Finding a Path of Belief

Something occurred to me on my walk with my husband recently.  On April 24, it will be 19 years since my first wedding. It surprised when I remembered this, having divorced the man I was first married to in 2002.

There was so many things going on around that time that we should have never gone through the ceremony. My then fiance’s mother went into a coma a month before the wedding. Columbine happened, which was on the minds of many people. Exactly one month after the wedding, his father would die of a heart attack. Two months after that, we would take his mother off of life support.  Most of his extended family didn’t even come to the wedding, deciding that it was better if they stayed vigil at their Mother’s bedside instead.

I will fully admit I was young, inexperienced, and going through a lot of mental issues of my own at the time. I had no idea how to be a wife and to give all the support I needed to give through his trials.

But even if I could have given him the support, the biggest issue for me to deal with through those trials was that I couldn’t relate to him on any spiritual level.

As I have said before I was raised Roman Catholic, and at that point I had been studying paganism on and off for  9 years.  But this man was not raised with any faith.  In fact, when the issue came up, it was quickly dismissed in his family.  So when he was forced to deal with these losses, he had no belief system to fall back on; he didn’t even know where to start to comprehend the losses he suffered.

In the end, he blamed himself for these losses.  If he would have just been at his parent’s home instead of going to work, perhaps he could have gotten help for his father.  If he had visited his parents, perhaps he would have stopped his mom from eating the thing that made her sick in the first place.  If he would have been a better son, he would still have his parents; they wouldn’t be forever lost to him.  In the end the spirituality factor wasn’t the final breaking point of the marriage, but it did a lot of damage.

Fast forward to 2006. I elope with my then fiance to Las Vegas.  A week later, we get back home and he gets a phone call in the middle of the night.  His father is diagnosed with a bowel perforation and needs immediate emergency surgery.  He was a ‘snowbird’, having left Michigan for warmer Florida weather, which made things even more complicated.  My new husband flies down to be there for the surgery.  Several days later his father takes a turn for the worse and is taken off life support.

My husband was raised in a Catholic family, as I was.  And he also didn’t feel that path was right for him and was exploring paganism.  But because he had done enough exploring on his own to form his own beliefs, he knew his father was some place safe and that he WOULD see him again. Even though there was no dogma attached to his beliefs, and that he had no core religious or spiritual practices, he still felt a comfort from what belief system he had.  It was faith in that belief system that helped him grieve and helped him get over the trauma and be able to move forward.

Thinking back on both these experiences, I wonder if it would have made any difference to my first husband if he would have been raised in a religious family.  Would he have fallen back on that teaching?  Or would the teaching have sparked a hunger in him to find his own place, like it did for my second husband and I?  Did it hinder his development that religion was so glossed over in his family growing up?

It makes me wonder if we are teaching our children enough about belief and religion.  And maybe we need to go even further with that teaching.  Maybe we need to also teach them about other religions as well as the one they grow up in to allow them to make an informed decision when they become of age.

If we give our children consent to ask questions about beliefs and faith, it allows them many different options.  They may grow up and choose to become stronger in the faith of their family.  They may choose to take another faith as theirs, or choose to either continue to question the existence of divinity or not believe at all.  Whatever their choice, they will have (or at least start to have) a belief system that works for them.  And that system will help them answer some of life’s harder questions for themselves.  At the very least, they will know where to go to help seek out more information and find comfort.

From a Pagan perspective, I think we as a community are doing better at teaching our children to ask questions and grow in their own belief system.  However, I wonder if in time we are going to have to come to terms with those who choose Christianity as their belief system once they grow up.  Much like many Christian parents do when their children choose a faith different from them, we may become upset and feel rejected by the child that chooses a monotheistic faith.  But if we preach freedom of religion, we must allow our children to choose what they feel is right for them.  If we don’t, we risk another generation of children growing up angry at their parents for not allowing them to be themselves, much like many Pagans are now when thinking of their own upbringing.

