Hello…It’s Me…

 

It’s been awhile.  For about a year now, I thought of abandoning my blog for good.  I simply couldn’t find my creative spark anymore.  It was like a fight every time I would try to write here and I started avoiding it to prevent beating myself up and the frustration of what direction to go.

Well, I’ve been on a bit of a journey of reinvention lately.  I know–so deep.  It all started on my 58th birthday.  Over the past year or so, I kind of lost my mojo, so to speak, but when I turned 58, I realized that it’s either give up and grow feebly old, or keep fighting.  I am after all a fighter, so I made the decision to work on becoming the best I could be by the time I’m 60.  You know, make a comeback and not just physically, but mentally and emotionally-to connect to the world and find my center, to use a hackneyed phrase.

Anyway, as I began this journey, I knew I needed to make some changes (more about that another day) and I thought a lot about my love of writing and my blog. When did I get waylaid?    When I first started Blinders Off, I had a focus and an outlet for all my feelings and the writing just flowed. I loved it.  It felt so right.  I see now that my problem started when I tried to maintain that focus and when I couldn’t, I thought I needed to find another one–I don’t.

What is wrong with writing what ever I want, about what ever I want and see what it becomes?  So simple, yet I couldn’t see it.  I need to relax and breath and let my naturally creative juices flow.

I am enjoying my “journey of reinvention,” so corny.  I’m not going to call it that anymore–I promise.  Happily, even at this stage of my life,  I am learning so much about myself and others. That’s pretty cool.  There are some big changes heading my way, (more about that another day too) but instead of white-knuckling it, or saying I’m too old for this, I’m calling the changes adventures and am preparing myself for the ride.

For now, I’m leaving you this video here, which I would like to dedicate to The Church of Jesus Christ and its leaders.  I remember feeling this way when I was in The Church and also as I was leaving it.  I feel compassion and empathy for those who are still deep into it and are struggling.  Some day when you have had enough, you will walk away, then  you’ll skip, and then you’ll run and then life will begin.

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Going Dark

dark_on_social_mceoIt’s that time of year again—the holidays. It’s the time of year when loved ones, or not so loved ones, get together. It seems that many families, even ones that have major disagreements, or issues, still find a way to bury the hatchet, so to speak and enjoy one another’s company. You know how it is, the uncle that gets drunk and the police have to be called or the bipolar son who stands up and decides now is the time to let everyone know just how unsupported he feels. In the end though, everyone forgives and forgets and loves one another and when the next holiday rolls around, you are all back together. It’s not like that for all of us though.

For many who have left the faith,  what we have done is the one thing that simply can’t be forgiven.

I have not heard my sister’s voice in over five years and I think it’s been longer since I talked with my mother. Sometimes, like this time of year, I find myself wondering how they can be without me, because even with all their rejection and abusive behavior I endured before saying enough is enough, I find it so, so hard to be without them. I think that is why this is the time of year I go dark. I know that others do too.

The good news is, things get better. Like waves, I go down and then come back up and crest and for me, I don’t go down as far anymore. Once this time of year is over, I’ll be fine.

You know, it really is their loss (I know I’ve said that before) but it is. I was a good daughter and a good sister–a super fun and loyal friend, but they’ll never let themselves see that, because now I’m an atheist and how can an atheist be good, be moral, love anything really? They don’t trust me and in some ways I understand. I was one of them once.

So tonight and tomorrow, I will be with my beautiful kids, whom I love with a vengeance and they love me the same.  I have My Man, who is amazing and his awesome kids, who think I’m pretty cool, and we will all drink and laugh and the darkness will lift. I wonder if it ever will for my mother, my sister, my old friends.

I hope so, but I’ve stopped holding my breath.  I had to.

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You

familySince my last post, I’ve thought a lot about how atheists are spoken of, how we are treated, how demonized we all are. I don’t have a persecution complex or anything like that. As much as I would like to say it’s not all that bad, I know that it is. The reality is, we are so maligned that even the people closest to us can rationalize turning their backs on us. I believe they feel righteous in some way.

Today I’m going to share a letter my sister wrote to me soon after I had started doubting my belief in god and while I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life.I do this because I want others, who have had their families turn their backs on them, to know it’s not them and they are not alone.

