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.


krista zee said...

can i get an A men!

Awkened by Silence said...