The Grieving Atheist

A Blog

The Things We Dare Not Say (but I can’t seem to help myself)

Hi. Long time, no see. Yeah, I’m still here. My husband’s work schedule means I’m alone with the kids all day–kids who are acting out because they miss their Daddy– so by the time they fall asleep, I’ve basically passed out on the couch. This blog isn’t the only thing I’ve ignored. My makeup hasn’t been properly removed in about two months, which is just… yikes. And I’ve had an ear infection I waited 3.5 weeks to treat, only to be told I’ll need many other appointments to get to the bottom of things. Those appointments won’t be happening, because my husband’s work schedule means I’m alone with the kids all day…… You see where I’m going with this.

Anyhoo, things are coming. I’m currently reading Grief Workbook for Skeptics by Carol Fiore. She’s the widow of experimental test pilot Eric Fiore. Now I myself am not a pilot, but I grew up in an aviation-obsessed family. I know every line from The Right Stuff  (the movie, not the book) and follow Chuck Yeager on Facebook, so that’s about all I bring to the table. My uncle was a navy pilot, shot down while flying an A-1 Skyraider over Vietnam. He survived and spent 7.5 years as a POW. My brother can fly and is an amazing aviation photographer, when he isn’t being a lawyer and musician (the talent in our family was not evenly distributed). So, grief, atheism, flying… Had to pick up a copy. Look for a review soon.

Lately, I’ve been pissing people off by not “liking” seemingly like-worthy stories, like the one about the family who created a bucket list for their unborn baby with anencephaly. Many of my friends thought that story was moving and inspiring and offered their prayers. I thought it was kind of selfish and cruel. And tragic, of course. Difference of opinion. Some people think it’s best to bring a brainless, skull-less baby into the world so he can be baptized and die four hours later. Some people think what’s in the best interest of the baby is to end things before the poor thing grows larger and and is born struggling to survive.

If you search for anencephaly, you’ll find lots of pro-life families blogging about their perfect miracle babies, often saying their children did more in a couple hours than they had in their entire lifetime. Get real. That has nothing to do with the child. The child, formed without the basic systems in place for survival, hung on for a couple hours and then died. It didn’t aim to inspire a community. It could not hear or see or feel pain or think. It didn’t appreciate having been brought to a concert as a fetus. Its body struggled to live and then stopped, and that’s it. And that’s AWFUL. I am not unsympathetic to these families. It’s a rotten thing. But I fail to see how any of this is for the baby. God doesn’t make mistakes, they say. They’re right. God didn’t make a mistake. Something went wrong and the fetus didn’t form properly. Sometimes malfunctions occur a week or two into the pregnancy, and a miscarriage results. Sometimes we don’t know something’s wrong until testing shows it, and then it’s our job as parents to make the tough decisions.

Would these parents carry any baby to term? Would anything change their minds? What if the baby was going to be born without a head? I’m not saying you can’t love a baby without a skull. Of course you can. You can love it enough to spare it from developing any further. That, to me, is just cruel. In fact, it seems superficial. They’re photographing, holding and baptizing a shell. So just because the body looks almost right, the fact that there is no one in it is immaterial? The majority of these babies are stillborn. Some live only a few hours, as the brain stem is incapable of reminding the body to breathe. This slowly deprives the organs of oxygen, and the body officially dies. I’ve seen so many people responding to this condition by saying, “Still praying for a miracle.” There is no miracle. No amount of praying or medical assistance can help a creature without a brain. Just because the baby is born looking somewhat baby-like, does not mean it’s a person capable of thought or love or life.

I’m not saying parents shouldn’t be allowed to choose to bring these babies to term. That’s a personal choice, one about which I have a personal opinion. But you know what I never see? Any of these parents mentioning the role of folic acid in reducing neural tube defects. If the goal is to inform and inspire and bring something good to the world, why not educate people on how to prevent some of these defects in the first place? Shouldn’t that be priority number one?

So no, I won’t “like” that, even if it makes me seem heartless. Maybe I am, but at least I’ve got a brain.

——————————————-

Low blow, right?

