I’m working on a book. It’s a pretty involved process, and I am learning a lot as I go. Thrilling, exciting, and … anxiety inducing. Talking about the anxiety that used to run my life kinda makes me jittery. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s a relapse, as much as it is recalling some of the old triggers that sent me into a tailspin.
The last few days I have been thinking a lot about religion in my life. Growing up Catholic and attending a Catholic school, I took it all very seriously. I took for granted it was all true. Even later, as an adult in the Southern Baptist church, I was a player in an elaborate game of Follow the Leader, even though many times I had no idea who that was or where we were supposed to be going.
Eventually my husband and I had a falling out with our church – or, more specifically – our faith. I have read accounts of others who have moments in their lives similar to what we had – an awakening, a change, growth, transition, you might even call it spiritual death, triggered by a great trauma or catastrophe. For others, it’s the opposite, and such an event actually moves them towards the church.
Seeking answers, seeking truth. Looking all around us for anything that makes sense when all that is comfortable and familiar has crumbled. I think it’s human nature to want to assign a higher meaning to things that are tragic, and I certainly did. When what I call the Terror came into my life, I learned pretty quickly what Christians do. My friends, my Sunday School mates, they supported us. One bought us groceries, one encouraged me to read my Bible when I was afraid, another class donated money so that our bills would be paid. It was lovely to feel so encouraged in a hard time, and it lasted about two weeks.
The Terror would last much longer than that, and as our time of hardship wore on, the Christianity wore thin. Our friends lost patience with us. They withdrew their assistance. Life goes on, right? Some of them encouraged my husband to take the kids and leave me. Some said to have me committed. One person told me, quite matter-of-factly, that the things that were happening to me would not be happening, were my faith only strong enough. Pray more. Really mean it. If it doesn’t help, you don’t really mean it. Suddenly, I felt all alone in this “family”. It was as if I had spiritual leprosy, and the entire community took a collective step back from me so as not to catch it.
Looking back, it was a gift. These people who removed themselves from our circle, and pushed us out of what was known and comfortable, forced us to explore other possibilities than the ones we had blindly clung to for so many years. I started reading things that had previously been “forbidden” to me, started considering possibilities that I had always dismissed as impossible and ignorant. I used to pity people like me, people who didn’t worship Jesus and meet up at church to talk about all the ways we were going to save the world.
Out of necessity and desperate for relief, I began researching alternative therapies. There’s actually a pretty thin line between medicine and religion, and as I learned about healing the body I also found out a lot about alternative spiritual practices. Meditating, EFT, chakra balancing, crystals, astrology, numerology, reiki, essential oils, burning sage, prayer bowls and beads and moon ritual and tarot cards and more have made their way into my consciousness and I am a better woman for it. I walk barefoot and talk to the moon if I feel like it. When I talk about animals and spirit guides, no one makes fun of me.
The irony is, by taking the first step into a spiritual truth that feels so much more aligned with who I am, for the very first time I am actually changing the world. If everyone had the courage to be their authentic, unapologetic selves, the world would be a different place entirely. Now, I feel free. I am growing in new and exciting ways, without limits and without guilt. New and trustworthy friends have filled the voids left by the people who couldn’t deal with our pain. Best of all, by dipping my toes into a spiritual ocean I had never been allowed to visit previously, I feel united with every other person in the world.
Losing my religion became the catalyst for finding myself. I’m a better wife and a better mom because I no longer operate from a place of “not enough”. Instead of trying to force myself to fit into someone else’s box, I’ve broken free of all the boxes and I make my own way. I am more than enough. I am everything I was created to be.(Yes, I still believe in Creator/Source.)
The path I am on is one of total joy and truth. I have met so many fascinating and kind people. I continue to learn about other beliefs, world religions, and I feel connected to my fellow man. There is no judgement or pity in me for them. Instead, there is love. REAL love. Unconditional love. I am stronger, genuine, and aware. Where once my life was a nightmare, it’s now a dream. I am finally awake.