Empty Spaces

Maybe I’m just sentimental. Or maybe I’m getting old. It seems like I see more gaps in life, empty spaces, that I don’t recall seeing before. Could it be I just wasn’t looking?

My father passed this year and it’s a void I feel keenly every day. But aside from that, I see these vacant spaces  in my days; not people, rather a feeling of emptiness that wasn’t there before. Or was it? It’s not necessarily a sad thing. I just feel like I’m missing….. something.

Now I can’t say I’m hard done by. Life has been kind to me. I have an abundance of friends (ok, not an ‘abundance’ really but I don’t like a lot of people so I’m good with rationing the friends list) I have a lovely and loving family – and I like them, so life is good. (ok, I’d like a little more material wealth but who wouldn’t?) I guess what I struggle with is why do I feel like I’m missing something? And no, it’s not the material things I miss. It’s deeper.

Spring is now here and I wake to the sounds of birds chirping; calling at daybreak, and the fact that they wake me from a good sleep doesn’t bother me. In fact, it makes me smile.  I go for a walk and revel in the sounds of silence,,,,,,until the traffic picks up and breaks the trance. I get lost in a beautiful song on the radio….or in my head. I’m seeing and feeling things that were always there but never before had such an impact.

Ok, I get it now. I think what I’m missing is the ‘peace’. The tranquility, the solitude, the escape from a busy, noisy, angry world, is a relief; a gift really. One so rare to find and even more rare to be appreciated.  That’s what I’m missing. How do we recapture this ‘peace’?

The world is not a pretty place right now. Jobs are scarce, food and fuel costs are through the roof, violence is on the rise, people are stressed, world leaders are idiots, and society is scared. What isn’t wrong?

Well, actually, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, music is still there to soothe a tired heart, and most importantly, we all have people in our lives that matter to us…people to whom we matter. (Man, I am getting soft) Or maybe I’m just seeing things clearly for the first time in a long time, maybe forever.

The birds chirping are a reminder that there is always new life. The stormy days invariably lead to sunnier times. And there’s nothing a good song can’t fix! The idiots running our nations,,,,well, that is a sorry state, sadly one that can’t be changed. (Maybe that’s why someone invented liquor….or weapons)  And those we took for granted for a life time are now just beautiful memories in our hearts and empty places at our table.

Life today is so very challenging. We have to keep reminding ourselves that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – don’t lose hope.  From something bad can come something very good – find it. You get what you give, and if that’s not a slap in the face to all of us we are brain dead. Life is a cycle we need to work through. It isn’t easy but it is so worth it. Now go, find that peace we all need.

Sweet Revenge

I do not consider myself to be a vengeful person. I disagree wholly with the whole ‘an eye for an eye’ premise, and I think ‘getting even’ is a waste of energy because you never really feel quite satisfied that the end result is indeed ‘even’. That said, I occasionally find it hard to turn the other cheek.

Between Covid and looming war in Europe too many in society have lost sight of simple kindness. I get that we’re all tired; fed up with restrictions, and scared to death that the lunatics running some of the worlds’ nations will employ chemical weapons, annihilating masses of innocent people (Because having to flee their homeland isn’t bad enough….Have we learned nothing from past wars?) We all want justice, equality, freedom of choice, and the right to live a peaceful existence, and when these rights are threatened, as they have been of late, we cave, giving way to road rage, bully tactics, and downright ugly behaviour.  And rather than blame our own weak character, we blame Covid, or world events, or the economy, because we’ve reached the end of our rope, and God forbid we should look at our own coping skills.

Covid has been blamed for bad service, bad manners, bad attitudes and bad behaviour, and rather than work to correct these behaviours, we instead look to deflect the blame, or worse, we lash out to ‘even the score’.

I read recently, a story about a grandmother who’d been wheeled out of a hospital to await the arrival of her grandson, who’d been summoned. It was a bitterly cold winter day and she was left outdoors in nothing but a hospital gown. Now one might ask, ‘what kind of nurse/orderly in their right mind could do such a thing?’  Where is the respect for our fellow man? Where is their conscience? Doesn’t that breach any number of hippocratic oaths taken when they joined the healing profession?

