Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Different strokes for different folks"

I really enjoyed this NY Times article entitled "when God is your therapist"

Don't worry, I'm not slamming religion or prayer or anything like that. I just really liked how the author explained WHY and HOW religion works. . . for some people.

Personally, I've found myself in a place where leaving religion is what I need here and now. I'm open to changing my mind on the subject, but for now life is MUCH BETTER without it.

Many of you have seen my posts from recovering grace and probably think I gave up on religion because of the twisted teachings of Bill Gothard and having spent so much time in his awful program and in a independent fundamentalist baptist church that upheld very similar teachings. Maybe you're right, maybe this "ruined" my ability to effectively practice religion. . .

But again I want to fall back on something I truly believe: PEOPLE ARE NOT THE SAME.

As a result of NOT BEING THE SAME. . . the SAME THINGS are likely not to work for ALL OF US. I feel like it's not such a hard concept to comprehend, yet it seems a lot of humanity wants to force everyone into being (insert whatever religious/nonreligious mold you belong to).

But Sarah, where do you draw the line? What about morality? By your logic shouldn't we accept murderers and child molesters and all sorts of evil? After all "they just aren't the same, they're doing what works for them." ?

This is why I categorize myself (partly) as a humanist. Here's a definition that I like: "any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity are taken to be of primary importance, as in moral judgments."

Harm to humanity is where I draw the line. Now of course we're all going to disagree on what actual "harm" is, whether or not that is harmful, so on and so forth. Well that's OK- I'm going to stick with my definitions and you can stick with yours (so long as they aren't harmful. . . ) ;)

I think physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual harm should be avoided at all costs. I think what consists of "harmful" is going to change the more we study ourselves and understand ourselves. I think this is why science is of vital importance and why we SHOULD be curious about how our mind and body function- the greater we understand these things the better we will be able to flourish.

Lets leave that subject alone for a while and move on to this article. . . Here's a few clips that I really liked (the full article can be read here.) Please note this is regarding Evangelical Christianity NOT fundamentalism/similar facets of Christianity. 

"I soon came to realize that one of the most important features of these churches is that they offer a powerful way to deal with anxiety and distress, not because of what people believe but because of what they do when they pray."

I think this is very true- religion can offer a way to deal with anxiety, stress, tragedy and it works really well for some people. Here's why:

"One way to see this is that the books teaching someone how to pray read a lot like cognitive behavior therapy manuals. For instance, the Rev. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life,” one of the best-selling books of all time, teaches you to identify your self-critical, self-demeaning thoughts, to interrupt them and recognize them as mistaken, and to replace them with different thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral therapists often ask their patients to write down the critical, debilitating thoughts that make their lives so difficult, and to practice using different ones. That is more or less what Warren invites readers to do. He spells out thoughts he thinks his readers have but don’t want, and then asks them to consider themselves from God’s point of view: not as the inadequate people they feel themselves to be, but as loved, as relevant and as having purpose.Does it work? In my own research, the more people affirmed, “I feel God’s love for me, directly,” the less stressed and lonely they were and the fewer psychiatric symptoms they reported."
There's a reason WHY religion works for some people and I believe that reason can be explained scientifically. However notice that religion is not the only way to achieve these results in your life. 
"This approach to the age-old problem of theodicy is not really available to mainstream Protestants and Catholics, who do not imagine a God so intimate, so loving, so much like a person. That may help to explain why it is evangelical Christianity that has grown so much in the last 40 years.It can seem puzzling that evangelical Christians sidestep the apparent contradiction of why bad things happen to good people. But for them, God is a relationship, not an explanation."
I agree. Some forms of Christianity work better than others- most likely because they employ things that we need as humans to be psychologically and spiritually healthy. But again, it is my feeling that religion is simply not a requirement to achieve the same results.

I know this article is geared more towards prayer and it's benefits, but I feel like it kind of applies to the entire concept. Religion works for some people- again- THERE'S A REASON WHY. And again I repeat I believe these same benefits can be found outside religion. 

I believe one of the great things about humanity is our diversity- I think this should be celebrated, not condemned. We all need to find what works for us and what we need to fulfill our lives and I believe the answer will be different for each of us. What a relief it is for me to be in a place where I can truly just love and accept people for who they are- I don't need to "witness" to them. I don't need to "convince" them of anything. I don't need to be terribly afraid that they will end up in hell because I didn't do a good enough job witnessing and convincing them to change their beliefs to mine. . . it brings me a level of love and peace I was never able to feel before, I really cannot describe it. 

