x119 (thankful for…)

Yes, I know it’s been a while, and I also know I’m a little premature for the ” ’tis the season to be thankful” that inundates the blog world come November. But bear with me here.

As I was lying in bed today, exhausted despite having done absolutely nothing, battling suicidal and otherwise negative thoughts, it occurred to me how thankful I am that we have an intersection of two things in place that allow me to sit in bed all day: the modern mental health movement that has battled stigma and promoted awareness of mental health concerns, and the modern feminist and anti-domestic violence movements. Because, friends, about 60 years ago, nobody would have said to me “I”m so sorry you were feeling suicidal and depressed; are you ok? Is there anything I can do?” 60 years ago my husband (because I couldn’t be engaged to a woman, let alone a black woman) would have called me lazy and beat me or at the very least smacked me around a little bit until I got up and did housework.

Those images from vintage magazines that tend to surface around Facebook – the ones with articles containing quips from various men and titles like “Is it appropriate to spank your wife?” absolutely horrify me. Being mildly paranoid, I tend to assume people post these articles on my wall to torment me because that is pretty much my greatest fear. More realistically, however, they’re probably just doing it because “oh gee isn’t it funny that people used to treat women this way?”

It’s actually not that funny. Especially not when I would have been the type of woman who was getting that treatment, because nobody would have understood what I was going through and assumed the worst of me. Especially not when I know of a woman in my family who was treated that way, simply because that was the mindset back then. The guy that was hitting her wasn’t the stereotypical domestic abuse monster that we would paint him as today. He simply said, “She needed to be smacked around a bit to get motivated; all women do.” Kind of like that quote from Sean Connery in Playboy that everyone always references. And the further you go back, the worse it gets. 100 years ago, I would be lucky to get the shit kicked out of me for being “lazy” around the house. The other alternative would have been an asylum or sanitarium, where you were given solitary confinement and beaten by strangers instead of your loved ones.

Maybe it’s a bit of a morbid mindset to automatically go to something so dark, but there it is. I’m lucky and blessed to live in a society and with a woman who permits self-care instead of encourages domestic violence and promotes the understanding of mental health. I dodged a bullet there.

x118 (stigma)

Last night at the church’s choir rehearsal (I’m back to church; I’ll discuss that in a later blog post) we discussed what would be appropriate to present to folks who are interested in joining the choir at our open house. It occurred to me momentarily to suggest a brief on how the choir is disability friendly for people who might feel they would be held back by being differently-abled. Certainly the choir isn’t friendly to all disabilities – in fact, at a first glance, it might appear that with the steps leading up to where the choir sings or the fact that we rely so much on auditory clues might mean that we’re not disability friendly at all. And while I have struggled a lot with my choir attendance, due in part to spiritual conflicts but also because of my social anxiety, I feel that it’s overall a good place for people who struggle with mental health conditions. As embarrassed as I am to be attached to the hip with my phone, I’ve never been reprimanded for sending a text when I was in crisis. No one has asked questions as I surreptitiously pop an anti-anxiety medication. Certainly it was awkward when it was discovered that I was holed up in the bathroom having a panic attack that reduced me to tears, but I was able to have the space to cope with what was going on. As I said, my attendance has been shoddy, but I’ve been allowed to come and go depending on how I’m able to cope with my social anxiety at the time. There’s never been any pressure to 100% commit or otherwise don’t come at all. 

But of course, I never suggested anything of the sort. Even as I’m working on this blog post now, I’m close to tears. If we were discussing a physical or visible disability, of course this sort of discussion would be welcome. But because of the stigma attached to mental health concerns, nobody wants to hear about how a small church choir can be a good social outlet for someone who can’t work and who gets nervous around large groups of people. I know that by not speaking up, I’m perpetuating that stigma and I’m not making it any easier for someone who’s in a similar position. It’s similar to the way I felt after Robin Williams committed suicide. I had an acquaintance post on Facebook that she had bipolar disorder and was on medication to help cope with the symptoms, and that it was important to be open about this sort of thing to reduce stigma and have less cases similar to that of Robin’s. And while I would feel comfortable posting something like that on my (relatively) anonymous blog or my even more obscure Tumblr, I didn’t have the heart to take that step on Facebook. I have friends who are able to post about personal things, and maybe because of the online community they have cultivated, they are supported by their friends and family. Posting a link to my own blog posts or something written by someone else carries the bonus of being one step removed from the information. But too frequently discussing my mental health struggles on a platform like Facebook? I just don’t think anyone wants to hear about it. It’s one thing to post an image saying “Keep this on your wall for one hour if you support those who struggle with depression or anxiety”. It’s quite another to open up about your own personal struggles with these things. 