This particular story resonated with me because just days before, my elderly father was victim to a similar inhumane treatment. He’d been taken to hospital by ambulance the night of a winter storm. Despite instructions to call a family member when he was to be discharged so they could arrange transportation, he was unceremoniously dumped into a taxi at 5am and sent on his way with no contact to the family. He is visibly unable to walk without assistance, i.e. he needs a walker, which he didn’t have. And because he’d been taken by ambulance he had no boots on, no gloves, nothing to protect him from the bitter temperatures. In addition the snow plows had not yet managed the sidewalks near his building so the taxi left him a block from his home to navigate the icy streets in the dark, without his walker or boots or gloves. Isn’t that a lovely way to treat our elderly? So I ask again, where is the conscience of these people, the nurse and the taxi driver? Are they to blame, or is it Covid? Talk to any client facing professional now and they’ll blame these very behaviours on the pandemic.

I have a problem with that. Exhaustion and fatigue  can be responsible for many things but unconscionable behaviour is the responsibility of the individual, and there is no justification for it. It all comes down to character, and as difficult as it is to maintain our composure under challenging circumstances, how we ultimately choose to behave is just that, choice.

That these individuals made the poor choices they did speaks to their character…or rather lack of it. And as much as it might satisfy our frustration to ‘make them pay’ or ‘even the score’, it wouldn’t change the outcome. In fact, it would just render the rest of us as inhuman as them, and we don’t need more of that in society. Pity them. Pray for them. Do what you need to do to help them see the error of their ways but don’t look to revenge because that’ll just prolong the ugliness. The best revenge is just about doing it better.

That said, I wouldn’t mind watching these individuals slide bare-assed down a razor blade and land in a pool of iodine…….but I’m not vengeful……

My Father’s House – One Last Time

Original publication date June 16, 2019 

On this Father’s Day, I wanted to acknowledge my own father for giving me that which he never had as a child. Safety, security, a home; my fathers’ house was all these things to us, and more,,,, it wasn’t that way for him.

His youth was spent running with his family from the horrors of the 2nd World War. His ‘house’ was a series of bomb shelters, barns, train stations and temporary camps. He had few articles of clothing, one pair of shoes, and food was limited, but unlike many he had his family, and it is that which made him feel rich. From the time he was 9 years old war ravaged his homeland and he would be almost 30 before he felt the security of his own home again, on another continent.

As an adult he had a new life, a new wife, and three children. He had no education, thanks to the war, yet he managed to learn several new languages just to get by. He acquired skills (self taught) that would secure him a job and provide for his family. We had food, clothes, a car, all the basic necessities of life, but it didn’t stop there. He gave us so much more.

My father loved tradition, still does. Holidays were fun and festive. He made special foods. He loved to sing. He loved to dance and music was a staple in his house. He loved to read; had an astute mind and could carry on an educated debate, intelligently, and at the same time he could laugh deliriously at the antics of the Three Stooges or Bugs Bunny. He loved chocolate and red wine, and he taught us how to make traditional Pickled Herring for Christmas.

When we were children he would take his vacation from the factory he worked in to take a job as camp counsellor, so that we could go to summer camp. He couldn’t afford to pay for us and traded off his own labour so that we could attend.

He taught us how to skate and how to polka, and no one can tango like my dad.

He enjoyed our school friends and welcomed them to our home, always.

He played Santa on Christmas Eve much to the delight of his nine grandchildren and on every birthday, he sang the loudest (a little off key, but still, the loudest)

He had a green thumb, plants thrived under his care. He loved animals, all of them. In fact he had a tremendous respect for all living things.

He gave us many things, among them a safe and loving home in which to thrive, and for a man who had so little himself, he gave so much.

That my siblings and I are all established, independent and raising families of our own speaks to the value of his life lessons. He taught us to be honest, fair, and kind. He taught us to love, and to forgive. He taught us the importance of family and friendships. He taught us to work hard and play harder. He taught us to respect each other and most importantly to respect ourselves.

