Category Archives: guilt

The Pain of Separation

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When Adam and I first separated, I heard over and over again, “Kids are resilient.  They’ll get over this.  It’s really not a big deal.”  This is a “truth” that doesn’t feel fully true to me.  One day in the beginning months of the separation, I wrote this letter to Adam.  This is the raw pain of separation.  The parts most of us hide when we are suffering.  The parts that are uncomfortable to share.  This was the truth of what I was witnessing within myself and within my children.
*Please note that although the separation was mutual, the mutuality of it did not negate the pain and suffering, the anger and blame, and the heavy darkness that accompanied it.

Dear, Adam,

Mornings are the hardest.  I wake up before I should, always with a deep emptiness that something so vital is gone and missing.  Every morning I’m hit with the reality that I have to suffer again.  Each night I realize I survived another day and I have the love of my boys surrounding me.  But mornings are different.  Mornings are the moments when I dream of drowning.  When I will my eyes not to open.  And beg my heart to stop its bleeding.  Mornings are filled with anger, resentment, hopelessness, tears, and the deepest of heartaches.  Mornings are when I wake up to the realization that part of me has died and continues to die.  Mornings are pain.  This morning I woke up at 430 and dove in to my new best friend, Journal, after a bit of meditation and I just felt that I needed to share this moment.

As much as I desire to shut off my mind, the deep pit of my stomach that is tied in a million little knots, seems to believe that it has a mind of its own.  And I feel as though I have no control over my body.  13 pounds lighter because I literally cannot swallow without gagging.  This pain is all consuming.  Leaving me sleepless, starving and walking through life as though my soul no longer exists.  The only time I’m alive is when my boys are with me.  And I’m with them.  When I am with them, we are what’s left of a family.  We are here reassembling our shattered world.  Together we are violently sweeping the pieces of our hearts back in to a less fractured mess.  We are each other’s healers.  
IMG_2047Last night I cradled our youngest who has suffered at the hands of adults too many times in his life.  Who is feeling this abandonment as deep as his soul.  After speaking with you the second time, he was a limp puddle of wailing tears (recall the sounds of the boys when we buried Shadow and you will know the depth of pain that filled this house [no longer home] curled up in the lap of his mom.  I sat there soothing him with empty words because words cannot bring his daddy back.  Words cannot keep his mom from leaving him in a few days.  Words and hugs cannot make this better.  And he knows that.  He knows that he is in pain and that he doesn’t like the choice that is once again being made for him.  It is NOT the best choice for his life and there is no convincing him of that.  I sat there truly wishing that I could take it all away.  That I could carry his sadness for him but the only power I have is to share it with him.  To hold him in his despair.  To keep telling him that he is safe and he is loved.  I felt helpless and his pain was so visceral and haunting.  
Followed by that I sat with one boy who is completely avoiding and covering his feelings, as the only way he’s ever dealt with any heartache.  The only way to bridge the gap with him is to mostly focus on surface things and really spend time trying to dig just a little deeper.  When you dig a little deeper you realize he’s scared to death.  I slept with him in my bed last night and he thrashed all night with nightmares.  Yelling, punching, and screaming.  His brain processes his pain at night.  His subconscious cannot hide.  I finally pulled him toward me and he latched on as though his entire world was falling away from him.  
Another boy who drew on the feelings board that he would like the two of us to tell a few more people that he’s gay.  AIMG_2045 few people in his class.  When I tell him that his teacher already knows he starts wailing too.  And he wants to become angry with me as though I had something to do with all of this.  He wants to hit me and then I hug him and he too melts in to my body begging for me to heal him.  I pull him close to my breasts because that’s all I know to do.  And I can feel the pain radiating between the two of us.  Like hot coals burning through our chests.  We are so broken.  And we want answers.  He falls asleep beside me and I break because I know that you cannot comfort him the way that I can because your bond is not the same.  It’s different with him.  He has always favored me.  And I become scornful that I would be required to be away from him at all.  That I will be walking away from him in his darkest hours.  How can this be okay?!?
IMG_2048Finally, I sit with the oldest who is doing just what us oldests do.  He’s trying to keep his shit together and pretend it doesn’t hurt but then when you ask him to draw out what he’s feeling it’s so clear that he’s lost and in just as much pain as the next person.  He’s holding on to the wish that mom and dad are actually on a timeout and this is temporary and I can’t answer that for him because nothing makes sense to me.  And I see him pulling away because to be here is too painful, too confusing, too disappointing.  He, too, has been left behind before and this place feels scary. His parents are letting him down and trying to cover the pain with happiness and lies that this is all okay.  He knows that these are lies.  He no longer trusts but he holds on to the hope that they are going to figure it out and his life will return to normal.  Until then he seeks and seeks ways to make it better.  And every day, many times a day, he asks me when I’m leaving again.  And I have to answer as though leaving is a choice I’m making and the truth is I am as voiceless as he.  
Here we are, this partial family, sitting at the dinner table talking about when daddy will be here for dinner.   And the boys want to make it something super special.  They talk about dressing up and serving dinner.  They vote on a baked potato bar.  They are excited that all 6 of us will be together.  And I understand why they want this.  Because I, too, find myself fighting back this need to impress.  To make myself worthy of their daddy’s love.  I, too, find myself wanting the house to be perfect, the dinner to be perfect, me to be smashing and in my best form.  I, too, want to believe that this family can be restored and deserves nothing short of restoration.  And so I sit there listening to all their wants and letting them take control of Thursday night because I don’t have it in me to do anything but watch them dream.  It doesn’t matter what I say or how much I laugh and smile with them….they carry a level of fear.  They carry a level of burden.  They, too, blame themselves and don’t know how to express this.  They don’t know what to do with their pain.  They don’t know who they can trust to tell.  They don’t know who they can trust.  Period.  Their lives have been disrupted and that’s that.  I know this because I have been them.  And I see in them what I know to be true in me.  
So for now, I keep telling them all the beautiful things about their daddy. I swallow my pain in their awake hours but I also share with them that I’m sad too.  I do all I know to do to help them transition.  I play.  I listen.  I nurse the pain.  I hug.  I soothe. But on Tuesday morning I will have to hug them goodbye again and I will have to walk away from their lives and I will break all over again.  They will break all over again.  I will walk away still believing this is not right.  This is not okay.  This is shit!  I feel that this is an injustice to a really beautiful family.  We were a beautiful family, Adam, and so I cannot understand this moment in which we find ourselves.  
Love and Peace,

