God answers prayers.

After posting my article about my fear of death yesterday and praying a lot about it, I came across a wonderful website called “Jesus Without Baggage.” I’ve never seen another site like it and I’ve been on it now since last night, just reading and learning. I can’t get enough.

I never thought I could reconcile my inability to believe in a judgmental, angry, legalistic God with a belief in Christ, but now I think I might be able to, all because of this website. It answers questions no one else has ever been able to answer before and addresses concerns I’ve had for a long time that “reading the Bible” only made worse (mostly because of the way it’s been misinterpreted and misrepresented by legalistic, narcissistic preachers and church leaders in order to exert “control”).

If you’re like me and want to have a relationship with Jesus but are completely turned off by fundamentalist Christianity, this is the site for you. I truly believe God answered my prayers by bringing me to this site so I want to share it with my readers too.

https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/

Even more interesting, the topic at mass today was “God is Love.”

I’ll be posting a new guest post in a little while.

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A close call.

broken_wheel
My son took this photo while waiting for the tow truck. Look at the wheel.

Earlier today, my son called me. He told me that while crawling along in slow moving traffic, his car suddenly wouldn’t steer properly. He heard some metallic sounds like something breaking, and suddenly his steering wheel stopped working at all! Fortunately, he reacted quickly, and slammed the car into Park and put the hazards on.

He got out of the car to look under the hood, but he saw someone in another car pointing to his front driver’s side wheel. It was bent sideways. He called a towing service and at the shop they told him his wheel was about to fall off!

He’d been on his way to work, and because he was unable to come in, lost a day’s pay as well as having to shell out some bills for the repairs (AAA is covering the tow). Working as a shift manager in a convenience store, he’s not exactly wealthy.

He could have been really angered by the inconvenience and expense. He could have groused about the lost pay and the fact he has to pass on meeting up with some of his friends tonight. It’s certainly understandable he would be at least a little irritated by all that! I know I would be.

But he was looking at this a different way. He said he felt blessed. I asked him what he meant, and he said, “It could have been so much worse! I could have been driving at 65mph on the Interstate!” My son is an atheist, but he said he felt like some sort of presence, if not actually God, must have been protecting him and made sure he was driving at only 6mph when his wheel began to go.

Thinking about what could have happened to my son was sobering, but how right he is! Something that seems like a huge pain in the butt can actually be God’s way of keeping us safe from something much worse. You just never know.

Sometimes I think my son is wise beyond his years.

Why I love liturgy.

A view of the famed Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

A view of the famed Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

Back in April, during the Easter Vigil mass, I became a Roman Catholic. This came as a surprise to many people I know, since I’d spent most of my life as an agnostic and at times veered close to atheism. I’ve also toyed with Buddhism and Scientology (and I admit I still have a soft spot for Buddhism because it appeals to my rational mind, and that isn’t likely to change). Due to the recent charges of sexual abuse taking place in the Catholic church, this oldest and largest of all Christian denominations has become more criticized than ever, and probably rightfully so. I don’t think it’s the only religious organization that has been guilty of such behaviors, but I think it’s the most publicized. I’m also not ignorant of the fact that the Catholic Church has a bloody and often very un-Christlike history, especially during the Middle Ages, as well as being the wealthiest religious organization in the world and often full of hypocrisy. In addition, I do not believe that being a Catholic is the only way to salvation. Any Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in their hearts will get to Heaven, regardless of denomination (why did I almost spell that DEMONination?) and don’t necessary even have to attend church at all.

So why did I become a Catholic, you ask. Why did I join a church that’s so rife with its past of violence, and a present still full of intolerance, sexism, and heirarchy? The answer to this is complicated.

I was raised in a family that although nominally Christian, was basically agnostic. We did not attend church regularly (although I was sent to Sunday school as a young child), and holidays like Christmas and Easter were recognized more for their fun/materialistic secularity (gift giving, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, new Easter dresses and coats, etc.) than for the solemn events in the life of Christ they actually honor. My family regarded them as “children’s holidays” that adults indulged and that would eventually be outgrown. Although I was baptized Methodist (and I was surprised to learn my Protestant baptism was recognized as valid by the Catholic Church), we never became very active in any church and therefore were not part of any enduring “church family.” When church was attended, it was a sterile, secular affair, full of feel-good stories of God’s unconditional love, lessons about tolerance and social justice (nothing wrong with that, of course, but it wasn’t very religious nor fill me with a sense of awe or wonder), and very little that was Biblical or traditional. Services revolved mainly around the sermon, always a feel-good pep talk about God’s all-encompassing love and loving one another. All of this clap-happy, touchy feely reformed-Protestant stuff flew in the face of the constant anger, rage, loneliness, and discord that was constantly going on at home. Due to that, all the messages about positive-thinking and feel-goodness seemed insincere and meaningless, and didn’t address the very real problems in my family that made me feel so defective and different from everyone else.

For a short time–maybe one or two years–my father became fascinated by Christian Science, and I was sent to a Christian Science Sunday school. I was too young to comprehend the metaphysical beliefs they espoused, which basically preached that all that was material was an illusion, and only Spirit mattered (later my father would become active in Religious Science, a similar belief system that isn’t based in Christianity and overlaps a great deal with New Thought, part of the New Age movement). I couldn’t wrap my young brain around the metaphysical mumbo jumbo I heard on Sunday and I desperately needed something tangible to offset my growing feelings of dissociation from myself and the rest of humanity and from God Himself. I was filled with uncertainty about what was real and what wasn’t. Living on a diet of spiritual junk food, I was starving for emotional and spiritual sustenance. Although I coudn’t have put it into words, I needed to experience the Divine with my five senses.

holy_communion
How I envied these girls!

