Jesus is my homeboy

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I grew up going to church. I didn’t even realize attendance wasn’t mandatory until I was almost fifteen years old. This may partly be due to the fact that I’m a slow learner, but I’d also like to think it’s because I was an obedient child. When my mother beckoned me from the garage door to get in the damn car right now don’t make me come back into the house to find you stop putting more Sun-In in your hair it’s church not the beach you dummy, I followed her orders without hassle. Being such a pleasure to parent is probably the reason I gave birth to a good kid myself. I hear God doesn’t play favorites, but just look at how that all worked out. Suspicious, amirite?

After I became an unwed pregnant teenager, I stopped attending regularly because I feared judgment. Not from God, but from the other churchgoers. It wasn’t a sure thing that my situation was going to light up the gossip circuit, but people were still talking about how a certain family had moved from a five-bedroom home into a duplex. I was pretty sure an 18-year-old’s surprise pregnancy was almost as interesting as a real estate step-down. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being bigheaded.

Not going to church didn’t mean that I no longer believed in God. I still hollered at Him from time to time when I felt especially broken. My prayers became casual conversations. Not like a real-time chat where I would share an issue and He would respond immediately. It was more like a text exchange where I sent off a thought, knowing He would get back to me eventually. Sometimes, it would take weeks or months, but I have other friends who lag like that. I’ve learned to accept them for who they are.

Because I missed the sense of community, I started going to a different church when Cal was a toddler. The new place seemed legit, and I still know people from my brief stint there who I am proud to call my friends.

I stopped attending after the pastor’s wife pulled me aside to express her concern that bringing Cal to church might influence the youth group kids into believing that our church condoned teen parenthood. Just like I have a personal policy about not hitting other people’s kids, I also won’t hit a pastor’s wife. Or a pastor. We all need to set boundaries for ourselves and those are mine. (It may seem like I go around hitting people, but I want you to know that I haven’t gotten into a physical altercation in YEARS. I also don’t hit animals or old people.)

I still believe in God. I’ve never really talked about being religious before, and I was scared to do it today, but just because I don’t talk about something doesn’t make it less true.

I also still believe that not all religious people are narrow-minded or judgmental or that being a pillar of a church community exempts a person from making very human mistakes with their words and actions. I won’t blame that pastor’s wife as the reason I haven’t made an effort to attend church regularly for the past twelve years. It was a choice I made.

For years, I waved to Harv and Cal as they left for Sunday service. In the past few months, I’ve started joining them occasionally. I’m always nervous when I walk through the heavy wooden doors. The sheer amount of swearing I do each week makes me think I’m going to burst into flames. That’s probably not how God works, but I don’t put anything past that guy. Even if He is my homeboy.

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I’m pretty sure this is how people end up with no friends (& Hood Good #4)

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I haven’t confirmed it with a medical professional, but there is a high likelihood that some sort of synapses misfiring happens between my brain and my mouth every time I talk. Actually, if I marinate on it a little more, it also happens when I don’t talk. I think a lot of fucked up things. Also, I’m not good at remembering when to use a semicolon. Harv says that last sentence doesn’t really “go” with the rest of the paragraph, but I told him that I didn’t really care, and then he walked out of the room like he was really frustrated. I don’t know. Maybe he just got thirsty. I respect a person who honors the body’s call to stay hydrated. Please drink some water, y’all.

Of all of the awkward mumbles that come out of my mouth, the worst offenses happen right after someone pays me a genuine compliment or says something else equally as nice. I know a lot of people walk around saying bullshit they don’t really mean. I don’t blame them. It’s so much easier to say, “What luck! I’m so happy I bumped into you. Your teal-colored ensemble really highlights your eyes!” Who wants to cause problems by groaning and shouting, “Get the fuck away from me, you bitch! I know it was you who signed me up to make blondies for that stupid 4th of July BBQ!”

I’m well-versed in responding to bullshit with bullshit. There are NO synapses misfirings there. But the genuine goodness, the words that immediately fill empty crevices and boost me from the trenches because they are so kind and thoughtful and encouraging…those are the words that make me freeze.

Kind words terrify me.

I have never been able to accept a compliment gracefully. I’ve tried to peel apart the chain of events right after someone goes out of their way to tell me that they liked the way my hair looked or how much they enjoyed a piece I wrote or how they appreciated me for picking up the dog shit on the sidewalk for the third time that week even though I don’t own a dog and that lazy neighbor better come correct.

