Fighting Frustration and Fatigue

Yesterday I wrote a post from passion. I was proud of that post.  Now, I knew not expect to be Freshly Pressed, as I didn’t have any images that came from me, and I simply don’t make the criteria or the cut for whatever reason. But, I admit, to feeling a little deflated today. I was hoping for something more.  More reaction. More comment. Disagreements or anger even. While it instigated a couple of responses, in particular this wonderful post at Life of Jamie, I feel like my post was a whisper when I was hoping for a scream

We need more screams!

Today I was sent this petition http://dccc.org/pages/stopcensoringwomen which supports my theory that they are afraid of our voices. If “they” do not let us be heard, then their power is not threatened.

I fear “they” will win, because nothing seems to break the silence.

I admit to feeling frustrated. My second anniversary of this blog approaches, and, while I recognize that I have come far, I still feel sometimes that my voice is faint. I especially feel that when I write from passion and feel like in the end I accomplish nothing.

I took Sarah to the museum today, hoping to find inspiration to combat this overwhelming fatigue. I found myself looking for Goddess images–looking for the feminine divine, where women’s voices meant something and represented strength.

However, my search does not defeat the fatigue, despite finding some images that spoke to me. I forced myself to sit down and write something, anything to break through. Yet, as I search for the images to share, two things happen. First I find an image to remind me of why I should write and why I should fight (I include it amid the goddesses . . . guess which one it is). The second is this short but sweet little post announcing the birth of a girl. Welcome BabyHab, you are worth fighting for.

Luck, Life, and Inspiration

My mind is working at a frenetic pace, bouncing from thought to thought, image to image, idea to idea. It almost feels like my brain is full of thousands of fireflies, butterflies, and hummingbirds racing around in a magical dance whose meaning I could understand and interpret if only I knew the secret language of their nearly silent song.

Despite this chaotic dance, I feel the need to post. Writing for me is a way of making meaning, yet, even as I write I still feel confused. So today I want to share some of the fleeting thoughts and images that have added to the mental disarray.

This week the world offered me many messages. So I will share with you the glimpses of meaning from signs around me:

  • A friend posted an article (which I can’t find at the moment) that questions the possibility of ever finding true happiness–because the definition of happiness (as it exists in modern times) is unachievable. Whenever we get what we think will make us happy, we look toward the next thing that will make us happy. This article has me thinking, perhaps rather than looking for happiness I need to work towards living joyously on a moment by moment basis, no matter what life brings.
  • Teresita over at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing never fails to touch me with her photography and reflections on life. But this week it seems that almost every photo she takes has a message for my soul. Below are some of her images that have spoken to me this week. Click on them to link to the blog posts so that you can read her beautiful words.

This entrance to a garden seems like the entrance to a world I cannot see, but can sense on my horizon. It is the entrance to a world of possibilities waiting for me to discover them. I need to take a few steps forward without fear, and then I will uncover something wonderful. I know it.

I can't quite explain what message this image has for me, except that somehow it gives me a sense of hope and a sense of peace.

This image, partially because I love these colors, had many messages for me. It my made me think about what colors I love, and why. What scenes I want to have in my life, and why. What makes me feel at home, and why. This image also led me to another image by a different blogger who I had never visited before, but whose image also fed this mix of inspiration swirling around in my head. That image follows, with a link to her blog as well.

This image spoke to me for a number of reasons. I love the colors, which to me are the colors of fall. But more than that, it led me to think about the colors of my life. What colors do I surround myself with, and why? What colors do I want to fill my life with, and why? What world do I want to see in a place that I call home, and why? These thoughts float around in the swirl in my brain, helping me understand what I am looking for. Someday, I will understand. This image also led me to the next image from Sahlah, a blog I had never visited before.

To me this image shows the swirl of possibility and beauty that is in my head as well as in my life.

