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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing this particular blog is a promise to myself. Since I found out I was pregnant in August of this year I have crawled into survival mode and the results have not been pretty. No exercise, no time to myself, no creative enterprises and a lot of doubt. The other day at the end of a storm of emotion brought on by the departure of my mother and sister, I decided that one of the things that I need to do regardless of how much guilt I experience in taking time for myself while I am looking after Eve is to do something creative every day. My list of creative activities (and by this I mean the things that I like to do) included blogging, astrology, painting and darning socks so here I am. The promise to myself is both that I will write on this blog (more than every six months!) and that I will specifically write on the issue of TV watching. Two weeks ago Eve had moved into a period where all she wanted to do was watch Disney movies, of which we had quite a few due to presents given to us. I had succumbed to it on a few occasions because of my own exhaustion and desire for a few minutes of peace and quiet. Even now as I write Eve is screeching "uh oh, uh oh" over and over again.  But the results were rather shocking. Aside from the almost constant desire she expressed to watch a movie, when she did actually watch something she became distrubingly catatonic. I've never seen anything like it and it certainly seemed inappropriate for a two year. 

I made the mistake of posting the problem on facebook as a question about what other parents do about television. The responses were certainly interesting ranging from the belief that children should never watch television at this age because of the health and developmental impacts to those parents that allow their children to watch in moderate amounts every day, believing that the benefits far outweigh the negative consequences (if there were any). I even got a disturbed message that was quickly erased off my page from a single mother saying that all the research indicating that television is bad for kids made her feel really angry. As a single mother she felt all she had as an option was television.

More later.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Saturn's Return???

"And I see and am with the fears that hook me into wanting things to be different from the way they are, fears that pull me into the belief that a different location or situation--a more creative job, a home in a more natural setting, more money or time or other resources, a relationship with someone who has the same "spiritual" goals or daily practice--is needed if I am ever to find deep abiding peace, if I am ever to learn to love well. These beliefs are rooted in deeper if intermittent fears: the fear that I am not now and never will be able to hear the call at the center of my life accurately or fully enough to know how to consistently live who and what I am; the fear that the Beloved, tired of my inability to get it right, will simply stop calling, stop sending out the voice that can guide me home; the fear that I am not in the right place, have not found the right situation in which I can live my purpose fully, offer the one word I have come her to say and weave into the collective dream of the people" (Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Call, 78).

This about sums up the consciousness I have been living with the last six or seven months. I have been rooted strongly in the fear that something has gone terribly wrong. That I've finally completely and utterly screwed up. I've gone so far off track, it will be basically impossible to "right" myself. Nothing is exactly the way it is "supposed to be." I missed the boat, I didn't hear the call or, worse yet, the Beloved has stopped calling. Perhaps I don't believe that, what I do believe is that I am so blocked off from the voice that I've removed myself from the game. Or perhaps I am just really, really angry with God. Even a bit scared of God. It seems God only has bad things in store for me...

I was at a meeting the other day wherein I was struck by two distinct sentences in the Big Book. Both were geared toward highlighting the "problem" that a person might be experiencing in working the program. Bottom line was that whenever a person has a problem, the problem has nothing to do with external things and everything to do with that person's spiritual status. Over the years I have heard people, including myself, diagnose other people's problems: not changing something; not going to enough meetings; not having a sponsor; having the wrong sponsor; having done the steps wrong; not being totally honest on a 4th step; skipping the 6th and 7th steps; relationships (like 13th stepping); and the list goes on. For the first time, I realized however that the problem, according to the Big Book, always lies in a person's relationship with their higher power and nothing else. Perhaps this is the meaning of "to thine own self be true." Who but ourselves can diagnose our spiritual condition? The point of this long winded paragraph is that I am coming to own the fact that something is the matter with my relationship with God.

Somewhere along this journey I stopped trusting God. After all, in my small view the events of the last seven years make very little sense. Especially when those events are compared with my expectations. I expected to experience success in graduate school here in Champaign-Urbana, whatever that was going to look like. I figured I'd continue to grow spiritually, but I did not expect that growth to be painful. The gap between what has happened and what I expected is so great that my ego (my pride) finds it nearly intolerable. All it can predict at this point is that the pain is going to continue and that the path ahead is sure to lead me to, in no uncertain terms, hell. It's not a pretty picture.

