The psychic ghost hunter sparked for a minute but lost interest like so many of them have but tried to keep me in his stable of women that he calls on when necessary. No thank you. I was too clear about what I was looking for in a relationship and after he responded as if he was actually considering a partnership like I offered, I will not tolerate that kind of insult.
However, after over a month of exploratory conversations over dinners and lunch, Mr. Steampunk has shown himself to be funny, intelligent, quirky, handsome, considerate, spiritual and consistently eager for my company. In fact, we've had a slightly giddy conversation about formalizing our intent to see if we could possibly be partners with one another for awhile. I am cautious and a little fearful but have decided to trust the joy and accept the pain if it comes.
The immensity of this step hit me this morning when writing an email. Mr. Steampunk had gone to church with me on Sunday night. It seemed such a natural part of our weekend together but once I reflected on it, I felt a little overwhelmed. I wrote,
Since I have never dated a practicing Christian man, I have just gotten used to the idea that church is something I do by myself. No one has ever been interested. Pagans, secular Christians, Jews, and atheists all simply co-existed with my faith once it became clear that I didn't need to convert them. Even when I was married, my husband went to my church only once on a random afternoon for a concert I was singing in. But then you included me in your Shabbat ceremony and didn't blink before you said yes to church. It is making me re-think this idea that church (or spirituality) is something I do by myself. That's overwhelming. I haven't had to change my base perceptions of life for awhile and although I've been longing for someone to help me do that, I'm less ready for it than I expected to be.
Of course, church hasn't been exactly something that I do myself. I have the other people who go to church with me forming a community of people searching for God with me. But it's not something that I do with a boyfriend.
Still, the last sentence of my email has been repeating itself back to me all day. I'm reading This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew. My friend Mark loaned it to me as something I "should read" almost a year ago and since the season it describes started lst month, I figured I should actually buckle down and read it. Lew describes the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, in which all of our names are written either in the Book of Life, the Book of Death or the Book of In-between (my vocabulary) and he descrcibes this spiritual event as terrifying since judgement cannot be known.
When I was in junior high, I wanted to be an Egyptologist and read every book in the library on the subject. I learned that judgement of the afterlife required that when one's heart was weighed on a scale, it had to be lighter than a feather or it would be fed immediately to Ammut, who had the head of a crocodile, fore legs of a lion and hind legs of a hippopotamus. How terrifying? How could you know for sure if your physical heart would be transformed by your good life into what had to be just a cloud of mist that would provide no sustenance for the monster?
This anxiety is something that Lew would have us recreate on a yearly basis since he reminds us that we are imperfect and need spiritual motivation to get us off our butts to seek out transformation.
I think he's right.
My sister-in-law's mother died two weeks ago. There was nothing beautiful or exotic about her funeral. She was not yet 60-years-old and her passing came swiftly on the heels of the cancer diagnosis. People grieved. It was over 90 degrees. Not everyone had a seat. The officiants spoke vaguely and in platitudes. It made me wish fervently that the homily was already an aspect of Hindu funereal tradition and is not an influence of Western Christian culture that seemed - for whatever reason - like a good idea to adopt.
The pundit-ji spoke for 20 minutes on how death reminds us that we are alive and should not be feared.
In trying to pull all of this together, I have thought most about getting dressed. Meena told me that it was fun to dress her mother in a sari on the morning of the funeral. I bought a white dress for the occasion and paired it with pearls and heels to respect with my formality the life that her mother had led. Susan's sister-in-law was dressed by her mother and her closest friends in a white dress of her own to celebrate the beginning of her marriage that same weekend. In the beginning of this relationship with Mr. Steampunk, I choose each outfit deliberately to delight him and to communicate a favorable personality.
All of this attiring is preparation and it is good preparation. But it in not enough to keep us from being surprised by death and grief and joy and the ray of sunlight that breaks through into loneliness.
And the surprise is what allows us to skip out of the groove that we're stuck in and play a new song.