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800km, three days, and one funeral later, I am home.

It was a nice funeral. The talk was split in reasonable parts between Nana’s life and religion. I’ll grant you that I felt weird – back in a church I’ve not stepped foot into since I left Mum’s home – but it was fine.

And all the family were welcoming. Which was the bit I’d been most concerned about. Friendly and chatty and … well, they acted like family.

I was fine through most of the service. Only really started crying when Nana’s life as a cook was mentioned, and I remembered the fish custard story.

She was cooking for a convention. Several hundred, if not a thousand, people to feed. (As part of a team, I mean.) She was tucked into a dark corner of the kitchen, making fish stew.

It needed thickening, so she added cornflour. Tasted. It didn’t taste … quite … right.

So she took the cornflour box into the light. And realised that no, this was actually custard powder.

After a little doctoring, they served it anyway. Apparently the fish custard was a big hit…

emsk: (Default)

Nana passed away in her sleep this morning. Mum rung me at work to let me know – and to ask me to ring my other grandmother and tell her. Which I did, as I’m a dutiful granddaughter.

I am presently sitting in a park near work, letting myself mourn. And yes, for me that involves telling the Internet. I’ll be OK. She was 81, after all. It’s a good innings.

My Uncle is 1.5 hours drive away; Mum hasn’t told him yet, so that he can drive there safely. He’s already on the road. Mum’s sitting beside Nana’s bed reading the Bible aloud to her.

I’m glad we went to visit last weekend.


Jun. 20th, 2012 12:10 pm
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My paternal grandmother is unwell. Mum forwarded a text from my aunty – she’s scheduled for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy, as her blood count keeps dropping and they don’t know why.

It says something about familial relations that my first thought was “Why should I care?”

Then I felt guilty. Why do I feel guilty for reciprocating my family’s indifference with indifference? Why can’t I just get over, or at least get on with, the fact that they don’t care about me?

I wonder if I’d mind less if there was a reason that mattered to me. If it wasn’t because of religion, it it was because we actually had an argument, because someone behaved badly. If I’d hurt someone, rather than dropping the facade of faith in a God I don’t believe in.

My mother has never been judgmental of my choices. She knew that my leaving the faith was the right thing for me. Above all, she wants me to be happy. Further, she is a good Christian – she believes judge not, lest ye be judged.

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, had a rant at my mother about a month ago, when my aunt and uncle went to visit my non-religious cousin (their son). He’s happily partnered up, with a little girl. My grandmother didn’t think it was appropriate that my aunt and uncle should be visiting him. Because he’s non-religious, and living in sin.

I always felt comfortable with my paternal family. I’m very much my father’s daughter – I’m his to the bone, where I never fit into my mother’s family as a child. I didn’t understand their humour – I was in my teens before I was able to appreciate my maternal uncle’s dry wit. But in my father’s family, I fit in. I have no siblings; but knocking around with my cousin, I got some taste of that relationship. We thought the same way, shared the same sense of humour, even the same quick fiery temper. I belonged.

Maybe that’s why their indifference hurts. It angers me that my aunt and uncle would rather put up in a hotel in my city, rather than stay in our home. It angers me that my paternal grandmother isn’t interested in my life. It angers me that such un-Christian behaviour is apparently considered acceptable to non-Christians. That’s not Christianity as I was taught it. I may not practice their faith any longer, but I know what it should look like. It angers me even more that I know they can’t see their own hypocrisy.

I haven’t seen my father’s family in over six years. I last spoke to my paternal grandmother two years ago – she wanted to know the date of my marriage and the birthdate and name of my husband, purely to add his name to the family tree. My own grandmother didn’t even know my husband’s full name. She knew the name he goes by, his nickname, but not his legal name. Once she got that information, she wished me well and hung up the phone.

At least she was polite, I suppose.

