Last week during our podcast about the strange things parents do, a lot of the people listening mentioned growing up very religious as Jehovah Witnesses or Pentecostals or Baptists. My husband grew up this way off and on, too.
Not so much.
My family wasn’t very religious
My mom caught her Methodist minister cheating at bowling. He refused to admit it. She never went back. She expected her spiritual guides to not be cheaters.
My little hobbit dad came from a family of very staunch agnostics and atheists.
My bonus dad came from a family of Catholics but he firmly believed that we were already in hell, right now, here on Earth. He also firmly believed that you might as well make the best of it.
I wanted a church so badly that I went out trying to find one myself. Imagine a six-year-old going to Calvary Baptist Pioneer Girls every Friday night. Imagine that same kid begging people to take her to temple in Manchester, to CCD classes at the little Catholic church sort of by the highway, to Sunday school at the white Presbyterian church on the hill that dominated the town with its austere beauty.
In college I stopped two priests walking across the quad between the giant trees and asked if they could help me be Catholic and they said, “Oh, no, child. Our religion is not for you.”
And I thought, “I have been rejected by priests. Priests! I thought they let anyone in!”
My longing for religion meant that I even applied to seminary and was accepted. I didn’t have the money to go and we ended up here on coastal Maine.
Before that, when I was pregnant, I was a church secretary for a very liberal Unitarian Universalist church that I think took me in just because I was pregnant and needed a job. I rarely had anything to do. My baby girl ended up being baby Jesus at their Christmas pageant that year.
Even though they were so kind, I never found my place. A place where I would fit in.
When I was little, church communities seemed absolutely magical to me like they were communities of good. Rabbis, ministers, priests would stand up and speak of fellowship and of good, of grace and faith and doing what is just and merciful, of pilgrimage, of service. People hugged and shook hands and the kids did crafts. How could I not want to be a part of that?
Plus, a lot of time there were cookies and sugary drinks in Dixie cups.
Mostly I just wanted someone to help me find my way and to belong somewhere because I never really belonged in my sweet family.
I didn’t get that sense of fitting with the group. I was always the outsider, looking in, being welcomed, but not belonging, not part of the group.
Religious Undertones or Overtones?
One of my books about to be released is a contemporary paranormal slight romance called SAINT and it has a lot of religious undertones going on.
When I started publishing, all I ever heard was that your book can be violent but it can’t be religious. So, I’m breaking that rule a bit because the lead character, Nick Cole, is very much someone who was raised in the Catholic church.
And though it has religious bits, there is some swearing and there is definitely a boy lusting for his bestie.
So, that book won’t fit in either, won’t belong, but that’s okay because it might make a connection with a random person. And that’s all I can ask for really. Well, that and dependable health care.
Touching People You’ve Never Seen
The amazing French artist, Christian Liberte Boltanksi died last week. In 2017 he told the New York Times, “I hope that when I shall be dead, somebody that I don’t know in Australia is going to be sad for two minutes. It would be something marvelous because it means you’ve touched people you’ve never seen, and that is something incredible.”
What a goal to have—to touch people you’ve never seen. And that’s a bit what both writing and religion is about. Touching people’s hearts and souls. Can there be anything better than that?
Yes, it would be nice to win awards again.
Yes, it would be awesome to have a solid income.
But somehow making people remember you or your art or your heart or even your tweet? What a magical, beautiful thing.
Looking for Formulas and Perfection
A lot of writers that I teach look for magical outlines or formulas to get their books to fit into the expectations of readers and publishers and stress out about hitting those bench marks (the inciting incident at 10 % in, the midpoint at the actual midpoint) rather than enjoying the process of growing and exploring organically.
Their story, they think, has to be perfect and that perfection? It’s determined by an outside source—a reader, an agent, an editor, a mentor.
And I want to hug them all just like I want to hug past Carrie who was aching so badly to fit in, to find a spiritual community, a home, a family.
Here’s the thing: your story is yours.
And that can be the story of how you find good or spirituality or religion or how you find your story. There is no one path to completion. There is no one way to perfection. There is no one way to be perfect.
But how wonderful would it be if you could sit back and know that somehow, somewhere along the way, your story, your journey, your words, your spirit touched someone.
I bet it has. I bet it will.
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And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.
And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!
It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.