Yeah, see that’s the problem. I’m not entirely heartless. I don’t hate those parents. I don’t want them to feel more pain. A part of me wants to erase this whole thing because I know it will come off as nothing but negative and nasty. I mean, what does it matter if they want to continue their pregnancy and tell the world about their trips to sporting events and praise God for helping them on their journey? What harm is there?    Prolonging the child’s life probably isn’t prolonging pain, because the child cannot feel pain. And it seems a little undignified, but the child can’t experience dignity or embarassment or love or anything else. So where’s the harm? If it brings the parents joy. If it makes the experience more meaningful to the parents. Why even have an opinion about it? Why not just shut up and let people live?

And the same with grief. Why ruffle feathers? Why not let people believe the stories that make them happy? Other than my fall back position that ignorance is wrong and detrimental to the species, why even go there? Why not quietly live my life and stay out of it?

Sometimes I don’t know. I do feel a need to speak out when religion is hurting people or preventing them from having equal rights. But why here? Why express an opinion at all?

Then I read a post on a grief site. A grieving son was reading his mother’s diary where she had written that she didn’t understand why her prayers weren’t working, why she wasn’t worthy enough for a miracle. Devastating, right? My great-grandmother, in her final days, would grumpily say, “Why won’t He take me already???”

These are people who were not helped by their faith. These are people who, while dying, felt frustrated, confused and angry. Their beliefs didn’t comfort them. They make them feel unworthy. And I think that’s the way things are going. I think more and more people are feeling let down by the promises of their faith, and if that’s true, then shouldn’t we start getting real about this so we can evolve as a community and find better ways to offer real support and comfort to those in need? My heart breaks for those who are suffering quietly, confessing to their diaries because they dare not share their feelings with other Believers.

Maybe it IS harmful to keep your opinions to yourself, even if they rub some people the wrong way. Maybe saying, “Hey, if you find out your baby-to-be will immediately die and never have any kind of meaningful life because it won’t have a brain, you’re allowed to terminate the pregnancy without insulting God” isn’t negative and nasty. Maybe it’s the kind of honesty we need. Maybe some people need permission to make the tough choices. Maybe they need to know that 1) the situation they’re in wasn’t God’s will, and 2) they are ALLOWED to make a choice. A friend said she thought the parents were better people than she because she didn’t think she’d carry the baby to term. Why is that the better choice? Maybe if we take God out of the equation and admit that life is delicate, and sometimes random awful things happen to us just because, and admit that that’s kind of a scary realization, then we can go on with the business of finding realistic, humane ways of handling these situations. Maybe then, once we’re free of fantasies and superstitions, we will look at what IS and confront obstacles courageously and realistically, empowered with the knowledge that we can rely on one another and ourselves to make the best of any situation, and still live meaningful, beautiful lives.

Trying

Sheer exhaustion has my brain muddled. Recent schedule changes have me alone with the kids for 12-17 hours a day, which isn’t good for anyone, and my intelligence has taken a big hit. At night I try to read articles or stories that would ordinarily fascinate me, but I give up, finding them overly complicated. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m falling behind in the brain department. Oh, there was that blip back in 1986 when I got my first F on an algebra test, after an academic career of straight A’s, but I made peace with that when I learned that you could be smart and still hate math. Unfortunately, I got too comfortable with the idea and began peacefully flunking other subjects, like organic chemistry and home economics. Still, I didn’t chalk it up to stupidity. I wasn’t applying myself. Anyone could, and did, see that. It was a matter of priorities. I was lazy, not stupid. And I was okay with that. But this… this is something entirely different. This is can’t-get-there-no-matter-how-hard-I-try dumbness, and I don’t like it.

I’ve started googling energy drinks. Having never even tried a Red Bull (vodka’s just fine on its own, thank you very much), I know nothing about them. I’m sure there’s some combination of energy drinks, Wellbutrin, ADHD meds and speed that would offer a pinch of clarity, but as I’ve established, I’m no chemist. Plus, that sounds expensive. And complicated. And possibly lethal.

I’ve been giving myself advice on this issue. “If you work out, you’ll have more energy. Just keep drinking that green tea. You need puzzles, exercise for the mind.” Good ideas, all, and I appreciate myself for offering them, but it’s just not fucking working.  What I need is an hour a day to myself that doesn’t involve shopping or cleaning.

I got that on Sunday. Went paddling on a new lake. It wasn’t ideal. The rental place gave me shoddy equipment, a kayak with no seat back and missing foot pegs, and a paddle that was all wrong somehow. But it didn’t matter. I was free. And when the boy spills his yogurt and the girl throws her textbook against the wall, I close my eyes for two seconds and hear the insects buzzing at the shoreline and the water gently slapping the boat and I’m just gone.

