Friday is almost over and what a glorious Friday its been! I’ve had a nap, got to play catch-up on the pile of magazines on my kitchen counter, and take a nap. Today’s small blurb is about my spirituality history. Checkout Wednesday’s post that kick started this discussion so you can read on what I’m observing for this Lent season.
Before we begin, I’d like to provide a small trigger warning. Spirituality makes people uncomfortable along with mental health. I plan on writing on that subject alone this month, but I just wanted to let you know about a small warning since I will write about anxiety and depression a few times here.
If I combine the first 12 years of my life, you would see an inconsistent history of church swapping, beliefs and set ideals. I would concessional go to church with my mom and grandmother but when I was with my abusive dad, he wouldn’t take me that often. It was only when we were visiting his mother would we go to a southern baptist church.
Most of my childhood was spent with the Disciple of Christ congregations (between the Texas roots and the Oklahoma summers) and I always enjoyed VBS. At one point, i preferred leading VBS and my natural tendencies towards being a teacher began to sprout near the beginnings of 6th grade.
If you look at high school alone, I wasn’t comfortable with youth groups. Once, I ran away from my group while attending the Texas Renaissance Fair. Only two times in my life have I had bad anxiety like that and one was near the end of my first semester of college and I still sometimes don’t think I’ve fully recovered from that psychotic meltdown.
As a musician first, I always found solace in singing in choir or performing on stage with my tenor trombone in the church. That’s also where I showed my first post-performance frustrations and slammed out of the side church door. That church helped me learn how to manage my terrible growing panes and I am grateful for that.
When we jump forward to the start of my freshman year in college, I didn’t truly like any of the churches that were two hours north of me. I attended a couple of college groups and found that those groups were stuck in looking at the bible one set way. My grandmother, a retired minster, would stay up and chat with me about my views.
This separation from home and being able to console a relative about religion helped me on creating a firm basis for my beliefs. In 2013, I moved to live with my grandmother due to health concerns with marching band and college. Those first few years in Oklahoma continued to develop my basic bible comprehension and learning about the power of consistent practice and prayer.
2013: Got to attend the Disciples of Christ convention with family in Orlando. That was fun (especially before I had any responsibilities)!
2015: Attended the DoC convention in Columbus, Ohio with family and got to work as an usher for that event and meet wonderful people that set me up for 2016s adventure.
Jumping forward to the fall of 2015, I moved in with a roommate and reflecting back, that might not have been the right call. We both had separate religious views and in light of the attacks that happened today in New Zealand, I can hear this said person claiming that that was something that needed to happen. It’s hard for some people to separate the difference between spirituality and religion. Another subject I want to write about, but the point is that some people pride themselves on one strict discipline and do not credit other principles in existence and tries to claim they are bad for society.
Because said person was mad at me for losing my jobs all the time, I moved to Texas at the beginning of the year.
In the summer of 2016, I had good intentions of starting a spirituality series when I started my internship with the National Benevolent Association with the Disciples of Christ under the NBA XPLOR program.
“faith-based, 10-month, congregationally hosted residency program designed for 21- to 30-year-olds looking to explore lives of care and service — giving them the opportunity to unleash their own potential, while positively impacting their community.”
I applied in the early part of the year and was accepted in May. In August, I moved all my stuff to Dallas, Texas before taking a trip to St. Louis, MO for training. After that one week of training, I was sent back to my residence in Dallas. And that’s where communication broke down and things came to an abrupt end.
Two words come to mind when I think about this short intermission with this organization: bitterness & failure.
It wasn’t until recently have I learned to master staying in one place and actually accomplishing goals in life. At that time, a whole slew of failures were around me and I couldn’t let go of the fact that what I thought I signed up for was not what I was told it was. I went into the program thinking I was going to get to divide my time with foster kids and elderly members of the community at a care center. I also thought that I would have Friday’s completely free from participating in the world around me; that I would get to watch my wrestling on Monday nights; that I would get to go home and go to very important Doctor appointments to solve my heart problems; that I would be able to survive on only $450 per month.
