Burn, Baby. Burn.

joanadoration

Martyrs are crazy, man.

I remember reading about Joan of Arc for the first time when I was a kid and thinking: This chic is fucking nuts.

Yet, I turned each page, unable to tear my eyes away from her gruesome end. Her expression, stoic, as her face disappeared into a haze of smoke and flames. I couldn’t fathom a world where someone would burn for her Beliefs. But, the older I get, the more I learn — people do this everyday. And, usually, it’s not for God’s sake.

The truth is, like it or not, we’re all a little bit martyr-y. I’ve been picking this theory apart, because — it bugs me. I don’t like the idea of people killing themselves, literally or figuratively, in the name of something else — especially expecting praise.

Since my Year of Happiness began, I’ve devoted a lot of time to discovering how my Happiness has been thwarted by my own martyr-like Beliefs and actions.

I’m gonna lay some Belief smack-down on y’all: We’re all selfish, narcissistic, idealistic, and self-serving. — Some of the time. — It’s called Being Human. And, I’m here to tell you that you’re supposed to fuck up and, occasionally, be an asshole. If you’ve been conditioned by your parents, family, coworkers, significant others, children, or friends to believe otherwise, you’ve got some serious martyr-issues to deal with yourself.

People who tell you that they do everything from a selfless place — are liars. Even the most selfless people get pleasure and happiness from the good acts they perform. Martyrdom, by definition, is self-serving. That is to say, to a martyr, to serve God is to serve one’s self. And, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Serving other people is THE BEST thing we can do. But, the thing about martyrdom is — to do it right — you can’t expect anything in return. That’s the rub. And, the part where most people fuck up. Unless, of course, you’re Joan of Arc.

But, I’m not here to talk-up theologian mumbo-jumbo. I’m here to tell you that your Belief and commitment to your own Happiness, doesn’t come with a list of prerequisite actions. You’re not selfish or idealistic to a fault if your priority in life is Happiness — Your Happiness.

I think that was the crux of my problem. I always felt that I owed someone — that there was a price to pay for feeling happy. — I had to have a certain job, look a certain way, talk a certain way, act a certain way. And, because I never lived up to my own impossible standards, I unknowingly held a fundamental Belief that I didn’t deserve better. And, that Belief was all-encompassing.

This week, I tackled a lot of the Beliefs I grew up with. Some from home, some from school, some that I’d created, myself, in adulthood. None were very positive. But, more importantly — none of them were true.

As we grow into adults, our little-kid Beliefs grow too. We never revisit the flawed system into which we’ve built ourselves. And, we forget that we wrote all these Beliefs during a time in our lives when we didn’t have the capacity to comprehend the doctrine to which we pledged our faith.

We’re never taught as kids that — Belief is flexible. — It is.

So often, we find ourselves feeling inadequate, powerless, and alone. But, if we leverage our Beliefs, we’ll find that this is never the case. We are, in every moment we live — Worthy, capable, and supported, each of us, integral parts of this incredible celestial ensemble. If your life is a testament to the things you value, shouldn’t the first thing on your list be Yourself? Your Happiness?

This is your gift to the world. — You. — Your unique being and all the gifts you already posses.

Happiness, I’m discovering, grows from a very small place within us. It has an uncanny ability to permeate into all areas of our being — if we let it. But, first, we must hold a Belief, even if it is just a small one, that we are worthy of the Happiness we desire.

I was a dumpy kid. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and, the ones I did have were dumpy too. We supported each other. But, we never believed that we belonged — not at the cool table, or at the pretty-girl-clique parties, or to get picked for school sports teams. And, maybe, that was true back then. But, I think, it’s more likely that we let a little bit of chub and big crew of mean girls get us down.

We were always good enough. But, we never believed it. And, for me, finding Happiness now, is about revisiting those things I internalized long ago. Eradicating ridiculous, outdated Beliefs that were never true. Finding my Happiness, largely, has been slowly silencing the voices that have been lying to me for as long as I can remember.

My advice? If you really want to be happy, don’t be a martyr for the sake of the self-deprecating voice you created to explain the unfairness of your youth. That voice is ridiculous and has no bearing on the person you’ve become. That voice only silences the one you’ve been given by the Universe. The one that serves you and everyone around you.

Martyring yourself for accolades doesn’t make anyone happy, especially you. More importantly, it doesn’t change the past. Real change takes place when our Beliefs reflect the people we have become, today.

Belief is flexible.

And, with few tweaks, I think you’ll be surprised how fast Happiness will light you up.

No inferno necessary.

 

A Temperature I Can Live With

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The last time I felt like I was on fire — I was bonafide crazy.

Holy. Hotness. Boiling over. And, that’s how I know things have gotten bad. — The heat.

It’s been building. Pressure. But, I’ve been preparing for this moment. — The moment where I miss Portland. The moment where I wonder if I made the right choice. The moment where I have my doubts. And, I knew, I knew this moment was on it’s way — so, I readied myself. And, when it arrived, as planned, I embraced it like a lost child, dropping everything to find a place to go cool down with it.

When the hot iron of crazy strikes, and, it’s happened to me several times since getting sober — I know that I have to stop everything. Completely cease. Mentally rest. I tend to run on fumes. In this state, my mind will go ape-shit and find itself creating the worst possible outcome — every time. I let small obsessions take over. I’m curt and angry. And, I show it. I hate showing it. I feel like I might lose my mind. So, this time — I was ready. And, when the moment hit, I made a beeline to the nearest place I could be alone. To sit in it undisturbed. — Silent. Silent. Silence.