Some people have looked upon my experience here in Illinois with different eyes, maybe even with a touch of envy. Perhaps this is because of the many gifts that I have received. Instead of doing well in graduate school, I learned to let go of a degree of my perfectionism. I stopped using food and my body as the way in which to regulate my emotions. I became more flexible. I began to learn to have more intimate relationships and, in turn, got married (not that those relationships or this marriage is all fun and games, it's been one of the toughest experiences of my life). I was blessed with a beautiful and amazing daughter and the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I found out a lot more about my interests and my perspective on the world expanded greatly (thank you graduate school).

It turns out that I dislike teaching, am terrible with foreign language, am very self-conscious talking to groups, love to do research (but only on topics dear to my heart), love to read, love to write, love to synthesize disparate sources and to organize ideas and spaces.

I am deeply interested in the relationship between the mind and the body and am incredibly open-minded when it comes to what is within the realm of "normal" human behavior. I no longer believe in talk therapy as the be-all-end all and want to learn as much as I can about how the body works so that I can understand how it is entangled with the mind. This is much like the interest that I had in graduate school so at least I am consistent!! There I was interested in the stories people tell, but specifically because of their lack of relationship to reality (often) and their consistent inconsistency. I began to believe that people's stories are stories about their "faith" and that these stories have been chosen pragmatically, even if the results are negative, people know that the meaning they have given to events "works" for them so they continue to tell those stories, which is to say, they continue to believe them.  This led to problems for me. I was always being criticized for seeking the "authentic" through people's bodies and experiences. But I never thought to question graduate school's definition of authenticity. What does it mean? If authenticity means Truth, I was most certainly wrong to make such a claim. But if authenticity means the truth for that individual (at a given moment), then I don't believe I was wrong.

Definition of AUTHENTIC
obsolete : authoritative
a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact authentic picture of our society> b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse> c : made or done the same way as an original <authentic Mexican fare>
: not false or imitation : real, actual authentic cockney accent>
a of a church mode : ranging upward from the keynote — compare plagal 1 b of a cadence : progressing from the dominant chord to the tonic — compare plagal 2
: true to one's own personality, spirit, or character 
Upon seeing this definition, it is clear to me that both me and my professors are correct. Authenticity, by my definition, does have to do with being "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." As I have learned in my anatomy and physiology classes, personality itself is a product of genes in large part, and character one would argue is the result of the relationship between this personality (genetic make up) and one's formative experiences (the evidence shows that emotions and experiences do get lodged in the body affecting behavior and future experiences), and spirit, well to each his own, this too is a product of a relationship between one's body, mind and experience. And because of the individuality of every person, it is impossible for anyone but that person to be able to claim the authenticity of anything relating to him. As such, it is essential to trust that person's own claims about his experience and his body. 

And this leads me to the wonderful article that I read in the Sun Magazine about a psychologist at Mt. Holyoke College who does not believe in madness. She argues that everything is "emotional distress" and all mental illness is a construct created by pharmaceutical companies to make money. She also argues that listening to people experiencing emotional distress is the answer. Indeed, she is disturbed by people's complete disregard for the testimony of the actual people experiencing emotional distress because of the assumption that is made that they are "insane" and so their experience must be worthless. Isn't it amazing how things come across our paths that speak directly to issues we are wrestling with? This is one way that God speaks to me and always has. For that I am grateful. 

But instead of continuing to argue my point in academia, itself a deeply imbalanced place (oh the life of the mind!), I decided to begin to learn about the part of the equation that I really know very little. I've read many products of brilliant minds but I have not studied those minds or those bodies. I have no idea how any of that works. Perhaps that is why I have started all over from the bottom up. Where once I was in community colleges studying English, Math and Political Science, now I am studying science. Once the bane of my existence. Who would have thought it. And this *seems* like one of the largest surprises that has occurred since I moved to Champaign. I wasn't supposed to start all over!! Some days I am in awe of the good in my life, and others I feel like I've been dropped on my head. This is when I believe that God has left me or that I have blocked God out and missed his message. 

