Category Archives: questioning

ISO Our Tribe

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Step 2, maybe should’ve been step 3, but this is the order in which it happened for us.

tribejourneyWe had our values list and now it seemed only rational that we seek out how to be more in alignment with our values.  We started researching like crazy.  And when I say ‘like crazy’, I mean it became a small obsession.  Every waking, free moment was spent researching.  We watched documentaries.  We read articles.  We purchased off-grid magazines.  We stocked up on library books.  We began to learn the language of alternative communities and to understand the differences/similarities between ecovillage, co-housing, off-grid, co-parenting, intentional community, permaculture farm, communal living, co-living, communes, Tribe, nomads, raw foodies, gypsies, etc etc.  We began challenging our own limited viewpoints and stereotypes.  We began visiting and engaging intentional communities across the country.  We interviewed people we know who have lived in intentional communities.  We emailed. We called.  We read.  We visited.  We observed.  We educated.  We questioned.  We processed late in to the nights.  We wrestled with what it was we truly wanted.

We were longing for change and a community with shared values.  We were longing for intimate, authentic relationships.  We were desperate for a community that would further our growth.  We were looking for a shared workload.  We were looking for communities that valued independent thinking, shared resources, environmental awareness, maximizing individual skill-sets, and a sense of responsibility for our shared environment…both communal environment and global environment.  We were looking for communities with sustainable practices.  We were looking for communities with gender, age, cultural, and religious diversity.  We were looking for communities who chose equality and harmony amongst its members rather than hierarchy, patriarchy, or guru heads.  But above all else, we were seeking a community that really understood the value of family and children…meaning they had families and children actively participating within the community environment.

This search led to many heated debates between Adam and myself.  Fear-based debates I might add.

“How can you be okay with living in one house with so many people?!?”.
“How can you be okay with the fact that three women are openly sleeping with the top dog of that community?”
“Can you not see how much ego is wrapped up in this community?”
“Why can’t you be more open-minded?”
“Is this really about the kids’ needs or is this about you?”
“Are we subjecting our children to a life without a future?”
“Why can’t we just be happy where we’re at?”
“Isn’t what we have good enough?”
“Are you really okay with subjecting us to a life of poverty?”
“What if that’s a cult and we missed the signs?”
“What the hell are we doing?”

We entertained and/or visited communities from North Carolina to New Mexico to Arizona to Missouri to California to Oregon to Texas to New York to Ecuador to Belize to Costa Rica.  We wrestled with the idea of co-housing.  We wrestled with the idea of living on $1/day and being completely removed from the matrix.  We wrestled with the idea of selling everything and becoming an RV family.  We wrestled with the idea of living completely off-grid.  We wrestled with the idea of buying our own land and beginning a community of like-minded individuals.
AND
We met fascinating individuals.  We met people doing huge things in their communities on very little money.  We witnessed communities who were artistic and creative and caring.  We witnessed people who were tent-living or living in buses and completely content. We followed and engaged families who were unschooling and traveling the states in their RVs.  We questioned how a heavily advertised “green community” could be green without the simplest of  green tools such as composting and recycling?  We witnessed communities who had definite hierarchies, who were openly polyamorous, who were hallucinogenic based, who had gurus they revered, who had lost their voice, who were completely falling apart, who were overrun with battles of the EGO, who were nothing more than a rich subdivision with a community kitchen who met for meals some nights of the week, who valued profit over people, who sold a lie

We Need Oneover the internet, who touted families but only had two children, who touted sustainability but were clearly starving, who had more drama than a tween television series, who made brags about their community harvest which was nothing more than 3 bananas per family.  We met with communities that had great ideals but had never gotten off the ground.  We met desperate communities and thriving communities.  We found so many communities to be so outrageously priced and others to be inexpensive but somewhat destitute.  We met communities with loads of lovely individuals who just quite hadn’t mastered how to develop a clear, shared vision causing for a bit of divisiveness.  We met communities just attempting to launch and others that had been trying to launch for years.  We invested money in a community that online looked wonderful but in person was clearly a full-blown cult.  We found that so many communities were either full of 20-somethings still trying on the latest fad or full of retirees settling for the cheapest way to retire.  Families were nowhere to be found.  We honored the choices of all of these communities as each person has a different path to take in this life,  but for our path we felt the communities were too rich, too poor, too young, too old, too fanatical, too lackadaisical, but nothing just right (for us).

