Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 2

Well there may not be atheists in fox holes but it seems that being one at my house between the hours of midnight and 6am does not have its privileges.  My youngest elected to take a pass on Sleep 101 through a good chunk of those hours and when we finally caught some shut-eye of the REM variety, it was interrupted by the sounds of my big boy whimpering to advise me that he had peed the bed.  This wouldn't have been so terrible except that he was sleeping in our bed at the time.  He had been quite sick last week and had reverted somewhat in his nocturnal habits.  For the sake of comfort, we let him sleep with us.  This is the second time in three nights he's peed our bed.  So the jig, like Jesus, is up.

I don't even know what that means.  I'm half cut on sleep exhaustion and I'm speaking in tongues.  Maybe this is just one of the unhappy side effects of entertaining atheism.  Though my atheist friends, Peter and Kathryn, would respectfully disagree.  (More on that later.)   And based on everything I've read about Jesus, he sounds like he was a great guy.  And since this week isn't about making light of the religious beliefs of others, sleep deprivation notwithstanding, allow me to chug my coffee, peel the bloodshot web off my retinas and collect my thoughts in a more respectful and cohesive manner...

Okay!  Here we go! Hey gang, Day 2 was absolutely lovely!  Genuinely so.
After going to bed with many questions swimming through my mind, I awoke to a sense of peace.  I got up early with my youngest while my big boy and hubby snoozed.  We had a quiet morning and some snacks while I sipped a piping hot coffee and made some fresh home made muffins to start off the week.  (Yesterday, June Cleaver.  Today, Cruella De Vil.)

I had a callback on Day 2 so Bryce and I juggled taking care of the boys while we each got ready to dive into our respective schedules.  I wasn't spending my morning thinking, "I'm an atheist this week."  Though the thought crossed my mind more than once and I again wondered to myself, "Can I really do this?  Can I let go of the attachment I have to believing in a Spiritual Entity?"  And the truth is, I think I can.

My youngest sister (who is a teenager and a Christian), teased me via text message saying, "Have fun being an atheist!  Congrats on a shitty pessimistic decision."  This made me laugh out loud.  In the ensuing text exchange she, of course, expressed her love and support for me.  That's the thing about my kin.  We're all very different people and the family tree from which we descend extends beyond any kind of recognizable pattern.  The branches go all this way and that.  But we love each other.  Deeply.  Some are Christians, some subscribe to the Science of Mind, some believe in "something" out there and some simply don't believe in anything at all.   But it doesn't stop us from being a family.  There is room for a wide range of beliefs in this group.

I was discussing my sister's comment with my dear friends, Peter and Kathryn, and they felt very strongly that not believing in a God-like force is actually very optimistic because it puts the individual at the wheel and that is a very empowering place to be.  We had an incredibly thought-provoking and enlightening conversation in the afternoon over coffee, while our kids played with stacking pieces and jigsaw puzzles.

We talked about trust and success and how they relate to spirituality.  When I asked Peter from the point of view of a person considering atheism who I can trust if not in God, he said, "You can trust in yourself."  He also advised me not to get so hung up on the things that are beyond my control.  He pointed out that while we can't control everything, we can pursue anything.   And this became a captivating topic in our conversation because what I have been pursuing has been without my definition of success for the latter part of the last decade.   And so they simply encouraged me to choose a different definition of success.  Kathryn sets for herself measurable aspects of success that she can control rather than seeking it in the validation of outside factors, whether those factors be a "God" of some sort, or a person or circumstance.  Because, again, some of these things don't exist (in their opinion) and some are simply beyond our control.

One of my favorite parts of the conversation was discussing how taking action from a place of joy in both life and in work can be a powerfully successful motivating force.  Peter told me that his friend once posed the following query to him, "Who is happier?  The man who has just become a quadriplegic or the new lottery winner?  The answer is, whoever was happier going in."    When joy is at hand, then the creativity-stifling hacksaw that is comparison rarely comes into play.  The fact is, I'm not going to get every role.  And some people have more than others.  But, as Peter put it, "The first thing you can do is choose to stop being angry about it.  And the second thing you can do is to stop looking at your past and seeing only the things that didn't go well.  Start seeing what did go well.  It makes it easier to see what is going really well right now.  And if you are not prepared to be happy now, you won't ever be happy no matter where you are or what you get."

This really resonated with me because I have said, many times, that if I were to buy a house tomorrow but I hadn't changed my mental landscape with regards to pessimism and struggle today then what would really be different for me?  I would be the same me with the same challenges.  I would just have moved them all to a bigger house out in the country.  So there really is a lot to be said for embodying bliss.  

And of course, this comes back to taking responsibility for managing my own thoughts.

This is what I find so fascinating:  There are so many philosophies that my Spiritual teachings and my atheist friends have in common.  It's just that the atheists don't believe that their philosophical standpoints are in any way attached to an outside force.  So the logic is, why get so worked up about "something" selectively supporting or not supporting my efforts, particularly if that something may not exist in the first place?

You know the truth is, I've been in a standoff with God/Spirit/The Universe for so long now that I had to ask myself what I would do if I didn't have God/Spirit/The Universe to kick around anymore.  Who would I blame shit on?  I mean, I've been doing my part.  Where's the reciprocity?!  But the fact is, as one person commented on my blog, sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down.

At the end of the day, what's God got to do with it?

Maybe this week is really about putting my big girl panties on and standing on my own two feet, instead of constantly seeking to be supported by something that I'm really not sure is even there anymore.

So far, Day 2 has taught me to leave my expectations at the door and instead bring my joy to the table.  And that is something I can believe in.

Let's see what I discover on Day 3...

Thank you for joining me in my quest for understanding and in my quest for bliss!

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

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