Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, and I am off to confession this morning so I can start the season reconciled. I was thinking I would compose a note to the priest and roll it up like a cigar and shove it between the grating. Just to see if it would go over. Here's my note:

"Dear Monsignor, I did everything bad I could do except kill people. Calculate the maximum number of occurances possible in a year. Impose maximum penalty. Gracias."

A few of you have written to me to say that writing my once a week "sin" post is in poor taste, that I do harm to the concept by making light of it. That is not my intention, of course. My intention is to take a look at my week and notice what was bad about it. It is also my intention to encourage other people to care about right conduct but also to make people aware that bad conduct, even among believers, is maddeningly common. And also blogging presents an excellent forum for explanation. Confession provides no such thing.

You go in wanting to tell all your stories and explain all your challenges because secretly or not so secretly, you want the priest to say, "There, there. You have had a hard time. Here's a cookie for you. Run along."

But that is not what it is about. The explanation doesn't matter. What you need to say and what he needs to hear is the flat, ordinary, ugly total of your failures. Not the why, but the what. And that, although it's very itchy and uncomfortable, is the also its great benefit. It divorces you from your string of excuses and forces you to see results. Even successes, if you have any, are often attributable not to virtue but some other cause. *

I have rarely made it through confession without hyperventilating and biting a hole through my hand. What I want to say is "The word 'fuck' is featured in 54.536434% of all my utterances. I rarely compose a thought that does not include obscenity. But this is because you, Jesus, made me very intelligent and sensitive and I therefore have need of giving voice to the coloration of my very special refined and exalted fucking feelings. Oops. Perhaps what I meant was you should have given me less personality. If you had wanted me to be dull and ordinary you could have made me a stupid and ordinary person. What's that?? I am ordinary? You mean only my disgusting tendency to swear is truly remarkable??? Well, what do YOU know? Oh dammit. I forgot. You know everything. Could you please then make my thoughts and feelings less exciting? Oh wait..."

You see how this goes? Much better to just say "I swear every chance I get."

Oh and you are right if you are thinking, "Nina, bad language is the least of your problems."


Here's another thing that makes me uneasy and cannot be expressed in any dignified way: my lying. What I want to say is "I lied to my boss because she drives me crazy and has no understanding whatsoever of the special challenges involved with my job. If she had my job she would be similarly bored, miserable and desperate and she, too, would do only enough to avoid getting fired. Obviously. Because this job that pays me a full time salary for 5 hours a week is TORTURE!"

And of course, when the word torture is mentioned, not even I can pretend I don't know what is really meant by the word. Certainly not the gross indignity of having to work 5 hours a week to collect a 40 hour paycheck.

So you see.

And so do I. Which is why I maintain, despite the displeasure of all my dear friends who are Baptist and Jewish or Muslim or Pentacostalist - confession is a terrible, awful, very bad, perfect thing.

And by the time you see me again, I will have tried to accomplish it with something like dignity. (Impossible). Nevertheless, I will have tried.

* Take, for example, my celibacy. It would be a victory indeed if I could attribute it to love of the law. But it not attributable to the law. It is due to my fear of being vulnerable. Fuck. Oh wait. Not fuck. I meant... oh well... yeah. Etc.


LizB said...

You make me want to be Catholic. You are funny, and you will receive no admonishments from me.

Anonymous said...

I think God wants us to laugh... otherwise he wouldn't have made humans the only creatures who can laugh... i mean, besides hyenas.

If God didn't want us to laugh, he would have made everyone Amish.

country roads said...

ha! Amish...hahaha!

I fear what would happen if I confessed without excuses, beliefs, rationalizations.

LAS said...

I didn't think it was in poor taste at all, but then again, I have no religious affiliation. It's just like doing a 10th step inventory once a week instead of once a day, that's all. That's how I think of it.

Avitable said...

Somebody had the holier-than-thou attitude to tell you that posting about your sin was making light of it?

Judgy fucker.

Jennifer said...

ah... fuck them who tells you to not post your "sins" on here! This your blog... you can do whatever you want! i think if you make light of them or if you don't they are still YOURS to do what you like with. everyone fucks up and everyone has some *issues* (for lack of better words) and so what... if you don't try to put them out there and fix them, then you are never the wiser of them! I say do whatever the fuck makes you happy!! :) I love reading your blog anyway... so keep up the good work!!
Hugs, jenn

Anonymous said...

