Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Being a Religious Free-Agent

The old saying goes like this:

"My mother told me to never talk about three things: religion, politics, and money."

My mother never actually told me that (her rule is if it needs to be talked about, it will be talked about, which I am very thankful for). That being said, I realize it’s a sensitive issue, so please take this with a grain of salt, as this is just one woman’s path of exploration and very honest feelings on her experiences.  

Religion goes a little something like this for me: being raised Catholic has been something with which I have settled for a long time.  I have always known I was settling.  And I am not talking about settling in terms of getting cozy with the idea, I am talking about in terms of remaining Catholic, but not in a comfortable or sustaining way. I have always had little inklings of an uncertainty in my mind.  My parents are great Catholics and sent me to religious education, but I continued to feel like I was being run through the mill of all these life markers that I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted, but not sure that I didn’t want, either.  What I learned in religious educaton never translated to something that I felt.  It was still just more information about a religion to which I was supposed to belong.   I am sure that there are plenty of "cradle catholics" that have felt this way... settling for what was being taught and not really grasping fully the goings on with your whole self.  I want to make clear that this is no one's fault.  Religion is a really personal thing, and that's something I think most can agree on.  Similar to building any relationship, it takes time and commitment.  And even though you want them to, sometimes things just don't click.  As I went through high school, I learned about other religions and did a little research here and there, but ultimately I ended up settling again.  I reasoned that I didn't have to be comfortable with everything, that I could make it my own regardless.  Instead of that, I ended up not really participating at all.  I've been drifting along, with an occasional prayer, in whatever I've established to be my own semi-functional spiritual existence. 

After the engagement, I started to plan for everything. And I mean Everything.  If you know me well enough, you know that this is unusual. Getting engaged, however, has been different. Not only am I absolutely thrilled to be marrying my best friend and my favorite person in life, but I get to plan a rad party so everyone can celebrate how awesome we are. Pretty sweet.  So after stumbling upon the issue of ceremony a few times, I realized that it's high time I pick up the situation of my religious inklings and resolve it once and for all.  I need to figure out where I fit.  I'm an adult, and I have some level of spirituality happening, but it doesn't really have a home.  I honestly think I have been really lucky to be a musician, because on some level, music sustains that rather neglected aspect of my life. I do, however, need a home for it now.  I'm not going to go into the deeper layers of the uncertainty(discomfort?) I have with Catholicism, but I will say that there is one issue that has become particularly important to me, especially since the engagement, and that issue is feminism.  I don't burn my bras and I am not a man-hater by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I have often claimed to understand dudes way better than I understand a lot of women.  But I have always wondered about being a girl, since I was pretty young. What that means for me, for other girls, right now. My catholic upbringing has also clashed with some of my most basic beliefs about being a girl: that we should have an equal part.  Men and woman are totally different creatures, but there's a reason it takes two: and that is because we're a team, which my wonderful parents have always exemplified through the years. And not a team that defines its roles by a generalized and stereotyped model, but one that works for the talents of two people, whatever people they may be.  Men in Catholicism are in all of the leadership positions, even though religious education of children has traditionally been a woman’s responsibility.  We end up getting stuck with all of the responsibility and none of the power.  I’m not at all calling for an entirely female clergy, that’s not something I agree with, either.  Excluding men would only perpetuate the problem.  I want to find a place where equality is built into the system. We don’t harp on it, we don’t have to even think about it, but it just exists.  

I recently read a book called “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by one of my favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd.  I found it while looking for more books of hers, and because after reading the description, I thought, “Oh!  That’s me!”  The book goes into Sue’s transformation from being a “good little wife/lady/daughter/mother,” to really understanding what she needed in her life, and to taking care of her spiritual needs as a woman, which tend to be largely undernourished and sacrificed for everyone else’s needs.  This is a theme, in our culture and society. When I think about all of these roles, the good wife, the good daughter, the good mother, it is the sacrifice that comes to mind.  All of the women I have known who have done their absolute best to fulfill these roles sacrifice everything they have endlessly.  When a woman gives endlessly, there’s often little room to take for herself.  In my young and inexperienced life, I have still lived enough to see the maddening effects of endless giving of yourself.  If you don't take care of yourself, as well, you'll wither, and no one will get the care they need.