I can't understand starting over. I can't understand relationships that seem to keep breaking. That are so hard sometimes they make life seem impossible. Another thing that has changed dramatically since I moved to Champaign is my relationship to death. It no longer seems like a far flung concept. It now seems like something that really is going to happen. That what I do actually does matter because I don't have forever to figure things out. That my mother really will be gone one day (a thought that makes me want to curl up in a ball on the floor and never wake up).  That I've created a life that will go on long after I have died (God willing). Acknowledgment of these things shocks me. Awes me. How could I have not known about these things seven years ago? So, yes, I have come face to face with mortality here in Champaign and it has caused me to consider how I truly want to be spending the rest of my life and what I will prioritize. 

Are these perhaps things that would have, could have happened anywhere? Perhaps. But most days I blame all that has happened on God. This is because one day when I was visiting Champaign with my mom before I moved here, we were walking at Meadowbrook Park and I had the sudden thought that this is where I was supposed to be. And so I chose to move here. 
I pray that I will come to see how all of this is a part of God's plan for me rather than a huge mistake or the result of a mistaken moment of divine inspiration.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Postpartum Depression

Since Eve's first birthday I have been struggling with difficult feelings. Considering that I am a postpartum doula in training one would think that I would not minimize the role of becoming a mother when considering the cause of my feelings, but I have. I've certainly thought to myself, my God I must have believed that if I made it through the first year, everything would go "back to normal." Whatever normal means. I guess in my case it meant that I would be able to do the things I used to do to take care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically. When that didn't happen, I began to feel the overwhelming sense of doom or maybe even failure and certainly fear that I was (am) going to lose it. How can a person GO ON without sustenance? GO ON while letting go of everything that was. Shedding, constantly shedding and grieving the losses. There have been so many things to let go of: friendships, certain career paths, me time, relationship time, exercise time (did I mention time?) body, especially breasts. I am going to touch on all of these issues but first I want to mention why I am even writing about this. Given that I am a person who often doubts the authenticity of my own experience and is more won't to believe that I am going crazy than that I have a legitimate challenge in front of me, I have not been more direct about the ambivalence I feel about motherhood and the incredible grief I have felt and continue to feel about the loss of the old me. As I have mentioned before, I am living in a neighborhood of Mormons, who do not seem to experience these challenges, which makes it easier for me to think something is wrong with me rather than that this is a normal part of becoming a mother. However, last night I was compelled to pull out the book The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, which is no longer new! I've had it since I was 14 or 15. I opened it to the section called Postpartum, chapter 20 and began to read. What an incredible breath of fresh air. It was like heaven on earth to read about other women experiencing the same kind of internal challenges that I have been over the last six months. Of course most of them are talking about the first six months of parenthood, whereas I whizzed through those months because I figured if I held my breath I'd come up from the sleepless nights and total devotion to my daughter and there would be my old life, waiting. I guess I came up after one year and discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. So I am experiencing what this book calls MILD postpartum depression a year and six months after birth.  I related most to the section entitled ISOLATION (page 405): mother's writing "I think he (her brother) really took the hard parts out of being a mother alone" and "I came to look on the playgroup as an oasis in what was otherwise a somewhat lonely existence." Other women discussed the loss of friends that didn't have kids, the feeling of being pushed to the background in favor of the baby and resentment at spouses who get to go to work and seem to have it all. I really loved a section where a woman wrote "postpartum for me was learning to deal with more anger than I've ever felt in my entire life. It felt like one long temper tantrum--unscreamed" (406). I also could really relate to one mother who wrote this about her husband on page 409:

There I was at home, by choice and liking it, except for this. Every day there were hundreds of small things--great ones like the baby rolling over or playing while I worked. Terrible ones like him choking or falling out of the infant seat. All these things were big to me. But when Marty came home, he'd listen for a minute, then start winding his watch or sorting the mail. I got to feel like a housekeeper and he seemed more and more like the invited guest."

So let's talk about some of the issues from my perspective.

 One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a parent that no one mentioned to me was how difficult it would be to maintain friendships. I LOVE my friends, all of them. I need them. My phone bills have always been high and I've always made sure to keep in touch on a regular basis with a wide variety of close friends. Having a child changed all of that. It showed me how big a role I played in these friendships for one. I stopped seeing many people because I didn't have the time to prioritize them. In the cases where I have tried to maintain friendships and, interestingly, start new ones with people who don't have children, I have surprised at how little people know about the amount of effort required to take a child places and how difficult it is to maintain dual focus. When I am with friends and I bring my daughter, I have to watch her AND give them the kind of attention I used to give them. It is an exhausting effort and often not worth it to me. I don't like dividing my attention that way. It works much better when the other person also has a child there playing. You can imagine why. The other issue of course is that other people are not nearly so interested in my child as I am.

