I want to recall the story of a visit to TN and a HUGE cell phone bill. This was back in the days of my teen years, when Nokia phones were acceptable, and I had to carry like 20 CDs when I went on vacation, because iPods weren’t that hot, and I never asked my dad for an MP3 player until about three years later. (What kind of teenager was I? Never asked for much, stayed at home all the time. smh.)
Anyway, back then, there were roaming charges. UGLY ones. Long story short, not asking questions about why the little phone icon turned into a car symbol once we hit Paris, TN ended up costing my dad about a thousand dollars on his family plan. It was rather unpleasant for a working man who barely hit 60 to end up with thousands on his hand, just because his goofy child just HAD to talk to her puppy love MSN Messenger RP “boyfriend”. (Don’t you judge me, judge! lol! Helped me write some good stories.)
The consequence? Well, first of all he told me right off the bat not to run up the bill, period. No wasting daytime minutes, no endless texts (I had a text limit, and texts were like ten cents per), and for the love of Christmas, limit the long-distance calls. Side note–this MSN “boyfriend” lived in Georgia. Yeah. Long distance+Long phone convos+texts and texts of sickening adoration=big ol’ phone bill.
My Dad, being the reasonable old bear he is actually LET me continue to use my phone. HOWEVER, like a parent and sourpuss Capricorn, he let me know every waking moment that “I have never had a bill be so much before. I just don’t understand it.” He quizzed me everyday, and eventually just gave me one of those phone cards from Sam’s Club. 600 minutes. When I got it, he always had this poopy-face McSourpants look on his face. Still, he let me get them.
Believe me, it was bad enough to be in the conversations, to get the looks, and to eventually end up with T-Mobile, which wasn’t BAD, but way more restrictive until about 2004/2005 when we got some perks for being good customers. But alas, this long story about making big bills and their consequences isn’t even the main story. I was thinking (over-thinking) about a comment one of my aunts made on my Facebook page. I posted a picture of myself the other day while waiting for an event at the SGI Center downtown.
Most people who pay enough attention know I am a Nichiren Buddhist. I stopped being a Christian about 4 years ago, but finally came to terms with the fact about the same time my neighbor approached me about going to a meeting with her. Okay, maybe not at that EXACT moment. But as I began to practice, I was able to conclude that Buddhism was a better fit. Obviously, I sort of worried about how my family would take it. They’re all Christians, except for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. THEY make it a point not to associate with anyone who isn’t. So, it was more my immediate family on both sides.
My mother’s side, to be exact.
When I say they are wrapped up in the church, they are wrapped up in the church. Take my word for it. As my father puts it, “everything your aunts do is in the church”. When he said this, it was months before my practice. HE was trying to convince me to seek their guidance, help, and connections by going to the church and helping out. Maybe I could get a job or something. I kinda blocked every single part of that because…er….I don’t really like churches that much. Telling him that fact would have led to a million questions, so I just nodded and let it ride.
Anyway, there’s already an “in and out circle” within my family for a lot of screwed up reasons. Being a non-Christian sets up an entirely new set of bowling pins. You are opening up a new can of interesting, fer frack’s sake. So, I know the “questions” are coming, but it’s not like I can’t show up to a church or attend an event. I’ve gone to funerals and stuff. I’ve behaved. I didn’t go running up and down the aisles like some kind of heathen, just because my faith has changed. It’s just that with my aunts, things can get really weird fast.
Bless their hearts, they can be abrasive and insulting. They can capitalize the “a” in awkward like nobody’s business. Again, my dad is like “don’t let the next time you see them be at a funeral.” He’s also given me lots of advice about getting over explaining myself, my faith, and why I chose this religion. However, that doesn’t mean it’s just going to be a smooth ride. Even the most confident people have their moments, so you KNOW my shaky ol’ introverted butt is feeling some kind of way.
I take great pride in this Buddhism. So I’m not hiding it at all. There is no shame whatsoever. But it’s different with family. The air of my mother’s side has always been different. She’s not here, and I’m…it. I’m already jobless, bouncing around with natural hair, and I’m a big ol’ sugar-loving bear woman. I’m all the things she wasn’t, and I know they talk. They don’t gossip, but they discuss. If you don’t measure up to their standards, they talk. They’re loving, they’re smart, and they show concern…but they are judgmental. o_o
When I see “nice pic….questions later….” in my comments section, I just….feel it. One aunt relays to all, and all aunts in the “in crowd” discuss how you fell from grace, or how “interesting” it is, or something. It isn’t exactly new, because at least three of my aunts know I am a Buddhist. So if they REALLY wanted to bombard me, they’d probably come over. They’d call. So, what is this defense I’m feeling? I am intelligent enough, strong enough, and tactical enough to ward off their insults, and answer their queries. Besides, this is ONE aunt.
And it’s actually one of the aunts I LIKED a LOT as a kid, because she was funny and wacky. Besides, blood is blood, right? No family is exempt from their quirks and problems. To over-think only makes the problem worse. Is this really a problem, or is it all in my head? And SO WHAT if they ask me questions? A lot of people have asked me. I tell them and they either say “oh” and move on and away, “cool” and keep it moving, or just nod their heads. (Even though someone who shall not be named said he’d pay to see me sitting down and chanting.)
Maybe I should send out flyers. Yes, I am a Buddhist. Yes, I am happy practicing. Yes, I stopped being a Christian because it wasn’t working for me, and no I do not want to convert back. Why Buddhism? Why not? Why not chant for my happiness and the happiness of others? Why not chant for courage and depend on myself to do the work and make it so? Why not read amazing philosophies, histories, and musings? Why not get a chance to polish the mirror of myself? I like it because I worship no one. I devote myself to being the best person I can be. My object of devotion IS the Gohonzon, but again-a mirror of myself.
If any of my aunts cannot ask me things without being insulting, then yes I might sprinkle some statistic, yet respectful snark in the mix. Otherwise, I’ll take it all one day at a time.
There is no punishment for becoming a Buddhist.