 

And, thus, by the end of December 2017 we were absolutely spent and questioning whether what we desired was ever to be had.  Or maybe we just weren’t ready.  It was time to regroup and figure out exactly what it was that we wanted and how we were going to find it.

Stay Tuned for what comes next…

 

 

 

 

 

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Are you Nucking Futs?

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We did it!  We moved our family of 6 to the magical land of Costa Rica and the next few blogs will provide insight as to how we made this decision and the physical/emotional journey of actually manifesting our desires in to action.

The seed was planted roughly 5 years ago when Adam and I first visited Costa Rica. There was a vibrancy, an energy that felt like home to me.  Time and time again, I questioned how we could make a move to Costa Rica happen but never made a strong effort to answer that question.  While the yearning to live in this tropical wonderland never really subsided, I allowed life to dictate a path for me.  I chose to be a spectator to my life rather than an active participant.

Fast forward 5 or so years and I found myself living in Arlington, Texas, and I was very aware of the nagging feeling that this was not the place for me (or my family).  I had this belief that I could (and should) be happy anywhere.  I had plenty of “rational” conversations with myself about how I should be content.  I owned a beautiful home on a small pond in a upscale neighborhood.  I had many friends.   The kids had friends.  I had two thriving businesses.  Adam had a well-paying full time gig.  My kids were attending top-rated schools.  I had a rich social life with zumba, bootcamp, yoga, pokeno, parties, etc.  I had easy access to every type of food, entertainment, store I could imagine. I was living “better” than probably more than 90% of the world’s population and, yet, no matter how much I rationalized how I should be feeling, I wasn’t feeling it.  Something was amiss and and I could no longer continue to ignore that pull.  I could continue to allow life to happen to me or I could listen to the call, drop fear, and start creating the life that was calling me forth.  Of course, my life consists of more than just MY wants and desires so I needed to be responsible in how I approached this questioning.  We are a family of six and it mattered that all members felt they had a voice in where the journey would lead us and what constituted a life of fullness for each of us individually and us as a group.
Searching for this answer came so very easily when we approached it one tiny step at a time.  The first step was acknowledging the pull, the whispers of my heart.  Without judgment.  Without any shoulds or should-nots.  The second step was to present my desires of change to my life partner and four boys.  And once they were on board with the idea of imagining/creating a different life path (because it turns out all of us were feeling misplaced/misaligned in our Texas life) we took the very next step.  We needed to know WHY we wanted to make the change.  We didn’t need to know what those changes would look like or how they would come to fruit or even if they would come to fruit but we needed to be very clear about WHAT needed to change.

So we sat down and made a values list.  What did we as a family value?
Our list looked like this….

values

Quality Time. Nature. Slower Pace of Life. Cleaner Eating. Simplicity. Lower Cost of Living. Community. Education Model/Support. Spiritual Health. Eco-conscious (off-grid). Cooperation. Sustainability. Personal Freedom.  Culture of Like-Mindedness.  Social Medicine.  Less Government.  Less Capitalism.  Sharing.  Shared Responsibility.  Equality. Encouragement of Play.  Multi-generational Influences.  Peaceful Spaces.  Mindful Consumption.  Empowerment.  Inspired Career.

And just like that we were all in agreement of what we valued, what values were currently out of alignment, and what we wanted to set out to manifest.

We have referred to this ‘values list’ a million times over during the exploratory and transitional period of the last 8-9 months.  Every time someone has asked us, “Why are you moving to Costa Rica?”  We know why!  Every time someone has mentioned that we may be nucking futs.  And, every time we have questioned our own sanity and decision making capabilities.  We just pull up this list and breathe in the absolute knowing, “ahhhhhh, yes, this is exactly why we are doing what we are doing.”

In response to all those who have questioned if we are nucking futs?  Absolutely nucking futs!  But at least we are nucking futs with values!

 

 

Marriage After Religion

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It’s been two years since Adam left Christianity and not much less than 2 years for myself.  Prior to leaving religion we were constantly told how much people admired our marriage and our commitment to each other.  We were asked to lead marital class after marital class in our churches and often mentored newly married couples.  Even after leaving the church and religion people still approach us telling us how much they look up to us as a couple.

