Notes on Deconstruction

When I was a child, I had a few favorite little games. One was making stews. I would get a bowl and fill it with outdoor things and imagine I was feeding my creations to animal folk or faries or whatnot.  Another game I played was ‘”hospital,” where I’d create medicines and bandages from plants and mud and patch up my sick dolls. And then there were the damn rocks. I collected rocks like a starving child in an apple orchard. I hoarded them like money. They were….my precious.

And then at age 4, I watched The Worst Witch on free Disney weekend, which became my favorite flick for many years, despite its terrifying first impression of Tim Curry, kicking off a lifelong hate-affair with the man. Still, I watched that and was like “oh hey, I’m a witch!”  Then they marched me through the front doors of a religious institution that not only prohibited but villianized witchcraft, and I was all “oh hey, I’m screwed!”

Enter then 20+ years of indoctrination into a manufactured monotheistic reality, and what you spit out at age 30 is a very confused, very much religiously traumatized individual who then eschews all religions and Judeo-Christian beliefs structures and develops a fascination with cults and paganism. That’s what you get, Catholic school.

Fast forward. I know now I was doing all that weird witchy play stuff before I started school. I also know I was talking to spirits of some sort at the same age. I also know I always have KNOWN things, starting at age 4 when I found my parent’s stolen car.  I have also been lectured by seers more than once about wasting my inherent ability. And still, it took until damn near 40 for me to once again think “oh hey, I’m a witch!”

So, Bernadette and I went to the Psychic Fair over the weekend. I bought a book, and I got some gemstones that took me back to a simpler time…the time of my rock collections. I bought a rose quartz, which is often used for love both between others and also self- but all I remember is that it was my favorite as a small child. I liked quartz in general, and we had tons lining the edge of our pool, but none were the smoky pink of a rose quartz. I also got a little protection wreath for my altar, and found some cool candles I want in the future. It was a nice little morning, and it triggered all those aforementioned early year’s memories. That little rock sent me reeling back in time, to before the introduction of my small self to “the one true God,” when all was still visible to me. I am trying to harness that feeling, and live with that intention, as opposed to the one forced on me by a generational curse.

The moral of the story is that religious deconstruction is not for the faint of heart, and I completely understand why some folk just say screw it and go with God.  I got home from the fair and felt very peaceful after, and very much like I was on the right path, which is a foreign feeling I’ve only been receiving since the Salem trip. But I don’t often feel that way, spiritually. I try to, but mono-god is still up there, stuck in my brain like slime.  And all I want is my pretty rocks. 

Botched Assignments

Since I was Catholic for 25 years, I acquired a couple of goddaughters. One being my sister Bernadette, of whom I was not technically godmother, because I was not old enough in the church’s eyes at the time. But they made an exception for me, giving my good standing in the church and in school. I really was quite the exceptional Catholic at age 13 . So when she was a couple months old and I was nearly 14, I dressed up and went to church and we had a ceremony initiating her into Catholicism, and making me promise in front of God and the congregation that I would raise her in the Catholic Church as a spiritual guide. A couple of years later, D was born and we went through the whole thing again, with me promising much more reluctantly to make sure she stayed a good Catholic. Well, she turned 21 the other day. She is the legal full adult now…although I still wouldn’t rent her a car. I started to think about the fact that I left the Church, and sort of stopped guiding those I was supposed to be guiding. I wondered where she stood spiritually, because I know my sister didn’t pan out the way my parents had planned. Both of their daughters left the church, and became flaming pagans. So naturally, I had to check in with D to see where she was. Turns out, exact same story.
Forced when she was younger, bailed as soon as she could, took up an interest in Wicca. Not practicing, but definitely investigating. So in the end, I didn’t so much end up raising a couple of good Catholics soldiers, so much as a couple of heathens…just like their godmother.
[  ] I remember being young and thinking about the possibility of having children. This was never forefront in my brain, but was more of an implied future that I, at the time, didn’t really think I had much say in. But still, I picked out names, considered what colors I would paint bedrooms, and mentally considered godparents. As time went on however, my options dwindled. People who I would have chosen left the church, and it made me consider why. I mean, I had my first problem when I was about 8 with Catholicism. That would be the day that I learned I could never be a priest. See, in school we were taught about the sacraments- we were told that when you got older, you were called to one of two sacraments: Marriage, or the Holy Order. The Holy Order seemed pretty cool, mainly because my aunt was a Sister of Mercy and I saw the way she lived. She got to share a house with her best friend, go on lots of trips, and spent her time working with the church- which, again, as an 8-year-old who had been Catholics since the day she was baptized, this sounded rad. The thing is, however, I was a preformer. I was not interested in the second-banana role of the nun. I wanted to be in the spotlight. I wanted to say Mass. And then my very loving Aunt Ka very gently told me that was not an option, as I was a woman, and thus the first seed of doubt that I was in the wrong game was planted. But I held off on expressing my contrary reviews even as they grew with age. What would have happened? Would my mother have disowned me for wanting to give up the Church and turn from God? Would I have had to leave my friends and switch schools? Would I have had to give up teaching the littles at Religious Education, something I really did love doing? So, I kept my mouth shut. I was very happy to be asked to be Bernadette’s godmother, and at the time that really meant something to me, religiously. It was a little different when D came along. Her mother, Beth, was not quite simpatico with the church at the time, but *her* mother was….and is…hugely involved. When D  was about two or so, it was agreed that she would be baptized at our church. Beth chose me and her brother Tom as the godparents. I remember asking her why, with my doubts, did she choose me? She replied something about how we were best friends, and she was a single mother, and if there was anyone that was going to take care of her baby should something happen, it was going to be me. The Church describes godparents as the leaders of a child’s spiritual upbringing. Some people define godparents as a sort of backup, just in case. My own parents did that in two ways for me. Ka was my godmother, and while she would never be able to take me in should the worst happen, my godfather Uncle Terry and his wife Sue, certainly would. And so, I became both those things to a baby D. Beth knew I wasn’t going to make her Catholic, but she also knew I would always have that child’s back. I think my parents felt similarly, because while I am Bernadette’s godmother, one of the best Catholics I know is her godfather. He is a humble man, so he probably doesn’t feel the same way I do about it, but him and his family exemplify what good Christianity is, and that has always given me hope.
[  ] So no, I don’t go to church anymore. And neither do my godchildren, mostly for the exact same reasons that I left, and it would appear we all found the same answers in the same place. So maybe, in the end, I did exactly what I set out to do