Finally, after 89 years he can relax and reap the benefits of his efforts. His was a long hard road and his life of tireless labour made our road so much easier. How do you acknowledge a lifetime of sacrifice in just one day a year? You can’t. We can only live our lives by his example. So we pass on his recipes to our children. We sing with them, we dance, and we make a point to get to know their friends. We even put on a DVD of Bugs Bunny every now and again, just to hear him laugh. We now do what he did, because he did it so well. My fathers’ house was a wonderful place, and he a wonderful man, deserving of so much more than one day a year.

Fast forward to February 2022

My Dad passed today, just 2 months shy of his 92nd birthday. His children and grandchildren, all of us, are so very grateful he was given a long and healthy life in this world. That said, it doesn’t lessen the devastation we feel at the loss. This is a man who truly made a difference in this world and our lives will never be quite the same. He lived a life of honesty, integrity, faith, and joy and his time here was a gift to many. We love you dad, always and forever and now finally after 80 years you can once again run freely through those Poppy filled fields in Lithuania, back into your mothers loving arms.

I think I can actually feel my heart breaking.

.

Grief

Grief. Never has a five letter word born such broad definition, because no two people define or express grief in the same way. At some point in life we all have to bear grief, some more than others. And we all deal with grief very personally. I have several acquaintances who’ve lost partners and I marvel at the disparity with which each copes.

One woman lost her husband of many years to a lingering illness. When he finally passed she expressed little outward grief. Perhaps she mourned over the length of his illness and was prepared for the end. Or maybe she grieves deeply, privately. She may also just be a very pragmatic person who simply dealt with an inevitable life event in a rational way.

Among my friends several have lost someone close to them over the past few years and I feel compelled to reach out. Sometimes I wonder if that’s my calling because quite inadvertently I happen to be the one nearby for them to lean on. (Surely that’s not coincidence) Some need only words of support, others, an emotional shoulder, and the duration of need varies. Fortunately most survive; they regain their strength, and while life will never be quite the same, they go on, because they have to, if not for themselves, than for others.

Grief takes its’ toll not just on the immediate loved ones, but also on those who provide support, so how quickly they recover from their loss has a ripple effect. Some people never recover from the loss of a loved one despite the efforts of their support system. Professional help is necessary but not always effective because there are those who simply cannot go on and it’s in these situations that supporters have to step back. You simply cannot heal someone who doesn’t want to be healed. A big part of helping another find their way is learning when to let them go it alone, and it’s only then that you realize just how much of yourself you invested in their healing.

I’d like to think I’d be the pragmatic type because death is a part of life, but of course we never know how we’ll react until faced with the reality. I do know that grief is a process, and the process may be different for each of us, but it is still very necessary. No one escapes grief. It is a natural part of human life and understanding that it is a cycle of life helps with the healing. Grief can consume you or heal you, and the outcome you select is very much choice.

When is enough, enough?

At what point do we stop and ask ourselves just how far we are willing to go to get….well, everything we want, and when we do, if we do, is it enough? Or do we raise the bar, again?

We put a man on the moon in 1969, a lofty goal and tremenmdous achievement, so one would think we would’ve satisfied our need to explore space, but no. It doesn’t stop there. Now let’s go to Mars. Why, just because you can? It’s inhabitable so we will never be able to live there, although there is talk of man ‘relocating’ to other planets. (Maybe if we stopped abusing nature and destroying the planet we’re on we wouldn’t have to look elsewhere for survival).

I have, on more than one occasion, been the patient to a medical professional who expressed more interest in my ability to pay than in helping me heal. We’ve all been there; herded like cattle from room to cubicle until eventually the ‘doctor’ breezes in, takes one look, pronounces you ‘doing good’, bills your medical plan, then moves on to the next victim. The goal is to cram as many patients into a day and maximize on billable opportunities. Guess it wasn’t enough to just have a practice that helps heal people.(When did profit take priority?)

