Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let my Soul Heal (Spiritual Journey Part 2)

The healing process is not easy. Long suppressed feelings are even more painful when you experience them later in life. There were times I walked out in the middle of conversations with friends or family to avoid shouting or bursting into tears. Long conversations with my older sisters gave me courage to keep pressing on. Blogging has also been Instrumental in my “recovery.” Hearing from other people with similar struggles is incredibly encouraging! 
Husband kept expecting that my rest period would end with some sudden realization or conversion. But I knew that this journey was only just beginning.

I always assumed that Husband’s faith was just the same as mine, stubborn and unfounded. The more disillusioned I became with my faith, the more I started thinking that maybe He was brainwashed too, especially when nothing I could say would sway him. But the more we debated, the more I realized he really did know what he was talking about. At some point before becoming a Christian, he had done his homework. He knew both sides of the creation/evolution argument. He knew the tenants and philosophies of every main world religion. He even had experience with people from almost every walk of life. All I had was what my parents gave me: the ability to reason, and a thorough brainwashing. I had never studied other religions, I knew nothing about the evolution, and I had limited social experience. He could argue circles around me no matter what we were discussing. I was frustrated with some of his conclusions, but also shocked to discover he wasn’t nearly as hard lined as my parents had been. He didn’t believe in female submission, or spiritual headship. He didn’t think Catholics were going hell, in fact, he questioned whether hell was really the burning torture chamber I had learned about. He loved rock music and thought I looked nice in a bikini…

 I realized I could never make an informed decision on religion until I was actually informed.

I started browsing the documentary section at the library and brought home a number of different DVDs on subjects ranging from Ancient Wicka to the Galapagos Islands. Husband watched them with me sometimes and listened to me talk about what I’d learned with patience and interest. I’ll list a few of my favorites here.

I watched a documentary called “in the name of God.” It was made just after 9/11 as a look into various religions and their take on violence, war, and where “god” fits in. It was beautiful and refreshing. I teared up a couple times throughout the film as my heart celebrated the goodness of humanity. It also helped me silence my inner conspiracy theorist. Religion isn’t all bad, it’s not all evil, it’s not a tool used by the government to control the masses. Religion comes from the hearts of people seeking truth, happiness, and greater good; there’s nothing inherently sinister about it.

Another of my favorites was a PBS documentary called “The question of God.” In this film, Harvard Professor Dr. Armand Nicholi examines the questions of faith and belief. He and a panel of prestigious psychologists and philosophers look at the lives and works of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. "It may be that Freud and Lewis represent conflicting parts of ourselves," Dr. Nicholi notes. "Part of us yearns for a relationship with the source of all joy, hope and happiness, as described by Lewis, and yet, there is another part that raises its fist in defiance and says with Freud, 'I will not surrender.' Whatever part we choose to express will determine our purpose, our identity, and our whole philosophy of life."

I continue to read and research in my spare time. I’m in Psychology 101 in college and I love every minute of it. I feel like a whole new world is opening up before my eyes. Why were my parents so afraid to educate me? As I grow more knowledgeable, my discussions with my husband get less heated and more intellectual. I love being a blank slate. I love not knowing. My healing process is slowly becoming a learning process as well.

 I’ll periodically update my blog with a post about where I am in my spiritual journey. If you’re on the same path, just know that it might take you your entire life. And that’s okay! Lets learn to embrace this journey together!  

Friday, October 7, 2011

How I Failed My Little Brother

Dozens of unfinished blog posts sit idly in my computer’s storage. I don’t have the words to finish them. Lately I’ve just felt so creatively numb. I’d like to write somthing cute and clever, or hard hitting and serious, but it seems that all I can think about is my brother. My 17-year-old brother texted me at work 2 days ago and asked me when he would see me again. We don’t talk much these days, so it was a surprise to hear from him.

I replied:

“Are you coming to the birthday party next week?”
“I don’t know… I don’t really care. I really really hate my house, my parents, and my life.”
I remember thinking those exact words. I remember that depression. I remember hoping I would die every night when I fell asleep.

I got online right then and there and found him a cheap ticket to my town.

He’s on his way here right now. I’m going to pick him up at 11. As the time ticks on, I’m getting jittery. Being around him brings back so many memories. Up until around age 11, I shared a room with my just-older sister and we were best friends. But when mom and dad started letting her stay up an hour later than me, I started sneaking into my brother’s room after lights out to talk. He slept on the top bunk and one of my baby brothers was on the bottom. I would sit on the floor across the room and we would talk and talk. We cracked jokes and made fun of each other, I teased him about girls and he called me names. We geeked out about star wars ALL the time. I was (and am) an avid star wars fan and my brother and I have read all the books. About once a week, dad would catch me in the boy’s room after lights-out and we would both get spanked. My brother always got it worse than I did. I’d lay low for a couple days, but before long I was in his room again every night.

All the way through high school I found myself back on that familiar patch of carpet at night, talking to my brother about everything and nothing. He was the only one who knew where I was really going those weekends in the summer before college. I talked to him more than anyone else in my life, but when I left for college that August, I think I forgot to say goodbye. Just this week I’ve been realizing how badly I neglected our friendship. It makes my eyes sting and my stomach sick to think of him there at home, with suddenly no one who wanted to listen.

I asked my brother the other day if he and my dad have been talking at all lately. He said no. They never speak. My dad told me that he has “given up on him.” He rolled his eyes in disgust. “If he wants to be an idiot, he can. I give up.” I cringed when I heard him say that. Of course he doesn’t want to talk to you dad, you were a terrible father to him.  The only time my dad ever shouted was when he was correcting my brother. I remember him roaring “Good God Boy! When are you gonna GROW UP!” My brother got slapped, pushed, shoved, grabbed, pulled, restrained, and beat on a regular basis. I remember the look in my dad’s eyes whenever my brother did something wrong. He would fly into a rage. I was terrified that one day he would turn that glare on me; which, eventually, he did.

My brother was fun-loving, mischievous, and silly as a child. He loved to cook and play pirates and soldiers. As he grew older however, he developed a serious anger problem. Our parents never treated him with respect and he learned to defy them bravely. He disobeyed more than any of the rest of us. I remember him leaving the house and walking for hours in the dark and cold without a coat. My dad refused to go after him even though he was only 12 at the time. “He’ll come back when he gets hungry.” My brother has fallen into drugs and alcohol in the last couple years since I left. I’m pretty sure he is depressed as well. I don’t know what to do. I love him so much, but he is damaged to the point where he can’t even say he loves me too.

I am hoping I can use this weekend to reconnect with my brother. He was my best friend once. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him anymore, but I imagine that deep down under that shell of indifference and gloom, my fun-loving, silly brother is somehow still there. If I could go back in time, I would hug him a little harder on my way out that door. I would call him from college every week, tell him about my life and ask him about his. I would tell him first about the Boyfriend who would become my Husband. I would have sent him a card on his birthday, and I would have told him I love him a whole lot more.

I know I can’t take back those mistakes and missed opportunities. But I know I can at least start over, and that’s what I intend to do.