Family Drama . . .

Is there anything that can throw you off of your game as much as conflict within your own family? That is hard to say.

Still, I’ve realized that I missed the last 2 “Saturday Posts” – and the only reason I did was because of familial drama.

A few months ago I wrote a blog about a letter I sent to my father, hoping to find a path to a neutral resolution to the strain between me and my family. I sent it to my father because he is the person (aside from the fictional character Mr. Spock from Star Trek) who taught me the most about logic and fairness. He is also the oldest living member of my family, so if I could persuade him, it seemed to me that the rest of the family would accept his judgement.

In that letter, I told my dad that I had not supported the Church of Scientology since about a year before my wife and I moved to this area – now 16 years ago. We have no interest in converting anyone to what we believe – yes, my wife believes as I do, and with good reason.

All we wanted from my family was a simple acknowledgement of one thing – that our beliefs were just as valid as theirs. Please stop treating us as pariahs for following a different path. It was based on a comparison of the definitions of 2 words – faith, and opinion. The only realistic difference between the words is that one carries a definite religious overtone.

Well, after I sent the letter to my dad, I waited a month before calling him. He said “I’m still processing it,” about my inquiry of the letter. I told him I felt that it was fair to allow him more time. Three weeks ago I called him again for his response.

He actually begged me not to force a decision. I begged him to realize that, as the family patriarch, he was the only person who could make the decision. He refused to take a stand for neutrality, and by the end of our phone call, I’d been disinherited AND disowned.

I’m a man with no family other than my wife and our cats.

I’m still not sure what this means for my future, but I’m slowly starting to come to grips with my current situation. One thing I’m wondering is if – because of all of this – I need to do a legal name change. Part of me feels that if I’m not part of that family any more, it isn’t ethical to continue to use that family name.

I feel so emotionally screwed up. I can’t sleep the way I should. My stomach is acting like I have an ulcer – which I’ve never had before. I can’t fall asleep without getting drunk on whiskey first, and even when I do sleep, it isn’t restful.

My wife is my anchor, and as much as I lean on her, she’s not big enough to stabilize a passenger cruise ship during a hurricane. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.


Saturday Posts . . .

Today is a day for reflecting on the theme of “Joy”. Because, just last night I learned of the passing of a dear friend to her next level of existence. Based on what she did for me, I’m absolutely certain that she will be awesome in her next life.

As I knew her in this life, everyone I knew called her Edie Fields. I have no idea what her real given name was – perhaps Edith? But one thing I can say for sure about Edie is that she personified having a positive outlook on life. During some of my darkest times while I was a Church of Scientology staff member, she was there to give me the courage to push through barriers and achieve things the St. Louis Org hadn’t seen in over 20 years.

She wasn’t alone in doing that, of course. One of her children, a daughter, and the daughter’s husband at the time I met them, were also huge positive influences in my growth as a person and a person of spiritual awareness.

So, to celebrate Edie’s influence on my life, I’d like to share 2 “joy” related quotes that I like.

“Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

“The bond that links your true family is not of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” – Richard Bach

Another Social Security hearing . . .

Yesterday afternoon, I had another hearing with the Social Security people about the status of my claim for disability benefits.  Some good things resulted – my lawyer reviewed my records again (several times, actually) and has realized that one of the potential weaknesses of my case can be completely explained BY SOMETHING IN THE RECORDS in a way that negates the weakness entirely.

I suppose that is rather vague, and it doesn’t need to be, so I’ll elaborate.  I’ve made no secret on here of the fact that I used to be a staff member of a Church of Scientology – I was an ordained minister and conducted Sunday Services for several years.  Yes, I’ve left the church – but because I had problems with the church, not the collective “scriptures.”  I still have my entire collection of materials that I built up while I was on staff.  I believe that the tech works well, when it is used correctly, and I believe that the church has been deliberately misusing it for years.

My VA medical records reflect that I had my religious preference listed as Scientology, and that is where things start getting interesting for the Social Security case.

One potential weakness to my claim has been that the judge reviewing my medical records has been seeing notes in those records that I’ve been “non cooperative” with medical professionals when they tried to give me certain drugs to treat my migraine headaches.  If the doctor tells me he wants me to try something (let’s say, for example, PROZAC) that I know is usually prescribed for psychiatric cases or has potential hallucinogenic effects, I’ll tell the doctor straight up that I won’t take it.  That is documented in my medical records.

The reason WHY I won’t take it is because I still believe in the Scientology principles, even if I don’t support the church.  Remember a few years ago when Brooke Shields went public with taking psych drugs to treat postpartum depression?  Tom Cruise made a big splash in the media for attacking her over the admission.  I agree with Tom that taking the drugs is a mistake; I disagree with placing public judgement on another for the choices they make regarding them, especially when they don’t share my beliefs.

Anyway, my lawyer feels that whether or not I succeed in my claim for disability looks like it’s coming down to that one issue – the non-compliance with medical advice.  She’s going to raise the issue of religious belief at the next hearing if the questioning goes that direction.

I say “at the next hearing” because yesterday’s hearing was almost literally a non-starter.  It lasted 5 minutes.  The major reason for the hearing was to get the testimony of a medical professional who is being paid to review my treatment records and determine if I am functionally unable to hold a job.  After we convened the hearing and officially went “on the record” – meaning that everything said from that point forward would actually become part of the case records – the judge asked the court secretary to call the doctor (who was scheduled to give his testimony live over the phone).  When she got him on the line, the first thing he said was that he called the judge’s office yesterday and told someone that he never received the disc with my records.  The judge immediately realized that the doctor couldn’t testify about records he hadn’t reviewed, adjourned the hearing, and made a note that we’d (my lawyer and I) get a notice when the hearing is rescheduled.

