Jump to content
Insightful

Finding happiness during hard seasons is harder as a Ex-C

Recommended Posts

I left evangelical Christianity 6 years ago and, once the dust settled, I became quite happy with myself and my life. I enjoyed some very successful years in my career and derived a lot of joy and satisfaction from my work.  Family, although difficult (both marriage and parenting), has also generally been a source of much joy.

 

In the past couple of months everything has become more difficult in my life. Nothing tragic but but I'm stuck in a rut in my career working harder than ever while income has gone down some.  My marriage has gotten harder in many ways and and parenting has continued to be exhausting.

 

Now that the circumstances of my daily life have become much less enjoyable, I am finding it much more difficult as a non-believer to find happiness in this "down season" of my life.

 

Before, even if work sucked and family life was hard, I had that sense of community and belonging and felt my sense of purpose in a reality that was much bigger than myself.  And, I'm not going to lie, that really carried me through the darker seasons.  As an ex-C, when things were going my way I didn't miss all of that so much.  Now I do.

 

How do you guys handle periods in your life where the Earthly things that typically bring you Joy are not bringing happiness the way they used to?

 

Have you found something like that takes the place of that bigger sense of purpose and belonging and community we had before?

 

  • Sad 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Insightful said:

Have you found something like that takes the place of that bigger sense of purpose and belonging and community we had before?

 

The ex-christian.net forums, of course!

Honestly, not that much.  The older I get, the more I am o.k. with the fact that I prefer to be alone, and being around people is a chore that has to be done from time to time.  I get absorbed by a variety of activities that I enjoy, like computer programming, photography, alternate guitar tunings, reading about philosophy and religion . . . .  When I get tired of one thing I switch to another.  When all else fails I go out and clear brush or cut firewood.  Sometimes life can have a “playing solitaire in a prison cell” feel to it, but I try to make what I do worthwhile to others, and sometimes I succeed.  And there are a couple of other forums I participate in.  Bottom line, life is what you make it.  Take pleasure in that oatmeal and water like a good epicurean.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Learn to live without; and you'll learn to live within.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry you've had a rough time the past few months!  There's no denying that religions in general - including Christianity - can provide benefits that are hard to find elsewhere.  That's partly why they've endured so long, often well past the point where their historical bases have lost credibility.  The sense of community, the belief of there being a higher power watching over things, these are hard things to give up for many people.

 

I've been fortunate, not just in not having had many major crises in my life, but also in somehow being able to derive a lot of joy from life.  Not the superficial joy of seeing my team win a game (though it happens a lot: Go Patriots!!) , or receiving the perfect gift, but a deeper everyday happiness in just being alive and experiencing things that are so easy to take for granted.  I know people whose circumstances are so similar to mine (financial and physical security, good marriages and family situations, good health) but who seem to rarely if ever experience this sense of joy, happiness or contentment.  Why is that?  I'm sure some people are blessed with somewhat different brain-chemistry.  Or maybe they've somehow adopted a healthier outlook on life.  I've often tried to put my finger on it so I could help people who seem like they should be happy but aren't.  But it's elusive.  I can point to some things that seem to make a difference for me:  I make a habit of thinking about the things I'm thankful for, and it's always a long list:  the beauty of the natural world, even on my suburban commute to work;  the pleasure of sunshine on my face, the love of my dogs, the relative luxury of my middle-class home compared to what the vast majority of humans have had over history.  So I guess that cultivating an attitude of thankfulness is one of the keys for me.

 

I often use mental tricks to put setbacks in perspective: so if my car gets totaled and I'm inclined to be miserable because of it, I imagine a scenario where I get the news that my wife has been killed in a crash.  Then imagine that after a few minutes I get a call that there's been a mistake:  she was actually in a bad accident and the car is wrecked but she escaped with a scratch or two.  I'd want to dance in the street, want to tell every stranger the good news... even though the car is still wrecked.  After my deconversion I developed an interest in the Greek and Roman philosophy of Stoicism, which has seen a big resurgence lately as more and more people have been leaving religion, and I realized that something like this same technique is one of the key tools in the Stoic toolbox.  I'd suggest taking a look at some of the books on the subject that have become popular:

 

Happy (Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine) - Derren Brown

The Daily Stoic (366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living) - Ryan Holiday (or any of his books)

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - William B Irvine

 

I've also dabbled in Meditation and begun to explore modern versions of Buddhism, both of which seem to make a big difference to a lot of people.