This is why it’s important to me to change.  It’s not something I can gloss over and settle for, in any aspect of my life.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to never wear a dress again and demand that my man get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich, because that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about respect, options, and choices.  If all of my decisions can come from a knowing, observant, and representative place, I can begin to change what it is I want for my own daughter, and for my son.  It’s also a weighty feeling, realizing that all of these decisions need to be carefully thought out, because they will be everything my own kids, when I do have them, experience in the world for their first years, and probably set the stage for the rest of their lives.

At the encouragement of my Dad, who has been ridiculously awesome through all of this (I know he is not such a fan of my explorations, even though he knows I have to do what I have to do) I have been doing a lot of reading up on feminists within the Catholic church... and let me tell you, it's quite a scene. From what I have gathered, there are a lot of women who know what they believe and remain in the Catholic church, but are constantly at odds with it. I've read a great number of articles titled: "Feminist Catholicism," and by the end of nearly every article, I am always left with the feeling that there really is no resolution. All this discussion and research has given me a few things to take away, though.  1) Few people, if any are ever really perfectly in tune with their religious institution of choice. 2) Ancient traditions are ancient and unchanging for reasons, and mostly likely good reasons, whether you agree with them or not. 

I don't think I realized all the things my parents taught me by example as I was growing up.  Their marriage taught me that parents are a team, no matter what.  My mom's own thoughts on religion taught me that you need to make it your own and believe what you believe whole-heartedly. My dad taught me that tradition can be something powerful that roots you in a profoundly deep meaning.  Both of my parents taught me, in their own very unique and different ways, about the very personal make-up of spirituality.

Spirituality is something that I believe is innate.  You don’t need a book, a religious institution, or a community to show you the wonders of the world.  You do this on your own.  Everything you learn as a child is new and exciting, and many times, absolutely wondrous (peek-a-boo, anyone?).  I believe that spirituality’s center is wonderment. You begin to develop a sense that there is something greater and more amazing at work than yourself and the people you know.  For some, it’s nature, science, and nothing more.  For others, it’s God, for still others, it’s some unknown higher power. Either way, you have a sense that there is something bigger and more powerful than yourself.  Maybe it means origin, maybe it means chance, maybe it means perfection. Regardless, spirituality is not taught, it’s felt. 
My unforgivably romantic notions about figuring out what one does with one’s life absolutely involve wonderment and joy, and doing “what feels right.” I believe that I was gifted with a strong sense of intuition (thanks mom :)  and although I have the common sense and humility to know I am not right even close to 100% of the time about things in general, I strongly feel that if something feels right, as in really, deep down, gut feeling, completely, undeniably, and honestly right, then it probably is, and you should keep doing that thing. This is why I have gone and gotten two degrees in music, which many would argue is a waste of money.  I have a hunch, though, that it really was a good place for me, because I’m kind of making it work. I think the same is at least a good place to start for figuring out what I’m doing spiritually. I’ve got a few ideas about what I know feels absolutely right to me, and what nurtures my soul and inspires me. I think if I start there, I’ll be able to really find my center and figure out where I belong in all of this. 

I’ve talked with my brother about some of this, and he’s whole-heartedly insisted I read Nietzche.  Nietzche also said “God is dead,” but I’m going to trust my bro and start the book.  So, in the spirit of Nietzche, here’s a quote I like better:

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privelage of owning yourself."


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blogging Is Like Dreaming About Showing Up To School Naked

Ever since I had heard of the concept of blogging, I had been convinced that I had nothing to say.


I have PLENTY of opinions that those close to me are well aware of, and there have been so many times that I have felt like an impostor because I'm too damn polite and courteous.  It's not that I am filled with abhorrent, inhumanly evil judgements about people, but sometimes there are things I'd like to say that I know I cannot, whether it be for the purpose of maintaining my professionalism, catering to bridges I'm trying not to burn (though I may very badly want to), or because the truth is just hard.  This is why blogging has been kind of a landmark moment for me.  I have finally decided to splay my opinions across the wide open interwebs for all to see.  Even as I clicked to publish my very first post, I shuddered as the comments started to filter in, realizing that everyone I know can actually read what I write.  Of course I won't post on every topic, but those I do, I feel a commitment to write honestly about, and I hope it will be something that people are able to respect.

