I feel the need to preface the pieces on this page. While some of the posts here will be blog-length and quality, others will be a two paragraph blip on waiting for the school bus in the morning or a few lines about forgetting what I've walked into a room to do. Fiction and fact mingle in my words and can't be untangled save exceptional effort on my part which I'm yet unwilling to provide. Any resemblance to real places or persons is coincidence, of course. This is simply a place for my writing, without further caveat, and I hope you appreciate what you read here!
A Cut to the Quickby Jordanne Leigh, January 2021
The shop fronts on Ventura Boulevard glow red hot beyond my tinted lenses, a scene at odds with a gray overcast sky so rarely seen in The Valley. I run an un-manicured hand through my now shoulder-length hair as I follow the familiar stretch of sun-beaten sidewalk up into the hills. A fully loaded shiny black G-Wagon is parallel parked behind a rusted '03 Accord. My off brand converse, secured for twenty dollars at Walmart a few years back, carry me through the winding roads lined with million dollar homes. As I climb higher, the houses hide deeper in the hills, separated by lengths of craftsman fencing and manicured hedges twice my height. I am simultaneously out of place and almost home, nearly at my own gate some hundred feet down around the blind drive on my right. I am shrouded in lingering curiosity.
I run a dry hand through my now shoulder-length hair. Grabbing the locks at the nape of my neck, I close my eyes and breathe in the heavily scented air. What greets me is not my pipe dream of a happy partner, but a stoned boy in distracted shock (I should note that to be distracted is the natural state of a chronic drug abuser). He is angry. Angry that I did not tell him how short I was going. Angry that he was left out of the presumed mutual decision of my hair length. Angry that I didn't ask his permission before chopping off an extra two inches beyond what had been discussed. I... I apologize. I am profuse; tears well in my eyes as I take on his perceived slight. I put myself in his position:
Would I feel betrayed if he'd gotten his hair cut without consulting me?
...no, I wouldn't.
Can I understand why he did?
... no, I can't.
Yet I fall to pieces; beg for forgiveness. I tell myself I need him. I need him to be happy and healthy and not in a place where he can't be on camera or behind an edit or able to make an executive decision on a brand deal. Who I am, and what I do, is not important when he is in the room. He is the only thing- entity, energy- that matters, because without him, my world will fall apart. My world will cease to exist.
What I don't know yet is that my world doesn't exist at all, and it will take every last ounce of energy to let go of this particular brand of chaos.
I think, perhaps, I use him to achieve a goal. I use him to make money, to be happy. But then I look at him and feel, truly feel, empathy. I care for him, I want him to achieve his dreams, I want him to be happy; clearly, at this moment, his happiness is more important to me than my own. Clearly, because I am groveling for forgiveness over getting my own damn hair cut a couple of inches shorter than discussed. While I beg, I am contented by the small, friendly thought that I like my hair this length, even if he does not.
The Healthy Alternative to Religious Eternityby Jordanne Leigh, November 18, 2020
The following is an edited except from a journal entry written on July 24th, 2017. When I'm lacking inspiration, I go through my old writings to see if I had any kernels of profound thought that might be expanded into a full post. When I stumbled on this passage, I felt that, with very little editing, it could convey a message to which I wholeheartedly still cling in present-day.
Is it wrong to think some people just have too much money? As I look around this Starbucks, it takes a substantial amount of effort to maintain any sort of distant respect for strangers; people on their latest generation MacBook Pros highlighting verses in their leather bound Zondervan bibles, reading self help books while drinking frappuccinos, more bibles… I think it’s the bibles that bother me. While I understand where I’m coming from, I also know I can’t judge people for believing what they believe. I spent my entire childhood believing in Jesus as my personal savior; it wasn’t until I was 19 that I finally had the courage to abandon the institution that held my life captive to a so-called sinful soul.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself walking through the lower levels of the historical museum housed by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. As I passed by preserved pieces of the past, I found myself contemplating the reason for religion. Life, in the grand scheme of time, has been miserable for humans up until very recently. Here’s my hypothesis: If people are happy enough in their daily lives, if more than their basic needs are met, their journey towards self-actualization includes reconciling that humanity doesn’t need the promise of another life to live fully. It’s an understanding of god as a human construct to preserve the sanity of peoples who felt that this life was not worth living, that a second/perfect life was just around the corner. People had to believe in a god because life was too bleak to accept a permanent end. Now that life is so far removed from a place where we, as a species, need a god to exist, we can move towards the idea that we only have one life (and don’t need the promise of another to keep us going). Sure, a worldview without a god does present some existential challenges: the ever present sub-conscious understanding that nothing is permanent; we’re all headed for an infinite nothing; meaning only exists where we apply it; etc..
