Woo. Awkward one.I mean, for me it is- or was, at least. Religion, particularly the Catholic kind, has always given me the distinct feeling of discomfort. Like, if someone started talking about their trust in the Almighty, or the ‘Lord Jesus Christ is my Savior’, oh, my God (yeah, I saw what I just did there) please get me outta here.
You see, we weren’t raised with religion, didn’t go to Sunday mass, no bibles sat in our dresser drawers, and no crosses adorned our walls. No, the closest we got, was saying ‘God Bless You!’ when someone sneezed. Even that sounded more like ‘gah-ble-shu’ and to be honest, it was years before I realized that it was three separate words.
Here’s as close as we got:
We were baptized. We did our First Communion, but I’m pretty sure it was under duress, though I’ve no idea who put the pressure on. Pretty sure my parents just did, like, the ‘pre-req’s- for admittance through the pearly gates for us. Which was fine by me, really. All I remember is trying to get out of CCD classes (and, nope: don’t know what that even stands for, folks). Oh, and we, of course celebrated Christmas & Easter, and even tried attending a couple of midnight masses on Christmas Eve. It didn’t go well, but that’s another story. But that’s where it ends for us heathens.
My childhood best friend and her family were a whole ‘nother thing. They were Catholic with a capital CATHOLIC. The were in it to win it: Mass, bibles, crosses, grace before meals, the works, I tell you. I was curious, sure. I mean, it all seemed kinda neat, so I went along with them to church a few times. No offense, really, but, to me, that stuff was cray-cray! Whoa, whoa, don’t get mad, O ye Devout Ones! Just, you got to see it from a kid’s perspective; all that stand up, sit down, kneel, REPENT! REPENT! SIN! FORGIVENESS!, kneel, sit, stand, repeat after me (monotone, monotone, monotone) PEACE BE WITH YOU, and you, and you, and you…drink my blood, eat my flesh… okay, not totally accurate, but that’s what I honestly took from it. Enough to make someone feel a little uncomfortable, right?
True story: Back then, everyone dressed up for Mass, so one fine Sunday morning, I went along with my BFF and her family to church; I in my Sunday best, complete with slippery tights and my even more slippery dress shoes, and feeling quite proper, Well, we get to the whole ‘please kneel’ portion (one of many, if you don’t already know this). I do fine- pull out the cushioned board, kneel, but all the while, I’m side-eying what the person on the left and the person on the right are doing, and just follow them. Well, one scootched back onto the pew, but the other stayed kneeling, so I tried to do a little of both. Cause what the hell do I know? And, of course, I slipped, landing belly down, chin up against the back of the pew before us. Everyone turned and stared, no one helped. What the hell happened to Christian charity, people?! Nope, don’t know if or what’s the difference between Catholic and Christian. Someone devout is palm smacking their forehead right now and throwing virtual Rosary beads at me, aren’t they?
As you can imagine, not a good start, and only instilled a long lasting mentality of, “Can you just not?” anytime someone brought up anything vaguely religious. Yet, oddly, I continued to be secretly curious about religion, or as I came to understand it in a context that felt less awkward for me: Spirituality. I began to pick out bits and pieces of various religious verse or beliefs, read about different theologies and their origins. (Don’t be impressed, it was haphazard and undisciplined, and included reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and deeming it a noteworthy theory- I still do, thank you.)
I’ve got to tell you, I was, and am still, always surprised at how deeply moved I am by much of all this faith talk. Specifically, the proclamations of love, healing, blessing… anything, basically, that uplifts. Confession (haha, I did it again)- I get really teary at that stuff. In fact, that physical and emotion response was my first indication that I had more spiritual conviction than I’d previously realized.
*Side note: What has spoken to me the most, over the years, is Buddhism, which is actually a philosophy, and not a religion as some may assume. The principles are so logical and simple, and resonate with how I think and feel. Now, I must say, I am not a Buddhist. The requirements, discipline, and abilities are beyond my capabilities, but I admire them nonetheless.
I’m still not comfortable talking about my faith (believe it or not), it’s still awkward for me. In fact, even writing about it is uncomfortable. I’ve been setting this post aside for a month now, and finally decided to finish it. So, what has changed? Well, I think the difference between then and now, is now I have an abundance of faith, and it needs an outlet. I need to give this to someone, maybe there is one person out there that needs to read this. I don’t know. I just know that I have this:
A deeply felt trust and belief in something greater.
I have faith, a calming trust and receptiveness to a greater power (the old me cringed as I typed that). Why, you might ask? Because I chose to. You may hear how, some people- when they’ve found their faith- will say they had this big epiphany, right? Well, with me it was a slow growing seed that sprouted roots and grew into tall tree over many years. But to really simplify: I made a choice. Which kind of life I would lead? Would I lead a life of gratitude, hope, love and compassion with trust that I would be blessed by the same graces I gave, or would I lead a life of doubt, bitterness, confusion and believe there was nothing and no one to look out for me. Pretty easy choice when you look at it like that, isn’t it? Of course, the choice was obvious: I would surround myself with those who share a commitment to being their best self, who promoted good will and a love of life. I would walk away from what brought me harm and caused me grief. I would always strive to be my best self, my most authentic me. I would be humble, I would be mindful. I would, and I will, and I do. Is that a religion? I don’t know, really, I don’t. All I know that it is a life I chose, and a life I love.
I will always say that I don’t understand organized religion. To me, for me, the messages are too conflicting. I respect it, or rather, I respect anyone who finds their peace inside the walls of a church or synagogue or temple. To each their own. And when someone offers me a prayer or a blessing from a religion I don’t participate in, I’ll take it. Any little bit helps, right? You all don’t even need the likes of this story, you’re all set, I know. This little post goes out, really, to anyone who’s felt as I have- conflicted yet wants to believe. Don’t be freaked out by “religion” , don’t get so wrapped up in the word, and just stick with the sentiment: If you are lost, you can be found. It’s as simple as letting go, giving in. It’s as simple as taking a breath: believe. Now don’t you feel better already? 😉