Ah, I wish I could say the last two years has held the same amount of admiration and bliss for us as it has been perceived by others.  While leaving religion has been absolutely the best decision for me, for Adam, and for our boys I can’t sit here and pretend that it hasn’t come with a shit load of difficulty.

A Godly MarriageIn religion you have a set of rules that you live and die by.  You have a community of peers that are there to encourage you, mentor you, and give you tools to adhere to the rules that god has set for you.  You have the guilt and shame factor that comes in to play when you break any of those rules by lusting, coveting, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.  You take pride in having been two people now formed into one flesh, leaving your parents and cleaving to your partner.  Women know that they are ultimately to submit to the patriarch (husband).  And the husband knows he is to provide.  Divorce is not an option unless your spouse is beating you or cheating on you.  Porn is considered a taboo sin and often lands a man in church run therapy sessions for sex addicts.  And, sadly, you have a false sense of security that your marriage is great because you are doing all the things god has asked with a few failures but those are quickly hidden and never discussed for fear of judgement.  And while many christian marriages appear to be happy and godly, many of them (at least the ones I have known) are really just maintaining an appearance of godly.  Many men are hiding their porn use and when their wives eventually find out they are subjected to shamefests that rival republican/democratic debate practices.  Men (and women) are hiding their true sexual desires and fantasies and resorting to biblical standards of vanilla and missionary.  Always pleasing to the third man in the sky who is ever present in their lives.  Again anything outside of the black and white rule box including questioning areas of grey is often unheard of and leaves so many people stifled, confused, and inhibited.  But they are safe there and it becomes a really really comfortable place to reside.  And in the end if you do start to question your marriage, your vows, the what ifs, you can always fall back on the belief that god chose the two of you for each other.

Remove the book, the rules, the community, because god said so lines, the lifetime of black and white and the shit hits the fan!

We left our bubble and after spending so much time questioning everything about our religion the questioning moved on to everything outside our religious walls.  They just shifted from ‘is there evidence to support this’ to
Is divorce wrong?  Is there even such a thing as right and wrong?  As a society why do we practice monogamy?  What would an open marriage look like?  A threesome?  Is pornography really harmful and bad?  Are all drugs harmful?  Are some safe and in what amounts and circumstances?  What fantasies have we suppressed?  Where do we land on abortion? Gay rights? Spanking? Politics? Lying? Secrets? Individuality? Expressions of self? Boundaries? Evolution? Strip Clubs? Prostitutes? What do we want to teach our boys about religion(s), masturbation, sex, relationships?  How do we define our integrity and morality?  If there is indeed no heaven and this moment is all we have will we regret having only been with one partner?  Having not experienced everything under the sun?  Will we lie on our death bed knowing that we lived a genuinely good and happy life?  What is happiness?  What are our natural biological drives and emotions?  How much do we fight against what we see as harmful?  How angry do we get?  When do we let the boys experience church?  Which relationships do we let go of?  Which relationships do we maintain?  Do we even maintain ours?  Is it important enough for us to stay together for the kids?  What does a voice really sound like?  How do I know I’m not being duped or controlled again?  How do I find peace within myself?  What are my new boundaries for myself and my marriage?  How do we respect each other when our answers are not the same?  What do I share and what secrets are good to keep?  Are secrets ever good? Is it possible to share all of oneself and experience intimacy rather than judgement?

And the questions just keep coming and coming and coming.  It’s an endless cycle of learning, exploring, challenging, and that can be a very scary place in a marriage.  It often feels unsafe for me.  I’m a person who is challenged with anxiety issues and severe fears of abandonment.  So to hear Adam talk through some of his questioning and to hear his thoughts that have always been hidden or silenced because of my judgement and the church’s judgement can send me spiraling in to the ugliest woman full of nasty insecurities.  And what do I do when I fear the worst and can’t find my footing?  I fight!

Adam is a man who struggles with ADHD and the need to always push the envelope.  He also is really struggling with anybody controlling him.  He feels he has been controlled and manipulated for most of his life and now wants to control his own life.  And what does Adam do when he feels others are trying to control him?  He fights!
And so just as my anxiety and fear of abandonment can cause me to unjustly turn Adam in to my enemy and I can slaughter him with false accusations and assumptions, his fear of being controlled can unjustly make me out to be a raging nag or cause him to toe the line of safe just so he feels he has his independence.  As you can see the polarizing stances of one needing independence and often losing sight of partnership and the other stance wanting to bail out before the ultimate imagined abandonment happens, causes some serious conflict.  Neither one of us feels completely understood or safe.  And the scale has become unbalanced.