 

I don't know if any of this helps at all.  Just trying to zoom in on things that have helped me.  I hope you can get your mojo back, my friend.  And I hope the good people in this community can help you with that.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are interested in stoicism (which you should be), go straight to the source:  Seneca and Epictetus.

https://www.amazon.com/Senecas-Letters-Stoic-Thrift-Editions-ebook/dp/B01N9BAEOR/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=seneca&qid=1575393266&s=books&sr=1-7

https://www.amazon.com/Discourses-Fragments-Handbook-Oxford-Classics/dp/0199595186/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=epictetus&qid=1575393417&s=books&sr=1-8

 

I think all kinds of philosophies and even religions are illuminating in various ways.  My original interest was taoism; it is such a nice, non-theist, introspective, one-with-the-universe philosophy.  If I went back to christianity, I would be some kind of gnostic; it makes more sense.  And I don’t know if this would be your kind of thing, but if you miss the community, there are churches where a non-theist could fit in.

 

p.s. Go Buckeyes!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stoicism is nothing to get excited about.  😆😆😆

  • Haha 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You’re going to give me Zenophobia.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, TABA said:

I'm sorry you've had a rough time the past few months!  There's no denying that religions in general - including Christianity - can provide benefits that are hard to find elsewhere.  That's partly why they've endured so long, often well past the point where their historical bases have lost credibility.  The sense of community, the belief of there being a higher power watching over things, these are hard things to give up for many people.

 

I've been fortunate, not just in not having had many major crises in my life, but also in somehow being able to derive a lot of joy from life.  Not the superficial joy of seeing my team win a game (though it happens a lot: Go Patriots!!) , or receiving the perfect gift, but a deeper everyday happiness in just being alive and experiencing things that are so easy to take for granted.  I know people whose circumstances are so similar to mine (financial and physical security, good marriages and family situations, good health) but who seem to rarely if ever experience this sense of joy, happiness or contentment.  Why is that?  I'm sure some people are blessed with somewhat different brain-chemistry.  Or maybe they've somehow adopted a healthier outlook on life.  I've often tried to put my finger on it so I could help people who seem like they should be happy but aren't.  But it's elusive.  I can point to some things that seem to make a difference for me:  I make a habit of thinking about the things I'm thankful for, and it's always a long list:  the beauty of the natural world, even on my suburban commute to work;  the pleasure of sunshine on my face, the love of my dogs, the relative luxury of my middle-class home compared to what the vast majority of humans have had over history.  So I guess that cultivating an attitude of thankfulness is one of the keys for me.

 

I often use mental tricks to put setbacks in perspective: so if my car gets totaled and I'm inclined to be miserable because of it, I imagine a scenario where I get the news that my wife has been killed in a crash.  Then imagine that after a few minutes I get a call that there's been a mistake:  she was actually in a bad accident and the car is wrecked but she escaped with a scratch or two.  I'd want to dance in the street, want to tell every stranger the good news... even though the car is still wrecked.  After my deconversion I developed an interest in the Greek and Roman philosophy of Stoicism, which has seen a big resurgence lately as more and more people have been leaving religion, and I realized that something like this same technique is one of the key tools in the Stoic toolbox.  I'd suggest taking a look at some of the books on the subject that have become popular:

 

Happy (Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine) - Derren Brown

The Daily Stoic (366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living) - Ryan Holiday (or any of his books)

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - William B Irvine

 

I've also dabbled in Meditation and begun to explore modern versions of Buddhism, both of which seem to make a big difference to a lot of people.

 

I don't know if any of this helps at all.  Just trying to zoom in on things that have helped me.  I hope you can get your mojo back, my friend.  And I hope the good people in this community can help you with that.

 

 

Thanks TABA  -

I really appreciate the perspective/advice/thoughts!

Being thankful is a great place to start 😃

 

And i love stoic philosophy - I will get myself thinking rightly again.

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having been raised with the idea of divine destiny, I've had the expectation that my life was going to somehow be extra-ordinary, incredible,  a cut above the average... anything but the garden-variety, mediocre, 9-5 existence most people endure.  It was a tremendous disappointment to realize that god doesn't really have a plan for any of us; and that my life was going to end up pretty plain.

 

This disillusionment spilled over into my post-christian life.  Even though I know there is no divine destiny, I still find myself looking for the next big thing, the next great adventure, the next new experience; and I'm often horrifically bored with my life.  Don't get me wrong, I've had a pretty awesome run, so far; but there's still that part of me longing for "more."  A last vestige of my once firmly held belief that me and jesus were going to do great things together, I suppose.

