Tag 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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A Secular Easter

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Three years ago Easter Sunday we attended our church just as we did every Sunday.  Only this Easter was different.  This year we were sitting in the pews not as fully committed members but rather as silent doubters of the beliefs we had naively clung to for 33 years.  But we had begun the slippery slope of questioning.  A slope so slippery that after the big Easter extravaganza held by our church and the traditional post church potluck with our Christ devoted family members, my husband boldly announced that he could no longer believe Jesus was raised from the dead.  There just wasn’t sufficient evidence to claim the resurrection as truth.  We’ve not set foot in a church since the moment those words came to life.

Smiths 2009 261Fast forward three years and here we are approaching our second Easter as a fully secular family.  Holidays as a newly secular family are still difficult.  Easter brings with it the expectation of church attendance.  It’s the one Sunday that churches have an amped up anticipation of new followers of Christ.  They solidly prepare for this day because they know that Easter Sunday brings in mass numbers of saved and unsaved.  Even the least religious of Christians will find themselves inside church walls sat beside the hundreds of other Easter Sunday pew occupiers.  Easter service becomes a service of massive proportions.  Pancake breakfasts, onstage productions with live music, actors, and tugs at the heart, life changing messages from the pulpit, communion, and alter calls.  It’s an all day event with our families.  An all day reminder of how much Christ sacrificed  for us.

Well, what to do when one has made the decision to leave that life behind, when there is no pancake breakfast or three hours of church?  What to do when that community of people is no longer your community of people?  Last year I think we just avoided the holiday all together.  We probably hid a few plastic eggs and called it good.  This year though, our boys are old enough to know that Sunday is Easter and with that knowledge comes the expectation that it’s a holiday to be celebrated.  We are ready to begin anew and start our own Easter tradition.  One that lasts all day and is a celebration of our new life.  Our resurrection.  Easter will be a day when the six of us wake up and appreciate that we don’t need to buy a new Easter dress or dress up, we don’t need to fight the church crowds or busy restaurants, we don’t even need to go around pretending the Easter bunny is real and delivers eggs filled with candies.  Instead we’ll make our own pancake breakfast, we’ll sit in the knowledge that we love each other as we are and there is no expectation of conversion or change, we’ll celebrate the really great freedom that leaving religion has granted us, we’ll celebrate that spring has arrived and maybe we’ll even have a super adventurous day of geocaching (a 21st century treasure hunt).IMG_0546

It was on Easter that our children became free to think for themselves.  Free to ask.  Free to seek.  Free to explore and find answers that fit.  Free to be who they choose to be instead of sitting in the belief that they are people in need of grace and salvation.  Free of a mandate.  Easter for us means freedom and that is definitely worth celebrating.

Happy Easter no matter how you choose to celebrate it.  Wishing you all a beautiful day full of love and family.

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!