Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

“Finding Inspiration” by Cindy

This past year has been an intense journey of self-discovery – a journey that feels barely started. This is both amazing and terrifying. How can I know so little about myself when I am already 39? I’m almost middle-aged! The last ten years have been so full of changes and new ideas – what am I going to learn in the next ten that will profoundly change me and my perception of the world? Since my early twenties, when I believed I had everything figured out, I have become acutely aware, perhaps too much so, that I don’t know very much about anything.

I think this is part of why I continue to resist inspiration in my life. Because I have become so aware of the limits of my own perception and knowledge, I fear believing in anything. There has always been a part of me that wished to feel divinely inspired, but my inability to believe in the divine has kind of gotten in the way of that. Funny how that works. So, I have noncommittally looked for inspiration in other places. And I have moments of feeling inspired all the time, from nature, from animals, and even from my fellow human beings. Actually, I truly feel inspired by people all the time, but if I am perfectly honest with myself, I only allow myself a kind of reserved inspiration.

There is a young woman in our company who I, and many others, find inspiring. When I first saw her, I viewed her with a skeptical eye, and I was reluctant to admire her. How could a woman so young have so much to teach me? I have at least 12 years of life experience over her. Yet, there she is, living the life that I wish I had known was possible 20 years ago. Not only is she living an amazing life, but she is doing it in a mindful and heartfelt way that is really admirable. Can you believe it? How audacious of her to figure out what I didn’t. How dare she?

I guess there is a part of me that always wants to take the hard way. If I don’t figure it out for myself, then it feels like cheating, and it doesn’t count. This is a game I play with myself all the time. If I can’t find the coconut milk in the grocery store and have to ask, I’ve lost. It’s true that I enjoy puzzles, and I enjoy that rush that comes from finding the answer. Sometimes though, I waste so much time being lost, that I end up feeling annoyed with myself for not having taken the easy way. I’m working on it. I ask much earlier in the journey now.

I have a sense that this also ties into my desire for control somehow. If I allow myself to be inspired by someone else, then I am allowing that person to have impact on what I do and how I see things. Surely, that cannot be acceptable. I am the sailor of this ship, and only I will decide where and when it will go, right? If I break that down, though, it clearly makes no sense. My decisions are impacted by others all the time, and in the end, whether I feel inspired or not, I have the ultimate control over what I do, so choosing to be inspired is just another way of exerting that control. And yet, even with all that logic, there is still that resistance.

So what, you might ask. What’s wrong with going through life with a “healthy” dose of skepticism?

Well, here’s the real problem: at the same time as going through life with a reluctance to be inspired, there has always been a part of me that desired to be inspiring.

Aye, there’s the rub. You can’t be inspiring without being inspired.

I noticed the same thing once about the connection between being interesting and being interested. I have a friend who I used to jokingly describe as belligerent. He got a kick out of getting a rise out of people, and yet, we all liked spending time with him, and his social circle just seemed to keep expanding. I couldn’t figure out how he could be both belligerent and charming, so I started to really pay attention to how he interacted with people, including me. I realized that his greatest trick, if I wanted to call it that, wasn’t that his joking was so shocking and funny, but that he was genuinely interested in other people. His desire to learn other people’s stories, and his willingness to ask a million questions to get it out of them, actually made him more interesting. I can have a whole conversation with him and not learn anything that is going on in his life because it is so hard to get a question in edgewise (you can probably guess at his profession). This is probably no surprise to you, but it seems that people feel more drawn to people who find them interesting than to people who find themselves interesting.

I think it is the same with inspiration. Part of what makes this shining young woman so inspiring is that she is so openly inspired.

So, it’s true. I cannot openly give if I am not willing to openly receive.

There is a risk, of course. I could choose to open myself up and feel deeply inspired by this woman, and then later learn that she secretly tortures kittens. Of course, that is highly unlikely, but you get the point. Sometimes, we are so afraid of betrayal that we fear to trust.

Unfortunately, that fear to trust is the ultimate betrayal to my own self because it sends me the message that I can’t handle a change of perception, that I am too weak to recover from a changed view.