Certainly if someone were to ask, or mention that they weren’t sure they could handle the pressure of joining the choir, I would be open. But I’m not yet brave enough to take the first step myself. Perhaps someday. 

x117 (questions)

When I was first struggling with my repressed memory, someone I trusted told me, “Maybe there is no appropriate way to ask about something inappropriate that happened.” Someone I didn’t quite trust told me to “be selfish, ask questions, and not be afraid of people’s responses.” The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center supported my struggle to question. My therapists at the time did not. I was told that there was no point in asking because an offender was likely to lie. I was told that making accusations was inappropriate if it turned out I was wrong. All I know is that, should someone ever approach me and ask if I ever sexually abused them when I did not, I would never be mad. Never. They, in my mind, would have every right to question and I would offer them whatever help I was able. I would treat them with kindness and compassion. I would never accuse them of trying to ruin my life. I would be kind.

Last week I received a phone call from someone who may know something, if not about my history of abuse, about the history of the abuser I suspect. I was so tempted to ask them questions. Tell them that I was diagnosed with PTSD. Ask them what he meant when he said, “Something happened. The other two people involved were able to forgive him; I was not.” Ask them what they knew about December and ask them if they had any information that could help me figure out what was going on.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t have the courage.

I suppose I could ask my new therapist if it’s worth it to reach out. If it’s worth it to contact people who may know something about the history of the abuser. If it’s worth it to ask questions at all. I’m just afraid of being told “no”. Maybe it’s not even that – I’m just afraid that I’ll never have any answers at all. I don’t want to be accused of trying to ruin someone’s life or blackmail someone.

I just want to know.

x116 (hipster housewife)

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of discussion based on the postmodern feminist homesteading movement. It’s been refreshing and I really wish a lot of these resources were as popular – or even existed at all – back when I was in high school. I remember telling my high school guidance counselor and my therapist at the time that I didn’t have any solid career goals – I simply wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (and a foster mom), and whatever work got me financially settled until I reached that point would do. They both responded by telling me there was something wrong with me. For a bright young woman growing up in the era of third wave feminism and attending a school that prided itself on its academic achievements, it was unheard of that I wouldn’t be excited about college and a career and using those two aspects of life to define myself. That line of thinking was reserved for the girls who had a lower GPA and perhaps were already mothers. That line of thinking was reserved for the girls who were “damaged” and would end up on welfare – something nobody in my insular community thought would manifest for me. I was destined for “success” – the kind of success that is measured by expensive, good schools and solid careers that produce money and “happiness”. But at my June 2007 high school graduation date, right before the economy tanked, nobody could predict that this kind of “success” would be hard to come by – for everyone.

I didn’t expect to become a “radical homemaker” or a “hipster housewife” because I had no other options. Did any woman in the 2k era think that? I figured I’d work a little, get married, work a little more, and then settle down, and the whole affair would be a choice. For me, though, there was no choice. Unlike the lack of choice imparted by society in the 1950’s and previous decades, the lack of choice that was fought against by second wave feminists, my lack of choice came from a disability. “Standard”, or career-focused work, was too stressful for me. And honestly? Sometimes work around the home is too stressful for me as well. But, overall, it’s considerably more manageable – and for me, much more rewarding.

I shouldn’t need outside validation to bring home the point that there isn’t anything wrong with staying home and managing affairs there – and to a certain extent, I don’t. But it’s amazing to see how the movement – if you can call it that – has grown and changed since I graduated and started trying to find my way as an adult. After the career-driven 80’s and 90’s, more millennials started adopting the attitude I had – work is not the be-all end-all to life, and there are more ways to be a contributing member of society beside bringing home a paycheck. Of course, this brings to light various racial and class inequalities – if I wasn’t engaged and co-habitating, and if I didn’t have the option of presenting this as a conscious decision my fiancée and I made (and to a certain extent, it is), then I’d be considered a welfare burden. People who come from a lower economic bracket or marginalized race have a lot more obstacles in the way of social judgment when it comes to this area as well. If the roles were reversed and my Black fiancée was the stay-at-home dog-mom and keeper of the home and I was the career woman, the judgment faced by her would be much harsher. Once you’re not white and educated, making the decision to be a homemaker is no longer deemed a conscious one by society – it’s assumed that you had no other choice. And when the element of choice is taken away, that’s when conservatives decide you have less value and deserve less rights.

