But…I’m an Atheist…?

I have had so much on my mind lately that I’ve missed just sitting here at the computer and letting it all out.

So my dad’s health has declined.  The doctors removed all of the cancer so that currently isn’t a concern, but his mental health has taken a huge hit.  He’s very much ready to die and I understand where he’s coming from.  Looking at this as his daughter, it does make me sad.  I feel like I was deprived of a relationship, a real, quality relationship, with my dad for most of my life, and now there’s not much a relationship at all.  It’s become business.  Looking at him from a business standpoint, I understand where he’s coming from and I empathize.  I know he’s miserable.  None of us were prepared for this.  Between being stuck in the house, not being able to eat, drink, talk, anything…it’s understandable he’d sink into depression.  He’s been begging for hospice but since the cancer is gone they can’t approve it, so he was sent to palliative care.  They prescribed him some antidepressants but he won’t take them.  He just wants to die.  I kind of feel like he’s doing everything in his power to bring on death sooner.

As for my personal life, my daughter started preschool this year.  It was an emotional couple of weeks but she’s done great and has really thrived.  I was kind of excited to chat with some of the moms at drop-off and pick-up but not many really talk to me.  There’s one mom in particular who doesn’t like me, she’s made it quite clear, and if she’s nearby nobody else will talk to me.  It’s been like this for a couple of years so I’m quite used to it, I’m just bummed that the cliques didn’t end in high school.

Since nobody talks to me none of them know what’s going on with my dad, obviously.  I knew life was really getting crazy because my dreams were showing it; one night I had a dream that I was alone on a boat, I could see myself laying down on this little wooden boat in the middle of a large body of water, it was dark out so I could see the moon reflecting on the near-black water.  All of a sudden a storm picked up and waves were crashing over the boat and I just laid there, I did nothing but let the storm go on around me, crash over me.  The next day was a particularly rough day.  My dad was being so stubborn and demanding, the kids were all acting out, I just had a lot of stress going on.  I brought Charlotte to school and as I was getting in the car a mom, a mom I had only briefly met on the bike trail over the summer, approached me. (For anonymity she will be “preschool mom.”)

She said that she didn’t normally do this sort of thing and apologized if it was weird, but she had a dream about me the night before and she didn’t know if I was dealing with some storms in my life but she felt like she needed to reach out and invite me to her church, she offered for us to sit in her pew and said she wouldn’t be offended if I said ‘No.’  I thanked her and that was it.  I got in the car and as soon as my seat belt clicked I broke down.  I cried the whole way home.  She was a stranger to me, she knew nothing of my life, I’m very good about keeping my personal life personal so I know I wasn’t wearing my emotions.  It was just weird.  I thought a lot about her offer, though.  I talked to my best friend about it and I cried a lot.  Man I cried so much that day.  I looked up her church, though, and it is a non-denominational church a town or two over.  I watched a couple of the sermons online.  The pastor seemed cool, down to earth and not one of those IN-YOUR-FACE-LETS-SCREAM-ABOUT-JESUS kinds of people.  In the three sermons I watched there were a couple things he said that really stuck with me, I wrote them down and I’m going to share them here:

  1. “When you’re in the fight and things are hard, find Him.  Remember that He will be by your side.  Go to Him.  Lean on Him.  Let Him walk you through the tough stuff.  Remember that He is with you and you are not in this by yourself.”
  2. “Maybe you’ve never known that kind of father, maybe you never knew the kind of father that you could count on and holler for when you needed help.  Maybe that kind of relationship, it’s really foreign to you; that when you’re in trouble you can call on him and you know they’re going to come rescue you.  But God the father has not left you.  God the father is with you, too.  If you’re here and you’re like, ‘I’ve never seen God this way before, I’ve never seen that God’s the one that could help me or save me, the one that is with me in all things.  I’ve never leaned on God when things were tough before,’ you’ve never walked with Him…if you’re not sure how to walk with Him and this faith thing is new to you then all you need to do, when you start to believe…God grabs you by the hand and He teaches you how to walk, just like he did for Ephraim, and whenever it gets hard and you’re not sure how to move forward from here, He takes a little bit more weight and He keeps moving with you as you let Him.  When you start to fall, He catches you and when you start moving a little too fast He can pull you back, and when you get tired, He can carry you.”

