There was a time when I looked at my life much differently than I do now. There was a time where I would put on my Bible lenses and peer through them in order to see what I was supposed to be doing and where I was supposed to be going. My end goal? Eternity with God. All of the short term stuff? Irrelevant.
Times have changed. I have changed. What was once 100% guaranteed is now a mystery. My eternal afterlife is no sure thing. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that there even is one. Could there be? Sure. Should I live this life in a manner that is putting all my eggs in that basket? No. In fact, by doing so, I am potentially missing out on experiences here and now that I could be enjoying with the ones I love. Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Nothing.
So how exactly does one live a life with the understanding that this may very well be the one and only one we get? I don’t have a good answer for that. There are times where I don’t feel like doing anything at all. Some days I just want my kids to go play quietly by themselves so I can read or even just take a nap. Then there are days where I look at my kids and think, “Man, what if I die tomorrow? What will they remember about me? That I was too tired to play? Too busy?” There needs to be a healthy balance and it’s tough to know what that is. There is no perfect answer. There is no right way to do it.
I have decided that since I have nothing beyond this life that is guaranteed, I need to be making short-term goals. The long-term, eternal ones are based on someone else’s stories. Someone else who lived a very long time ago should not be in charge of deciding what is best for me (or anyone else) now. I am in control of my life and I will be living it as such.
I have much to look forward to in this life that I do have. This one, rather short life is still a wondrous thing. Though I am stuck inside during this cold winter, I am looking forward to spring. I look forward to taking my children outside and watching them explore and enjoy nature. I am looking forward to the fresh air, the birds, the warmth and the freedom from this prison of wintertime. I look forward to spending time with my wife as we continue to fulfill our vow of growing old together. We’ve been together nearly 24 years. I look forward to the next 24.
I am looking forward to hearing back about my novel that I have submitted for publication. Will it be published? Maybe. Maybe not. If I get rejected, then I’ll try somewhere else. I am looking forward to finishing the second novel I started writing a couple of weeks ago. I truly enjoy it. It is soothing and it is a refreshing change of pace from talking about religion all of the time. I look forward to the day when my “life after religion” is a actually a life free from religion in all aspects. A life that isn’t triggered by religious nonsense that makes me feel like I need to voice my opinion about the harmful, intentional deception being peddled as divine wisdom. I look forward to the day when religion becomes background noise in this world instead of front page news.
I am looking forward to the little things in this life instead of the big things in the black and white (some words in red) printed life in someone else’s book. The little things in this life are the biggest things. They are the ones that matter. My children matter. My wife matters. My friends matter. Other people’s opinions do not and never should have. As I grow older, my skin is getting thicker and the words of others hurt less and mean less to me. Standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the belief is, is the only way to live. If someone disagrees with your beliefs, so what? As long as your beliefs do not grow into actions, they are powerless and can do no harm. Beliefs that do become actions that are harmful should be opposed. Otherwise, people need to stop worrying about what others are doing and live their own lives.
I will admit that have some prioritizing to do. Some rearranging of my “to do” lists. I have a lot of “in the now” to live and no more of “the next life will be better” to worry about. It is time to shift gears a bit and put a lot of what has consumed my time behind me. How I used to live and how things used to be are gone. The present and the future need my attention and that’s where I have decided I want to live. I will always have opinions about certain subjects. Sometimes, they will be strong opinions that I feel need to be voiced. However, like anything in life, moderation is the key. Too much of anything is bad for your health, both physically and mentally. As you get older, getting healthy and staying healthy is the only way to enjoy life to the fullest.
I am determined to shed this burden of my religious obsession. It weighs on me and it drags me down. I will never truly be free from it if I continue to keep the fire burning. It has consumed me for most of my life. In fact, for the longest time, I couldn’t get enough of it. I quit it once I realized the ill effects it had. I walked away from all I knew. But that didn’t make it go away. I kept peeking in through the windows, if only just to see how bad it really was. Like any addiction, the way to get over it is to put time and effort into something else, something healthier. And so, I will. I don’t think I can ever let it go completely as it is still such a destructive force in this world. But I need to stop looking for it. If it presents itself, I will deal with it. If it comes up in conversation, I will talk about it. If it comes into my life through friends or family, I will meet it head on.
I have so many interests in my life that I could be enjoying more if I can just let go of that which held me down for so long. It is like abuse. I feel abused. I feel hurt. I feel dirty. I feel ashamed and I feel foolish. This is why it is so harmful and why it is so hard to just be quiet about it. This is what indoctrinating children does. It creates adults who live their lives having to undo the damage. It is exhausting, and at some point, enough has to be enough. That time is hopefully now. Knowing who I am though, I can’t say that I will be able to completely follow through with the purging of religion from my life. But I need to try. This broken record is giving me a headache.
It’s time for a new song.