Have I mentioned recently that I’m grateful to be an atheist? Life is so much more precious now, since this is the only one I’ve got; no do-overs in heaven. I don’t have to waste any of it rationalizing the unbelievable.
One of my more elaborate rationalizations was regarding the whole issue of transubstantiation (that’s the belief that the bread and wine of communion actually changes into the actual flesh and actual blood of Christ at the moment the priest blesses them) by believing that there was an atom of Jesus in every wafer and every cup that would become activated by the priest’s blessing.
I know. Right. Stop laughing! Seriously! I can hear you!
Okay. It is pretty funny that creating a rationalization I could believe in for communion was my biggest impediment to becoming Catholic before I converted.
Oddly enough, masturbation didn’t worry me at all. Of course, why would it? i had no idea that this was a significant coping or self-soothing mechanism for me. I knew I’d have to stop, but I honestly didn’t think it’d be a big deal at all. Masturbation’s a mortal sin in Catholicism, which worked really well for me because I usually felt like shit after I masturbated. Separate yourself from God, feel lonely and ashamed. Made sense to me. You have to confess mortal sins before you can take communion. Again, makes sense. It’s the Church’s way of helping you reconnect with God. Besides, I had nothing to worry about since my sex life was going along just fine.
I did a thorough and fearless moral inventory in preparation for my first confession. Guess what I forgot! Yepper, I completely forgot porn and masturbation. Now that was embarrassing, because I had to schedule a second confession. See, I wanted to be sure I’d done my part right so the magic would work.
After I converted I was shocked to (re)discover that I couldn’t stop masturbating. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about sex. And orgasms became completely unattainable. It was confusing and embarrassing. Obviously this was all in my head, so I asked my parish priest for help and he referred me to a “really great” therapist. Why didn’t I go to the person who helped me 10 years earlier? Because I didn’t want to be cured of my Catholicism.
That’s how I ended up seeing a monk for psychotherapy. After a year and a half of the talking cure with him, I’d attempted suicide once and had plans to do a better job the next time. I wasn’t sleeping, smoked 2 packs a day (I wasn’t a cigarette a year smoker before). And my sexual acting out had jumped into behaviors that I hid from my husband, things that I consider adultery.
I see now that I felt like … like I was evil. This has been a theme for me. Somehow I had been contaminated and I desperately wanted to be saved, to be made whole, to become pure and good. It’s not uncommon for people who were sexually abused as children to feel as if they have been tainted. You can wash and wash but you’re never really clean. That foul core is always there. I wanted to be clean. Saved. I wanted God to magically wash me clean and make me whole.
Alas, there is no magic. But change is possible. new mental pathways can be forged. “Training scars” can be recognized and dealt with. I am trying to change myself so my feelings and my reality are congruent. I want to feel clean and good, which is what I hope I really am. But its hard to make the heart accept what the mind knows (or hopes). With this new therapist, all I can focus on is making sure I tell him exactly how bad a person I am. When he doesn’t judge me as bad, I feel I’m not being honest.
It’s sad. I don’t want to be seen as a bad person but I can’t accept being seen as good one. I hate that I can’t just accept myself as good enough. When that happens, sobriety is a happy byproduct.
So while it is funny, it’s also sad that a person could waste so much time and energy just trying to find a way to justify his or her own existence.