16 July 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not

 

Dear Diary, 

I have been doing three things over the past several weeks, and only three things.

1. Taking action for anti-racism in my school district.

2. Reading and rereading Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD.

3. Ruminating on trust. Especially trusting ourselves and why some folks can learn to do it and others, well, can’t.

I’ve taken the long way ‘round to learning to trust myself. To learning I have a voice and ought to use it. To learning to listen to the Still, Small Voice we call our conscience or Love or the Holy Spirit that guides us intuitively toward loving our neighbors as ourselves… and the implication that loving ourselves is a good place to start. 

I’ve taken the long way ‘round and was derailed by Other Forces competing for leadership and direction in my life. 

I’ve taken the long way ‘round and listened to Systems and Structures convinced in no uncertain terms that they ought to be in charge of me, in charge of my heart, in charge of the way I raised my kids, in charge of my politics, in charge of my vote, in charge of my manner and my mouth and my beliefs, and in charge of all the minutiae therein. 

I’ve taken the long way ‘round because I’ve tried to be polite and civil and not rock the boat too, TOO much lest I be tossed overboard or made to walk the plank and thus forced to make my own way in the vast, fathomless ocean, left to drown there, subject to the dangers inherent in losing the safety of my vessel. 

It was all vulnerability out there, I was told. Precarious in the water. At the whims of waves and wind and storms that arrive without warning. 

“Trust us,” said the people in the boat. If I just followed the fundamentalist rules of the church, I’d be safe. Both in life and in death. If I just read Dr. Dobson and put my faith in those Wiser Than I, I’d raise children to fear God and wear the breastplate of righteousness and wield the sword of truth and, most importantly, sleep through the night because I didn’t spoil them with physical proximity to their mother. If I just voted Republican and worshipped at the altar of prosperity and capitalism and decried the evils of Democrats and the satanic principles of socialism, I would remain steadfastly within the bosom of Right American Thinking; there would be justice and liberty for all, and I could blithely ignore evidence to the contrary, for the Constitution tells me so. I would be a patriot. If I just ignored the desperate cries of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and nonbinary friends and ignored that they were dying in larger numbers inside of churches than outside of it, I would remain on the side of purity. 

But I will tell you, the parts of life in which I am most content, most certain, and most at ease are the parts where I have learned to trust what’s inside of me.

The parts I’m most sure I have right are the parts where I’ve loved others and myself most deeply.

The parts I most value here in my 40s are the places I’ve been thrown out of the boat. The places I’ve learned not to fear the depths because it turns out I’m made of water. They’re the places in the fathoms I’ve established myself and people, at one with the movement of the current and at peace with the creatures of the deep. Places of love and acceptance and welcoming the stranger and believing in my humans. Places that don’t rely on rules meant to constrict and contract and keep us within bizarre boundaries and keep others outside of them, but only rely on faith in the author and perfecter of Love and on Love’s domination and dominion over the earth, and on the belief beyond all reason that Love can win in the end. 

I dunno if any of this makes sense, Diary, but this is where my thoughts have rested recently. And while I haven’t rejected the Church universal, nor my little church with which I have an ongoing fond affinity, I’m pretty mad at the Church in general and the way it robbed me and continues to rob others of the ability to listen to that of God inside them. I’m pretty mad that the evangelical American church has worked for so long to tie itself to politics and exclusion. I’m pretty mad that I was taught to trust a series of white men whose loyalty was and is to a gospel of money and power and keeping people in their place rather than to the expansive, welcoming, encompassing love Jesus called us to. 

I’m pretty mad.

Which is another way of saying I’m grieving as I continue to realize the full extent to which I was brainwashed into being a part of a cult of control rather than shown the path toward true freedom. 

