Monday, July 13, 2015

How did I get here from there?

I would love to be able to say I had some glorious spiritual epiphany that led me to Unitarian Universalism. I'd like to be able to write an essay about being one with the greater consciousness. I do tell people, when asked, that the reason I began going to a UU church was because I want my children to grow up with compassion and respect for a variety of spiritual and religious practices.

There's some truth to that last one, but that's not the whole truth. The whole truth is actually quite a bit simpler and much less idealistic.

When my son James was born, I didn't know many adults in town. My first year in Belfast, I worked at the Game Loft, an after-school program that utilizes non-electronic games (including role playing games). It's particularly appealing to youth on the spectrum and youth who can't find a place to fit in. I loved it there. I fit in there. When my AmeriCorps position there concluded, I moved on to working remotely for a non-profit in Lewiston. I continued to volunteer some for the Game Loft, and some for BCOPE, Belfast's alternative high school program.

Ultimately, all or most of my friends had the word "teen" as part of their respective ages. When I had James, they weren't, as a group, especially well-equipped to be supportive, especially in the rough first few months. Why hadn't I gotten close to many adults? Who knows?

James' first year of life was really difficult for me, and for him. I knew nothing about pregnancy, or babies, or anything. Yes, I knew how they were made. Duh. I waited until I was 31 to have my first, and chastity has never been my strong suit, so obviously I understood the logistics. How they're made is wicked easy. How they - and the parents - survive to adulthood...that's another story.

Warren had to commute to Bangor during this time in James' life. I was often so desperate that I let the Jehovah's Witnesses come inside and tell me about their religion, just so that someone else would hold the screaming baby. I couldn't figure out how to make him stop.

The summer that James turned one, I still hadn't made many grownup friends. I did have one close friend who helped me out by watching James twice a week during his first six months - that's how we got to know each other. But she had a life, and, at the time, three kids of her own (four, now). I couldn't just be her leech.

Somehow I discovered that the Window Dressers program was looking for volunteers. Window Dressers is an organization that makes window inserts that add insulation, conserving heat. The organization provides, at low cost, a number of these inserts to low-income families, thus helping the environment while also helping struggling people survive Maine winters. I was impressed, for sure, but I was even more impressed with what else I discovered: there would be free childcare for anyone who volunteered to help create the inserts.

Yes. I volunteered so I could pawn my kid off on someone else.

I was there for four hours, working with what I think of as industrial saran wrap. It was wonderful. I got to talk to adults. I got to hear about people's lives. The whole setup happened in the sanctuary of the UU church, and I noticed an advertisement for a "New to UU" class, one night a week. I signed up immediately. Adults! There would be adults! With kids! Who maybe knew what they were doing!

That's right. I joined a religion to survive parenthood. It doesn't matter that I do fervently believe in the seven principles at this point, or that I am devoted to my children's religious education and tolerance. I can't ever change my origin story: I became a Unitarian Universalist so that my kid and I both would live through his early childhood.

It worked.

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