I think you should give up confession for lent. AND you should stop listening to people telling you not to post your sin of the day. Crap, its that sin of the day that makes me feel like I'm doing alright! Enjoy your season!

Em said...

Wait so if it's Ash Wednesday does that mean Easter is coming up, or is this the start of Lent or what? It's been way too long. . .I can't remember this shit.

And yes, I agree with the others the sin of the week is not in bad taste, in my opinion. But I'm not Catholic anymore, or Christian, so my opinion on this matter counts for nothing.

Effortlessly Average said...

Psha! Last I read my Bible, lying and swearing are not commandments. Now, lying about fucking might cross the line, but that doesn't appear to be your issue here. Now if you really want something to confess; something that will have the Monsignor either taking notes or staring in shocked amazement, spend a week around EA. Hell, I can't even get near a church without feeling my skin starting to get hot. heh.

Oh, but I'm basically a good guy. ahahahahahahahaa Oh, I have a tear...

nightfly said...

EA - Lying is covered under "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." You could of course quibble that the little white lie is not, per se, against anyone, in that you are lying about something YOU did or didn't do, rather than running about the city slandering others. You could also argue that the person you are lying TO is the neighbor to whom you bear false witness. Neither here nor there as far as Nina's post, but it makes for an interesting bar discussion now that we're all stuck between Super Bowl Sunday and spring training.

Nina - I'm sure that your SOTW posts do much more good than harm. You encourage us, make us laugh, and never condescend. I also suspect that some of the folks who are clucking their tongues at you are envious more than anything else: they want to be less wound up but can't quite bring themselves to it.

You seem properly wound to me, anyway. (Coming from me, that may not be encouraging, but it's meant to be.)

Finn said...

It is at times like this I ask, "What would Jesus do?"

As he was a carpenter, I imagine him nailing his thumb to a board (how's THAT for foreshadowing) and saying, "damn it!", then waving the hammer at the sky and saying, "No, really. Damn it!"

As for the weekly sin thing, I like it. Those others are just jealous they didn't think of it first.

Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner said...

Come dance, I say, with the "God who knows only four words: Come dance with me."

nicoleantoinette said...

As someone who at all involved in or drawn to organize religion, I really just wanted to comment and say that you move me, and I appreciate that.

ByJane said...

I'm Jewish and we do the confession thing too. Once a year, so it's a Biggie! And it is incredibly meaningful.

utenzi said...

I do like the sound of your workweek, Nina, but I'd be a crappy teacher. I have no patience. I hope you can manage to hold everything together long enough to hit Kilimanajaro with your budget intact.

Sandy said...

GAH! People actually email you about that? Send them on their way. Your blog. Your sins. You call em how you see em.
Hope you are not still doing Hail Mary's.

Willowtree said...

Catholicism thrives on guilt and forgiveness, they are so obsessed with sin that they even give you one to start with the moment you are born, how sick is that! Why not make things easier on yourself and just ditch them? It's easier than you think, I did it and I come from a family full of priests and nuns!

If you switched to Buddhism your mindset would switch to not committing the transgression in the first place, rather than seeking forgiveness afterwards.

Joel said...

Delightful lady, I e-mailed you before I read this post. Please disregard everything (well, most everything) I said. :)

(For everyone else, I didn't e-mail her anything critical. Honest.)

I think your sin of the week is an excellent idea. I wish I had the gumption to do the same, but then my kids would use it for ammunition.

Byjane, you remind me of the old joke that Jews invented guilt, and Catholics perfected it. :)

Time to go get a piece of ash!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Adam on this one. Fuck 'em. Sin away. Confess away. Post away. This is your outlet.

Kate P said...

Please. . . my sister says I can be such a judgmental prude sometimes, and yet I haven't felt the slightest need to send a complaint e-mail about the SOTW. (Most of 'em aren't sins anyway. You sound as if you're trying to save your sanity 95% of the time, Nina!)

Marlee said...

Who ARE those people who have guns pointed at their heads being FORCED to read your blog???

Anonymous said...

Spirituality is like a buffet table of religions for me. I pick what I want and leave the rest alone.

Nina said...

LizB, you, too, could be itchy and uncomfortable if you called up your local RCIA program and signed up. But perhaps you were kidding? :-)

e! I really have to hope God approves of cracking jokes. Otherwise I am in more serious trouble than an eternity of rosaries can correct. I rather like the style of those Amish, though. But you are right. They are way too serious.