 

kayak

 

You know what’s not complicated? Moving a boat from this place to that, using an aluminum stick. I see a thing I want to see closer and I do. I tell the boat to go left and it does. Sometimes the wind blows and it’s a little harder, and I can choose to fight against it or give up, and it’s pretty good either way. I put myself in the boat. Anything else that happens is manageable. If I screw up, I might get wet or tired, but no one else will get hurt. In every other aspect of my life, my choices can hurt people. That’s a hell of a burden. Freeing myself from these obligations from time to time is essential. I wish I could say it clears my head, but those effects don’t linger. The fog returns about a minute after my legs hit the land. Still, I’m grateful for these short reprieves.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset. That’s a line from a kiddie book, and it’s a lie. Of course you get upset. You get what you get and you try to keep your shit together because that’s what growing up is all about. It’s a shame that doesn’t rhyme.

Anyway, that’s all I’m trying to do, keep my shit together. Tired and stupid and fumbling, but still here, still trying to figure it out, still trying to make it good. And googling energy drinks like somebody’s clueless grandma.

The Other Side of Things

My mother’s birthday came and went. I bought an ice cream cake for the kids, one of those cheesy things from the grocery store with the icing that stains your teeth. I’d bought one for my mom a few years before, when her birthday coincided with one of our visits back east. It’s not always easy to arrange things when you’re from out of town. She seemed to enjoy it well enough, though, or maybe she just appreciated that someone made an effort. It didn’t go over so well this time. My son is the only one who really ate any of it, and we ended up throwing most of it in the trash. I asked my daughter if she wanted to share any good memories of my mom and she refused, started bawling, then ran to her room (which is what she does all the time anyway, so I can’t judge how much of that was genuine). So, you know, that was that.

I’ve been on the other side of grief a lot lately, having to be the one to offer condolences. Other special people’s special people keep dying. It’s so damn tricky, isn’t it? Trying to find the right words, the right gesture. It’s particularly tricky when they’re religious. I’ve had to learn about the various religious practices before even reaching out, just to make sure I didn’t insult anyone. Religious people tend to get more so during times of despair, and the last thing I want to do is draw attention to the fact that I’m a clueless heathen. I mean, they already know that about me. I don’t keep it a secret. But there’s a time and a place. When someone is grieving, I try to minimize the differences between us and speak from a place of heartfelt sympathy. I don’t want them thinking, “Oh, look. Here comes the atheist. She’s probably going to say something snarky.” I wouldn’t do that. I think it pretty hard, but I won’t say it.

So I do what I do. I keep things brief, honest, using spare language to address the main points which are, of course, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘that sucks.’ And I send food. And I fret over that plenty, too. Cookies are too playful. Cakes too festive. Fruit too prone to spoilage. Nothing too cheap or too showy. Nothing too obvious or obscure. I know it’s most likely going to be received with indifference or basic gratitude. That’s not the point. I really do try to get it as right as I can. We can’t control death. We can’t control emotion. We can control what kind of gift baskets to send to a sad person, so I do. Simple as that.

But still, I feel like I’m always putting my foot in my mouth. I guess we all do. It’s just a messy, awkward situation. The important thing, I guess, is to go ahead and say something and do something. Then, no matter what, at least you’re not the person who was too chickenshit to speak up. I have a lot of respect for the people who reached out to me after my mom died. Some had never spoken to me personally before. Those were good people, and I won’t ever forget it. It meant the world to me.

Still, not being able to contribute to the “better place,” “In God’s loving arms,” “you’ll see her again” conversation kind of sucks. Those are comforting words to some, and not being able to comfort others in that way makes me feel like my friendship is inferior, like I can only take my relationship with certain people so far.

I’m lucky that my parents share(d) my lack of faith. We didn’t see eye to eye on plenty of things (they’re significantly taller than me), but we agreed on religion and politics. When I talked to my mother in law after my father in law died, she was in that zone, you know. She was going to see him again one day and he was communicating with her (by sending a dragonfly to comfort her, good thing he didn’t die in January) and God had a plan… I’m not close to the woman, so it was easy to smile politely. I’ve never had religious differences with the people closest to me. My heart goes out to those who’ve had to struggle with that. Or any of those issues, really. Sexuality, political disagreements, ketchup versus mustard on hot dogs. *shudder*

 

Two Years

Two years. And today is nothing like that day. First off, it’s a Sunday, which has an entirely different feel than a Friday, so that’s good. And there’s no urgency today, no desperate desire to grab the clock and turn it back a few hours and have everything be right again. Too far removed for that. Even though they’re both impossible, it still feels more possible to reverse time by just a little. Two years out, it’s clear that can’t ever happen. Superman couldn’t even do that. And the weather is altogether different. Hot and stale, not the drenching rains of that Friday, that cleared to reveal a plump red sunset that I managed to appreciate even though….

