The vacation went well, in the sense that we got there, did what we had planned, saw who we wanted to see, and got back all in one piece. However, I found that it was quite a bit stressful to me for a number of reasons...
The cats were more or less on their own for the week, which stressed me out more than I realized at the time. When I saw that they were fine, I was incredibly relieved.
Elysia's mom and my mom have something in common that is a part of their respective personalities... they tend to want to control and orchestrate every single minute and every activity. I don't see my mother all that often, so it doesn't really affect me all that much. I don't really see Elysia's mother all that often either, and when I do, I am generally so happy to be able to spend time with her that I tend to overlook this trait. But, a week can be a relatively long time.
I think I may be hitting an age where I have become more set in my ways than I had previously realized.
(NOTE: For the sake of Clarity and brevity, I call my mom 'Mom' and Elysia's mom 'Mommer' - I don't have any explanation, it just worked out that way...)
Mommer is an angel. She is quite possibly one of the kindest, loving, and most personable people that one could ever meet. When we visit with her, it is usually for a couple of days, and we pretty much always have a great time. She has a way of wanting to cram a month of stuff into a two day visit that can be sort of 'exciting', but we do our best to accomodate her and it always works out well.
When we arrived at her house, we wanted nothing more than to put on our 'yummies' (lounging clothes... sweats, jammies, big floppy t-shirts... you get the idea) and basically veg out and spend time visiting and talking.
Mommer told us that a friend of hers who we don't actually know 'was dying to see us' and that we were scheduled to meet her for dinner. We cleaned up, got dressed, and trundled out to the vehicle to go to dinner. As it turns out, the friend didn't appear to want to see us at all... as a matter of fact, she just about hit the sidewalk on a run at the first socially acceptable opportunity... my wager is on the fact that Mommer most likely told her that 'Bear and Elysia are just dying to see you!' and this was how the whole mongasso of a dinner had been planned.
The next day, I was looking forward to sitting on the porch, walking about in the woods, and perhaps reading a little... once the holiday chores were completed... it was not to be. I got honswoggled into spending the day driving around with Mommer's husband. I will call him JG for the purposes of this blog. JG was born and bred right there in the community in North Carolina where they live. He isn't much of a conversationalist, doesn't really enjoy my company as far as I can see... and, if truth be told, although I like him and get along with him alright, I don't particularly enjoy being cooped up with him for any length of time. We have absolutely nothing in common, other than the awkward silences... and quite a few differences; in culture, upbringing, religiosity, tolerance, and pretty much everything. You name it, and we are different in it... I knew it had to be some sort of a planned set-up thing, because this doesn't generally happen. Elysia and mommer headed off to South Carolina to the chiropractor and to do holiday errands (I would have much more enjoyed going with them....) and I was more or less backed into going with JG. At one point, I even announced that I wasn't going due to an upset stomach, but this was pretty much tromped over and I got cornered into going along... yay.
One of the main characteristics of Mommer and JG is that they are very, very religious. They are fervent and zealous adherents to their particular denomination of the religion in which they believe, and they hold the opinion that everybody else is too... or that they should be. I, on the other hand, while being deeply religious in my own right, do not share their beliefs in any way, shape, form or fashion. We do not see eye to eye on anything as it pertains to religion. While I have no problem with other people having and pursuing their individual religious paths, they, on the other hand have a very difficult time accepting that other people do not believe as they do, and they expend a great deal of thought, planning, and engergy into encouraging, coercing, and sometimes bludgeoning other folks to believe as they do.
I find this distasteful, extremely uncomfortable, and a complete and utter waste of time. I will never change my religious beliefs. Ever. I believe as I do, and that is that. I am not lacking anything in my life, from a spiritual standpoint, and I am not seeking anything that can not be found in my current belief system. Simply put, I am an inconvertable prospect. I do not proselytize, and I do not accept proselytization directed towards myself. This creates a great deal of underlying tension and conflict that can run from amusing, to tedious, to downright obnoxious... depending upon how long one is forced to put up with the constant, never-ending subliminal programming... or the direct, in your face, preaching and sermonizing. Admittedly, Mommer is much more subtle and low-key in her efforts, which are usually not consciously pursued, and which are, consequently, much more palatable... if one must be forced to have to face this sort of thing. She is such a sweet-heart that it is very difficult to get annoyed or upset with her. JG, on the other hand sees the world as black and white. White, which is right (defined as his chosen path of faith and belief), and Black - which encompasses anything and everything else that does not fit his parameters. I am very black, apparently.
I am making a conscious effort to avoid naming either my religious path, or the path of anyone else. I don't want to get into a series of endless and ultimately unendable debates with readers who undoubtedly have religious paths of their own. I don't claim that my path is the right path, or that anyone else's path is the wrong path... In fact, I don't honestly believe that ANYone has the right path to exclusion of anybody else. In any case, nobody really knows... not in this life. They may fervently believe that they know... but that isn't the same thing. If I am wrong, then I'm wrong... but I believe what I believe, and I simply wish to be left alone to believe what I believe... whether I am right, wrong, or making a complete and utter ass out of myself.
I don't tell anyone else to believe anything... I don't try to convince anybody that they should or shouldn't follow whatever path they so choose... if they want to pile shit into a box, stick a stick into it with a bunch of straw tied to it and call that their god, then, as far as I'm concerned, it is their god, and I would never do anything to be disrespectful towards their god... so long as they don't happen to find my peaceful spiritual path to be a transgression. If they do...well, what we have is a conflict.
Well... what we have here, folks, is a conflict.
