A Different Kind of Spiritual : 30 Days of Truth

Day 19 : What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

Again, two hot button topics.  And again, I am far less than inclined to share my personal opinions on one of these subjects.  However, I do think it is important for a person to explore their own spirituality and maybe get ideas from another when they are unsure of their own beliefs.  Not to say that I intend on cramming my own spirituality down a reader’s throat.  Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

Therefore, I am entitled to my own, and under the First Amendment, I am guaranteed the right to express these beliefs.  I’d like to preface this post with the following.  I have disabled the comments, because of the sensitive nature of this post.  I highly discourage flame wars and refuse to provide a forum for them to happen.  I would rather remove the temptation than have to mediate later, once the damage is already done.

I do not expect anyone to be on the same bandwagon.  I have some unusual beliefs that come from a mixture of an Episcopalian upbringing, a self-proclaimed spiritual parent, and living amongst the Jewish people in their community for certain durations of time.  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please address me directly at lulu.em.stark@gmail.com.  I will be happy to engage a person in a private conversation on this matter.

With that said, I will begin the exploration of my spirituality.

I will state this up front, so there is no confusion later on.  I am far beyond disenchanted with organized religion.  I do not believe in religion, and I feel that it has done more harm than good in the world.  We have seen holy wars since the beginning of time, no matter what people would like to term them these days.  Many people have been forced from their homes.  Others have been sentenced to painful deaths and were cast out into exile for what they believed in.  All over differences of opinion on religion.

This is where everyone is going to get riled up.  I do not believe that Jesus ever existed.  I believe that Christianity was an idea that was concocted by the Romans for social control.  They had a population that had a monotheistic religion and another with a polytheistic religion, the latter dying out.  It was an attempt to get everyone on the same page.  Essentially, the Romans wanted to put a code of conduct out there and make it profitable.  And that they did.

There is no historical record of Jesus.  There were many historians living in the Mesopotamian area at the supposed time of Jesus’ life and death, and no one recorded a man who could perform spectacular miracles.  There may be tomb markers, but many people were entombed as part of commonplace burial ritual.  Jesus was an extremely popular name at the time.  There would be no possible way to find him on a registry, as all of those names were rather common.  Hence the suffixes, John the Baptist, etc.

I can say this with confidence, not because I am ignorant of Christianity, but because I am well educated.   I am baptized and confirmed Episcopalian.  I had perfect attendance in Sunday school for nine years running.  I started teaching the courses myself when I came of age.  I have read the Bible cover to cover.  And I find that so many of the rules are antiquated and just plain common sense. Wash your hands before eating?  Of course.  Don’t sleep with your brother’s wife?  Of course not!!!

I suspect that my subscription rate will plummet after this.

With all of that being said, I’ll continue with my own ideas of spirituality.  First, I prefer terms like spirituality and higher power in reference, because they are broader scope, less offensive, and do not indicate that I am a member of any religion.  I am not religious.  I am spiritual.

The universe is all made up of the higher power’s energy.  Energy and matter can never be created, nor destroyed.  That means that all of the things that exist today have existed in one form or another since before the beginning of time (because you know time is a human construct).  It was at the beginning of space.  If this is true, then that means that we’re all a part of each other.  That is true too.  We are all one in the same, from the amoeba to the complex human and beyond to planets, places, and beings we don’t even know exist.

We are all born with temperaments, and that’s all.  As for the rest of it, we are blank slates.  No being is inherently good or evil.  There is no black and white in those terms.  Which means that the higher power is not entirely benevolent, nor is the lower power.  They are opposing powers, as described, but they are not God and Satan as depicted.  They are one in the same, two sides of the same coin.  But, it remains the same coin.

We can take notes of our own morality from basic religion.  I do have a belief that all religions are really worshiping the same higher power, and generally all of the same moral guidelines.  However, it’s not as cut and dry as they would have you believe.  You will not be condemned to hell for failing to wash properly, although you might get an infection.  Some of those rules were made for practicality sake.  Cleanlinesss is next to Godliness, just means that we don’t want you getting sick and getting the rest of us sick with your epidemic.

As for other things that are outdated, I feel as if premarital sex is outdated.  In the days of old, the reason a woman did not engage in premarital sex was for lack of birth control and Maury Povich and paternity tests.  In those days, women relied on men to be their breadwinners and protectors.  A man is not biologically inclined to take care of a child that is not is, nor was he burdened by the responsibility that society would place on him.  Therefore, a woman would be left to do so herself.  But, in those days, women couldn’t work and take care of children at the same time.  The last thing villages needed was a whole family of fatherless children, relying on the resources of others to care for them.

Here are the things that are not dated.  The Golden Rule is the first and foremost guide for a moral compass.  If you don’t want it done to you, then refrain from perpetrating the offense onto another.  Period.  It really is that easy.  We all know that hitting hurts, robbing another is unfair and sometimes devastating, and taking another life away from someone else and their family is beyond devastating.  We all mourn the loss of those that we love.  Why would someone take something that isn’t theirs, only to destroy it for themselves and everyone else?