 This topic, though, seems to be a pretty common theme among the blogging community. The idea of public thoughts versus private thoughts, and what you're safe, comfortable, allowed and not allowed, to share.  Cassie Boorn really says it best in this post.  There are so many things I wish I had the courage to say to people.  But I can't, so I hide, too, when I need to.  And some of it might hurt, and some might be really important, but I can't say it.

Sometimes it's not my place.

 Most times, probably.

It's a really tricky thing: staying true to yourself and knowing when and how to speak up.

Authenticity is also a big problem.  Everyone is trying to be so different, and so special, and even if you're not trying, you're wishing.  When you start a blog, or at least when I started a blog, I wondered what I could write about that was new and interesting.  I wanted to write things that people wanted to read.  I told a friend I was starting a blog and he said, "Oh, the old graduate-from-college-and-get-out-into-the-world-blog."  And I hated that he said that... and I told him to shut up... because he was right. The idea just sounded so trite and asinine that it almost made me want to just not.... do that. I so badly wanted to do something that I loved to do and be able to do it well, and I hated being just more of the same...  which is poignantly characteristic of my over-populated, over-educated twenty something generation.

So I wrote anyways, unoriginality notwithstanding.

It is a very humanizing thing, however, when people have the guts to say what they need to say.  So I'm going to continue to write what I can...

Maybe someday, something will need saying, and I will be the right person to say it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Layin' A Strip for the Higher-Self State Line

So.  I had a meeting today with a high school band director.  We'll say he's from school B, since I already have one job at school A (more on that later). It went pretty fantastically, except this is what he said:

"I'd love you to come in and work with our percussionists... except I don't actually have a position for you."


So, over coffee and soup, we discussed ways to get me into school B. The plan is to set me up through the community school teaching private lessons, and have me come in once a month or so to give technique master classes. Also, there is a Winter Drumline Instructor position open that I'll hopefully take over (sidenote: I have never taught a Winter Drumline).   I'll get some face time around the office and administration, and hopefully, they'll eventually find funds to make me a regular every week to teach percussion ensemble and technique.

Freakin' sweet.

Although the uncertainty is stressful, especially when you've got plenty of bills to pay, I LOVE this part of the job.  It's really exciting to create new opportunities and actually get in and make a job for myself, not to mention diving into a position with which I don't have much experience.  Although it is risky, if the success comes, there is no better feeling than knowing that you went out and created a situation where people will pay you to go have fun and do what you love. Krissy - 1 Economy - 0.

Back to the Winter Drumline bit.... so I've never taught one.  Or participated in one.  BUT. I have played in plenty of fall drumlines and performed in Marching Band shows and at least seen some Winter shows, and I know what makes up a decent one. 

 Inexplicably, I am super pumped to do this. 

I really didn't know that winter drumlines existed until a year or two into college, and by then I had all kinds of other priorities.  I cannot wait to go to town on this, though.  I'll have to do plenty of research, but the idea of scheduling and running my own group is like super party happy fun time.  I'll have a sizable group of about 35 kids, all of whom sound really motivated. So excited.

In other life slices, it has always been glaringly obvious to me that I do not have girlfriends, or at least very many (which, like many other women, may explain my sex and the city addiction), so I have finally decided to do something about it.  Not that I don't already appreciate the girlfriends I do have... I appreciate them more knowing it's hard to find a group like that.  The only issue is the ones I do have all live far away (Illinois, Arizona, and 40 minutes North of my house, which is not bad, but thats only one).  It would, however, be nice to have a posse of girls that live near me, with whom I could have conversations like this, and not like this.  So after hearing about my friend Jenny's super awesome chic book club, I though, "Yes, I'm going to do that."  In the course of trying to find a book club, I discovered this awesome little website called Meetup, where you can find groups to join and just hang out.  I joined the Sassy Lassies, and the next day I was hanging at someone's apartment making card and shrinky dinks!  It was really pretty sweet.  Another meetup is happening tomorrow, too.  We're going to see Magic Mike! (I whole-heartedly applaud the role reversals... and also pretty alright with the male stripping....).