However, even though there are still struggles with belief from parent to child, perhaps things have gotten better in some ways.  When thinking back to my grandparents raising my mother and uncles, things were much more strict.  Beliefs weren’t allowed to be questioned and obedience to religion was mandatory.  When I look back at my mother’s actions as I was growing up, it occurred to me that the faith she had was obedience to her parents more than anything.  And even though God was mentioned, it is more fear of their disapproval that kept her focused in that specific religion.

I really started feeling that way after seeing her reactions to a couple of situations.  One in particular still stands out in my mind.  I had met her for lunch at a buffet on a Lenten Friday. When she looked at the offerings on the bar, she became upset because she wanted to eat meat, but instead was confined to the fish and vegetable options due to Lenten obligations.  She told me that my Grandmother would be upset if she ate meat that day.  I replied that Grandma and Grandpa weren’t eating with us, and wouldn’t know.  She said it didn’t matter.  Those were the rules she grew up with, and those were the rules that had to be obeyed.

How sad it is to me that someone feels like they must obey rules that someone else made for them.  And that they don’t feel they can vet those rules for themselves.  To be true to your own heart and mind in your religious beliefs means such a significantly stronger faith than one would have because they are told to.

Hopefully this is changing.  Maybe because of the many sources of information that are out there things are getting better.  Or perhaps it’s changing because more people are more willing to challenge the beliefs that they grew up on to truly see if they fit their mind and heart.  I hope so, but then again, the term “recovering catholic” wouldn’t be utilized so much if there weren’t more stories out there like my mother’s.

No matter what way the world is going, I can only be responsible for my part, and to live the example of being proud of my faith and being willing to allow others to have their own.

I am very proud to have a Godson.  For his first communion I took the day off and stayed with him through his religious preparatory programs at school.  It didn’t matter that it was a different religion; it gave him comfort to have me there, and it showed that I was willing to help him with his beliefs, even though he didn’t see me at his church every Sunday.

My husband made certain that his niece had a rosary for her first communion when it looked like her Godmother was not going to gift her one.  Yes, he is also Pagan, but it didn’t matter.  This is the faith she is currently growing up with, and it’s important to her.  She already uses the rosary in solitary prayer, which makes the gift even more satisfying.

If my Godson ever has questions about faith, I’m going to do my best to answer as truthfully as I can.  This goes the same for all of my nieces and nephews.  To me it is important to have faith in some sort of belief system  and be open to the fact that others will believe differently.  And when the time comes that they decide what faith or spirituality is best for them, I hope they will be able to do so with the acceptance of their parents, because I want to see them growing up with a faith that is true to their mind and heart, not a faith handed down without question.  In the end, the faith in a belief that stands up to questioning will mean stronger support for the individual, the family and the community as a whole.

 

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Setting Things Straight (a.k.a. Why I am supporting TWLOHA)

Even though I have fibromyalgia, IBS and Chronic fatigue, I do my best to keep up the one thing that I’ve been passionate about for years, which is running.  I don’t run very fast anymore, nor very far, but I do my best to get in at least a 5k run once a week.  And to celebrate, I frequently post about those runs on facebook.

These runs are not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  I get the normal challenges when running and on top of that I have pain that runs up and down my body while I’m running for no reason at all. That makes it really tough at times to keep moving.  And on top of that, overdo it by just one quarter mile and a fibromyalgia flare up could stop you from doing anything for days afterword; including the the all-important getting to work.

So I run, and I celebrate my accomplishments when I can (like pictures on the aforementioned facebook) and I also talk about my lows too.  After all, you can’t know how good your high points are without some low points thrown in occasionally.  But I didn’t think that posting about those type of things made me an inspiration.

However a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine messaged me to tell me that I was an inspiration for her.  She said that she follows my up and down running posts, and that I inspired her to do a virtual run herself.  This very wonderful lady has her own issues to deal with.  She recently had knee surgery, and on top of that she is an abuse survivor.  Her abuse was so bad that she’s spent years trying to get herself back on track. So for her to say I am an inspiration was something that was very moving for me.

I felt so honored to be an inspiration for her that I chose to also sign up for this virtual run and run it on the same day as her in solidarity.  I want to celebrate her strength and endurance. Then she told me what virtual run she decided to choose, and that made me realize there was more to this than simply inspiration.

