Monday, February 28, 2011
Posted by Maggie May Labels: faith part one
I spent my life trying to find shelter for my heart. Growing up in a non-religious and non-spiritual household, I had shaped my ideas on Christ and church through Sunday services at my best friend's house of worship, my children's Bible- because although we did not talk about God, books were the ever present elevated beings in our home- and a small, simple and tender book called The Child's Book of Prayer given to me by my Nana. Lying in my bed alone at night, six, seven, eight years old, I found that by simply reading sentences about things that mattered to me to a higher power called God I felt better. I didn't know if I 'believed' in God. I wasn't worried about finding out if I did or not. What concerned me was finding solace in my pain, relief from my constant anxiety, love when my family was as distant, as mysteriously scary and sad as the full moon.
“I don’t follow it. I wish I could get with it. It would be a big help on those dark nights.” - Woody Allen said this in an interview with the NYT, regarding the Jewish religion, but based on the totality of his comments in interviews, this applies to all religion. " We all need some delusions... " he said. I had Dakota at 19 and turned my desire of sanctuary inside out, needle by bloody needle thread, sewing myself together by mothering my son, by creating a world in which he knew beyond any doubt that I loved him unalterably and that I would do anything to help him through life and to keep him safe. I can say I succeeded in passing this on. He knows. And for a while, I felt safe. It's amazing the vast difference between I was safe and I felt safe. In life, you can never be promised safety. But feeling safe? What can offer this? What can create an 'invincible summer'? Mine passed as my short lived faith in God was replaced by sheer terror with the thought that instead of creating safety in my love with and for my son, I had now created a way to experience new levels of suffering I had never imagined in my traumatic childhood home. The death and suffering of ones self is difficult to come to terms with, find peace with; the same for our children? Unthinkable. The only way I have ever been able to contemplate how this could be bearable is to imagine that there was something I could offer my children so that they, no matter their fate, could harbor a place of peace.
Holly Mcrae, Kate's mother, has said in her blog that Kate's faith that she will 'go home to Jesus' if she dies is the only thing that keeps her from losing herself to panic completely. This is not simplifying the enormous terror and pain I hear in her every word in her every post. Her faith is not healing her pain, saving her daughter, or making everything OK. But it is a ballast against the vast and terrifying darkness that can descend when a human being believes that life is a meaningless chaos of matter and energy clanging into each other.
My desire to create this safegaurd is intensified a thousandfold because I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder- GAD. Or PTSD. Or panic. Whatever particular psychological labeling I fall under, I have had enough fear, panic and sheer terror of soul in my life to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of how to avoid it, which brought me quickly to the realization that situations this awful can't be avoided. The only way out is through. The only answer is to re-learn my entire view of the world, the Universe, and the meaning of life. In modern society as we search for peace or happiness we forget that philosophers and dreamers since the beginning of time earned their great wisdom and peace through great trial, through great study, great effort.
We forget that peace is not a well run household or smart and kind children or meditating twenty minutes every morning. True, deep soul serenity is the work of our lifetime. It cannot be bargained for suddenly when tragedy comes to our door. As Mr. Curry and I held Ever in the Pediatric Oncology and Respiratory Unit, I desperately wished for something to give my children to lean on while they waited for us in the outside world. Especially Lola. You know she struggles at times with a fierce and keen anxiety. We need something more to offer them than platitudes and loving thoughts, I told Mr. Curry. He agreed.
I have always struggled to give my children a depth of real to lean on, walk on, learn through. In small ways, Mr. Curry and I have done good work for our babies, taking in friends who had bad situations, feeding and clothing the immigrant workers in our neighborhood, mentoring a foster child that has grown into a wonderful adult, talking about the belief systems of the world, and over and over in every way that occurs to us emphasizing that the ultimate meaning of life is love, and that to love deeply and well is what brings meaning to life and ultimately, inner peace.
What is missing is a community, and the chance for them to explore if they believe in God. Because we cannot truly say we have allowed them to explore what we are not enabling them to learn. And if I can't have an abiding faith, I have to say I'd be delighted if my children could, because of the peace I have seen it bring so many. My aunt E. rejoined the Catholic church after leaving it some 20 years before, and the most fundamental reason struck me not as cheap or shallow, but as beautifully simple as a child's: she wanted the beautiful music and ceremonial gatherings in her life because it made her feel better. And she wanted it for her children. Boys, my cousins, who have now grown into young men who are liberal, pro-gay rights and pro everybody's rights- but are also Catholic. And have faith, with all the doubt and confusion and human problems that go with is, surely, but still, faith.
Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Universal Unitarian, Nature as God-
What can I give my children that will be there when I am not?
I don't know the answer, but I am about to begin the journey to find out.
Which is why, on a Sunday soon, when we are all well and the skies clear and the winds feel right, we will be taking Lola and Ever to church.