Living With Atheists and Stuff

The stuff: I’m an agnostic spiritually open minded Buddhist with a hint of “I believe what I want, when I want, and it might change tomorrow.”

I believe in aliens, interdimensional beings, 5D ascension, karma, psychic phenomena, premonitions, higher self, hauntings, astral projections, the Loch Ness Monster… and this list is starting to sound like a 1984 Ghostbusters resume. I don’t actually believe in the Loch Ness Monster. 

I do believe fundamental Christianity and atheism can be very one dimensional and I have a hard time living in one dimension. Do I think all Christianity is wrong? No. Do I think atheists are wrong? No. I do think both groups put those of us spiritually open minded folks into the weird and whacky category. Seems like there’s not a lot of middle ground. Christians think we’re going to hell and atheists think we’re brain damaged. We do just as much research, read as many books, attempt to prove/disprove theories, discuss with like minded individuals, share opposing opinions, agree that cults and organized religion can be a bad thing- but we’re willing to investigate and research what some consider the fantastical and just plain odd.

I’ve lived with fundamental Christians, my Dad was a full time minister into my teens. I traveled with a Church of Christ splinter cult for a month at 11 years old. I’ve tried to write about it without success, it’s too painful to recount and there are things my parents didn’t and still don’t know, stuff I haven’t dealt with in therapy. I returned from that trip asking more questions about Christianity, doubting the “grace” of God, but it took a while. 

I fell in love with an atheist at 18. I was long past my one dimensional Christian belief and was easily able to overlook his atheism to see a true, loving heart. I knew when he did something kind it wasn’t so he’d be rewarded with crystal palaces and streets of gold after death- he was kind and loving because it’s the best way to live your life. When he screwed up he was sorry because he knew he’d hurt someone and you hurt yourself when you see those you love hurting. He was and is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known. It makes me love him more each time I see his atheistic acts of kindness and understanding in action. 

“There’s nothing so pure as the kindness of an atheist

A simple act of unselfishness that never has to be repaid “

– Freakwater, Gone to Stay

He came home this week and told me he’d been asked several times what he was doing this weekend and kept answering,  “nothing…why?” I kind of just looked at him blankly and asked, “what’s this weekend?” He reminded me it’s Easter. I responded with, “Oh cool, the day I get my Cadbury Egg.” That’s pretty much all it means to me (other than being a reminder of the day I got pregnant my Senior Year of high school, a subject I’ve already written about, but thanks for the reminder brain).

So what’s missing? We get along, we’ve been in love with each other for 25 years, we have great philosophical and theosophical discussions, but when those discussions turn “woo-woo” I see a little twinkle in his eye. He’s known me long enough to know my belief system roams all over the place including some remnants of Christianity, but tends to settle on new age du jour. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, I don’t believe I’ll know until I die and then I may never know. I do wish my husband was a little more open minded and wasn’t so damn good at shooting down my ideas, but I do appreciate that he listens and doesn’t immediately dismiss what I have to say. 

Raising a child as a spiritual person with an atheist results in a strong, questioning, creative individual. He’s a free thinker. He never expected the usual holiday rituals or question why we didn’t go to church, he’s formed his own belief system and knows right from wrong. He practices kindness, love, and generosity. He has a good heart like his dad, just as I expected he would. He’s an imperfect human like his parents with an open mind and an open heart. 

He’s an atheist. He sees some of my beliefs as plausible and we also have great discussions about aliens, the acension, energy, and Buddhism. He wears his mala beads every day. I gave him my first strand of beads and when he passed them on I made sure he had another strand within a few days. Each day I see him wearing them my heart swells.

We don’t need a God to love each other, we don’t need to agree on everything, we can respect and question beliefs and facts without argument, disrespect, or violence. Living with a couple atheists as a spiritual nutball is pretty harmonious. 

I recommend love and respect no matter what you believe. We don’t live in a world where love can or should be taken for granted. We live in a world where everything we know or think we know is in question and I believe things will be much worse before they’re better. 

Balance is important and it’s coming, soon. 

I’m not interested in being saved, I’ve done that. I do respect the beliefs of others and hope others will respect mine as well. 

The Hardest News to Deliver

I’ve had to deliver heartbreaking news to my parents twice in my life. I found myself thinking about both experiences recently at the oddest moment. It’s strange how my mind trails back to certain memories like a plate of spaghetti with one long noodle, twists and turns leading back to different memories, somehow all connected. Perhaps it’s due to the raw, vivid nature of some experiences?

A few nights ago I was laying on our ottoman watching TV balancing a bottle of water on my stomach. I tried knocking the bottle of water off using only my ab muscels- it didn’t work. The bottle came back to rest upright each time. This reminded me of being pregnant and watching my son kick the remote control off of my 8 month full, round belly. It was so amazingly weird to watch his little foot pop up like it was searching for a target. Remembering the first pregnancy I brought to term lead me to thoughts of the first and last pregnancy I terminated, which lead me to remember two of the most painful conversations of my life. 