So that's the tip of the iceberg into my life of peace, love, and sunshine.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Here's a few thoughts I have on pregnancy at the moment (being nearly 10 weeks from my due date:)

Funny questions/statements people make:

Why do people ask the question "Is this your first?" is it because they think you look young therefore this MUST be your first? What does it really matter if you answer "yes" or "no" ? I guess if you answer "yes!" you invite all the horror stories and unwanted advice people feel compelled to give first time moms? That being said, does anyone ever get asked "So is this your 2nd? 3rd? 4th? 10th?" ?

Everyone has a completely DIFFERENT perception of just how "large" you are. On the same day, wearing the same clothes, I have had comments from "You must be ready to pop!" "Are you sure there isn't two in there???!!!" to "You're SOOOOOO tiny!" "Where is that baby bump, I can barely see it!" . . . it seriously cracks me up that people can literally see the EXACT SAME THING in a completely opposite manner!

"So you had a c-section with your first, right?" Ok, first of all I kind of feel like it's not anyone's business how my child exited my body, but people seem to like to talk about it and so I go along with it. Now why everyone assumes I had a c-section I'm not sure? Do I look too "wimpy" or petite to have had a vaginal delivery? Do people know that having a c-section is NOT "wimpy" and that there are MANY reasons and usually having a big baby or being a small woman are NOT the top reasons? Just because I'm petite doesn't mean I automatically get a c-section. I WILL have one if the Dr. deems it medically necessary,  because before c-sections plenty of women and babies died in labor and I'm not a fan of dying. . . so. . . again not sure why anyone even asks this question?

Well I tell people that we're expecting a boy the response is usually "You are SO lucky!" or "Now you guys can be DONE!!!" or "I bet your husband is so happy!" or "Just you wait boys are HORRIBLE!" or "You're going to circumcise him, right?"

Where to even start. . . first of all I'm not sure why everyone is obsessed with having 1 boy and 1 girl or thinks that you should be "done" after you've "gotten" at least one of each gender? If I had all girls, I would be thrilled. If I had all boys, I would be thrilled. I can't imagine "trying" for a certain gender knowing it's completely random and that if I'm specifically WANTING a certain gender that will mean CERTAIN disappointment when I don't get what I want? Why is gender such a big deal anyway? My children are PEOPLE, I don't really care what chromosomes/genitalia they were randomly assigned during conception.

Also if I'm "lucky" to have "one of each" doesn't this mean I would be UNlucky if I had two of the same gender?

Personally I had reasons I was excited to be having a boy but I also had reasons to be excited if baby was going to be a girl- different reasons- but I was equally excited either way.

Next, is my husband expected to be MORE excited that we're having a child the same gender as him than he would be if we had another of MY gender?

Of course many feel differently than I do in regards to gender, but it just seems weird to me that everyone assumes that EVERYONE is the same? Why would we all want the exact same thing? What's "perfect" for me might not be so "perfect" for others?

Oh and don't even get me started on circumcision. It's my sons penis. I don't have a penis. My husband does and he's going to decide what's best for our sons penis and our decision regarding whether or not we're letting him keep his foreskin of thousands of nerve endings or chopping it off is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!! Not everyone wants to circumcise their sons penis and no one certainly wants to hear about how yours got infected as an adult and you had to be circumcised later in life. I. Do. Not. Want. To. Hear. About. It. !!!!!!!!!! I don't care about your penis, your sons penis, or anyone else's penis. Not sure why YOU care about MY sons penis? (Did I use the word penis enough?)

Next: is it a shameful thing to wear clothing that flatters your bump instead of hiding it?

Seeing how depressed I got when I was pregnant with Mercedes, I determined to do everything I could to keep my spirits up this pregnancy. So I've been trying to take care of myself and put a lot of effort into my appearance so that I can feel cute instead of like a huge whale (and I do still feel like a huge whale despite my efforts, so at least I try!)

Yet people make comments that insinuate that pregnancy should be hidden and certainly NOT shown off!