Online technology is a wonder of science. It has automated everything, giving us immediate access to anything and everything, fast and convenient. Isn’t that enough? Enjoy the perks of obtaining information at your finger tips, but no. We need to go further. Let’s automate everything, even the most basic tasks, and when we do it is without any thought as to how we replace those jobs. That’s because the ‘creators’ of the newly automated process stands to make money today, now….and the impact of how this could negatively affect society is not his problem. Nor does he care. Grab the profilt and run.

I worry about a society that is so driven by the need to constantly outdo themselves for greed and glory. (Does anybody really like over-achievers?) Can’t we be satisfied with the knowledge that we are capable of these great feats of technology but focus our energies on things that benefit humanity, now? Before you send a man to Pluto how about you solve world hunger, poverty and racism? Isn’t that worthy of investment and research dollars?

And if you truly bought in to your hypocratic oath as a medical professional, how about actually focussing your practice on the healing of others instead of the ‘building’ of your business? Isn’t the ‘healing’ enough?

And just because we can automate everything doesn’t mean we have to. Our addiction to technology has already turned many into computer geeks, introverts and social misfits. I defy you to find a teenager today who can carry on a verbal face to face conversation.Guess opening your mouth and just talking wasn’t enough.

When will we feel we have enough, have done enough, and can just be happy with life?

Maybe never.

The Aftermath

With the global rollout of vaccine many are now focusing on other aspects of the pandemic, namely, the aftermath, because there’s bound to be one.

Confinement to our homes and immediate families tested all relationships and I suspect we’ll see many ‘partings’ for those couples that were borderline committed before Covid. And I hope we’ll see a resurgence of good old family values for those who used this period of confinement to strengthen family ties. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a baby boom? It’s said this is our generations war and the last major war presented a population explosion. These last 18 months people had to find things to occupy their time so I guess a baby boom would be one of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic.

Psychologically it’s had a tremendous impact; some demographics more than others, and all those born during Covid will form a new and unique generation. (and thank God, cause I’m so sick of these millennials!)

Retail as we knew it has changed. Online shopping has become the norm and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing because the little guy can’t compete with online giants like Amazon so our charming ‘Mom & Pop shops’ may be a thing of the past. (this leaves us at the mercy of merchandise that is mass produced) Plus, like many of my ilk, I enjoy the ritual of shopping. It’s an outing, an event, and browsing online just doesn’t do it for me.

Employers have realized which of their employees thrive in the office environment and which can still produce working from home, giving them cause to rethink their bricks and mortar. (I wouldn’t want to be the holder of a lot of commercial property right now…I suspect a lot of office leases will not be renewed)

Construction has boomed and the housing market has taken off everywhere. And travel has changed. Luxury cruises and excursions abroad are still met with hesitancy. People are still nervous and anticipating staying close to home in the foreseeable future so there’s a renewed interest in investing in home. (Yet another perk of Covid)

Certainly society has changed; ‘people’, maybe forever. And that’s a good thing. We’ve witnessed displays of kindness and compassion for our fellow man because when it really mattered we all came together, and society before Covid was seriously lacking these personal acts of consideration.

I suspect we are nowhere near done with this global pandemic, but I’m optimistic that we’ve gotten a handle on it, and I’d like to think we’ve learned from it. Stock markets will rally. Businesses will open or re-open. People will venture out again. Retail will survive, and employees will re-invent themselves for a new business environment. All will be well with the world again but I think the most valuable lesson here is that we learned to value what really matters in our world, the people.

The aftermath of a global crisis doesn’t have to be bad. The sun will rise again, the waters will calm, and a new day will dawn, one with hope and opportunity so let’s use this lesson wisely. Remember what brought us together, kept us strong, and strengthened our resolve….before we slip back into old habits.

Look into my eyes

The eyes really are the window to the soul. I’ve always made it a point to look directly into a persons’ eyes when speaking with them. This has, on occasion, unnerved some but I defend this practice for two reasons. One, making  and holding eye contact ensures you have their attention, and two, looking into someone’s eyes is the only way to really ‘see’ the person, in all sincerity.