Career: quitting the history department resulted from many convergent factors and certainly was not CAUSED by becoming a mother. I do, however, think that the loss of time to invest in studying (so necessary for me to do well) caused me to fail my exam (among other things). I could have continued on. I was simply asked to rewrite the exam in the fall but this is what I knew. Because of finances, I would not have the time necessary to study for three prelims AND write a dissertation proposal. I also knew that I had applied for funding from everything under the sun and that to continue in the history department I would have had to pay my own way--loans. Furthermore, I had been told that I could not write the dissertation that I had proposed upon my re-entry to the PhD program and would instead have to go for at least a year overseas. In an ideal world for the PhD program, that year would have been this coming year. Yes, John's second year in graduate school. So John would have had to take a year off, not so terrible, but nevertheless a *factor.* I also knew that my language skills in Serbo-Croatian continued to be less than ideal in spite of the many years of my study and that this would prevent me from having the kind of conversations that I wanted to make my dissertation out of. Being away from my family for that year also did not seem very appealing, nor did the many challenges of taking a child overseas and leaving behind plants, dog, credit card debt, belongings and a car. It just seemed to be the farthest thing from what I wanted out of life. A year later (I failed the exam in April of 2010) I wonder at my "over reaction." Was it one? Or was it the final push I needed to help me make a decision that would lead me to finding a new path. To opening a new door? You know how that saying goes...

Whenever I see people from my cohort getting their PhDs I feel like hurting them. I feel incredible envy and jealousy and a lot of it has to do with the fact that they could do it. They did make the choices that allowed them to get it. They wanted it. Perhaps I find that I am most jealous of their certainty, not necessarily in their proclamations, but in their actions. We get places not by making plans, but by taking actions and for whatever reason(s) I did not take those actions. I have taken other actions. Different ones. Unexpected ones. And sometimes I mourn the life I had in my head, in my fantasies, and hate the people for whom that life is reality, not a fantasy. That it worked/works for them. That they worked hard and it unfolded for them.  So career, career. Right now mine is professional house wife and mother and that is so far from what I imagined myself doing and becoming that it almost makes me want to throw up. Sometimes I'm so grateful for my lack of ability to predict and other times I am truly terrified by how easily my PLANS can disintegrate into failed exams, lack of funding, injured tendons and bunions.

Loss of time. It is absolutely impossible to describe this loss to someone who has not experienced it because in a way it is only in part the result of a loss in real time. The real loss seems to come from the loss of mental/emotional space. I used to be the kind of person that needed large chunks of alone time where I could detach myself emotionally and mentally from other people. Now I have a child that I simply can never detach myself emotionally and mentally. Her life and well being depends on my consistent emotional connection and physical proximity to her. At least in my books. I know some people have no problem sending their kids to daycare and/or leaving their children for extended periods of time, but I cannot do this. I know the life long impact of a severed attachment. I don't want my child having that experience. I refuse more strongly than I refuse my isolation, loneliness, exhaustion and loss of time and space. That's the truth. I know I've created this rock and hard place, but it is a decision that I value and believe will make a difference in the long run.

However, the fact that we don't have a lot of money does mean that we can't create a lot of time to "get away" that would not impact Eve negatively. And that feels like a major challenge. It means that every time I have free time I have to decide between the five hundred things that I need and want to do. Should I go exercise (body and mental health)? Get the bills paid (when are they due)? Call a friend (don't want to lose those people)? Clean the house (ah, it's a disaster!)? Walk the dog (she hasn't been walked in days!)? Go to a meeting (mental health and friendships)? Work on a hobby (what's that?)? Eat (ah, it's lunch time!)? Write this blog (sanity)? Do some homework (something is due!)? You get the picture. There is never enough time to get everything done or even a lot of things. For a person who gets a little high from having everything in order, this is a particularly challenging aspect of motherhood. It really makes me feel good to have the house clean, to work out, to be sane, to have friends...but it costs money to get the time needed to do many of these things. This is a really, really tough one. And it's all a big mess because each issue is tied in with the others. If I do homework, someday I will have a career that will allow me to have more money. If I exercise, my body will look and feel better and my mental health will be better (the same goes for friendships, meetings, hobby and cleaning the house). This is an area in which I have no answers and nor does my sponsor. In fact, she is one of those people that can't really understand what it is like to have a child and how that impacts time on many levels.

