Reflecting on 2011

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What a year!  An absolute blur of a significant year.  It’s amazing what kind of growth and decay can happen with one person within the span of some 365 days.

When I sit here and reflect back on my spiritual and personal journey over this past year I have many points of pride, many points of conflict, many points of growth and more growth needed, and many points of clarity.

While I’d love to delve in to each 2011 success and failure I’d then be losing my gained clarity.  The clarity that has helped me recognize how precious each moment with my family is…so today I want to spend time playing with my boys rather than typing away on my computer.  Therefore I have the 30 minutes it takes for the boys to eat breakfast while watching their saturday morning reward of Magic School Bus to jot down my reflections.  Here it goes…fast and furious without proofreading.  Watch out!!!

I began 2011 as a relatively new atheist consumed by bitterness and anger and the need to change minds.  I have graduated in to a more secure atheist who still wishes religion would cease to exist but my life is no longer consumed with all the angry chatter that caused me to lose sight of loving others.  At the beginning of the year I had difficulty sitting across the table from a christian without arguing the nonsense of their beliefs.  Now I can tolerate that those beliefs are theirs to have and I’m just thankful they are not mine.

I began the year very lonely feeling alienated and rejected by many in my previous circles but this in turn  was one of the greatest gifts I was given.  I was forced to seek out new friendships and have been so enriched with amazingly beautiful people that I likely would have judged as too liberal or too ungodly before.

Rainbow flagI began the year forcing myself through some radical changes.  It was very difficult to challenge my views about women, gays, abortion, pornography, self-image, politics, marriage, evolution, etc.  Some of those challenges I welcomed with open arms, some were painful to face, some views I absolutely wanted to change and some I kept avoiding or clinging to.  The ones I wanted to change still were challenging.  For example equality for gays is something I absolutely wanted to believe and stand behind but I often felt uncomfortable with the gay community and many of the teachings I had while growing up were very embedded in my thought processes so I would get clouded any time I tried to challenge myself.  So I forced myself to expose myself to as much gay propaganda as I could.  I forced myself to really look at the issue.  I forced myself to put a face to the issue and before I knew it I actually found myself wholeheartedly changed and rallying for equality.  I will enter 2012 fighting for the rights of gay men and women.  I may even march comfortably in a gay pride parade this year!  Who knows?

Another issue was the issue of pornography.  I started out not seeing any possible positive with pornography.  I couldn’t see past the abuse of the women, the fact that the Bible had taught me that any lust is wrong, and that porn would rip a marriage apart.  After much much research I have landed in a little less polarizing stance (which I will write about later…as well as a blog planned about my personal experience with homosexuality).  I now watch porn on occasion but I make sure that it is feminist porn and that it is a company that treats it’s actors with dignity and respect.  And you know what,  I actually enjoy it and it’s not harming my marriage.

I challenged my own sexuality.  I’m trying to learn to let go of much of the baggage that christianity taught me about my sexuality.

Some issues I have landed more firmly on.  I was probably more agnostic in my beliefs when the year began and now I feel much more like an apathetic atheist meaning that I don’t believe a god exists.  But if a god exists I don’t think it ultimately matters.

I was still afraid of hell 12 months ago and now I laugh at the idea of such an outrageous place.

I feared death and while I still don’t want to die or lose someone I love I am more comfortable with the idea that we are all just a part of this universe and unfortunately our time is not infinite.  Therefore each day is precious because I don’t believe in an afterlife…this is it.  And I’ve learned that this being my only life is not as depressing as I thought it would be.  In fact I see beauty in so much more now that I know heaven is not a reality…no streets of gold and angelic loved ones.  I have that here and now.

I finally began to believe that I am a damn good mom!  That failures and mistakes are all part of growth and I can teach my boys through my own failures.  Perfection teaches them absolutely nothing.

I learned that traveling is part of who I am.  I need to see the world.  I only get one chance to see it and living in this bubble called America is hardly eye opening.  There is so much to learn from travel and I am a sponge desiring to take it all in.  Life is all about exploration.

I learned to let loose a little.  I took an adventurous hike in
Hawaii this year and surprised myself by getting naked and jumping in to the waterfall nude!  It was invigorating and liberating and short-lived as the water was ice cold!  But I felt alive!

I learned to ignore some of the very ugly emails that I get.  A few months back I would have had to justify myself or defend myself but now I can read the email, know there is very little truth in it, and move on.  Sometimes I can even laugh.

I started the year very insecure and uncertain of who I was.  I relied on Mark for my value as that is often what christian marriages do placing the man ahead of the woman and setting up a very patriarchal fabric in which women live in their homes, churches and societies.  I have found that I am moving toward becoming a feminist and the title of feminist is not the negative one that I once believed it to be.  It is in fact the opposite as it is very empowering and necessary.

I have found my voice

I love blogging!

I have learned that arguing with the religious is moot but that does not mean I need to be silent. I just don’t waste my time arguing any more.  If some one has questions about religion or atheism they know where to find me.

