Going to Church

church

My life has shifted from being all about transition, to being all about finding out who I am and what I want in life. Whereas previously, I was counting down the days to top surgery, pretending that time did not exist, now I am too busy trying to figure out how to live up to my potential.

Whereas I still want (and need) top surgery, it has absolutely ceased to be my Priority Number One. Priority Number One, now has become finding out how I can be close to people in this life. How to communicate beyond the awkward ways in which me and my grandmother communicated.

In order to find rich communication, I figured, I needed to go someplace where people are looking to find meaning, to see and acknowledge the beauty of the soul in one another. Since I have no idea where to find it, I have started a quest to find a place of belonging.

The first place that came to mind is the church. And so I went to church. Although my parents had no faith altogether, and my grandparents were protestant, my first instinct was to go to the Catholic church in the city, which has a very rich and warm interior compared to the protestant church.

The church is in a very strange location. Though the other churches in town stand on their own, towering above the skyline, this church is smacked right between a fashion store and the shopping mall. You´d never think it harbored three marble archways on columns, and a broad aisle.

Not having the faintest clue about service or mass, I accidentally sat through the whole thing twice. Which was really no bother. The second time, there was singing (in Latin), and I understood the analogy they were telling much better. People were very friendly to one another.

For now, it´s too early to tell if church is the right place for me or not. I´ve decided to visit several churches at least a couple of times to see if I can make a connection of some sorts. Next Sunday, I´ve decided on visiting the Anglican church, who are having a potluck dinner after the service.

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Between Worlds

mufasa

In the past two weeks, I have been feeling disconnected from my body, as if I weren´t really here. Doing any of the “human” stuff – like interacting with people (even looking at them), eating and breathing have become very difficult – it´s as though a physical aspect of me is trying to pass away with her.

And I think that in a way, this is just what has been happening. Rather than staying here, and feeling excruciating loss, a part of me moved on even before her death – it detached itself from my body so that it could help grandmother to the threshold of a different world.

For a while, I could hear her, I could feel her hands on my shoulders, I could feel her love for me. I could tell her anything I wanted, and ask her anything I wanted; I would get a clear and unequivocal answer, no less real than a conversation with a living person. She stayed with me for three days.

The thing is – how could I hear her if I was not somehow with her, too? And if I was with her after death – does this not mean that for a while, my soul had transcended the physical realm, and was in whatever dimension comes after? Whether she was with me or I with her, it was nothing short of perfection.

Her presence is gone now – and has made way for more sadness, anxiety, frustration. It is true that I miss her more than anything; but perhaps more than that, I miss that sense of completeness, that state of tranquility and full acceptance, where everything makes sense, where you feel at one with God.

Rather than separation from a loved one, I feel as though I´ve been thrown into the arms of God, just to be returned to Earth in a daunting confrontation with this body I still have, with the days I´ve got left to live. I have made my peace with her and with her death. Now, I will have to make peace with myself.

Be Who You Are (III)

bewhoyouare

In the years since my coming out and living as Rowan, I´ve begun to detest things that are not genuine. During the commemorative service in church (see part II of this post), the pastor described this as “chattering”. And chattering is everywhere. There is chattering on Twitter, but also on WhatsApp, Facebook…

There isn´t just chattering on our computers and phones, but also in our minds, constantly. Thinking about what picture we´ll post on social media, reading some comments on a YouTube video, or venting our opinion about the opinion of someone else. We are just… never in “The Moment”.

I am not saying that social technology is wrong. Sometimes, it helps us connect with other people. We read each other´s blogs and stories. We see each other´s (cat) pictures. We are always engaged – and by doing so, we are disengaged from presence and from the true power in ourselves.

The paradox here is that we hide from the things we seek. We seek to be someone, we seek communication, we seek to be seen and to be heard. And yet we seldom really experience these things. And yet the first step in doing so, is to start being yourself. To feel your heart beat. To notice your own presence.

From the moment I´ve started living as Rowan, to this past week, I had felt a gnawing emptiness and growing anger towards the chattering of the world. I wanted to stand still randomly in the street, to gaze at the sky. To bend over and smell the scent of perfume on some rosebushes. To stare in wonder at the world.

But I was scared. Because people don´t randomly stop in the middle of the street. They don´t stare skywards for ten minutes. They don´t do relaxation and breathing exercises in the middle of a busy shopping center. Those things are generally reserved for special areas: meditation retreats, spa´s.

But why? Is awareness a hobby, that it should be constricted to a “spiritual” place? Is being yourself something only new-age weirdos practice? Is it just fashionable, and trendy, to be present? Bull-shit. Fear of other people stops when you accept and allow your true self in this world.

Consciousness (II)

remember

Although the lack of “divine” signals on Sunday had left me disappointed, things only began to make sense after I had talked to her (The Longest Week). Today in church, as we were sitting in the front row, the pastor said something that struck me like a bolt of electricity. I was wide awake (in church!)

He had talked about grandmother. The things he said were the very things I wrote about on Sunday (Show Me True Love and “Good Enough”). How she had always made herself so small, and had aggrandized everybody around her, but diminished herself and her emotions in the process. This had been difficult for those around her.

But in the last few weeks of her failing life, he said, she had told him about the emotions that had come to the fore. He told us how she had struggled with these emotions, how they conflicted with all her old beliefs and behavioral patterns. She´d wondered whether she was dying or being reborn again.