This fine lady is doing a virtual run that supports an organization called “To Write Love On Her Arms” (TWLOHA).  TWLOHA is an organization that works to prevent and heal people from addiction and help prevent suicide.  I’ve read about this organization and it’s founding years ago, and was very impressed.  It is a Christian organization, but the founders are the Christian-type that have good intentions.  They don’t judge, nor do they try to recruit.  They are simply trying to help their fellow human being.  These are the types of Christians whose messages out to the public are downright whispers compared to the Evangelical Christians that scream from every street corner how bad people are.  And because the Evangelicals are so loud, the Christians who run TWLOHA end up getting grouped in with them, which is unfortunate.

So I signed up for this run, even though the subject matter made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable about it because by choosing to sign up for this run, I’ve brought up pieces of my own life that I haven’t thought about in almost 20 years.  And now that it’s come up again, I’m realizing I have to get some things out in the open.

You see, the only reason that I’m still around is because about 20 years ago, I didn’t swallow enough pills to actually do the job.

Back then, when I felt like there really was nothing any good in this life for me anymore, I downed a bottle of muscle relaxers, a bottle of prescription pain meds and a couple of other prescriptions my roommate at the time had. I didn’t have my stomach pumped, never went to the emergency room, and of course I got no hospitalization nor care with a counselor or a doctor.  But even though I had taken several bottles of pills, somehow I woke up the next morning.  My stomach had felt like it had been ripped apart and it did for weeks afterward, but I was still alive.  To this day I don’t understand how.

I know now that back then I was suffering from major depression, PTSD from a rape that happened a couple months prior and had been dealing with a bunch of other things going on. I also realize now that the major depression was something that I’ve had for a very long time, most likely since I was a child.

There is a reason this is coming out now.  There is a reason why I’m reminded of this organization.  The fact is for the first time in many years I am struggling again, and have been for almost a month.  This run, it’s uncomfortable topic and the organization being helped by it made me realize that this time my struggle is a bit more serious than it has been in the recent past. Maybe not as serious as it was 20 years ago, but serious nonetheless.  And I need to treat this for what it is; a struggle against a deep depression that could turn into another major depressive episode should I not start implementing self care and figure out how the hell to get out of it properly.

I need to also remember – It’s not my fault that I can dive into a deep depression – I’m prone to it.  It’s also not my fault I have fibromyalgia.  And I have to acknowledge that fibromyalgia sufferers have higher rates of suicide and adjust my own self care accordingly.  I also have to recognize that fibromyalgia sufferers have many facets of the disease that only a small number of other disorders have to deal with.  Not only do we deal with the pain, we also have to deal with the lack of understanding by doctors, (some don’t even acknowledge it’s a disease in the first place) so-called friends (everyone has pain, yours is no different than mine, in fact mine is probably worse than yours is) and even family (if you just lost weight, or exercised more I’m sure you would have less pain).

On top of all that, the past month has been a very trying time for me.  I realized that I had more so-called friends in some circles than I did true friends, so for the sake of my self worth and self esteem, I’ve cut those people out of my life.  But doing so also cut out activities that gave me what I thought was a sense of purpose and enjoyment.  Now I realize that much of that purpose and enjoyment was my perception alone.  Much of the circle of friends in actuality did nothing for my well being nor the creation of any lasting friendships. On top of that, very little of the activity associated with the circle did anything to benefit my self esteem or self worth.  Instead, there were many times it was lowered.  So overall it was good that I did the cut, but I still grieve for the things that I thought I had.  And the fallout of this decision isn’t completely over yet either.

So why now?  Why put this all out in the open?  Because I need to.  I need to recognize the seriousness of the situation now as well as acknowledge what happened in the past. Because hopefully someone else might read this and also realize that there are sicknesses out there that don’t have anything to do with a diagnosis by a blood test, or are not sicknesses that are specific and measurable in any way.  Perhaps they will realize that mental health diseases ARE in fact actual sicknesses, and that they perhaps are prone to them as well. Perhaps they may just realize they need help.  Or, maybe they had never heard of TWLOHA and might stop over to their page to see what it’s all about and toss them a contribution or two for the good work that they do.