Body: I have to admit that aging and loss of my old body has been tough. It's not THAT different but I know. I know that my stomach is bigger and puffier. Okay, more on this later. The wee one has just awakened.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Resisting the Change

I've been trying to pinpoint what this feeling is.

I did a fourth step yesterday and I discovered a few *uncomfortable* things: I want people to be who I want them to be (I don't accept people as they are), I really dislike when people see the *real* me rather than the *image* I created for them to see. The so-called real me, I believe, is defective and I am deeply concerned about being important to people -- I apparently want to matter to people and when I perceive that I don't matter to people--that I am unimportant--I become angry with them. Then my sponsor reminded me of what she has been saying to me repeatedly in the past year. I have to have a desire to do things differently. I can't change myself fundamentally, though I can change my behavior.

We also got into a discussion about how the dog, who I once loved and now seem to hate, may be a constant fourth step for me. Tipper (the dog) mirrors back to me my rage -- the rage laid out in my fourth step. I am reminded that just beneath the surface of this "new mother" is the old person clawing to get out. The one that didn't have brown sun marks on her face, whose bum didn't hang low, whose stomach wasn't stretched and who had fewer bags under eyes. The one who could work long hours and not feel she was stealing the childhood away from someone. The one that got more than eight hours of sleep at night sometimes. The one who knew her energy could take her anywhere. The one that felt grounded and stable. The one who knew the routine. The her that was once me. And even beneath that old person, is an even more suffocated one, the pre-marriage girl, beholden only to herself (no husband, dog or child), whose body wasn't broken down, whose teeth weren't yellowing, who felt, in spite of periodic severe depression and anxiety, that death was not inevitable, that life would go on indefinitely and that she would always be in her twenties.

I am reminded that I can't seem to let go of these hers. When I look in the mirror I imagine what I would look like if the brown sun marks were erased and my teeth were whitened. What would happen if the frontalis muscle were stilled and the wrinkle between my eyes faded? Somehow it seems like heaven. What's so funny about this is that when I WAS her, I didn't want to be her. I wanted to be someone else. Someone better, thinner and smarter.

Then today I was listening to a CD about change by Marianne Williamson and she was describing something I've heard in many different ways over the years but needed to hear again. She said that the ego dies hard. An arrow in the heart.

The bottom line is that I haven't figured out how to DO this new life I have, to be this new me. So in place of the more grounded, accepting spiritually oriented person is a person wracked with fear and anxiety. That person grabs at straws. Constantly compares herself to others and to other versions of herself and absolutely refuses to just be with how uncomfortable this transformation is. To acknowledge that a funeral needs to be had. It is hard work being a mother. It is hard. But it is also exactly what this momma believes she is supposed to be doing with her life. It's exactly what she wants to be doing! It's time to realize that it is okay to grieve the loss of the other person -- the ego driven one or the spiritually oriented one -- and to deeply love Eve. Profoundly love Eve. And it is okay to struggle with the process of finding out how to be this new person. It's okay to fear shedding the old skin. It's okay to romance the rags that once made up a stunning gown. For a little while, now and then. But I can't be on this bridge forever. Eventually I have to wholeheartedly stride through the open door.

But until then, I have to continue to pray and hold this feeling I have as gently as I do my baby. This feeling I can't name and which I've never experienced before. This sensation of not being anywhere anymore. Of no longer being her.

And it's all really a circle. The fourth is a microcosm of the larger transformation I am undergoing. The loss of time I've experienced as a result of becoming a mother has prevented me from maintaining the image that I used in the past to make other people think of me as important. I am thus faced with the so-called defective real me. We've been doing a lot of dancing this year! And through it I have been given an incredible opportunity to let go of both my "image" and my belief in the defective "real" me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not believing, a lonely business

I was talking with a woman today who casually asked me if I go to Church. I said it was a long story but I could give her the nutshell version. I grew up in a Buddhist temple and discovered first hand the disparity between what people say and what they do. I also had a father who is a charismatic Buddhist cult leader who could not accept me as myself. When I met my husband, I discovered that he had had much the same experience but in an Evangelical Christian home. We had both postured ourselves subsequently as rebels and then recovering religious adherents. After sharing this with her I was surprised that she then invited me to her Church--the Mormon Church--and explained to me a bit about how Mormons view the relationship between men and women (apparently an area that people often question). She said that only men are allowed to hold the priesthood but that women have the very special, and equal role of mother to play.