Amy

Mining For Mom

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Mom, where are you?  You’re missing.  Are you in there?  This isn’t like you.  Where’s our mom?  The one who is always going a million miles a minute.  The one who ensures we are eating our fruits and veggies.  The one who checks our rooms and chore list to make sure we’ve completed them adequately.  Where’s the nag?  Where is she?  What have you done with her?  Where’s the mom who makes us play outside and get exercise?  The mom who always has a plan or a fun outing.  A demand for our time.  The mom who asks us to get dressed in the morning and gets dressed herself.  Where is she and what have you done to her?

Was she kidnapped?  Freaky Friday’d?  Brain Swapped?  Alien Invaded?

Nope.  This mom has been SummerTimed and Minecrafted.

IMG_1530Summer break started on Monday and the very first day of break I caved and purchased Minecraft.  Since that moment we’ve been sitting around in our underwear, eating easy foods, and frying our brains with the play of multiple electronic devices all at once.  For hours and hours at a time.  Killing off our brain cells.  One complex cell at a time…fried.

Do I have mom guilt?  No, not really.  Mom guilt is highly overrated anyhow.

This is not normal for our family.  We are usually so far upside down in activities (think three months of 3 different baseball teams) and appointments (OTs, PTs, Therapists, Neurospecialists, blah blah blah) that we barely find time to just be irresponsible.  To enjoy the not-so-good for us activities that can be so much fun and oddly bonding.

