No God in My Future

Zebra and Parachute 1930 by Christopher Wood 1901-1930

A few weeks ago, on my wedding day, my mother pulled me aside and gave me her blessing, making the sign of the cross over my bowed head. It meant a lot to me – not because I’m religious, but because I haven’t considered myself a Catholic for over a decade. My mother was very disappointed that my partner and I didn’t want a religious Catholic ceremony and her blessing was a way of communicating her acceptance and, in some sense, support of my decision.

Growing up, religion was an organizing principle in my family. My parents, who had emigrated from Mexico, would take me and my three siblings to church every Sunday. It was a special time for our family and something I looked forward to every weekend. We got excited to dress up, we were each given $1 for alms, and then we went to lunch afterwards. Throughout the year we celebrated the major Catholic holidays. During Lent, we abstained from meat on Fridays. During the Christmas holidays, we spent more time setting up the manger and discussing where to hide the Baby Jesus until Christmas day than decorating the tree. As a kid, this is what I thought it meant to be Catholic, to have faith. (What happens next?)

“I’m Under the Weather” and Other White Lies

lake george - georgia o'keeffe

When I was younger, but especially in college and through my mid twenties, I would routinely tell white lies at work and in social situations. Activities I just didn’t want to participate in, spending time with people when I just needed a quiet night in, and many invitations to parties or events where I anticipated feeling awkward and uncomfortable – all were subject to lame, unnecessary excuses to justify my absence.

It might go like this: I’d get an email asking me to something like a dinner party or a performance. I wouldn’t want to go for whatever reason. Rather than just say, “Thanks for the invitation, but I’m not a fan of opera” or “I won’t be able to make it, but can we do something another time instead?” I might blame busy-ness, poor health, or fabricate other plans entirely. I didn’t do it constantly, but I did do it regularly. The stakes for my lies were rarely high – I never missed important family functions, life events of friends, or significant work gatherings – which made the whole thing even more absurd. (What happens next?)

Hard is Ok.

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The most physically painful experience of my adult life was having an IUD inserted. I will neither gross you out nor bore you with details, except to mention that I found it so painful that the next day my groin muscles were incredibly sore from having clenched my thighs into wobbly submission during the procedure. Just happy to have it over with, I didn’t think much of the experience at the time. But in a recent yoga class, I saw something more profound in how I tightened against the pain. (What happens next?)

Ask. You Won’t Sound Stupid.

tiger

When I was twenty-two, I left New York for San Francisco, determined to move past a failed relationship and a failed presidential campaign. I had done all I could for both–all I was able to do at that time–and was ready for my adult life to truly start.

That adult life began with a healthy amount of mooching off family members. I stayed at my brother’s Berkeley dorm, a co-op, while he was out of town for spring break, sleeping in his bed and reading his roommate’s Harry Potter books. I felt like an interloper even though I had permission to be there, so I tried to stay under the radar, eating meals at the taqueria up the street and sneaking to the communal kitchen only for cereal. The cereal and milk were dispensed from large canisters that seemed impossible to empty. Nevertheless, I found a nasty note on the windshield of my car, which I’d parked in one of the many vacant spots in the co-op lot. The author of the note assumed I was a homeless person, and told me that I’d been seen stealing food from the kitchen and that I was trespassing. It was the result of a miscommunication that was quickly cleared up upon my brother’s return, but I felt attacked and too timid to plead my case, so I decided to move on. (What happens next?)

Definitely Not Mainstream
My Life as an Astrologer

mystic-package-1967

“I never thought you would become someone who’d sell spiders and charms.” That was my dad’s reaction when I said I was going to be an astrologer.

He’s not the only person I’ve had a negative reaction from. Years later my unflappable and always-confident therapist told me, “I wish you’d have come to me sooner. I could have saved you from astrology.” When I meet new people and they ask what I do, they sometimes seem surprised when I tell them. I don’t look like what they think an astrologer should look like. No wild tattoos. No eye makeup. My Cher look: missing. (What happens next?)