I went to church and there was no bible

This post is dark, and disjointed, and admittedly strange; it is raw and vulnerable, bare as November herself. Read it at your own peril.

The Darkness and the Mud

Church HDR

Church HDR (Photo credit: I_am_Allan)

I experience a slow, sinking feeling, as if I’m losing myself in a soft mud. I am alone in my descent and I cannot call out; I’ve lost my voice. I cannot reach out; I have no arms.

All there is, is sinking.

 (All she is, is tremor, Suzanne.)

This is not a dream. This is my life. Now. At fifty. A dark, bitchy drama-queen. I see who I am becoming.

I sink in the mud.

I am spiritually and emotionally hollow. Or do I mean shallow?  I never thought of myself as spiritual, but the emptiness I feel seems beyond the everyday. In the past, when I felt bereft, I sought people to fill me up. My forties were about filling up. My forties are gone and already take on a certain flavor, a decade where (by my standards) I partied hearty, occupied the time with lovers and travel and new friends.

Now I am 50 and I have emptied out. Lost. Feeling dark. 

I am hyper vigilant about mortality. The brevity of this life is always on my mind.

Two class-mates, ones I met in first grade, died in October. They had both turned 50 this year.

Stephen Schuko used to sit next to me in study hall. He made me laugh. I saw a photo taken when Stephen was in his twenties: handsome, invincible, muscle-built, a bad boy you just had to love. In the pic he twists towards the camera with his handsome grin and his muscles taut, shirtless, gorgeous; he looks as though he should live forever.

Deb E. Howe, brilliant, quiet, and someone I gave a hard time to (briefly) in junior high. I never took the opportunity to apologize to her for being a bullying 13-year old. She died, unexpectedly, from a stroke. She lived in Greece. I believe she died in Greece. At least she died in Greece. At least she lived something she dreamed before she died. But she died.

I ponder the (non-mortal) loss of two best friends, both of whom seemed to have just walked away from our 10-year friendships. In all fairness, I changed, and I did not walk much toward them over the last few years.

It’s the transient nature of life and relationships that has got me down. Sure, that’s part of it.

People leave you so alone. Or have I left them?

I sink in the mud.

Before the muddy muck reaches my eyes, let me share a revelation: I will likely not find a life partner because of who I am.

Who am I?

I am someone who does not deal well with long-term intimacy. That explains a lot about the multiple affairs I had during my forties. Recent dating experiences have also left me with a new knowledge of myself: I cherish my freedom, even when it’s lonely.  Oh, and I detest spiteful women. (Yeah, I mean you.)

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

No, wait, it was a parking lot.

As I walked through the dark parking lot at work the other night, I admitted to myself something I had hoped was just coincidence: I fall in love with women I cannot have or who I can only have for a short time; and I push away the women who fall in love with me.  Good thing it was a night to see my therapist. For reasons I can’t pinpoint, this is who I am at age 50 and there’s a good chance this is who I will always be: a single gay woman, breaking hearts, getting broken, and turning bitter.

Desperado, you better let somebody love you….ah, fuck that.

Spiritually bereft, sinking in the mud.

Release Me

Release me from the muck of myself and from my daggering anger and meanness of spirit. I screamed in the car this morning, the ugliest words, at the top of my lungs, hatred in my soul. And that’s all that was in my soul.

Then I took my aqua fit class and felt fine.

Menopause sucks.

I Went to Church

Last Sunday I went to church and there was no bible.

I walked into a Unitarian Universalist Church for the first time.  I’d heard about such churches, welcoming and non-denominational.  This one lived up to the reputation: I was welcomed by everyone who saw me, there was not a bible to had, and the word “God” was used twice and clearly used to mean whatever the congregation members needed it to mean in their lives.

The minister was a middle-aged woman and her sermon was phenomenal. She was downright literary. She is doing a monthly series on “virtue” and last week’s sermon was on courage. How timely for me personally, as I have felt less than courageous these days. I have been unable to work up the courage to simply enjoy myself, be it at a Melissa Etheridge concert or meeting a friend in Boston for a day on the town.

I wish I had her sermon here. I would print it.  I am paraphrasing a few things:

Courage, she said, is not fearlessness. Courage involves fear and how we manage it. Courage requires fear and moving forward even when we think it’s impossible.

Courage is not a man with a gun in his hands. (She was not referencing brave soldiers, I’m sure, but cowardly killers.)

She read a passage from To Kill a Mockingbird, which beautifully illustrated courage. I have not read this novel, but now I must.

She quoted Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde and said the word lesbian and feminist all in the same sentence.

Audre Lorde by Elsa Dorfman

Audre Lorde by Elsa Dorfman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was church.

There was music.  The “hymns” were about living mindfully and with courage. They were not biblical.

No one said the word Jesus Christ. Nobody quoted bible passages. Nobody referred to “Him.”

On the tables in the fellowship hall were numerous pamphlets geared at lesbian and gay youth – not to “cure” them but to help them feel welcomed and okay about their emerging sexuality.

This was church.

I felt jaded and impure, in my muddy, mucky soul, hearing so much encouragement; this congregation — wise yet innocent — the enduring human spirit. I don’t know if I’ll fit in, although I will give it time. I can no longer fill my life with lovers or best friends or other temporary connections. I need something steady and real and something I can handle. That church is always there. Can I handle it?

I attended again today, my second week, and was surprised by how many people remembered my name. The sermon was not as moving as last week, although educational. The minister was not there but a guest speaker. I hope the minister is back next week. She is quite brilliant.