I felt a twinge of guilt on day two of mining, crafting, and creeper hunting but quickly put that guilt to rest by having the boys take a 30 minute break to write a story about Minecraft (see I’m using Minecraft to encourage their writing abilities).

Day three I upped my mom game a little more and made chore lists and reading/writing requirements to be met before each hour of screen time.  The boys were so anxious to get back to their games that I swear I traded in my filth-producing rascals for four speedy, cleaning superstars!  Not to mention that Minecraft has provided me with some super awesome consequence ammo.  Every one is on his best behavior because he wants to keep his screen time.

Minecraft Pirate Ship

Minecraft Pirate Ship (Photo credit: JimmyJett)

It’s Day four and it’s a little cold and rainy today.  I’m also without a car.  These are my excuses for the zombies I’m willingly creating and co-habitating with.

The fact that I’m now at the point where I’m making excuses lets me know that our mining and crafting days are about to cease.  Mom is about to return.  And in full mom force.  Time to fish my clothes out of the closet and retire the cozy PJs.  Time to ask the boys to bathe.  Time to pull out a summer itinerary filled with real-life activities and real-life human beings.  And time to put Minecraft back in it’s pre-addicted place.

Limited and Earned.

May the sun and fun-filled days of summer find all of you zombie and creeper parents out there.  Happy Living.

Every Win is Deserving

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As parents I think it’s very important to celebrate the tiniest of successes.  We too often spend our quiet moments rehashing all the ways we’ve failed our kids or the many ways our kids are not measuring up. We find ourselves in the negative space of mommy guilt that is lightyears from a truthful voice of reason.  It’s time we reject the adverse voices and instead beat the drums of triumphs. Even if that drum is mouse-sized and hardly audible.

In the spirit of finding my positive zen, I am letting go of misplaced mommy guilt.  I am a damn good mom even if every moment is not fairytales and roses.  Even if some days are epic fails.  Even if I can’t always see that truth through the messy house, the fighting kids, the crapping dog, the unemployed husband and my own crazy madness.

But today I can see.  The successes are always there.  Whether or not they are elevated is my choice.

Drums to Beat:

Boy #1:
Yesterday was the agonizing IEP meeting and with new teachers, a new school, and even new state requirements I have to admit I was more than dreading this appointment.  When you raise special needs children you deal with a lot of disappointments and you have to fight to get your child’s needs met way too often.  There’s a lot of dead end roads.  So even though this triumph cannot be owned by him it is very positive progress and definitely a win.  In this case we celebrate the fantastic staff who see my son for all of his possibilities instead of all of his downfalls.  We celebrate the fact that there are people who are already working with him and developing plans to help him succeed.  We celebrate the awesomeness of our new state and the fact that they are providing all of the tools he needs (no out of pocket expense to us!).  Every headphone, ball chair, fidget, pencil…Covered!  And they were already on top of his state testing so he has one-on-one testing next week and can use all his manipulatives (including calculator) for the math section of his test.  So while the success was not by his own doing we still celebrate because he has a team of people leading him to a plethora of future successes!

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Boy #2:

This child is a math whiz.  It’s insane the way he can manipulate numbers and make sense of anything numerical.  But reading has been another story (haha see what I did there?). It has been a struggle and this is not a child who appreciates a struggle.  Enter a move to a new reading class and 3 weeks later we are celebrating the click.  Reading finally clicked!  He is now devouring books and has a whole new confidence.  Woot Woot!!!!

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Boy #3:

His successes are harder to measure.  By the world’s standard he’s highly successful.  He’s smart, reading is easy, math makes sense, he’s athletic, people like him, yada yada.  But I don’t want to measure success that way.  What makes us successful is so much deeper than what can be measured.  I want to celebrate the moments that he lets me in to that closed up world of his.  So this week I’m screaming YAHOO at this picture taken while sledding over the weekend.  I know he let his guard down a little bit when he posed for this shot and that is worth millions more than any success proved by a piece of paper or standard.