And after reading Anti-Diet, I’m starting to become comparably mad at Diet Culture. I mean, not AS mad as I am at the Church. But I can see the Church from my Diet Culture anger horizon. Did you know YOU CAN MAYBE ACTUALLY TRUST YOUR BODY to make food decisions and keep your weight at whatever it was biologically programmed to be?? THIS MAY BE A REAL THING, DIARY. I’m just now starting to explore it, and as someone who has weight-cycled (losing 30 lbs and gaining 32, on repeat, forEVER) and tried to diet/starve myself to thinner-ness for more than 25 years in a row (which turns out scientifically to ONLY make people heavier), I’m feeling a little bitter. And also a little hopeful. Like, if trust hasn’t led me astray yet (though there are plenty of folks who’d disagree with me there) and the areas where I’ve learned to trust myself and my humans are the most deeply fulfilling/loving, MAYBE BODIES CAN BE TRUSTED AS WELL AS HEARTS AND GUTS AND SOULS. And wouldn’t THAT be revolutionary?

All of which is to say, I’ve been thinking about trust. And how to love our fellow humans. And how to love ourselves. And it’s a strange and sad and mad and heartening place to be.

With ❤️,

 

 

 

P.S. I was having a convo about the religion bit with my friend, Emily. Gonna share it here because I feel like it’s so very relevant to the rest of this magical mess and perhaps explains better than I did above. 

Background: Emily is a unicorn. She grew up without religion. And with the abiding, internal conviction that she could trust herself and that her job — her purpose — is to love others and help them. She knew it intuitively, and she’s built her life around it. I call it the Divine Spark inside her. She calls it common sense. Understandably, the mixed messages of religion are baffling to her at times. As they’ve become increasingly baffling to me. So as Emily works to understand what in the world the churchy people in our small town are trying to say at times, I can help interpret. And as I work to understand how this whole “trust oneself” thing works, she can help me interpret. 

Em: We are all God’s children. So actively loving & helping each other is loving god. Why does it ever need to be more complicated than that?

Me: It doesn’t. It’s not. That’s LITERALLY THE ENTIRE THING. But humans are tribalistic and brainwashed from infancy to follow their tribal leaders, and those with power don’t want to release it. IDK why some folks can break out of it and others can’t.

Em: It feels like the reason some people can’t is because they have literally had to disconnect from their own thoughts if they wanted acceptance & to live peacefully within their own family unit. They were required to disconnect from their own soul. Their own knowing. Their own truth. From such an early developmental stage. That reconnecting, sifting & reflecting is often a lifetime worth of work. And pain. And discomfort. And loss. And unknown. It’s like right when you get to an age when you are supposed to be the one “who knows”, the one who would be ready to teach as they were taught. They would have to face discovering that they know nothing at all. In fact, they know way less than nothing. They have a huge mountain to unlearn. So it’s not like having no money. It’s like having 500k in debt. When you thought you had a huge nest egg.

They hadn’t been listening to their inner self. They had been following instructions blindly and without question. And often seeing family and church as people that have harmed you. So often Unintentionally. Unknowingly. But harmed you all the same. Doing that work while also navigating your own young adult survival (financial , emotional & spiritual) is just too much to take on with all of the other things life requires from you.

Just rambling. This feels like an enormous root of where we have gotten lost as humans. So watching so many preach that religion is the answer vs the literal reason our world is filled with such a lack of humanity. It’s crazy making for me. I so appreciate knowing you. You & Heidi have truly changed my life by allowing me to say these thoughts out loud.

