the best imitation of myself

February 18, 2014

I realised quickly after moving to Aberdeen that I have a severe problem with trusting God.

That might sound very twee or commonplace but it really isn’t supposed to. Christians are always bleating about trusting God: ‘dependence on God’, ‘having faith’ and many other generic terms of Evangelicalese. I’ve always felt that I could do with having a bit more trust in God, sure, who couldn’t? But that all things considered, I was probably quite good at trusting.

Not so.

It turns out I don’t trust him at all. I strive very hard and put as many things in place as I possibly can to create a sense of safety. I have Plan B in place for when Plan A fails, and Plan C for when Plan B fails, and lots of alcohol for when Plan C fails. Then I have a cry and a bit of a meltdown and lather, rinse, repeat. Not so much trust as survival and a fragile self-belief.

When I moved here I gradually sank into a depression. I struggled to get out of bed. Once up I struggled to shower and get dressed. Once dressed I struggled to prepare meals or take a walk. I applied for job after job in my pyjamas on the couch. I went to volunteering, only just about managing to get myself washed and dressed for that weekly appointment, staying glued to the computer until the very last possible minute. Despite all this time on the computer, I would procrastinate replying to emails and text messages – duties that sat like lumps of raw dough in the pit of my stomach – because I could not bear to verbalise the staleness of my days to my friends at home.

To be honest, that has pretty much been the on-off pattern of the last six years, since I first lost my job at the start of the Irish recession. So nothing particularly new.

What was new however was being stripped of a support system. No friends, no church, no family, no nothing. The cultural wasteland that is this oil-drenched city couldn’t even offer me the consolation of coffee shops, museums to be explored, artisan markets etc. Being stripped of everything that usually acted as consolation to me for the pain of having no clear purpose and no good ‘job of work’ to do, became excruciating, and I began to feel desperate.

One day I spoke to one of my friends on the phone about this for a long time. Well, really, she did all the talking. She called. For me it was like therapy: I would gladly have paid a hundred pounds for it. For about an hour she just exhorted me to cry out to God for a ‘lifeline’. I said very little, tears and snot rolling down my face and splashing onto my dirty hooded sweatshirt as I sat curled on the sofa listening to her. She pleaded with me to do business with God: to ask him for what I wanted, to trust that he would provide. When our conversation finally ended, it was like the last drop of a hot toddy sliding down my throat and then I felt a terrible emptiness. She sent me a message within minutes with a scripted prayer that she had written for me: talk about interceding. She told me to read aloud the words if I just could not pray for myself. She sensed my stuckness and that I needed a bit of mothering. She understood my inability to ask God for what I needed when I knew all along that while he could give it, he might not. That’s so much worse than not being able to give. I realised in this inability to approach God once and for all that it was because I do not trust him at all.

So where is this going? Do you think I began to trust him? No, that would have been too simple. Instead of beginning to trust, I began to feel really, really angry with him instead. Good.

In my life, as in the life of so many people, amongst the flowers, lots of bad and painful things have happened to me and around me. Some unbearable things have happened. There have been dreadful losses and unsolvable problems. In all of my struggles I have never felt genuinely angry with God. 

Until now.

And wow the rage was strong. I had a good long, protracted rant and rave at him. To use an Irish expression, I fucked God out of it from a height.  One night in the middle of my burning rage a person I barely knew came over for dinner and I burst into tears at the table and interrupted her to demand why God revealed himself over and over in her life, miraculously answering prayers and for me he can’t be bothered. It was the most embarrassing dinner ever.

And then for some reason, to my outraged and utter surprise, he started to respond to me, in multiple and layered ways.

Not to disappoint but that is definitely a tale for another day.

And it occurred to me, in seeing these responses from God, responses I had asked for and longed for and hoped for and almost always failed to ask for, it occurred to she who can not and does not trust the God she has purported to follow for the last fifteen years, a God that she has torn her life apart for in the quest of the following – it occurred to her, to me, that all he is asking for is the actual, real me to be stripped bare before him instead of half-heartedly offering him the version of myself that I can tolerate.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I am being rewarded for fucking God out of it from a height. I’m just telling you a story.

Sometimes I feel that the city I am living in has to be one of the worst in Europe. So much money and so much poverty. So much ugliness and darkness. Such a booming sex industry while little cottage industries fail. So much vomit on the streets at night. So many alcoholics and heroin addicts and crying mothers because their children are not with them. It could swallow you up. And here I am in it hearing from God and feeling new things: things like excitement mingled with fear, and determination mingled with hope. I’ll be honest: I don’t really know what I am talking about at all. All I know is that I got really real with God and suddenly he is getting really real with me. Maybe it will all tumble down tomorrow, maybe not. But here it is. And here I am. And here’s I Am.

you don’t have to say

June 30, 2013

I’m at my kitchen table listening to a mix-tape L made me, sniffing the sweet scent of lillies and eating chocolates the prisoners gave me, and I am feeling happy and sad. Half of the electricity has been turned off because the sockets are crackling and we think the toilet might be leaking down into the walls. The glamour! Tomorrow a Man with KnowledgeTM will come and look at the problems and fix them without me understanding how, but until then only the back half of the house can have lekky.

As you can see, I’m determined to squeeze my monthly post in for the archives before June disappears and it will be quality as always!

My work contract expired on Friday. In the end I was very sad to leave. And then my two year placement in the prison finished up today. In five weeks I am moving to Scotland. (Boom, boom, boom.) I am as emotionally constipated as ever, although a little salty waterfall did emerge from my face this morning as I was embraced over and over in the prison chapel and many men who are not my husband told me they love me. I was given the privilege of sharing the homily at worship and who better to talk about than Wade Watts? That was a man who understood freedom.