But, I still find myself thinking… Okay, it’s been two years. Certainly, I can have her back now. I mean, hasn’t this gone on long enough? I’m not expected to live without her forever, right? Who could ever do that?

And the answer is no, not forever. Nothing lasts forever. Not the people we miss or the people who miss them. That’s just the way it is.

 

 

Aging Ungracefully

This whole summer’s-ending-school’s-back-you-wasted-the-whole-season-watching-TV-you-lazy-shit time of year is always a bit of a downer for me. It’s also very nearly the 2 year anniversary of when Mom kicked, so….  great timing, Mom!

A scary thing has been happening. I’ve been aging. I mean, yes, technically that marathon started at birth, but the pace has accelerated rapidly in recent months. It seemed to me that after my grandmother died, my mom started to look more and more like her. As it turns out, that’s probably right around the time her cancer began growing. A few months after my paternal grandmother died, my dad had a stroke. What’s going on here? Is it coincidence? Is it the overwhelming stress that wreaks havoc on the body? Because my parents were in their 60’s when they lost their moms. And I was only 39, so that’s not cool. I’m not ready to be old. But blammo, I look older now. My neck. I mean, what is that all about? My neck looked like my normal neck until a couple months ago, and now it’s like some old lady’s neck. And I am not an old lady!

Well, maybe if you stopped watching so much TV….

Yeah, okay, I haven’t just watched TV. I’ve been kayaking and to the zoo and to the gardens and the pool. I’m not just sitting here getting old (she wrote, while sitting there getting old).

But this shit has to stop now! I got carded up until a couple years ago, and now I’m old? I’m 41. 41 year old Harrison Ford didn’t look old. I’m younger than Harrison Ford was when he shot Temple of Doom. I’m ride-an-elephant young! I’m fall-out-of-an-airplane-on-a-raft-and-live young!

Only, when I look in the mirror now, especially with my hair recently cut shorter, I see my mom’s neck. And it scares the shit out of me.

Nobody Wants To Hear About Your Dreams

So yeah, I had a dream where both my parents died, and I was upset because I knew they were disappointed in me and I’d never be able to show them what I might accomplish. Then I woke up and reassured myself it was only a dream. Except, of course, that it wasn’t. It was only 50% fiction. And that was a rotten feeling, almost like dreaming there’s a foot-long spider on your face and waking to find a 6-inch spider on your face. Not terribly comforting.

Promises

My daughter is attending Girl Scout day camp this week, and the Girl Scouts require a lot of paperwork. A more organized organization you’d be hard-pressed to find. There are rules, and they take them seriously. If you don’t have the right credentials and forms, forget it. So Sunday night found me printing and signing a lot of shit. I still don’t know why they need my dentist’s phone number, but whatever. And then I got to the Code of Conduct, which included the Girl Scout Law and the Girl Scout Promise and some other behavioral suggestions.

The Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Girls and parents are asked to read and discuss the Girl Scout Promise, the Girl Scout Law, and the Code of Conduct and to sign this document that they understand their responsibilities.

And then you have to sign your name.

Now, that’s what it said on the Code of Conduct form. But in many other publications, they add an asterisk. That asterisk is the reason I’m okay with my daughter being a Girl Scout. The asterisk takes you here…

(*Girl Scouts makes no attempt to define or interpret the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise. We look to individual members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs. When making the Girl Scout Promise, individuals may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.”)

But, perhaps in the interest of saving ink, there wasn’t an asterisk with this particular promise. Which is fine. Religion can be a part of the Girl Scout organization. You can earn a faith badge. It’s absolutely there if you want it to be a part of your experience. But we don’t, of course, so we’re big fans of the asterisk. When asked to say the Promise, my daughter substitutes the word “Earth,” which is so progressive it kind of makes me wince, but it gets the job done.

