The Rules (and Other Bullshit We Buy Into)

I just saw something that blew my mind.

Sometimes I think life on the prairies can be pretty dull. I can see for miles, and it often feels like this is all there is. Then there are other times, like now, when I see my very timid border collie rolling around with and grooming a cow, and I realize that this is probably all that most people could ever want.

I remember the moment I stopped believing in God. Before then, everything made sense to me, and if it didn’t, there was comfort in knowing that it wasn’t up to me to figure it out. It’s been so many years and it’s hard for me to tap into that mentality, but it was a very pivotal point in my life and I want to give it the recognition it deserves. Back then I was secure in knowing that I was serving a better purpose. My bible was like the app store. If I was upset, lit with a fiery rage, dizzily happy, there was a verse for that.

As I got older, though, these reasons, this faith became harder to blindly rely on. I had questions, and nobody had answers. I didn’t have a problem living in the Christian world, and I liked going to church. I have fond memories of sword drills and doughnuts after Sunday school. What I did have a problem with was ignoring my instincts and the urge to ask questions for fear of being shushed or seen differently.

I liked church because I knew who I was there. I could recite John 3:16 and play Stella Ella Ola and feel the presence of something bigger than I. When the questions came, when the feelings came, it all changed. All of a sudden “God has a plan,” wasn’t enough to help me sleep, and I discovered that people weren’t really as forgiving and wholesome as they had previously claimed. I was angry to have spent so many nights with that bible clutched to my chest, giving it my vulnerability and trust. I had gotten this idea that God would protect me from anything.

In the 7 or so years that followed I became more and more angry with God, and the anger stacked higher than the Empire State Building. I found the entire concept laughable and felt a certain sympathy for those who had given their lives to serve His purpose. Eventually it got to the point where I didn’t believe in anything at all. If you scroll through my posts from a year ago, you’ll see that there.

However, I heard someone on a very popular television show say “You can’t not believe in God and be angry with him at the same time.” I feel like it’s important to note that I am not comforted or appeased by the explanation of science, either. It’s factual and I’m so grateful for everything that’s been accomplished through scientific knowledge, but the factual reasoning for where we came from and where we’re going is something that I find quite dismal as well.

You know what I want to know? Where does the soul go? The body, yes, I see that it slips out of life and decays, becoming part of the Earth. But there was more to the body, there was the way they laughed and the way their thumb would ache when it was about to rain and all they knew about living inside of that vessel. I want to know where that goes.

I don’t believe in karma, but coincidence is often hard to stand upon. It’s the way that you meet someone and know that you’ve been looking for them your whole life. Your hands fit, and your lips meet each other with a force you don’t understand, but give into anyway. What happens to this connection when all else turns to dust? Will we float next to each other in the vast universe? We can only hope.

We can only hope. We can only do it right this time. I know it seems morbid to think of this life coming to an end, but it’s the only chance that we are guaranteed. If you love someone, don’t wait for the next life to tell them. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll come back again born for the stage and perform in small costumes and make love in the change room.

I don’t know what the reasons are, if there are any. All I know is that a smile can mean the difference between normalcy and a life worth living. Maybe it’s only because I like to write, but I often ask myself if my memoir would be worth reading. Not for sad and impossible feelings, but for my experiences and the way they’ve shaped my being. Did I take risks in love and life? Did I get low enough to empathize with, and high enough to envy? Was I honest enough to connect with people I’d never met?

Writers are introverts, perfectionists, wise. And this is all a crock of shit because I am none of these things and I’m still here telling you stories that probably don’t even make sense to anybody but me. Here’s what I wish for you, above anything else: Have courage. Have courage to be open and honest and to connect with people on a more modest (but extremely human) level. Have courage in love. Don’t kiss someone for the sake of it. Kiss them because it is all that you can think about in that moment and if you were to run you’d forever regret it. And then write it down, exactly as it bleeds from your fingers.

The only problem is that none of us think we have anything to say.

My Experience as a Lamb

The other day I stumbled upon the journal I kept in 8th grade. Have you ever been embarrassed in front of yourself? Reading that was like punching myself in the face repeatedly, and it would really destroy my street cred if anybody were to see it. One thing that stuck out to me as I skimmed the pages was my conviction; You wouldn’t think so, but at one time, I was a soldier for the big JC. I was honest in a way that I could never really be now. That book was my connection to God, and I used it faithfully.

One thing I prayed for a colossal amount that year was a set of boobs. I was already plucking my fucking lip hair, and I didn’t think it was fair that I could be confused for a prepubescent boy when I was supposed to be luscious and curvy.. or something. In almost every entry, I asked God for a pair of soupcans.

It was all very Judy Blume.

Except he didn’t deliver at the end of this coming of age tale. I turned 14 and entered high school as flat as the desks into which I had carved crosses and bearded men. I wish I could describe to you how angry I was, but there are no words to do so adequately. This is when the spiral of doubt entered my brain. Do you know what it’s like to come back over summer break and notice the girls sporting melons while you are stuck with mosquito bites?

That was another problem that accompanied this summer of booblessness:

Noticing girls…and there are an abundance of them at Christian summer camp. Girls had always just been fellow aliens to me, but that something about the heat that year made lips more than just lips. I saw dimples and collarbones and eyelashes. My brain was in a state of utter chaos. I think it would have been easier to absorb if we hadn’t been sitting around a campfire every night discussing the consequences of homosexuality.

The more I heard, the less welcome I felt. It seemed that doing right came so naturally to these people, while I was constantly fighting off urges to do things like steal small trinkets and then throw them out. I was certainly never pure in thought. That sneaky spiral of apprehension continued to grow inside of my soul until I thought it might burst.

I mean, C’mon guy. I can deal with the sunken chest, but if you don’t want me to like women, why’d you make ’em so cute?

I couldn’t tell you exactly when it happened, but I separated myself from the idea of an infinite spirit filled with unconditional love. It sure felt like a lot of conditions to me. In the end, I chose the life that I was guaranteed- this one. This one, where I swear colorfully, love tenderly, and feel unabashedly. I feel okay about that.

And, if I’m wrong, well, I guess I’ll be seeing most of you often.