I’ll spare you the background for now, except to say that our relationship had been extremely close up until I shared my doubts about god. I think the letter speaks for itself. Here it is:

I don’t want to hurt you with my words, but I have to speak the truth. I’m tired. You’ve never made it easy to talk with you about my feelings regarding our relationship. I send you these words from my heart. I can no longer hide from the truth of my feelings and I want to be up front and honest with you from now on. I’m tired of being ‘fake’ due to fear and I certainly no longer want to patronize you. That isn’t fair to you.

I love you very much because you are my sister. I forgive you. I have no ill will towards you, just deep sadness for many reasons, most of which we’ve discussed already. I am deeply sad because I have developed a wall between you and I that I cannot seem to break down. I have trust issues with you that hopefully will one day go away. That in no way means that I don’t love you deeply and cherish you as my sister. That will never change. Also, I love you with a deep love that can only come from Christ.   My heart breaks over hearing what you have to say about our Savior, but that is not why I am choosing to distance my self from you. Hopefully you will search your heart and discover what you need to do to repair our relationship.

Just so you know, the reason why I have never questioned your beliefs, and this may sound harsh, but over one year ago I was advised by several trusted people who know me and are familiar with our relationship, not to speak with you about why you have hardened your heart towards God because you’ve had such a strong influence on me over the years and it is dangerous to speak with you about the ‘earthly wisdom’ that you claim that you’ve been enlightened by. I can’t put it any other way. I have to be open and honest with you.

I will continue to pray that you find Jesus Christ in the midst of your pain.

As a follower of Christ I would be doing you an injustice if I did not give you this verse: John 15:5 – ‘I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’ I have attached John 15 that I am praying you will read.

All my love, Brenda”

So there it is. Retyping it is like reading it for the first time–painful. When people you love reject you for being an atheist, it’s the most helpless feeling in the world, but like they say on The Sopranos, “Whad’ya gonna do?” Nothing, but know it’s not you; it’s them. The truth is, although I miss my sister, I would not give up the freedom I have in the hopes that one day, she will consider me once again worthy of her love. I tried that a for so long and all it did was leave me broken.

My advice, move on. Stop trying to get loved ones to stop rejecting you.  If they truly love you, they will find you.  Instead surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, and you in turn love others for who they are.  There is nothing like it–I promise.

 

Shoot me down, but I won’t Fall

I was trying to decide which song I wanted to post first and decided on this one.  I prefer the EDM version, but for this post, I think this video is better. It’s not really on the unrequited love theme, but definitely love lost—friend and family love.

Listening to this song made me think of all the friends I’d lost and how my mother and sister treated me.  In my early posts I wrote of  the suffering I went through from the loss. At times it was almost unbearable. I ran and hid. I was always on the offensive and always feeling like I had to be the one to mend those relationships, because I was the bad one—the one who no longer believed.

Of course, at some point I realized that it didn’t matter what I did, I was no longer a Christian and so I no longer had a place at the table—figuratively and literally.  They were done with me, but not before they did their “Christian duty.” I love the one line in the song: “Stone hard, machine gun, firing at the ones who run, stone-hard as bulletproof glass.”  They do fire at the ones who run, don’t they?  Thankfully, I kept running–in a zigzag pattern, of course, as to survive.

Most importantly the song continues to remind me of just how far I’ve come.  I’m stronger now—Titanium.  Those people can’t hurt me anymore.  They may pity me, but they are the ones who should be pitied.  They are the ones who now no longer have a place at my table and you know what?  It’s their loss.

I’m bullet proof, nothing to lose.

 

Say Something

If I could sing a song to the god I had believed in for so long, the god I loved and trusted in—my first real love—it would be the song I have attached below. As my anger toward Christians, and God and religion began to dissipate, I was looking forward to moving on, having all that stuff not matter any more.  I had no idea that my anger and angst would be replaced with incredible pain before it was all said and done.  It all came to the surface one day as I listened to this song for the first time.

All those nights I begged god to reveal himself to me, and all those prayers I prayed on my knees in the dark, and nothing.  Anger would be easier for me at this point, but that is not what I’m left with right now.  So be it.  I feel a little closer to being completely healed.  I kind of always knew that I would have to confront the sorrow at some point, and now I am.  So be it.  Enjoy the song.  I believe it will touch you as well.  (Sorry about the ad on the video.  It’s worth the wait though)

The Truth About Love

love-2I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 13.  People, not  always Christians, use this part of scripture as a reading for weddings and other events, regularly. When I heard it the other day, I realized how profound it is, and of all the scripture I have read, 1 Corinthians 13 is actually something I can hold onto as a guideline for my life:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Interestingly, these principles are the ones I have rarely seen in the Christians in my life, especially the ones that are closest to me. There have been a couple of times where I confronted my sister with these scriptures and let her know that when she says she loves me, but continues to be cruel and rejecting, she isn’t living out 1 Corinthians 13, which is part of her holy book.  Her response to me has always been the same; “I do love you, I just can’t be around you, or I don’t trust you, or I have a wall up between me and you,” etc., etc. Well, what is love then?  The apostle Paul seems to make it clear.  Maybe in “the original language” it means something entirely different.