 

What has helped me out a lot over the past year or so has been forcing myself to focus only on The Moment.  Just live in The Now, without expectation, or judgement of it.  Just observe what is happening and try to learn from it.  I might not ever have an incredible life; but I'm learning to create a series of incredible moments.  And maybe that's all I really need.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/3/2019 at 1:59 AM, Insightful said:

Now that the circumstances of my daily life have become much less enjoyable, I am finding it much more difficult as a non-believer to find happiness in this "down season" of my life.

 

Cali, that may be the problem. 🤣

 

Sorry you're going through a tough time. Communities are communities. Churches aren't the only ones. I like my surfing communities much better. We're very tribal and close. This can be true of many alternative sports, hobbies, and what have you. The church is just like minded people (I say that very loosely) hanging out together like any other type of club, or tribal type of in group setting. If church was your only line to that type of community, and then you stepped out without any comparable community, then there's the problem. 

 

This is just an online forum, but for what it's worth WE are a community too. We all care enough to continue hanging out here. It's kinda nice in my view. Because it's a unique type of community. Smart people. Good content. Thought provoking at times. I had a huge long day today. Drove all over the place. Come home, pop open the lap top, check right in to see what my friends are up to. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/2/2019 at 10:59 PM, Insightful said:

How do you guys handle periods in your life where the Earthly things that typically bring you Joy are not bringing happiness the way they used to?

 

Have you found something like that takes the place of that bigger sense of purpose and belonging and community we had before?

  

One answer to your questions is to re-read Joshpantera's comments:

5 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Sorry you're going through a tough time. Communities are communities. Churches aren't the only ones. I like my surfing communities much better. We're very tribal and close. This can be true of many alternative sports, hobbies, and what have you. The church is just like minded people (I say that very loosely) hanging out together like any other type of club, or tribal type of in group setting. If church was your only line to that type of community, and then you stepped out without any comparable community, then there's the problem.

 

Getting into another community is a big help. There are a bazillion clubs in every area for every possible interest. Community colleges are also a great resource — taking a class or getting involved in some of the other activities.

 

Something I did recently was to make a list of all the interesting places I've been and cool things I've done, just to remind myself that I've had some good experiences. It reminds me that after the rain the sun always shines.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

Having been raised with the idea of divine destiny, I've had the expectation that my life was going to somehow be extra-ordinary, incredible,  a cut above the average... anything but the garden-variety, mediocre, 9-5 existence most people endure.  It was a tremendous disappointment to realize that god doesn't really have a plan for any of us; and that my life was going to end up pretty plain.

 

This disillusionment spilled over into my post-christian life.  Even though I know there is no divine destiny, I still find myself looking for the next big thing, the next great adventure, the next new experience; and I'm often horrifically bored with my life.  Don't get me wrong, I've had a pretty awesome run, so far; but there's still that part of me longing for "more."  A last vestige of my once firmly held belief that me and jesus were going to do great things together, I suppose.

 

What has helped me out a lot over the past year or so has been forcing myself to focus only on The Moment.  Just live in The Now, without expectation, or judgement of it.  Just observe what is happening and try to learn from it.  I might not ever have an incredible life; but I'm learning to create a series of incredible moments.  And maybe that's all I really need.

 

Thank you so much Redneck Prof -

You hit the nail on the head 1,000%.

 

YES - I definitely still carry with me an expectation of a bigger than normal life and in fact I've spent the last 6 years moving from one Quest to another that was supposed to elevate my fairly average existence into something incredible / bigger / great / more.

 

As Christians, my wife and I started adopting orphans and my goal was to adopt 8. Even as an ex Christian, I still wanted to continue the quest as a good humanist.  Having two kids was so normal and boring and not exemplary and not an extra-incredible life.  But because of my loss of faith and related (and unrelated) marriage problems, my wife did not want to adopt any more children after our 2nd.

 

I spent two to three years trying to figure out how to be a good enough husband in her mind so that we could continue adopting.  

 

As that Quest / Adventure seemed to be less and less likely, I found a new adventure in my oldest daughter who began to show incredible Talent as a figure skater.  So I set my sights on Crafting a skating champion, five to six days a week at the rink, up at the butt-crack of dawn,  Olympic coaches, Etc.  And although she enjoyed skating, she did not have the drive, desire and determination to be an Olympic champion - and I had to accept the reality that it was totally wrong for me to force my quest for an extraordinary life onto her.  