I became pregnant my senior year of high school. My boyfriend at the time was younger than me and I wasn’t about to ruin our futures or saddle our parents with a baby. We decided I would have an abortion. I hoped to keep my parents out of the whole situation, but my mom overheard a breakup conversation that included plans to confirm and terminate the pregnancy. She waited by the bathroom door, listening patiently to my outright weeping for a good 10 minutes eventually losing patience and demanding I come out to tell her what was going on. I lied. Told her I was upset over the breakup, but she knew better. She came right out and asked if I was pregnant. I said I didn’t know. She told me to show her my belly and poked at it with her finger and pronounced me pregnant. To this day I have no idea how that was an indicator, but she was right. She was upset, worried, and excited all at the same time. I told her there was no way I was going through with the pregnancy. Her smile broke she said, “we need to see what your Dad says.” This struck pure fear in my heart. I knew he’d agree with me, but I also knew I would have to endure a tirade that would change my relationship with my Father forever. I wasn’t wrong. The moment he branded me a slut I was no longer daddy’s girl. I was my own girl. I was strong and I wasn’t going to be bullied or berated. He threatened to kick me out of the house, I asked him how that would possibly help the situation. He yelled and blusterd and called me names. I stood there silently until he was done and went to my room. Hours later he sort of apologized after he had calmed down, I forgave him and although it did change our relationship I have rarely thought of his reaction since.  

Eventually appointments were made, my pregnancy confirmed at 3 weeks and my Dad drove me to the clinic to begin the process. The night before the scheduled procedure the doctor gave me something that might cause a spontaneous abortion so the process could happen naturally. I went home and told my mom we were at the point of no return. I saw the heartbreak in her eyes. She cried for hours. I cried for hours. She was so disappointed. I was disappointed in myself. 

She still tells me how much my choice to move  forward with the abortion, when she thought I was only going to get information that night, hurt her. I remind her that she wouldn’t have her grandson or son in law if I hadn’t made that decision. I would’ve been pregnant when I met my husband or wouldn’t have met him at all. We’ve been together 23 years, we are happy and have a healthy son so I know I made the right choice.

I completed the procedure the next day. My parents were there for me, but things were strained until I was married and a mom and they were divorced and had other drama to contend with. 

My brother, as always, was my rock and confidant during that time. The night before the procedure he hid my keys. I told him I wanted to take a drive. My plan was to drive my car into a tree and put an end to everything. I didn’t tell him this, but he knew. He made me promise never to end my life by my own hand, that he couldn’t go on without me. We made a pact that night to stay alive for each other. It’s one of my most vivid memories, I felt so alone during that time, but so loved and taken care of by my 14 year old brother, my best friend. 

Four years later I had to deliver the worst, most painful news anyone can give a parent.  

My brother shot himself and at 22 I had to not only come to terms with losing my heart but also had tell my parents part of their hearts were lost as well. I was first to arrive at the hospital, first to receive the news of his death from the doctors. I pleaded with them not to make me tell my parents, but they were nowhere to be found when my parents arrived just moments apart. I caught them one by one at the entrance, my Dad first. I don’t remember much about telling either of them, other than feeling numb. I remember both of them breaking down completely. I can’t remember what I said, if it was simply “he’s dead” or “he didn’t make it” or “he’s gone.” I think it may have been all  three. I’ve blocked those moments from my mind so completely all I can remember is the dim light, the waiting room, the entrance of the hospital, my Dad screaming “My son, my son” and my mom wailing incoherently when we were taken to see him. I didn’t break down. I held it together for my 2 year old son, my parents, and the best friend I would ever have laying on the table with a hole in his head, growing cold. 

Later the chaplain asked me how I was so calm, saying she was amazed at the strength I had for my parents, consoling them and caring for them in their grief. I mumbled that he was my best friend and they shouldn’t have made me tell my parents. I walked away, eventually sliding into a chair, staring blankly at the floor.

The funerals (yes, multiple funerals) and months after were just shit show after fiasco after nightmare. I couldn’t remove the horror of telling my parents my brother was dead from an endless loop in my brain. Eventually I did bury it so deep I can’t nor do I want to remember the whole scene. 19 years later I still relive parts that night frequently. The dread of telling my parents being one of those moments.  

I’ve delivered a few messages of death since then. None have been as difficult as the news I delivered to my parents, but I realize I can calmly do so even though inside I’m falling apart. I’ve made peace with both situations. I’m thankful I could tell my parents rather than someone else who doesn’t know and love them.

Over the years I’ve been able to deliver good news too- marriage, babies, promotions, moves, graduations…all of it with an undercurrent of sadness, that dread of “I have something to tell you.”

It’s hard to deliver devastating news, but does make you grow a thicker skin and know you can be counted on to remain calm in a crisis. We always hope we’re not on the giving or receiving end of bad news, but eventually we all are. It’s up to you to wilt or grow from those experiences. I’d like to think I’ve grown.