I like to think of the benefits of me staying home to make sure things run smoothly. Our pets get considerably more attention than they would if we both worked outside the home. I’m able to do a lot of cooking from scratch (and would love to learn to do more), something that I can’t imagine is easily manageable for two adults who commute to a full-time job every day. And while I wouldn’t consider myself a housekeeper-grade cleaner (I actually tried to be a housekeeper once; after about an hour my boss gave me what I had earned thus far and told me to go home), the home is considerably more well-kept and we get much more downtime on the weekends than it would be otherwise.

Despite all this – the burgeoning modern movement that has captivated both liberal and conservative folx, the extensive histories of homesteading as a valuable way to make a living pre-industrialist and capitalist society, the first-person testimonies of stay-at-home moms everywhere – I still find myself having to justify my choice to anybody and everybody who asks. I recall the husband of someone I went to church with stating that he wished he had it as easy as “staying home and playing with the puppy”, while I was struggling with crate training and keeping up with the ordinary housework on top of that. Maybe managing a household is easier for neurotypical or non-disabled folx, but given that statistics show that women do most of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and childcare for their households even when they do work outside the home, I suspect that this husband was blissfully unaware of the weight his wife had been pulling. And unless I’m adding considerable community socialization or increased DIY projects to my schedule, saying things like “Well, this week I baked bread, worked on creating a cute goal chart to help myself live more purposefully, finished my library book and cut down on the time it takes to clean the kitchen without sacrificing the quality of my work!” tends to sound… boring. Like I’m not doing anything with my life. Like I’m struggling to make myself sound interesting. The small goals and accomplishments are the ones that are the least talked about and the ones we’re the least proud of.

So while resources on homesteading and homemaking can be procured in abundance during the current economic and social climate, there’s still a change to be made regarding attitudes toward those who choose to stay home – or toward those who don’t have the luxury of choice and are making the best of things. While the work can seem daunting or a burden to those who don’t have this agency – whether we’re referencing 50’s housewives doped up on antidepressants to curb their boredom and depression or modern single parents who are struggling to provide for their children when outside childcare is inaccessible – for those who desire to work inside the home, what we do is valuable and does contribute, even if we are childless or child-free. It’s not easy, and it matters. And we matter.

x115 (so. damn. hard.)

I try so hard.

I really don’t mean to sound like a martyr. But I try so damn hard. Taking self-esteem classes, reading books that paint housewifery as a radical social movement, making promises that I won’t go through with it.

And yet,

When I’m there,

In the dark theatre,

The thoughts come.

You’re worthless

You should end it

You’re not contributing anything

So just do it

And get it over with.

And then I wonder if the reason I feel this way isn’t my fault.

I had a nightmare Sunday night.

It left me incapacitated most of Monday.

I heard her ask him,

“Did you molest her? I need to know.”

And then I felt myself slipping into a flashback. But as usual, the full-on flashback never hit. I was terrified, so I kept repeating over and over again

It’s 2014 and you’re safe.

It’s 2014 and you’re safe.

And then the nightmare.

He reached over, grabbed my chest, and grabbed my crotch. And I could feel it. The body memories were strong.

“He” was a big scary monster with red eyes. So I know it wasn’t a flashback. Not really.

But I could feel it. I could feel him molesting me. I tried to push him away, screaming

It’s 2014 and you’re safe.

But I could feel it.

It would be so easy to say that my self-esteem issues stem back to that incident. Except I don’t even know if that incident even happened, or when it did. My therapist seems to think something happened. And I now officially have PTSD. But I still don’t know. And in the meantime, those nightmares, which happen about once a month, are pretty much all the trauma I can cope with. Maybe that’s why the suicidal thoughts came. I had a rough week and I just need to work more on the self-care. Try a little harder.

But I’m so damn sick of trying.

I just wish it was easier to convince myself that I’m worthwhile. That I deserve to take up space and waste oxygen. Or, you know, whatever the nice way of saying “take up space” and “waste oxygen” is.