My belief in the process of death is rather unusual, because it borrows from several cultures.  There is no such thing as redemption at death.  One is judged by their actions or inaction,  positive and negative, the quality of their life and spirituality, and it is weighed out.  Only, the judge is not the higher power.  The judge is you.  There is no immediate heaven, or immediate hell.  We have souls that are always learning.  To be enlightened is to have a soul that is wise and open to education.  That is our point to any life that we lead.  We are here for a purpose, for a lesson.

Do you ever see themes occurring in your life?  Those themes are meant to teach you something.  It is your life’s lesson.  Without enlightenment to your life’s lesson and experiencing all of the fulfilling experiences meant for you as a part of the nature of your being (whether it’s animal, human, etc), then your soul does not get to move on to the next life.  You will repeat the lesson and the life until you have reached full enlightenment.  It is at that point that a being is allowed to choose what they would like to do with their eternity.

Flirting with Suicide

Warning: This post has strong themes of suicide and self-injury within. It may contain potential triggers. Reader discretion is advised.

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In 2007, it was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 34,598 deaths.1

An estimated 11 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.1

Essentially, statistics indicate that there are 380,578 reported cases of attempted suicide each year.  Personally, I see this as a gross underestimate.  The botched attempts are the ones that end up in the hospital.  But what about the folks who take a handful of pills, pass out, and wake up like nothing happened the very next day?  It is in my personal experience, as a person who has never ended up hospitalized by a suicide attempt, that I would jump that number up by at least 20 times the amount of completed suicides.

Today is suicide prevention day.  And today, I wanted to bare my soul and share my sordid past with suicide attempts.

Is suicide common among children and young people?

In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.1 Of every 100,000 young people in each age group, the following number died by suicide:1

  • Children ages 10 to 14 — 0.9 per 100,000
  • Adolescents ages 15 to 19 — 6.9 per 100,000
  • Young adults ages 20 to 24 — 12.7 per 100,000

I started in the earliest age group.  I was a deeply troubled young teenager.  I have only written about this in a personal journal, but I feel it’s time to share.

It was a warm March Friday, humid after a fresh rain.  I was rather excited for that Friday, because it would have been the first Friday I was released from my grounding since January.  It was the truth that my grades had slipped into the toilet.  But, so had my mental health.  I dressed in my funeral best daily.  Every single day was a day that I had wished, nay, prayed for death.  Only a merciful God would release me from this suffering, I thought constantly.  And as a result of my downward spiral, I felt the entire verbally abusive arsenal my parents had to offer.

Another bad progress report.  I was failing math and gym.  Truthfully, I wasn’t good at math.  And what teenage girl in the entire world wants to be seen in front of all of her peers in a swimsuit?  My “excuses” fell on deaf ears.  This warranted more time in isolation.  I begged.  I pleaded.  Just this one Friday, and then I will begrudgingly accept my punishment.  I had surely earned it, after all.

I was berated for not trying hard enough.  “Are you lazy or stupid?  I can’t decide anymore.”  The words stung, like a clean slap across the face.  I lost my temper and started to storm up the stairs.  I called back to my father, “You’re an asshole.”

“Get your little ass back down here!”

I glanced backward to see the furious, crazy look in his eyes.  But, I was beyond caring.  I was beyond fear anymore.  I continued up the stairs as he screamed after me.  Do your worst.

“You little bitch, come down here and face me!” he challenged.

I did.  He grabbed my by my collar and snatched me up so close to his face that he spat every angry word at me.  “Come on.  Take a shot.  The first one is free.”

I knew better.  If I were to take the shot, that would justify any beating I would have received after that.  I was only 4’9″, and he towered over me at a grand 6’3″.  I was a little girl in comparison to this adult man.  I stared into his eyes defiantly, gnashed teeth and a snarl.  I never lost his gaze in that moment.  I refused.

With one twist of his arm, he dragged me down the last three stairs.  Violently, he pulled me into the air by my collar and thrust me into the kitchen wall.  I was terrified, but I would never show it.  I would not give him the satisfaction.  I looked behind him to see my mother standing there, doing nothing to help me.  She looked at me with these vindictive eyes and a satisfied face.  He screamed in my face about disrespect, what an ungrateful piece of shit I was, and how I didn’t even deserve all of the things they had given me.  I started to lose my air as my collar choked me.  I panicked, as I started to black out.  His words faded.  I closed my eyes.

Thud.  He dropped me three feet to the floor, and I hit the ground hard.  I crumpled onto myself as he stormed off.  I looked up at my mother who was looking down at me.  And without a word, she walked away.  My last hope of salvation had betrayed me.  And I curled into a ball and cried.

(This part I have to omit because it is going to be in a future installation of “The Friday Confessional”.)

