The Great Lentdown: Seeking wisdom from the wise (believers and non-believers alike). - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 04:53 AM - Thread Starter
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A little background:

I was raised Catholic by two faithful Catholic parents and attended Catholic school through 8th grade. I left the faith and began to look for a new spiritual home at the age of fourteen. I explored Unitarian Universalism, Quakerism, and Episcopalianism, until my early twenties when I realized (to my absolute horror!) that I was, undeniably, an atheist. Fifteen years later I still love religious expression, still occasionally attend Quaker meetings, love meeting with Buddhists to sit in meditation, feel strongly drawn to Celtic spirituality, and am intrigued by Paganism. And, for the past few years I’ve begun to celebrate Advent and practice Lent.

So. This year I attended Ash Wednesday services at my local Episcopalian Cathedral. Normally a vegetarian I became mostly vegan (no meat, dairy, or eggs, but I did take in plenty of honey, and didn’t even consider giving up wool or forgoing my leather cowgirl boots), gave up sweets (no soda, cookies, candy, etc, but see above note re: honey), and alcohol. I attended services every day of Holy Week, sat watch in the middle of the night at the Altar of Repose, and met some really lovely, wonderful people at the Cathedral. Holy Saturday, and the Great Vigil, were like Christmas Eve. During the day I stocked up on my favorite chocolates, my roommates bought cheesecake and Prosecco, and we all prepared for an orgy of booze and fattening food. The Vigil was so beautiful and so moving, that as I drove home to my eager agnostic roommates, I felt high already. At midnight we cracked open the champagne and chocolates, and toasted rebirth and my completed contemplative journey. And I swear, that was the last time I felt happy.

After two glasses of champagne, I woke up hungover, and bummed out. None of the dairy-based foods I’d dreamt about for the preceding 46 days sounded appealing. We all went out for a lovely brunch, but when we came home I felt overfull, and heavy, and uninspired. Talking with friends today I kept saying that I felt “lost”, like I’ve lost a sense of purpose, and anticipation. I’m so done being vegan, but all those sweet, buttery foods I fantasized about all seem sickeningly sweet and rich.

And all the moving services of Holy Week and Lent are over. My time of quiet, reflective contemplation is finished, and, as inspiring as I find the Paschal story to be, ultimately I’m still an atheist. I just can’t keep showing up to this place where I just don’t belong. Even Saturday night—I loved singing, I loved listening, but there were prayers and statements of faith that I just couldn’t make, and which I believe I will never be able to make.

I am a kid the morning after Christmas morning. I can’t even say what I expected from this experience, but MAN, I’m bummed out, and lost.

And I have no idea what exactly I’m asking of anyone who reads this. Sympathy? Understanding? Advice? I don’t even know. I suppose I’m looking for what all seekers seek—a sense of being not alone in the universe. Of my existence, and my suffering, and my joy, and my grief, and my attempts at betterment, and my failings—of my life, my self, having some true meaning, some reason. And maybe, in the end it’s an offering as well. I mean, if you’ve read this far, then, God Bless you, I hope you can glean something from this wackiness. Something more than just wackiness. And if you have a little wisdom to share then, by God, do share.

Just please forgive me for these stipulations: As sad as I may sound, and as much joy as your faith (or lack thereof!) may provide you, please do not try to convince me to become a believer, (or to embrace the joys of non-belief). Trust me, I’m already convinced. If I could believe I would believe.

But to all those who have read this far, seriously, God bless you.
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#2 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 05:16 AM
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Just please forgive me for these stipulations: As sad as I may sound, and as much joy as your faith (or lack thereof!) may provide you, please do not try to convince me to become a believer, (or to embrace the joys of non-belief). Trust me, I’m already convinced. If I could believe I would believe.

Well, with that in mind, Ill keep strum about all that sort of thing and bring up what came to my mind. First of all Im not sure what you expected going into the lenten project you did so... I dont know, what did you expect?

The first thing I thought of was the fact that you simply went with out all that stuff for long enough to get it out of your system and have a bit of detox going on but then you really really pigged out on all that stuff, overloaded your system and the feelings of disappointment (as I understood it) were simply a reaction from coming down from the sugar high. Your body was just in protest, physically speaking...

Spiritually speaking, it may be that you are looking for something 'more' or yearning for it...

just a thought
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#3 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 08:39 AM
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IMOP-sounds like you liked the doing something. Having a goal can be a powerful thing.

Maybe you feel alittle alone? Even though you don't believe in God he is real. And maybe just maybe He touch you in someway.

Hope that you find that feeling again.
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#4 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 09:50 AM
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What is it that draws you towards these different spiritual expressions? What kind of meaning do you think they have? Are they just aesthetic expressions? Do they represent a quest for goodness? If so, what is the content of that expression or quest? Are you the sort of atheist that believes there is no good and evil? That would suggest there is no content, but that begs the question, why are you searching for it?

 I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt.
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#5 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 10:48 AM
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I have a couple book suggestions for you, Sera Beak's The Red Book She writes about her spiritual journey from a very pro-women perspective. And Jean Shindoa Bolen's Crossing to Avalon. Another searching for spirituality with a female perspective.

I really enjoyed reading both these books, and gained some useful insight.
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#6 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 01:20 PM
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I have no advice, but lots of understanding .
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#7 of 7 Old 04-06-2010, 03:33 PM
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Community, and community focused on a specific activity (so not the "messy" community of people being people but the "beautiful" community of shared attainable goals), can be a really heady experience. And you may be feeling a bit of the "peak experience" let down... you did something or were part of something meaningful and then when it's over there is disappointment as well as elation. Mountain climbers, actors, women giving birth, and so on... it's a common "day after" feeling.

And I agree with a pp that some of your experience may be physical. Your body responding to foods/beverages (hormone shifts, digestive slow down, etc) that have been out of the picture for a while. And some of it mental with the expected indulgence just not being as much fun as you thought it would be. That really has nothing to do with belief or the lack of it, it's just physiology and psychology.

So, what to do? Do you have a community that your regularly participate in? A Humanist Society or Atheist Parenting group maybe? Is there a dinner discussion group or other type of regular activity that makes you feel enriched and supported?

If you enjoy the "group energy" element perhaps consider joining a community vocal group or a volunteer theatrical company? Both activities can provide the sense of being "part of the whole", both provide that "goal oriented" focus, both have room for people who may not be great vocalists or actors. Or joining a service organization... a soup kitchen, women's shelter, park/garden group (around here there are groups that volunteer to maintain curbside plantings or community gardens)... any group where you can share a common goal with a limited scope?

I hope you find the supportive community or personal balance you're looking for!

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