What I Did Today

I answered the question, “How do you describe God?”

Once I was finished, I erased all ideas, images, and descriptions of humankind in my answer. God’s face, hand, breath–all taken out. I eliminated all pronouns associated with God. Leave out all natural comparisons. If God is mentioned as a tree, ocean, cosmos, or deer, I scratched through that too. Any mentions of space to compare to the depth, mystery, and vastness of God. I removed all words that were or similar to all-encompassing, omnipotent, and everlasting. Lastly, I scratched through words that were or similar to divine, pure, infinite, and holy.

What did I have left?

Outside of some loose verbs, I had: Indescribable. Spirit. Yet, even those do not begin to touch the surface of who God is.

I welcome you to describe God less in order to know God more. Often, it is our perception of how God should be that we miss out on who God is. Be okay with no descriptions. Be okay with being speechless when it comes to God. Be okay with resting in that gratitude that you cannot describe I AM WHO I AM.

I Switched to Natural Deodorant!

Bold, right? I thought the same thing.

Since the beginning of the year, I promised myself to make a transition towards products and brands that don’t just decorate me but nourish me, while reducing my output. This month, I began shifting towards a natural deodorant that wasn’t an antiperspirant. I did all my homework. I read article after article about detoxing pits, the best natural brands, and the overall physical changes that came with natural deodorants. I wanted to wear something that worked but also had ingredients I could pronounce. Finally, I settled on a brand and happily coughed up my $11 to my local Walgreens clerk.

The first couple of hours of my new adventure, I didn’t feel any different. I smelled delightful but no difference. About noonish, I felt it. SWEAT. Instantly, I was ashamed. I didn’t care to test my new lifestyle while I was out, let alone at work. So, I did what any sane person would do. I rushed to the bathroom, and used my lovely antiperspirant. My safety blanket. During my article skimming, I knew there would be sweating. One woman wrote how she had to get used to the wetness for a few weeks. (Her words, not mine.) I also read about how antiperspirant works. I hate to say it, but I was so conditioned to use antiperspirant, I never stopped to think about what it actually was or what it did to my body. When you’ve been trained to use something since you were a child, you hardly think about it. I put on the thing that doesn’t make me sweat. I put on the thing that keeps my body from doing what it naturally should do.

Deodorant advertisements are working. They have you believing that something is wrong with how your body works, instead of gearing a product towards how your body reacts to the environment. Guilt contributed to my antiperspirant sales, not necessity. I don’t know about you, but when I’m scrubbing away my 48 hour chemical-laced antiperspirant, there’s no shame. There’s just gunk from a lot of chemicals that probably shouldn’t be lasting 48 hours anywhere on my body. Ultimately, I was ashamed of what came natural to my body but not what was left behind from what hinders it. That thinking seems a bit backwards.

I could go on, but I think you get the gist. My point here is this: Don’t beat yourself up for something that comes natural to you. That gunk you may find yourself scrubbing off, will need to be addressed eventually. Most importantly, don’t keep flowering yourself with things that don’t help you grow.

Lessons from Love

I’ve been seeing someone I’m quite fond of. He’s a big car guy. Loves all things four wheels from NASCAR to go-karting. Meanwhile, I only care that my car is functional and gets me from Point A to Point B. A few days ago, he came over to clean my windshield. I was beyond annoyed. My windshield wasn’t overtly dirty, only a little smudgy. I didn’t understand how or why my smudgy Kia was driving him crazy. My objections to his request were:

“I can see just fine out of it.”

“It’s not even dirty.”

“I’ve been driving this way for a long time.”

Regardless of my annoyance, he cleaned it anyway. On my way to work the following day, I fell in love with the crisp outlines of my scenic drive.

For some time, I’ve been taking Lexapro. I need Jesus, but I also need Lexapro. Those two can and do exist together. This past month I experienced myself without any medication.  Before ever taking medication, I could describe myself as being held underwater. Unable to see clearly or breathe smoothly. However, none of that is bothersome, because I’ve been like that for so long that I didn’t know I was being held under. Everything I saw, I believed to be true, not recognizing its distorting characteristics. Missing that aspect of a balanced being–breathing fresh air and seeing clearly–brings a whole new level of awareness that is torturous. I was fully aware that I was being held underwater. I was aware of object distortion, yet still completely unable to combat what I saw and felt. That was my hell–being without control and being aware of it.