 

After that, I set my sight on wealth.  I bought 10 rental homes and four Massage Envy franchises ( in addition to the business and home I already owned).  My goal was to live a very comfortable life and have a ton of money to give away to help orphans...  Well the businesses have been a crap ton of work.  I'm stressed and exhausted and I'm not making any more money than when I just had one business!  And i pay way more in taxes too, thank you California.  In business I've been stolen from, duped into WAY overpaying for a business (like 200k over) and now im facing a wrongful termination lawsuit from someone i did no wrong to...

 

So I think I'm having to make peace with the fact that try as I may, I don't think I'm going to live a much bigger than average life.    Like my previous quests this current Quest is not going do *the thing* I'm hoping it will.  I'm not getting Uber Rich anytime soon, and in fact I would have had more money to give to orphans had I not invested in these businesses...

 

You know what's funny?  Putting our stories together sounds an awful lot like the Book of Ecclesiastes -  which is the one truly good book in the Bible (that was probably written by a non-believer anyway).

 

I think your advice is exactly correct - don't look for an incredible life measured by accomplishment or status, but live in the moment and string together a series of incredible moments.

 

Thank you for that great advice.  Your title of "Professor" is well deserved.  😃

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad I could help.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Insightful said:

And i pay way more in taxes too, thank you California.

 

I knew it!!!

 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Insightful said:

 

 

 

You know what's funny?  Putting our stories together sounds an awful lot like the Book of Ecclesiastes -  which is the one truly good book in the Bible (that was probably written by a non-believer anyway).

 

  😃

My god Insightful, I was going to mention this book of the bible to you and then I read this!! Lol  By the way, so sorry you are going through a hard time right now.

 

It's funny I never bring up the bible at all anymore but  I wanted to tell you that my absolute favorite book in the bible and the one that always made most sense to me was the book of Ecclesiastes. I thought King Solomon might have been a cool guy to know.  This 'wisdom' he seemed to understand when it came to wine, woman and song and how it could all turn 'mundane' and wasn't all it was cracked up to be, was such an interesting fact in that book. (and he had lots of money)  He states in that book, if you read and studied it like I did that he was quite bored  after a few 'rounds of everything'. (I studied and taught this book in church for awhile at woman's breakfasts) He said basically that life just goes around in circles. Same ole'- same ole. And he mentions 'toil' and he said that was drag also. He then states that after all this wine, woman and song, along with hard responsibility.....you end up dying with no teeth, no sexual appetites, body withering away, etc. I actually found the book realistic and funny at the same time. Lol 

 

I bring this up in my post because I have found that it is soooo important not to stay in a rut. You are running on a 'program'. You are doing the same  thing everyday, run by your brain being on auto pilot. We get up, go to the toilet, brush teeth, have coffee, eat breakfast, then get ready for the same mundane day. I do not do this anymore. I 'switch it up'.   It's important to do  something different everyday. Have something to look forward to every night if you can....even if it's a good movie. Life is so full of responsibility and it can get totally exhausting...that is why it's important to 'switch it up' daily. Even if that means taking another route to work or brushing your teeth with your other hand!! Anything to break up the routine.. It's a really good way to cope if you are suffering a bit of depression.

 

And I have also found that anything new and exciting can turn to boredom if you start doing it everyday. (like exercise...that's why it becomes boring to me when i do it everyday.... so now I do it 3 times a week and I do it when spontaneously instead of having the schedule) This method is why I 'switch it up' now and try to think of something to do different (even if that means cleaning out a closet or your shed) that will bring you a feeling of pride. Get out of the routine. Most of the time what we want can be right in front of our faces. That is if you are fortunate to have a roof over your head and you are able to make your payments every month. Some people do not have a thing. That's why I have become extremely grateful for what I have instead of what I don't have.

 

Just writing out my thought to you today. I also remember even being bored having to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday night seeing the same ole' people and hearing the same ole' things.

 

So go try something different today! And have fun doing it!! Big (hug) 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/7/2019 at 1:30 AM, Insightful said:

After that, I set my sight on wealth.  I bought 10 rental homes and four Massage Envy franchises ( in addition to the business and home I already owned).  My goal was to live a very comfortable life and have a ton of money to give away to help orphans...  Well the businesses have been a crap ton of work.  I'm stressed and exhausted and I'm not making any more money than when I just had one business!  And i pay way more in taxes too, thank you California.  In business I've been stolen from, duped into WAY overpaying for a business (like 200k over) and now im facing a wrongful termination lawsuit from someone i did no wrong to...