The church was empty. Marble echoed the squeaky sound of my black Vans. I looked up at the alter. And I let Jesus know — “I’m back.” But, I’m not really here to pray. So, I tell Jesus that too.

“I’m not here to pray, Jesus. — I’m just crazy.” And, I’m pretty sure, he’s heard that line before.

The last time I sat still, with intention, was back when my ex was kicking heroin then using heroin then kicking heroin then using heroin then kicking heroin. I felt like I was hanging on for dear life. So, every night, I lay in my Portland bathtub and I waited while the water turned from scalding to tepid. My mind, still. I’d be hot and then I’d be cold. And, so, so still. I’d move the water back and forth slowly with my shriveled fingers — but everything else would remain — calm. I let all my thoughts go. I allowed my sadness and my confusion and my pain and my fury and my forgiveness and my hope to coexist in that white, rectangular pot — all ofΒ  it, just steeping in the water. I let it come to a boil, and then, I let it cool. I let it cool down until it was just so. Just bearable. A temperature that I could live with.

I sit in an empty church pew because I don’t have a bathtub anymore. I explain this to Jesus. And I apologize for using his space. I tell him how I just need to let the water cool. And, then I let him know that I might need help with that, “you know — if you have some time.” And then, I feel like I need to explain that it’s not about my junkie ex-boyfriend, or anything super serious like that. It’s just me. Me and my shit. I had to clear all that up for Jesus. So, I told him about being homesick. And, — “I know, Jesus, I know — that sounds funny, because I was just homesick for home and then I moved home and now I’m homesick for Portland — which was home — but wasn’t.” And then, I apologize again, because, — “I know, Jesus — it’s fucking confusing.”

After about a half hour, I realize that I’ve asked Jesus to assist me with quite a few things. I wonder — were those prayers? Did I just pray to Jesus? Nah. I turn my head around and, behind me, I see there’s another man praying now. He’s on his knees about ten pews back. I whisper to Jesus — “Help that guy first.” After all, I’m just here to cool off. “Really. Don’t worry about me. I’m good.” — It’s quiet here. That’s all I need.

Cool air blows in from the side door when a little, Latina woman shuffles in with a black and white shawl wrapped around her shoulders. I watch her shove a few dollars in the copper collection box and she lights two red candles. A chill creeps up the sleeves of my hoodie. Cools me down. I feel my blood go from boiling to tepid.

On my way out, I genuflect and, then, I stand in the aisle and tip my black-knit-beanie up to Jesus. “Yeah. So. Thank you, for the space and the air, I mean, for everything. Amen.”

And then, I try to begin again. — With a brisk walk back home.

 


 

Artwork: “Just Ducky”; Beth Carrington Brown;

Just Ducky: A bathtub painting

 

 

 

Jesus and Our Marbles

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Sunday. — I’m on my knees in a church pew, and — I’m waiting.

Sometimes church seems like the only appropriate place to go when my head feels like the inside of pinball machine. Voices are echoing and the organ is humming. And I’m not sure that anyone’s really listening, but, truth be told — I may not really be praying.

At St. Patrick’s, in Bay Ridge, the crucifix is painted on the wall. It’s a weird sorta mosaic. In most churches, it’s a statue or pillar — something three dimensional — just so you know that Christ is hanging right there in front of you. He’s solid. His limbs are smooth and round and the nails in his hands and feet are these tiny raised bumps that you can reach out and touch if you’re so inclined. But, not here. Not in this church.

I think about that — the dimensions of Christ — while I try to pray. I attempt to slow the thoughts that race around my brain. Today, there’s a lot going on. There are too many prayers. I can’t pick out just one. There isn’t enough time. I try to pray for everyone else and find some way to ignore all my crap. I mean, that’s what I should be doing. But then, where will I put it all? — All this stuff I brought here to iron out?

After the priest reads the gospel, our hearts spill all of their contents onto the floor like giant bags of marbles. Rolling wildly under the pews and across the aisle. No one else hears or sees them. — Well, maybe, mosaic Jesus does — but, if he does, he doesn’t move or change his expression. He’s still just casting his eyes down at Mary with that sad-face that all church Jesus’ have — I mean — he’s dying. And us, we’ve only lost our marbles.

At the end of the homily, my friend, who joined me for mass, grabs my knee. It was like everything that the priest said was tailored to us. With a sideways look, we silently acknowledge this. The strange thing is, we’d only walked down to St. Pat’s because Our Lady of Angels, twenty blocks away, had the wrong fucking mass times posted on the their website. So, when my buddy and I arrived at 11:30AM — missals blazing like spiritual gangsters — the priest was already sending parishioners off, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

So, here we are, at St. Pat’s 12:30PM mass. Praying and not praying. Spilling our marbles. Waiting for JC to give us a sign that something good is headed our way. But, neither of us gets one. — JC is still motionless up there on the wall.

The mass ends, and after the priest and his posse file out, we follow suit. We leave our marbles scattered across the church floor. Because — it’s better that way. We know they’ll get sorted out here, even without us.

We walk down Third Avenue, where there’s a street fair in progress. There are bagpipers playing and little kids with painted faces and it smells like funnel cake and Italian sausages and my buddy keeps stopping in the middle of the street to adjust his shoe.

For some reason, around Eighty-Third Street, he and I both start to laugh. I’m not sure what came over us. I’m not sure what happened in that church. What we took. What we left behind. But, I will say this — even though I couldn’t say a prayer to save my life — I’m almost certain that one was answered.

 

 

Artwork Photo Credit: Jesus Christ, Painting in a Catholic Church in Maseok; http://d-roamingcat.blogspot.com/2013_02_01_archive.html?m=1