Sometimes I want it to be true. Other times I don’t. I remember someone telling me that I have every right to feel bad, and that I shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling bad. And when I feel guilty for feeling bad? I wish it were true. So it would explain why I’m so fucked up. Or, you know, if I’m being nice to myself, “so it would explain why I feel so fucked up”. So I could say it’s not my fault and I have every right to feel bad. So I could have a convenient excuse.

Hi, my name is Aurora, and I feel bad.

Hi Aurora.

Hi, my name is Aurora, and I get suicidal thoughts sometimes.

Hi Aurora.

Hi, my name is Aurora, and I have nightmares where I can feel it happening.

Hi Aurora.

Hi, my name is Aurora, and sometimes I don’t want my writing to have a point. Sometimes I just want to complain. Or get things off my chest. Get a little release.

Hi Aurora.

Hi, my name is Aurora, and I’m not going to kill myself. Or even cry. Fuck it, I’m just going to eat a bunch of cookies. Because downing an entire box of Oreos is totally appropriate self-care.

Because when you try so damn hard

It uses up a lot of calories. However many calories are in a package of Oreos.

(And maybe a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella.)

x114 (maybe: a radical thought)

I’ve been taking Everyday Feminism’s Everyday Self-Love course to help improve my self-esteem, which is… well, it’s kind of in the shitter. I can’t ever remember having good self-esteem. Maybe before childhood trauma or sexual abuse took place I did. My low self-esteem reached its peak at the age of eighteen when I became severely depressed and suicidal. Not in-your-face-I-have-a-plan suicidal, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer suicidal – while I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be dead, I definitely didn’t want to be alive. I felt like a worthless burden and those feelings intensified when I had to quit my job and apply for disability. Living off of government handouts (because I didn’t work enough to contribute to my retirement fund) in a country full of conservative folks who shame welfare recipients will do that to you.

Today (sometime in June; it’ll probably be July when you read this) I signed into Skype to participate in the group conference call for the Self-Love course. It turned out to be just me, so I had a personal coaching session. And while going through a guided piece of coursework, I had a thought:

What if those conservatives are wrong, and it’s OK to be living off of government handouts?

Radical, I know. But bear with me here.

I can’t work right now. I’m not sure if I even want a college degree, but if I did, I worry that the system is too abelist to allow for me to succeed in attaining one. I’m not sure if this is a temporary thing or if this is permanent. I have been doing better since I started receiving disability benefits, so that could mean that eventually I will feel well enough to return to work. But it could also mean that I do well on a stress-and-trigger free schedule and not on the kind of schedule required to hold down a job. It could just mean that not ever working is the nature of my disability.

Is that really such a bad thing?

I know, I know. Government handouts. Siphoning off taxes from people who actually work for a living and deserve their hard earned money. Buying junk food with EBT cards and getting tattoos, having a fancy phone, and buying beer with government money. So shameful.

But the thing is?

I am still contributing.

Maybe not to society at large. But I keep the apartment clean. I bake bread from scratch. I sing in the church choir (when my anxiety isn’t so intense that I skip rehearsal). I take the dogs on a two mile walk and make sure their needs are met. I blog. Not for money, but I’ve had guest posts featured on Offbeat Bride, A Practical Wedding, and Offbeat Home and Life. I’ve affected people (two people? Maybe three? I jest, but really, I don’t have a huge readership) with the mental health and childhood trauma posts I write. I make dinner. I support my fiancée emotionally and spiritually as she provides for our “baby family” (meaning that we are just starting out on creating a family together, NOT that one of us is knocked up).

The thing is, guys, I truly believe that every person has worth and value. Every. Single. One. I’m the kind of person who could do prison ministry. There are no bad people in my book – only good people who do bad things. Disagree if you will, but as easy as it is for me to apply this logic to others, it was so difficult to apply it to myself. It was hard to think that my (albeit small) contributions were enough to substantiate me receiving government aid. It was hard to think that I was enough.

But maybe I am. And maybe it’s ok to receive handouts. And maybe I have worth, and value, and the things I do have worth, and value.

Just maybe.

x113 (inconvenience)

Isn’t it sad, that I, the survivor, am the one worrying about “inconveniencing” people?

I don’t want to sleep in the house where it happened because it’s triggering.

But I won’t say anything because I don’t want to “inconvenience” the owners of the house who want me to visit.

I want to avoid the person I suspect, because it’s painful to be around them, wondering.

But I show up to the party anyway because I don’t want to “inconvenience” my friends and family.

