Praiseworthy Monsters

I went to church a couple weeks ago for the first time since the spring and found I couldn’t stop crying. My husband wasn't even with me, so it was just me, crying in the pew by myself, trying to make sure my mascara didn't run. Weird times.

Something about church, and prayer, just showing up, ready and willing, listening for whatever, can bring things to the surface - stuff I didn’t even know was there, don't even know what it is.

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Meeting God in the Disaster of My Life

When I was 31, I needed to stop drinking. I really, really, really needed to stop drinking.

I was blacking out four times a week. I smelled bad. I had given up on luxuries like sheets or box springs. Instead, I slept wrapped in a blanket on a sweaty, bare mattress like I lived in a flop house.

Only it wasn't a flop house, or at least it didn't look like one on the outside. I lived in a beautiful vintage apartment in Chicago, with dark wood around the windows that looked out on treetops. And I was cute! I was in art school, one of the best graduate schools in the country! I was fancy.

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Michelle Tea: Punk, Parenting, and God

Michelle Tea is a dynamo rockstar who you are either totally amazed by or have never heard of.

She was an early DIY riot-grrl, so it’s not surprising that her approach to God, the Divine, and her spiritual life, has been pretty DIY, too.

Recently, I got the chance to talk to Michelle about her spiritual journey. Here’s what she had to say:

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The Hazards of Talking to Anyone, about Anything

On Monday afternoon, I found myself sitting in my car on the side of the road in Nashville, crying, and wishing I could just spend a few relaxing days in a mental institution. I imagined the green walls soothing me. Someone else picking the tv shows. Me in a chair, not expected to talk. Just eating canned corn and apple sauce and taking a little dixie cup of pills then lying down for a nice long nap.

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Disappointing Ourselves and Coming Back to Center

We disappoint ourselves in two ways. One is the usual small disappointments - failing to follow a new food plan, or a workout schedule. We don’t work hard enough, or we work too much. In these small disappointments we’re basically refusing to accept our own humanity. We want to be perfect and we’re disappointed when we fall short.

But there is another disappointment, when we make truly shocking mistakes born of not knowing ourselves, when we find ourselves to be a surprise, a mystery to ourselves. A bad mystery. And we are scared then, wondering who is doing these things? Is this who I am?

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What to do when you fall through a spiritual hole: Back to basics

Earlier this week, I fell through a spiritual hole, and found myself emptying the bathroom garbage, thinking, Maybe I won’t go out with my husband tonight, and instead I’ll just stay home and research ways to kill myself.

The bottom had dropped out for me. Maybe you, like me, find yourself falling through a hole sometimes and wonder how exactly do I get out?

Before you start emailing me the suicide hotline number, I need to tell you, this is something I’ve dealt with for a long time – these feelings are familiar to people who have experienced developmental trauma, or the trauma of experiencing addiction. I’m grateful that I’ve learned a lot of strategies to intervene and to help myself reconnect, with God, with people who love me, and with myself.

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I think I owe you an apology

I heard from a reader who took issue (in a very kind way) with the tone of my writing – she said, basically, that I write as if I have something and you, the reader, have nothing. That I’m going to offer my something to you, and that I’m going to help you. She asked me some really clear questions, from a place of immense generosity, and she also specifically took issue with the idea that I was going to help.

So, I need to apologize.

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Perfectly Imperfect: Good Enough for God

I’ve felt out on a limb lately. For months now. And it feels good sometimes – exhilarating, but then it feels crushing at other times. You know, for some of us, it feels crushing just to be seen. 

I make this mistake and I think I need to get myself together before I can be seen. I need to lose weight, I need to be younger, I need to be smarter, and better read, and have better taste. Really, I just need to BE BETTER.

This feeling that it’s unsafe to show up in the world as I am is a clue that I’m feeling unpresentable before God, too.

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No shame: God, decluttering, and letting go

Last week, I spent three hours decluttering my bookshelves. I culled four grocery bags of books to sell or donate. Many of the books were arty, french novels or experimental novels from my time in grad school.

It was hard to let go of the arty french novels and keep the more banal novels that I have actually loved. It was hard to let go of something that used to be important to me, but that I never really loved.

