(Trigger warning for mention of suicide. Also, I share my spiritual beliefs and my struggles with organized religion. Mostly this post is about fear and how we all want to be without it.)
I was going through a rough few days last month and you know how someone will say just the right thing and snap you out of whatever funk you’re feeling? Well, it was sort of like that and they did (and always do) make me feel awesomely great, but a conversation we had that night has stuck with me and I keep thinking about what they said.
I was explaining how I’d found this space at one point where I was calm and didn’t actively think anymore. How I felt better and healthier and more at peace with just everything. I was having a difficult time explaining myself, as I often do when I’m over thinking everything ever, and they said, “I understand. I found that space once.” I asked what changed. “I stopped praying. When I was praying everyday, I felt closer to god. I felt stronger. I had no fear. I didn’t fear death. I just felt good.” I had to sit down after hearing that. I was awestruck! “I have never known a single moment without fear” I replied.
This is what has stuck with me ever since that night. I have lived with fear my entire life. I cannot imagine a single moment without it. It’s like an imaginary friend in some ways, only not the kind you’d want at your tea party. It’s a comfortable burden, I suppose. I’ve thought about this for a few weeks now and it only just occurred to me yesterday, on my lunch break in the sun, that it’s not a fear of death. It is ultimately, for me, a fear of suffering.
I wrote a poem when I was fourteen called, “My friend the five-letter word” which I believe I still have somewhere. It was written on the back of some sort of schematic paper from my dad’s old work. My dad thought I was ridiculous and called me “Morticia” for drying roses on my bedroom walls, listening to The Doors and considering death a close and personal friend. It was at this time or shortly there after that I’d become so depressed that I felt myself unworthy even of suicide. I know how fucked up that sounds and it totally is fucked up. I know! But I realize now that it was part survival instinct and part abuse survivor talking. This resignation to living with pain and suffering ended up inspiring my tattoo of two Chinese characters which mean: Everlasting Pain. *Sigh* I no longer feel this way about myself and I do hope to one day soon get a third character added, in red, to change the meaning to the opposite. Until I can afford such a luxury though, I can’t help but cringe when asked it’s meaning or to glimpse it in the mirror.
I don’t fear death, even now. I just don’t. It’s not the end of my life that gives me nightmares, it is suffering! Even in that poem I wrote about fearing pain over death and how death is simply our ultimate release from pain and suffering. This is why I rarely write poetry and almost never share it…I still write like a fourteen year old! Ha-ha! But there was some insight in that poem. In my youthful soul I had already known so much suffering and anguish that it only made sense to me that I should go on in a life of misery and just make peace with that knowing I would one day be set free. Strange, perhaps, because I’d already lost or turned away from religion and god, too.
To live without fear? That seems an impossibility. But I now know someone who has lived this way and I can’t help but want to experience it, too. I can’t help but want to be free of the weight of fear and all its bullshit, worries and anxieties. Who wouldn’t want that?! The world is full of suffering and we all want to break free from whatever form of it we are currently living with. It is because of this that I have always been drawn to Buddhism/Zen philosophies. And watching the “Eastern Wisdom” series with Alan Watts on YouTube lately has definitely helped me in numerous ways. But now I feel like I need more or something else entirely.
I don’t have a relationship with god/God. I grew up Catholic and even before my first communion felt something was wrong with anything that favored one sex over another. I questioned so much and the nuns hated it. I never got the answers I sought and that coupled with the snotty rich girls picking on me incessantly made the whole thing a bad memory all together. The Catholic church never showed me kindness. I never felt comforted or accepted. I went to a friend’s Baptist church for a couple of years (I think my dad was just pleased that I wanted to go to any church) and loved it. There I felt accepted, wanted and welcome. Truth be told, I went to hang with my friend Iesha and oggle the cute boys (Twins!) and one time went on a trip to Tahoe with them and it was fabulous.
If you say the word god/God to me, my brain immediately interprets it as: Universe. It wasn’t a willful thing and I think it was a natural evolution for me in some ways. The creator of all things and beings: The Universe. It’s simple. We are all made up of the exact same molecules and energies and it all makes sense to me in this way. I am comforted by the sight of trees and birds and things of nature. I sometimes convince myself that I can see the trees breathing if I just look closely and can still myself long enough. I am fanciful, I realize, but not harmfully so. I just feel more at peace when I think about things in this way. And when I can stop actively thinking and engaging thoughts I am more at one with the universe and more at peace in general. I feel less fear this way.
I never thought I would envy, if that’s the right word, someone’s relationship with god/God. Hearing that someone could live without fear because of that relationship made me wonder. It made me question, as I always do, and it made me consider human history and how it has always sought out an answer for everything in the form of a deity. I respect people’s beliefs and don’t mean to press upon anyone my own beliefs as though they are an absolute or right way of being at all. I think the simple fact that I am still questioning shows that I am still uncertain but that I still want answers. The nuns refused to give me such answers and so I continued on my journey without them and their Catholicism.
I will not accept that I am less than or “other” from anyone or anything. I am me. I am mostly water. I am flesh. I am a living and breathing and feeling creature, I like the word beast but many protest my use of it in this context. I feel pain and I suffer from a lifetime of fear. I cannot credit any of my accomplishments or even my survival to any one god/God or even entirely to myself. It is the life I was blessed with and the world that I live in that has made this possible. When asked I tell people that my religion is kindness. Most accept this on face value and leave it at that. But it’s more than that to me. Kindness and love are the foundation of my heart and soul and every breath. It is what keeps me going, keeps me believing and keeps me questioning. I hope that never stops, but I hope, one day, that I will no longer live with or in fear.