My opinion:

How do you think we all got here? SOMEONE was pregnant with you- me- all of us at SOME point. A woman carried you in her body for 9 months and dealt with all the repercussions of that- why on earth should be shame this? Why on earth should we make women feel like it's something they should HIDE? Why on earth should we make them feel even WORSE about their changing bodies?

We should be amazed and proud of the fact that a woman's body is capable of such a feat, it should be celebrated and a woman should dress in whatever makes her feel good and cute about herself- even if YOU disagree! :-P

Last but not least. . . I don't understand expecting your offspring to be GRATEFUL to you for having them. YES pregnancy is hard, YES is requires a lot of sacrifices, but my kids didn't ask me to have them! And expecting some sort of gratitude from them because "I gave birth to you!" just seems silly to me! Chances are, someday they will know what I went through when they have their own children. Either way, Adam and I chose to have children because we wanted them- not because we had to, not because they asked us to have them. Mercedes is SUCH a joy to us, I am the one who is grateful to have HER and I can't wait to have another child and I can only imagine how much joy he will bring us and how much my gratitude will increase!

So there's my random pregnancy post for the day. :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Respect should be earned, not demanded. . .

Last night went through boxes and boxes of old paperwork to file away what we needed to keep and throw away what we no longer needed.

Somewhere in the piles of paper I found an old journal/diary (I have many) from 2003.

I read a few excerpts outloud and while we were both brought to tears from laughing so hard, I also noticed a few things that were very sobering.

There were several accounts where I describing getting in trouble with an adult in my life and then reacting (being snappy, saying something like "As soon as I mess up once you forget everything good I've ever done!") and then feeling incredibly guilty about it, then apologizing to this adult and trying again.

The cycle repeated itself again. . . and again. . . and again.

Every time the conflict began the same way. This adult would tell me that I wasn't "respecting their authority" or was acting disrespectful."

Now what's interesting is that all of my "disrespectful" actions always occurred AFTER these accusations were made. And I always felt bad about it. And I always apologized. I even wrote of how good it made me feel when I admitted I was wrong and sought forgiveness and how glad I was that I had apologized for my wrong doing.

But yet it would happen again. And again. And again.

I began describing myself as "worthless". I wrote horrible words such as "at least if I was dead I wouldn't keep messing up."

I wish I could go back in time and give my teenage self a big hug. I wish I could tell her that one day she would feel real happiness and have positive relationships that didn't revolve around these cycles of accusations, conflicts, and apologies. I wish I could tell her that one day she'd feel confident and WORTHY. I wish I could tell her "It's all going to be OK!"

Now I find myself in a position of leadership. Both in my work and personal life. I guess I don't necessarily see being a "mother" as being a "leader". . . And I'm not sure that I want my kids to "respect" me. I want them to LOVE me, of course, and sure it would be nice if someday I EARN their respect. But I will certainly never demand it. And certainly not on account of "I'm your parent so you should respect me!"

I want my kids to learn to be respectful of other humans. PERIOD. There's a difference between this and "respecting authority". Respecting your fellow human beings will lead to peace and will resolve a lot of conflict- before it even begins.

At work I manage a salon. i am responsible for the management of employees and to develop them and train them to be the best stylists they can be.

Again, I never demand that they RESPECT MY AUTHORITY.

Rather I prefer to EARN that respect by:

Setting an example

Following my own rules

Being respectful of THEM

Being sensitive

Being understanding

Being firm

Being consistent

Not acting like I am "above" them

Last but not least: LISTENING TO THEM.

There's a huge difference between teaching someone to be respectful to all those around them (what I will do with my children), EARNING respect (which is what I do my best to do at work)- and DEMANDING respect. A huge, huge difference. I believe the latter leads to cycles like the ones I described in my diary in 2003. A cycle of hurt and pain that can never be resolved.

Thankfully now I am learning to be respectful of my fellow human beings, and that I respect those in leadership positions above me (not my husband, because we're equals- just in case any of you thought I was about to go all patriarchal!) who have EARNED me respect. I will still treat them with "fellow respect for humanity" but I will not automatically give them "special respect" simply because they are in a position of "authority".

Ugh I really hate the word "Authority". But that's another post for another day :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The power of thinking

The other day Adam and I were watching a documentary which included some information about the "Jones Town" massacre several decades ago. I wish I knew what the documentary was called and that we'd been able to watch the entire thing, but I digress. . . (cable TV/First world problems).