So, based on just this blog post, and if you’ve read previous ones you’re familiar with my relationship with my dad, you can probably understand why these two quotes resonated with me.  The next day I told the preschool mom that I was really honored by her invitation, that it actually made me cry (and then I started crying right there in the preschool parking lot) and I put a lot of thought into it.  I briefly touched on what was going on with my dad and why her offer had such an impact on me, but wrapped it up with accepting her offer.  Then we hugged.

That Sunday I went to church.  I have not been to church in about ten years aside from the few funerals that I’ve attended, a couple baptisms.  I didn’t quite know what to expect but I was more open-minded because this one is non-denominational.  The lack of a title, I guess, makes me feel like I’m allowed to just be there without fully identifying as something I might not be.  The pastor I watched online didn’t speak that day, so I was a bit bummed, but a senior pastor did.  His sermon was a bit more historically based but he spoke about a fella named Gad who only appears in the bible a few times.  He’s not a key player, but when he appears he says something, usually a few words, that people don’t pay full attention to, but they should because his words are usually important.  He went on to say that sometimes people who aren’t key players in our life carry the post powerful message.  Naturally I couldn’t help but think of this preschool mom who definitely wasn’t a key player in my life (yet) but she had a message.  This senior pastor also mentioned that God doesn’t always come into your life as this loud, powerful, BOOM of a message, but sometimes he just comes quietly, when you need him.  He doesn’t force people to believe in Him, He wants them to just believe because they do, not because they were forced to.  So that sat with me.

That night I did something I haven’t done in 20 years or more.  I prayed.  I’ve mentioned before I think about how I’m a person of signs.  I feel like life gives us signs and we can do with that what we will.  I love that book “Animal Speak,” that I posted about previously, because we can look up the animals that come to us, if we see an animal we don’t usually see it could be a sign.  So while I was praying that night I asked for a sign.  I said that I felt weird, obviously this is outside of my comfort zone because I’ve identified as an atheist for most of my life.  I was confident in my views and never questioned them.  Why am I now?  So the very next day I walked out of the library downtown and there was a hawk on the sidewalk.  He looked at me, didn’t fly away but stood still.  I thought it was odd because it’s downtown, people are walking by, but we’re rural so a hawk isn’t a crazy thing to see.  I was driving home and as I turned on to my street there was another hawk just hanging out in the parking lot where our town has a small farmers market in the summer.  Again, odd, but not crazy.  Finally, I got home and as I pulled into my driveway I noticed there was a hawk sitting on my freaking roof.  Three hawks in the matter of ten minutes?  What are the odds?  So I tried to ignore it but that night I had a dream about a hawk flying above me all day.  I woke up and I looked up with the hawk means and the book said, “Hawk is akin to Mercury, the messenger of the gods.  Hawk medicine teaches you to be observant.  Life is sending you signals.”

I don’t know how I feel about all of it, honestly.  I’ve talked to one of my friends, a Christian, I’ll refer to her as MR, about all of it and she thinks it’s amazing.  She thinks that this is God’s way of showing Himself to me when I really need Him.  There was a sermon the other day on anxiety, given by the aforementioned senior pastor, and, for obvious reasons, it was so powerful to me.  I reached out to the cool pastor (his name is Danny) about my experience with the postpartum community and he referred me to his wife, who struggled with postpartum depression.  She and I spoke for a bit and she said that she felt so alone and it was so tough reaching out because you don’t think about “Christian” and “depression” going together, but she wants to work together to help other moms within the church.  I told MR about this and she suggested that maybe this was God opening up that door for me, to help more people who I wouldn’t normally have helped because of my lack of religion.  I hadn’t thought about it but it’s a real possibility.