That said, finding friends is weird. It's like dating. Part of me is really happy to be there, and the other part of me is a neurotic mess of inner monologue shrouded in a foggy haze of self-doubt.  The neurosis notwithstanding, I will do it again.  It's totally worth the chic talk (which already was had at meeting one) and the company.  Also, I think the types of people that tend to do these things seem to be people who are generally open and honest and just want to hang, so it's pretty sweet. Yay new people.

This post has mostly been about new things: new people, new opportunities.... which sounds lovely and inspirational and full of unicorns pooping butterflies and rainbows..... but in reality, it's super awkward.  When I attempt to do new things, I pump myself up and go in really motivated, and then while I'm doing it I feel like this.  So I want to hear about your awkward newbie experiences, good or bad.  Embarrassing would be best, please. ;)

Also, credit to The Bad Plus for the post title. Check 'em out. Dave King's the man. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

First Post: On Weddings, Inspiration, and The End of the World

I have finally done the thing I said I would never do: blog.

The reasons ranged from, "I don't have anything to say," to "If I'm going to write, I'm gonna get PAID to do it!" Well, several months ago, I got engaged, and have since been perusing wedding websites like it's my job.  In the process, I have run across so many amazingly real, committed blogs dedicated to helping women see through the massive load of bullsh*t that IS the wedding industry.  I still have a great deal of time until my wedding, so I haven't been too stressed yet. I have been calmly adding up the costs and doing my homework, and it had been so relieving to find out that weddings don't need to cost billions.  or even very many thousands.  I'm not one of those girls who has been planning her wedding since she was three.  Beyond white dress and lots of friends and family, I honestly hadn't thought much about it until these past couple of months.  Now that I am though, and I have had the benefit of finding The Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding, both of which have made me clap, giggle, and cry (happy and sad tears). But this blog is not about weddings. These blogs, however, have also made me realize a lot about my own life journey, which is really just getting started.

Let's back track a bit, and talk about my life besides wedding. I am a musician in the Twin Cities area, and I have just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Percussion Performance (I hit things in the most artistic way possible, or at least that's the goal).  I have graduated however, into a world that has no room for me, or any other twenty something millennial.  We are not getting jobs, we're living with our parents, we're getting married later, we're having babies later... WE ARE NOT OKAY.  We are living in a baby-boomer created world and are being blamed, bashed, overeducated, and generally beaten up.  That's why most of us are still at home and applying for jobs ANYWHERE.  A Master's degree is the new Bachelor's degree.  A Bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma, and in terms of the job market, if you don't have a high school diploma, you're basically non-existent.  For more on this, please see this excellent post by fellow blogger sierra. We are the millennials, we are the next generation, and boy are we in trouble.

I am determined, however, to live out my life the way I want.  I wanted to study music and make a living from it, so that's what I have decided to do, incapacitating recession or not. Six college years and $40,000 dollars in debt later (yes, I realize that's not too bad comparatively), here I am, a baby grow-up: ready to burst into the world, skills ablaze. This has been how I imagined my life, though I did not imagine this to be the ideal socio-economic state of things.  So I am making the best of it, and determined to do whatever I have to do (as long as it's fun and I want it) to make a decent living.

So coming back to the wedding blogs... they inspired me.  Here are these women who had a problem, began writing about it, and now have their own special niche in the world, where they can share and help other people and spread all of this LOVE!  It's so totally awesome.  Seriously, if you have not checked out APW yet, please do.  Doesn't matter if you are single, married, divorced, dating, in love, in hate, whatever.  They are such lovely people with such a great thing going. So anyways, after reading all these blogs and hearing all these lovely people with things to say, I though to myself, "Hey... I have things to say!"  And then my blog was born. In the course of blogging, I'll touch on a lot of topics, from feminism to relationships to family to careers (lots about that) to houses to basically anything and everything.  I want to report on my little life slices to prove that I am going to live out my life better than  I ever imagined.  I don't care about the economy or the state of this wretched, wretched world with all it's horrifying statistics that seem to point ever closer to the end of the world. I am determined to have the tenacity, the insistence, and the fight to succeed in a male-dominated patriarchal society in the financial crapper.  So please, if you like what I have to say, support my tiny newborn baby blog, and spread the word.

The very last thing I'll leave you with is this amazing slice of life, a poem by Mary Oliver:

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?