Monday, October 1, 2007

Back to Work...

I just read my friend Monica's post where she recounts the "table story" of Heaven vs. Hell. (see comments from original post). This is such a great tale, but of course, it's the attitude of selflessness that I need to bring into these characters to function in their day to day celestial life. I find that stories about Heaven are so "perfect" (of course!) but I can't imagine writing characters who are perfect, when we humans are so clearly not.

Perhaps there is a growth period when one enters Heaven. What does that transition look like? Is it the influence of other angels who mentor you? Is it the absence of earthly needs that facilitates that transition? Is it "peer pressure" from the cultural norms up there? "Everyone else is being so self-less, it will be really obvious if I am not..."

I always wondered about people who are basically good people, but who just have the wrong idea about things. People who carry prejudice or bias with them, but who believe that they are basically good and they have the right to judge. You can't knee jerk and say they wouldn't go to Heaven. Many generally good people have very wrong ideas about things. I mean, look at the Bible belt. Don't try to tell them they aren't getting in. Also, if such people were to suddenly enter the gates of Heaven, where all good people are welcome, what is going to happen when they run into all of those married gay people who, at this rate, will have to wait until they die before their right to be a family is recognized? Are these Bible-beaters suddenly going to be kind to people who in life they condemned as being evil sinners? It will be an adjustment period, that's for sure...

My friend recently quit smoking. He took the new drug Chantix. He had to take the drug and continue to smoke for a week in order for it to work, and it was really hard. He had to force himself to smoke, and he would only last a few puffs before snuffing it. The way he described it, the urge to smoke was just...gone. He would go about his routine, and where he normally would have had the urge to smoke, there was just the small space left behind, with no desire to fill it.

I picture hatred, prejudiced, fear and bias to be somewhat like an addiction. It's a habit that humans get into in life. They hear the comments as children, learn where and how to respond, and suddenly the hatred is growing in their heart. See gay person, insert comment or feeling here. See Mexican immigrant, repeat. What if, upon entering Heaven, such people encountered the objects of their fear or hatred, and just...went blank. The urge to hate would be gone. They may remember that there is something about this person that used to invoke a response, but the response would just not be there. It would take time getting used to, of course. People are going to have to get to know themselves all over again minus all of that anger and negativity, but it will be a nice journey for them.

I guess in Heaven, the mark of a really good person will be how much you as an Angel are like you used to be on Earth.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"And Now for Something Completely Different"

My friend Emily took a day off from confronting her ghosts ( to post on a issue near and dear to both of our hearts: breastfeeding. We have both breastfed two children, and both just finished--me for probably the last time (unless my IUD stops working). Her post draws to our attention the recent comments by Bill Maher about public breastfeeding, and since I hadn't seen it, I pulled up Youtube, prepared to be shocked and offended. The problem is, Bill Maher made me laugh.

Don't get me wrong: I LOVE nursing. I am a Pediatric nurse, a trained doula, a certified breastfeeding support RN, and a two-time milk-slinging Mamma. I think just about everyone should do it. Everywhere. But I always covered up (with my clothes and my baby). I don't think it's too much to ask: I wouldn't want to see someone completely open in public either, and it seems to me that these are the women that get this kind of negative feedback, as no one ever said anything to me about nursing in public. And I nursed everywhere. In fact, when I asked my waiters or waitresses if it was OK, in order to be sensitive, they always said "Of course!" The woman in Applebees wasn't asked to stop, she was just asked to cover up more. I never put a blanket over my children's head (as we all know it would have stayed there for about 3 seconds) and I was always covered. Were I to expose myself, I would have needed to do it deliberately, or just not taken the final step of pulling my shirt back down so that the top of my breast wasn't exposed. "Lazy" might be a strong word, but the extra effort required is rather small...

Now, instead of arguing with Bill Maher over complaining about this, we need to complain when we are forced to stare gratuitously at people's bodies in other contexts as well, like in commercials or television shows, where a human isn't being fed. Actresses today think they need to dress and act like whores to get public approval, and they are absolutely rewarded for it. I want my children to have role models who cover more than 1/4 of their body in clothing, and who aren't one bottle of Vicodin away from another pantie-less photo. And in the world right around me, I want to stop seeing men urinating on the side of buildings. I want to stop seeing people's thongs and plunging cleavage. I want to be able to go to a movie theater and not have to deal with the Nasty couple with no other place to go but a 3 hour movie to get it on (Who knew that being a Tolkien fan could expose you to such torture?).

I support breastfeeding 110% when it is not contraindicated (HIV+ women, and women who use cocaine or other dangerous drugs that cross the blood-milk barrier should not breastfeed), but I also support civility, and to me, public exposure is public exposure (keep in mind, though, I am the person who has her naked 4 year old pee on the front lawn in the summertime rather than take a wet kid in the house. When that's not cute anymore, it will stop).