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Boy #4:

Another one of our boys very close to needing the services of a special-ed team.  Kinder started off pretty rough and he had a hard time adjusting to a full day of working on the ABCs, numbers, friendships, art…you know, all the expectations of being 6!  Mad amounts of praise for him as he hasn’t given up and this week he actually made huge progress with the recognition of alphabetical sounds and his snap words!  Way to go!

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We are far from perfect but perfect would be uninteresting and pointless and leave us nothing worth celebrating. So here’s to the failures and successes that make each of us and each of our triumphs mad props worthy!

What Christianity Taught Me About Being A Woman

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This post is about what Christianity taught ME about being a woman, life and MY sexuality.  I understand that not all christian women feel this way but this was my journey.

I have never spent so much time questioning what it means to be a woman.  The definition and role of woman has been taught to me in my christian upbringing and just as I did with the belief of JC, son of God, I never questioned it…I just did the “right” thing in the eyes of God and the eyes of my peers and leaders.

Since becoming an atheist I often question whether I believe religion is harmful and worth fighting or if it’s best if we all just agree to disagree.  While I don’t think most forms of christianity are intentionally harmful to young women and adult women alike I do think the patriarchal teachings inherently affect women’s identities with their sexuality, roles, ideas, etc.  My own personal beliefs over the past 30 years have had a definitive role in my marriage, self esteem, and inhibitions and I’ve spent the last year trying to break free of some very damaging leftovers and trying to renegotiate what it means to be a woman.  I don’t believe there is one standard definition…as always there are varying shades of grey with which to define woman. Without remaining in the confines of the religious definition and without conforming to the completely secular and cultural definition I end up creating what I want my personal definition to be and that’s complicated.

Christianity (or my interpretation of christianity) taught me:

My virginity was sacred for my future husband.  It wasn’t about the enjoyment I would get from my first sexual experience.  Rather the focus was not being flawed or dirtied for my husband.  So I had a virginity ring that I wore until my wedding night.  And let me tell you a little about my wedding night…for a year prior to our wedding Mark and I turned off all sexual feelings for each other and withheld from anything other than kissing so we could honor God and our marriage bed would be absolutely pure (although Mark had already lost his virginity…a common double standard).  The purity of the marriage bed mostly relies on the virgin female.  Needless to say the “deed” happened and Mark proclaimed “You are not a virgin anymore!” to which I curled up in a ball on the floor and cried tears of shame and regret.  In fact I had so much shame (even though I did everything “right”) that I canceled breakfast with my family the next morning because I couldn’t look anybody in the eye knowing that they knew I was no longer a virgin.  I wish I could rewind time and celebrate the joy of sex for myself and find enjoyment in the act of having sex for the first time.

Christianity taught me to suppress my sexual urges and curiosity.  Each time I experimented sexually with a boy whether it be kissing or touching I was riddled with guilt and shame.  I felt there was something wrong with me that I desired these feelings.   I had to hide what I was doing and repent frequently.  Suppression taught me to be disingenuine with people.  To hide a part of me.  It affected the first years of my marriage as I had spent so much time fighting my sexual urges and suppressing them that I didn’t know how to turn them back on.  I didn’t know how to enjoy my sexuality without the guilt associated with it.

Christianity taught me that if a man lusted after me I did something to cause his sin.  This was difficult as a young woman who developed large breasts by age 14 and found them hard to always cover up.  I felt guilty and dirty for ever causing a man to lust.  Even though my intentions were not to bring attention to myself.  Today I try to celebrate the beauty of having a large bustline and show them off for my husband but I still find myself mostly trying to cover them up for fear I will cause another man to stumble or another woman to judge me.