I nod and say nothing (sometimes my mouth is hanging open too). I chuckle and point to the shit-filled grocery bag. I make a swatting motion like I’m trying to kill a gnat. I stare at my feet. I deflect. I blush.

Once last fall, after reading a personal essay in a show, a woman chased me across the street afterwards to tell me how much the story had moved her. She thanked me for being brave and for sharing. What did I do? I looked behind my shoulders to make sure she wasn’t talking to anyone else. Then, I avoided her gaze and mumbled a soft thank you. Uh, and then I ran away.

In my mind, I have replayed that moment a dozen times. If I had the luxury of a rewind button, I would look her in the eyes and speak loudly and clearly as I thanked her for being kind and for going out of her way to give me a boost that will surely stay with me for a long time.

I have watched my friends accept compliments with grace and ease. When thoughtfulness is received in the same spirit it is given, both parties experience joy.

And to you: Thank you for being patient with me. I appreciate the goodness you bestow in my life. 

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Hood Good #4: (T)HUG THOUGHTS MAGNETS

thugmagnets

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For purchasing info, please visit the Hood Goods Store

P.S. Flourish in Progress Instagram Peoples always get first peek and first dibs on Hood Goods. Follow along on Instagram and on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page for Hood Goods and other random shit. Like the 11 jars of pepper jelly I bought myself for Mother’s Day. BALLER AS FUCK.

Monday Dare: I need protection. From myself.

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. You can click on the link if you’d like to see the complete list of Monday Dares or find out more about its origin.

This week: Anger management

My number one desire in life is to be less of a hoarder. I also want my daughter to grow up to be a profoundly happy person. I hope that even on the days she is feeling blue, she is surrounded by a shitload of people who appreciate her inner-core and help her to see that this too shall pass. But that’s a hope I have for someone else. I really want to focus on me right now, so yes, my number one desire in life is to stop amassing mounds of useless junk.

I’m guilty of hoarding objects. My animal pencil topper collection is pretty intense. The entire collection is housed in an airtight see-through container because most of them have a distinct yet subtle scent, and every time I open the lid, I am greeted with a cornucopia of fruity goodness. It’s very appealing to me.

But more than my collections of pencil toppers and rap lyric t-shirts and metallic tinsel, the “thing” that occupies the most amount of space in my life is the dirty pile of anger I have stacked, one rage-filled thought after another, in the middle place where my heart should be.

I’m just angry as fuck.

It’s hard to recall anything I learned in high school which is understandable because I wasn’t really paying attention, but I do remember learning in biology that 60% of the human body is comprised of water. This confuses me, because if I had to guesstimate, I’d say that anger makes up roughly 81% of who I am. Apparently, every drop of liquid coursing through my body (plus a few organs) has a high level of fuck you, motherfucker.

I’ve been amassing rage like it’s currency.

I no longer trust myself. Sometimes, I call Harv to ask if I “should” be angry about something because I’m guilty of overreacting to small offenses, and maybe even worse than that, I don’t react at all in some situations where I should voice concern and disapproval.

Over the weekend, a random dude pinched my cheek. Now that I’m thinking about it, I feel a little embarrassed. I must look like the kind of person you can cheek pinch. Would anyone dare take a chunk of Ludacris’s face meat between their thumb and pointer finger? I DON’T THINK SO. This man didn’t think I was participating enough in the group conversation and pinched my cheek. I stood up because I wanted to gain better leverage and force before I smashed my hand into his temple.

My cousin stepped in and stood just inches away from my face before telling me to leave immediately. Which I did. Because I was enraged and because I felt such an overwhelming desire to be physically confrontational and because I didn’t trust myself.

Violence is never, ever the answer. Never. Ever. Ever. I’m ashamed and riddled with guilt that my thoughts could even venture into that territory. Yet, I am still seething.

I’ve resisted going back into therapy because I’m afraid that once all of my anger is gone, there will just be an expansive hole. I could, of course, fill it with other things like arrogance or laziness. Laziness is the front runner right now because I already have a lot of experience with it, and it just seems to come naturally.

I’m enrolling in an anger management class this week. I want to be a better example for my daughter. Also, I want to stay out of jail.

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image via Meme Machine