Today, in this moment of quietude, I know one thing clearly: everything changes. The weather changes, as does the scenery and souls surrounding it. Companions come and go, experiences are never fully appreciated until after they have passed, and the mind is forever a ruthless taskmaster.
One time, a very long time ago, I wrote a small piece describing a walk on the beach – my beloved and tranquil beach. But it wasn’t just describing the crash of the waves and the gulls flying overhead, it spoke deeply about the pain I was enduring within a group of intertwined relationships I was entangled within at that time. As I put one foot in front of the other yesterday on that same beach, I saw the ghost of myself. That ghostly-self will never exist again, but her experience has shaped and motivated where I am at this moment, to be sure.
Thankfully, I didn’t wallow in that memory, even though tempting it may have been. I am on a different path now. And that is where the story of this journey has resulted in a type of freedom that I taste only in droplets for now, but those drops grow with each passing day.
My life has taken twists and turns that even those close to me have difficulty understanding. I often remind myself and others that ‘you never know about me’ when opportunities arise and I make a turn into unknown territory. And while it may be true that I can appear foolishly impulsive and youthfully spontaneous, my choices are rarely unconsidered or foolhardy. My chosen direction at crossroads oftentimes confound those witnessing, however, I make no justifications or apologies. Especially now.
I began this journey at a tender, young age, just like everyone else. I knew then what I know now: there is a source – whether one wishes to label it a deity or not – that initiates and motivates the essence of my being. Some call this essence a soul or nefesh, others label it our ‘being,’ and still others attribute it to a sacred spirit – the Holy Spirit of the Creator, himself. What it is called doesn’t particularly matter, but what does matter is that there is an unseen core within humans that seems to be ever-present and life-sustaining. I consider the essence of my being and the source of all life as inexplicably connected. It is this essence of my being, the true me, that speaks, directs, and loves through the din of thoughts, repetitive song lyrics, activities, pain, and daily drama.
That is where I started and, amazingly, I have come full circle. I navigated life at a secular, self-satisfying level as a young, single woman, entered into a time of complete Christian devotion and zealousness during my early mothering years, and grew into a deeply rooted, rather rigid, Messianic fundamentalism for my 40’s. Always completely convinced I was following the life-sustaining source, I threw myself into all these phases and endeavors with fervor and sincerity. However, at the end of my heavy homeschooling years, my life situations had gone rancid, not only my religious journey, but in my personal life, as well. It was time for change, and the core of who I am was screaming from trauma, suffering, and abandonment.
As I stood at the crossroads of decision, I felt the hot wind in my face and the dust clinging to my clothing. The horizon was an amazing mirage of the unknown. Those decisions were not easy – not for me, nor for anyone close to me. Their lives were about to change, as well. Friends dwindled as I made moves to live, not according to the expectations of others, but for the essence of my being. I made my choices for me with the strong hope that joy and peace would return to my existence. Clearly, I could have chosen the expected, but in hindsight that would have been a choice of death – dying a little more every day as I simply lived to fulfill the expectations and standards of others. I would have been living a lie, deceiving others and denying my true self. The self that longs to give and receive joy, peace, and love.
And that is where freedom begins.
It has been a few years now since standing at that crossroads. I am now a junior studying religion at Pacific Lutheran University, and have spent challenging and life-impacting time studying abroad. I now have far too much information to ever enter into a religious community or congregation again – I would be living a lie, and that is something I just will not do. And here is another truth that I have affirmed often in my life: you can never go backwards. At least, not successfully. You can never recapture the past, and trying is futile and wastes a lot of time and effort. For some, reestablishing relationship can be rewarding, but it will never be exactly the same – it can’t be. We grow and change with each day, and to go back to another time that contained another you is impossible.
So, I know there are those reading this who have been watching and wondering about my faith – possibly even praying for me in what could be perceived as confusion or straying from belief. To them I say thank you, but I have only come full circle. I can affirm a source of life and that I embody that source somehow in the essence of my true being. (I know my language may be a little strange or uncomfortable, but I want to be clear and stay away from charged, religious words that only muddy the waters of communication.) I have studied, and will continue to study the inner workings and motivations of the religions of the world. I have learned so much, and know that there is so much more to know. What I have learned so far has been life-altering, and I wouldn’t go backwards for anyone.
Freedom to live authentically.
Freedom to be true to the essence of my being.
Freedom to live in this moment fully present,
appreciating those who decide to be a part of this moment, right now.
I have been studying Buddhist philosophy, because freedom, sweet freedom.
…but, that is another post for another time.