After the service I drank coffee and had two conversations with two old women, who gave me a better role model of aging than my own mother can. After all, they have brought themselves to church on their own, even at their age. They asked relevant questions and could hold intelligent conversation. I also spoke to two middle-aged women who encouraged me to keep attending. One asked, “Are you new to the area?”

Spiritually, yes, I am brand new to this area, but that’s not what she meant.

I said, “No. No, I’m not. I’m searching for something, I think.”

“This is a good place to be searching.”

When the minister is back, I believe her next sermon is on generosity.

I could use some of that, too, and this congregation seems to possess it.

We’ll see if I can acclimate to a spiritual life. 

(Rest in peace, Stephen and Deb.)

About Cindy Zelman

Creative and Freelance Writer
This entry was posted in Aging, church, courage, Death, Getting Older, lesbianism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to I went to church and there was no bible

  1. So much darkness! In its expression, you make a pathway for the light. In order to experience generosity, treat yourself first with kindness. Well done, Cindy.

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    • Cindy Zelman says:

      Thank you, Bridget. I’ve been struggling lately. I will try to be kind to myself. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to find a pathway to the light, as you say. I think I had to write this because I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Thank you for reading.

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  2. Aaw, Cindy. This is not the woman I know. Just a piece of her. The church is always a good idea. Keeping your chin up is also a good idea. Well written, but sad.

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    • Cindy Zelman says:

      Hi Angie, Thank you for reading. I hope all this is just a phase. A sad one, yes, but one that will move me forward. I hope. It’s good to hear from you. I hope you’re doing okay. hugs. Cindy

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  3. This post was very moving and very real. I actually see a lot of good in it. You’re considering a pattern you might recognize in your life, and recognizing it is the first step toward possibly changing it. In the darkest moments, you’re reaching out. And selfish, bitchy people don’t end blog posts with “(Rest in peace, Stephen and Deb.)”. Sensitive, hurting people do. This is a tough world. Often, it hurts sensitive people. Don’t give up on yourself, even if “yourself” feels nothing but bitchy for now.

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    • Cindy Zelman says:

      Thank you for your very sensitive comments, Faye. I do appreciate that you can see what’s positive here. Growing can be painful. I believe I am growing I to my next self. I’m grateful you are here to encourage me. 🙂

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  4. Erik Volk says:

    Thanks for expressing yourself in this post. Many of us have been through periods of darkness for different reasons. I think it is in our darkest hours when we see the light most clearly. I would encourage you to explore the light of the UU fellowship. Although I am no longer an active member, I was a deacon there, taught Sunday School and was very active in the church for years. I can tell you it is a great place to explore your spirituality and remind us that the world (and the church) is full of unique individuals, many of whom are dealing with or have dealt with spiritual crises. My “church” was full of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, humanists, paganists, Wiccans, atheists, agnostics and “those who won’t be labelled.” it was a great place to see that the world can be a place of drastically different views but in an environment of respect and questioning. It is a great place to meet people with creative souls who believe that spirituality and individuality are complementary. Speaking of mortality, I remember we had a workshop on anonymously writing our own epitaphs. I remember the one I wrote was ” He was deliciously strange.” It was supposed to be anonymous…but people immediately knew that was mine…not sure if that is good or bad. We had other workshops ranging from interpreting passages of the Bible in the modern world, to the spiritual power of interpretive dance, to extemporaneous chanting/yodeling as a means of expressing oneself, to the spiritual messages in country music to one where we drummed as a means to return to past lives and find our power animal. I kept an open mind to them all but after a while at the UU church..I didn’t feel like the strangest animal in the zoo anymore. Your post reminded me of how far I drifted from spirituality and peace, how the most interesting people are those seeking answers and how I miss those crazy UUs! Best of luck and peace in your quest.

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    • Cindy Zelman says:

      Hi Erik, Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. It comforts me so much to know you’ve experienced some of what I have, and that you found solace in the Unitarian Univeralist Church for a time. I don’t know if I belong there, but I’m willing to give it a try. Your own experience sounds terrific. Please keep reading and stay in touch. xoxo Cindy

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  5. suzanne says:

    you are brave dear soul, thank you for sharing this.

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  6. lucewriter says:

    This is brave and strong. Thank you for bringing Audre Lorde back into my life.

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  7. Great depiction of Steve… I became friendly with him later in life & he was like a brother to me. I miss him very much… I’m a writer too. To those of us who “feel” life is much more intense. But always remember it’s the same world everyone else lives in- We can get through it too.

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    • Cindy Zelman says:

      Hi Vinnie,

      I’m assuming you mean Steven Schuko. I’ve written so many posts I can’t remember the one in which I mentioned him, but I know I was very sad when I learned of his death. He didn’t know it, but I had a girlish crush on him since I met him in grade school. He had many sides to him, but the one I remember is the funny/tough/handsome kid who was always in my line of sight growing up. The one who made me smile. Stay in touch, Vinnie. Hey, a long time ago I dated a guy who worked for the Sun Chronicle. Small world.

      Cindy

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  8. Chelsie says:

    I love what you wrote about my father, Stephen. Its nice to find little things like this when i miss him and go searching the internet for pieces of him and the past. He was too young, and too beautiful of a person, inside and out, to die but life has a twisted way of working itself out. He always managed to make everyone laugh even if he was in hell, didn’t he? xo great writing. Best wishes -Chelsie

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