I have a wonderful husband, a good mother, a good grandmother (maternal), in-laws who welcome me wholeheartedly. I have an honorary big brother, and other good friends. It’s not that I’m unloved. I’m grateful for the relationships I do have, and I’m lucky to have them. But… I want to be accepted on my own terms, for my family to understand that my life is valuable, that the choices I’ve made were good ones. I want to belong.

Maybe that’s why their indifference hurts. And I wish it didn’t.

emsk: (Default)

It’s Christmas Eve. Well, technically it’s Christmas, as it’s 02:41 on the 25th. We’ve been in the UK nearly a month, and I don’t know what to say about it.

I miss the cats. Not so much home, but I miss my Tigra girl especially.

We’ve just returned from midnight mass. This is a tradition, kept to by Tobermory’s family every year – midnight mass is Not Optional, it is just what you Do when you are here for Christmas. It was uncomfortable and strange. I’ve become unaccustomed to displays of faith, much less displays of a faith I’m unfamiliar with.

I didn’t realise how dependent I was on knowing the words of hymns. Apparently standing up and singing is somehow ingrained in my soul, because it really shook me when I couldn’t sing along. It’s not even that it’s a faith I share, there’s just some … inherent expectation that I will sing along in church. Not knowing the words really upset me, somehow, and I don’t know why. Well, I knew Silent Night and Come, All Ye Faithful, but the other two hymns/carols I didn’t.

I came home and had a very strong rum and coke. I couldn’t think of a better way to deal with the weird, so I drowned it in alcohol.

I’ve enjoyed the trip, I think. We attended a glorious wedding (T’s best man), and it was wonderful. I even convinced my husband to dance with me during the reception, and he wasn’t drunk.

I miss dancing. I didn’t know how much I enjoyed it until I was removed from it for a month. I miss the sense of accomplishment, the sense of pride in my own body. I need to lose some serious weight. Next year’s goal, maybe. Although everyone I know well over here has asked how much weight I’ve lost. Apparently I’ve either lost or relocated some.

The Christmas tree here is two stories tall. The star kisses the ceiling. It’s not exactly subtle. And the pile of gifts is ridiculous and huge. Excepting the inevitable family drama (it’s Christmas after all) tomorrow (today) should be a good day.

I should really sleep. But my husband isn’t in the room yet, and I can’t drop off without his arms around me.

emsk: (Default)

Mum and I sometimes manage to talk about things. Religion, my teenage years, depression. The last time we spoke at any length about those topics, I found out that Mum had absolutely no recollection of what, to me, was a pivotal moment in my teens – the point when I stopped trusting Mum, the point where I stopped confiding in her.

I’d already realised that I wasn’t cut out for her faith. I just couldn’t do it, I wanted other things, I was miserable being forced into the mold young people in the congregation were expected to like, I wanted to be normal. We had an argument, no unusual occurrence for a teenage daughter and menopausal mother, and mid-argument, I finally summoned up the courage to say “but I don’t WANT to be part of the congregation, I don’t WANT to be part of that faith.”

Mum turned around, looked at me, snorted, and said “oh, don’t be silly.”

It was a small moment, really. But I couldn’t believe that she’d called something so IMPORTANT to me silly. I tried to explain a few times, probably failing terribly badly in an overblown emotional teenage fashion, and the moment passed.

From that day forward, I lied to her. I lied about where I was and what I was doing, and who I was doing it with (or to, as the case may be). And I was utterly miserable for, god, I don’t even remember how many years. Teenage blues, yes, but I’ve realised that my stomach problems in uni were stress induced, the varying sleep issues I’ve had over the years are certainly stress-aggravated.

after the jump )

Originally published at spinneretta.com
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(We landed safely. International travel is BORING with a capital BORING, we both have jetlag and wah.)

We went to see the vicar tonight. As he’s doing the wedding-which-isn’t-a-legal-wedding, this is somewhat simpler than it may otherwise be. Nothing we have to answer or do for legal reasons, just paperwork that the church requires him to complete before marrying us.