I am anticipating a day of rest tomorrow where I don’t do anything of significance except make a sandwich and a cup of tea for the Man with KnowledgeTM. There is so much stuff to sort out and I have no idea where to begin, so I am beginning with a rest to get ready. I’ll come back and visit this week with thoughts on food, frugality, solidarity and being a permanent basket case. Laters!

checking in

May 12, 2013

You won’t have heard from me lately because I am having a bit of a hard time expressing myself at the minute. I feel a bit congested, emotionally and mentally. (Definitely not physically: I’ve had food poisoning for 10 days. Who needs a detox when you’ve got a gut parasite? :D)

I suspect this ‘congestion’ is all down to the pesky problem of ‘the future’. The husband-unit and I are making plans to emigrate in August for three years so that he can pursue his PhD. The bother about it is that we’re all gung-ho with the whole packing up and shipping out malarkey, but nobody’s replying to my job applications in The New Country. Bit worrying, as that’s our proposed prospective source of income. Nothing doing in the whole prison chaplaincy realm. The joys of secretarial work await. Or maybe something I’ve never thought of?

Anyway, I am constantly living in ‘the future’. I defo need to learn the art of living in the now, as the future remains a constant source of worry and anxiety for me, and it never ceases to be just around the corner. It’s always cloudy, covered by a veil, and due to my need to control everything (not to mention profound inability to do so), I’m all neurotic and wound up. That’s probably why I am a magnet for every infection going. (I swear, anxiety makes you all moist and dark – the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.)

So I haven’t been to work in a while because, as I say, I’ve not been well. Being sick when I’m supposed to be at work leaves me feeling unreasonably guilty. (Whoah, when you write it all down, this is quite the turd-box of negative emotions.) But when I have been there it has been challenging and busy. And unbelievably, my time as a manager there is almost over. One month from now I rejoin the dole queue. I have mixed feelings about this. And a thesis to write. And a house to pack up.  Ye gads!

Otherwise, I continue to cherish secret ambitions of becoming a mysterious nightclub jazz singer, and I forge ahead in the elusive hunt for the perfect cook-book. (It’s not the Hairy Dieters by the way – I don’t know what I was thinking buying that book. Their tagline is “How to Love Food and Lose Weight” but it ought to be “How to Develop a Complex Around Cooking with Real Food”. Avoid.) As well as buying a new cook-book I also completed my second masters degree and I suppose that now makes me a qualified chaplain, right? Champagne anyone? Today I also managed to shower and leave the house. Such a swathe of achievements man has not hitherto witnessed! I eagerly anticipate my episode of This is Your Life(Do they still make that show?)

As I write, the husband unit is pacing the house, shouting out things about Catholic social teaching as he goes up and down the stairs. Not because he cares (and certainly not because I do) but because he is in fully-fledged final examination mode. I do not miss those days. He claims that his brain is sore. That is so typical of a theologian: any scientist will scramble over dead foetuses to inform you that the brain has no nerves and therefore cannot feel pain. Stupid idiot theists with their sky-fairy! WHY DOESN’T HE JUST GO EAT SOME MAGIC WAFERS!!


hot sausage and mustard

December 29, 2012

2011 was a really hellish year. I limped hysterical, battered and bruised towards 2012, needy, with arms wide open, desperate to get away from the deaths, disappointments and devastation of 2011. I prayed and hoped 2012 would be a better year. And it was. All thanks, no doubt, to my particularly fervent and pious prayers (I’m the best at those).

Now, I wouldn’t say I am running arms wide open into 2013, but at least I could run if I wanted to. This year has had its fair share of difficulties, but I enter the new year with some anticipation rather than desperation. My world seems to have shrunk a little – the withdrawal from social media has had a surprising real-life impact.

And so I kiss goodbye to my twenties and tentatively take one step closer to the grave (as my granddad would cheerfully announce each birthday). I won’t know what to make of these years until I can get some proper distance from them. One of my older friends says that her life took a significant turning point at the swing of each new decade. I don’t have a lot of decades to go on, but so far something about that rings true.

I don’t have any summing up done. I’m not compiling the list of favourite movies, books and music from 2012. I’m not making a list of goals. I just want to survive 2013 intact, with a few close friends attached, and not fall apart because I have to get up at 5.45am every day and work, commute and study 65 hours a week.

Yesterday the husband unit and I dived into a project operated with military precision to cook 20 nights’ dinners for 2 people. Over five hours we chopped, stirred and simmered until we had dishes of soup, thai green curry, biriyani, chilli and meatballs coming out of our ears. I guarantee you, we cooled, decanted, labelled and froze more pre-prepared food than God himself (not a guarantee). We are doing everything we can think of to make the first couple of months of 2013 as smooth as possible. While I’ll be crapping myself over a demanding new job and yet another motherfucking thesis, he’ll be crapping himself over final year exams. Feast your eyes on these mismatching boxes of foil and tupperware glory, my friends, complete with instructions for adults blind with exhaustion. (Thank you to those of you who donated your old Chinese takeaway boxes. You know who you are.)





When we were finished, we smelled very strongly of food and a full-scale hose-down was required. This morning to our disgust, the mingled odours of curry, Mexican taco beef and boeuf bourguignon greeted our slightly hungover noses. A veritable rainbow of multicultural food stench!

However, the days are fast approaching when I will applaud my own extravagant foresightedness. Bravo chip monk! I imagine I will shout of a rainy Tuesday evening when I get in at 10pm and feck a plastic box in the microwave.

Oh the future. Who’d have it, eh?