I want to take his advice, and be selfish, ask questions, and not worry about other people’s responses.

But I don’t. Because I don’t want to “inconvenience” anyone. I don’t want to bring up painful memories, or get people angry, or spread rumors, or make accusations.

I just want to know.

I just want peace.

I just want to stop being an inconvenience.

x112 (bras: a tmi adventure)

Come and go on a TMI adventure with me.

I want to talk about this article that appeared on Offbeat Home & Life last year. The article in question? A woman who’s a 36D ditches her bras. Let’s discuss.

The last time I wore an outfit that required me to go braless for fashion’s sake was the winter semi-formal during my junior year of high school. I wore a totally backless halter dress and it looked great, if I do say so myself. Not long after that, one of my breasts became noticeably larger than the other (about a cup size), and so I was too embarrassed to ever wear something with such a low back again. But I do remember ditching my bra for comfort’s sake (I had gone through a growth spurt and was having a hell of a time sizing myself, so none of my bras fit right) while I had a psych hospital stay. And you know what happened? A nurse approached me and said that it was inappropriate that I was going braless because my nipples were perky, could I please put a bra on? I was pretty pissed, especially since there was a man on the ward who had bigger breasts than I did and his nipples were perky, too. Since when are bras supposed to be for modesty purposes? Apparently a lot of people think they are, because how many damn times have I seen an article about a teenage girl who snaps a selfie while she’s wearing a shirt but not wearing a bra and some “concerned mother” writes her a letter about how she’d better cover up if she wants to date this woman’s son?

I call bullshit.

Can we not slut-shame women who choose not to wear bras? Please?

I think that wearing a bra should be about providing comfort and support. If you’re not getting both of these things from your bra, maybe you should regroup, as I did. Because I’m embarrassed about my uneven ta-tas I can’t ever see myself being as brave as the author of this article and going completely bra-less, but I did decide that I was done with traditional bras and traditional bra sizing, and I was going to be a sports bra girl from now on.

Folks, this may rank as one of the top clothing-related choices I’ve ever made, possibly even topping my quest for more comfortable footwear.

I have a large cup size and a small band size. My chest doesn’t look all that big, though, because technically it isn’t – if you go down a band size, you go up a cup size, and vice versa. So a breast that fits into a 32F bra (also known as a 32DDD) is the same size as the breast that fits into a 36D bra. That being said, most popular affordable bra manufacturers do not cater to large cup sizes coupled with small band sizes. In order to avoid back pain, sensitivity, and other discomforts, I was stuck dragging myself to Nordstrom Rack and shelling out between $30 – $40 for a bra that provided adequate support. And let me tell you, I was sick of it. So after reading that article and thinking, I decided, why not just stick with sports bras? My favorite is an underwire sports bra by Champion that provided great support during high impact exercise. I figured, why am I only wearing this bra when I go to the gym? Why can’t I just wear it all the time?

And so I do. I have two fancy, actual bras – I can’t be sure if they fit correctly because I haven’t worn them in a long time – for special occasions. And I have two Champion underwire sports bras – one in a peach color to wear with light colored shirts, and one in black – that I wear day to day. I decided that my comfort is more important than… I’m sorry, I don’t even know how to describe standard bras or their purpose. Nobody sees them except your partner or maybe whomever does your laundry, so if you want lingerie for sexy times then go for it, or if wearing something lacy makes you feel more confident you can do that too. But I don’t feel like any less of a woman because I sacrificed fashion for form. I just feel more… comfortable. And that’s a great feeling to have.

x111 ([v][e][g]et[a]ria[n])

I became a vegetarian about a month after my 13th birthday. It must have happened in January because my birthday is the 29th of December and I remember eating an ice cream cake and KFC’s popcorn chicken with three of my friends. Another friend of mine had recently become a vegetarian and I was curious about the why behind it. I Googled… well, I can’t quite remember what I Googled. Factory farming? Animals: Barn to Table? Whatever it was, I came upon a website – not PETA; I remember the website was much lower budget and mostly text – that explained how animals are killed if you’re going to eat them. It didn’t sit well with me. So I decided to become a vegetarian.

