In times of despair, many of us turn to religion. Even those of us who don't tend to be overly religious otherwise. I don't know statistics to back this up, but I truly believe that people in their greatest times of need are probably some of the greatest new recruits to religious organizations.
My Mother probably spent most of her life in states of depression and was an alcoholic. Her Father had also been an alcoholic and died when she was 14. We almost lost her in the early 1990's when she was just barely the age of my husband in her early 50's. She briefly quit drinking, but it took charge again and she died in 2006 at age 64. While not overly religious, she always made an effort to be faithful to the Catholic Church. When we were young, we attended church every Sunday and both my brother and I went through all the steps from baptism to confirmation. Leading up to her demise, she had Eucharistic Ministers come every Sunday to provide communion. But for years prior, she was Cafeteria Catholic.
While I dealt with my Mother's quietus in 2006, I reached out to a local Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey. I met with the Priest, who counseled me. I attended service once or twice. I didn't do as much as I should have to show my appreciation, but while I still cowered away ultimately, I was very appreciative of all the comfort that was offered to me.
My Godmother had breast cancer 20+ years ago. She had a mastectomy, some of the best Doctors in America, and it went into remission. Around 2004, the cancer had returned and spread. Wasn't supposed to happen. She turned to the church. I foolishly asked her what religion. This was my Godmother. Then again, I am a Godparent to a child that while Christian, isn't a religion I "practice", nor was raised. The only times I've ever been to a Lutheran Church is with these family members.
Nancy died shortly after my Mother in 2006. Their was an open casket viewing; something I refused to let happen with my Mother and loathe in general. . Not 4 days after returning back to California for what I thought was for the foreseeable future, I am in Baltimore. I was told by her daughters to watch the slide show. It was a capture of her life. It was, though out of what had to be literally over 200, probably far more, constantly changing images, there wasn't one that ever included me. Not one that ever included my parents and Nancy and her husband, George, early marriage relationships with one another. The latter I more than get and I was just the Godchild, but Aunt Nancy and I had been close for all my life. When we were all young, Kate, who is my age, and Ann, closer to my brother's age, all played together when we would visit. I quickly realized how on the outside I was to the rest of this family. It was probably more heartbreaking than the loss of one of the people I have ever most adored and admired. It has proven true to this day. I wrote George once, never heard back. I wasn't really expecting to, but one can hope. It's not even unkind or ill willed. It just isn't his nature. Ann, the younger one, and I Facebook communicated a few times. But, all died with her passing. I would no longer be a guest in their home. They had a reception at the home following this massive funeral, which included elected officials and many others. I didn't go. I knew it was time to move on and that being there would just be more uncomfortable and possibly damaging to my weakened state than providing closure.
I prayed following that experience. I seldom had prayed.
My dear friend has cousins who were, from the sounds of it, anything but religious. Then, overcoming years of drug addiction, they decided to join the Mormon Church and found great solitude in it. Recently, many years later, they decided they don't like all the teachings of the church and have left it. I don't know them personally, but from what I know is that the church did serve a very valuable purpose for them at the time.
This year has proven to be more challenging for me than perhaps any other before it. Despite almost being killed in a gay bashing in 2004. Despite all I mention above in 2006. Despite our marriage and then the passage of Prop 8 in 2008. Despite my husband losing his 24 1/2 year career at Southern California Edison in 2013; something unfathomable until the last couple years.
One of the last great companies that wanted to keep you and reward you for it, SCE had fallen to the likes of Bain Capital. My husband has been at SCE since his mid 20's. He started working in the mail room and then call center. He left as a Senior Project Manager in Regulatory Finance. He had a six-digit income with great benefits. That stability gave me more freedom. It also made me more co-dependent on focusing on his success over channeling my energy on my own.
I've long said that success is in the eyes of the beholder. When you wake up and look yourself in the mirror and are truly happy with yourself, then you are successful. I fooled myself at times. Otherwise, I just assumed I needed to accept my dissatisfaction for years. After all, it's all I knew from the relationships in my family.
I've for the first time since childhood, become a part of a church. It's a community full of tradition, yet so non-traditional. I sought out counsel from it as well. Counseling that has provided greater insight, including about the co-dependency I just mentioned, than all the years of therapy I have spent many, many hours and thousands and thousands of dollars engaging in since I was younger than 10. It's been baby steps in terms of actually attending services. I've been to 3 so far this year. I signed up with the LGBT group and went to one lunch. But, I am finding great solace in being a part of it. This week I need to decide whether to join the new member class. It's 7 weeks which seems like forever. But, this large and financially strong community does so much. My guess is 7 one evening a week sessions will pass by quickly. Not a requirement, just a commitment. Stay tuned...