It was much easier for someone like me to feel safe when there were rules to guide me and someone watching me from up above.  I work well under that kind of pressure to perform.  This newfound freedom with my own regulations is quite frightening and intimidating and at times I find myself desiring to once again hide under the confines and restrictions of religion.  It feels safer there because it’s what I have always known.  Outside of it the world and it’s lawlessness is quite frightening.
I can’t speak for Adam and how religion probably felt safe at times for him too but I have a pretty good idea in the ways a box helps reign in a wild stallion like him.

Randall Sellers  Untitled Landscape with Man and Two Women, 2005  

So leaving religion and remaining married has been a painful and arduous endeavor.  I have been quite shocked at how difficult it has been.  I’m not sure we would’ve survived at all if one of us would’ve remained in christianity.  I’m not sure how any couple ever manages living in a home with completely different ideas about life and the afterlife.  And for now that is where we have landed.  We’ve landed with an agreement to focus on what we have in common.  To focus on all the ideas we actually agree upon (because there are so many).  We’ve agreed to continue working with our therapist (who is superb I might add!) .  We’ve agreed on the urging of our therapist to actually talk less!  Yes, she says we are the first couple she’s EVER had to demand that they stop talking about tough subjects.  I have started on medication for my anxiety and find that it’s remarkable what happens when your mind is not making up stories about your spouse all the time.  I can actually hear what Adam is saying and believe that he loves me.  In my anxiety I hear what he says and immediately translate that in to a way he’s going to leave me.  For example, if he says “A threesome would be awesome!”  I hear “a threesome is something I need to have and I won’t be happy til I have it.  You are not enough for me”.  On medicine I hear “A threesome would be awesome” and recognize that sure at times I’ve thought that could definitely be sexually stimulating but that does not mean I need it, want it, or desire anything beyond the fantasy and Adam probably doesn’t either.  I recognize that threesomes and a committed, monogamous, loving marriage are not really conducive to one another.  Bravo to those who can pull it off though.  I’m way too jealous and possessive to share my husband.

Right wrong..!I’m starting to get glimpses of hope that we can land on different spectrums of what is right and wrong and still love and respect one another.  We can have different opinions without hurting one another.  We can share our fantasies, our questioning, our fears and our desires without being fearful of the what ifs.  We can still be on the same team.  Differences do not have to be deal breakers and partnership is a gift in this life.  To have someone who loves me so deeply and to whom I also return that love is actually a really safe place to be.  We just need to recognize how beautiful what we have is.  And that is just going to take some practice and some work.  I know I’m up for the challenge.

For Better…
Or Worse…

Do I think we will make it?  I do.  But not without a few more big battles and not without a mutual respect.  But I think we are nearing the end of our trauma and wounds will soon begin to heal.
Even through all of the pain and fear I can say that our marriage is deeper, richer and way more genuine than it has ever been.  Religion caused too much hiding and too much power over one another.  We lost ourselves and our individuality or if we didn’t lose it we never had it.  Our intimacy is much deeper and secrets are fewer.  There’s a passion and desire for one another that has been stifled for too many years.  We have a friendship that is uncharted.  We laugh together. We cry together.  We dance, we sing, we challenge, we flirt, we scream, we battle, we resolve, we see, we accept and we persevere.  Because of that we will not only survive marriage after religion but we will make it the best damn partnership a couple could desire.

Amen!