Anyway, during the documentary a survivor was interviewed.

First I found myself feeling sick as they showed footage of the hundreds of people who died at Jones Town. How sad and how horrible. How on earth did one man convince all those people to drink poison to induce their own death??!!!!

Once upon a time I would have believed it was because they didn't know the "true god" and they "weren't really saved" so they were susceptible to being "tricked" and "brainwashed". God wasn't protecting THEM from such evils because they hadn't accepted god into their hearts (not really anyway, even if they truly believed they did). They hadn't given their minds over to god and so this evil man was able to fill their heads with nonsense and manipulate them.

Here's what I found interesting:

When the survivor was being interviewed, he described what it was like being a part of Jones Town. He described how his ability to think had been taken away etc.

What shocked me was the emotions waving over me. I felt sad. I felt instant empathy. I felt that: I KNOW WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE! I felt like I knew exactly what he was describing.

Then I thought- how sick is it that I feel like I can relate to someone who was involved in such a horrible cult!

Clearly I have never experienced such trauma or anything nearly as awful as what happened at Jones Town- not even close. But I DO fully understand how this man felt. I DO know what it's like to feel like you can't think for yourself or that you have been told WHAT to think for so long that you do not know HOW to think.

I want to reiterate that I think there is a HUGE difference between teaching someone HOW to think and teaching them WHAT to think. When you teach someone HOW to think, you are empowering them. When you teach someone WHAT to think, you are stripping away their humanity. You are stripping away their (god-given if you believe in god) curiosity, desire to learn, and desire to use logic.

When you strip these things away you are left with someone who can be easily trained, manipulated, and convinced of JUST ABOUT ANYTHING.

Something I have learned that has been of great benefit to me (as silly as it may sound) is that I really can't control very much. I have very limited direct control over what happens to me and my life situations.

For instance, last week I found out I would be in a situation where I would have 0 health coverage for the birth of our baby, or extremely expensive COBRA coverage. This is a pretty scary and stressful situation. I had tried to plan everything perfectly. I waited for years to have another baby so that we would have good health coverage and that we would be ready as a family for a new addition. Adam and I planned and planned and "figured everything out". Then all at once it fell apart. We didn't do anything wrong, we didn't "cause" this to happen. We planned, we had a worst case-scenario back up plan, and it still all came crumbling apart.

Obviously I would be lying to say "I wasn't even stressed!" of course I was stressed. But in the past, such a situation would have totally debilitated me. I would have been distraught. I would have wondered if god was punishing me. No, actually I would have been CONVINCED that god was trying to "teach me" something and I would have felt guilty for some "sin" I had committed and become convinced that THAT was the reason why I was "suffering". I would have been angry that it just "wasn't fair" that this was happening to me. I would have tormented myself and allowed myself to feel all sorts of mental/psychological pain in the most extreme of ways.

Instead, (while still difficult) I reminded myself that I cannot control everything. Yes, we had planned everything out "perfectly". But plan or no plan- life circumstances are simply beyond our control. However, what I CAN control is what happens in my own mind. I can accept my lack of control and focus on what I am actually able to control. Instead of debilitating myself over this problem I needed to find a solution and meanwhile instead of mentally flogging and torturing myself I reassured myself and focused on the things that made me happy (my family, where we live). I accepted that I didn't do anything wrong and that this is just a normal part of life- this sort of thing happens regularly whether or not you have "gods protection".

Now as much as I think it's absolutely ABSURD that our healthcare system even allows for such a situation to occur (whether or not you agree with the changes headed our way, NO ONE can say the current system is "just fine"), again it's not something I have direct control over. And so it's not worth wasting my emotions, time and energy being upset over a situation I can't change.

So we came up with options. Then we pursued those options. Lucky for me we live in a state that provides immediate low or no-cost medical care for qualifying pregnant women who lose their insurance- or have no insurance. This was definitely our best option and I am so grateful it worked out.

So while I was still very stressed, it was a relief to experience 100x LESS pain than I have in the past when dealing with such stressful situations. And all of that happened because I've been learning to think. I've been learning HOW to think. I've been learning how I can focus on the ONE thing I can actually control (my own thinking) and use it to help instead of hinder myself.

That is the power of thinking.