Now the rest of the Code of Conduct is good and reasonable. Kind of along the lines of… Don’t be an asshole, try to help your friends, be a good citizen, etc. No problem there. But, you know, that God thing, so I simply crossed off God with a subtle pen stroke, and signed it. Easy peasy. But when I handed the form to my daughter, she was not happy.

“MOM OH MY GOD WHY DID YOU THAT CAN’T YOU JUST LET IT GO WHO CARES ANYWAY OH MY GOD YOU’RE EMBARRASSING ME WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ANYWAY YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE…!”

If you have a daughter of similar age, you know what that sounds like. And I looked at her, and I saw the look on her face, and for a moment I questioned myself. I felt sorry for her for having a mom who can’t just let things go. I remembered when my own mother wrote a many-page letter to my teacher explaining how Columbus hadn’t discovered America. I thought maybe I was pushing too hard for something that didn’t really matter. I wondered if I should stay out of it, because it wasn’t my camp form, it was hers, and she isn’t as committed to anti-theism as I am, nor should she be at this age. I thought about printing a new form and leaving it as is.

But then, no. Because it said to read and discuss it. And they asked for my signature, too. And it’s a promise. And my daughter is an agnostic. She can’t promise to serve God any more than she can promise to serve Ronald McDonald. She can promise to try to be good and kind and helpful, but she can’t promise to serve God. She wouldn’t even know what that entails.

And I realized that no, it doesn’t really matter what the Girl Scouts think. She was right. It’s none of their business how we feel about God. On the other hand, it’s a promise. It’s her signature. It’s her word. And your word is something we take seriously in this house. Promises matter in this house. We may not believe the way Believers believe, but we believe in lots of things, chief among them the idea that if you aren’t living honestly, you’re not living right. So if you’re going to put pen to paper and promise something in this house, you better make damn sure you understand what you’re promising and actually intend to follow through with it. That’s a house rule. You can curse. You can stay up late. You can bicker. You don’t have to eat all your vegetables. But you’re going to stand by your word and that’s that.

So we submitted our forms, and I hope they ignored them. If they think the pen slipped, so be it. But I can’t make any promises to a deity that I don’t think exists. That’s why God wasn’t mentioned during my wedding ceremony and I’m very glad I didn’t get chosen for jury duty. Not because I want to make a big deal out of it, but because I would have to make a big deal out of it. Because I don’t take promises lightly. So there.

 

In the Summertime, When the Weather is Hot

School’s out, and that means fun for all. Or fun for some, apparently, if my Facebook newsfeed is to be believed. Lots of pool pics. Lots of beach pics. Fun abounds. And we’re not entirely immune. I mean, we’ve been to a few pools. My wonderful aunt (who’s been very generous with her time AND the reason I have a laptop to type this on right now) has a pool. So yeah, we’re pooling. We pool. But most of the time we’re just here. The ten year old has been acting like every mean girl antagonist in a teen movie, which means my three year old son, who is part mynah bird, has also been acting like every mean girl antagonist in a teen movie. And that’s getting old FAST.

But I’m really trying to get out there and enjoy the season, which used to be my least favorite. The Pennsylvania winters have made me appreciate the Pennsylvania summers, even with all the ticks and humidity and humidity and ticks. The humidity is also terrible, and did you know there are ticks? We’ve been visiting gardens and attending free concerts and mini golfing and engaging in a lot of other activities I would never do without children. Oh, and of course kayaking, which I do despite the fact that I have children. No more of that for a while, I think, as the heat of the morning is still enough to lead to blisters. I’m considering paddling gloves, but who wants to wear gloves in June?

The summers here are the summers of my youth. Purple clover and chicory along the road as I drive to the farm stand to pick up the second batch of kirby cukes I will discard before pickling. (This time I even have mason jars! But realistically, it probably won’t happen.) As dusk moves in, the smell of honeysuckle perfumes the air. (It isn’t subtle. It’s like being trapped in an elevator with a librarian who’s just visited a candle store. Does that make sense to you? Well, it makes sense to me.) Then the frogs start their throat-singing and the lightning bugs smear the sky with neon light. Storms rumble through in waves. (I hope, but don’t pray that the noise won’t wake the kids.) It’s just summer, the way I remember it, but never particularly liked. But it does have that softness. The wind doesn’t slap. The trees aren’t nearly as depressing. You know how it goes. You’ve seen trees.