Country Roads, Nothing would happen except you being itchy and uncomfortable. Absolutely nothing. Oh and you might have to say ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers.

LAS, There is a step about confessing things? Hm. Cool.

Avitable, yeah, well, people criticize me. Thankfully, I don't find it even slightly upsetting.

Jennifer, It certainly is my blog. And yeah, no one has the right to tell me what to write. If I thought I was doing anyone any harm, I would stop. (I probably won't). Oh and thanks for visiting and liking what you read. :-)

My Reflecting Pool, I probably won't go to confession again until Holy Week. And I am not too concerned about the people who think I don't take my crimes seriously. True, I could probably take them more seriously, but I don't think I do anyone harm by telling stories about eating too many cookies or lying about stuff. Right?

Em, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. It ends in Holy Week, ie, the week before Easter. Lent is a lot more "fun" than you might think. It's fun because there are extra events scheduled at churches - lectures and what have you but also food drives and clothing drives and in the case of my parish, rosaries, stations of the cross, bible study, and ... oh wait. I sound totally crazy right now, don't I? Let start over. It's fun because the parish is very active and a lot is going on and people are around. It's that kind of fun.

EA, neither are commandments but swearing and lying both violate commandments. Priests are not shocked by anything you could say, no matter how terrible you might think it is. Oh and obviously you are a good guy. Obviously. :-)

Nightfly, hi! It seems I have not managed to completely alienate you. (Not that I am trying, quite the opposite). I hope nothing I say does harm. It couldn't harm too many people anyway. Whether I am properly wound or not, well. At least I can say I was at least given every opportunity to be well taught. Whether I succeeded, eh. I don't know. Oh and all of you reading this, go see Nightfly. Good blog there.

Finn, foreshadowing, you crack me up. The SOTW posts are kind of tiresome but I'll keep them up for the time being .

Jennifer G-W, Dancing would be nice. I never thought of dancing until I read the poem on your blog. Great stuff.

nicoleantoinette, Thanks for commenting. As you can see if you read these comments, people of all sorts of beliefs and non beliefs stop by here. It matters only to me that you enjoy what you read, Thank you!

Jane, no way! I had no idea! Shows me I didn't know that much about Judaism.

Utenzi, oh, my budget, you have no idea. Nightmare, truly.

Sandy, yeah, they do. I don't mind. It's fine. Oh, and I finished the Hail Marys early, thanks.

W-T, I studied Buddhism in college, and I know a good bit about it. It contains a good deal of useful advice for navigating life. Unfortunately or fortunately, whatever, I have never been able to successfully abandon Catholicism. It's just not who I am. So I am sticking with it, for good or ill. I respect other people's choices, however, and readily understand that other faith traditions teach useful things too.

Joel, thanks for stopping by. I did the best I could. Your email was lovely, no worries. It was nice to hear from you. Everyone, Joel was being nice to me.

No one would use my crimes against me for any reason, so I have no real misgivings about being public about them. :-)

Cajunvegan, Yeah, it is mine, and I can do as I like, right? At least I can say I harm no one, right??

Kate P, That's funny. People call me judgmental and a prude sometimes too. The emails were only two in number and they were people concerned that sin was so serious that it should never be discussed and certainly never laughed at. Those people are no fun at all.

Marlee, that's right! They can just leave if they don't like it!

Jen, lots of people do the buffet thing. Some people never show up at the buffet at all. Some people have never heard of the buffet. Some people try to burn the buffet down. Everyone's relationship with the buffet is different and sometimes people change. Oh, enough about the buffet. I love that you show up hear and read all my craziness. *airkiss*

Effortlessly Average said...

Obviously I'm a good guy? How the hell did that rumor get started? Seems entirely contradictory to what the women who have supposedly "loved me" apparently think. heh.

Nina said...

I've read your blog. You're a good guy. (You know it's true).

Effortlessly Average said...

Well it's hard to communicate sincerity via keyboard, but thank you for saying so Nina. I guess sometimes it's hard to believe in myself when even two decades of devotion and love aren't enough to keep someone from casting you aside and suddenly holding someone else closer to the heart than me. Thanks for seeing in me what I sometimes miss seeing myself.

didi said...