So I come back to where I stand.  I’m confused, honestly.  I’ve been very open to this new path, though, and I’ve been reading the bible, I’ve been going to church on Sunday mornings, I’m even considering going to a bible study tomorrow night but I’m really torn on it because preschool mom won’t be there and she’s kind of been my crutch in that she is the one I confide in with this journey.  It’ll really be outside of my comfort zone.  I feel like it’d be silly for me to ignore the signs I’m being given.  I also feel silly because I feel almost hypocritical in all of this, like people will think I’m a fraud or that I’ve lost my mind, that maybe I’m only turning to God because of my dad.  I’ve identified so strongly as one thing for so long that I don’t want people to think that I’m becoming somebody else, that I’m only trying to fit in or appease other people, you know?

I’m almost embarrassed, and that may be the wrong word but, like the church community will see me as this rebellious non-believer who is just trying to infiltrate their world and my world, who knows me as an atheist family woman with good intentions, will think I’m abandoning myself in the sake of being accepted.  Neither is true, of course.  I’m just a confused woman, a lonely woman, with a lot of stress and emotions, who is just trying to find a little bit of peace.

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Tic Tac Totem

Man it’s been a long time since I’ve written, for that I am sorry!  I’ve been completely preoccupied with appointments and family and pets and visitors…oy!  Well now you have my undivided attention (except for when my toddler summons me).  So I thought I’d talk about some “weird” stuff today.  Stuff I think is normal but others often stare blankly, blink slowly, and change the subject over.

I’ll start with the aforementioned “visitors” that we’ve had.  I think I mentioned in another post that my husband and I recently bought a house (yay!); well with buying a home comes a bit more out-of-town visitors (wahh!).  In our case, it’s almost everybody – we live a good 500+ miles away from almost all of our families.  Well, since we’ve moved to Virginia (in 2011) we’ve had a rule: no out-of-town guests can stay with us unless there’s an extenuating circumstance. When our daughter was born my mom stayed with us because she was there to help, but everybody else has been asked to get a hotel.  So many people gasp at that – how dare we ask people to stay in a hotel, especially family!  Well, in the apartment it was much easier for people to accept our rule because we only had two bedrooms with one bathroom – it was the perfect size for us but super cramped with any more.  Now we’ve bought a house and nearly doubled our square footage and people are assuming they can stay with us just because we’ve added a bedroom (that’s actually already in use) and a bathroom.  Well, here’s why (we think they’re very good reasons) we have that rule:

  1. We are a family who thrives on schedule and routine.  My husband wakes up for work at 3:15 every morning, has his AM routine, and is out the door by 4:30.  Often times he doesn’t return home until 7 or 8 (he gets overtime quite a bit and then twice a week he has night school through his job), eats a quick bite, and is in bed by 9:15 each night.  Our daughter wakes up around 6:30 or 7 each day (after waking 1-3x/night), eats breakfast watching her cartoons.  She’s incredibly shy and fearful of strangers, so having new people at our house as soon as she wakes up, throwing her from her routine, makes her grumpy, clingy, and just not happy.
  2. On top of that routine, I work out of my house; I do in-home childcare.  Can you imagine going to drop your kids off at the sitter’s house and there’s -x- new people passed out on the living room floor?  Not only that, people that you don’t know hanging out around your kid all day?  Not cool.  Personally, as a mom, I wouldn’t feel good about that.  Our third bedroom is the daycare room; I keep the extra car seats, diaper bags, cribs, craft supplies, etc. in there so it’s full, there’s no room for people to sleep there and we don’t own an air mattress (for a reason) so that leaves our couch.
  3. If those two reasons aren’t good enough for you, that leaves me with our final reason: anxiety and introversion.  I know I’ve written before about my anxiety, but both my husband and I are also introverts.  We absolutely love having family come and visit, we love seeing everybody, but at the end of the day we need our quiet, alone time to just…wind down.  If I don’t get that my anxiety flares up and I lash out and say things I don’t mean to people.  I truly don’t mean it, it just happens (think Cady Heron in “Mean Girls” with her word vomit).  I know my husband my gets all tense and quiet, but then he’ll lash out later (not physically or anything, but you know men are typically emotionally constipated creatures, so he’ll usually bottle it up and then yell about something silly later).  So many people think that anxiety and introversion are curable things, but they’re not.  They’re also a nuisance and hinder the fun that you could have with your guests.  Regardless, people staying here intrudes on our personal bubbles and then that, in turn, messes with our moods and whatnot.  We’d be much happier and more fun during a visit if people just didn’t stay with us.