 

Have you looked into moving out here to Florida? First of all, the taxes are cut dramatically. Everything is generally less expensive by comparison. My aunt and uncle moved to Orlando from the Santa Monica area a few years and were taken back by the savings. The hundreds of thousands of dollars difference in comparable real estate. I haven't looked into it concerning business, but I don't see why it would be any different. No state taxes is a huge plus.

 

More money for helping people yourself, rather than the state coming in and taking a lion's share and squandering it! 🤣

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As an example, I found out Friday that I did not get a job that I was really hoping to get.  It would have been a "perfect" position for me; and certainly "the next big thing" for my career.  But the company found somebody else they liked better.  It happens.

 

In the past, I would have obsessed over missing out on the prestige that would have come with working with that particular company.  I would have fretted over the lack of financial security I'm currently facing, and lamented the loss of the salary that position offered.  I would have used this opportunity to wax philosophical, poetical even, about the vanity of life, as our esteemed author of Ecclesiastes did.

 

Instead, however, I've spent my time this weekend reflecting on The Moment.  I ask myself, "Did I really need that job, when right now I have a good, home-cooked meal in front of me?"  Or, "Do I really need more money in the bank,  when right now I have a nice, warm winter coat on this frosty morning?"  "Do I really want to pour more if myself into my career, when right now I have a beautiful wife who is having a wonderful time going grocery shopping with me?"

 

Obviously, this shifts the focus off of the negative (I didn't get a job I was perfect for and it really sucks); and onto the positive (I don't need an incredible job, when I've already got a pretty rad life).  But it also enhances The Moment I am currently experiencing.  I am able to be present with my family over dinner, present with my new coat, present with my wife...  present with a good cup of coffee and nothing more.  Rather than just being present with the suckiness of life; I am present with the awesomeness of my life.

 

That's what helps me out, anyway.  Take it for what it's worth. 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/7/2019 at 6:16 AM, Margee said:

My god Insightful, I was going to mention this book of the bible to you and then I read this!! Lol  By the way, so sorry you are going through a hard time right now.

 

It's funny I never bring up the bible at all anymore but  I wanted to tell you that my absolute favorite book in the bible and the one that always made most sense to me was the book of Ecclesiastes. I thought King Solomon might have been a cool guy to know.  This 'wisdom' he seemed to understand when it came to wine, woman and song and how it could all turn 'mundane' and wasn't all it was cracked up to be, was such an interesting fact in that book. (and he had lots of money)  He states in that book, if you read and studied it like I did that he was quite bored  after a few 'rounds of everything'. (I studied and taught this book in church for awhile at woman's breakfasts) He said basically that life just goes around in circles. Same ole'- same ole. And he mentions 'toil' and he said that was drag also. He then states that after all this wine, woman and song, along with hard responsibility.....you end up dying with no teeth, no sexual appetites, body withering away, etc. I actually found the book realistic and funny at the same time. Lol 

Thanks Margee!  I totally agree - Ecclesiastes is on to something...

 

Thank you for the encouragement and reminder to change it up / break out of the rut.

 

I really appreciate it.  😃

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/8/2019 at 8:14 AM, TheRedneckProfessor said:

Instead, however, I've spent my time this weekend reflecting on The Moment.  I ask myself, "Did I really need that job, when right now I have a good, home-cooked meal in front of me?"  Or, "Do I really need more money in the bank,  when right now I have a nice, warm winter coat on this frosty morning?"  "Do I really want to pour more if myself into my career, when right now I have a beautiful wife who is having a wonderful time going grocery shopping with me?"

 

Obviously, this shifts the focus off of the negative (I didn't get a job I was perfect for and it really sucks); and onto the positive (I don't need an incredible job, when I've already got a pretty rad life).  But it also enhances The Moment I am currently experiencing.  I am able to be present with my family over dinner, present with my new coat, present with my wife...  present with a good cup of coffee and nothing more.  Rather than just being present with the suckiness of life; I am present with the awesomeness of my life.

Thanks RNP - that's a great example 😃 my temptation is to say "Sorry you didnt get the position", but it looks like you made peace with it quickly.

 

You have a fantastic outlook/perspective.  Thx for sharing.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.