Saturday, March 23, 2013

My name is Myra, and I’m a Freethinker

My long awaited post on religion is finally here…..well sort of, okay we’ll see.  Everyone knows that debating religion, politics and sex is taboo, frowned upon; but to some people, so is writing a blog about one’s personal thoughts.  So please allow me to just be me, a freethinker – an individual who holds opinions formed on the basis of logic, reason and experience and not authority, tradition, or other dogmas.

This post is not an attempt to insult anyone’s religious beliefs or anyone personally, for that matter.  This post will not even touch on my compassion for homosexuals because somebody is going to tell me that I should read Genesis 19 where God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because men wanted to have sex with other men.  Then I’m going to have to respond that they should read Mark 12:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Basically when asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus replied that the most important one is to love the Lord with all your heart, and the second I just quoted.

Then I might remind them that since we are talking about Genesis 19, let’s talk about verses 7 and 8 where Lot said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”  His own flesh and blood!  This was his response when the men wanted to have sex with the male angels.

But this is neither the time nor the place.  The main purpose of this post is to help people like me, religious outliers, not feel so ostracized because we interpret religion and the Bible differently or have extremely different religious views altogether.  The secondary purpose is to help people who are still part of organized religion not to judge others who don’t have the same views as they.  In other words, ‘Don’t make fun of me because I don’t believe everything I read in the Bible, and I won’t make fun of you because you do’.

For a while I struggled to understand where I fit in when it comes to religion and spirituality because over the years, more and more of what I read in the Bible or heard in church made less and less sense.  I mean, how could the Red Sea be parted?  How could an ocean be separated to allow some people to walk on dry land and then flow back to drown others?  But you know what; I have a bigger problem with the Egyptians being the enemies.  I mean, why would God create us all, but some of us are more special than others?  And don’t tell me that it is because the Israelites were the chosen ones.  Check them out Abraham, Samson, David….all filled with flaws.  And don’t tell me that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were “evil” because they enslaved the Israelites.  Please don’t tell me about the evils of slavery.  Just don’t go there with me!

Then there is Noah and his seven family members in the Ark with all those animals.  Where did the animals poop?  How did he acquire animals whose natural habitat was not in his homeland?  How did he get animals that were not in their natural habitat to stay alive until the ark was completed?  How did all the animals live in that ark with him and his family?  Why didn’t the dangerous animals attack them? 

Clearly I’m not going to address every issue that I find questionable, like Jonah in the belly of the fish, Sarah conceiving at the age of 90, Adam and Eve having two sons which resulted in the rest of mankind.  And it would be truly disrespectful to question how Jesus was conceived by a Spirit when Christians are still celebrating Lent.  And for the record, I’m not attacking Christianity, it’s just that I know nothing about other religions.

But it’s just not the Bible.  I go to church, and I hear pastors talking about heaven as if it’s a place that they frequent regularly.  Recently I visited a church, and the pastor and his congregation were gleaming as they relished about going to heaven, and I thought to myself, “These people well know that they are in no hurry to die.  Why are they acting as if this is a place that they want to go hang out at right after service?”  And since no one knows for certain that anyone has ever been there, to stand there and tell others what it is like seems disingenuous to me. 

Since we, well I, am on the topic of heaven, I have always wondered:  if there are now 7 billion people alive, how many people have died; and by the time the lucky ones get to heaven, how many will be there?  And if their names are all going to fit in The Book of Life, how big is that book; and shouldn’t it be computerized by now?  It is so difficult finding one person in a crowd of thousands, wouldn’t it be impossible finding loved ones in heaven?  And what if a 95 year old whose baby had died at birth goes to heaven, how will she recognize him?  How will he get around without a stroller?  By the way, are people from other religions allowed?  But even if it’s just Christians, have you ever attended an after church event that involved food?  How many of your brothers and sisters in Christ do you think can sustain on a diet of milk and honey?  Just saying.

I know die-hard Christians have one response for me to all these questions – with God all things are possible.  You don’t have to tell me how many things are possible with God – I’m a licensed driver.  If you have ever seen me drive (well, back in the day) you would know that I’m a huge believer in guardian angels.  And I have children.  The fact that they are healthy and fine is a miracle.  The fact that they are here is a miracle, period.  So let’s make it clear that I’m not talking about the presence of God.