This is also another reminder to me of how we are in the care of the Gods, Goddesses and other spirits.  While some may call it coincidence that this friend contacted me with this particular run for this particular group, it means more than that to me. Because while I do believe we have free will, we also have those that look out for us. And those that look out for us and our wellbeing could either be on this planet with us or in other planes of existence and visit us from time to time.

No matter whether it is coincidence or fate, these are the reasons I needed to come out with this post.  I needed to acknowledge my past. I need to acknowledge where I am at now, and I need to recognize that I can easily fall into a situation that I need help to get out of. Now perhaps I can move forward a little easier.

And come April 14, I will be able to run for an organization that helps people who are so sick that they don’t even recognize how sick they are until they get better.

For more information on TWHOLA, you can go to their website.

Poem: Spring Beckons

The world is in contradiction
Snow flies in the air, yet the birds sing
Water cackles in its power
Now is time of change
The melody of your voice reaches my ears

The sound attracts my attention
It’s time for more change, Time for movement
Time to break free, to venture out
I must leave my entombment
Crawl into the unknown landscape of devotion

I have grown too strong here
Too strong for that which I am housed
Shall I stay anyway and scream from the pain
To keep old self together
For the rest of my days?

Yet, if I go, will I be quenched of thirst?
Will the well be properly filled so I may I grow?
Or is it my lot in life to shrivel?
To ache in pain and despair of yet another ordeal?
My cries satisfying needs of those unknown?

My choice is not mine as I reach to you
Pain is mine as I force myself open
Yet knowing ecstasy and joy of life
Allowing the tryst to begin

You see my torment and relish in it
Smiling you reach deep within
Rare is it that one opens before you
Coming so far and daring to go further
As far as one can go in a lifetime

You are not surprised at my action
As the dance begins
The answer of the heart rings true
As do the oaths
The only surprise left Is where the exquisite rapture takes us next.

 

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Poem: Reality Received

Blindfolded and reaching I find,
The start of that which was bound
Undeterred, I pressed on
Not knowing anything wrong

The smell of blood caught me
The liquid to my touch, thick and sticky
“No, my dear” He said quietly
“Do not step back, press on directly.”

The wounds I felt were deep
Her moans from pain I reaped
Understanding nothing, I continued
As his reassurances were issued

Finally, feeling the pain I knew
What was not within my view
He took my blindfold to confirm
That which I could now discern

I looked at the reflection where I reached
The blood and sores I beeseeched
I had not known what I asked
Yet now, my die was cast

The Trickster laughed and smiled at me
Yet ever his eyes wept tears for me
“You locked yourself in this trap” said he
“It’s spikes and thorns still tight in thee”

“Fear of failure, fear of anger
Your personal jailers clamor
Their protection ended long ago
And now they keep pieces unknown”

“Learning is healing, yet pain exists
You called it to you, and did insist
Now take the shards back from the abyss
Accept the pieces in as they fit”

I stared in disbelief,
How could I, in my grief
Ask for such a thing of hurt?
Yet I did – my soul, I tore apart

Now the healing has begun
The pain comes as I awaken
But now the true work is being done
As I slowly integrate into one.

Photo from Deviant Art

Poem: Spirit

The spirit within me burns.
It burns with passion for things that I do in my life.
It burns with desire to be stretched
It yearns to shine within the eye.

The Spirit  longs to burn that which does not help
The Spirit longs to fill the space left with warmth and flame.

It burns with strength.
It burns with desire,
It burns to touch other spirits.

It is not mine to say ‘turn it away’ because it shines too brightly.
It is not mine to hide, afraid that I would burn another.
It is mine to be the reflection.

The Spirit is mine to allow its energy to saturate me;
It’s mine to allow the warmth to flow from my fingers,
Dripping onto the things that I touch
Changing those things unavoidably.

For that is the nature of the Spirit.

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A Tale of Two Deer

After some of the horror that we’ve seen in the US these past days, I thought it might be time for a little bit of a nicer story.