At first I maintained that it wasn’t about eating animals themselves, it was more about the way they were killed. I told people I would eat meat if I could be certain it came from an ethical source. My dad mentioned a kosher butcher in Milford and I knew my uncle sustainably hunted deer and wild fowl, but that plan never came to fruition. The word “pescetarian” was coined in 1993 but hadn’t gained popularity yet, so at that time in my non-imbibing-animal journey I could still get away with eating fish and call myself a vegetarian. While I did try sushi and crab once, for the sake of the experience, I’ve never liked fish and so avoided it more on the basis of personal taste than anything else. The vegetarian friend who first brought the lifestyle to my attention remembers that, in the early days, I would pick meat out of dishes while still eating what was around it and I certainly didn’t think twice about products tested on animals. I would sometimes eat things made with chicken or beef broth. I was overall pretty lax about my lifestyle – as lax as you can be while still not eating actual meat.

I think, if I recall correctly, between the ages of 14 and 16 was when I started to become more serious. I think it first started with making sure the cosmetic products I used weren’t tested on animals. Not only did I stop picking meat out of dishes and eating soups made with chicken or beef stock, but I cut out gelatin as well. I decided that for me, it wasn’t about the way the animal was killed but that it was about eating something that had a life, so I no longer put the consideration of eating ethically sourced meat on the table. I stopped purchasing leather but with eco-friendly aplomb decided that vintage leather was still passable according to my morals. I was vaguely aware of veganism, its lifestyle still on my periphery, but I dismissed it as too difficult or too expensive.

It was during my brief stint in college that I made the decision to take the plunge. The information provided to me by PETA (because at the time I still found them to be a trustworthy organization with reputable information) suggested that it was, in fact, better for animal welfare to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle (no wool or wool byproducts in addition to dietary restrictions). I was working at the school’s vegetarian food kiosk when a fellow student came up and requested that his dish be dairy free in addition to being meat free. When I asked him if being vegan was difficult, he said he thought it would be until he tried it. “Why not try it and see? You won’t know until you do,” he said as he walked away with his vegan meal. Still dubious, I decided to put off being vegan until I moved back to Massachusetts that January because rumor had it that the campus’ resident vegan activist was having trouble sticking to her diet due to the lack of options and had reverted back to a vegetarian diet while eating at the school cafeteria. When I got home I talked to the same friend who had inspired me to adopt a vegetarian diet in the first place, who was surprised that I had become a more strict vegetarian (we aren’t as close as we were in middle school and so my high school transformation to a more serious version of the diet was lost on her). I decided to finish off all of the still-vegetarian-but-non-vegan food in the house that I had stockpiled and once that was done, officially declare myself animal-product free.

When I first went vegan, Whole Foods was within my grasp and processed frozen foods were often the dominant portions of my menu. It wasn’t until I became more strict with my budget that I adopted a more whole-foods diet (not to be confused with the grocery chain I just mentioned – “whole foods” meaning produce, grains, pasta, and beans). When I couldn’t make my way over to Whole Foods, cheating with items that were not vegan but still vegetarian happened. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. It was less that being a vegan was difficult and more a matter of self control around convenience. The food was there, I was hungry, and I couldn’t be bothered to whip up a veganized version or run down to Whole Foods or Hannaford’s. For the most part, though, I was happy being a vegan. There were restrictions, sure, but it was an important definition of self and I liked being the level-headed vegan ambassador to the world.

It was when I made the decision to eschew the resources of PETA that I started to have my doubts. I would come across well-thought-out arguments from people and organizations that stated no, most animals on dairy and egg farms are not mistreated. The shearing of sheep is necessary and no, it’s not painful for them. It’s unclear whether or not beekeeping contributes to colony collapse disorder but locally sourced honey is generally pretty safe for the bees. And there were other things to consider. Would my fiancée be more amenable to raising vegetarian kids than she would be to raising vegan ones? I always hated the idea of my kids missing out on Halloween. Would people understand that this was a change of conviction and not simply “giving up”? More importantly, would I be able to make that distinction? Would people automatically assume that since I had gone back to being a vegetarian I would be more lax about what I would eat, and therefore would I mistakenly imbibe something I didn’t want to? Did switching from “vegan” to “vegetarian” mean that eventually I would transition back to a fully omnivorous diet – something I am deathly afraid of?