Repression, 90s Style

First, some housekeeping: There’s a really good chance I will be changing my posting schedule to Thursdays and Tuesdays.  Mondays have become overwhelming, because I work both jobs and don’t have much time in between to get into the headspace for a blog post. I am off Tuesday mornings, however, so I think that might be a better time to get the words out.  We shall see.

Anyhoo, you know who lives in my head rent-free?  Pam Stenzel.  If you are a Patreon subscriber, you probably read the monologue I wrote for a show that was sidelined due to Covid, about Pam Stenzel.  If not, and you don’t know who she is, I guess I will tell you, although life was surely better for me before she was introduced into my atmosphere.

In our 8th grade sex ed class, we watched a video of an abstinence-only speaker named Pam Stenzel.  It was funny, kind of, and she seemed to really relate to the youth, and since we were all good little Catholic school kids, we mostly just giggled and blushed and agreed with her stance.  Her main takeaways were that love didn’t mean sex, and sex didn’t mean love, both concepts which I already understood, and were a decent lesson to teach.  However, she also taught that any kind of sex would land you in hell, or at the very least, sully you in the eyes of God, as well as your future husband/wife.

Now, I read a lot, because I was a shy kid who would never have asked an adult any of my burning questions.  And I was also blessed with a mother who was an HIV counselor.  So, I knew a few extra things that my peers didn’t.  I knew all about AIDS and STDs via Mom, and I knew everything about sex from afternoons in the library.  And I also knew, through reasoning, logic, and common sense, that abstinence, while an option, was absolutely NOT the best one.  I kept this to myself however, as I watched my classmates vibe with her message. 

Fast forward a few years to me being a Junior in high school, when Pam Stenzel actually came to speak to us in person.  We watched her videos, the teachers hyped her arrival, and the whole school assembled in the auditorium one Friday afternoon to hear her speak.  We spent an hour or so being told our normal pubescent feelings were sinful, and that God would be ashamed of us if we didn’t choose abstinence.  Also, that love was no excuse for sex.  Now, I NEVER planned on waiting until marriage, as was the message they were pushing at me my entire life.  I watched enough episodes of Friends by that point to know that people slept with other people and God never smote them down for it.  Deciding to do what was right for me, specifically, as I often always do, I made the moral decision that I would not have sex until I found someone I truly cared about.  I would not be pressured, I would not give in to temptations, but I would also not marry someone and then later discover we were not sexually compatible.  That seemed so stupid to me, I still can’t wrap my head around it.  It’s like folks who don’t live together before they get married…how do you know which way they will hang the toilet paper??

Anyway, here I am now, almost 40 years old with a fairly healthy view on sex that I absolutely did NOT develop through my church, schooling, or conversations with trusted adults.  This was 100% all of my own doing, and I have never felt ashamed.  That was the biggest issue with me growing up Catholic…the shame we were forced to feel surrounding sex and puberty.  The logic simply didn’t hold for me; if God made us in his image, then why were we denying parts of ourselves?

I’m thinking of all this because I went to Planned Parenthood not long ago for a birth control check, and it reminds me of the times when I was a kid and wanted to go there to ask questions but couldn’t get up the nerve.  I bet Pam Stenzel is the sort that would picket the clinic instead of using it, likely over abortion issues, or maybe just even over birth control, another thing she made us feel ashamed about…my 16 year old self who had just started the pill felt really special then.  And still, when I say I have to go to PP, people think sinister things…mostly unaware they are the leading birth control provider in the game.  Unaware that most women who go there go for cancer screenings and pap smears.  Not even all of them do abortions, just fyi.  I’m just out here spreading knowledge, is all.  Don’t shoot the messenger.

The point of my blog is that sexual health is important and something we should be teaching kids about from the onset of puberty, not trying to suppress so that we raise up another generation of unhealthy, suppressed, shamed, and confused kids.  For instance, all my kiddos know where to get a condom.  I have four teenagers…I keep them in my house just like I keep tampons and Tylenol.  I don’t want a sick kid, and I don’t want a grandkid, and they are aware and do not want these things either.  I don’t know if anyone is active or not, but I do know that if they are, they have the tools they need.  I have been promoting body positivity and sexual health for as long as they can remember…because no one did it for me.

And I blame Pam Stenzel.