I decided to look up the definition of love and here is a synopsis:  “Profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; to take great pleasure in as for a parent, child, or friend.”

Most hard core Christians, my sister and mother included, do not exhibit any of the aspects of 1 Corinthians 13 love, at least not to me.  I’m not sure why.  It’s like the more you study the scriptures and the closer you get to god, the meaner, more judgmental, and more hateful you become.  I saw it in myself and I’ve seen it in my sister.  In fact, seeing it happen to my sister caused me to take a good hard look at myself.  I have to admit it’s easier to exhibit 1 Corinthians 13 love as a secular humanist than it ever was as a Christian. I wonder why that is?  The apostle says that it doesn’t matter whether you have knowledge, or have faith; if you lack love, you are nothing and yet, many Christians are great at attaining knowledge and going on and on about their faith, yet love, real love, is rarely seen.  At least I have not encountered it.

It’s as if knowing and speaking the laws of God, or trotting out the faith card are more important than simply loving.  It’s all so pharisaical and you know what Jesus had to say about them?  Let me paraphrase; they were gross.

…There’s No Heaven

imagineBlaise Pascal believed that it is best to err on the side of the existence of god, because if god is not real, what have you lost by believing in him?  Pascal’s Wager has been presented to me on many occasions since becoming an atheist.  I have lots of responses actually, and one of them came to mind while I was at a charity event a couple of weeks ago.  As fate would have it, I ran into two Christian couples that used to be very good friends of mine.  We went on vacation together; our kids hung out together.  We shared happiness and heartache.  We truly depended on one another.  Of course, that all changed once I gave up Christianity and divorced.  Both couples virtually disappeared from my life.  The last conversation I had with one of the wives was when she told me the reason she didn’t invite me to her daughter’s wedding was because it was going to be a “Christian” wedding and she was “afraid of what I would do.”   The last time the other friend spoke to me was when she told me that she took it personally when I stopped going to church.  The last time I ran into her, she pretended like she didn’t recognize me and turned away.  I was friends with both husbands as well, but because I am now single AND a nonbeliever, I am doubly dangerous in their wives’ eyes, perhaps theirs too.  To be fair, this time both of these couples were more than pleasant to me.   Maybe it was because I was with my man and in a public place. I’m not sure. My friend, that hadn’t invited me to the wedding, insisted that she would love to get together with me and would call.  In my experience, this doesn’t happen. I’ve heard that so many times from old Christian friends, to no avail.

This got me thinking.   Christians believe that in order to get to Heaven, you must believe and trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation.  I do not.  Worse than that (In their eyes), I once professed to believe in all that, but no longer do—making me an apostate. Because of this, they believe they will never see me in their heaven. My Christian friends know this all too well.  They insist that they still want to remain friends, spend time with me, still love and care about me, but I never hear from them.  They continue to have parties and do fun things; I’m never invited.  Here is my point:  If they really do love and care for me and they really believe they will never see me on the other side, why don’t they want to spend as much time as they can with me, in the here and now?  I mean, if they really want to spend time with me and they know time is short, why don’t they?  The same could be asked of my sister and my mother.  I know they believe I won’t be in their heaven and yet they do not speak to me or try to mend our relationship.  The only conclusion I can come to is that they really only loved and cared for me because I believed in the same god as them.  Now that I no longer do and am open about it, they do not want me around.  Every thing I was:  My sense of humor, my wit and sarcasm, the desire to have fun at all costs, everything that made me, me, well that has somehow become moot.  They can’t enjoy my company anymore. I’m sullied. You know what though?  It’s their loss.  I was a good friend, a fun friend, a generous and kind friend and sister and daughter.  They don’t get the benefit of that any more.  Others do now.

So, what does one have to lose by believing in God?  The answer is simple:  Relationships, for one—deep, abiding, loving, and simply enjoyable relationships.  That is one of the prices people pay for believing in a nonexistent god.  I’m not willing to pay that price, but that’s just me.

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