Enter Catholic school. In 5th grade, the bullying at the local public school became so bad that my parents decided to take matters into their own hands and despite their misgivings about the Catholic Church, I was sent to a Catholic girls’ school. My grades immediately improved and I found it easier to make friends with these girls than at the public school. My parents were surprised (and probably a little disturbed) that one of my favorite classes (and the one I did best at) was Religion. I didn’t become religious back then, nor did my faith in God deepen (I was for all intents and purposes agnostic), but I found myself always looking forward to the masses we used to have at school on religious days. Although the highly liturgical services confused me at first (knowing when to stand up and sit down, memorize the various prayers, etc) I found myself drawn to the orderliness and beauty of the Mass. It somehow seemed Godlike and was steeped in history that the Protestant services I’d attended with my parents just didn’t have. I envied the cool trappings of Catholicism (when the other girls were going through Confirmation, they got a new name and a pretty dress and I wanted that too) and longed to be able to take Communion with everyone else. I wanted a set of my own rosary beads. Today I know these things really don’t matter (I think whatever denomination you are–even if none at all–is a matter of personal preference) but at my tender age, these tangible things seemed part of some wonderful, sacred, mysterious and heavenly world I couldn’t be part of. Sitting there in my folding chair watching the proceedings, I always felt the presence of God and a benevolent, forgiving love I never felt from my own family, even though I had to remain seated during the communion. It was one of the few places where I could feel the benevolence of God.

Many cradle Catholics remember negative experiences from their childhood about the Church and turned away from it as they came of age, but as someone who only knew it as a refuge from the harsh realities that took place in my agnostic home, I never developed those negative associations with Catholicism. I loved most of the nuns at my school. With one or two exceptions, they seemed so kind and compassionate, very saintlike–and they seemed to care about me in a way I never felt I got from my own family. Although I never talked about what went on at home, one nun in particular who seemed to favor me for some reason, guessed that things at home weren’t ideal, and told me to come see her anytime I needed to talk. I never did (for fear of what might happen if I “squealed” about the family to an outsider), but it felt good to know that she cared enough to reach out to me.

As I grew older I fell away from Christianity (not that I’d ever really embraced it much and knew next to nothing about the Bible or the life of Christ), and experimented with other belief systems, including Scientology and Buddhism, if anything at all. The Bible seemed to me like a book of ancient fairy tales with no relevance to my own life. I rarely prayed and looked down on churchgoing and religious people as ignorant and deluded. Although I never embraced full-on atheism (it was too depressing to think there was no afterlife at all), I thought that if God existed, he was pretty much hands-off and that everyone, other than the most hardened criminals and mean, cruel people, would get to Heaven, if there even was such a place. The concept of reincarnation made a lot more logical sense to me than the idea of heaven or hell.

But my soul was still starving and I think deep down I always knew this. Every once in a while, in spite of my doubts about the existence of God, I’d make time to attend a Catholic mass. I didn’t believe what they preached, in fact I thought most of it was pretty silly, but I loved the ritual and the order, and somehow always came away feeling transcended. I’d go take Communion (knowing as a non-Catholic I wasn’t supposed to) and feel somehow nourished. In a way I couldn’t explain, witnessing the reverence and beauty of the Mass, made me feel like part of something much bigger than myself and accepted for who I was, not (as in my FOO) expected to be someone I could never be.

I toyed with other Christian faiths, including Lutheranism and the Southern Baptist church. During the late 1980s, I attended a Lutheran church (and was confirmed as Lutheran) mainly because the man I married was Lutheran. The services were called masses and were very liturgical and quite similar in many ways to the Catholic mass, but they seemed watered down, somehow. For instance, the communion wafer was regarded as symbolic rather than being the actual Body of Christ. We never became deeply involved with the Lutheran church, and although we had our kids baptized Lutheran, we did not attend church on Sundays or otherwise do much to encourage their spiritual development.

When we moved to North Carolina from northern New Jersey, we were faced with culture shock–instead of having mostly Catholic and Jewish neighbors, suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by Southern Baptists who insisted we needed to be “saved.” Still looking for spiritual nourishment, I started attending services at the local Baptist church as well as Bible studies on Tuesdays nights. My kids attended 2 years of Vacation Bible School. I never cottoned to the hellfire-and-brimstone preaching though, or the literal interpretation of the Bible. I was especially turned off by the church’s conservative political agenda, that actually told us we were “going to Hell” if we didn’t vote Republican, as well as their dismissal of science. I decided to stop attending church there.

hellfire
Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching is a turn off to me.

A few years later, my daughter had a friend at school whose parents were Southern Baptists, and my daughter, age 9 at the time, decided to be baptized in their church. I was fine with that, even though I disagreed with the southern Baptist belief system, because it took the burden off of me to be responsible for her spiritual growth. I attended her baptism and was surprised at how modern the service was, with a pop-rock band that played contemporary Christian music rather than traditional hymns. Intrigued, I decided to attend a few more services, but I always felt like I was at a rock concert rather than at church. In spite of the emphasis on Biblical literalism, during the long, emotional sermons, I never felt my soul uplifted or any real feeling of spiritual transcendence. Although very different from the touchy-feely, heaven-awaits-no matter-what-you-do preaching of the liberal Protestantism of my childhood, this hellfire-and-brimstone preaching bookended by Christian contemporary music with the words splashed on a huge TV screen didn’t do much for me either. I longed for tradition, for history, for meaning.

