Okay, I’m the first to admit I was not raised with religion. Therefore to this day, I never know when to sit, stand, or kneel at Catholic weddings. I thought Kosher was a brand of pickles until I was 27. And being “sealed in the Temple” sounds (to me) like the first plot point in an Edgar Allan Poe short story.
Religion just wasn’t important to my parents and many stepparents (there’s a clue right there) when I was figuring things out during the “finding-yourself” generation of the 1970s. To be fair, the adults in my immediate tribe were underpaid (and somewhat tortured) intellectuals who were hell-bent on saving the world in one form or another. Guiding me through my wonder years I had teachers, journalists, writers, activists, pro-bono lawyers, farmers, and even an opera singer as my parental mentors. All of whom were quite capable of discussing the multi-leveled themes in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (while playing Bridge or Chess, no less), but somehow couldn’t figure out how to choose the right life partners. (A few of them eventually got it right.)
Plus, it was more important to everyone involved that the children learn multiple languages, travel, and study things like art, ballet, and piano, than it was to get a new family car every year. Or even every 10 years. The car my mom bought brand new when I was five was the car on which I learned to drive. But because of that frugalness, I got to study abroad in France my junior year in high school.
No Rest for the Weary
So with all we had going on (five kids total between all my blended families) there really wasn’t time to go to church. But that’s not to say I didn’t try. I checked out a few churches by myself as a kid, usually the ones my friends went to. And I read the Bible and its various modern day interpretations. But none of it resonated with me. I just didn’t get why you had to get up early on a Sunday to learn how to be a good person, when I saw someone like my mom bust her hump all week teaching fourth graders how to read, and then came home every night to take care of a gaggle of her own kids.
I’m not saying it was all happiness and rainbows. Given our unconventional family situation frustrations ran rampant on all fronts. But I did learn early on what compassion and love really meant.
The reason I bring this up is because, during a recent Socratic discussion I had with some acquaintances in a bar (yes, I’m that intellectual, especially when aided by Tequila), someone told me they thought it was sad that I didn’t have religion in my life.
I pondered this for a bit, and after days of over-thinking it finally concluded that yes, by golly, there actually IS a situation in which having religion woven into the fabric of my soul would make my life easier.
Religion to the Rescue
Last week I was at someone’s home for a dinner party, and as soon as we sat down I picked up a bowl of baby potatoes, plopped some on my plate, and then passed the bowl to my left.
That’s when the host said, “Let’s bless the food.”
Say what? Why? Did the pork butt sneeze or something? Unless it’s last rites, I’ve never understood why we have to say a prayer thanking the dead animal carcass sitting in the middle of the table for being there. It’s not like the roast turkey is going to shoot back with, “Yeah man, no problem. Thanks for having me.”
So there I am holding a bowl of spuds midair while everyone bows their heads and the host leads us in his rendition of “Sanctify These Here Vittles.” To make matters worse, I snuck a bite of potato during this interlude (hey, I was bored and hungry), which promptly went down the wrong pipe. So now I was choking, which sounded like I was making subtle, smart-ass commentary on the topic at hand (not out of character for me, actually). When in reality I just wanted to take a swig of wine and inhale a deep breath.
This doesn’t happen every time I eat with other people, but it does happen often enough that you’d think I would’ve learned by now to wait and take my cues from the dinner table crowd before I dive into the food.
Experience is my Religion
I guess, therefore, you could say it is sad I don’t have religion, but apparently only when it comes to breaking bread with church-goers. However, since I’m approaching that phase of my life categorized as “unwavering curmudgeon” I’m probably not going to get that whole bless-the-food-prayer thing right from here on out. (Take note of that, by the way, if you ever have me over for dinner.)
Other than that, I don’t miss religion. How can I miss something I never had? But that’s not to say I don’t have guidance. I get my inner strength from that crazy posse of people that supported (and continues to support) me along the way. I keep them in my heart whether they’re living or dead, near or far. Their influence is like a moral compass that constantly points me to my true north, whatever that is.
And if that doesn’t work I’ll just ask the center court glazed ham for advice next time I’m caught in the middle of an unexpected dinner table prayer. Given where the ham ended up, I’m sure it’s absolutely dying to weigh in with some sage advice.
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Stacy Dymalski is an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage. For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.