religion

When I left..

It was a long time coming.

You should have known, but you didn’t think I had the guts to do it.

How many times did you you say you wanted out?

Maybe the time I didn’t want to go to town at 11 pm, which I quietly expressed, being wrapped up in an art project.  My saying so was a challenge to you;  I think it represented other aspects of our lives that you were unhappy with.  You wouldn’t lay a hand on me, but you gave me your best intimidation:  Your black, unblinking eyes steady as you charged into my personal space- just close enough to mean business.   Then, you threatened to rip my painting- All because I asserted an opinion.

I made sure to do it gently too, so there could be no accusation of “rebellion.”

You yelled,  you clinched your fists,  packed a bag or two, and I watched from a window as you tossed them onto the back seat of the car.  I think you circled around the block a few times while I called my sister at 1 o’clock in the morning, terrified.

I  tried to hold my calm- which you always hated.  You said more than once I should express my feelings differently  because I appeared lackadaisical and uncaring.  But we both know that wasn’t always the case.

I asked myself once again: Why do I continually encounter this episode with men?

Before going to my sister’s house for the night, I have to say I was truly afraid, unsure of what you might do.  I had experienced occasional hurt when you were overcome with a meanness that wouldn’t rest until I had tasted the bitterness of it, and tears…that seemed to be the objective.  Once fulfilled,  you withdrew in shameful repentance after a revelation from God that I hadn’t done anything to deserve such treatment, that you ought to have behaved better.

As years passed, and after many more words and irrational confrontations, I became numb.

When you said “I don’t think I want to be married to you anymore,”  and how I had been a lousy wife, something changed in me that instant.  I never quite got over that.

Later, When I said I wanted a separation, you came up with things like:

“Your credit isn’t good enough..”  (It was excellent, in fact).

“You cant make it on your own..” (I have).

The only sad moment was your shock, when you slowly fumbled your way toward  me with genuine tears and said:

“Don’t leave me…”

Pictures of you as a toddler came to mind, because you looked vulnerable like that little boy.  I saw you as human, not

my husband.

I stayed for a long time…17 years- because I believed in marriage.  I left for the same reason.  I knew your religious belief would never allow you to leave.  After our divorce, you informed me the international headquarters of your church had a file of my behaviors and my leading the divorce, which cleared you of any fault, and free to pursue ministry.  I knew that would be the case.  Make the most of it.  Divorce was the best decision I ever made.

BUT no, it wasn’t easy.

What my Dad said…

Regarding religion:

“I used to think a lot about it- wondering if I was doing the right things. When you get older, you settle into what you believe.”

When he was a boy-

“Most community people called my dad, your grandfather “uncle John.” Mr. Hadley was an old farmer in overalls, and he always addressed me and your uncle Jim as “Rusty ol’ son-of-abitch”, or “bastards.” He called us rusty, because we always went around without a shirt playing and were dirty. I always wondered… why would my dad would let him say that?

Christianity- Impressions, part 3

 

As a senior in high school, I took my first job at a Restaurant. It was here I met J. whom I dated casually.

He was a generally attractive guy from a large Italian family who relocated from New England.  He was a few years older and in junior college studying to be a draftsman. I liked the idea of dating an “older man.”

He loved foreign cars (owned a fiat), anything pertaining to racing and the Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton. He knew I was interested in art, so for our first ‘date,’ which happened to fall on my birthday, he presented me with a poster he made,  an 11 x 14 drawing of Mary Lou with muscular legs fully illustrated; She was standing in a victory pose as if she had just triumphed over a choreographed dance and tumble.  The size of her head was enormous-much like the helmet worn by the Darth Vader character “Dark Helmet” in the spoof movie “Space Balls.”

With time I learned  the picture was the equivalent of handing me a copy of the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit issue, and how truly obsessed he was with the woman. Even once he suggested how great it would be if I cut all of my hair off, and style it like Mary Lou.

