Spring is coming, and the weather was so warm this evening.
I had the opportunity to go play card games with some co-workers, but I passed as I was tired from two long days of work. And I wanted to come home and enjoy peaceful time outside, enjoying the above-60 degree weather.
I weight lifted, which I've been doing consistently the last year or so.
I went on a long walk with my boyfriend, enjoying the outdoorsy, open areas near our place.
And then I did some yoga.
I did a yoga class back in high school for a year, so I have familiar with the various poses and such. I can't recall what compelled me this past weekend, but I thought - why not try to get back into yoga? To try and train myself to find inner peace, to love myself, to build up my core and body strength? To connect mind and body?
Mind you - I'm not spiritual at all. Not one bit. Since losing Christianity, I've lost belief in god altogether and also the belief of a soul. This hasn't really helped in my search for finding "purpose" in life. If you're a fellow ex-Christian, then you probably know what I mean, the difficulty in finding purpose again.
But this yoga thing. I discovered this Youtube poster who's a yoga instructor, and I'm not sure, but the way she talks you through the exercises and workouts, she's motivated me to keep up with this new yoga habit I've started. And interestingly enough I have found my moods lifting since.
And my abs quite sore.
More updates on this to come.
I lay next to my boyfriend, he to my right and the window with pale sunlight to my left. I watch him sleep, his back to me. It's a quiet Saturday morning.
I look at where we are now, 2.5 years into our relationship. He's back in school looking to earn his Bachelor's degree, maybe even Master's. I'm almost 2 years into my first professional job, which has been a great success overall.
You could say we are the epitome of a healthy relationship. We care for each other when we are sick. We never go longer than 5 minutes upset with each other, always working to improve our communication with each other. We say "thank you" when completing household chores. We have hobbies together and hobbies apart. We've had a few critical points in our relationship, such as finances and future goals.
Everyday I wake up thinking that I made the right choice to be with him, and that firmness grows stronger moment by moment.
We have our moments, of course. Sometimes we are worn down and exhausted; sometimes we say things out of frustration, without thinking. But in the end, we always end up back in each other's arms, learning and growing through each obstacle and experience.
Yet sometimes I recall two years ago, when I was still a Christian. My boyfriend was an atheist at that time, and I went through one of the deepest bouts of anxiety when struggling with the thought of loving someone who would be doomed to hell when they would die (I was raised with conservative Christian, bible-based teachings). I remember being so distraught that I couldn't eat. I remember trying to break up with him three times over three days just to escape the anxiety. I remember being unhealthily obsessed with researching the Christian concept of hell. I felt eternally stuck - after all, how could I talk myself out of the deeply held conviction that hell was real?
What triggered it? My former best friend, also a conservative Christian, disapproving my decision to enter a serious relationship with him, all based on the fact that he was not a "fellow believer." Mind you, I had been so supportive of her when her and her now-husband started dating, and even got married. But of course, since I wasn't following the bible-based teaching of dating and marrying a fellow Christian (a debatable tenet, but still taught and maintained in my religious circles), I didn't deserve the same support.
Looking back, I wonder: perhaps I should thank her? It was really the Christian wake up call I needed that ended up driving me to losing belief altogether. See, it's easy to believe in hell when everyone in your closest circles believes in Jesus, constantly reaffirming your belief system. But what if you have many close family members who didn't believe to the same extent as you, or even at all?
I'm grateful that my boyfriend and I ended up working through my religious difficulty, and we came out all the stronger. I had a kind religious mentor in my life at the time that was helping me navigate, with prayer and fasting, the emotional difficulty of dating a non-believer. She was sure god was at work, you see, and was sure that our relationship was happening for a reason. I am grateful I had someone like her ground me in faith and maintain my relationship.
Though after a few months, the thought of hell started haunting me, not just with my boyfriend, but with my extended family as well. How could god banish one of my aunts to hell, just for not believing? This aunt who is like a mother to me.