  •  I am so grateful for the above images, as they helped me open my eyes differently in a week that has been full of highs and lows, stresses and joys, and a whole lot of fear of the unknown. The final thing I wish to share with you today are some pictures I took the other day, as I tried to be open to the present moment in a new way. Enjoy.

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Today’s Quote: 

An All Powerful Being Wouldn’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Tibetan endless knot

Image via Wikipedia

For some reason religion has become the topic of discussion around me lately. Maybe it is because of my post Hell is Living in the Bible Belt (which seemed to push buttons for several people) or because I am living in the Bible Belt. Maybe it is because I have been doing a lot of thinking about the meaning and purpose of life. Whatever the reason, discussions about religion seem to sprout out around me, leaving much food for thought.

At our ladies’ night the other night, the topic came up again. You would think a bunch of women getting together with wine and food would not be quite so serious. But no, we spent hours contemplating the complexities of religion. Each of us reflected on our own discontent with many aspects of religious belief, as well as the overburdening guilt that comes from breaking away from the traditions we were raised in. Several of us have adopted belief systems from many religions. Some have recently recognized that the religion they held dear no longer feels right.

We all seemed to be searching for something, but that something does not fit comfortably in the mold of organized religion.

The conversation continued today between myself and one of the women from that group. Now, we come from completely different backgrounds. She was raised Mormon. I, if you haven’t figured that out yet, was raised a conservative Jew. We both have broken away from those traditions in some ways. At the same time, we both believe there is something out there. I call it energy or spirit. She still calls it “god.” It doesn’t matter what term we use.

We recognized that one of the problems we have with religion does not lie in belief or disbelief of  this entity. No, the problem lies in how human beings interpret their belief. It lies in the way people judge others for what they deem inappropriate or “blasphemous” behavior. It lies in the fact that anyone who doubts or questions immediately takes on a sense of guilt or shame because somehow they might feel like they are failing those who claim to truly believe.

But the reality is, that some of the true believers in whatever religion are nasty people. The more fanatic they are, the nastier they sometimes seem. In religions that teach loving, forgiveness, and kindness (which I would argue is something most religions have in common) people feel free to judge, condemn, and even hate.

But really, if there is a higher being, do you think he/she/it is really going to care if you eat the right food or say the right prayer or even believe in the right god? Maybe all gods represent this entity. I think that the only thing that being or energy would really care about is that we live as kind, loving caring creatures who do as little harm as possible. What matters lies on the insides, not in the trappings of faith. He/she/it simply would not sweat the small stuff. That’s a power that I can believe in.

The conversation is going to continue as this group explores the changes we each seem to be going through at this time in our lives. I think it will be an interesting journey.

Hell is Living in the Bible Belt

Roadside Religion

Image by jcbwalsh via Flickr

Has this ever happened to you? You are driving along at a decent clip on a long distance trip, reading the occasional billboard as a distraction from the monotony of sun glinting off of cars and white lines moving into the distance. Then larger than life you see in big block letters:

AVOID HELL! REPENT TODAY!

TRUST IN JESUS!

Signs like these appear out of nowhere offering redemption for those who accept Jesus into their hearts. But it is also signs like these that make me feel like I’m already living in hell.

I don’t know what I believe happens after death. Maybe I will go to hell, burning for eternity in a torturous world of flame and agony. (I’m sure many people reading this are nodding their head envisioning me engulfed in flame). Maybe I will float around with wings listening to angelic music. Maybe, given my fascination for the paranormal, I will return as a ghost to haunt the location of my death or the memorable places of my life. Maybe I will be reincarnated into a better being, with more knowledge and understanding than I have now. Maybe I’ll come back as a slug. Or maybe I will simply crumble to dust after having an epiphany on my death-bed (as I’ve written about before).

I really don’t care what happens. I am concerned with living the best life I can while I have this life; living in joy, day by day, and doing no harm.

But then I pass signs like this dotting the highway through Indiana and Missouri. These signs and symbols announce in gigantic glory that I am going to hell. But no, I realize, I am already there.