Christianity taught me that my body was dirty and sexual topics are all taboo.  Sex Ed was unheard of in my private school and in fact I remember that being a hot topic about public schools.  Parents didn’t like it.  I knew so little about my body and sex going in to marriage that I still didn’t know how I could get pregnant.  I remember being afraid of sitting on a toilet seat that might have sperm on it and I would get pregnant (I don’t know why I ever thought there’d be sperm on a toilet seat but that’s another topic!).  I didn’t know how to use a condom or birth control.  I knew very little about STDs and still know very little about STDs.  I couldn’t tell you what my vagina looked like or the various external parts to it.  I couldn’t tell you how I liked to be touched because masturbation was a sinful act.  I can vividly remember the few times I read a steamy book or saw a porn film on cable t.v. to which I masturbated and I vomited afterward thinking I was such a horrible person.  It’s taken me nearly 15 years but I can finally say that I actually see beauty in masturbation and there is no longer any shame in that word or the act.

Christianity taught me that tattoos defile the temple (our bodies) and God has asked us to keep our temples pure.  I recall looking down at any person who chose to ink their bodies.  Today I find tattoos sexy and liberating and in fact getting a tattoo on my back was my first stance against my religious beliefs (that or voting for a Obama, a democrat!).  What liberation!

Christianity taught me to judge others.  Girls who “caused” men to lust or slept with guys were all sluts.  I tried to stay far away from them as their sin might be contagious.  Women who worked outside the home and focused on their careers were not following God’s plan for a spiritual wife.  Homosexuals were acting in sin and needed to repent or pray the gay out.  Smokers were addicts in need of God.  Porn watching husbands were guilty of affairs (Matthew 5:28).  Churches that had women as leaders were not really biblical and should not be attended.  People who didn’t tithe were not genuine christians.  Women who had abortions were murderers.  Evolution believers were employed by Satan.  People who practiced yoga were open to demonic forces.  Those who had not been baptized were not able to go to heaven.  Everything was black and white.  Everything!  It was such a high standard to have to maintain and anybody who was failing was up for judgement including myself.

Christianity taught me that a man is the head of the house.  All final decisions are made by the man.  If we are in disagreement he gets the final say.  This left me often feeling I was without a voice.  Resentment.

Christianity taught me that spanking my children was an active and positive form of discipline.  In fact I was a big advocate of Growing Kids Gods Way and now I hate the practices of those teachings.  It robs children of any choice.  It teaches a patriarchal dictatorship and that is no way to parent children.  I spanked often not as a last resort but as an only choice of discipline.  I refuse to spank my  boys now.  There are many effective ways to discipline and the tools given to us by Love and Logic are fabulous for both christian and secular families alike.

Christianity taught me that science was evil.  I went to public junior high school for a whole 4 days.  On day 4 they taught us about the Big Bang Theory.  Day 5 I found myself back in christian school.  I shunned science so much that even in college I missed great opportunities to learn about evolution.  Hell, I have a degree in animal science and I left college with zero knowledge of evolution because I dismissed it as evil.

Christianity taught me that sex was the right and enjoyment of my husband.  It did not teach me that sex is equally as enjoyable for me and that there’s lots of fun variables to sex.  I believed that if a man had an affair it’s because his wife was withholding sex.  It usually boiled down to her fault for getting fat or saying no to sex or to being boring in bed.  But on the flipside experimenting with my husband was always scary and I often wondered what God was thinking.  It was never just me and Mark.  It was always me, Mark and God.  Creepy.  I’m thankful I have lots of years left for fun in the sack with just me and Mark this time around!!!!!

Christianity taught me to be a one issue voter.  If the candidate supported abortion then he’s out.  If the candidate supported gay rights…no way!  But if the candidate says He loves Jesus Christ…he’s clearly meant for the position.

Christianity taught me that my husband was to be my spiritual leader.  He was to lead me in prayer, devotions, and he was responsible for the spirituality of our children.  This was one of the most frightening things to me when Mark announced he was no longer a christian.  I feared not having a spiritual leader in our home and I was used to being shepherded.  I have since learned how empowering it is to rely strictly on myself for my spiritual needs.  It is my responsibility to meditate, to run, to calm my mind and body.  What a relief to not rely on another person for such a deep part of my life.