He said what I had experienced too, a little bit, the last times I saw her and wrote to her. She had become increasingly translucent, and so while her history started to fade, there was room for her real Self to be present. What he said next is what surprised me the most. He said: by becoming yourself, you discover God again.

I have never been a very big fan of the church. Although we had prayed at the dinner table and read the Bible, my grandmother herself questioned her upbringing; and by the time she fell ill, I think she had been more on the atheist than on the theist spectrum. And yet, by discovering herself, she discovered Him/It/Her.

This is how I (finally) understood that faith is not about which God you worship or how you prefer to call it. It´s about discovering that you are more, much more, than you probably allow yourself to be. We are conditioned, in a way, to act normal – and keep ourselves small… but forget ourselves in the process.

You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me.
Look inside yourself. You are more than what you have become.

Heaven on Earth (I)

sunrise

This last week, completely contrary to my promise to write very little*, I´ve written about ten posts, most of them about grandmother. I told you, how at the hour of her death (she was administered euthanasia), I hiked to a hilltop and attempted to be present in the hour of her death, be a witness from afar.

Nothing like that happened. The hills were still just the hills, and although the sunrise was beautiful, it held no message of God. I was rather disappointed. I felt alone, but I also felt strangely deprived of the amazing things that happened five years ago, when grandfather passed away.

The situation was similar. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. I did not however know what the time of his death would be, not by weeks. So when one night, I stood in the hallway and suddenly felt grandfather reach out to me, asking if it was okay for him to pass, I was amazed.

The next morning, at sunrise, it was as though heaven had set on Earth. I have never, up until this day, seen something so beautiful in my life. One hour later, my mother called. She told me how grandfather had passed in the middle of the night – just as he had “materialized” in my hallway.

With this in mind… you can imagine that I felt let down in big way, sitting alone on top of a cold meadow, contemplating the skies as she passed away. And so I thought that that was it. Plain, simple death. No manifestations of any kind, no miracles. But I could not have been more wrong.

Although it will be difficult to put into words, in my next posts I will try to describe what happened to me after her death, but also what has been happening to me in the last few months, and how these things are closely connected. I hope you can learn something from it, the way I have.

* I felt more comfortable pretending that the period between June and December did not exist, since I´m scheduled for top surgery in December.

The Longest Week

timepassing

I want to write. But I don´t know where to start – this week has been so long. When people you love die, suddenly time acquires a whole different dimension. One moment they are there, still enjoying life, even saying that they will probably be around for a few more months. And then suddenly, just like that, they´re gone.

Whereas in everyday life, time goes fast (another year flies by and then another), death has a way of slowing down the clock; in such a way that every breath you take is an agonizing reminder of the constant play between life and mortality. The time you spent with your loved one, on the other hand, shrinks dramatically.

I went to say goodbye to her on Tuesday. My heart beat frantically as I stood outside of the chamber separating her body from mine. A voice inside my heart screamed at me not to go in, not to engage in this awful confrontation. But I know myself. I know my own stubbornness. So I drew a deep breath and stepped in.

Upon seeing her, the absolute inevitability of death made me want to run away. But I stood. First, I didn´t dare look at her, so I just looked around the room. After a while I started speaking to thin air. I told her how frightened I felt, that I could not accept the situation. But I also told her that I wanted to accept it.

I stood there for a while. Slowly, courage replaced fear, fear of being separated from her. As I talked to her, she seemed to glow, she seemed to come alive – a smile almost lit her face. I played the voice message I had last sent to her when she was alive. I walked closer to her plain, wooden coffin.

I told her I loved her, and how much it hurt me, that we had never quite communicated our emotions to one another. I asked her to send us strength during the funeral, and to be there for my uncles, and for my mother who would also be there. I gathered all the courage I could, kissed my hand and ran it across her silver hair.

My fear melted away like ice in the sunlight. I´m glad I got to see her. Just once, I spoke to her from my heart, and I told her what was really going on. Her body may have been dead, but something tells me that she knows. From there, it was much easier to accept the ceremony, and her departure from this world.

“Good Enough”

goodenough

After last post, I finally feel like I had the catharsis I was hoping for. I realized what had been gnawing at me since yesterday, which was the feeling that I had not really learned anything from her or from her passing. What´s the point of having a loved one, I thought, if you never learn anything from them?

She had always been so stoic, so withdrawn. She was never super affectionate or liberal with the hugs. Truth is we barely ever touched each other, rather than the awkward kisses on the cheek (and two unfortunate times on my neck). Looking back, we had no idea how to relate to each other, or how to connect with each other.

“Good enough” was always good enough for her. She rarely complained, even when diagnosed with cancer and in severe pain; and never showed emotions that were more intense than puzzled or amused. It runs in the family, really. Her kids were like that, and to an extent, I am like that. Good at poker face.

Poker Face was our default operating mode. We got along great, we knew that we admired each other, but never talked about it. We would sit on her veranda, she´d lean back in her chair and look at me. She would ask about the smallest details of my life, very engaged and unfailingly interested. She would tell me about her life.

Faith, is what I think she had. She had faith in me, and faith in the fact that everything was good enough just as it was. And still I blame myself. The hesitance, the distant attitude we both had – she did not begrudge me for it. I think in a way, she approved that I respected her boundaries.

In the end, she did teach me a lesson. The lesson is, although “good enough” was good enough for her, it is not going to me good enough for me. I will accept that she lived life on her terms. But for myself, I want to learn how to communicate with those that are close to my heart.