It’s like this cartoon (which I love):

whatIfGetABetterPlanetForNothing

What if I allow myself to be inspired, change my life for the better, and then… well, anything. The first part of the sentence says it all. What if the vehicle I use to make my life better turns out to be a lemon? My life will still be better, and I don’t have to hold on to that lemon until it rots. I can let it go any time I choose and find another vehicle.

So, this year, and perhaps for many more to come, I am committed to opening myself up to feeling inspired and allowing myself to act on that inspiration.

Because, you know, #ifnotnowwhen.

Yup. I just ended a blog on a hashtag. I am super fly.

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“Grief vs Gratitude” by Cindy

I read on a blog somewhere (I think puttylike) that it is good to take a walk of gratitude every day.  Since I walk the dog every morning before work, I thought I could stack some functions and try and focus on gratitude.  I walked along, thinking of all the things I am grateful for, and there are many, and somehow, I felt more and more upset with every step.  It wasn’t working, and I felt completely powerless to make it work.

So, I thought, in my inner angry voice, in the rock-paper-scissors game of life, gratitude does not beat grief.

I felt very profound. I think I even smirked a little.

But I was angry.  Angry at everyone who says to focus on gratitude to get through each day. Angry at myself for being so selfish as to not be able to make myself feel better.

Yesterday, I fully realized that a big part of my problem is that I don’t have a faith system to turn to for comfort and purpose.  I can’t think of any reason for us to go through this while there are babies around the world popping out accidentally, and if it’s all random, then what is the point of anything?

I wish I could just believe in God, but I don’t.  I can’t just suddenly start believing either because my brain just doesn’t work that way.  My lack of belief is not in reaction to anything that has happened, I have just never believed. So I turned to Dr. Google, and I looked up “grief counseling for atheists”.  I discovered that this is quite a problem because a number of counselors subconsciously employ their beliefs in supporting patients.

I think I wrote about a woman in my online class trying to comfort me by saying something along the lines of “God sometimes disguises blessings as misfortunes”.  I was offended on so many levels that I couldn’t even respond. I have no idea how she thought that would be comforting, even to a religious person, and I thought, “man, if I wanted to believe in God, it sure wouldn’t be that one”.  I mean, what kind of jerk decides to manipulate people’s lives in such a way? If you have that kind of power, and a good reason for me to not have kids, how about making me not want them in the first place?  Or at least somehow making it clear what I am supposed to do instead? (here’s another lady who has said this better than I have: http://yetanotherbitterinfertile.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/infertile-atheist/)

People are accustomed to using religion as a comfort, and it is pretty handy.  We say that loved ones who have died have “passed on”, or “are in a better place”. It sounds nicer in that case.  Even if I could believe that though, where is the comfort for us?  This would mean we would have to believe that on some level, being with us is not the right place for those potential babies, and what does that mean for us?

I’ve never been able to wrap my head around belief because I’ve never had it.  It seems so illogical to me.  There are times in my life when I can convince myself that I believe in some sort of order in the universe, some sort of cosmic plan, but I’m in a pretty dark place right now, so that all seems like total crap.

There are lots of things that I don’t understand about the world, and I used to be OK with that.  I didn’t really think it mattered what the meaning of life was because I knew that I would feel bound to and responsible for my children (whether biological or adopted), and in the meantime, I was getting prepared.  So now, I’m trying to find reason in this life, a purpose that I can cling to, and I am too angry to listen to any of the ideas that cross my mind.  I don’t want to try and save the world for other people’s kids.  It’s probably too late anyway.  I don’t want to just live a hedonistic life because I don’t know what the end goal of that would be.  I love to learn, but again, what for?

Which, I guess, all brings me back to gratitude.  I want to be grateful because I want everyone I love to know that I appreciate their presence in my life.  I want to be grateful because I know that I live a comfortable life with many luxuries.  But who should I be grateful to? Gratitude as a healing agent, is, I think, a tool for believers. And grief is for everyone.