As JG pulled out of the driveway, he turned on a radio station that was non-stop preaching and sermonizing. Much of this was judgemental, and finding fault with other belief systems. This much is easily ignored, but then the conversation began to take the same bent. He told me that many of the folks that had come to the area as refugees from Hurricane Katrina had been 'way off the beaten path' and that they were messed up, bad, faithless, useless people..... until! Until they 'saw the light' and got on the right track - which is his track, by the way.... Now they are wonderful, marvelous people, and they are once again worthy of being treated with courtesy, respect, and love.
I considered this whole line of yammering to be a huge crock of unmitigated shit. But I didn't say so. I just listened, and didn't comment... at all.
This tended to drive him somewhat bugshit, and he got more and more direct... taking me to be introduced to a pastor, coming right out and saying that people who don't believe in his faith are lost, and that they have a huge burden on their heart that can be lifted at any time if the lost, burdened individual would simply make the proper choice and 'come back to the fold'.
I pointed out that I, personally, was never 'in the fold', and that the entire set of rules and scriptures that he was attempting to hold me to didn't apply to me anyway, since I wasn't one of the folks that it was directed at to begin with. I pointed out, using his own religious document - line, chapter, and verse - to illustrate how I was one of the 'other people' and thus, not included in anything that followed. I admitted that if he found joy in his faith and on his chosen path that I was extremely happy to know of it, and that I wished him nothing but joy and happiness in his beliefs, and that I had similarly found joy and happiness in my belief system, and that I didn't really need any help with any spiritual matters at all, but thank you for the kind thoughts.
Every other religiously based comment for the remainder of the day was met with, "Oh, look!! A Chicken!!" or some facsimile thereof.
Thouroughly frustrated at his abject lack of success in converting me, he lavished me with gifts - in the past these had been books, scriptures, and other similar items. This time they were key chains and t-shirts with the logos of his chosen religious organization. It would have been socially awkward, not to mention downright impolite not to accept them, so I did... though I am sad to know that they will never be used , worn, or displayed, and are therefore a lamentable waste of materials, money, and effort. Sigh.
The next round was taken up by my brother-in-law. Basically the same conversation, but I had my back up by then, and more or less used his own scriptures to lead him into circles or point out gross inconsistencies in what he was doing and what his own religion said that he should be doing. Bludgeoning people and passing judgement on people is simply not being loving, accepting, or charitable... in anybody's religion.
Earlier in the day, JG and the Brother in Law had gotten into a conversation regarding two men who had been found stabbed and deposited in a local shed. Apparently, they had been murdered in a drug deal gone bad. As it turns out, one of the men was married to a woman that was a member of JG and Brother in law's congregation. Elysia's sister had echoed my sentiment; that the woman must have been very upset and sad, and that it would be made worse by having happened so close to the holidays.... JG's response was that 'he never came to church', with the inference that since he wasn't an avid churchgoer... he wasn't worthy of our consideration.. sort of saying that his death was no great loss to anyone. He had earlier said to me that he had refused to hear god's call, so god had taken him out of the world. I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems like a particularly cruel thing to say in any case.
I had to basically just bite my tongue and let this stuff slide past me... but it got to be somewhat wearing over the course of the week.
I love them all, and I would not want to say or do anything that would upset them or make them feel uncomfortable. I only wish that I was given the same consideration. Even though I know intellectually that they do this out of what they consider to be my best interests, it is not welcomed and it is not wanted by me. I have given every signal short of being blunt and rude about it, but they fail to see it, or refuse to see it.
Were I to point out what I considered to be 'wrong' in their beliefs, if such a thing existed... they would be highly affronted, aghast at my blasphemy, and most likely the relationship would suffer greatly, or come to an end... on the other hand, they don't seem to have any compunction about letting me know how wrong my beliefs are, in so many words, or in peppering me with religious references... of their own choice,... or, indeed, in saying flat out that folks who are like me, resemble me, or possibly shared a similar thought or belief with me are 'off the beaten path', 'burdened', 'wandering in the darkness', or are just wrong. Plain and simple.
There appears to be some fallout already, judging from some terse responses to emails and such... so I suppose it won't fix easily.
I have never discussed my beliefs with them, never uttered a name or anything that would clue them in to what I believe or don't believe, and never, ever try to push them into sharing my beliefs, participating in any form of worship, ritual, or theological, cosmological or liturgical discussion or practice... and basically keep my religiosity to myself...
... I wonder why it is so much to ask that others do the same for me??
I could tell that this was having a stressful effect on Elysia, as well, though I think she is much more equipped to deal with this particular sort of thing than am I, her having grown up with it.
We did a bunch of pointless visiting around, and pretty much stayed hopping almost the entire time there. Not having any control over how your day is planned is a strange thing when you are an adult, regardless of the reason...
At some point, I think Mommer realized that Elysia wasn't enjoying herself at all.. and she more or less stopped planning things. It got quite a bit easier for everyone after that. We were able to spend some time actually visiting and spending time together, which was what the whole point was to begin with.
That part made the whole trip worthwhile, at least for me. Because, when all is said and done, I really do love the whole family and greatly enjoy spending time with them - minus the whole judgement and mind-control/soul-saving part.
The night before we headed home, we all went out and saw 'King Kong', which I thought was awesome!
The next morning, we were up early and out the door... and hour drive to the airport, only to be met with a huge (HUGE!) crowd of people, all with the same idea, apparently. We missed our flight, caught the next one, got stuck in Philadelphia for the whole day, and finally got home late last night, instead of early in the day as we had planned. We greeted the cats, got cleaned up and changed, and opened our gifts to one another. It was a marvelous, magickal, wonderful night and we both had a fantastic time!! The gifts were out of this world, and we ooohed and aaaahed and commented and got misty-eyed, and laughed... each in our turn.
When it got late, we turned out the lights, headed upstairs, and blissfully curled up in one another's arms... happily in our own bed, in our own little cottage, with our very own kitties... in our sleepy little village... we nodded off to sleep...