It’s still quite nice to know that it’s not only okay but necessary to live this life as we see fit, hoping to create a better world for those we leave behind. This is the only healthy concept of eternity I've been able to craft, and it's a hell of a lot more rewarding than an eternal monotony of small groups and worship services.
The Scientific Methodby Jordanne Leigh, November 8, 2020
I was never a fan of waking up early. To be up before the sun rose was to get ready for a day at public school. No matter how many years separate me from that grueling pre-dawn wait for the bus, I can still feel a dull ache in my shoulders from the weight of my books as I stand in the misty quiet street of memory.
This, among other reasons, is why I do not jump at my alarm. I hit the snooze button, allowing for nine more blissful minutes of rest. I think: If I snooze the first alarm, then I'm better prepared for the world when the second rings out. The scientific method dictates I test this hypothesis, and I've been doing so for years now. If I knew what to look for in the results, perhaps I could move on to the mature position of setting just one alarm. I am a slave to my own search for conclusion.
Jesus Was A Guy, So We Should Have Seen This Coming
“I learned a lot growing up in two megachurches” isn’t necessarily what you expect to hear from an evangelistic atheist. Nevertheless, it’s true! For one thing, I learned to be diligent note-taker. I would bring a journal and write out everything the pastor said. I’d slide the day’s program into the front pocket and revisit the message from time to time. I haven’t taken notes on a sermon in many years, but every once in a while I’ll pull those journals out to take a good look at the process that helped make me the person I am today.
As impactful as sermons were at the time, what really stuck with me were the more subtle messages sent from the institution itself. Reinforcement of the patriarchy, circular logic, “doubt” being taboo, praising ignorance, expectation of blind faith, etc.. Exposure to these religious “norms” created a distance between the world of faith and secular culture that I found hard to cross. I’m working in the abstract here, so let’s give you an example:
Take the concept & implementation of the small group. For those who don’t know, a “small group” is, well, a small group of people taken from a larger sample of the congregation. Generally utilized by youth and college-aged ministries, these groups were divided by gender and age. For instance, if there were 30 students in a congregation, we can assume 15 boys and 15 girls. Those two groups would then be divided into thirds by grade to (theoretically) create 6 groups of 5 children, and each of these small groups would be assigned a leader of the corresponding gender. These leaders were usually from the next age range up, so middle schoolers would most likely have a high school small group leader, high schoolers would have a college-aged leader, and college students would have some form of older adult guiding them. These groups would break off after the sermon to talk about what they’d just learned, go over how everyone’s week was, discuss any issues a student was having, and take prayer requests.
The concept is so familiar to me that it took nearly five years of recovery to realize the impact it had on my ability to make friends with people of a different gender (and my ability to recognize gender as a construct, but the plight of LGBTQ+ people in the church really deserves its own post). By splitting boys and girls, churches widened the gender gap like a spacer between teeth; with painful intention. The groups never mixed unless we were playing games, so we weren’t able to understand each other’s plights. Camaraderie and affection were really only encouraged within one’s own gender. I feel as though we were being primed to see one another as purely marriageable material, not suitable for friendships. Giving the other gender a chance to speak its mind and stand up for itself would have only increased our mutual understanding, and through mutual understanding we could have cultivated empathy. Unfortunately, it would have also diminished the efficacy of the religious patriarchy.
Don’t know what I mean? Let’s take a quick look at youth leadership. I want to own that my pastors were wonderful humans across the board. All kind, attentive, understanding, intelligent, funny people— and every last one of them male. Each of these nice men had a loving wife at his side. She might volunteer in the cafe, work with the toddlers, or even run a small group… but she was never in charge. These couples were our models for a godly relationship. We were told, “wives, submit to your husbands”, and so they did… and so it was that we learned men should be in the position of power, even with fully capable, creative, intelligent, strong woman at their sides. We were all god’s children, and all in his service, but men got to be middle management.
I don’t have an epic conclusion. I simply felt the need to express my frustration with the reality of gender separation and disparity in religious institutions. If you feel the same, or disagree and want to be seen & heard, feel free to comment down below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.