Of course, the topic of religion came up, because, well, this is a wedding in a church. Despite my stated ambivalence, it’s something that was important to Tobermory’s parents – family tradition involves Marrying In A Church, and while neither of us are particularly religious, seeing as the Parents are paying, bowing to their tradition seemed… reasonable. It’s Church of England, after all; they aren’t exactly known for being hard nosed or strict.

I have been very conflicted on this, I will admit. Having left my childhood faith, religion in general left a sour taste; Tobes isn’t a religious person at all*, and the closest I can come to adequately explaining my own opinions on the topic is “It’s… complicated.” Originally I completely refused to even consider the idea. I subsequently realised how important it was for Family Tradition reasons, and conceded that maybe with a few concessions, I could possibly think about doing it. Tobermory has, bless him, mostly left me to it; has listened to me rant and rave, calmly offered alternate opinions, pointed me at websites, and occasionally smacked me upside the head with a “no, you idiot, CofE doesn’t work like that!” stick.

So, church wedding, conducted by vicar. This meant leaving spaces in the ceremony for religious things to occur.

I wrote our ceremony myself, with Tobermory’s agreement. I gave it to the vicar, with a request to re-write it in his own words**, leaving various blanks saying things like [Prayer] and [Blessing] because I knew they were required.

So, we talked tonight, the topic of How Does Mahal Feel About Religion arose, Mahal promptly burst into tears. Partly jetlag; I do generally avoid bursting into tears when religion is discussed. Well, you know, I generally avoid bursting into tears regardless of the topic, but religion being the topic at hand, I generally avoid crying over that too. I pointed out that, mostly as a result of my life/religious choices, the only people in my family who speak to me are my mother and maternal grandmother; and that while I do have time for the idea of whatever higher power you choose to worship, I have very little time for religion. There is a place for faith. I sort of vaguely acknowledge that there may be a higher power, somewhere, but I’m not willing to speculate any further than that. Provided I attempt to be a decent person, I figure any deity that matters will be capable of looking into my heart and working out whether I’m worth caring for.

The vicar’s a nice man, I’m jetlagged and emotional, I’m getting married and emotional, I am religiously confused and upset and emotional; call it what you will. He wasn’t pushy; he was kind and understanding. He wasn’t excessively inquisitive, once he realised just how upset the whole discussion of Why I Left Childhood Faith makes me. Or, at least, made me tonight. He wasn’t critical of some of the various ideas that Tobes and I shared about religion in general, some of which I know for a fact would intensely annoy my dear mother. Presumptuous as it is coming from my heathen mouth, I’d judge him a genuine Christian, and a good vicar – he cares about his flock, even people like me who are not (and will not be) part of it.

We talked for the better part of two hours, the vicar and Tobermory and me. Wedding stuff, religion, how-we-met, us-as-at-present-moment, things like that. As we prepared to leave, he asked us to allow him to pray with us.

I’ve walked out of the evening feeling … distinctly less antipathy towards religion. And no, I’m not going to magically make over my ways and start going to church. There isn’t a religion that could tempt me into that. It is complicated, and frankly short of extensive therapy I doubt I will resolve my issues with religion any time soon, because they are deep seated, extensive, and ongoing.

But some part of my conflicted little soul feels easier tonight.

* In fact, he has scathing disdain for the majority of organized religion, and other than a generalized willingness to accept that there is a possibility that Higher Power[s] Of Choice may possibly exist, has no truck with faith or religion at all. I entirely understand and appreciate the position, particularly as he comes to it from a position of EXTENSIVE teaching and research about a large variety of religions and faiths.

** Because I’d lifted quotes and ideas from various websites and such, and some of it was horribly Twee and some of it was gosh darn American, neither of which would sound at all natural emerging from a lovely British vicar.