What I wasn’t prepared for was community. A small aspect of my life that I still disassociate with.
When I returned to the residence, the job I was told I would get to do (work with foster kids) was removed because of the previous intern before me. Now, all my time was spent with elderly people. At that time in my life, elderly people made me too sad. I was heartbroken that I wasn’t informed of the change.
That first Friday at the program, I slept in and was asked by my director why I wasn’t participating with Master Gardeners that day. I was livid. Wasn’t I supposed to get an entire day of rest on Friday? I knew I wouldn’t get Saturdays or Sundays off but I couldn’t handle not having one entire day to myself.
Note: Nothing has changed in that department. I work five days a week and take two days off. I enjoy spending one entire day at home per week so I can rest from participating in the world.
Me and my family were upset about what transpired over the course of three weeks, of course. For me, all this spiraled me into a deep depression and anxiety with just showing up and going to work. I had brought a large chunk of my stuff and was hoping to have time for myself during this program. All it led to was disappointment and being told I had to move out immediately because I did not live up to the contract. That irked me, because I wanted to say goodbye to the two interns who also roomed in the same house as I did. Apparently, neither of them wanted to see me because of my mental health.
I understand now why but 15% of me disagrees with that. Those two weren’t the problem, my situation was. I wanted to apologize more than just a goodbye letter.
So i took the pick-up truck and loaded everything in it (with the help of my supervisors) and moved back to my grandmother’s house in Oklahoma. The program was gracious enough to provide gas money and a gift card, as well as provide pay for September-November. This is the first time I’ve opened up about my brief time in that program and its just another puzzle piece of not-so-great failures on my list.
One thing that tends to bother me mentally, is about all the unfinished projects in my life. I’m currently working on my Undergraduate degree after having to remove myself from school three times. I have been improving on how to keep a job longer than three months. I’ve been an after school teacher for five months and my goal is to make it to the one year mark later this year. While I am not the same person I was when I started the NBA program, a part of me would love a second chance at working with them. They mean well and since then, I realized I have had no further regrets on how everything turned out in the end. It led me to returning to Oklahoma, making new friends, and returning to school. At the time I was truly frustrated with my entire life cycle, but since then, the release from the program helped set new lifestyle choices.
Which brings me to 2016-2018: I hardly went to church after what happened in 2016. It wasn’t until Life Church this past fall have I attended on a more regular basis. I still miss the traditional hymns and setting of a church. I’ve actually begun to view spirituality as something I need to work on for myself first before looking at joining groups. I still get anxious about life groups and such, because I always feel no one looks at the spiritual side of things, they all look towards religion.
In 2018, I started adding astrology to spirituality after going through a second deep depression at the end of 2017. That’s when the discovery of chakras, meditation, and Eastern styles of spirituality started to click for me. Thus, I associate more with a Universalist view. As a Gemini, its not surprising that I enjoy duality in spiritual practice.
A few little things on spiritual practice has helped me stay a bit grounded during all this chaos in my corner of the world: spiritual journaling, prayer journal, meditation, and spiritual reading.
This year, I started looking at my spiritual self and realized I still had some wounds to heal. Every Saturday night, I spend two sometimes four hours working on my spiritual self. It helps me heal and know that those nights are for me and me alone. It’s been a bit of a transition to not worry about joining life groups because I know my ideals d thoughts won’t entirely match up with a medium sized group. I do best with chatting with a small group of 3-5 friends. When we talk about spirituality, we always provide a safe space where no one will get too upset about what others say and to understand the basic difference between spirituality and religion.
This post went a bit long but I want to thank you for reading through the intense timeline of my spiritual life. Next week, I plan on writing about spiritual journaling and the difference between spirituality and religion.
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Wishing you all the best,