Sunday, July 28, 2013

Talking to God in my car

I suppose I'm what you'd call a Recovering Catholic. I was raised in a culture heavily saturated in good white people christian values; I spent every Sunday morning confused as hell as I tried to decode the important lessons in scripture readings while trying not to end up getting physically separated from my sister, who always started out sitting next to me, but ended up somehow making me laugh uncontrollably at some point during the mass.

My ass bones ached from being planted on splintery pew, and I gazed dreamily at a stubbly-chinned statue of a half-naked man whose alabaster skin was covered in blood and whose rib bones stuck out in a way that I was shamefully envious of. This man, I was told, knew everything. He was the only child of God and Mary, who for whatever reason decided to come together on this one and only occasion and create a superman who would come and go in the blink of an eye, with the sole purpose of cleansing us of our earthly sins by dying a brutal and grotesque death and then coming back in his human form to save us all.

Well, those of us who believed all that, anyway.

Catholicism still confounds me. My relationship with faith has been meandering and complicated; once I got to college, I began to question the things I'd been taught. I had an atheist roommate whose family decorated their Christmas tree with flowers and pictures and had a Pagan sun sitting on its top, rather than an angel. I dated a Lutheran guy. I stopped going to church. It just didn't make sense to me anymore.

I remember having an argument with my mother on the phone after I'd graduated college, but hadn't actually gotten around to leaving my college town just yet. I was working at a hotel and was being forced to work Christmas eve and was trying to explain to my family that no, they didn't have to wait to go to church with me on Christmas day; I was only going to be driving home for the afternoon and they liked the midnight mass on Christmas eve with the candles and shit, and it totally wasn't a big deal if they went without me. My mother wouldn't hear of it.

"Of course you're going with us. We'll just go on Christmas afternoon."
"Mom..." I began, feeling conflicted but also stupidly self-righteous and every bit as know-it-allish as a 23 year old with an English degree working in a hotel in her college town.

"I'm... not going to go. I'm...I'm just not Catholic anymore."

After a stunned silence, my mother responded, "Well, of COURSE you're Catholic! I mean, you were BORN Catholic!"

I considered this and decided not to engage in what I knew would be an argument I'd regret having. There was no point in explaining to my mother that while I was born Italian and Irish, Catholicism was something that I was free to choose, and I was now choosing not to be a part of it anymore. Unlike to me, religion made sense to her. It was important and part of who she was. My turning my back on it was like turning my back on my family, on her, on what she'd taught me. I think I ended up doing something passive-aggressive like coming home way after all the masses were over, just so I wouldn't have to have the conflict. Now I understand more what it meant to her to have me go to church with her.

Anyway. I've spent the last 20 years being really okay with my decision to abandon the Catholic faith. I didn't baptize my daughter but instead chose to have a hippie-inspired naming ceremony in a public park in Queens, serving vegetarian food and listening to latin music from a the boom box of a homeless guy who wouldn't go away til we gave him a plate of food.

Despite my lack of taste for organized religion, I've never stopped believing in God. Or a higher power. Or the Universe. Whatever you want to call it. I don't even know what to call it, really. I have always had faith in a greater plan...maybe some divine blueprint for every person's life that we can't be sure of but can help explain things like pain that seems pointless but ulitimately teaches us something. Or the unadulterated love we can feel for another person. I talk to God a lot. Mostly in my car, when I am alone. It's like free therapy and no one tells you you're actually fucked up and should change things about your life.

For me, it's all I need.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Home Improvement

Sometimes I wonder how it is that the universe saw fit to approve me for a mortgage.

I'm not exactly what you'd call handy.

In fact I'm a girl who, years ago, managed to completely clog the industrial-strength toilet in my NYC pre-war apartment; this building had a septic system that had seen the likes of giant rodents, probably, and chicken bones, childrens' toys, and all manners of assorted trash. Yet with one tampon I managed to bring the efficient superflushing of this well-oiled system to its knees. My super was regularly knocking on my door with a frozen 'Ima Kill yous' hate-smile twisted on his lips (he was from eastern Europe. Please excuse the crude attempt at an accent coming from his face). In other words, I was not a person who should be trusted with her own real estate.

And yet, here I am.

Two years and I've managed not to flood or blow up or burn my little house down; in fact I've even managed to keep it in rather good working condition, save for a few minor repairs I've had to pay the good people of Louisiana to help with, since I tend to look at two wires coming out of a machine and melt into an overwhelmed heap of anxiety.

So when I decided it'd be cool to take up all the stinky wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedrooms of my house, I thought, hey. Here's an opportunity for me to learn how to do household-y things and get that sense of satisfaction that can only come with knowing you did it all on your own (with the help of my boyfriend, of course. Ok, he did most of it).

All in all, it went great. The carpets came up and we hand-laid some very convincing-looking faux-wood laminate in each room. The cats fretted at now having no viable places to revenge-urinate and I learned what it was like to sleep without being violently awoken by dry-coughing up whatever dusty parasites had been living in the rugs for the 20 year lifespan of my home.

All I needed to do now was buy quarter round. For the layperson (because I'm all home-improvementy and shit now), this is that little wooden stick thingy that goes between the wall and the floor and makes it seem like maybe a professional actually installed your floor. I took measurements of each room and brought them proudly to Lowes so that I could purchase the final leg of this very impressive project.

But when I got there, it was awful. I'm not even sure what happened. Suddenly I felt like a small child lost in a giant city, looking up at these impossibly tall skyscraper aisles, packed floor-to-ceiling with HARDWARE. I wandered, mouth slack, praying that no one could tell how confused I was and figure out that I actually did not belong there.

I must have stumbled around for a good ten minutes before a kindly teen employee asked if I needed help. I nodded and mutely palmed my sweaty sheet of measurements into his hand, looking up hopefully. The kid had to do a bunch of conversions from inches to feet on his iphone (DUH, why didn't I think of that?!!) and finally pointed me in the right direction.

But when I found what I needed I realized I would need a special cart to carry the 8 feet pieces of wood to the cash register, and then, omg, get it in my car somehow. A beefy, red-faced contractor in a dirty LSU tee shirt looked at me mockingly and asked if I was actually going to put install all the quarter-round myself. What I heard was, 'Hey there, little lady. How's about you walk those tits next door to Target and buy yourself a nice tea kettle and leave the man-shopping to dicks like me".

I urgently needed to get out of there. And so I did.

I literally speed-walked my humiliated girl-legs out the sliding doors, leaving behind all of my haughty, do-it-yourself gumption behind to rot with the sawdust in the store.

Ashamed, I jumped into my car and sped home, feeling like a world-class asshole.

I'm not sure what came over me. I just got so freaked out.

Anyway. A couple days have passed, and I'm ready to try it again.

Gulp. Wish me luck, y'all.