Summer is all about my mom, because I had her all day long. She’d partially hand over the cooking duties, having my father grill chicken from time to time, which I would never eat, due to my aversion to bone-in meats. Yeah, I always lost weight in the summer, between the grilling and the 14 mile hikes my parents strong-armed us into taking. But I still have happy summer food memories. Sugared tomatoes, sour cream cucumbers and that jello peach dessert I adored, for some reason. No one in my family will eat that stuff, but I make it anyway. Because it brings her back a little, you know?

The week before she died, my cell phone broke, so I lost all her voicemails. But I just recently found a voicemail on my computer, through Comcast or Xfinity or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves these days to try to run away from the name that we associate with SUCK. Anyway, it’s 7 whole seconds.

“Hi Laura. Uh… call me back. Bye.”

It’s good. I’m keeping it. It’s important to me. But peach jello makes an even greater impression.

Anyway, what else, what else…

Oh! I applied for a job and didn’t get it, so there’s that. It was an insignificant part-time work-from-home position editing web content (but I was really amped about it in my cover letter, er, email, because I’m pretty sure the bosses are 25 and appreciate that kind of youthful enthusiasm). Anyway, there was probably someone out there with a better feel for millennial language, and I was passed over. But I was invited to submit galleries ($5 a gallery!). What kind of galleries?

“Galleries about luxury items, homes, products, etc. Funny Spongebob galleries. Blake Lively galleries. Please make these specific to her for instance her with Ryan Reynolds, on Gossip Girl, her style, etc.”

It was only my strong desire to recoup some of the security deposit on this place that prevented me from putting my fist through the fucking wall. Also, what a well edited request!

 

So I submitted the galleries, because…

 

image

 

 

Sunless Saturday (Sorry For Stealing Your Song Title, Fishbone)

I miss my mom. I miss my grandmom and my other grandmom and her mom even more. I miss my grandpop, but not as much, because I didn’t know him very well, but I miss him being out there in the world. I miss my uncle like crazy. My other uncle less so, which, again, might sound mean, but it’s just the way it is. I miss my cats. I miss my old Celica, the view from my deck in Boulder, Colorado and my figure from 1998. All the things I’ll likely never see again.

But my mom. Man, that one just stings every damn day. And always worse at Costco, pathetically enough. But it’s where we went shopping together when I moved back. I nudged her into buying those cookies by agreeing to take half. I shopped there for supplies for her last birthday party and I shopped there for the next birthday party, which she wasn’t alive to attend. And now every time I go I look at the cookies and think to myself, “Too many for us. Mom, will you take half.” “Oh, twist my arm,” she says in my head. And then I look around at all the other families shopping together and want to collapse.

I want to offer encouragement to others who may be hurting, but sometimes I just can’t. I can’t say it gets better. For me, it hasn’t gotten better. It’s gotten worse. It’s just been that much longer since I heard her voice. I’m that much lonelier. I keep losing more and more things and people and they’re never replaced.

At this point, a lot of people might suggest I get help. If it’s paralyzing you, the grief, then it’s time to get help. But it’s not the grief. It’s everything. It’s my life. I want to change it. I want to make it good. I keep trying to make it good, but it never gets there.

So yeah, my doctor talked to me about maybe trying something, after discovering my body runs on nothing but cortisol and peanut butter. She suggested a prescription. I said no. She suggested herbal supplements. I said yeah, whatever. But then I changed my mind. I decided a nice little pharmaceutical solution might not be a bad idea. And not to make me happy. Pills don’t do that for me. Just to make me numb. To take a vacation from caring too much. For my kids’ sake. I’m not the first housewife to put all her needs aside to care for her family. I’m aware that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And like I said, I do want to change that. But until that happens, I thought maybe I could use some help doing it pleasantly and efficiently. That’s what meds do for me. They put me in Worker Bee mode. They let me perform all the necessary duties of an unfulfilled housewife without wanting to run away. And until I figure out another way, it may be the best short-term solution.

Not that I’m looking forward to it. None of them are perfect. They all screw up something. And believe me, I’ve tried a bunch. Prozac, Wellbutrin, Serzone, Neurontin, Trazodone, Effexor, Buspar, Nortriptyline, Lexapro, Amitriptyline, Anafranil, Xanax, Ativan, probably some others I’m forgetting. Most for just a few weeks or miserable days. Can’t stand any of them. Some were far worse than others. But in 1998 and 2007, I kinda needed them for a few months. And then I didn’t. Temporary brain vacations. Ideally, I’d just go to a spa for a couple months, but that’s not going to happen. If I had anyone reliable to leave my kids with for a week, I wouldn’t need a break to begin with.