So we recently had visitors (my SIL, BIL, FIL, niece, and nephew) and at last minute we found out that FIL would be staying with us, not in the hotel like we previously thought.  Boy was my husband not happy!  We talked about it about and ultimately decided it was okay since my husband was so excited to see his dad, but also they would be arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday, leaving no overlap with my daycare kids.  We also found out the day that they arrived that my husband wouldn’t be working so FIL sleeping on the couch wouldn’t interfere with any morning routines.  I am so glad to say that the whole trip went so great!  I am lucky to have such a cool sister-in-law.  Our daughter got along great with our niece, they played together so wonderfully and our daughter was actually sad and confused to not find her around our house (that was a concern for us since daughter is so shy; last time we saw them our niece was very excitable so we were worried she’d be a tad overwhelming..I am so happy there was nothing to be worried about!).  I suck at apologies when it comes to having to say sorry for my anxiety because it feels like I’m apologizing for who I am, but if my SIL is reading this I want you to know that we are so glad you came, I hope you understand where we were coming from, and we truly did have a blast.

Now on to the “weirder” part.  I have this book that I swear by, it’s kind of like my bible.  It’s called Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small by Ted Andrews.  Here’s the book:

animal speak

It is truly life-changing, at least for me.  I promise I get no benefit from promoting this book, I just love it and think everybody should buy a copy, or at least read it.  In the beginning of the book you create a totem based on seven questions; each question will give you a different animals and those animals make your totem.  However, in reading about the power of each animal you find that there are additional animals you should study that sync up, so to speak, with the first animal.  Ultimately, at the end, you have a slew of animals that represent your animal totems.  These can change, too, based on your life.  My totems, for example, are: dog, wolf, deer, spider, coyote, swan, horse, and raven.  You may have more or less because some of your animals may overlap and that’s okay, too.

As I was reading about the coyote today, actually, I realized how similar I am to them.  Animal Speak says, “Oftentimes…the coyote makes things more complicated than they need to be….Are you…being too serious?…Are you complicating what is really simple in some area of your life?”  The answer would be yes!  I know that we complicate things like family visits because we’re so set in our ways of life, we have a hard time loosening up about things.  That’s where the wolf comes in; “They live by carefully defined rules,” says Animal Speak.  The deer is the most common prey of wolves, and ravens have a connection to them because they often fly over wolves, moving with their hunt, so that they can prey on the animals the wolf hunts.  The deer is one of my totems because it’s one I most often see in nature and I love to see them, and the raven is another because of its connection to wolf and coyote.

Did you know that “The raven is a member of the corvids family, to which belongs crows and magpies and other such birds[?].  In truth, the only really significant difference between the crow and the raven is the size, the raven being much larger.  It would be beneficial to study the information on the crow for anyone who has a raven as a totem,” a direct quote from Animal Speak.  When reading about the crow, the book says, “The male and female build the nest together.  The nest is built high up for protection and it is kept very clean.  Even the young crows do not foul their own nest.”  I think this speaks volumes about me because clutter and mess trigger my anxiety like you wouldn’t believe.

I know to many it sounds silly, and when I tell people about it they often look at me strangely, but I do believe we have a connection to animals and I believe that they resonate within us.  When I have dreams about certain animals I look them up.  If I encounter an animal in an area that is abnormal to their life I immediately look it up.  There has never been a time that this book has steered me wrong and, more often than not, I’m amazed at what this book tells me about the animal.  At the very least it’s interesting to read about certain animals find out more than what TV tells us about them.

Well then.  This concludes another blog post.  I honestly was thinking about writing for so long but was trying to decide what to write and when to write it.  I want to write for me, but I also want to write things that are gripping to readers, too.

I also love to hear your feedback.  Do you have this book?  Have you read it?  Would you ever?  If so, what are your totems?  Do you feel they’re an accurate depiction of you?  Feel free to comment!

Until next time….