My stomach felt like it was dropping all the time just a few years ago. I remember long walks on campus, honest to goodness feeling like nothing would ever make sense. A lot of things still don’t make sense or I haven’t made sense of them if it’s possible for someone to do so. I was juggling fear and guilt and shame and a sense of hopelessness about life. Wound up and tired. I wanted to die.
But I’m pretty happy now. I think I may have made it out with more doubts about things I thought I knew than I started with, but I have a lot more peace. And a lot more confidence. A certain certainty that if there’s justice to be served in the world, it will be served. And hopefully there will be lots of grace drizzled on top, in just the right proportions. My fingers are crossed someone competent will be charge of it.
On most days, I don’t feel like I know a lot past that. My existential dread used to be a loud, awful clamor with no rhythm, always jolting me out of the moment and out of happiness. Now it’s a soft, constant humming in the background. White noise I don’t usually mind. Just on bad days do I wish it would shut the hell up. I’m learning to live with it though and listen past it to hear other melodies, pretty ones.
I like this version of myself.
I think it could worry some people. Growing up, certainty in faith was everything. It was drilled into our minds how it all added up, what rebuttals demolished which doubts, why it was worrisome whenever one was skeptical about religion.
I think that bullshit, now, of course.
Faith, hope, and love. These intangible, mysterious things now seem more solid and real to me than anything else. I feel I can settle on them more than I can on theology. I’m trying to study faith from a scholarly perspective but it’s hard because I can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes at a time (except for when I watched the entire season of “The End of the F***king World” today). And while I’ve had very real and spiritual interactions with the person I believe is God and pretty much sure is Jesus, I have a hard time being sure enough to try to convince anyone else. Is that okay? And if I’m right or I’m wrong, will there be grace for me?
I’m trying and I hope that counts for something.
Sometimes I get scared when I write these thoughts down. I get scared I’m damning myself. I brace myself for a message from a sweet and well-meaning person who will church-splain (Kind of like man-splaining. I’m sure I’m not the first to use this term but as far as I know, I haven’t heard of it.) my situation to me to which I’ll say thank you because it was so thoughtful of them to care but I don’t really want to hear it but then I’ll feel guilty about that because it’s bad to be prideful and think you can’t learn something from someone so I’ll think about it for a while to ease my conscience. And maybe that person is right. But maybe they’re not right. So what do I do?
I’m trying and I hope that counts for something.
This kind of took a negative turn I wasn’t intending for it to take. Because, like I said, I’m pretty happy now and I’m bored with complaining for the time being. Besides, there’s lot of kind and deep church friends who are awesome and way better and smarter than me so I better watch my mouth and not stereotype.
Anyway, I think I’ve learned ways to add ballast to the ship of my soul so I don’t tip right into depression or left into anxiety every time I’m faced with adversity. I’m more resilient now. I’m finding my way. That part feels amazing. It gives me confidence I can keep growing into a more structurally sound person, instead of always feeling on the verge of falling apart.
I’m starting to be able to look back and see that I’ve been overcoming things for quite sometime now. It’s just been agonizingly slow so it usually doesn’t feel like I’m growing in the moment. It feels defeating instead.
But I’m not 16 and fantasizing about getting killed in a car crash but too stubborn to talk to my parents. I’m not 19 and about to collapse from fatigue, my mental wheels turning and churning the meaning of life and religion day and night. I’m not 23 and trembling from trying to carry the weight of the world. I’m 25 in two days and I’m building the habit of letting go of the heartache I can’t control and cherishing the beauty that’s temporary but true and comes in little doses throughout the day.
I trace the (non-physical) scars I have from the dark periods of my life and, while I know I can’t prevent the world from hurting me again, I know I’m tougher than I ever imagined and that’s wonderful.
I think you’re tougher than you imagine, I think you’re tougher than you hope you can be, and I think you’re tougher than you think that person you think so tough is. And if you’re not, I think you can be. But it will happen in increments which seem inconsequential in the moment because they’re surrounded by sadness or anger or a feeling of desperation to escape where you feel trapped.
Maybe your growth is quiet like mine and doesn’t demand much attention. Quiet but confident, so confident that it doesn’t need you to believe there’s a better tomorrow right now.
So don’t believe there’s a better tomorrow right now if you don’t want to. But maybe just admit there’s a sliver of a chance there maybe could be at some point. Because maybe there is. And maybe someday you’ll have grown enough to write a blog or tell someone over coffee about it and they’ll think you’re full of shit but be kind of fascinated. And your words will ruminate in their mind as they continue to find their own way too.
Maybe not, but never say never.
Anyway, I’m going to go gargle salt water because I have a sore throat.