Originally published at spinneretta.com
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emsk: (Default)
I'm certainly not above being a memesheep here - and, really, the last ten years have been full of changes. As you'd expect when you transition from your teens to your twenties, I suppose.

Finished high school. Spent a fairly miserable year as all my school friends were no longer at school (either being a year ahead or having chosen not to do seventh form). Graduated high school with pretty damn good grades, all things considered. Started going out with Cyclenut.

First year of university, studying business. Mum had surgery to remove an ovary. Stressed out about money. Survived.

Made the decision to switch into computing, having realised that I'd stab someone with a letter opener if I stayed in accounting. Started teaching computing.

First year of the computing degree. It was a good choice! Was mostly miserable in my home town, had no local friends (although there were one or two people who I periodically went to movies and such with, they tended to be less than wonderful). Lived for the chances I got to leave and visit Cyclenut, mostly.

Uni uni uni, work work work. Started making Internetfriends, beginning with Colitis I think. Started cycling and swimming, and running more seriously. Originally mostly due to Cyclenut's influence, I enjoyed it. Eventually ended up swimming with a tri training squad, although that may have been in 2005 now I think about it. Started working at my first helldesk role. I enjoyed that job.

One of my worst years, and yet I achieved a hell of a lot. Got Internet access at the maternal abode for the first time. The final project at uni, which was a horrible series of ups and downs and disappointments. I eventually passed, though. Spent my final semester getting burned out and doing too much. Miserable in my home town, was officially Nellie No Friends. Cyclenut and I parted ways. Met Internet friends in real life. Finally sucked it up, went to GP, diagnosed with depression. Did a Special K triathlon. Met Tobermory. Graduated. Made decision to leave childhood faith while planning to leave home. Went out with my workmates for drinks. Went to the Christmas party. Spent time with friends in Auckland and Hamilton. Rhonda the Honda died, and I was obliged to rely on shanks pony or my bike for transport.

Graduation ceremony, did the walk in the silly hats. Worked for the web-dev company, worked for EDS (worst. decision. ever.) Bought my first car. Moved to Auckland, on April Fool's day which I still think is hilarious. Officially left childhood faith. Tobermory moved to New Zealand. Purchased Spinneretta. Dyed my hair (went through a rainbow of atrocious colours, in fact). Purchased various stupidly cheap appliances off Trademe until we could afford non-shitty ones. Had first birthday. The couch attempted to eat Reiver.

Left EDS. Discovered how truly psychologically destructive that place was. Started working for my current workplace. Reconnected with Pstyken. Tobermory was hospitalised for the first time with stomach issues. Candycat moved in from the neighbour's place. Played World of Warcraft. Cooked a lot, had various work / money dramas with Tobermory's revolving contracts. Got continually sick with various lung-infection type bugs owing to shitty damp horrible flat. Survived.

My beloved Sharkie-car died. Bought the Scoobaru and Buzby. Tobermory bought a house! Moved into said house. Lots of drama related to house buying and so on. Tobermory got residency! and much rejoicing was done. Moved into house, bought furniture and various necessaries. Spent several months wondering how the hell we'd survived in the tiny flat of hell. Unoffically promoted internally as trainer of new staff, etc. Parked Buzby under an SUV in an attempt to avoid another accident. HOUSE! Had our first Christmas and New Year's parties here.

Made a lot of jam. Attempted cake decorating. We bought a lawnmower and I became the de facto lawnmower of the family. Met the Tobermory-parents for the first time. Was proposed to in front of said parents, burst into tears even though I more or less knew it was coming. Acquired the Tigra and Boomer cats from the SPCA. Thaqui moved in. Bought a piano. Promoted to team leader. Dramas with the Ford, leading to it's eventual return. Attempted gardening. Adjusted to having an entire house available instead of two very small rooms. Mum had dental surgery, during which the family suddenly realised that I was actually a grownup and capable of looking after my mother instead of the other way around.

