

Past the birds, the clouds, the airplanes
The runners who stick to the earth
I’m too fast for them; they hold themselves back
And I refuse.

Fast again, wind whips at my skin, yells
“Move! Higher! Go!”
And I do, I am a follower of the wind
A friend of the sky
I know my place in this world
And I know it is not

This poem wrote me. I let my fingers soar across the keyboard until they found the letters and the words they wanted. Didn't do too much editing when it was done. I liked its energy and felt something true and uninhibted in the poem's stanzas. There's a time and a place for a well-carved poem; and the right moment for something a bit more raw.

After, I found this great image of a woman being lifted up and over a house (maybe hers, maybe not). It felt like the perfect fit. Up, up and away....not unlike how this poem came into being.

Over the years, I've learned not to fight the writing that has a mind of its own. In fact, it's the out of control writing that makes me feel most connected to something way beyond myself...a God who chooses to reveal himself without direction, rhyme, or punctuation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I loved Judy Blume books when I was growing up. I love them now, too. She captures what it means to be a girl in a way that's utterly timeless. I felt comforted by her characters that were smart, curious, and emotionally invested in the people surrounding them. Too many authors neglect the true emotional connections in their novels. They're heavy on gimmicks and plot devices, and weak on heart.

I recently found this quote from her and smiled at its simplicity and truth. Isn't friendship such an amazing and crucial part of life? Doesn't matter if it's your husband, sister, mother, girlfriend...moments with a real friend, someone who can be present with you through bliss and through pain, are precious. They are to be held onto like a cup of tea; gently but with both hands. Friends serve as our mirrors and as our pillows. They reflect who we are back at us and show us where we need to to grow, need to love, need to push forward--and the cushion our heads when the weight of the world drags us underneath the covers.

I've been blessed with both friends who have stuck by me and supported me, and friends who have flown the coop when it was no longer convenient. I say blessed because the good friends are my LIFE. They fill my heart and soul with such love and understanding and I do not want to participate in this earth experiment without them. The not-so-good friends have pushed me to look at myself more deeply, to question and refine my values, to learn the meaning of letting go. The anguish I've experienced when a friend reveals themselves to not be so has burned away my false expectations of myself and others and let me see the world more clearly. That's a gift.

I have so many dreams and ambitions, but one of my most valued is to be a good friend--to myself, to my husband, to my family, and to those cherished few who have let me into their lives. To remember their journeys, to be present for their celebrations and their devastations, to know them as completely and honestly as they will let me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back In Boston

It was over a year and a half ago that Jorge moved to the South Shore of Boston for a fantastic opportunity at a small, successful video game studio. Two weeks ago, I flew out of Akron/Canton airport with two suitcases (both weighing 49 lbs each...wiggling their way just under the "overweight" moniker that results in a $50 charge) and into Logan airport. I wasn't born in Boston, but it certainly felt like a homecoming. I went to college at Boston University, then graduate school, too. After a short stint in Hoboken, NJ, I moved back to Boston. Something about this city just keeps calling me back.

There's a lot to love here..and a lot that makes me go, "where the hell am I?"

-Amazing ice cream. Herrells, JP Licks, Angora's Cafe to name a few.
-The Water. I love how Boston uses its waterfront, something Cleveland appears to be brainless about.
-Boston Common & Gardens. Absolutely gorgeous, perfectly landscaped, miraculously peaceful.
-Food. Every cusine for every tastebud is within reach. I adore the Other Side Cafe...where else can you get freshly made raw juices, smoothies, gourmet sandwiches AND one of the biggest beer lists you've ever seen?
-Everything is close. Connecticut, Rhode Island, The Cape, New Hampshire...all just a short drive away.
-Independent & international films. Easy to find, easy to love
-INTELLIGENCE. With so many universities around, there are smart, creative, and fascinating people everywhere. Stop into a CVS for some errands, end up having a 20 minute conversation about the illusory nature of reality.

-Perhaps to balance out the big brains, there is a plethora of people in Massachusetts who seem to have had their medullas separated from their oblongatas. Case in point: Jorge and I were in a local restaraunt and asked what vegetarian options were available. The response was "how about some chicken fingers?"
-An obsession with furniture. Furniture stores advertise more frequently than democrats and republicans blame each other for the world's problems.
-Potholes. I take that back. Boston doesn't have potholes, they have craters.
-Self-obsession. A lot of people here seem to think that Massachusetts is the only state in the union. Mention "Ohio" or "California" and their eyes glaze over and the only word they can utter is "WHO?"
-RED SOX NATION. Being a fan here is more about cursing the yankees. I'm from Cleveland. yes, I'm extremely jealous.

I miss my family and friends...but, Boston, I'm glad to be back. I've got some karma in this town and I've got a feeling it's bringing me some pretty amazing experiences.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Megan & Jorge Get Married

After a year and a half of once-a-month weekend visits, long phone calls, exhausting planning and too many nights wondering when our life together would get started, Jorge and I got married on June 13, 2009 at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. It was an unbelievable wedding, if I do say so myself. The gardens are one of the most beautiful spots in Cleveland, a spiritual oasis in the middle of the city. We said our vows in the Japanese Garden, as gospel singers sang "Are you ready for a miracle", standing atop big, smooth stones that reminded me of that classic bible school song "The wise man built his house upon the rock." Our friend and officiant Reverend Hamp Horton dropped the rings, but my Dad saved the day by leaping up from his seat and swiftly getting them back into Hamp's hands. Who needs a wedding without ring drama?

Our photographer, Melissa Rudick, captured amazing shots of every little moment and detail--and since Jorge and I are both creative, picky, and slightly weird, there were a lot of details. Check out some of her work here: www.melissarudickphotographyl.com/blog

To everyone who joined us, Thank You. There have been moments, days in my life that I've felt God's presence so profoundly that I know I'll never be the same Megan again. June 13th was one of those days and I'm honored that you could be there. Hopefully you felt something, too.