I still don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ve been thinking about all kinds of ways to progress: stay vegan? Become vegetarian? Adopt Mark Bittman’s “vegan before six” lifestyle, and stay vegetarian during the off hours? Be vegan except in restaurants, where I would simply be a vegetarian? “Cheat” only for sweets that are vegetarian but not for savory items? Remain a dietary vegan and still buy cruelty free, but indulge in products that contain lanolin, milk, and honey, while allowing myself to purchase wool? I have a lot of thinking to do. “Vegan” is a label I’ve cherished these past few years, and I hate to give it (and the health benefits) up. I’m just not sure that it helps animals as much as PETA and other organizations claim.

x109 (religion)


It’s a complicated topic, and it frequently leaves me feeling confused and anxious.

From my (seemingly manic) fascination with different faiths, to my fear of talking about it out loud with those closest to me, to annoyance that when I talk about conflicts with my faith people automatically assume or suggest turning toward atheism (not that there’s anything wrong with atheism, but when you make it clear that you’re a person of faith and you’re looking for conflict resolution, not abandonment…).

I haven’t been happy with Christianity since I was a teenager. It’s been there, on the back burner, because it’s easy and it doesn’t require a conversion and it provides a community. It’s like a baby blanket. But it’s just not a good fit (also like a baby blanket).

I tried to find alternate paths that worked for me. I turned toward Neo-Paganism. I even tried to learn about LaVeyan Satanism. I lost my faith and identified as an atheist for a bit. I looked at Muslim hijabis and admired their modesty. I became interested in Judaism. I thought about attending seminary and becoming a minister or chaplain. I looked into Judaism more and found the conversion process to be difficult, particularly when one is involved in an interfaith relationship. I tried looking for a faith that was more gay friendly. I realized I am drawn to more conservative faiths, despite my liberal social leanings, and decided that “gay friendly” was no longer where I drew the line. It occurred to me that had I been born Jewish, I would gladly have taken the path of a ba’al teshuva, but outside that circle I felt at a loss. I realized after a brief conversation that maybe Islam was more accessible than I thought, more compatible with my partnership, and that maybe I should have simultaneously looked into learning about Islam and Judaism so I could make an informed choice instead of appearing fickle. It occurred to me that I was more interested in Islam than I let myself realize.

I know I shouldn’t care what other people think. I know I should do what works for me. But I don’t want people to think that my (seemingly scatterbrained) fascination with faith and theology and religion is based on a bipolar mania. It’s just that, when you reject the faith your parents have given you, there are a lot of options. I have never wanted to be the person who paid lip service to a higher power. I guess, if you’re raised in a faith and reach “adulthood” (read: impressionable teen years) in that faith at your parents’ behest, and then you drop out of church or synagogue or mosque or temple or what have you in your college years because you’re busy and can’t be bothered, and then you get engaged and think “oh crap I have to get married in ‘my’ faith” and “oh crap I have to have my kids raised in this faith” and that decision is made mostly to not upset family members – I guess if that’s what works for you, then do it, although it seems disingenuous to me and not the path I want. I want to enter a faith after research and careful consideration and above all prayerful reflection. While it would be nice to have my children exposed to the cultural aspects of my faith, I don’t want to raise them in it – I want them to have a broad theological education and make their own informed decision. And while perhaps my efforts to educate myself about religion and broaden my theological horizons have seemed flighty or careless in their intent, never have I made a formal conversion to another faith. I was baptized and confirmed Catholic at my parents’ doing, but I went into that state of adulthood in the Catholic church knowing that it was coerced and not for me. I never made a formal dedication to the Goddess in Neo-Pagan tradition. I never purchased a membership to Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. I looked into classes, not to convert per se but to learn more about the faith, but I have not entered a mikvah and made the formal leap into Judaism. I attend services at a local Episcopalian church but when the reverend asked if I’d be interested in becoming confirmed in the Episcopalian tradition I balked, knowing that I was not ready and perhaps may never be. I have never uttered the words of the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith. My standard is that, should I want to convert to a particular religion or declare my intent as its disciple, I must actively practice it as a sort of “intern” and learn about it for a solid year. But there is so much to learn about, so much to explore, that I am often left at a loss.

I cannot, in good faith, see myself as a Christian. And I don’t think I can see myself as a Neo-Pagan. I can, however, see myself as a religious Jew. I can see myself as a Noahide. I can see myself as a Muslim hijabi, or perhaps even a Muslim who adopts secular dress. I can see myself as a theologian, a scholar and lover of all faiths. And I can see myself learning and expanding my horizons and making decisions that may not come in the near future. I can see myself as happy and fulfilled with my choices. In short, I can see me.