It's funny how summing up the events doesn't really cover just how much I've changed from age sixteen to age twenty six. Still, here I am. And I'm happy.

Originally published at Spinneretta.
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I miss writing here. But I sit down with a lot to say and end up saying nothing. I've a dozen starts of posts, and they mostly end up ranting vaguely about nothing in particular.

The house appears to have fleas. At least that's easy to deal with; flea bombs, then dump flea powder on the carpet after vacuuming the following week. I miss having kitties around, but I won't miss dealing with fleas. I miss Candy dreadfully. We spoke with the neighbours, told them we had moved out, so they knew to check on both kitties. It was clear that we couldn't move such elderly cats, especially as we'd only be a couple of kilometers - well within kitty walking distance - from their old territory. We've gone back to check on them since; Candy in particular ran up, clearly missing us; but also recently bathed and well fed. I sobbed and sobbed. I miss her so much, the little fuzzy loving presence, the vibrating foot warmer on the bed, sitting on my desk with me. Meowing about my feet in the kitchen. But, we had to do the right thing by them, and I am convinced that we did. Even though it breaks my heart.

Mum visited for a week, and we survived, and even enjoyed it sometimes. Tobermory spent most of that time with her, as I was at work, and managed valiantly. I quite enjoyed most of it, not least because it's our home, our rules, and I got a few petty kicks out of that fact.

I'm back at work, frustrated, annoyed, and rapidly losing all my tolerance for everything. I am in need of a proper holiday, the week off to move house really wasn't holidaying. I am at the point where I have on two occasions broken my own rules about being rude to callers, and told them they have the choice of listening to me or getting the hell off my telephone, as I have better things to do than listen to whiny clueless fuckwits ignore what the skilled technician says.

Not in those words. I'm annoyed, not clueless, and not interested in being unemployed.

There are times I hate my job. It comes home with me, I get stressed and irritated and fractious, I snap at Tobermory and other people. I don't deal with stupidity, I lack kindness and patience with my friends. I know my failings, and they frustrate and depress me.

I came home from work yesterday, sodden with rain, and Tobermory met me at the door with towels, and a freshly-run hot bath. He is endlessly good to me, even when I know I don't deserve it. He complements my failings, draws me out of my shell. Supports me when I need it, tells me to shut up and get over myself when I need that instead. He's good for me in ways I never expected. And despite, or perhaps because of, our differences and disagreements, it keeps working. Two years of residence in that miserable tiny flat didn't destroy us, and if that didn't...

I miss my family. Mum's visit reiterated several things, one of them being that I am very much my father's daughter, and that I am hopelessly separated from my family, and I want to see them. Although, Dad was the odd man out. I resemble my grandmother, and my uncle, and my cousins; not so much my dad. I wish I'd had more time to know them as an adult. Mum wandered around our house, and it's funny, the things she pointed out to me. Things which I know my aunt and uncle and grandmother on that side do in their homes, and I do as well. Not because I'm mimicking them, but because it makes sense to me. Habits and hobbies, thought patterns, mannerisms even. I've always found the nature/nurture debate fascinating.

It's funny, I've never really thought about how life may have been different, had my father lived. For some reason, that idea finally arrived in my brain recently. I don't want to ask Mum, because I don't think she'll know the answers to my questions.

Mum spoke to my maternal uncle on the phone the other night. He was asking after Tobermory and I, our new home, and such. Mum passed on the standing invitation to visit, as I'd asked her to, and as I expected, it was promptly met with a "Thanks, but I don't think I'll be doing that". Until Tobermory and I marry, they'll not see me. And even then, they still may choose not to see the heretic daughter of the excessively pragmatic widow.

It's my own choice. I chose my life, I chose my freedom, and I'd make the same choice again and again. It still bugs me sometimes.