People often put on a façade; a ‘game face’, if you will, to accommodate the audience or situation, ie, they try to project the image expected of them in the moment. This is often to camouflage their own vulnerability; hide their pain or sorrow or grief. Most people are uncomfortable revealing their emotions too readily because it potentially exposes what they perceive as weakness within themselves.  (The whole, ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘learn how to hide your feelings’, rules)

Letting ourselves feel and express every emotion, happy or sad, is one of the gifts that comes with being human. How often have you asked someone how they are, and gotten a half – hearted response; ‘fine’? You know from the answer, they are not fine at all. Take it a step further.  Look them in the eye when you next ask and you may be surprised to get an honest answer. You may also get appreciation for expressing sincere interest cause let’s be honest here, most of us ask about another out of habit and usually don’t care what the answer is. Looking directly at a person when posing a question forces honesty. They can’t look you in the eye and lie, not without squirming and giving themselves away – the soul doesn’t lie, and the eyes are the window to the soul.

I’d like to think that if we all took the time to genuinely look at another we’d change our behaviours in a positive way. If you look into the eyes of the obnoxious sales clerk, you might see that they’re nervous on the job, possibly insecure about approaching you. Wouldn’t that temper your reaction to them?

If the abuser looked deeply into the eyes of their victim, be it a child, spouse, dog, etc, would they still strike them? I believe they would see fear, pain or disappointment, maybe they’d even see the reflection of themselves in those eyes – would it cause them to pause, reflect on their actions? Not making eye contact makes the victim anonymous giving the abuser a guilt free conscience. Staring right at them is like forcing a mirror into their face and odds are they won’t like what they see.

If you look into the eyes of the coworker who’s testy or moody, maybe you’d see fatigue, or sadness (never presume to know what goes on in the life of another) Maybe they are unwell, or are having problems with a child, spouse, parent, finances. Maybe they’re unhappy with their job. Looking directly into their eyes when you ask tells them the question isn’t just lip service; you really sincerely care how they are, and while it’s not an invitation to get their life story, it does resonate in their minds that we live in a caring society.

It has been my experience that looking directly into someone’s eyes invites trust. Granted, it’s also made me the confidant of many, and sometimes the burden of hearing another’s story takes an emotional toll but I wouldn’t change my strategy because looking deeply into the eyes of another opens the window to my own soul letting them know we are all weak and vulnerable and loving and caring, and very humanly beautiful.

Here’s to looking at you, kid!  (ok, shameless pilfering from the classic, ‘Casablanca’, but I had to do it)

Death by Spandex – the Rerun

Covid has still managed to dominate my days as I now have to help with the care of my young grandchildren. This allows for lots of play time with my little ones (and I wouldn’t trade that for the world) but leaves me little time to write, so once again I searched my archives and decided to rerun an oldie. I wrote this one 3 years ago but for me it still rings true! I wonder how many of you can identify with this?

I’m not beyond admitting that I’ve tacked on a pound or two. Age, menopause, and a relaxed lifestyle have conspired with gravity to humiliate me….but I can’t discount the role spandex has played in this.

I remember watching old shows on television and loving the 50’s styles. Full skirts with crinolines, pencil skirts with high heels, and slim leg pants! They looked so feminine, so I was thrilled when several years ago these fashions reappeared. (everything really is a cycle)

I was excited to go shopping…ok, I’m always excited to go shopping, it’s my ‘thing’ (much to my husbands chagrin) but this time I was really excited because I could now wear the fashions I’d adored.    Or so I thought…..

Time changes everything…..who knew that time would make me well, ‘insulated’?

