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Open Letter to Marc Maron, Day 28 (on why I like lying to myself)

…And in that home, as she paces its many rooms, filling them with this and that, rearranging the furniture willy nilly, throwing the occasional dance party, losing the vacuum and forgetting to do laundry on a regular basis, investigating what she’s lost under piles of dust and junk left behind by others, she will somehow stumble into the hiding place of that one need even greater than a home of her own—a voice of her own.

Over the weekend I came up with the perfect plan for getting some exercise into my life. Three days/week I’m up at 5-5:30 so I can pray and journal before I head to my standing breakfast meetings. So I figured it would be easy peasy to get up at the same time on the days I don’t have meetings and use the extra time to exercise. The alarm went off at 5:30 and I promptly turned it off and set the timer on my phone so I could have 30 minutes more sleep. At 6:00 I set the timer for another 30 minutes. There’s a possibility that there was yet another 30-minute reset but I can’t quite remember. What do know is that when I finally got out of bed I had left myself no time to exercise and barely enough time to journal before I had to shower and get ready for my day.

As I was thinking about how I could get myself out of bed to go write poetry with a friend two days but couldn’t get up to exercise, I thought, “It’s because you’re lazy.” Which I’m not. And I realized as I started to think more about it that “It’s because you’re lazy” was my short-cut, easy answer. Tagging myself with a this-explains-everything adjective was an elegant way of short-circuiting any deep thinking about my resistance to exercise.

I’m absolutely positively not a morning person. And the fact that I can get out of bed to pray for at least 30 minutes and then journal for at least 30 minutes before getting in the shower is a major miracle. So I think trying to add another 30-60 minutes to that prep time was overburdening the self-talk system I have in place to get me out of bed so I could do the first two.

And while that partially explains my reluctance to answer, if I make myself push deeper, there’s actually something else at play. I’ve been there, done that. I’ve successfully lost weight by watching my food intake and exercising so many times and ended right back in the same overweight place so many times that I’ve run out of ways to make myself believe this time will turn out any differently. There is the possibility I will finally figure out how to maintain a healthier weight and exercise regimen this time, but when it comes probability—to borrow from a popular movie franchise—the odds are so not in my favor. It’s not just a physical effort to get myself out of bed in the morning to exercise, it’s an emotional one of the Sisyphean variety.

But is not actually the moral of this particular story. I’m actually more interested in the names I call myself—lazy, spoiled, selfish—so I can get out of drilling down to the scary subterranean parts of myself where my motivation for doing or not doing X, Y, or Z actually lurks. It’s easier and vastly more comfortable to fall back on even the most unflattering characterizations of myself rather than have to deep dive into the ish that’s really going on. It’s easier to believe and reinforce the stories I’ve always told myself at the point of failure than it is to try and understand the reasons for that failure cause one reason begets another reason which begets another reason until I’m excavating a whole effing cavern of neurosis or grief or fear or whatever that I’ve never explore before. I know you’re expecting a rah rah ending, but come on, that ish gets old. This would probably be a good point to remember that practice what you preach is not a bad goal to work toward. Sigh.

Speaking of being overweight (I knew we’d get back here eventually…)

To be continued…

Open Letter to Marc Maron Day 22 (on figuring out why it’s important to understand “my way’)

…We need others to affirm our voices, our right to speak out loud for a good long while before we can finally begin to do that for ourselves. And even then, I for one, still need a refresher course more than every once in a while.

So I go to a Christian church. I’m not quite sure how to describe it as fundamentalist/born-again Christian have become so pejorative (thanks to so-called Christians who haven’t seemingly actually read the New Testament) and I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been churched for a bit really knows what full-gospel means. So perhaps I’ll just say I believe in God, I believe Jesus is the son of God who died to repair our relationship with God, and I’ve given my life to the Lord by which I mean I’m actively working at (and sometimes failing miserably at) having an active and close relationship with God.

That’s all background so you’ll understand when I say that witnessing—sharing one’s story of coming into or being in relationship with God—is an important principle in our church. Jesus did it, the original disciples did it, and so we should do it. That being said, guess who’s not raising her hand when they ask for people to gather on a Saturday evening to share the gospel with people in our community?

My friends and many of my colleagues know that I’m a Christian and that I attend church on a fairly regular basis but it rarely goes further than that. I do occasionally go through a long stretch of using “How can I pray for you” as my Facebook status update, and I will talk about my faith with people in my various communities who are also believers but I’m not big on witnessing to the unbeliever.

mom became a practicing Christian when I was around 13 and all of a sudden I couldn’t listen to secular music or go to the movies, and I went from attending an hour-long Catholic mass to a service that seemed to last all day and that scared the heck out of me. (Not a lot of fire-and-brimstone preaching and talk about demons and such in a Catholic church, at least not at St. Clare’s Roman Catholic Church in Rosedale, NYC.) My mom became a zealot overnight and wouldn’t and couldn’t tolerate anyone who didn’t follow her views.

I eventually left church and it took me nearly 20 years to find my way back. And though I know I’m wired quite differently than my mom is, I fight constantly against the fact that I’m going to turn into an intolerant zealot. I have this fear despite the fact that, while my mom is as obsessive about ministry as ever, I would no longer describe her as a zealot. (No woman who flirts that much can stay a zealot!) I don’t want to be that weird Jesus freak woman. If you ask, I’ll tell you in a heart beat about what God has done for me; I’m just not going to tell you unprompted.

Today while talking to a friend (she was raised Christian but doesn’t practice) about my father’s funeral (which was Christian even though he wasn’t) and her grandfather’s funeral (her grandfather was a pastor) I shared with her that one of the things I learned from my current pastor, and that I take to heart, is that when it comes to talking about Jesus and God that you really have to meet people where they are. As Pastor Clark expressed in our recent annual meeting, the temple at Jerusalem was comprised of multiple types of gathering places that you had to walk through to get to the holy of holies. And not everyone wanted to go to the holy of holies. With that in mind, we’ve reconfigured our service to offer multiple entry points for people so whether you’re a newbie, a seeker, or a long time churchgoer, there is a way for you to meet with God during the service. It wasn’t until my friend and I were finished with the conversation and she said, “That’s quite a witness,” that I realized that I had indeed witnessed to her. I had shared some of my beliefs about faith and about my relationship with God.

I’d stayed away from witnessing because I thought it was only about handing out tracts on the corner to strangers or somehow telling a stirring rendition of my personal story of coming to know God that would crescendo at the moment when the person decided to accept Christ as their savior and we, with joyous tears, recited the sinner’s prayer together. While that’s all admirable and necessary it just seemed too hard and scary to me.

But it turns out witnessing isn’t actually hard for me at all. I had just decided, based on what I’d seen other people do, that I couldn’t do it. What I should’ve focused on instead was how to do it—as Frank Sinatra said—my way. I get excited about stuff all the time and it just bubbles up into the conversation. I don’t make a plan (usually) to tell people about the new podcast I’m into or the book I’ve just read that changed my world. I just let myself be excited and that excitement finds its way out. And, as my conversation today proved, when I’m excited about the things of God, that bubbles out in conversation too. So I just need to let myself be excited and not worry so much about how I’m going to work it into the conversation.

So I guess what I’m wondering now is what other hard things do I not do because I keep looking at how other people tackle them? Why am I looking outward and comparing myself to others instead of looking to the ways that I already do whatever that hard thing is because, chances are, in some small way, I’ve probably already done it.

To be continued…

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