After I had been dragged home, I took refuge in my room.  All hope was lost.  There was no escape.  There was no one who could save me from this.  There was only one way out.

I went into the medicine cabinet and grabbed an entire bottle of Advil and another of Tylenol.  I washed it down with another bottle of Nyquil and waited on the edge of the bathtub.  This was going to be my way out.  If God wasn’t going to come to my rescue, and the authorities felt this was a gross exaggeration of the truth, then I would take matters into my own hands.  Let me be damned to eternal hell.  It couldn’t be much worse than this.

I filled the tub and waited some more.  I undressed.  This should make the cleanup convenient, I thought to myself.  I sure didn’t want my death to be a major inconvenience.   Everyone would celebrate my departure.  Everyone would be happier without me.

Botched.  I woke up a few hours later and crawled into my bed for warmth.  And I slept for over 24 hours.  No one took any kind of note at the missing medications or my inexplicable hypersomnia.

That was the first in dozens of attempts to take my own life.  At the young age of thirteen.  The idea of suffering the abuse and neglect of my parents for the next five years until I was a legal adult was too much to bear.  And I was absolutely convinced that I would be dead by my seventeenth birthday at the rate I was going.  I had tried so many times that I eventually started calling it, “Flirting with Suicide”, just because there was something of a romance between it and me.

And every single attempt was the best I could possibly manage with the materials provided.  I suppose a person can call that parasuicidal if they choose.  Maybe it was.  I’m not sure anymore.

I’m nearly twenty-eight now.  All of that was nearly fifteen years ago.  And the last time I attempted suicide was over a year ago, a few days before I started writing As the Pendulum Swings.  In that year, I learned that I had a relapse back into a more serious cervical cancer.  And it dawned on me that there was a possibility that I could one day die from it.  I had resigned myself to life.  If I couldn’t die on my own terms, a survivor of multiple attempts, then I would live.

In the end, I chose to live.

What are some risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts?

  • As noted, an estimated 11 nonfatal suicide attempts occur per every suicide death. Men and the elderly are more likely to have fatal attempts than are women and youth.1
  • Risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts by adults include depression and other mental disorders, alcohol and other substance abuse and separation or divorce.5,6
  • Risk factors for attempted suicide by youth include depression, alcohol or other drug-use disorder, physical or sexual abuse, and disruptive behavior.6,7
  • Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental-health treatment.

Educate yourselves.  Realize that every suicide attempt is serious and should be treated immediately.  Realize that suicidal gestures, ideation, and plans are all extremely serious and significant.  And find the courage to find yourself, a family member, or a friend immediate treatment.  Suicide is completely preventable when people are educated.

Thank you for reading.  Take care.

I Am Not God : 30 Days of Truth

Day 05: Something you hope you never have to do.

Decisiveness is not my strong point. I realize that certain choices can have long lasting effects. One choice can start a major chain reaction, cascading through many aspects of life, for better or worse. I have difficulty evaluating which decision will yield the best results, or do the least amount of damage. In fact, I’m sometimes so indecisive that mundane, daily selections become a challenge. What to eat? What to wear?

I hope that I will never have to be faced with a life or death decision.

I am not God. Nor can I ever pretend to be any spiritual deity that would be remotely qualified to render that judgment. I do not even have the capacity to make that choice for myself.

As a woman on a slew of medication and also of child-bearing age, this is a hot topic that remains fixed in the peripherals. I’m sure it’s something many women using pharmaceutical treatment for mental health think about. These are black box medications. What would I do if I got knocked up?

I’d love to have a definitive answer. In all fairness, this is a lot more complicated than your average abortion debate.

Yes, I’d keep the baby.
Taking a life is wrong. It’s not up to me to decide. If I took every precaution, and I still managed to conceive, then it was really meant to happen. I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak of losing a child, and the resentment toward myself for doing it purposefully. It would be an impossible decision to live with. Every life deserves a chance. Every child is a blessing.

No, I would abort the baby.
Sometimes, a woman has to do what is best for herself, the child in question, and her family. It would not be right to bring a child into this world that may likely have extraordinary special needs. It would be wrong for the potential child, cursing them to a life of physical and / or mental disability. It would be criminal to drain precious few resources from the rest of the family, such as time, money, and energy. And it may be extremely dangerous, if not fatal to both fetus and mother if I were to quit medication cold turkey.

This could turn to a very heated dialog. I have to cut it off at some point. We’ll cross that bridge if we get there.

That’s the only definitive life-and-death decision I can produce. There are thousands of scenarios.

I’m holding my husband by one arm and my son by the other from a ledge where they both slipped. I only have enough strength with both of my arms to save one. Who do I choose?

Life and death. It’s too big of a moral dilemma for me to ever want to handle. There are some moments where I could make a hard and fast decision. Giving my life to protect my loved ones? Yes. Taking a life to protect my loved ones? Only if absolutely necessary. Taking a life for vengeance? No.

Otherwise, leave me out of it.