Mar 2, 2014

An Atheist, A Christian, and Buddha

When you are lost, you look for direction.
When you are hidden, you look for ways to be seen

Both statements ring true for me lately.

I've made it known that I've been struggling for awhile.  I also feel that with everything that is happening, I feel that I've hidden myself away under a facade.  A facade that is cracking, is not genuine, and needs to be removed.

I expressed myself today at church, probably a mistake because the words never match the intent of my heart but I did it anyway.  I kept thinking about some lyrics to a hymn, "in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see".

Those words kept repeating over and over in my mind and since I was sitting in the back of the chapel I started looking at those in front of me and wondering, how many of these people are hidden away under their own facades?  How many people are struggling but nobody knows?  I'm convinced more than a few people in that chapel are struggling privately with something and I wanted them to know they aren't alone.  It's okay to struggle!  It's ok to let go of the appearance of perfection.

I'm tired of pretending that I'm ok.  I'm tired of putting on the appearance that all is well.  I'm tired of giving the "church answers" because that's what I'm supposed to do.

A few weeks ago my little Jet over-heard a conversation Mr. K and I were having and she interrupted and said, "but Mom, your not struggling!"

What an injustice I am doing for my girls if I keep pretending everything is ok.  How will they ever know what to do when they hit a similar low in life.  I don't want to burden them with my problems, I want to shelter them, but I also need to be honest with them too.

Miss M already struggles and an interesting thing has happened with her.  Recently I gave her permission to not be perfect.  I gave her permission to stop pretending that an uncomfortable situation she has been in for a long time was "ok".   I gave her permission to find a better place to be in even if those around her didn't understand.

It's only been two weeks but letting her know that it was ok and that she could make her own choices in how she handled the situation was all she needed.  It empowered her.  She just needed to know it was ok to be honest with herself about how she was feeling.  She needed to know it was ok to stop pretending.

I'm learning from her. She's braver lately.  She is slowly putting herself back into the situation but is doing so on her own terms and I can see the peace she has because of it.

I'm trying to do the same.

So what does this all have to do with an Atheist, A Christian, and a Buddha?

Well, last week, as you know, I made a 15 hour round-trip journey to say good-bye to a loved one.  I can't really speak about the 20 minute, timer controlled, visit yet - it still hurts too much.  But I can share with you the experience I had afterward.

My brother - the atheist, and I - the Christian, met for lunch and that's where we found Buddha.

We had a great conversation, we shared our frustration and sadness about the current family situation.  We talked about raising our own kids and being the parents now.  And we talked about the sense of purpose, that as we age, we are both trying to fine tune in our lives.

I told him how I feel like I've lost my quirk.  My spark is gone. How my outer facade doesn't match the inner feelings I have about who I am, like I'm hiding myself.  I told him about the note I found that my dad, a dedicated man of faith, wrote that expressed some of his concerns about what would happen after death.  I told my brother how that note rocked my faith and made me question my own views.

And my atheist brother, without even knowing it, directed me to the answer I've been looking for.  I see it as a God-send, he sees it as the result of deep human connection. He shared with me a conversation he had with my dad when he told my dad that he was leaving our faith. My dad asked him if ever felt the church we belong to was true.  My brother had said yes but that his opinion, because of doubts, had changed and my dad, this giant figure of religious faith, told him that sometimes he had doubts too.

My dad, MY DAD! the man that read his scriptures, served in bishoprics, faithfully did his home teaching, worked in the temple and said prayers regularly, had doubts!  How is it that I never knew this?

and then my brother continued to tell me what my dad told him. When my dad had doubts instead of dwelling on them, he went back to those times that there were no doubts, to those times that he witnessed God's active hand in his life and as he reviewed those moments, the doubts -the not having all the answers - didn't matter because he was reminded of those things that he did know and that he could not deny.

I just needed to hear that.  I needed to know that it was ok to struggle with the questions I was having but that I shouldn't let those questions over-rule what I had already had witnessed to me on so many other occasions.

As we were leaving my brother opened a newspaper sitting on the table and said we should read our horoscopes.  My mom loved reading, and looking for meaning, in her horoscope so the tradition has kind of carried on to us kids.  My brother read mine first.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)
A large plaster Buddha statue was housed at a modest temple in Bangkok, Thailand from 1935 - 1955.  No one knew its age or origins.  In May of 1955, workers were struggling to move the heavy ten-foot icon to a new building on the temple grounds when it accidentally broke free of the ropes that secured it.  As it hit the ground, a chunk of plaster fell off, revealing a sheen of gold beneath.  Religious leaders authorized the removal of the remaining plaster surface.  Hidden inside was a solid gold Buddha that is today worth $250 million dollars.  Research later revealed that the plaster had been applied by 18th century monks to prevent the statue from being looted.  I foresee a comparable sequence unfolding in the coming weeks for you, Leo. What will it take to free a valuable resource that's concealed within a cheap veneer?

So, there we were, wrapping up our lunch.  The Atheist, the Christian and now we have Buddha. Sometimes our answers come in the most unlikeliest ways.

When I returned home I sent my brother a text letting him know I'd arrived safely and he responded by saying.

"Glad you are safe, good luck chipping away at your golden Buddha!"

I'm not perfect.  I've always known that but I've pretended to be for far too long.  I was too scared to let out the real me, the imperfect me, because of what others would think or for fear that I'd be seen or judged in the wrong way.  But in my quiet heart I've kept too many things hidden and it IS time to start chipping away at that facade.

It makes people uncomfortable to tell them it's ok to struggle.  I did that today at church and noticed how after the service people didn't know how to respond to me.  Or maybe it was I didn't know how to act after putting so much out there.  Either way, it was lonely but that's ok, much like my daughter, I'd rather be alone and honest about what is happening, than suffering in the group trying to pretend everything's perfect.

I tell my young women that I serve with that they are amazing.  I tell them all the time that they have divine potential inside of them and you know what, I know that is true.  It's true for me too.  I will get through this hard time.  I will move past the struggles.  It will be a slow process but as I work through it honestly I will be slowly chipping away at my golden Buddha, my own divine potential, that I have sadly hidden away for far too long.

NOW, moving on....  I've written a lot of deep posts lately, thank you for sticking with me.  I have decided to keep these post to a minimum going forward.  We still have a funeral coming up, there will still be sadness but unless I feel really inspired to share, the crafting will once again return and be the main focus of this blog. And, one more time, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for your support and encouragement.