First thing I tried on was a pencil skirt.  I took a few sizes into the fitting room. I may not fit in to a size 6 anymore but mercifully most fabrics are now blended with some form of spandex for those of us who need ‘forgiveness’.  The first 2 sizes barely made it past my knees so I rifled past the next couple of skirts and grabbed the biggest size. It fit! Ok, I had to do some major yanking to get it there, thanks to the flexibility of spandex, but it fit. (I won’t disclose the size) I tucked in my shirt, smoothed out the skirt and secured a leather belt around my waist, then faced the mirror. I looked like a knockwurst with a rubber band around my middle. I don’t understand it! This style looked fabulous forty years ago – it was a classic – what happened? I look at the label in one of the skirts and note that that it’s a blend of fibers with only 5% spandex. Ok, there’s the problem

I peel off the skirt, pull on my leggings and leave the fitting room, morosely handing my selection of skirts to the attendant (a sixteenish, size 0,,, really?) who smiles and cheerfully asks if any were the ‘one’. I shake my head no (knockwurst can’t speak) and trudge back into the store.

As I rifle through the racks of clothing (I feel it’s my responsibility to buy something,,,,,my husband will wonder what’s wrong if I don’t) I find myself constantly coming back to my old favourites, leggings. Out of curiosity I reach inside a pair to read the label; 70% nylon and 30 % spandex. Ok, it’s not me, it’s the spandex! Those skirts didn’t have enough spandex. (someone should complain to the manufacturer – this is misleading)

As I continue to scour the racks for anything interesting a nagging thought keeps coming to me. When did I last try on my jeans, my NON SPANDEX jeans, the regular kind. I can’t remember. I do remember that sense of relief when I pulled on my first pair of spandex leggings though – I remember I could breathe for the first time in a long time. I left the store and drove home, determined to face my demon.  After parking the car, I put away my purchases (yes, I did manage to find something to buy, after all) then headed for my closet. It took some rifling but I finally found my old blue jeans. (why did I keep them?) I peeled off my leggings and pulled on the old jeans (God, I’d forgotten how stiff denim was) but they only made it part way up my thighs. I faced the mirror, and in doing so faced the truth…..spandex had tricked me into a false sense of security! All these years I was so sure my figure hadn’t changed…..the leggings slid on without effort, but the reality was I had changed, and spandex (now my nemesis) had camouflaged my expansion! I felt betrayed.

The reality is society is growing and manufacturers are clever enough to know how to keep up with our girth. Lycra in our socks and underwear and spandex in pretty much everything else ensures a comfy fit, but where does it end? If we keep this up how big can we get (how stretchy is this stuff anyway?) before we explode into a big lycra/spandex mess?

I, for one, move for warning labels in all clothing containing any form of elastic. It used to be that we knew we were gaining weight by the ‘fit’ of our clothes but clearly that’s no longer the case. Clothing manufacturers have conspired against us to ensure we keep purchasing. Spandex is a killer – spread the word.

Me, Myself and I,,,the rerun

There are those in this world who are loners, introverts even. They’re not anti-social, they simply prefer to be somewhat anonymous; they are the observers versus the center of attention. I am not one of those people but I do understand their need to be alone.

I love a party, I love a crowd, and I try to keep a steady stream of friends coming through my house because I so enjoy being social, but there’s one person, above all others, whose company I enjoy most.

Mine.

I love time alone with me. I talk to myself. I sing really loud. I crack jokes I find so funny, I laugh until I cry. In short, no one entertains me as much as I do and I thoroughly enjoy my own company. A well-educated gentleman I worked with years ago caught me talking to myself in my office one day and commented that he’d read that highly intellectual people were noted for ‘talking to themselves’. A little embarrassed at being caught enjoying myself with me, I was flattered but let’s face it,,,,,I’m no genius. When I walk in to a room people don’t generally say, “Wow, I bet she’s really smart!” They might, however, say “She’s really fun?” (jeez, I hope so!)

You know the crazy, thing about all this is that I rarely feel lonely. I like the company of just me, myself, and I. The three of us have a ball! We laugh and we talk. We dance, and we sing. We have the same taste in music, so whatever I play, we all enjoy,,,, go figure! We crack open a bottle of wine (because I hate to drink alone) andwe have a girls night, just the three of us. It’s a wonderful friendship and necessary for me, but it does run its’ course. After a couple of hours of revelry I need real people again.

Solitude may be a state of isolation or seclusion, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. In fact, quite the opposite. Being alone with you is a good way to really get to know yourself. You’ve no one to impress, no airs to put on, so the real you emerges. What a great way to get to know who you really are!