However, my lovely boyfriend offered me clarity on the tiniest of scales. He offered something that I believed I didn’t need because my car (and me) had been this way for a long time. How many times had I previously gotten angry with someone or a situation because it brought me clarity I didn’t think I needed? How long was functional beating out safety? In my moments of being held under water, my boyfriend was the breath of fresh air I needed. He reminded me that I was still underwater, and I still needed help. And those two things were okay.

Isn’t that what love does? Love lets us know that we’re not seeing through clear eyes. Love removes the scales and lets us move confidently forward. With great persistence and without hesitation, love kindly corrects.

Today I hope…

…for continued goodness. It was only going to be goodness but continued is necessary. I hope for ruptures of laughter that cannot be contained, relationships to grow an ounce more, and the hope that I will still be part of this cosmic dance that exists beyond and within what looks like chaos. I hope for complexity and nuanced decisions. Mostly, I hope for bravery to be honest, to be loving, to be extraordinary. I hope whatever spark is produced today adds to tomorrow, where eventually, a fire will show. I hope for everlasting goodness.

What do you do, even when you do not feel like it?

Breathe. Sometimes I get terribly overwhelmed by the offset intricacies of life that I hold my breath. I hold and ruminate and create infinite passageways down roads I will never see. I journey through fears that are only real to me. But, when I find myself being consumed by unforgiving, never-ending darkness, I remind myself that although I can’t see the Light, it is there. So I breathe anyway as an act of defiance against all my anxieties. I breathe.

Typewriter Confessions: Claim Yourself

Begin again. This time with feeling.

I let everything and everyone into my backyard. They brought with them chainsaws, sledgehammers, and their opinions. I thought if I was able to please everyone, that surely something great would happen. It didn’t. I pleased no one. No one won. Although no human being won the title to my life as The Ultimate Influence, I still greatly feel as if some unknown entity succeeded in throwing me off balance. I tried–because of my childhood to be–excuses are everywhere. I have a choice here. Become the woman with a pen or chase the woman I thought I should be.

I love God. Before I knew God, I loved her. It was when I began to know God through other people and institutions that I thought my knowing wasn’t enough. My knowing has carried me here. Here is a place that is uncertain yet good. Uncertainty at this point gives birth to exploration. I’m trying on pieces of myself in hopes that something sticks. However, I know explorations to true self-hood are always divine journeys. Always. Rarely do these journeys make sense or are clear, but they are divine and sacred nonetheless.

Where am I going now that so many things are done? Unfortunately, nowhere. Right now, I am cleaning up all the brush and debris, removing clumps of my hacked up trees, and chasing away any stragglers. Someday, there will be room for flowers, but you can’t put flowers in rotten soil. They won’t flourish, and them, like you, will question why you wanted to grow anything in the first place.

So, what does this mean for Elohim&Esh? It means that I include everything that is currently in my soil, in an effort to purify my life, my spirit, and my relationships.

In an effort to be transparent, here’s five things about me:

  1. My name is Aisha. I believe in embodiment, especially when it comes to names. I am life. My name means beautiful. I believe that too.
  2. I believe that life is a cosmic dance. It will never make sense because we, as humans, don’t get the privilege of knowing every little detail of each others lives.
  3. I am a womanist, with no retractions to the original four part definition written by Alice Walker.
  4. I hate going to church, but I love taking communion.
  5. About a year ago I asked God to make me a tree. Since then, trees have become vastly more intricate. I don’t know how yet, but I definitely do find myself becoming more tree-like: Resilient.

Musings

Life is about consumption–to live and not be consumed. Balance. Never consume too little that you’re left bare on the shore, with only the water hitting your toes. Never consume too much, that you’re being overpowered by the waves in the sea and you cannot see. You drown. Consume in a way that is fruitful and forgiving. It’s curious and filled with pure delight and gentleness. Did I mean consume or love? What is love without the consumption of all things?

I devoured The Handmaid’s Tale like a parched man in the desert. And I, without pen in hand, let it devour me. When was the last time I did something for pleasure instead of necessity? When was the last time I allowed myself to be devoured?