Being a christian woman taught me disdain for the feminist movement.  Feminists, in my opinion, were responsible for the breakdown of families.  They clearly didn’t understand their role in the family and were putting men in positions that challenged their maleness.  They promoted female sexuality, women in the workplaces, equal rights, abortion, the ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ mentality.  All that seemed contrary to biblical teachings.  Now I would call myself a feminist in the making and I’m astonished at how negative my viewpoint of my own gender has been.  That is rapidly changing and I’m becoming empowered as a female.  I’m fortunate to have a very feminist husband by my side 🙂

I was taught that a woman is soft spoken.  The pride of her husband.  Worth more than rubies.  (All over the book of Proverbs).  But only if she was just right.  I have always had a foul mouth and have been direct with my words.  The difference is I now recognize that a foul mouth and stating my opinion do not make me less worthy.  They do not make me less of a wife or less of a woman.  They are not my sinful nature that need praying out.  They are simply me.  So I still swear and I still am often bold with what I share but I no longer feel shame or the need to seek forgiveness for what I once considered flaws.

Christianity taught me to be an elitist.  I don’t know where this came from as Jesus is very intent on teaching us to help the poor but somewhere along the line I, along with the entire republican party, starting living by the motto that God only wants us to help those who help themselves.  I lost sight of the fact that so many people are not able to help themselves.  I looked down on addicts, alcoholics, homeless, teen or single moms.  They made bad choices and that’s between God and them.  I will help those who lost a spouse or are just having a few bad months.  I became the judge and jury.  Not only was I elite in who I was better than but I was elite in the sense that I had the ONE true God and all others were fools or evil.  You don’t get any more elitist than that.  Today I no longer believe in borders or the American, Christian dream.  I no longer think you need to believe like me.  I no longer believe that some of us deserve heaven and some hell.  I think we are all on equal ground.  The rich.  The poor.  The educated and uneducated.  The christian and areligious.

Christianity taught me to view the world in right and wrong.  There was no middle ground.  Either God commanded it or He didn’t.  Premarital sex, drugs (although I’m not sure where the Bible talks about that), gossip, vanity, thought crimes, stealing, homosexuality, science, lusting: all wrong.  Praying, serving, attending church, tithing, proselytizing, taxes, spanking: all right.  It taught me to not think. It taught me to stifle doubt and to remove questioning.  Today I am an absolute skeptic.  I challenge everything and process everything presented to me and determine what makes the most sense.  Not all things are black and white.  In fact very few things are outside of grey.

Christianity taught me to hide my thoughts.  Not only to hide them but to shun them.  I find the female body to be extremely sexy.  In fact I’d say that it is far sexier than the male body.  I have feared any feelings of arousal I’ve ever experienced when viewing a naked woman or a very attractive clothed woman.  I have no desire to ever be with a woman sexually but I can certainly be stimulated by an attractive female.  Admitting that does not make me gay or any other label one would want to slap on me.  It simply means that I can admit that breasts are beautiful.  Ask any gay man and he will still tell you that the female body is gorgeous.  It’s art really.  I’m tired of hiding that reality for fear of judgement.

Above all else christianity taught me fear and shame.  I feared every misstep that I took.  I feared and found shame in my humanity.  I feared that God was shaking His head at that defiant and clearly christian challenged human named Amy.  I feared hell.  I feared failure.  I feared sexuality.  I feared pleasure.  I feared “sin”.  I feared God which ultimately made me a great christian.
Today I’m still breaking free from the christian bondage that formed so much of who I am today.  And with each challenge I give myself I find immense freedom.  Today I may still be a slightly damaged woman.  A woman damaged by the grips of religious indoctrination but tomorrow I trust that a near liberated woman will emerge and will experience the true existence of being female.  What an honor.

