With attempted humility, I attend church again; a small Catholic one which, on occasion, has a special Latin Trident Mass. Only the youngest granddaughter goes with me. With incense and singing the beautiful Kyrie Eleison and Gloria in Excelsis Deo, I have my Notre Dame roots and her an introduction to spiritual, mystical, joy. The Church no longer dwells on the terrors of an imaginary hell. Dante’s been put to rest. My granddaughter is exposed to the inspirational positive and escapes the terrifying negative.
The church has baroque statutes of The Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene and their metal racks of flickering candles in colored glass cups. Like Mom, we light our candles, she before the Blessed Virgin Mary. I kneel, cross myself and light a red candle in front of Mary Magdalene's statue and accompany it with prayers. I pray my granddaughter, a statue over, has a life as fortunate as mine but without a secret puppet shadow. I then toss in a Hail Mary for each family member and special ones for Julie, my father in law and for a long-ago Burma girl I never met. I sincerely hope someone or thing hears my pleas.
Walking in the path of humility has brought me closer to all, especially those I love most. Please don’t think my tale is an attempt to proselytize or seek approbation. I’m still learning how to live my life and accept my errors. How can I tell another how to live theirs? I know not what cards you’ve been dealt, your fated experiences, the era and places you traveled through. I suggest humility but that’s up to you. Many a great leader is guilty of pride. As Francis, the Pope said.
“Who am I to say”?
Who or what is God? What happens on death? Where did we spring from? Where do we go?
How can I know what is unknowable? The greatest minds differ and always have. They don’t know the meaning of it all, even if they proclaim, they do. Yet in their search for spiritual answers, they do, at times, stumble on truths validated by subsequent science. Theologians agree, God know all or as the Koran says, “It is written.” Einstein’s space/time theory of relativity agrees. If so, my story was written at the instant of the big bang, predetermined like my life, even if an infinitesimally minute flicker in it all.
Am I religious? Some say as science advances religion retreats. To me, it's the opposite. The more we know the more complicated it is. We only learn there’s vastly more we don’t know. Now they say most of the universe is made up of dark matter and energy we can’t even detect. As science’s progresses, the majesty of God expands and God becomes more incomprehensible. God is much greater and more magnificent than the one I was told originally. Science instead of replacing God makes us ever more dependent on the spiritual. It’s the only way to accept God’s incomprehensible creation.
The three rosaries Gabriel gave as penance, comforted me. A rosary now and then provides peace to past, present and future unease. Mass and Holy Communion spiritually uplift me to a higher realm, even if not understood. I take what I enjoy, skip the rest and condemn none, not even Paul. I don’t know his purpose in the Big Bang. To assume it was for me is prideful. I earnestly pray for humility but question no further. That’s my amorphous belief.
After attending church awhile, a priest asked why I never go to confession. I told him I have a special confessor. He assumed one at a different parish. I no longer need to confess except to myself. I made my final penance. While usually discarding, attire associated with an affair when it ended, I kept jewelry.
To commemorate my secret puppet shadow's retirement I sold it all, an amount which totaled over $50,000, a surprise considering jewelry retail markup. I split it and gave it anonymously to a church poor box and the Salvation Army. I struggled with Edward's but in a true act of contrition threw his in. I only saved the little gold frog, a memento to remind me, what was, was, as sometimes, I think it was all a puppet shadow dream.
Who am I? It's not the question I ask anymore. Who was I? That’s what I sought to answer as I wrote my personal conundrum saga.
Don't judge me harshly. I lived one day at a time. I tried the best I could with who I thought was me, during a different era, even though not so long ago. I’ve learned and accepted it wasn’t my husband's suggested swinging which released my secret puppet shadow. It was my pride’s creation, fornication its expression.
Was I born with a libidinous gene inherited from Dad? Did he wantonly abandon a family in China for lust, lust of white women? Was there a threshold he once crossed and searched thereafter to rediscover, like me?
How about Mom? Why did the shop owner give her sweets? Did she sway in her little sarong and beguile the shopkeeper? With budding puberty, did she have a come-hither smile when entering the store to buy spam and flirt for a sweet? Did she seek to leave a dysfunctional family like me? Was my libidinousness inherited from both?
Of course not. Why seek excuses for behavior I don’t want not to admit guilt to. It was me, only me.
In truth, I loved my secret puppet shadow despite fear she would destroy my life and family. Fear was part of the excitement. Yes, I enjoyed the sex but it was more complicated. It was power, novelty, self-esteem but as Sister Joseph revealed, mostly pride which drove me like an addict, again and again betraying loved ones for pride’s rush. Yes, it was the rush I sought, the rush of the first night I crossed the threshold of Edward's apartment, the rush of pride which I never fully found again. Each affair a diminished high which failed to match the initial crossing but was still crossed over and over again. The rush was pride’s fulfillment even if diminished by repetition.
Our lives are a Balinese puppet shadow, movements seen through an opaque screen with lighted background. Reality behind the screen is what we believe from in front. My shadow, now fades with old age as the light dims and flickers. Soon it will be snuffed out, the whiff of taper smoke my cremation. New shadows, illuminated by the strong light of youth, will replace her to live their generation of puppet shadows. It’s as it has always been. One generation after another, we have our say, then say no more. I hope my offspring enjoy their puppet shadows but don’t have secret ones.
By now you know why I write. It’s pride’s rush of course. I'm still addicted to crossing the long-ago threshold. In old age my secret puppet shadow has only memories to slake pride’s thirst. Humility it seems is not enough.
I will not bore you further. You’ve read what you want to know. I have what I sought; a secret prideful puppet shadow set free and antithetical humility. I need say nor write more.
What you think is, is probably not so, so, take what fits and dismiss the rest. That’s my only advice.
Author Notes: Once again religious, sshe admits she can't tell you what to do when it comes to God.