The company I work for exists in buildings that were built right next to a state certified wetland, therefore there is a good amount of the property that the company can’t build on.  Instead of letting this land go totally wild, the company maintains trails throughout the land for the employees to use.  There is also a nice side open field the company has created to allow associates to come and picnic, or use for cross country skiing or even training for trail runs, which I’ve seen associates do before.  The land is privately owned however, so you must be a company employee in order to utilize it.

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Back in July, however, something peculiar showed up in the open field.  Two baby deer, waiting for their momma.  The employees left them alone, with the exception of getting pictures.  Overall, we thought momma was very smart, leaving her two babies in a field where humans frequent.  That would be a perfect place for them to be safe from predators.

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Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  After seeing the babies over and over, we realized momma had been the deer that was hit several weeks previously.  These babies were orphaned.  But as we kept seeing them in the field, they went from simply sitting to eating grass and finding places to sit in the shade when it just got too hot in the sun.  21077281_10213512057256774_4321863583240579355_n.jpgSome weeks would go by and I’d see them every day out on my walk.  Other weeks, I’d see them once or twice.  Every time I’d see them, I’d talk to them for a few minutes before I continued on my journey around the walking trail.  I worried a little bit about what they would have to eat, but with the creek and wetlands, apple trees and fruit bushes on the property I figured they would be OK.  And none of the associates that work here tried to pet them; instead, we all took pictures, and went on with our business.  The only real roads they have to cross now are the small ones that link the parking lots for the multiple buildings together, and those all have a very low speed limit.

The deer have a pretty nice size of property in addition to our area too.   Many other businesses on our side of the road were built around the wetland, which means the deer have solid woods for roughly half a city block around my company’s property.  And it’s all private; so there will be no hunting in this area.

There was a lull in our sightings of the babies in August and September.  I had hoped they were OK, but felt that it was best that we didn’t see them.  Perhaps they had learned about how to behave like proper deer, and hide when the humans came around.  But about two weeks ago; another associate I work with spotted what we thought were the baby deer on one of the trails.  He pointed them out to me.  When I looked at them, I realized those weren’t our baby deer.  One had a serious amount of antlers.  And they were much more wary of us humans than the babies were.  I think one of them had to be daddy.  And perhaps daddy had picked up on raising the babies where momma had left off.

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This week, I was able to spot both of them again.  As you can see by the photos, they still aren’t afraid to be seen.  Sometimes they stay together, but sometimes they wander on their own as well.  IMG_5003.JPGTheir spots have gone, and they are getting bigger by the day.  I think the day will come soon when we don’t see them at all anymore; they’ll take their daddy’s advice and keep away  from the humans.  The day I took the final picture of them above, I did stick around to see what they would do when they saw a moving car.  And wisely, they quickly made for the foliage around them instead of sticking around to see where the car would go.  So they are still OK with humans, for now, but don’t like cars, and that is very good news.

I hope that I’ll get the occasional chance to see them as they continue to grow.  But even if I didn’t, I’ve very much enjoyed the times I did see them.

 

 

Poem: Hate Over Connections (Another Shooting)

Take your prayers and thoughts and shove it
We made this mess, we live it
Day by day, night by night
The burning of the world never ends

So you don’t think you had an effect?
When was the last time you tried to act?
No, ACT
Not Cry
Not beg
Not pray
ACT – with a vote?
A call?
Donate?
Or volunteer?
Or ask why?

Did you try?  No, you didn’t.
Too afraid of loosing your hate?
The hate sitting in your bones
Your mind?
Your heart?
Too afraid to lose “us” vs “them”?
Afraid of the human under that skin?

Afraid of that connection?
That touch
That knowing
That feeling
You don’t give a fuck about all that
Or anyone but yourself
Let them die,
Let them burn
You’ve got more important things to do
Like fighting for YOUR rights
YOUR religion
YOUR free speech
YOUR right to be loud and free
It’s YOUR gun, YOUR Ammo
And that’s alright
Cuz your rights just killed again
And Again
And Again

So cherish that hate
that blessed emotion
Keep it close so we don’t touch

And the world will burn