Please nurse your babies. Please don't let this dialogue dissuade you from public breastfeeding: it is much easier to be discreet than it sounds!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Scenario #2 Individual vs. Community

Here is another situation I have been pondering...

A child is very angry with her father. He and her mother separated long ago, and he was never there for his daughter. Perhaps he struggled with mental illness, addiction, or other issues that made his daughter write him off for good. She grows up to have a very fulfilling life without him. He regrets his actions until the day he dies, wishing that he had been more a part of her life. He dreams of being able to make it up to her, and be the father he's always wanted to be, and that she has always deserved.

When his daughter dies, what will their relationship be in Heaven? He may want to fulfill his father fantasy, but what about what she wants? The easy answer is she would want to be his daughter again, but would she? Would you? Do we change who we are just because we are in Heaven?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What in Heaven's Name am I Doing?

I have started this blog to get feedback on some ideas I have to write a story. For those of you who know me, my creative streak has been stalled too long by teething babies, pre school drama, and temper tantrums. For those of you who don't, I am a mid 30 year old, stay home Mother of 2 children under the age of 5, and a part-time Pediatric nurse. I have always been a writer of some form or another, but never stories.

I must give credit where credit is due: my courageous friend Emily has been captivating me with her blog (, in preparation for writing her family story, and she has inspired me to look at what stories I might have to tell. Surprisingly, there are some! And I am going to try my best to dodge working evening shift, playdates, ADLs (that's Activities of Daily Living for you non-nursing folk) and the general black-hole of attention seeking that are my children in order to tell them. I would like to use this blog to get your feedback on some tricky Philosophical questions that I have been musing in order to set the stage for this tale...

The story is about an Angel , and it takes place in Heaven. (I don't think that there have been too many stories starring Angels that I am aware of, but please enlighten me if you know of any!) I find that Heaven is a place that most people have a simple concept of, but don't really think about. The idea of Heaven is so ingrained in our society and our psyche, whether or not we believe it is an actual place. We labels things "heavenly," we may believe that our actions will or will not send us to Heaven, and often decide whether we feel specific people deserve to be there or burning in Hell (I've got my list..).

Let me disclose here that I am a Unitarian Universalist, which is a non-denominational Church, and therefore I tend to have a very broad definition of spirituality that leaves little room for specific religious teachings or dogma. I know some of you have been raised with the Churches idea of what gets us into Heaven or Hell, some of you are Jewish, with the belief that there is no Heaven apart from Earth, and many of my more cynical friends are atheistic or agnostic. For the purpose of this exercise, please try to let go of any non-belief in Heaven as a reality, and imagine it as a philosophical concept instead. (Try substituting with "Paradise" to see if it removes some of the religious overtones)

I would like to know what you think Heaven is like. How does it function? Is it an individualistic place, or a community? If it is communal, how can everyone have their ideal afterlife, if two people have conflicting desires? (Personally, I find that being alone is the definition of Hell, and therefore I am working off of a Heaven-as-Community Model). I also see Heaven as being somewhat of an imitation of life, seeing as how people often think of the things that they will be able to do in the afterlife (walk again, see again, experience life with no pain, eat whatever they want and never gain weight, have sex with _____, perfect their golf swing, you name it)

I tried to share some of my ideas with a person (who oddly enough has a Masters in Divinity from Harvard, and he had a very hard time with my questions, but that's another story...), and I gave him an example of the kinds of Philosophical questions I have been asking myself about a communal Heaven:

In the afterlife, do people always win?

Let me explain:
You are a quadriplegic in life, and you have just died. In Heaven, would you not, then, be looking forward to shedding your wheelchair and running your pants off? In order for you to win a race, others have to lose, right? Otherwise, your Victory is empty. Who wants to be patronized after waiting for so many years to run like the wind?! I think, the feeling of winning is only "heavenly" when it is deserved. (the person I posed this too gruffly stated "I think everyone wins in Heaven" before leaving the conversation) But, although that is a nice, tree-hugging-kumbaya-socialist things to say (which that guy is! And no offense to tree-huggers...I have been known to even kiss a few), but is it true? I know if I were in a race where I was sure to win, every time, just like the person to my left and right, I would get bored of that VERY quickly.

So, then, if we sometimes lose in Heaven, what makes it Paradise? Is the difference in how we respond to losing? I mean, when WE win, wouldn't it be ideal to have your peers, who you have just bested, slapping you on the proverbial back in admiration? As opposed to them glowering, accusing you of cheating, screaming at the referee, or mentally doubling their order of steroids in order to get even? In a heavenly state, do we just chalk up losing as necessary means to a glorious end when it is our turn to win?

So please, take all the time you need and share your thoughts. I am hoping that the feedback provokes other threads we can collectively ponder. It should go without saying, but please refrain from simple, base one-liners that go something like, "Heaven is a never-ending cold beer*." Because in all honesty, I think that anything that you would do for an eternity would be Hell after a while.

* The answer from the Harvard Divinity Graduate. No joke.