But the doc never called me back. So I called again. And again, she didn’t call me back. So…. maybe not?

I miss a lot of things. I miss my mom. I miss my youth. I miss my best friend, who hasn’t really cared about anything I’ve had to say in at least fifteen years. I won’t point fingers. It’s not his fault. It’s certainly not God’s fault. It’s one of the few things that isn’t George Bush’s fault, although a better economy might have changed my situation a bit. It’s on me. And it’s my job to change it, or at least deal with it better. I just wish I had a little more energy and a little more hope.

When God Hands You Lemons

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/05/07/310104315/faith-drives-a-father-to-create-a-test-for-childhood-cancer

This morning I heard a nice story on public radio about a lovely family and their struggle with their child’s cancer. They’re trying to develop software to help detect retinoblastoma. And that’s great. Really, it was a heartwarming, pleasant story.

Religion was mentioned briefly. The father said, “I’m a Christian,” as an explanation for why he wants to use this unfortunate situation to help others. And that didn’t really make sense to me, because I’m not sure what that has to do with being a Christian. It seems like a good thing for anyone to do, regardless of their faith. But okay.

Then I clicked on the story on the NPR website. Now this was a slightly different story, heavily focused on the father’s faith.

On the one hand, the story states, “There’s no doubt that a bad thing happened to Shaw’s family.” But then it quotes the father saying, “I believe there is no bad thing done to you.” So maybe there is some doubt? Anyway, this When-God-Hands-You-Lemons approach to life is also intended to keep his son from losing his faith.

But he worried that Noah might have trouble understanding that. “When he gets older and he can think for himself, I don’t want him to get mad at God, or stop believing that there is a God,” Bryan says. So he was determined to find ways to prevent that from happening. He hopes the early detection software will do the trick.

Again, okay. I get it. He’s a good guy. It’s a nice story. The software seems valuable. I have no beef with this family. But why is God necessary in any of this?

What if the cancer didn’t happen for a reason? What if it just happened? How does that change anything? If the cancer was a bad thing that happened, does that mean there would be no point in trying to make the best of it and creating software to help others? Are optimism and ingenuity reserved for the faithful? Wouldn’t it be a useful lesson to teach a child that sometimes bad things happen for no reason and the best you can do is look for ways to use your struggle to help mankind? I mean, an atheist parent never has to worry about her child getting angry at God. With no God to blame, we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try to persevere just like anyone else. Do atheists not care about their fellow man? Of course we do. Instead of looking for God’s mysterious lesson in our lives, we just find our own way. We also look at setbacks as opportunities. We also try to use our pain to help others. These are human qualities. You don’t need God to do any of this.

My friends often say “God gave me the strength to finish packing” or “Then God sent a friend to my house to brighten my day.” Again, take God out of it and what does it change? I’ll tell you what it changes. It changes your appreciation for mankind. If you found the strength to finish packing, YOU found the strength WITHIN YOURSELF to accomplish something. Good for YOU! Now you know you’re capable, even when you feel defeated. Is that a bad lesson? If your friend decided to come visit you, YOUR FRIEND decided ON HER OWN to help you. Good for HER! Now you know you have good friends who are sensitive to your needs. Is that a bad thing? Giving yourself credit? Giving your friends credit? Giving a stranger credit? Why are atheists considered immoral or shifty or mean when they clearly see the beauty, strength, resilience and generosity in mankind? Why do theists insist on giving the glory to God? The glory is everywhere! The glory is in you! Isn’t it amazing? Being human and recognizing the beauty of the world, recognizing the power within yourself, recognizing the overwhelming strength of a community committed to a good deed… That’s no less glorious than your God. And it’s real. And it’s here. And it’s inclusive. And it doesn’t judge. And it doesn’t turn its back. And you don’t have to pray to it. You just have to live it. Faith in God is like a fancy garlic press. You can actually survive just fine without one. In fact, your meals might taste better.

P.S. Fuck you, Supreme Court and your bullshit these days.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/05/supreme-court-prayer_n_5266930.html

“…attendees at the council meeting may step out of the room if they do not like the prayer.”

Because nothing makes a citizen feel like part of his/her community and the political process like being welcome to leave.

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