I still occasionally attended Catholic masses, but never thought I’d actually become one. But shortly after I went No Contact with my ex (who freeloaded off me and mentally abused me for almost 7 years following our divorce and nearly bled me dry emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually) I began to blog. My mental and physical health came back first, and then I realized I was still starving spiritually. I needed God, who after all, had been watching and protecting me all the time I was in an abusive marriage and had shown me on several occasions how real He was. Last October, I decided to start attending Mass as well as RCIA classes (the classes you take to become Catholic). I had doubts about much of the doctrine (and truth be told, still do). I still wasn’t sure I wanted to become Catholic, but I thought I should at least take the classes and make an educated decision.

To my surprise, I found that Catholic doctrine isn’t very different from what I’ve always believed anyway. The Bible is held as important (more important than many fundamentalist Christians believe we do) but much of its content is not not interpreted literally and therefore doesn’t fly in the face of centuries of scientific discovery and achievement. Yes, we are saved by grace alone (all Christians are), but works are also important and are tangible evidence of God’s grace. Sacraments (communion, confession, etc) give tangibility to God’s grace although (I don’t think) they are necessary for salvation. Confession is not a punishment; it is an opportunity to unload to someone else and makes you feel better afterwards (very similar to a 4th step in a 12-step program). Although I had my doubts at first, I’ve come to believe the Host (the communion wafer) does actually become the body of Christ, due to the glorious, transcended way I always feel after partaking. I do feel like my soul is being changed for the better, even though it’s not a Saul-to-Paul-like sudden conversion full of fireworks and drama.

I admit I do still have some issues, mostly having to do with the Catholic church’s stance on social matters such as abortion and homosexuality, as well as the fact that priests still must be male. I don’t think the Pope is infallible either (he is just a man), but I understand the reasoning behind having a Pope and I happen to like the current Pope anyway. I don’t venerate Mary and the saints, although I have utmost respect for them. Veneration isn’t the same as worship, anyway. Only Jesus as God is worshipped so there’s nothing un-Christian there, a far as I’m concerned.

rosary_beads

Because of my doubts and personal proclivities, I’ll probably never be the “perfect Catholic” or “perfect Christian” but that’s okay. I pray that God keeps working on my soul to cleanse it from sin and I’m willing to believe anything God wants me to believe. I’m willing to turn my soul and my life over to the Creator. Whenever I’m at mass, I feel part of a vast family and something glorious, beautiful and so much bigger than myself or all humanity. I feel accepted in God’s kingdom and have begun to fear death and the future less than I used to. The tangibility, beauty and order of the liturgical tradition–the memorized call-and-response prayers, the communion procession, the incense, the swelling organ music and the singing, the kneeling and the standing, the Sign of the Cross, and all the rest of these “silly rituals”–makes me feel that God is a tangible, real thing, someone who is RIGHT THERE and that I can see, hear, smell, feel, touch and even taste. The traditional hymns with their pipe-organ and piano music and the ancient prayers imbue a sense of mystery and history into the services that neither liberal Protestantism or fundamentalist pop-rock sing-alongs do for me. And I love the Bible readings too. I’m beginning to feel that the messages in the Bible do have meaning for me personally. The orderliness and ritual of the mass is regarded by some as mindless, dull and lacking spontaneity (and to some extent I can understand this view), but I find the repetitive and predictable aspects such as the call-and-response prayers and chants to have an uncanny way of eventually filtering down from my mind into the deepest part of my heart, in a way a hellfire-and-brimstone or feel-good, prosperity-gospel sermonizing can never do.

Before becoming Catholic, I toyed with the idea of becoming Eastern Orthodox, a religion which, if anything, is even more liturgical and steeped in ritual, history, and tradition than the modern Catholic church (and is somewhat more liberal in its stance on women’s rights and birth control), but finding a sizable Orthodox community here in the Southern United States is a huge challenge to say the least. I did actually attend one Orthodox mass about five years ago (my son’s Kung Fu teacher was Russian Orthodox and invited us to attend his church), and although it was incredibly beautiful (and the food served afterwards was delicious), the feel of the Orthodox mass was a little too “foreign” for my taste. Anglicanism (The Church of England) also has a rich liturgical tradition (please see my Christmas post “O Come All Ye Faithful”) but again, is uncommon here in the southern US, and it’s still Protestantism anyway. I like the idea of being part of the oldest and largest practicing Christian community in the world that has such a rich and colorful history (even if at times in the past it wasn’t especially Christ-like). I feel proud to be a part of that. Although I know the trappings and ritual are more a matter of personal preference than salvation, for me they make an abstract God seem more real. Coming from such a chaotic, unpredictable background, the order and predictability of the liturgy is food for my soul. My adopted religion may not be the only road to salvation, but it’s the only road for me. Thanks be to God.

Millennials and liturgical Christianity.
As an aside, the Millennial generation, although largely turned off by religion, are, when drawn to religion, are converting to “high church” (liturgical) Christianity such as Anglicanism, Catholicism, and the Orthodox church. They are a generation that (like me, even though I’m not a Millennial) longs for a sense of tradition and connection with history that’s lacking in the evangelical, fundamentalist, and liberal Protestantism or New Age or atheistic belief systems they were raised with, all of which largely ignore or dismiss 1800 years of Christian history and tradition.

Further reading:
Why Millennials Long for Liturgy: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-millennials-long-for-liturgy/
Millennials are Seeking Tradition, Sacramentality, and Liturgy: http://www.catholicvote.org/millennials-are-seeking-tradition-sacramentality-and-liturgy/

I missed church this morning, but…

sleeping_in

…sleeping in can be a kind of prayer too. A good sleep is a God-given gift that refreshes body, mind and soul, and sometimes gives you access to deeper awareness of yourself and your relationships. So I’m sleeping in and not feeling guilty about it. Thank you God!

Spiritual crisis.

sun-breaking-through-dark-clouds

I’ve always hesitated about getting too religious on this blog, since people of many different faiths (or none at all) come here and I don’t want to alienate non-Christians or atheists. But there’s no possible way to write what I’m about to write without at least acknowledging the presence of God (good) and Satan (evil). I will be referencing God because He plays such an important part in what happened to me this morning, but prefer to use the term “evil” or “forces of darkness” rather than Satan or the Devil. It’s all the same thing.

This morning I had a wake up call from God. Like so many other times when God knocks me upside the head with the truth, it hurt–a lot! But ultimately, it proved to me He hasn’t given up on me yet and has shown me the way to get out of the spiritual mess I’ve gotten myself into. But when He’s not pleased, He definitely lets you know. It’s my own choice what I do with this information.

As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with depression, lack of motivation, and strange dissociative episodes, where I often feel as if I’m out of my body. My “muse” seemed to have gone AWOL without any warning. I couldn’t figure it out, and thought I was having some kind of mental breakdown or a relapse into the numb depression I was in before I started to blog.

I didn’t realize until this morning that what was happening had little to do with my mind but a lot to do with my soul. Now when I look back at everything, I can’t understand how I didn’t see it, but Evil has a way of sneaking around and convincing you it’s Good when it’s the worst thing imaginable. Evil wants your soul and will do anything it can to get it, even convince you that bad is good and good is bad, and have you questioning your faith, if you have one.

I felt like God was very far away. I prayed, but half-heartedly, and no answers were coming. It was frustrating. Had God played a trick on me, or maybe didn’t even exist? Or maybe God just didn’t like me very much.

For weeks, maybe several months, my efforts at writing new blog posts felt forced. I felt that I was losing interest in narcissism and would have to take this blog in another direction. At the same time (and this is VERY insidious!) I found myself reading a lot about dark subjects, just because I felt drawn to them somehow. Yes, I admit it: while I want to be a good person and walk on the side of what’s good and right, there’s always been a part of me that’s attracted to darkness, even though at the same time I feel repelled by it. In fact, it’s much the same kind of “attraction” I’ve always had to narcissistic men–both attracted and repelled at the same time. I know it’s bad, and know it’s bad for ME, but rationalize to myself why it isn’t that dark or why it’s okay for me to be drawn closer to it. I thought I could delve into dark subjects as a sort of “spectator,” without getting really involved. I rationalized to myself that I wasn’t offending God because I wasn’t actually engaging in these activities. The power of the demonic is in its insidiousness. The way it sneaks up on you.

false-prophet
Evil can masquerade as “good.” Be careful.

Last week I posted an article (which I removed this morning due to its content) about the use of psychedelic drugs as therapy for Cluster B disorders and PTSD. The article was at best irresponsible and misleading, and at worst potentially destructive, even…evil. But at the time I wrote it, I had somehow convinced myself it was okay as long as I prefaced it with a “disclaimer.” It never occurred to me that although I never would take such drugs myself, even as therapy (for the record, I don’t do any drugs and rarely even drink), that someone else might be convinced to do so, and find themselves in the midst of something they would not be able to handle or even in the ER! They could also find their souls in jeopardy.

That might sound dramatic but let me explain. In spite of my unhealthy obsession with dark things, I’ve shied away from anything involving the occult ever since my bad experience using a Ouija board at age 17. The occult scares me because I believe it’s possible to attract dark forces or spirits when engaged in it. Psychedelic drugs scare me too, but I find their effects (including their effects on me in the past, which were always negative) strangely fascinating. But when you take a psychedelic drug, you’re altering your consciousness and this often involves something called “ego death.” When ego death happens, people tend to dissociate quite badly. At high doses–or on strong psychoactive drugs–you lose your sense of yourself and forget who you are, where you are, or even that you’re human. At the same time your cognition remains intact. It’s at this point that many people either freak out and have a bad experience–or enjoy the experience and begin to think of themselves as “like gods” since they feel like disembodied pure consciousness and “see” things that are unbelievable in the context of the material world.

Several things can happen, and none of them are good. You can have a psychotic break and never “return,” you can “come back” believing the lies you’ve been told (that you’re “like a God” and can do anything God can do), or an outside entity (most likely, a bad one) can enter your body when you’re in this vulnerable state. I do realize some people claim to have had enlightening and even humbling experiences, and that may be the case for a few, but I think it’s the exception rather than the rule, and even then, you may have been deceived by dark forces. Some say that because psychoactive plants grown in nature and God created these plants, that they must have been put there by God for humans to use to achieve enlightenment. That may be the case but I doubt God wants us all tripping to know Him. They may have been given to us as medicine, meant to be dispensed by a doctor. We can’t know why they exist, but I have no business encouraging anyone to use them recreationally or as a method of self-therapy. There are too many risks and too many negative outcomes. It’s opening a Pandora’s box to the unknown. Just because you’re curious about what’s in that box doesn’t mean it should be opened. Personally I think psychedelic drugs are a form of sorcery (and I even said so in the article this post is about), and sorcery isn’t anything I want to get involved with.

I can’t help but think of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, which may have been a psychoactive plant of some sort. Look what happened to them (and all humanity) after they ate from it! God specifically told them not to eat the fruit but they did anyway. We can’t know why it was put there if they were not to partake, but He must have had his reasons. They listened to the serpent instead who told them it was perfectly okay and not to listen to God. They fell for it and their disobedience led to the Fall. No, I do not believe this was a literal account of creation (I think it’s allegorical) but the message there is still very clear: there are some things God does NOT want us to do, and it’s not for us to question His reasoning. It could be that the answer would be too overwhelming for us to handle.

say_that_meme

It fills me with shame now to think that in posting that article last week, I was doing the same thing the serpent was doing in the Garden. Even with all the disclaimers and admission that I’d be too afraid to undertake any psychotherapy using psychedelic drugs, that article was still incredibly irresponsible to say the least. I can’t believe I even wrote such a thing, never mind actually posting it! But the dark forces can be very convincing and even hypnotic (much like a drug–or the serpent) and while engaged in activities that are more pleasing to those forces than to goodness (or godliness), you literally can’t see what you’re doing or why it’s a bad thing. Evil literally becomes “good” and that’s the lie the dark forces wants us to believe.

I now know why I’ve been feeling so depressed and dissociated. My soul was being pulled between good and evil. Being pulled in two opposite directions, I couldn’t “move,” hence the lack of motivation and dearth of new ideas. It also explains the strange out of body experiences and inexplicable sense of foreboding and panic attacks. These are all symptoms of soul sickness. Someone on another blog has said I seem very confused, and it’s true. I am very confused and have been for some time. The dark forces use confusion to disorient us and make us more vulnerable to their attempts to win our souls to their side.

I want to do what’s right; I want to please God, but at the same time I do find dark things alluring and seductive. All my life I’ve been surrounded by evil, and stayed with a very evil man far longer than I should have. I finally escaped, and found God, but the dark forces still want to get their hooks in me and this was their attempt to do so. I’m not strong enough to resist those forces without God, especially taking my background into consideration. If I deliberately dabble in things (and this includes even reading excessively about them) I’m leaving myself wide open to go down a very negative spiritual path.

This morning I saw a comment about this blog on someone else’s blog. The comments were not positive. The drug article was called out as being “evil.” I never thought of it that way, because the last thing I want to be is evil, but I immediately realized this person was right. I don’t want to post things that could be seen that way or could harm someone’s body, mind or soul. But that article WAS very dangerous and suddenly it was like my eyes were opened. I almost felt as if I’d just woken up and seen things as they really were. I saw myself in the mirror and the reflection wasn’t pretty.

My first reaction was extreme. I felt such overpowering shame (similar to what Adam and Eve must have felt in the Garden when they covered their bodies) that for a moment I was VERY tempted to just take down this whole blog and disappear. But suddenly I felt God’s presence and another thought entered my mind–Repent. Retract the article (as well as others that have been seen or may be seen as irresponsible or damaging to ACONs or disordered people, or ANYONE for that matter) and publicly apologize. I knew that God was giving me another solution because He knows that blogging has brought me to Him and didn’t want me to destroy the gift He’d given me to heal myself. To take down this blog and disappear would be the coward’s way out. It’s the way I have handled so many other things in my life when I handled things badly or hurt someone unintentionally. But God doesn’t want us to be cowards. He wants us to take responsibility for our mistakes, to own up to them, even when it’s embarrassing.
I was wrong. There’s no other way to justify what I did.

Many people might think doing such a thing a public retraction and apology would bring more shame than just disappearing. But ironically, I felt relief and gratitude. Gratitude that God had NOT turned his back on me (as I’d feared) and still has a plan for me. A year ago he was working on my mind; now He’s working on my soul, and the lessons you learn are so much harder. God is endlessly patient with us. He knows we’re human and will mess up sometimes. I messed up big time. I asked for forgiveness but I knew that the feeling of relief and gratitude meant He’d already forgiven me, as long as I never do such a thing ever again.

And God does perform miracles too. Several small (or not so small) miracles happened following my eyes being opened this morning. I could have felt hurt by the negative comments on that other blog, but somehow I didn’t–because I knew that person was right. I didn’t feel depressed today, and I felt inspired to write this article. I realized how much I WANTED to write it. I couldn’t wait to get home to write it. I haven’t felt this excited to write any blog post in months! I just knew that it was what God wanted me to do, and God always knows what we need even when we don’t.

When I got home earlier, there was one other little miracle waiting for me. This:

succulent_flower

A single bright pink flower on a succulent plant in my kitchen that has NEVER bloomed in the three years I’ve had it. I never noticed it until I got home, and suddenly there it was! I felt God’s presence and knew this was Him letting me know I’d made the right choice and was pleased. So I uttered two words: “Thank you.”

I know there will be many more spiritual crises ahead of me. I’m far from perfect and never will be. But I know if I stay close to God and stray less than I have over to the allure of darkness, I may have fewer of them and find I’m a whole lot happier in general.

Patience, faith, and auto repairs.

car_repair

Patience isn’t one of my virtues and I often doubt my faith due to my trust issues. I need more of both, but I had just enough to get through my crisis. God proves to me over and over again that He does exist and He does listen to my prayers.

I’ve been praying a lot about my car/money situation and my recent depression. A few days ago, I decided to go to the church and talk to my priest about my issues, and also, on a whim, asked him if there was a car repair fund so I could get my car fixed. He said there wasn’t, but he would talk to a man who also attends my church, whose son owns a car repair place.

I called the man, named Mike, and left a message, not expecting much from this. He called back today, and said his son was going to come over to take a look at my car (I could not move it out of my driveway and haven’t driven it in almost a month). A few hours later, Mike’s son, David, arrived with a “doctors toolkit.”

First, he plugged the car up to a diagnostic computer that told him what the problem was. Actually, it was several problems, none of them severe on their own. After jumpstarting the vehicle (because it hadn’t been started in so long the battery had no charge), he was able to get to work–without ever removing my car from my driveway!

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Three cylinders out of six weren’t working, due to bad spark plugs, a worn gasket, and a bad coil. I was worried about the price, but was told it would cost me nothing (he was informed about my lack of ability to pay). He test drove the car, brought it back and asked me to drive it for abotu 20 minutes until the battery was fully recharged.

It was a beautiful day and I drove for awhile, enjoying the music from my above-average stereo system (which is one reason I’ve held onto this car so long). It still doesn’t do great going up hills, but it can, and other than that, the car is running just fine!

I also spoke to my father, who apparently had been informed by my son about my car issues and had planned on helping!:o He wants me to set up a Skype account since his Parkinson’s makes it hard for him to have phone conversations without the visuals.

The moral of this story is prayer does work, but sometimes you just need a little patience. God doesn’t always answer right away, but he does hear you, and if you have faith, He will come through, often in unexpected ways and when you least expect it.

I feel a little less depressed now that I have a roommate again (who seems fine so far) and a running car! And a father who DOES care.

Processing my trip down the rabbit hole.

journaling

I’m so glad I talked about it. Everyone has been great. There have been no negative comments and hardly any unfollows, which surprised me. I’ve had a few comments like these though:

“You can’t be a narc, you’re too self aware and have too much remorse,”
“You’re a good person, so that can’t be true.”
“It’s just a bad case of ‘fleas'”
“It’s probably really just complex PTSD mixed with BPD”
“It’s probably NVS (narcissistic victim syndrome).”

Denial is understandable; I denied it too. For months. And it could be that all those things are true too. Narcissism is, after all, a result of being a victim. Narcissists are the most damaged of all victims, so damaged they became what was destroying them. And until (and if) I can get an official NPD diagnosis (which I probably wouldn’t get anyway, because I don’t fit the classic DSM criteria for NPD), there’s a possibility that I don’t have NPD at all, covert or not. Narcissists low on the spectrum aren’t necessarily bad people who have lost their humanity, but they are broken people and some want help. BPD symptoms and Avoidant PD symptoms mixed together can also look a lot like covert narcissism, but a few things didn’t fit–like the hidden resentment, envy and grandiosity I thought everyone felt.

In addition, because of the intensity of the emotions and events that led to my discovery and the surreal and almost supernatural coincidences that began to play out immediately after, as well as an enormous feeling of relief and a completely shifted vantage point where I could now see myself as others saw me, I can only believe my disorder is real and not a figment of a deluded imagination.

I feel like the copious tears I was able to shed just prior to and during my epiphany both cleansed me of some of the toxic, angry emotions I was always carrying around (suddenly I feel something closer to actual empathy!) and helped carry me to the next step of this journey, which is healing.

I know the next phase will be even more difficult. I doubt I can do it alone. I started a new blog intended to act as a therapy tool for this second big phase of my journey (and is also intended to help others in similar positions find their way), much as this blog has been a therapy tool for the first.

Because there’s no way I can afford the type of therapist I’d need, I’ve decided to search for a university clinical psychology program that uses BPD/NPD patients as “guinea pigs” to people training to be therapists, especially in reparenting/psychoanalytic (not just behavioral like CBT) techniques.

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During my crisis last week I thought the shock of finding out the truth would kill me. But it didn’t and now I think it’s the most pivotal moment in my life. It also proved to me that God not only exists but loves me very much, because this revelation came after weeks of prayer that I thought were falling on deaf ears. I was almost ready to give up my faith because nothing was happening.
I was even losing interest in writing.
And then it happened, when I didn’t expect it. It hurt more than I can describe in words. But so does bearing a child–something wondrous comes after all the pain. God doesn’t always make things easy.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen down the line, but that’s not for me to know yet.
The idea to start a new blog happened after the dust settled so I think that was part of his plan for me.
If I’m right and God has taken the reins of my journey, I have faith he’ll direct me to the right therapist.
I’m both scared to death and excited as hell to meet my real self and for us to become reacquainted.

I think the true self comes out through art and creativity. For some narcissists, the “art” they produce isn’t real art but trash. But if they’re at all able to suspend their false self while creating (and I think some do), their art can be honest and beautiful because it’s coming from a place of truth.
Writing is when my true self is at its strongest. So I’m taking things from there.

I’m not sure which direction this blog is going to take. I’m not sure how to reconcile writing about narcissistic abuse without seeming like a fraud, even though that’s probably stupid because it’s not as if I wasn’t a victim of abuse. I was for my entire life until a year ago. Getting away from my narcs brought me the clarity I needed to get to this point. I don’t even want to think of what I might become if I had never escaped.

If anyone’s afraid I might abandon this blog, I promise I won’t. Just like I wouldn’t abandon a first child after having a second. However, for the time being I may focus a bit more on the new one, because of my need to write about things that would fit better over there right now, as well as mundane things like setting it up, putting some “meat” on it, and getting it established.

I’m not sorry this happened at all. I’m grateful. I feel so much better now, almost happy!

A happy ending to my DMV ordeal.

sunshine

I need an antidote for last night’s list 23 Things I Hate About My Life, so I think this might do the job.

Today was a good day. The first thing that happened was I didn’t have to walk the 5 1/2 miles back to the car repair shop. I actually got picked up by someone from there this morning and brought in to pick the car up and pay for the repairs. That’s another little blessing I might have taken for granted in the past. They’re almost always there if you are paying attention.

Anyway, in order to put enough miles on my car to see if the check engine light would come back on (it did after 60 miles–which means I failed the second inspection but was able to get a waiver at the DMV almost right away, which means I can go get registered tomorrow–FINALLY!), I decided to drive to the Light Center in Black Mountain. I described my experience there last year. I’m not a New Age sort of person at all, but I found this place special and instinctively knew it was a good space when I first went last year. Rather than working against my Christian faith, I felt like it actually enhanced it. So since I had to drive a long distance today, I decided to go again.

The light therapy room wasn’t open yet, so I spent a little time in the prayer room upstairs, which is held in a geodesic dome. The acoustics are odd–everything echos but not in an unpleasant way. I sat down and spent some time talking to God and I felt He was there with me and that everything was going to work out today. I felt a sense of relaxation come over me and I didn’t even notice the pain in my upper back anymore (I suffer from back muscle strain from my day job). I took this photo of the inside of the prayer room:

prayer_room

In the light therapy room (which is free–everything is free of charge here), I sat down in one of the soft partially reclined chairs, grabbed a small blanket, and focused on the lights. The room is lit in order by seven colors ranging from red to purple. Each one represents the seven chakras (which as a Christian I don’t have a problem with–I believe the chakras exist). Soft music played. I started to feel a bit sleepy but then it was over. I got up, stretched, and felt very peaceful and centered.

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2 views of the labyrinth.

I wandered around the grounds until I came to the labyrinth. I’m not sure what spiritual purpose a labyrinth is supposed to have, but I walked through its maze and looked around at the trees until I came to the center, where visitors leave “offerings.” I pulled out two small items from my purse and set them there, then walked back through the labyrinth to the parking lot.

offerings2 offerings1
Can you tell from the pictures which two items I put there? The first is the Before picture. Click to enlarge.

I drove back through the mountains and into town and as the traffic began to build up, I felt the stress return and my back and shoulders began to hurt again. Back to real life.

The check engine light also came back on almost the same moment I felt the stress return. Was this a coincidence or not? My stress level rose. I prayed for the feeling I had earlier today.

I took the car to the inspection station and got a second Failed inspection, which I knew I would get. I drove to the DMV and to my shock, was seen right away by a very nice man who looked at all my paperwork and issued me the waiver. So tomorrow I take that last step–going to the DMV’s registration office first thing in the morning and finally getting my car legal. Call me crazy, but I’m actually excited about that!

Life is so wonderful and weird sometimes.

Little gifts on a crappy day.

new_geodes
Latest additions to my rock and geode collection.

Life can be surprising. On the whole, today has been a crappy day, but there’s always something to make a bad day more tolerable, if you just pay attention. God doesn’t forget about you even when things seem hopeless and you’re ready to either pull out all your hair or kill someone.

My day started like this. I’m trying to get my car legal but everything about it has been so hard. It failed inspection because of the emissions test. I go through this crap every year. Because I’m off work this week I finally have time to get this shite taken care of, but after everything I need to do is finally done, it’s going to eat up half this week. Cars require more maintenance and cost more than kids, I swear. Especially if you are too poor to buy a new one and are forced to drive an old beater like mine.

Sitting in the repair shop at about 9 AM and feeling put upon and surly, I posted this on my Facebook wall:

So i’m sitting here at the car repair shop trying to get my 13 year old junker fixed so it can pass the emissions inspection…or i can at least get a waiver from the dmv so i’m not driving this pos illegally anymore…gonna spend some time at the library or the rock shop while i wait. Then tomorrow probably going to have to wait around at the dmv all day for the waiver if i still fail inspection. This state just wants to suck money from you any way they can…if i lived in south carolina, florida or tennessee i wouldn’t have to put up with this shit, spend money i don’t have, and waste half my vacation on this. Sorry about all the lower case letters but i’m trying to type this on my phone.

They told me there were 5-6 cars ahead of mine and they probably wouldn’t be able to get to it until late this afternoon and I didn’t want to wait that long, so I decided to start walking home (I had no access to a ride and taxis are way too expensive). The walk home was 5 1/2 miles, in the burning hot sun, along roads with no sidewalks. I will NOT walk back today, but am prepard to walk back there in the morning to get the car early in the morning when it’s cooler (I’ll be sure to wear better shoes instead of the flip flops I wore today).

But it won’t be over. Not anywhere near it. Once I get the car, I have to take it back for a second inspection. If I don’t pass, I can take the second “fail” inspection plus all the receipts for the work I had done (you are required to spend at least $200 to prove you at least tried to get it fixed) to the DMV and stand in line for a waiver so I can drive the car legally. THEN I have to take the waiver to the tag office and tax office (two separate buildings) and pay for the registration and taxes. This crap is going to eat up most of my vacation week.

My court date is August 6th (I was pulled over last month for a expired tags because of the failed inspection) but this week is the only time I have to get all this crap done. I probably won’t have a day to just relax and do other things until Thursday. It really pisses me off because the car is safe to drive, and would pass inspection anywhere else. It’s a waste of time and money in my humble opinion.

But there were a few small things that happened that made this ordeal a little less aggravating and even made me smile. Before I made the decision to walk home from the repair shop, which is in an area with a lot of funky shops and outdoor eateries, I decided to get coffee and a muffin from one of the cafes. I sat down at one of their little outdoor tables, read a book I brought with me, and ate the muffin and drank the coffee, which were both delicious.

I happen to collect rocks and geodes, and across the street was a rock shop. Most of their rocks and geodes are indoors, but some of the less expensive ones are displayed on tables in front of the store or in little fountains. I found a large geode filled with white crystals that kind of spoke to me. The shop wasn’t open yet but an employee was just pulling in. I asked him how much the geode was and he said he thought it was $5. I was shocked such a big, beautiful rock would be that cheap. He said he’d have it held for me and to come back in 15 minutes.

When I returned, the woman in the store told me I’d been quoted the wrong price and it was actually $15. I guess she saw my disappointment because then she smiled and said since $5 was the price given to me that she would sell it to me for that price. I was overjoyed. I selected 3 small colorful stones (the red one in the photo is actually a piece of glass) from one of the outside fountains. So I walked away happy, prepared to trudge the 5 1/2 miles back to my house.

Along the way, I saw a dead bush whose branches intrigued me because of the pattern they made. This is not a black and white photo but looks like one:

branches

About 45 minutes later (when I was about halfway home), I had to stop and rest and refill the water bottle I was carrying. I found a Shell station that had a little sitting area next to it complete with a bench to sit on near the curb. I placed the rocks down on the curb and took the beautiful photo of them you see at the top of this page. When I looked up, I saw something else–a magnolia tree in full bloom, so I decided I needed a couple of pictures of that too:

magnolias1 magnolias2

I walked the rest of the way home thinking about the post I was going to write and suddenly the issue with the car seemed a little less aggravating and overwhelming. I even felt that these little gifts from nature were God’s way of letting me know he was always there no matter what.

ETA: About 15 minutes before the shop closed, I called them and was told they were actually able to FIX the problem and I should be able to pass inspection, but was told to drive about 100 miles first to make sure the engine light doesn’t go back on.

So I got the idea to go back to The Light Center in Black Mountain tomorrow, which will put about 100 miles on the car. I found this place to be very peaceful and healing when I went there last September and wrote this post about it (this blog was exactly one week old!) I’ve been wanting to go back anyway while I’m off. (I don’t think this is incompatible in any way with my Christian faith). If the light doesn’t go back on, then I should pass inspection and will be able to bypass the waiver thing at the DMV and just be able to go get the car registered and that will be the end of it, God be willing.

So I’m going to see “Inside Out” and it’s pure serendipity.

I decided I spend enough time every weekend holed up in my small dark house blogging like a maniac like some sort of avoidant Aspie hermit (which I kind of am!) Suddenly the idea came to me that I wanted–needed–to spend part of today doing something different. It’s too cloudy for the pool or lake, and I have no one to go with anyway, so I decided going to the movies would be a good idea.

Here’s an example of the wonderful and mysterious ways God sometimes works. When I Googled movies in my area the first one I saw was the popular Pixar cartoon, “Inside Out.” Yes, it’s a kid’s movie but seems to have a very profound message of empathy–and it appears to be a girl who shuts off her true feelings following a traumatic event for any child–moving away. Anything sound familiar to those of you who read about narcissism? 😉

I am posting both the description of the movie as well as the Google results “Inside Out and Empathy.”

inside_out

inside_out2

Click to enlarge.

It’s almost surreal the way this happened. I mean, I almost NEVER have the idea to go to a movie, because I never have enough money–but this week I do.

Something similar happened with the comedy-drama “Welcome to Me,” which I saw in May. I had no idea before I entered the theatre that it was about a woman with BPD, which I was reading and writing a lot about at the time.

I can’t believe I’m this excited to see a children’s movie, but I think it’s going to have a lot to do with what I have been focusing on in myself and on this blog–empathy. I will be writing up a review tonight, when it’s still fresh on my mind. I also need a good cry and I have a strong feeling this movie will be making me bawl. Should I come armed with a box of Kleenex? Sometimes emotional music and movies are the most effective ways for me to get the tears out.