As far as religion goes, some would say I'm a mess.
Get this: Dad's Mom, Mimi, is a devout Catholic. At one time, she considered becoming a nun. At 91, armed with a wheelchair, she never misses Mass.
Mom's Dad, Grampie, was a serene Presbyterian minister with a photographic memory. He'd take one glance at his sermons and, presto, he had the words memorized.
As a baby, I was baptized both Catholic and Presbyterian. One would think I'd have the heaven thing covered.
Soon after, my parents changed their minds, deciding to attend Anderson Hills United Methodist Church. I didn't care, but I was stoked because my best friend Sarah went there, too.
In Sunday school, Sarah and I watched the clock together, rolling our eyes.
We shared in the boredom, passing notes about boys like hot, troublesome Harry. Giggling, we prayed that God would send us horses, a wish that later came true.
If Sarah and I were lucky, our parents opted to take us with them into the sanctuary for church with the "big people." There, we drew horse pictures on the Prayer Request forms, whispering and kicking the pew in front of us. Then Mom told us to settle down or we wouldn't go to McDonald's later, so we shut up.
After the service, the parish served a million trays of doughnuts in the Forum Room. Sarah preferred the jelly doughnuts. I found God in the cinnamon twists.
If Sarah wasn't there, I was destroyed. That meant I had to pay attention in Sunday school for a whole hour, which was torture, and even hot Harry couldn't pick up the slack because he usually got kicked out.
But I was never confirmed Methodist. And although I was baptized Catholic, I never received my First Communion. And I wasn't confirmed Presbyterian either.
When my parents sent me to Catholic grade school, I wasn't allowed to participate in Masses. Non-Catholics were sent to a room to work on book reports. I wondered what the hell I was doing in "jail."
In high school, non-Catholics could attend Mass, but we couldn't participate in Communion. So while girls were heading up the aisles to receive their bread and wine, I made paper clip chains long enough to reach across the rows and tried to trip people.
In college, I found my own religion: alcohol. I was a one-woman-train-wreck member of C.A.'s Religion, and no one could stop me. Well, 12-step meetings stopped me eventually.
There I was, sober. Depressed, pissed, petrified. Empty of faith.
When former addicts and alchies talked about God, I tried not to puke. Just the word "God" made me cringe.
I thought of Sarah and me trying so hard to be good girls during services. Why? I was tired of being quiet. I wanted to scream. Screw God.
When someone in the meetings explained that I could create my own word for God, I started to call my God "Spirit of the Universe." Freed up to investigate, I read like a fiend, devouring everything from The Celestine Prophecy to The Sermon on the Mount.
As I read, I started to use the word "God" because it was shorter. So God it was.
To add to my confusion, my parents divorced and Dad attended Unity Church. Mom checked out The Vineyard. Dad switched to Crossroads. Mom changed to a Presbyterian church, then settled on a non-denominational Christian Church. Dad stopped going. Whew.
Eventually, the idea of a spiritual presence grew within me, and I saw the way my idea of God had evolved over time. Today I stay in a place of questioning, of humility. I believe that I don't always know what's best for me.
I didn't discover this on my own. Others had to show me. Like Elise, who finds God in Buddha, and Don, who finds God in Jesus Christ. Like Mimi, Grampie, Mom and Dad, who are always searching. They've all shown me.
Inhale, exhale. Now I spend a large part of my days speaking and hearing these words.
I've practiced yoga for seven years, and I've just begun teaching. I've found the breath has become an airlike vehicle, a way to get in touch with spirituality. I believe in a higher power, a spirit within and without, a guiding force.
My view could change tomorrow.
I believe God presents us with a way that will gel within each of us in the moment, if we choose to see it, no matter the route.
My spirituality deals with giving back. Speaking out against stigma. Writing. Moving. Praying.
Questioning Jay, my ex-boyfriend who died, asking him what it's like in that place we call heaven, even though we have no idea. Telling Jay not to worry, that I finally found God in book reports, horses, hot Harry, Sarah, booze, ladybug tattoos, paper clip chains, puke, addicts, doughnuts, drunks, the quiet, the noise and, finally, right where it all began: back in the breath, on the inside.
Contact C.A. MacConnell: [email protected]