I started having questions to the tenets I used to hold so dearly, questions that the usual Christian answers didn't seem to satisfy. Eventually, after more breakdowns and lots of research, I lost my belief altogether.
But I look back now, and my heart breaks for anyone who makes a decision on behalf of a religion that is not true. Whether it means breaking off a great relationship for a difference in beliefs, or behaving a certain way because you believe that "god" wants you to? Why is it religion gets the exception of understanding? Is it because we humans are so sensitive, so afraid of the unknown, of death, that ignorance is essential in living a productive life? I don't get it, and looking back now, I don't feel it was fair that I was blindly mislead, made huge decisions in my life in that blindness that I would not have otherwise decided.
Some might argue that it's all part of the human experience - we change over our lives, make decisions differently than we used to. But I can't help but wonder how drastic those decision-making skills would change if religion didn't exist at all...
Food for thought.
I had drafted this a few months back:
It's been 1.5 years now since the moment the concept of the Christian god no longer made sense to me.
It wasn't like I chose for this to happen. There was something deeper that changed, where my inner logic snapped out of the Christian mindset and started nodding along with the agnostics, atheists, the non-religious.
The problem is that I had deep dark voids within myself that religion used to fill.
Lack the love, compassion, and attention of an earthly father? Well, don't worry - your heavenly father loves you eternally.
Spent nights alone enduring arguments and occasional physical abuse in an unhealthy home environment? Don't worry - imaginary saints, angels, god are all there with you carrying you even when you can't see them.
I was taught to seek external validation constantly. I was taught to do everything perfectly out of fear for if my mother was in a bad mood, she would lash out at me. So don't do anything that could possibly upset mother.
And yet sometimes the abuse would come without doing anything wrong at all. For being a kid.
I've clung to imaginary religious figures my entire life, through depressing, lonely nights in my youth. Through breakdowns in the shower so nobody to could hear the sobs through the water. There were voids, hate for myself, all that religion just "miraculously" filled.
But now that religion is gone, and the voids have returned. So what do you do? By default you fill them with whatever closes good thing you have. In my case, it's my relationship.
But the obsessive dependency religion slowly trains you to have is not healthy. Why is it we have this weird acceptance in society that being obsessively dependent on religion is OK but not otherwise, such as in a romantic relationship?
It should never be OK.
So now I'm left with those voids and trying to figure out how you're supposed to fill them in a healthy way.
I also don't how to define a life purpose now, what should motivate me to want to wake up everyday because deep down I don't have a reason right now.
It's challenging when hardship comes. When I consider my life, it seems more negative than positive, with a few shining lights along the way.
Now adding from present-day, I feel alone. I've moved away from family/friends for work. My boyfriend and I - both atheists - have trouble meeting people like ourselves. Though we consider ourselves outliers of common society.
Sometimes while driving on the interstate, I just get this urge to keep driving. Where, I don't know. My aunts and uncles, grandparents, are all getting older. I'm watching my parents age, watch them struggle in poverty and emotional chaos, the chaos that once chained me for so long.
I'm watching my dad suffer from depression, from lack of social skills. He says he doesn't want to wake up. My mother looks to me like I'm her mentor. I'm only 24. How backwards this life seems to be.
I seem to be one of the strong few who can pull it all together in times of doubt. But as I get older, and these difficult situations arise, and now that I don't have god... I don't know if I can do it.
My brother is 9 years my senior, and yet he's not ready to deal with the emotional damage from our childhood. I guess that makes me the wiser one here. The rock for everyone else. I'm playing the role of project manager in helping my dad get help, helping my mom get her life together. Only because she's finally ready to help herself.
But deep down some days I just feel empty inside, lacking motivation to do anything I used to dream of doing. The music within me feels like it's dying out, and I'm not sure how to get it back.
Religion used to be my steady ground. But without it now, I feel like I'm over a deep, depressing abyss that is always under my feet, just every once in a while hidden by the pale glow of fading sunlight.
Thank you, false hope and ignorant religion, for adding to my list of disappointments.