How I respond to the idea that this is the only life I’ll have

I consider myself agnostic now. Despite myriad past “spiritual witnesses,” I now find no compelling reason to believe there is a spiritual realm or next life. (I believe those past experiences of mine can be explained by the fact that the human brain has an exceptional ability to find patterns. Whenever I came across or experienced things that resembled what the church teaches, my brain most likely recognized the pattern and confirmation bias would set in: I was “receiving a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel.”)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel peace of conscience. (If there is a deity, wouldn’t he/she/they/it know my journey, my heart–my reasons for disbelief–and not condemn me? . . . )

Anyway, after leaving the religion of my youth (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–“Mormons”), I have loved being able to serve in whatever volunteer capacities I choose, rather than having them assigned. Love docenting (being a tour guide) at our local art museum; being a spiritual care volunteer under the chaplain at the regional hospital; teaching the children in Religious Exploration class at our UU fellowship (ethical behavior, critical thinking, knowledge of world religions, etc); and serving as a support meeting moderator for people transitioning out of the LDS church here in Utah County! And since I’m used to dedicating a portion of our earnings for donations, I now love being able to use those funds to make charitable contributions to whatever organization, family, or individual I wish to support.

I’m not sure I’m more productive, however. I’ve suffered so much depression in the past that now, enjoying life is a huge priority. (Thank you, Wellbutrin, for mostly eliminating my depression!) I now spend a lot of my time talking (and smooching) with my husband, Erik, sharing thoughts on Facebook, strength training at the gym, taking naps, cooking fancy meals, tucking in my kids, going out to lunch with friends, practicing flamenco, enjoying long conversations with people I meet, saving money (aka “shopping sales”!), and experimenting with my wardrobe and makeup. Oh yes, and reading an occasional romance. 😉

I’m also trying to train myself in communicating more respectfully and patiently with my kids. If some of that rubs off on them, I think it will be one of the profoundest ways I can “leave a legacy” and “serve mankind.” (Kindness begets kindness . . .)

I’m grateful that a man I know asked a question today online concerning how people without a religious faith or belief in an afterlife choose to use this one life of theirs. More productive? Less productive? More selfish? Less selfish? Greater ambition? Less ambition? It provided me the impetus to write out these thoughts of mine.

–For those interested in viewing it, here’s a talk touching on existential angst which I gave at our UU fellowship last April: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34SXKFZ5cxg

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On gun control and the higher road

It’s crazy that it is only gun dealers (businesses) who are required by federal law to perform background checks whereas private sellers are not. If criminals with a record know they wouldn’t pass a background check, of course they will buy their next weapon of choice from a classified ad . . .

“When private sellers don’t run background checks, people known to be dangerous can easily obtain guns, often with deadly consequences. For example, in 2012, a gunman killed three people, including his wife, and injured four others at a spa in Wisconsin, after buying a gun through a private seller he found online. The shooter was prohibited from purchasing guns due to a restraining order his wife had acquired against him, but was able to buy the gun anyway because the seller was not required to run a background check.

. . . .

“Researchers confirm that universal background check laws effectively improve public safety and save lives. Research has found that states with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 38 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws. This correlation is unchanged even after controlling for the effects of poverty, population density, age, education, and race/ethnicity.”
–http://smartgunlaws.org/universal-gun-background-checks-policy-summary/

I’ve heard the argument made that stronger gun laws will not prevent criminals’ access to guns but rather will only keep guns away from law-abiding citizens who have a right to self-defense. I agree that laws banning or restricting specfic items are not 100% effective at preventing illegal access to all such items, but if they are effective at preventing even ONE preventable death by murder, isn’t the effort to create such laws worth it?

I will be the first to admit, however, that we cannot force citizens to grow morally and ethically simply by creating laws forbidding immoral and unethical behaviors. (The God of the Ten Commandments was apparently a little naive on that front . . . ) Rather, it is the heart that must be won over to the goodness and rightness of a behavior (or other standard) that will encourage individuals’ willing compliance. Case in point: I am guilty of breaking the speed limit frequently. There are times, however, when for some reason I start thinking about why a speed limit has been set, why it makes sense, why lives are at stake when that speed limit is broken . . . and such thoughts encourage me to slow down.

So maybe in addition to looking into the reasonableness of stronger gun control laws, we need to also (or especially) be talking about the desirability of managing one’s anger, managing one’s stress or anxiety levels, detecting and seeking help for mental ill health (in self or others), sharing success stories of formerly violent individuals coming to greater peace, compassion, and stability . . .

What if a national mantra became “Taking the higher road is a harder workout than hurting someone, but it makes you stronger.” (Something like that, anyway . . . The ideal being to get to your zen early–to deal well with disappointment or disruption– discourse as the best recourse–to become a “strong,” ethical, admirable person.)

What has helped you recently to take the higher road?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On helicopter parenting

How do you feel about helicopter parenting? I, personally, find it very challenging to discern between healthy limit-setting and over-involvment parenting.

On the one hand, I want to help my kids form helpful habits while they’re still in the home and prepare them to avoid making harmful or costly mistakes in the future. On the other, I don’t want them to believe that their worth is dependent on never making a mistake (i.e. that making a mistake makes them worthless).

I want to teach them ahead of time why certain things are important and others are harmful, but I also want to be centered and resilient enough myself to not overreact when they do make a mistake, are careless, or exhibit different values than mine.

Can I show love and acceptance even when disagreeing with or disapproving of their behavior? Can I trust the process–i.e. believe that no setback is final, that we all learn through our mistakes, that working through hard things grows resilience?

Can I convey my confidence in them–in their ability to find what will work well for them?

Probably, I need to be modeling for them every day how to work hard, enjoy life, AND handle disappointment or failure (i.e. by admitting mistakes, apologizing, making restitution, seeking help/mentors, etc.). To experience emotion but not be ruled by it; to try to understand even while experiencing fear, anger, or disappointment.

Do my kids know they can do hard things? Do they know how to seek and offer help as part of a “team”?

I need to be exploring with my kids what it is to be human. Talking about it. What works for us; what doesn’t; how to relate to others’ differences; how to have self-compassion.

I read this comment by Psychology Today’s Editor at Large, Hara Estroff Marano, today:

“Parents do want happy children. But they have no idea what real happiness is or how it is achieved. They think it’s the absence of negative or even disquieting feelings. They are terrified their child might spew an ‘I hate you!’ at them.

“Happiness is achieved by the mastering of challenges. There’s excellent neuroscience research on this subject. Happiness is generated when one is struggling to achieve one’s goals and they actually come into view. Ask any CEO…he or she will tell you: All the fun was getting there.

“Happiness comes not from the absence of difficulty but mastery of it…precisely what parents want to remove from their children’s lives. And so you have young people who have never had to figure anything out in their lives, demand certainty in an uncertain world (they want the test questions in advance), and are terrified of failure.”

[end of quote]

I’m inspired! The kids are home for the summer. Time to get off the computer and into the exciting work of trying, enjoying, learning, and sharing.

TTFN.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment