Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dear Atheists

Let me first preface this by saying obviously this isn't addressed to all atheists. I like to separate people in religion into two groups, it's a little elementary and probably has a billion loop holes, but bear with me. There are just those who simply are religious. They go about their daily lives, you might know they are religious, they might attend church or wear a sign of their religion on them, but overall, your impression of me isn't "Oh, it's Joy and she is a CHRISTIAN" because I'm not squawking about it 24/7. It's a part of them, but its not the only part.

Then there are those who are believers. They're the ones that have a religious counterpoint for a lot of the content you may express, they think that their views should apply to all, they go door to door, they proselytize and they think anyone who doesn't toe the line is wrong or pitiful. Frankly they annoy the hell out of me. But I believe the same applies to atheists. There are those who simply go about their daily lives and that's it. Then there are those who BELIEVE it, and I often find that they have a lot of similarities to those religious believers. So for all those who go about their daily lives and don't feel the need to mock, or argue with, or need folks to justify their faith, please mosey on.

So, this letter goes out to the believers.

I'm a Christian, I'm not an idiot. I believe in a higher force, but I don't believe s/he is sitting on a cloud pulling some puppet strings. So when you ask me if there is a God, why do they allow x, y, z to happen, I'm going to get frustrated. Why? Because faith is a pretty personal thing and we all interpret it a little differently. For example, I believe in evolution. I think Darwin is right, he's great. There's no way on Earth did we just appear happy little creature living amongst dinosaurs (though that would be my kids dream come true). Science is great! Yay science. I live in awe of all the advances we've had in just my time.

I can't prove or disprove anything. It's faith, it's believing in something that is hard to believe in. I can't argue the finer points of religious texts, don't ask me to. I'm going to shrug. I have read the Bible and I can recall lots of things, but asking me to figure out what Leviticus 2:13 means, I'm not going to be able to help you. I try to learn and spend time devoted to learning, but lets be real here, I have a life outside of religion. I have three kids, I'm constantly on the go, I keep adding more things to make my schedule insane, and I'm not a theological scholar. What I can give you is this heartfelt explanation of why this is important to me, but really, I'm not even interested in proving or disproving to you, it's not that important to me.

I'm not a conservative. Not by any stretch. I am a Canadian progressive Christian, the reason why I specify Canadian is that to identify as a Canadian progressive, it means you're pretty damned left wing. I'm not a Communist, but I believe wholly and fundamentally in things like universal health care, a good social fabric for those disadvantaged, anti-oppression concepts, same sex marriage and full rights given to those couples. I wouldn't belong to a faith group that didn't believe in this. I believe in birth control, I use birth control! I believe in reproductive rights and will fight like a rabid trapped African Honey Badger to anyone who tries to take them away. YOU HEAR THAT HARPER????? I think being a social conservative goes against my brand of religion. Above all else, I believe in loving thy neighbour as much as I love myself. I'm not always good about that, but its the thing I believe most important in the Bible.

Speaking of which, I don't follow it word for word. Yes I guess I pick and choose? Does that make me less faithful? I dunno, who am I to judge, who are you? Ultimately, I guess when I get into the afterlife and God is pissed, I'll know. But I don't live in fear or worry of that. In fact, I don't live in fear of God, I don't make certain that I don't wear mixed fabrics daily. I even break the 10 Commandments from time to time...hell, I'm separated, AND I'm in a relationship not with my husband and using birth control, you put it together! I swear, drink, dance. I'm not a goody two shoes and I don't keep the company of goody two shoes. The Harper Valley PTA moms at my kids school believe I'm a hussy for Christsakes (see?). I believe God loves me, flaws and all. I try to be a good person, I try to be a loving person and live with forgiveness, honesty and good motivations. Do I always succeed? Hell no. And while I don't get a spiritual time out, or go to confession, I do in the end, in my day to day life reap the consequences, even if its just feeling like I let myself down and that's a pretty shitty thing.

Back to all the thousands of itty bitty rules, I don't follow them. Really, how the hell is anyone supposed to, they're insane? Good grief! I use the Bible as a larger guide for life. I love parables and from them I get my larger messages. And really, they're not all that different from examples people have set in your lives and how you aspire to those examples. For me, I get those examples and I have these stories which I believe were divinely inspired.

Do I know that there is a God or that Jesus rose from the dead plain as day? I admit, it's a bit of a stretch. I can go into detail, but it's long and I'll spare you. I'm a Capricorn, true and true, if I can't see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, it's hard for me to grasp as real, but sometimes even us old goats have to make a leap of faith. Like love for example. I mean, you can touch someone who says they love you, they can do many things for you, build a life, have kids but they can lie (Not that *I* have ever experienced that! lol). And while you can make a very good argument that faith has no tangible examples, I believe there is, with every good deed and person who comes into my life or works hard to make the world a better place against hatred, or evil. Maybe I'm just manufacturing these things in my mind, but really, every time I see good against all odds and compassion, it just reinforces this belief I have way down deep inside that we are all connected in a spiritual way and I cannot wrap my head around all this energy and thought and love that people have, simply ceases to exist when we die.

If you're tsking me, that's fine, you don't have to believe what I believe. You might even think I'm some misguided fool. But overall, I'm sure you'd find me a funny, cheerful, caring and pretty smart person to be around. You needn't pity me, and I guess what I'm asking is to not be generalized. I don't want to be lumped in with Tea Partiers, and I don't do blind faith very well. I make a point of never pressing my religion on anyone, well directly...that whole thing about being progressive has a bit to do with my spirituality, but point is, I'm not telling you to be a Christian, I never will, I don't believe in it. If you don't believe you don't believe. That's it, end of story...oh and by the way, I don't believe you're going to roast in hell, I don't even really believe in hell. Betcha didn't see that one coming? Not all of us are alike. I know ministers who anyone can sit down with in a bar and you'd never know they were ministers. They will sit and have an academic discussion about their religious texts with open minds and hearts and not once try to make you convert. But really, get to know some of us before you write us off. This applies for folks of different religions too, they're pretty cool too.We're as varied as grains of sand...sorry, cheesy cliche, next time I'll write with more caffeine.

Why my religion is important to me is that it helps me to see the good things, which in turn inspires me to do good things. That's a good thing eh? But before you assume that simply because I'm religious, I'm motivated by fear, hate or blind faith, get to know me. My spirituality has no place for negativity, its there to get me motivated by love, even if I want to go biting people in the face, which is a daily occurrence, so really, the world benefits from me being religious, and considering there is an Incredible Hulk Joy lurking somewhere deep in side, it's probably a good thing that I'm a believer.

I've taken some time to kind of explain where I'm coming from spiritually, for greater understanding between folks, but I don't have a burning need to justify my faith. It's just there, like my love for my kids, or sweets, or swimming on a hot summer day.

So, I wish you well in life, going about your daily business, as I do, and enjoying the good moments thoroughly. I hope you wish the same for me, since all in all, I'm a pretty awesome person, even for a religious person. ;)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I wonder if this happens to everyone, but I notice a lot of circling in my life as of late. A lot of things going on in my life have stemmed from me spending a lot more time back home in my old community. I remember taking a class last year and it let out early and I didn't want to go home because all that was waiting for me there was a lot of broken dreams and heartache. So I called my mom, asked if she wanted a coffee, and she went and grabbed my family and we had a big ol gab session. I needed the hugs and the unconditional TLC that only your relatively sane family can give you. Anyhow, that turned into me spending a lot more time back home and bringing my kids there, something I hadn't done too often in previous years. It allowed me to reconnect with who I was before marriage and kids and remember that fireball and it's allowed me to proceed with life a little more easily and has given me strength to move forward.

Anyhow, fast forward to today, I'm at a place where I volunteered and worked for nearly 20 years ago. I really hate the fact that I can say that, but yes, it was 20 years ago when I entered my teens. I worked at this organization as a youth writer and was published! So if you want someone to blame for me foisting my thoughts and writings on the world, it's them since they told me that I was somewhat good at it. I'm back at this place offering myself up as a volunteer. I need something in my life while I wait for school, but I also want to get back into my community and give back. The woman I was talking to, I was rehashing an old story where I had written an article about our local community police liaison committee and it wasn't too favourable. I was then summoned to a meeting, where a dozen or so grown adults proceeded to tear me a new one. They were mad, livid. It's not what I had written was untrue, but they didn't like the way I called them on it. So I was telling her that I had to go to the local police precinct where this meeting was taking place, and the then staff inspector, who is now chief of police in my fair city was kind enough to chair it. So as I'm recounting this story, it dawns on me, that police building was torn down, the agency where I worked out of to write that article was torn down, and that agency was where I was retelling the story today, sits on the former site of the police building. In fact the chewing out I got, happened within about 15 feet of where we were sitting. (Part of me thought HA!!!! I admit that) It was just such a cool wow moment for me. Nearly 20 years ago, I had written a story that had gotten me into trouble and here I was again, retelling this story, hoping to give back to the agency that got me writing in the first place.

I like to reflect on my life a lot lately and that despite my then efforts to run away from the community I grew up in and leave all the bad things behind, I neglected to see all the good things I left behind too. I thank whatever force is out there to give me the wisdom that day to head back home and be reminded of what I was missing in my life. It wasn't high powered positions or lots of money and influence, I realized I might never see a backstage pass again in my life, but returning home, I had regained so much more. I remember the poverty and despair, but I also remember the hope and determination. A type of love and character that can only be found by people who have walked through hell to see the other end and were all the more wiser for it. I've been given so many gifts from my home and community, the ability and confidence to write and put myself out there being one of them, but the friends, family I've been blessed with. The connections that you have where you might not have seen someone in 15 years, but you pick up like you've never left and welcomed back with open arms, no matter how much you've changed for the better or worse. I hope everyone has a special place and community like this that they can retreat to and get the opportunity to truly see and experience how valuable a resource it is to have in one's life.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The sexy

I meant to write this blog post something like a month ago, I forgot about it, but was having a conversation tonight that reminded me of it. What triggered this was a Facebook status update about looking sexy or something. I correlated it to looking good, and someone I respect, love and admire said that sexiness is about attitude. I definitely agree with the sentiment, but I don't know if I agree that that is exclusive to what sexiness is, at least for me.

I don't consider myself as some epic sexy icon, in fact for the longest time, I didn't feel attractive at all. Before that, I KNEW that I had it going on. I was a size 12, young, full of piss and vinegar and rocking the hourglass figure, mind you, my hair wasn't nearly as fabulous! As time went on, I gained weight, got up to a 22 at my highest, but maintained a regular 18. Logically I knew I wasn't ugly, but I didn't feel it. Needless to say my self esteem in that regard dropped to an all time low at the time of my separation. It was at that point I made a decision that no matter how shitty I felt, I was going to look well put together. Fake it until I make it, that was my idea. In a completely unrelated move to my looks, but affected it wildly, I pretty much stopped eating well. That was pure stress, but needless to say, it took me down from a size 20, to a 14, which is pretty much ideal on my body, or at least my ideal.

Anyhow, every once in a while, someone would comment that despite how awful my circumstances were, I looked fabulous and that gave me a little boost. Now while I shouldn't tie my happiness to how others view how awesome I look, I needed that superficial bump. Slowly, as time went on and I continued to fake it until I make it, I noticed here and there that I was being noticed. Again, superficial, but much needed at the time. What slowly started to happen though, was that every now and again, I'd catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and be taken away by that pretty person looking back. It was a split second before the Critical Joy jumped up from her coffee break to take that moment away, but it was something I hadn't experienced in the past several years.

My therapist mentioned that it was important as a sexual being to have your loving partner desire you, not that I had a partner, but I think to a degree, knowing that I could turn a head now and then, it somewhat woke up that Joy who remembered that I was sexual and desirable, at least to a few people. However I realized that I was still tying my confidence to how others see me. It would give me a boost, but it was short lived and very surface like. When I noticed that a certain fella was making eyes at me, then something really jumped, because here was someone that I was interested in, who I could see found me easy on the eye. Some months later, the affection is based on so much more than my looks, but it's once again nice to feel desired when I use my eyes or smile to evoke that reaction. That said, more and more, those split second glimpses in the mirror started to grow longer and Critical Joy started to shut her yap. Confident Joy was clearly sitting on her giving her noogies because I started saying "not too shabby girl" to myself.

Then I went and did something radical, I had a tummy tuck. Really, probably the antithesis of sexy truly coming from within, but strangely enough, now I feel it. My body is far from the Hollywood ideal. I'm not 90lbs soaking wet with insanely huge tits. I have fat, cellulite, wrinkles, greys, my arms flap, I'm a solid size 14 and without more surgery, or serious boob deflation, I don't see that changing anytime soon and I spend enough time tweezing that if I ever were granted three wishes for myself, one of them would be to have every stray hair removed forever without any pain, just so I can be fucking done with it already! However, I feel good about myself. Well sometimes, it's hard for me to get rid of that old critic that reminds me of the time where I didn't feel so good about myself, but I feel like I can hold my own. Interestingly, my plastic surgeon told me that I was the ideal candidate because I didn't want an unrealistic image, I just wanted get rid of a part of my body that had been warped due to pregnancy. I guess if I were truly "I am woman, hear me roar", I would have worn that battled and bruised part of my body with pride, but I guess I need to not feel so at odds with something so changed in order to feel a bit more normal about myself.

So obviously my sexiness is very much tied to my appearance, which I wonder how healthy that can be. I mean, I know I can flirt up a good storm, I'm funny and playful. I'm pretty smart and what I'm most proud of, is that I'm a survivor of shitty situations in life and that has given me a confidence and swagger. That helps to give me self worth, but it doesn't really make me feel sexy, unless that self worth is what is to be considered sexy, which I guess in the end, can count for a whole lot of it. I think also, sexiness tied to appearance isn't necessarily awful. I mean, it's a pretty demanding thing if your ideal of sexy is unrealistic, like what Hollywood projects, but if you're a size 14, 16, 18 and you are rocking it, maybe that is a good thing because you're brave and open enough to see your beauty outside of the norm.

So I dunno, sexiness is attitude deep inside and not tied to how you look, or its something based on how you look and your desirability, or it's a little bit of both. Like just about everything in life, it's probably sitting somewhere close to the middle. I do believe that confidence is your sexiest asset, I'm just not sure where or what that confidence is based on is appropriate. I guess one of life's riddles for me, obviously enough to keep me blogging at 12:30 at night, but enough said on the topic, now it's time for me to get my beauty rest. ;)