Uh…No. Don’t think so.

Eventually, J. told me his parents did not approve of me because I was not Catholic. I had no concept at the time of what it meant to be Catholic, other than his mother didn’t use birth control and therefore had a growing brood of moppets.  It did not connect with what little knowledge of faith I did have. The only time I was invited or ever attended his church was for a wine and cheese party, and what luck- this sworn teetotaler won the door prize: a bottle of wine which I reserved in the fridge like a precious relic,  until my father decided to sample it.

J’s religion seemed to oversee a lot of the family dynamic and cohesiveness which I admired, and I knew there was a reverence for something all-powerful, even if it was, in my opinion, a little shallow. I viewed their disapproval not as a means of preserving the faith, which in hindsight for his parents…it was. Instead, I took it personally and thought it completely absurd. I mean, why would his Holy God want to keep him away from my influence? Sweet, little ol’ me?  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  After all, he was the one obsessed with sex and forever requesting to shave my legs, and what does his God do with that?

First Impressions

As an adult, I have experienced faith, skepticism, questions and doubts,  agnosticism and a return to faith, though my faith looks different than before.  It lead me into some interesting places which can be read about in my public profile:         http://en.gravatar.com/joyaisthorpedesign       

I was not raised with a particular belief in God nor was I raised in Church, though I did occasionally  glimpse into the world of religion.  Here are some first impressions:

Since Childhood, Faith was summed up in a portrait illustration of Jesus hanging in my parent’s bedroom. His kind eyes seemed to follow me around, and it was nice to think he might be watching over things and thinking well of me.  He also hid in the pages of the Family Bible. After exhausting all forms of entertainment, my siblings and I knew a dull moment could be temporarily forgotten by hauling the monstrous book from the shelf and scanning over illustrations:

-Moses carted away in a makeshift boat;
-men in dresses, making their way with crooked sticks;
-Angry Lions, Disarmed Soldiers, Walls of water…

and there he’d be in his underwear, arms stretched out on two slabs of wood with his head bowled over.  looked pretty sad to me.
When I was around 6 or so, mom took us to a local Baptist church for a brief period of time where I received a charm bracelet. Each scripture verse memorized was worth one metal charm:  a  cameo in honor of the disciples, each whose metal cheek bore an engraved scripture reference.

When the memorization program ended, we had a party in the church basement with a special guest: “Dr. Shock,” the 1970’s late- night host of scary movies.  Protestant Churches are always using whatever attraction to draw the people in, and while we probably weren’t allowed to watch him at home, there he was in the flesh, and what kid could resist a man in black wearing bad eye-liner??  His swaggering voice invited us to join him in the front of the room where he would sign his autograph on the inside  of our Bibles.

“Mom, can we go…

no…

please?

NO…

I WANT TO…

I said NO!”

We took our place behind the other sheep,   holy book in hand with the words of Jesus written in red-  the grand prize for memorizing a bit of the content.
We broke at least one of the commandments that day.

Incidentally, I still have it – Signature intact.

A few years later, I attended a vacation Bible school hosted by my grandmother’s church.
I remember the classroom, the self-assured teacher, a classmate with a plaid dress, red Kool-Aid and being incredibly disoriented. I don’t remember any of the class content, because I was too busy trying to comprehend instructions. Which language is this teacher using, anyway? What did she say? It sounds like English, but something sifts and jumbles every word.

My Grandmother  lived in a Senior Citizen’s apartment complex, and one of her upstairs neighbors who wore a muumuu and beehive hairstyle was a hard-core evangelist.

She caught my eyes when I looked up at her from my Grandmother’s porch steps, and asked excitedly:

“Are you saved, girl? You know Jesus?”

Moments like this produced a mix of unexplained shame and curiosity.

My grandmother interrupted, shooing away the neighbor. She then looked at me through her screen door and said:
“Don’t pay any attention to her. She’s a nut.”