It’s human nature to be social, we crave the company of other people, but I think it’s just as important to feel comfortable with yourself just you, alone. For many this is a grim prospect. They’re not comfortable in a solitary scenario. It makes them focus on their ‘aloneness’,,,,, suggesting what, unpopularity? It also causes some to dwell on why they might be alone; perhaps they have somehow pushed away the company of others. You couldn’t be more wrong! (ok, there are exceptions here. There are people who are just plain unpleasant to be around so if you find yourself alone too much, it’s probably you)

For most, time alone is time well spent. We all need to regroup. Time to think. Time to talk…to no one, because no one’s a better listener to you, than you. And no one understands your thought processes, no one knows your vulnerabilities, better than you. Who better to spend quality time with? No pressure, no judgement, just an interested non-threatening participant.

Maybe I’m crazy. Fortunately I don’t care what others think in this regard because for me, time spent alone with myself is therapeutic, enlightening, and fun….which reminds me, I have a great joke to tell myself later…. it’ll kill me, and myself, and I….all three of us’ll really crack up!

Church music (another rerun)

Let me preface this by saying I have no issue with any religion. I was born a catholic and will likely die one and I have only a very healthy respect for all religions. I have no designs on converting anyone nor do I want anyone else trying to convert me. I do however, have some questions about certain practices within specific religions; namely mine, and only because it’s the only one I am familiar with.

The catholic church has its’ traditions, with age old ceremonies and countless hymns, most of them thoroughly depressing. I was always led to believe that my faith is what will save me. If you’re struggling with life, go to church and God will help you. If you’re struggling with guilt, go to confession and God will cleanse your sole. If you’re looking for solace, comfort and peace, you will find it at church, right? I think that’s how it’s supposed to work, but does it? Is that the environment they’re creating in the church? One of peace and love and mercy? Cause if they are, I’m not feelin’ the love!

I went to mass every Sunday growing up and I sang in the choir. I dragged my 3 children to church every weekend (with a pile of toys to keep them quiet while I repented for my sins) but for some reason I never felt happy after attending a service and I could never figure out why.

Then I happened upon a Baptist service on television one Sunday morning and it got me thinking because it didn’t leave me feeling bad about myself when it was over. Granted they too have one’ preacher’ who dominates the service and does a lot of screaming, but it didn’t seem accusatory.  What I found uplifting was their music. They’re all dancing in the aisle, clapping their hands and pounding tambourines – they’re having a ball! The catholic church on the other hand, has put more than half of their mass to music, and I don’t mean happy, upbeat, make you want to come to church, music. This stuff is tuneless, morose, and has the enthusiasm of a speed bump.

Further, the catholic service consists of a lot of lines like “I am not worthy” and “ I have sinned”. I know that, I’m no saint, but do I need to advertise my short comings? I come looking for solace and mercy but I get berated, and told to get on my knees and say 50 Hail Mary’s. And by the way, if we can all talk to God, anytime, anywhere, why do we have to go to confession at all? I’m all for cutting out the middle man so I go straight to the big guy and to date I’ve not been struck by lightning. And who are you to tell me I am not worthy? I lead an honest life, a Christian life, and if occasionally I falter I think I’d repent more effectively without having the snot pounded out of me. I think God knows that, and while I still consider myself catholic, I do not attend regular mass and the big guy and I have both made our peace with the arrangement.

I have to admit there are times when I long to go to a church service. There is a sense of peace you walk away with when you’re in Gods house but I fail to understand why they can’t make it fun. Religion should be a joyous thing. Just once I’d like to see someone boogie up to receive communion, and maybe they should hand out tambourines and maracas to the congregation. Put a little life into the service, get people up on their feet, singing and clapping, celebrating religion instead of fearing it. Make people feel good about themselves and the church, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll come back.

I think we could all learn a thing or two from the Baptists and Gospel Church goers and if I could muster up the courage (and a few conspirators) I’d crash the next catholic service with a mariachi band – bet that would blow the priest right out of his papal clompers!