Me: This is it entirely. There’s been an entire process of unlearning what I was taught so I could learn to trust myself. In the conservative Christian paradigm we’re literally taught we’re sinful worms (worms… I shit you not, friend) and worthless without God. Ironically, the Bible doesn’t say that — the Bible says we’re made in the image of the Divine, wonderfully made — but MAN, centuries of Christian theology and “the total depravity of man” and power-mongering has done a NUMBER on the Bible. So we’re taught to trust others’ interpretations of God, to comply with our leaders, to follow the crowd. It’s a cult. And it’s gross and harmful and it’s why we’re so enmeshed in white supremacy power paradigms and have historically overlooked gross injustice and abuse. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong. I cannot even BEGIN to express how FREE I feel now that I know I can trust myself. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m SUPER PROUD I’ve taught my kids to trust themselves. That was the biggest risk I took in parenting — it was the literal opposite of what I was told was the way to raise children. I was explicitly told it would wreck them and harm them, so trusting my gut over all the methods and strictures and rules felt VERY DANGEROUS to me. But if my gut COULD be trusted, then my kids were ALSO made in God’s own image — the image of Love and Divinity — and so I took the risk. AND MY KIDS ARE FUCKING AWESOME. They know and trust themselves. They made amazing choices. They’re confident and outspoken and world changers because they were NOT taught to comply and they were NOT taught complacency and they were NOT taught Tribe First, they were taught love yourself and others first. It’s a RADICAL CHANGE from where I started. To you, it’s basic humanity. Like, DUH — OF COURSE this is how it should be. To me IT IS A MIRACLE. It feels like I jumped off a cliff trusting the wind to catch me and IT DID and NOW I CAN FLY. I cannot even, friend. It’s the most amazing thing ever.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
9 comments
  1. Beth,
    I just read Psalm 39 and verses 2 & 3 made me think of you:
    “So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:”
    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭39:2-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
    Love,
    Jen

  2. THIS is my golden rule: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone According to the Gospel of John , the Pharisees , in an attempt to discredit Jesus , brought a woman charged with adultery before him. Then they reminded Jesus that adultery was punishable by stoning under Mosaic law and challenged him to judge the woman so that they might then accuse him of disobeying the law.” I call it the horizontal and the vertical. Horizontal is the blame of others. NOT YOUR (bleepity bleep bleepn business). VERTICAL (that between you and your maker…) That. Is. Entirely. Your. Business. Keep your eyes on what YOU ARE DOIN’. THE GOLD IN THAT RULE will keep you right. (I too left a similar church; I cannot stomach what they profess now.)

  3. This is ringing so true to things I learned when I attended churches that were like the ones you describe. I’ve participated in Bible studies that were also diet plans. UGH. I’ve participated in Bible studies that were all about how to be a submissive wife, and other studies about raising kids who will believe. SIGH. And there were kernels of truth in each of those study groups but ultimately they were about rules.
    My faith has been distilled in my 54+ years, is still being distilled, but where I am now is Micah 6:8 (do justly, love mercy, walk humbly) and Jesus’ pronouncement of the most important commandments (love God, and love your neighbor). I’m focusing on the loving others part these days (justice, mercy) as the way I can show love to God.
    I’m so glad I’m not the only one struggling with American Christianity these days. Thank you for being real, Beth.

  4. I love you. So much.

  5. Right on, Beth! I’m so glad that you have learned to trust yourself.

  6. Weeping with gratitude for you, Beth. Thank you for knowing just the right balm to pour into our hearts. xoxo

  7. You are the best of the best of the best, Friend. Never change. Onward and upward, toward Aslan’s country. There are adventures to be discovered.

    I am sad today. I am sinking in this sadness and I don’t know if I can dig my way out again. I’m not even sure anymore if it’s the ordinary sadness that comes with grieving because the anniversary is coming. I’m going to be talking to my doctor at some point… as soon as I can navigate my way through the chaos that is the American health care system and get access to a doctor.

    Take care of you Friend.
    Keep journeying. You’re heading in the right direction.

  8. I’m so sure you are so proud of yourself. You’ve made giant leaps in your struggles with church. But you believed you were right and you have accepted that the “rules” we’re taught are mostly manmade. GOD has 1 rule Love. Love him,love each other as you love Him and love yourself.
    After 25 years of marriage, he left. Of course, the church said youre divorced, you can’t come to church, you’re going to hell. Well 10 years later, I met a wonderful man and we’re now married 15 years. I truly believe God and I have our own church. I felt the guilt of not going to the pageantry, the ritual. But I finally realized God lead me to this man and why am I so at peace and happy, if its wrong? I can be in my living room, in the woods in my camper, sitting at the beach or in a cathedral. And I’m with God.
    I’m so happy you are finding love and peace. Prayers dear friend

  9. I kid you not, I once read and followed the advice in a book called “Help Lord, the Devil Wants Me Fat”.

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