Two weeks earlier I had mentioned the word God in conversation with a friend, which prompted him to ask me when I had become a "believer." I explained that I wasn't one and a little bit about my experience with Evangelism, as well as my inability to wrap my head around a few of their beliefs (Jesus' literal resurrection, hell, the idea of one path for all and homosexuality as a sin). I was treated to a long explanation of how my friend's Church is different because they accept and embrace gay people, while acknowledging that it is only their choice that is a sin, not unlike adultery or sloth. He also explained how a crisis in his life had prompted him to go back to Church where he had seen the kind of faith he thought could save him from the morass of fear. He was drawn, he said, to their certainty in their faith.

Even my new mom-friend who believes in tarot, black magic and astrology and has had her fair of experience with the hypocrisy of organized religion, mentioned three days ago that she was disgusted by "those people" who don't shave their armpit hair. Since I grew up without shaving my armpits, I collected this bit of information about what not to share with her, along with her disdain for cloth diapering. That was something our poor mothers had had to do, poor things. Thank God we don't have to anymore. In the closet again. Every where I find it uncomfortable to be my whole self.

However, when I got home this evening I realized that I too was attracted to the certainty that this Mormon woman emanated.  I wished I was going to the Church function that evening with her. Some part of me wanted to be like her.  I don't mean I wanted to look like her or have her children. I wanted to feel the ease that she must get through believing in her religion. It must be so much less lonely. They already have a ready made group of people who think exactly like them. They agree on all of their major beliefs and practices (way of living). And they don't ever have to try to find the way alone, it's all laid out for them. There is no mystery. They might be challenged in the depth of their beliefs, but they never wonder what beliefs they should have.

Since I'm an Aquarius I get the unsavory life task of never buying into any belief system and so I find myself repeatedly rejected from every "group" that exists, usually by my own feelings of being crushed by what I perceive as yet another cult of sameness. The only group that I "fit" into and can't seem to shake is an anonymous one and even there I find myself challenged  by the personalities that claim to have THE ANSWER for everyone. Nevertheless I find it impossible to reject any one from any of these groups for any of their beliefs. On an objective level, I can see how each and every person reflects a piece of the human mosaic. No one is wrong. Everyone simply has their own experience. Even this belief alienates me from some people.

However, I must say that having to find your own beliefs, walk in the dark of not having all the answers, and trust that who you are is OKAY even though your experience, beliefs and way of living have no exact match in the world, is a lonely business. Sometimes I want to lie, I want to pretend I fully believe, I want to hide the fact that I don't shave my armpits (or my legs), while at the same plucking my eyebrows, believe very deeply in God while simultaneously believing in the ridiculousness of the concept of a hell for those that don't believe in Jesus and I'm an optimist who believes that everything is as it ought to be and that most likely God meant that hell is on earth, if you know what I mean, humans sure can make a mess of things. I use cloth diapers, don't drink alcohol or use drugs, am deeply conservative about intimate relationships yet staunchly support my gay, transgendered and bisexual friends and neighbors (I could categorize myself as the former based on my own experiences), absolutely love the Gilmore Girls and my all time favorite TV show Queer as Folk, prefer a cheesy romantic comedy over a foreign film any day, have a dog, but have discovered that I really don't like dogs, have such disparate friends that I know some of them would never get along (at least not on the philosophic level, but I think even on a superficial one) insist on breastfeeding until my daughter weans herself (attachment parenting) while at the same time following strict routines (non-attachment parenting). I also am quite alright with other people being religious (unless it is forced on me or keeps me from being myself) and that, too, alienates me from a whole group of academics and religious defectors. I strongly believe the journey of many people involves religion, just not mine. I may sound like I hate religion or religious people, but it's really just that I'm more than a touch jealous of their certainty.

So that is me. At least a bit of me. And I can tell you that I don't have a friend out there that doesn't have a conflict with a belief or practice on this list. And if there's anything that I know for sure on good days, it is that this is who God made me to be. But I'll tell you, being me and not an automaton shaped by the beliefs and practices of a religion, is a lonely business.