I didn’t go to Ash Wednesday.
I felt like I thought a lot about how death happens, and how to deal with that fact, and I didn’t need anyone impressing it upon me any further.
I went to Maundy Thursday.
Where you sit in church is highly symbolic. Some people have to sit in the front. They’re carrying a load. I was the daughter of the church president, the worship leader. I have sat in the front. At the Kansas City cathedral, I usually sat in the middle-left, somewhere between the middle front and back, depending on how late I got there. This time I sat on the very edge, closest to the doors.
Church is a country club for people to congratulate themselves on being good and trying hard, I thought. I replayed in my mind church-related wounds: the day I went to my priest to tell her about a very painful work situation, and she replied, “Your therapist will be glad to hear about this,” and I walked out, gutted. The sermons I had sat through, sermon after sermon about how we are not giving enough to the poor, until the day I sat there worrying about whether to ask my mom for money for groceries or not, and though I was not poor, not really, I thought, wow, this place isn’t for me. This is a place for fortunate people to regret their fortune and pass a bit of it along.
I thought about the funeral I attended, while covid was still raging. The person who died hadn’t died of covid. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the church where they held the funeral was one big mystery breath convention, where the pastors, and everyone else, flew free and pretended there was nothing wrong with that. Those pastors were so glad I had come, and they did not believe or give a fuck about my health, or the health of my parents.
I pulled one of my sisters into the bathroom, sat on the floor, and freaked out for a while about how I hated these people and they were hateful people. Then as you do, I got up, washed my hands, and went to eat a ham and cheese sandwich with the ham removed.
I have a lot of reasons to go to church, and none of them are that God needs me, or demands shit of me, or that it’s the “right” thing to do. It’s scientifically good for you to engage in spiritual ritual with a community. I feel power in ritual. My ancestors, who knows how far back, have celebrated these rituals and read these stories, and that connects me to them.
I love the idea of Jesus, the coolest guy you ever met, who made everyone feel safe, and didn’t give a fuck about money or competitive jockeying of any kind, and told people holiness was actually inside them all along, and that there was nothing they could do to be outside the reach of love and forgiveness and mercy. Also I think he was very funny and didn’t take himself too seriously, e.g., “oh, damn, you fell asleep while I was freaking out, thanks, guys.”
So I guess I love Jesus, for what it’s worth.
What was helpful on Maundy Thursday was that I suddenly thought, wow, I am full of hate. Maybe that’s a strong word. I’m full of anger, so full it blocks my vision.
Tuesday some friends and I went out to celebrate DT being arraigned. We planned to have 34 drinks for the 34 counts, which is something we could have accomplished years back, given enough time. I think we had 12. And then I was happy I got home in time to set up my coffee and go to sleep early. 46, baby!
That was Easter.
It stressed me out, watching all the coverage, it cranked me up, so it was hard to stop watching or reading about it, but also it was bursting a blister. It was interesting (I like medical stuff), it didn’t hurt as much as you might think, and afterward, though you were sore, things were clearly a lot better.
Also I was reunited with my favorite cocktail on earth, which I hadn’t kissed since the bar where it was invented shut down. Fucking covid.
The dean at the cathedral has a voice that could narrate coronations. I saw that the guy passing out communion was an old friend from church. He shuffled when he walked. He’s older.
These people, who show up to put on a ritual, which has both outward and inward components, yeah, like, why was I so angry with them? They were doing a nice thing. The people who gave money and designed the cathedral and set up the soup kitchen in the basement and planted the crabapple in the garden and cared for the cathedral cat, Gracie, for years, and ordered the names carved on memorial stones when people died, this was a lot of nice stuff.
And is church a country club for the fortunate, and a planned push for people to give to their neighbors when they should be giving anyway? Is there any room there to hear, you are already doing ENOUGH, maybe do LESS, and someone else will step in?
Whatever. Earlier in my life it was easier for me to accept that churches, and people, are a mess. Before I lived through DT and the pandemic, when I could still believe that my fellow citizens would never vote for a dictatorial, lying, amoral, deranged, cruel mess of a human being, and that if we had a global crisis pretty much everyone would say, “What can I do?” and join together. The reality of human reponses to DT and covid haunt me, and who knows how long that will last. Or should last. I don’t want to pretend that didn’t happen. It did.
After realizing how hateful my thoughts were, I recalled how mad it made me that church is a museum for saints and not a hospital for sinners, and THEN I realized that I was the one who needed a hospital for sinners, and then I was like, shit.
None of this is to say I know how I feel about church, or churches, or American Christianity, or Americans.
But it was freeing to return to a thought I commonly have now: “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” (Swift.)
For the first time in my life, that feels freeing. Not like, I suck, but like, oh, if the ultimate problem is me, I can look at that, play with it, consider it, laugh about it.
Friday and Saturday I watched “Beef,” a series on Netflix. It’s just a coincidence, I guess, but after being disemboweled by the existential sadness and beauty of “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” another piece of art rooted in the Asian-American community throttled me.
While “EEAAO” focused on marital and parental relationships, “Beef” is more about peer relationships. It’s amazing acting, writing, cinematography– I can’t give it enough praise.
Like “EEAAO” it offers catharsis, a softer one, I think, and a slower, goopier one, but still: if you pound down your ego enough, you’re left with the kind of talks you have with your fellow humans, “This is hard. This is so hard. How do we do this?” (Spoiler alert.). “Everything fades.” (Spoiler alert for show and for life.)
Sometimes hearing someone say it is the help we need.