T o me hell would not be a place of torture and heat, but rather a place where I am not free to question and think, to challenge ideas and form my own beliefs and understanding of the world. My idea of heaven would be a place where the basic tenets of belief were: “I believe what I believe. You believe what you believe. As long as our beliefs don’t hurt each other, then all is good.”

But sadly, I am now living in a place where I feel the need to censor myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are warm and wonderful people here.  Yet, I am always conscious of being different somehow. I think differently. I was raised differently. I have different beliefs. That difference is subtly glaring, like I have horns growing out of my head that true believers can see.

I admit, when surrounded by people who embrace certain beliefs as passionately as people here do, I cling even harder to my difference. I’m not really a religious Jew, but when confronted by a wall of Christianity my Judaism shines like a menorah in the window. It is a defensive act. I know I cannot win against the unspoken judgments that surround me, so I hold tighter to my own understanding of the world.

I would call myself more spiritual than religious, incorporating into my own personal religion the ideas and attitudes that are welcoming and comforting. I cannot condone any element of religion (in any religion) that says one group is better than another, or one sex is superior, or only one lifestyle is correct. That is where religion fails.

I don’t know the true answers. I do believe

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet I.5)

In many ways I envy people who are true believers; who can live life with blind faith and trust that Jesus (or whatever god) will solve their problems and bring them safely home. If heaven is home.

But I can’t.

So, while I respect the right of each individual to believe whatever he or she wants and I recognize the importance of free speech, I would really appreciate it if I didn’t have to be reminded that I am doomed as I innocently drive down the highway. That makes for an uncomfortable ride.

In Search of Faith

 

Observing the shabbath closing havdalah ritual...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Questions without answers

burn in the flame

of the Havdalah candles.

Twisted wax of blue and white

drip to the end of the Sabbath

sung out with the strum of a guitar

but my questions remain.

What does it mean to be a Jew?

Racial history of a tribal people

etched into stone

and into the flesh of an arm.

Pain of rejection

and loneliness

as you fast,

light candles,

eat special food off of pink glass plates

learn a language nobody speaks

celebrate holidays nobody knows.

Christmas carols come from other homes

but our menorah plays

Ma ozur Y’shu a ti

eight candles flickering flames

of pride

announce to all

“Jews live here.”

Always a symbol of difference

the yellow star

the pointed hat

the tallis.

But that was years ago.

My search continues.

A search that started on a cool spring night

running with friends to find

Elijah.

He never came.

We never found him.

I chanted to the memory of grandparents lost

on the bima of adulthood.

I became a woman

through the words of my haftorah

but they took on more meaning the following year

asked to repeat my performance

with no ceremony attached.

I sang with pride.

Where did my pride go?

Rejected by my community when we could not pay;

rejected by a Rabbi who could not see the value

of a star and a cross printed on the same t-shirt,

not on top of each other

but reflecting the value of

differing beliefs.

The circle of equality in difference.

Was I still a Jew?

Judaism rediscovered in the middle of Japan

a Passover celebration with Israelis

bonded by a ceremony

a language

a song.

Rejoicing over non-kosher food

and a smoke that brought us closer to heaven

floating from spirituality

and community.

Am I still part of that community?

Being a Jew is

contradiction

confliction

reality

confusion.

It is kinship and isolation.

It is daunting and authentic

It is who I am.

I am a Jew

but I am also a Buddhist.

I am a Hindu.

I am a Wicca.

I am all religions and I am no religion.

I am belief and disbelief.

I search for answers

in a world of prayer and ceremony

in spirituality that feels

beyond my grasp.

I want to dance in glory

a circle of holiness and faith,

celebrate love and essence,

rejoice in community.

I want to honor both earth and spirit.

I am Apache

I am rebel.

I am black.

I am white.

I am outsider.

I am Jew

I am lost.

I am found.

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