Monday, December 23, 2013

Frightening the faithful

I follow various amputee groups on facebook. Sometimes the posts drift into territory that can be taken religiously, or that causes people to proclaim their faith. The other day  I saw this: 

Well, I've found my brain functions better since I stopped believing the more bizarre out-of-control events of my life (or ALL the events of my life) are Meant to Be and more Wtf-Random, like the bone infection I got at age thirteen which was treated with only prayer and led eventually to my becoming an amputee. 

And while people on the amputee facebook page commented things like "God leads those who love Him and do His will," I thought I'd stick up for the secular folks and mention that His business of being unwilling to heal amputees (or even take care of kids forced to pray for their lives) really sucks. No, not even that strong.

I said this:

"Since religious "treatment" in childhood led to my amputation, I'm happier with Chance instead of fate. The odds are actually in our favor." (Smiley face.)

A friend made a supportive comment.

Other than that, the conversation stepped over my smiley-faced, wrecked-by-religion body and walked on. Amen!

Well, speaking for myself, my sanity started to return twenty years ago when I grasped the idea that my family's blind faith put my brain and body in this predicament, and that Nature/Chance/human grit and will were what got me through. Yes, it's true: I started thumbing my nose at the idea of "God." And guess what? I haven't been struck by lightning. 

But I thought about this. I realized the effect I have on people sometimes. I understand that I am scary.

I don't mean this in my usual fear-inducing way. Yes, I made "happy" faces at a baby in a diner a few years ago and frightened her into a screaming, crying lather which brought my daughters to tears as well. That was probably my 'do-rag, the thousand-yard stare I come by honestly, and all the wear & tear on my face from too many years of clean living when I drove tractors in the sun. I have to watch it when I try to charm babies now. My charisma is often mistaken for fiendish, diabolical plans. (Sad face.)

I scare faithful people in a different way. Here I am, an amputee: Someone MISSING A LIMB FOR GOD'S SAKE!!! What can POSSIBLY BE WORSE in this life??? NOTHING!!!

Right? An amputee...and I don't believe in god. Don't believe there is a Plan. Don't believe in an afterlife when I could get my leg back and frolic with the other faithful...

It makes me like a horse with no fear of the whip. (I don't subscribe to training horses based on that standard anymore, but it's a good analogy.) I've seen everything religion has to offer. I staked my life on it as a young teenager. I survived because humans are tough. So there.

Now I strip my emotional life naked in my talks. I walk audiences with me through that pain, despair and excruciating growth to this place of fearlessness. I claim it. What have you got, religion? God? Hell? Damnation?

I understand why they step over me in those conversations, talk to each other, don't break eye contact. I would too if I were still religious. If I lived by the Rules.

Alas. Screw that. I'm not afraid anymore. 

What else you got?  (Smiley face.)

Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Joyous Festivus. Thank Zeus the days are getting longer, my YA novel is almost done, and I've discovered the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. If you're curious, try the sample below. Tell them Liz sent you. (Winky face.)

Penguin Cafe Orchestra: Organum 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Revisiting rebellion

The more I change, the more I stay the same. I still have dreams some nights that I'm back in high school (sometimes a teenager, sometimes an adult) arguing that I cannot jump through the hoops necessary to graduate. Back then, the hoops were represented by gym credits. (I didn't even take gym at the time because of my fused knee.)

Beware. Life is full of hidden gym credits.

I was laid off my part-time office job at a local small business a couple months ago. This was no surprise, as the friends I worked for had told me about upcoming changes. They knew I was doing more traveling & writing, a time-investment in future paid work. Plus I'd be eligible for unemployment benefits.


I drove to Workforce first thing Ithaca Friday morning as part of The Deal to keep receiving my $91/week.  The similarities to certain trips to guidance counselors when the ship of my high school education was sinking were not lost on me. But I felt much more able to handle it. 

I was supposed to bring a resume. Ahem. I've never had a resume. I almost made one for the sheer entertainment value of listing my jobs: movie theatre ticket & candy sales, McDonalds fryer, boarding stable manager, riding camp counselor, cleaner-of-barns-full of cows, horses, goats, sheep, & all types of poultry. Exercise rider at a small time track. Standardbred groom at ditto. Barista, nursery worker (potting plants), bookkeeper at a feed mill. Owner-operator of a riding lesson/horse training stable. 

There's more, but enough time wasted. Which was my point: I've wanted to be a published writer since I was approximately six years old, and thanks to life's little curiosities, a mere forty-something years later I'm closer than I've ever been--as well as closing in on a career as a speaker. I have something of a "platform" online, which is critical as well as being the equivalent of a writer's & speaker's resume. All I was hoping for was a few months of my ninety-one dollars a week benefits to go with the rest of my scrimping & saving & child support.

Alas. The hoops are still with me. And I jump through them no better than back in Lexington High in 1979. These took the form of faithfully-kept job search records and applications for full-time minimum wage ($7.25/hr) jobs I  1) didn't want  2) couldn't keep due to my brain's resistance & claustrophobia  3) probably couldn't do physically for an 8-hr shift without falling down a time or two (I did clean a dozen stalls this weekend, but in a couple hours, and not without falling, though softly)  and 4) couldn't make a real living at.

And in the case of the aspiring entrepreneur hoping to soon be self-employed, who declines to job- and/or tail-chase in favor of full-time self-investment?

Forget it. Working on a career of self-employment that doesn't include a certain list of programs, education, courses and boxes-checked is a no-no. Rack up those hours looking for work, or forget unemployment.

Hello attitude, my old friend. You've come to save me once again.

I was polite. I expressed civil dismay (and my counselor privately agreed with me, which was more support than I ever found back in school) and took my leave.

Lately, I've felt that my inner teenager is disgusted with who I've become in middle age:  hesitant to ride, slower, weaker, OLDER...  But driving home on Friday, she was fist-bumping me and cheering me on. It's good to know I'm still living up to her expectations. 

Onwards. And may the hoops be ever in your favor, which is to say, bypassed altogether.