When people ask me my views on spirituality, I tell them that I don’t care about spirituality. That’s only halfway true, though. What I really should say is that I’m tired. I’m already emotionally drained writing this blog post and I’m only four sentences in. As a former pastor and spiritual guide, my life has had a complete turnaround over the last decade. Conversations around my spirituality –which used to energize me– leave me empty now.
I’ve found that most people bring their agenda to my beliefs or lack thereof. My Christian friends want me to come back to the fold… just not in a dress. (The amount of times I’ve heard some iteration of the phrase “you’re a sinner but you can’t stop believing in Jesus” would be funny if it wasn’t so insensitive.) My Buddhist friends want me to find bliss in meditation but I used to teach it to people so it isn’t a foreign practice to me. (I cried the other day listening to a commercial for a meditation app because the woman guiding the listeners spoke some of the exact prompts I used to speak.) My new age friends want me to find deep meaning in my horoscope, the moon, and crystals. My pagan friends want me to sage my home and have maypoles or whatever else it is that Pagans do. My atheist friends want me to join them in laughing at the hypocrisy of religion. To be honest, I do sometimes. Sometimes the laughter is genuine. Sometimes the laughter is tinted with sadness as I remember what I’ve lost that used to mean so much to me.
Religion isn’t just about the great unknown. It’s about belonging to a group. It’s about creating and moving in syncronized rhythms of life. It’s about codes of conduct. In American spirituality, regardless of belief system, it’s also about accessorizing our consumerism. We want enough Jesus to make us feel good but not so much that we have to act against injustice and oppression. We want enough nirvana to help us find peace but not enough to move us to compassion towards poor people. We want pagan rituals that make our house look pretty but nothing that doesn’t match our aesthetic or social calendar.
I say everything I just said to show you how much baggage I bring to any conversation about spirituality.
It’s also very much a thing that people want me to have a happy ending with my faith more than any other part of my story. My christian friends keep waiting for me to repent and cut my tits off or, more cruelly, they want me to practice some kind of private Christianity where I do all the rituals they do but excommunicated from their communities. My friends of faiths outside of my background think that if I just do their thing, my life will be better. There’s another chunk of people who want me to have an Eat, Pray, Love experience of some kind. Well, I eat the shit out of Hot Wings, I desperately hope for Newcastle United to make the Champions League, and I love my boo deeply and transparently.
Isn’t that enough?
As a member of a very small, very ostracized group of people, I can tell you now that I’m wary of any group that has The Answer mainly because the answers of many enlightened people in the past included killing me. I’m also not sure we’ve advanced enough as a species to start making new proclamations… and I point to Scientology as my example of what happens when we do.
I felt a lot of anger coming up just now. I don’t like being picked on. I don’t like other people telling me that their way of viewing trans people is the right way. Hell, I don’t like other trans people telling me that their way is correct. So, as I felt the anger, I looked out of my bedroom window. I watched the shadows of our big trees shimmer as the wind moved through the branches and leaves. I attuned to the sound of our water feature. And I remembered that none of this shit I’m writing about matters. My trees don’t give one solitary fuck about the afterlife. To quote Eastern Philosphy, “the wave returns to the ocean.” The tree and I will both return to the dirt when we die. That’s all I know with certainty and I feel like I’ve wasted too many years of my life obsessing over what’s next and how it should impact my life.
Wendell Berry says that he doesn’t want a long, thin life. He says he wants a life that is thick and full of experience. So do I. I want a life rich with tears because it means that my heart was open to people. I want to try the spiciest hot sauce I can find and feel the painful intensity of it for 12 unforgettable hours. I want to dance horribly and not care about the laughter I hear. I want to be generous with my money and time and enrich those around me with the gift of myself. I want to wear short shorts and feel sexy. I want to reach over and pay attention to my sense of touch telling me how luxuriously soft the cat is. I want the fatty cream sauce. I want to write with honesty and vulnerability and reckless grammar. I want my boo to do that thing she does that makes me scream with delight.
I want to live.
If I die, and there is a god, and he is pissed at me for being transgender, at least I got to live a great life. If I die, and there’s nothing afterward, at least I got to live a great life. That feels like enough to me.
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