Sadly I feel that as strong as I have become I am still afraid to say “I am an atheist”  I run in to people from my old church all the time and they ask what church I am attending to which I usually answer “none” to which I usually get this really odd look and then “Oh, just taking a break, life’s too busy” and I simply respond “no, just don’t go any more” and then they typically say “Oh well it was nice seeing you.”  Unless they happen to be bold like the one person I ran in to who said “Well it’s clear that God never intended for you to be in heaven and it’s so sad that you and Mark will be in hell.  I wish god would have had a different plan for you.”  Yeah that interaction was fun!
I hope in 2012 I can practice just saying the words, “I don’t go any more because I am an atheist.”

I feel more strongly about men like Ken Ham, Mark Driscoll, and politicians like many of the current republican nominees.  And my feelings are not based on feelings alone.  Whenever I start to feel that someone is off base I research and research until I have a clear understanding of why I feel the way I do. I try not to act in ignorance.

I feel more strongly about separation of church and state but I also believe that some atheists do waste their time on trivial issues…but so do the religious.

I feel more convinced that I’m raising my boys in a very healthy way and that for the first time in my life I can say that I will accept whatever they choose.  I can even openly talk to them about no matter who they choose to love, boy or girl, whatever they choose to believe, god or no god, wherever they choose to be employed, garbage man or engineer, no matter what I will accept them.  And it will be easy.

I judge and gossip far less than I ever have in my life.

I make room for those who uplift me and give me energy.  And I feel no shame in no longer catering to those who constantly abuse my relationship.  I feel so much healthier having cut the fat, so to speak.

I see beauty in all things and all people (yes even Ken Ham)

I tried marijuana for the first time this year and found that it’s far less harmful than alcohol that is legal so I will fight for marijuana to be legalized…something I never would have done before.  I just would have sat in ignorance and fear of weed and fought against something I knew very little about.  Now I have researched, experimented, learned the history of it becoming illegal and have found that the government should really consider letting up on it’s regulation of a relatively harmless drug.

In fact I believe most things should be legal, our jail spaces for drug offenders should be freed up.

I question everything.  I realize every topic can be spoon fed to me or I can learn for myself what is right and wrong.

I can disagree with Mark on topics and not feel threatened or bullied by our differing opinions.  Before I felt I had to jump on board with him in order to maintain a healthy marriage where he ultimately felt respected.  Not very healthy at all.

I became more environmentally aware and I think the care of our planet matters.  I stand firmly in this belief in spite of all the fun that gets poked at me for not having paper towels and for feeding our worms, etc.

I accepted my limitations and gave myself time to breathe.  Still not enough but a step in the right direction.

I learned to give myself grace as I transition through these dynamic changes and sometime revert back to old habits that I despise (this I”m still learning and hoping that 2012 will teach me how to be even more forgiving of myself)

I learned that the world is not black and white but I have not fully accepted that as I am kind of a rule follower (fathom that!).

Leaving religion and not having a community, church or guide book to make the rules for us has been extremely difficult for me.  In fact it has rocked our marriage to the core and for the first time in our lives Mark and I have spent too much of the year on the verge of divorce.   But we also know that this time in our lives is challenging  and that we love and like each other and respect one another and we do ultimately believe in the sanctity of marriage and the importance of our boys having two parents and stability.  It’s just strange when divorce has always been frowned upon by God and now God does not exist nor do His rules and Amy is getting a voice and Mark is losing his head of household role, and no topic is off limits so things that have never been discussed are put on the table for discussion and and and and….it can become overwhelming.  We’ve been fortunate to have an amazing therapist who is helping us transition and she praises us all the time for asking the hard questions.  She points out that we are just discussing things that are so intimate and most couples will never challenge their standard way of living, they will never seek to be so vulnerable or exposed nor will they ever challenge their core belief system.  I believe we are going to make it.  Mark believes we will make it.  It’s just been exhausting and challenging but we are hoping the end result will be an intimacy that we’ve never experienced…a relationship where all thoughts/actions can be discussed with little to no judgement.  That’s a hard place to get to.

So I guess 2011 was a year of stretching and growing and challenging and getting to a place that feels comfortable for me.  I’m hoping 2012 will bring more respite and more periods of calmness and security.
With the new friendships and communities in place.  A therapist on board.  A beautiful family.  And  knowing that I’m on the right path I absolutely believe in the wonderful possibilities that next year will bring.
So that’s the 2011 me in a very fast nutshell.

Cheers to a New Year…I hope you all will find ways to be genuine, vulnerable, and willing to challenge your beliefs.  As difficult as it is it is also very freeing to know yourself and those around you all the way to the core of their being.  No more hiding.  I refuse to.
This is me in all the beautiful and ugly moments.  No shame in that.  It’s simply human.  Those who will judge have a lot of growth ahead of them…at least that’s the way I see it.

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