I’m Sinless

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Part of this journey out of christianity has been to redefine my definition of good and bad.  Moral and Immoral.  Right and Wrong.  For 30 years an imaginary being, a book of myths, and a make-believe, eternal destination defined those values for me.  I lived in a sinful mind and body and was in need of seeking forgiveness daily.  I lived in fear of hell not only for myself but for those other “sinful” people I judged around me.

Today I’m finally starting to get it.  I’m starting to see that I’m without sin.  I am with responsibility and am capable of suffering consequences but a bad decision is not sin and it may not even be bad.  It’s simply a decision that I must accept as wise or unwise and enjoy or suffer the outcome of that decision.  I can no longer rely on a god to absolve me of that wrong decision or shower blessings on me for that good decision.  It’s all on me.  I am responsible.  I will pay the price or reap the rewards.

So I’m learning.  I’m learning that I am definitely good without god.  I can let go of any guilt I’ve had over ways I have failed god and earned hell.  I can decide what I ultimately think is good for my life and bad for my life.  I don’t have to live by a list of do and do nots.  I can evaluate each situation for what it is and make rational, logical decisions.

As a christian I sometimes felt guilty for drinking, dancing, going to a sex shop with my husband, gossiping, trying a cigarette, kissing too many boys in high school, going to second base with a boy who was a leader in our chapels (he eventually broke up with me for this reason), saying swear words, not submitting to my husband, being annoyed with my kids when they were god’s gift to me, missing church, falling asleep during prayer, eating too much, wearing too short of skirt or too revealing of a top, tattoos, telling a white lie, empathizing with homosexuals, voting for Obama, etc etc etc.
I was constantly seeking forgiveness for these infractions.  A sadistic cycle of sin, feel guilt, seek forgiveness.  Sin, guilt, forgiveness.  Sin, guilt, forgiveness.

Today I can judge for myself.
Do I drink?  Yes, in moderation.  If I drink too much I suffer the consequences.  It’s not a moral decision.
Do I go to sex shops with Mark?  Yes.  And I no longer feel guilty about it.  Instead I can see that we have a deep physical connection and that is a gift.
Do I swear?  Hell to the fuck yeah I do!  I always have.  I’m just no longer going to spend eternity in hell for these great sentence enhancers.
Do I have tattoos?  Yes and they are extremely liberating for me.
Do I think smoking, dancing, sex before marriage,  white lies, bikinis, overeating are worth feeling guilt over.  No, absolutely not.  Do I think there may be consequences to some of these choices?  Yes, of course.  But I’m not going to label someone as bad or immoral for choosing to do them. As far as the larger morality issues such as affairs, murder, theft, drunk 
ChurchMoralsdriving, rape, child molestation and so on, I think the societal and personal consequences for those choices make them bad. Those decisions that intentionally and maliciously hurt other people.    Decisions that I would not want to suffer consequences for.  Hey unless you are the catholic church…in that case go ahead and molest kids, lie, abandon orphans,steal babies, crusade.  You can just ask for forgiveness and it’s all absolved and you are given a new, clean slate to dirty up.  No worries.  No consequences.  Heaven is still yours.  I couldn’t resist a knock against the catholic church…it’s just too easy.

I still have a long way to go until I completely understand how to define my morality.  I think it’s always changing as each situation is unique and can’t be boxed in to easy right and wrong categories.  And each individual may have a slightly different interpretation of their own morality which doesn’t make that individual bad or immoral.  Just different from me.  I’m learning that just because someone or some law says something is wrong does not make it wrong.  It’s up to me to reason and logically decide if it’s good or bad for me.  And this makes my goodness more genuine.   Goodness is my choice not a set of rules dictated to me.
And so the moral defining journey continues.  I’m still trying to figure out my take on strip clubs, pornography, topless pools, anger, gender roles, foreclosures, marijuana, abortions, fighting religion, and white lies.
But for now it’s good to know that I’m sinless.  I’m not bad.  In fact I am good.  And I’m not in need of salvation or forgiveness.
I’m free to live, to fail, to succeed, to learn, to define.  I am free of the fear of eternal consequences.