I guess that my main issue is that I cannot comprehend how someone can read a novel, a work of non-fiction, an essay, a magazine article and have so many problems with its validity, yet read the Holy Bible with all its nuances and ambiguities and simply say, “Yeah, it’s all true.”  How someone can admit that although a lot of it is not understandable, it’s all good because we are not supposed to understand it all. 

Well as a freethinker, I cannot in good faith do that.  As a freethinker, I cannot let authority, established belief, tradition and not even religious dogma dictate what makes sense to me and what does not.  Genesis 1:27 says that “God created mankind in his own image”, and who hasn’t heard a pastor or two said that “God don’t make no junk”.  So perspectively speaking, this freethinker is a work of God, and I will continue to believe in Him as much as I continue to question religion and any holy book.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Is Long-term Happiness Elusive?

So I keep hearing how lucky I am to NOT be working.  And of course I find it necessary to correct everyone.  I do work.  I just don’t get paid. Well, not directly.  Let’s just say that I don’t get a Form W-2 at the end of the tax year.  But you better believe that I work.

Like anything in life, there are strengths and weaknesses.  And as such, my job has things that I enjoy and some that I don’t.  Every single day when the kids have left for school, I asses the areas they have utilized, and there is always something to clean.  It doesn’t matter if I have left the kitchen spotless before I go to bed, without a doubt, there will be a mess waiting for me.  I have resigned myself to realizing that constant cleaning comes with the territory, but what has happened to the mindset that if a room is clean, it should remain that way for at least a day or two?  It worked for me when I was a kid.

Another thing about this job that is a negative is getting my charges to listen to me more.  When I was a child, there was no way that my parents would be repeating the same things to us daily.  I can be pretty strict, but I haven’t yet figured out how to instill that fear in them that my parents had.  And I know you are thinking that that is a good thing, but I disagree.  If fear is what it takes to get stuff done around this place, then it’s all good.

Other than that, I really can’t complain about my current job.  And truth be told, if pushed, I’ll have to admit that these are really frivolous.  This is why:  When my children leave an irresponsible mess, and I don’t feel like cleaning it, I don’t.  They’ll be back, so that mess will just be there waiting for them to clean.  Furthermore, if I had kids who listened to me all the time, even I would think that something was wrong with them.

Hence, it appears like I’m at that fork in the road where if I’m working, I wish I were at home, and when I’m at home, I wish I had a job.  You all know that feeling.  I mean, think about it.  I am not on anyone else’s schedule.  I go at my own pace.  I have no one to answer to.  I can take a nap in the middle of the day or watch TV should I chose.  I should be thrilled, right?

The other day, when I was griping about feeling unfulfilled and unproductive because I don’t have a job, a dear friend said to me that she always wanted to have three children, stay home and take care of them and her husband.  She said, “Myra, you have my dream job.”  And right away I had one of Oprah’s aha moments.

I feel unfulfilled and unproductive at times because this was NEVER my dream job.  Back in the day, my dream job was to be a high powered financial executive.  When I think of my Finance and Investment degree collecting cobweb, when I think of my peers (well some of them) working in the jobs of their dreams, I don’t feel like a total loser, but it can be depressing.  And there are the times when I take that brush to clean a toilet, I say to myself, “Is this what my life is going to be like forever?  Always cleaning poop!”  And I realize how far I am from my dream job.

But it is typically short-lived because I usually get a call from a friend or family member who tells me about her day at work, and immediately I am ecstatic that I don’t have to put up with a shitty boss, have to wake up early and get dressed up to go somewhere that I don’t want to be and talk to people that I don’t want to see.

In a perfect world, I’d be doing two things – writing literature that brings people to tears from laughter and fixing their finances.  And in this perfect world, I would actually receive a W-2 because I would be getting paid.  However, life is not perfect, but because of my present job, I’m able to write a blog that make people laugh (most of the times), and I handle this family’s finances like it is a Fortune 500 company.  Not sure if all the spreadsheets are necessary, but they sure are fun to prepare.

Anyone who knows me and my bag of pet peeves well, knows that this saying is included in my top ten; but perspectively speaking, after I have weighed the pros and cons, the only thing that I can say is, “I am blessed and highly favored.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Can Women Have It All?