Because people are asking . . .

Serendipity – gotta love it! Someone else earlier today asked me a similar question (from a one-life-only point of view) and here was my answer to them:

Wow – there’s a loaded question! LOL!

I grew up in the United Methodist Church in Lebo, KS – back in the ’60’s and early 70’s. Then, in 1978, my parents divorced. Both were members of the same church, but this was one of the most bitter, ugly divorces you can imagine. Vicious!

My response to that can be summarized as “If this is how Christians express brotherly love, I’m going to look elsewhere. ”

Still, I didn’t give up on Christianity itself. I passed through many other denominations between 78 and 93. Catholic (never completed catechism), Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Nazarene, and a few more. At some point, there would always be a question I would ask that they either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. When that would happen, the pastor would quietly advise me that it would be better for me to seek the answer somewhere else.

In 1992 I was working at a convenience store (graveyard shifts) in Enid, OK. One night when I was off, I was up watching late-night television, and saw a half-hour infomercial for a type of mental health approach I’d never heard of before. It seemed pretty straight-forward. I called an 1-800 number for more information, but ultimately couldn’t get the book because I didn’t have a credit card. Then, 2 weeks later, I found a copy of the book for sale at a yard sale across the street from where I lived. I bought it.

The book was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. You may have heard of it – it was the book that ultimately led to the creation of the Church of Scientology. I won’t go through the long process of how it happened, but because I was using that book on my own, I eventually ended up in St. Louis as a staff member delivering Dianetics to the church’s parishioners.

I worked at the church from 12/1994 to 6/2004. During that time, I completed the church’s in-house Minister’s Course and was ordained (8/1995). All of the courses are self-paced study, and I’ve only ever seen one student who was faster on course than I was – and he eventually became the Executive Director of that church.

Still, I’m a person who likes rules and structure. When rules exist, are written, and work, I believe they should be followed. Let’s just say that rules were not consistently applied during the time I was on staff in St. Louis. After some efforts at trying to get them more uniformly applied, I became convinced that the problems were systemic not just to that church, but the whole global network.

After much reflection, I’ve decided that my biggest problem with organized religion is – it never encourages “sheep” to grow up to be something more – let’s call it “shepherds”. There is always someone up in the pulpit, and the sheep leave their brains at the door and expect him to tell them what to believe and how they should act. It never crosses their mind to think that someday they should be able to clearly explain their motives to others.

Another big problem with organized religion is that most (even Jews and Muslims) put their leaders in the position of being supported financially by the gifts of their sheep. This gives the shepherds a financial motive to protect his flock against “poaching” by the shepherds of other flocks – us vs. them. The “other flocks” become evil bad guys who must be resisted and their ways are demonized. No energy is expended on understanding or tolerance, because the pastor would loose part of his standard of living if any of his flock were to choose to cross over to the other group.

But, as I see it, tolerance and understanding (especially between different religions) is the only way we can effectively deal a permanent blow to international/interfaith warfare, suicide bombings, and genocide. Until it becomes accepted, even fashionable, to allow others to practice the faith they choose without any compulsion to exclaim “You’re WRONG” – mankind as a whole will be forever brother-against-brother. National divisions and race divisions are just the same thing wearing a different suit. As Michael Douglas said in the movie “An American President” – something like this: America is about defending to the death the right of someone else to say something I would expend every ounce of my life’s energy fighting against.

Well, I would take it a step farther. America is about helping others to do as they choose, even if their choices are not the ones I would have made or preferred they would make.

– – – – – – –
Having shared that, here is a more specific reply to your questions.

What do I think of this world of ours? To be honest, I think things are progressing just as they should. 26,000 years ago, we had a matriarchal society that had as a primary shortcoming the fact that it failed to generate any sense of gender equality. 10,000 years ago, we over-corrected into a patriarchal society, and repressed or forgot all of the good that existed in the former one. Our time on this planet has been a very long-extended school, to teach us how to rejoin with primary source energy. Those few who have made it and remain are here only for the purpose of helping show the way to others, so that eventually all mankind will complete that cycle of learning.

Do I wish for the days gone by, like those in Avalon? Sometimes I find myself feeling very nostalgic for those days. Life was much simpler then, in many good ways. However, most of the time, I prefer today – for I would not have continued to grow to become who I am now were it not for the time that has passed in the interim.

Do I feel that we will return in the year 2012? We don’t need to – we’re here now. If we each do what we can to promote harmony, understanding, cooperation, and good stewardship of our home (mother Gaea) as far and wide as our circle of influence will allow, we can help to make the transition of 2012 as smooth and joyful as possible for the entire human race. And yes, I do believe that humanity is on a count-down to a transitional event of monumental proportions in 2012. Whether it concludes that year, or only begins now and continues beyond then, remains to be seen. Our ability to accept responsibility for the outcome without being unnecessarily attached to any specific outcome will do much to facilitate that change.

Please, stay in touch. Over the next 4 years I will have as much need for counsel as anyone else. This will be a time of chaos and uncertainty for all, to one degree or other.