I try to show my family respect. I haven't contacted any of them, except Mum and Nana, since I left the faith. They occasionally pass messages via Mum, and they're always glad to hear that I'm well. Everyone was pleased to hear about the house. But, my uncles have standing in their respective congregations. Even if they wanted to see me, there would be those who considered it irreligious to do so. They are my family, and I owe them respect, owe their lives and choices and religion respect; in turn they respect mine.

Tobermory and I got engaged. My family isn't why. The proposal was extremely unromantic, but very us. No wedding plans yet. We'll get around to it.

And it's 1am. Life is busy, and I can't do it on no sleep.

Originally published at spinneretta.com.
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It’s been years since I paid much attention to Christmas. Insulated in my little world of family over the summer breaks, ensconced in the “We don’t do that” aura. And I never minded. Never thought about it, to be honest. If I did, it was shrouded in the general aura of “I need Change”, and it never really raised it’s head.

This year, I’m out in the wide world. And I have a boyfriend with me. And Christmas has been … odd.

I contemplated it. And 23 years of the reasons why we Don’t Do Christmas sat there poking me. It’s not a religious issue, any more, or it shouldn’t be. After all, it’s commonly acknowledged by most churches that yes, technically, Jesus wasn’t born at Christmas, but what the hell, we’ll celebrate it then anyway, OK? I never bought presents, in the end. And the job worries, and debts, and eventually rather than think about it, I just shelved the issue entirely. It can wait till next year, right?

Then Deb hosted her annual Waifs and Strays party. Boy and I certainly fit the bill – me, a waif, him, a stray. And I got home from work last night (yes, I worked on the 25th), collapsed on the couch.

“I don’t know if I want to go.”

“Why not, hon? I know you’re tired, but we both know you’ll enjoy the company once you get there.”

“Yeah, but…” (I feel like such a fraud!)

I’m glad we went. I had a good night, I caught up with folks I’ve not seen in awhile, I nibbled munchies and laughed and talked. I’m glad Deb does it – those of us without family available, or nearby, or those who wanted to escape the extended families – folks came by, and a good time was had. (Deb gave me a Wombles book. It’s adorable!)

But I still feel like I’m missing something. It’s not about religion. Christmas-the-religious festival isn’t one I think I’m ever likely to celebrate. But Christmas-the-family-season?

As you’ve probably gathered, things are not going as I planned. I’ve been keeping my head afloat, but now my contract has run out. I still don’t know if it’ll be renewed. It’s taken me three months to feel like I fit into the team here; and I’m not one of the ones invited to the pub at the end of the day.

Christmas has reminded me again that I made a hard choice. I was talking to Mum a few weeks ago, after she’d been on the phone to my Uncle. Amongst the various bits of family gossip, they’d discussed me. My decision to leave the church, my decision to move, my life. And his concerns for me. What happens when God passes judgment? I stress, he’s not judging me.

I’ve always admired my uncle. He’s one of the preachers in his congregation – one of the most upright, genuine, content men I know. His marriage, of 30-odd years, is utterly solid. When they married, he vowed never to raise his voice to his wife, and he’s stuck to it. Not that they don’t argue, but (to use his words) they keep it dignified.

It’s genuine concern he feels. His faith is real and absolute to him. He is in no doubt that there will be a reckoning. He doesn’t judge, but tries to live up to Christian standards as best he can. And when I say non-judgmental? He supported his eldest daughter through her teenage years (highlights: drinking, stealing the family car, knocked-up at 17 by a [now imprisoned] criminal); supported his younger son through someone else’s messy divorce, as said son got together with someone else’s wife. Hardly acceptable by his principles; but his principles didn’t allow him to abandon his family. I’ve disagreed with him over the years, but I have real respect for him.

It just serves to highlight the gap I’ve placed between myself and my family. It’s minimised as much as I can, as much as they can. And yet, it’s there. I don’t feel any guilt. It’s something I chose to do, and I am sure I made the right decision.

But, it’s Christmas. My family feel a long, long, long way away.

Originally published at kiwi geek. You can comment here or there.


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