Seeker of Truth

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For our anniversary gift this year I gave Mark a hardbound binder filled with over 400 pages of facebook discussions he’s had on the topic of religion.  These 400 pages of dialogue, discussion and debate are from Oct 2010 to Feb 2011.  This does not include all the phone conversations, face to face meetings, private emails and personal reading/learning!
This is much of the reason I stopped wasting my time and energy on Facebook.  These debates in the beginning were quite rewarding and eye opening and then they progressed in to anger and resentment on all sides.   Anger because the responses often times were not challenging or because they only confirmed that we had made the right decision.  When Mark started openly posting his opposition to religion back in October I was new to the freethinking world and was constantly searching for answers to solidify or change my current beliefs. These religious discussions left me feeling very firm in the belief that there is no god tied to one religion and there possibly is no god at all.
Mark has continued in his wrath against religion on FB and much of his anger is attributed to the many cliche answers christians have posted to his questioning of their beliefs.  Answers that after 30 years of christianity he and I could quote verbatim before they were even posted!  He’s tired of the “it’s not for us to judge” and the “you are taking everything out of context” and the “who are we to question God?” responses.  But ultimately it’s the “What do you have to lose if you’re wrong and what do I have to lose if I’m wrong?” question that is like nails on a chalkboard or in my case like rubbing two pieces of cardboard together.  Horrible, gagging chills.
The faith card is the final straw always pulled that drives a Seeker of Truth further and further away from believing.
That bring us to yesterday.  Finally a christian posed a question that makes it easier for religious antagonists to let it go.  This question was posted at the tail end of a string of debating between Mark (atheist) and another very smart guy (christian)  about the probabilities/statistics supporting different theories attesting to the beginning of the universe.  The question was simple.  Ask yourself are you A Seeker of Truth or A Defender of Faith?  
As it is with all things in life I was quick to think of all the people I knew that were ABSOLUTELY a Defender of Faith.  The ones who had posted responses such as, “I don’t need to watch any video or read any article you post.  Nothing will change my opinion” or “There is nothing about atheism I wish to know.  Jesus is everything and Always will be” or “There are absolutely NO flaws or contradictions in the Bible because it is God’s word.”  These people were obvious Defenders of the Faith.  They wouldn’t dare question or seek anything outside of what’s comfortable to them.
The friend who was sharing this exchange with Mark answered the Defender vs Seeker question stating that he also is a Defender of Faith.  I pondered that for a bit because he is definitely more educated and scientific in his approach to the Bible and unbelievers.  I never thought of him as one to blindly follow and I still don’t think that he does.  What I realized rather is that Defenders of Faith are often far deeper in their defensive tactics than simply choosing to avoid questions.  Some Defenders question as much as the non-religious but instead of denying their faith they find ways to make the Faith fit their need for answers.  Christians have evolved over time and continue to do so to make the faith more relevant and more defendable to those who are Seekers of Truth and Defenders.  The Bible is literal/The Bible has many many allegories.  The flood was worldwide/The flood was local.  Creation happened as the Bible has written it either in Genesis 1 or 2/  God created evolution and we evolved over time.  The earth is a few thousand years old/The earth is as old as science says.  Christianity and science are at war/Christianity and science are friends.  God approves of slave ownership/God despises slave ownership.  Homosexuality is a sin/homosexuals are welcome leaders of the church.  Women are not allowed to have leadership roles in church/Women are encouraged to lead.  Hell is a real scary place/Hell is an allegory.
Warrior type Defenders of Faith are required to change the story in order to have a viable defense.   One that they can firmly stand behind when science and society throw out truth seeking questions.  IF the Bible is not a true work of God I wonder how many more years the Defenders of Faith will even have the ability to change the biblical story?  And if they can’t change it many will still absently answer that NOTHING will make them leave or question it.   The ominous play of the faith card.
Well after I spent all that time evaluating and judging other people I judged myself.  Always best to put others first right =)
I really do think I’m a Seeker of truth (lower case ‘t’ for now).  I’m always searching.  Always questioning.  Always challenging myself.  During the Oct-Feb period on FB I read every article and response posted.  I watched every video posted.  I listened to every sermon recommended.  I read as many books on both sides that I could.  I hashed things over in conversations with christians and non-christians alike.  And I’m still questioning.  I think I’ll always question.  It’s good to be on this side. To not feel like I’m defending a god or religion therefore allowing uninhibited questioning.  I don’t care what the end result ends up proving to be.  I don’t feel the need to manipulate any of my learnings.  I don’t have an agenda. That’s why I’m still happily an agnostic/atheist.  Some days there’s just enough for me to believe there’s a God and other days I cannot fathom that a God exists.  So I just continue the cycle of  questioning and researching until the answer that sits best with me arrives.  Until that answer feels good and acceptable in my being and then I begin a new round of discovery.  It’s awesome!
And because I am a Seeker of truth and others are admittedly Defenders of Faith I can let go.  I can free the need to convince those Defenders that it’s beautiful over here in the land of truth seeking.