I exited the womb with the word FEMINIST stamped on my forehead.  Before I knew what the word meant, before I knew there was a word for it, I always exhibited feminist tendencies.  I just didn’t think it was fair that boys and girls should be treated differently.  I didn’t think it was fair that women should stay at home and do all the housework while men come and go as they please.  I didn’t think it was right that women should put the men’s food on the table, wait for them to finish, and then remove the empty plates.  And it really pissed me off when the men didn’t even compliment the food if it was delicious, but criticized if it wasn’t perfect.  I vowed never to have a marriage like that, and I certainly planned never to raise sons to be that chauvinistic.

Therefore, you can imagine my dismay five years ago when I went on vacation and my children visited their grandmother, to hear my seven year old daughter tell me that she alone had to clean the table after they had all eaten just because she was a girl, while her two brothers and my 12 year old nephew went outside to play.  But how was my mother-in-law to know?  She wasn’t born or raised in this century.  So my husband politely showed her the error of her ways.

As a feminist, I envisioned my adult life as a mother and wife with a demanding and important job.  I knew it was not going to be easy; but easy is for wimps, right.  I wanted to have it all.  I wanted to do it all.  And then I got the chance.

Wife?  Check.  Mother? Check.  Demanding career?  Not quite.  Yes, I had a job.  Yes, it was a stable job.  Yes, it had room for upward mobility….or so I thought.  It started out on the right track, and then management changed; and it all went downhill from there.  I ended up with a boss who was not opposed to showing favoritism and lo and behold, I was not one of the favorites.

When it dawned on me that I was not going to get ahead just by my routine hard work, I decided to play her game.  I got into work earlier and left later than everyone else, except for her of course, because she obviously lived there.  Didn’t matter how early I got there, she was there.  Didn’t matter how late I left, she was still there.   I must have done that for a month tops, because I just could not sustain it.  First, even her favorites were not staying late, and they were still reaping the benefits.  Second, I was never doing anything of great importance.  Third, it was not conducive to my home life.

My poor toddlers were staying up later than usual just to see my face before they went to bed, and my poor, supportive husband had to entertain them during that time.  The only benefit I received was coming home to hot, Antiguan dishes.  Just for those appetizing meals, I would have sacrificed playing the corporate game, but I realized if I proceeded on that course, my children would one day not recognize me.   And after seeing that an unfavored coworker had done the same thing for longer than I without a proper reward, I said, “Screw it!”  I opted to work the 9-5 gig for which I was being paid, continued to take my 1 ½ to 2 hour lunch (I mentioned that it was a good job, right) and get my butt on that 5:10 subway to Yonkers.  At least I knew there were four people looking forward to seeing me, and no amount of raise or promotion could top that.

The next time I tried to do it all was when I worked as a Financial Advisor.  I was working from home.  Super!  I had no boss breathing down my neck.  Awesome!  I was meeting new people every day.  Exciting!  I was a door to door salesperson.  Shit!  The next thing I knew a whole school year passed, and I missed out on too many of the kids’ activities.  That was not going to work for me either.  Plus I got fired because I just couldn’t meet the quota, but that’s neither here nor there.

So one day when I was home watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and there was an African immigrant who was studying for her Master’s, working full time and was the single parent of five, I did not share Oprah’s zest.  As I sat on the couch, I thought to myself, “This lady must be nuts!”  The fact that I was watching Oprah implied that my lazy ass didn’t have a job nor was I working towards a Master’s degree, but, again, that’s neither here nor there.  At least I was still a wife and a mother.  But you are straying from the point.  Stay with me here, people!

I’m not saying that a woman cannot do it all because I failed miserably ……twice.  I’m just saying that no one can sustain being that highly productive in that many capacities.  Has anyone ever heard a man say, “I want to do it all?”  Men do not put too much pressure on themselves.  They don’t typically multitask.  They work.  They are fathers.  They are husbands.  They are not going to try and master everything all at once.  And they have no regrets about it either.

There are only 24 hours in a day, so if I have to be a wife to another adult, a mother to a few children and an employee to a boss who doesn’t give a damn about me, something will suffer.  And perspectively speaking, I’m not going to sacrifice the most important years of my children’s lives to help others build their company.