Juliet Takes A Breath is probably my favorite book of the past few years and Gabby Rivera has quickly become one of my favorite people I’ve never met based on her podcast, interviews, and reading this book. Stamped From the Beginning is an incredible deep dive into the history of racist ideas in America. This is one I will recommend to anyone wanting to get better educated on the history of racism in America. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a classic that I’ve read before but wanted to revisit. It did not disappoint and still holds its own as one of my favorite “coming of age” stories out there.
While those top 3 were my favorites there were several more serious contenders! These are more books that I would recommend without hesitation!
Reading what I want to read is beautiful and important, but I have also learned that diving into the world of my eldest child is fun and means so much more to Emery than I could have predicted. I plan to get further into Wings of Fire in 2021!
And to end this year’s journey, the one book I read that was painful to get through and I can say I will never read again. Actually I think I’m done with Kerouac in general after reading two of his books. No hate toward the guy, as many people love his work, but he’s just not for me.
Readers of the blog and friends/family of mine know that the past three years or so have been defined in some part by a deconstruction of my religious identity. Maybe you are experiencing this yourself or know someone that is. Or maybe you will someday fit into one of those two groups. So here are a few thoughts on the whole thing. It is important that I note here that these are thoughts based on *MY* experience and should not be blindly applied to other people (including yourself) going through a similar experience. That said, hopefully you are able to find something meaningful, helpful, important hidden within these words.
THAT SHIT CAN BE SCARY! For a whole lot of reasons it was super disorienting and even frightening when I had to admit I no longer felt like calling myself a Christian was authentic. At one level it meant I was losing access to a community I had felt so comfortable with/supported by. At another level those hell-fire and brimstone sermons from my teen years never totally left the back of my mind. So yeah, admitting that deconstruction is happening was legit scary for me.
THAT SHIT IS EXHAUSTING! It wasn’t until early 2020 that I felt like I could actually read/listen/talk about spirituality without it draining me of my energy almost immediately. Reading authors that I used to love (and still cognitively agreed with on so many levels) just felt like skipping breakfast and running a marathon while feeling that deep void where your center of energy should be.
I HAD TO LEARN HOW TO GRIEVE This is no joke. Some friends within the Christian household seemed to assume that I was just moving in the direction that seemed like a cool “progressive” way to shed that dusty, boring, old “Christian” label. Other friends who were outside of the Christian household celebrated the fact that I was finally shedding that dusty, boring, old “Christian” label. But in all reality I wasn’t shedding anything. I felt like something super important to me was being taken away. I never chose to stop identifying with the beliefs that had offered a sort of container to my life for more than 17 years. Instead I was forced into a space where I could no longer ignore that that container had cracked long ago and was being held together with dollar-store scotch tape. I didn’t feel cool. I actually missed the feeling that used to accompany my faith. I missed it so much that I actually went back and read “Blue Like Jazz” again hoping it would energize me as it did in 2007. It did not. I had to learn (am still having to learn) how to grieve the actual loss I have been experiencing as I am more honest with myself related to all of this.
I HAD TO LET GO OF THE DESIRE TO CONTROL “WHERE I WOULD LAND” Early in this process I used the language of deconstruction, but I had some hidden rules that even I was not really aware of. I needed to land back in the Christian zone again someday (though more enlightened by my exotic non-Christian travels). This hidden rule has caused so much unnecessary anxiety as I have felt drawn to explore other traditions. On the flip side, somewhere along the way I created another rule in my head that I needed to land anywhere but back in that Christian zone. Then I started to feel anxiety when I felt drawn toward a Christian teacher/teaching. Somehow (because we are all really messy beings when you get down to it) both of these rules policed my deconstruction. So yeah, it’s been a bit rough at times. I have had to learn that if I’m serious about my own experience in this then I need to embrace that I have no idea where I’m headed. I also need to embrace the reality that some people might be disappointed by any one direction I gravitate toward and that is not my burden to bear.
That’s all I’ve got for now. If this seems not very enlightening and a bit disheveled then I’m probably doing a pretty good job of reflecting the reality of this experience. It’s often pretty mundane and messy as hell. And it’s something I am realizing I need to honor. As always, feel free to reach out if any of this resonates or if you have questions/just want to chat about your own experience.