Don’t Say Just

I believe language is everything. Words seep down into the crevices of the spine, and they grow. If they’re good, then the person will stand taller. They will radiate light. If those words come with judgment or hostility, a person might lose a few inches, stretching to find the light they once had. It’s a hard road when you’ve been knocked down a few inches, but I think eventually, the light finds you again.

When I left seminary, a few weeks ago, I had to meet with a professor to have a conversation about my decision to withdraw. I realized quickly it wasn’t a conversation but a pitch. It didn’t matter I was leaving because of personal reasons and mental health. She offered me in several different forms a reduced time in seminary for a different degree. “How about the M.A.C.M.? Two classes and CPE and you’ll be done? Have you thought about only taking a semester off?” When I explained to her the logistics of my time, CPE is 40 hours a week and I work nearly 40 hours a week, and that isn’t ideal, she let out an “Oh.” It was an oh I wish I caught on camera because as a pastoral worker, we are taught against every reaction she had in that 10 minute meeting. I digress. Before I left, she asked me what I would do since I wasn’t in seminary. Unfortunately, she did not word it like that. “So you’re just not going to finish? You’re just going to be a deputy clerk?” The just is where I am hung up on. Let me explain.

In undergrad, I had this amazingly wonderful professor, Dr. Martin, and he would make sure that in any of our responses–either verbal or written–we never used the word just. When we said it in class, he would interrupt us and say, “Don’t say just.” As annoying as I found his incessant interruptions, his words stuck with me. It wasn’t until I left undergrad, when I didn’t have Dr. Martin to call me out, that I understood why I shouldn’t say just. Just is a limitation imposed upon someone or something. When you say just, you are imposing your expectations upon them while limiting them to be something you find limiting for their potential. With just, they have no room to be anything else. I felt deduced to being only a deputy clerk. Her words were instantly frustrating. I responded back rather harshly and defensively. I started rattling off things I would be doing instead of being in seminary. If her question were worded differently, I wouldn’t have felt the need to defend myself against the limitations of just. I’ve had many people ask me what I was going to do post-seminary, and with some I was honest: “I am going to rest.”

Words matter and hers left a bitter taste in my mouth. Because this is such a fresh loss, when I think back on my time in seminary, I think back at the most recent things. My friend, who also left seminary earlier this year, said, “It’s like attending your own funeral.” And it really is. At the end, I could only see those who supported me, those who judged me, and those who only cared for me within an academic context. It was humbling and deeply saddening. So, today, I’m doing some processing of those feelings. I’m grateful for what the experience was. Despite the bitterness, I believe my time there was intentional both in my life and the lives of other people. I believe it mattered. I wish other people could see that too. Today, I am stretching to find the light I had and to believe in the great purposefulness of my journey.

I Keep Emails from a Dead Man

While this is unusually dark, especially on the Eve of Christmas, it is true. I keep the emails of a dead man. I am technically locked out of this email account. I cannot get new emails, and I cannot send them out. My inbox stays in this weird limbo from the last few years. I can delete the app off of my phone, but then where would his emails go? They would sit somewhere on the internet waiting. Waiting for what, I’m not sure. Waiting to be remembered, possibly.

I spent some time with a friend who had to leave her last home pretty quickly. She had to do an inventory and mass haul of all of her belongings. What she could not fit in her room, she could not keep. She told me she was glad to get rid of it all. “I’m typically a very sentimental person when it comes to particular stuff, but I realized I was just collecting junk.” I came home after visiting her and thought maybe I had collected junk along the way too. You’d be surprised at all the things you pick up and hold for “someday.” Someday never comes, and instead those things sit and wait to be used.

But those emails. What do I do about those? I can clean out my kitchen, library, and every bedroom. But what do I do with those things that can’t be donated? The contents in those emails do not exceed 150 words. They are not particularly substantial, yet they remain.

I have made a graveyard out of my inbox. At some point, the recipient was responding and aware and here. To remind myself of that person, that dead man who I keep emails of, I hang on to my graveyard inbox, visiting on occasion at the witching hour when I cannot sleep.

During this holiday, I am grateful for the family I have, the family I love and know and celebrate. I am also aware of the family that is not here, the absent ones whose pictures I have hanging around my home and emails I refuse to delete. As I get older, I try harder and harder to balance the reality of a changing world with the magical wonder Christmas promises. Every year, that balancing gets harder, but I believe I get rooted firmer in love, which, in my opinion, is an unchanging reality.

Merry Christmas.