When we let go of our old stuff, what are we really letting go of? 

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Why be honest, anyway?

It’s hard to be honest, and it’s scary. I don’t want to tell you about my past – the alcoholism, the drug abuse, the self-harm. And worse, you guys. I don’t even know you well enough to tell you all of it. Why would you want to hear it anyway?

And why would I tell?

Why tell these things that make me so remarkably, perfectly, imperfect? Why tell these things that put me right square in the middle of everyone who has ever disappointed themselves – which is to say, everyone?

Why tell the truth, anyway?

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The secret I often don’t realize I have

I’m going to tell you guys a secret. The weird thing is I often don’t even realize I have this secret. It’s so secret that it’s secret from me.

I make this mistake about God, about life. About the GOOD LIFE.

The first mistake is, I still think if I could only do what God wanted me to do, then I would have no problems and I would do everything right. That I would never be hassled by daily life. That I would always have this amazing customer service experience everywhere I go.

I think IF I WERE DOING LIFE RIGHT, then I would always be energetic, and have lots of extra money. I think all the people in my life would behave just AMAZINGLY and I would not feel the need to sort them out in my head.

I make this mistake and believe that if I was only doing it right, doing life right, then I wouldn’t need God. I think that anytime I need God, it’s because something has GONE WRONG.

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20 things that don’t work and 1 thing that does

For as long as I can remember, something just seemed wrong. And there were a lot of things wrong -- my dad’s drunk friends on our couch, not enough money to pay the cable bill or the newspaper boy, the secrets about our family that my mom whispered to me while dad sat in the living room, reading the paper while he waited for the game to start.

But as I grew up and built my own life, there was still this feeling. I married a great person. I went to a great graduate school. I made money. And yet, something just felt wrong. It must be me, I figured. I must be the thing that’s wrong.

As humans, we have a longing -- a longing for love, for belonging, for attention. 

Anyone who’s ever been married knows the heartbreak that comes with realizing that no one person can really fulfill this longing. No one person can be everything to us. We have to find something else.

This longing is a God-sized hole. 

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What to Do When You’ve Done All You Can: Put It In the God Box

What do you do when you have a problem you just can’t solve? You’ve tried and you’ve tried and you’ve tried, but nothing seems to be working.

Sometimes it’s not a big problem even, but daily life. What do you do when you’re not feeling so connected to your Higher Power? When you’re feeling underwater with your daily responsibilities and you feel like your own Divine Spirit is just an idea, a hope you have, rather than a real, living energy that can help you and guide you?

Sometimes when I pray, it feels like I’m tossing a message in a bottle into a stream. At those times, I don’t feel super connected. Instead, I feel tired. That’s how disconnection from God shows up for me: I realize, Oh my God, I’m exhausted.

That’s when I use my God Box.

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Dropping the F-Bomb Before God

Cursing is not perfect. I get that. Sometimes I wish I didn’t curse. But retaining my right to curse has helped me build a strong relationship with God.

It’s easy to think that I’ve got to “clean it up” for God, that I’ve got to be the BEST POSSIBLE ME before I show up with God. This idea is based on a notion of God as a mean, distant grandparent – a grumpy old God who doesn’t like children and complains about my dirty jeans, my muddy sneakers, my messy hair. That’s not the God I need.

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What to Do When God Seems Absent

When I began trying to connect with God (to see what I mean by “God,” click here), we had a lot of hard feelings between us. I was angry. I spent hours and hours as a kid looking for another family for my brother and me, but help never arrived. (Did I ask anyone for help? No. But that’s another post.)

So I was mad at God. But what do we do when we’re mad at God? When we’ve got a God, but we think he might not be good?

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How I’m Going to Blow Your Mind: The Anti-Gratitude List

Ok. I know what you’re thinking: All right, all right – Gratitude, I get. But  –  what the fuck  –  anti-gratitude? Yes. Anti-gratitude.

I came across this idea sitting in a Borders (remember those?), having just moved to this super cute suburb of Chicago, not knowing many people yet. I grabbed some books and headed down to the children’s section with my son. While he played with their toys, I stumbled upon spiritual magic.

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