2016: A Love Letter

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Yeah. I know. 2016 sucked… except it didn’t. Not for us. For us, honestly, it was utterly amazing and magical. I can’t even begin to do it justice in one post but I’m going to try…

It started in late 2015, when we watched the new Cosmos series. It blew us away. We just fell in love with the science, the way of seeing the world. It turned Steve atheist for good, in a way that surprised me. It solidified so much of what I had felt for years and it turns out I felt the same as he did. We were transformed. We discussed all kinds of things we had never discussed before, even in all our years of endless conversation. We took an online physics class together. We started reading science and atheism nonfiction and were instantly mesmerized. We started listening to podcasts and religious and philosophical debates. And always, always talking to each other. It’s been fantastic.

This was also the year of the election. And, sadly at first, we found ourselves disagreeing. In some ways, we had veered off into opposite extremes and I was particularly stubborn about seeing the other side of things. We had a lot of uncomfortable silences when we tried to discuss politics – until we both got so frustrated with that reality (ESPECIALLY me) that we created a new one. We researched, we talked, we became willing to change our minds. And Steve shifted and changed and I shifted and changed, hardcore, and we met in the middle, where we remain, agreeing on everything. Through critical thinking, reason, and logic, we agree on everything. It’s incredible.

But the atheism and critical thinking brought something fearful as well, at least for me: the reality of mortality. I realized that not believing in a god meant facing finality. Not believing in god, while alive, is freeing and beautiful. But not believing in god or something after, while facing death… it’s been tough to comprehend and incorporate into my thinking. It’s terrifying.

I struggled for a good five months before I, with Steve’s help, was finally able to turn that fear into something useful, to grasp the reality of that and – instead of panicking or worrying about it – use it to value every single day that I have to be alive. Stop focusing on the things that really will not matter in the end: no more negativity, no more daily anger, no more low body esteem. And, most importantly, I have finally, truly given in to vulnerability – in every way, but with no one more than Steve.

I love him now more than ever. We are entwined and in love to such a deep degree, there really is no way to describe it. For the first time in almost 23 years, I love COMPLETELY, without fear, and with total raw openness. And all because of the atheist discovery. I mean, if I know this is all I have with Steve, there is NO holding back. No fear. No putting up walls. This is it. And so we are crazy for each other. Absolutely madly, deeply in love. After so long together. It’s indescribable.

And in the end, that is what this year has been most of all – an emotional and spiritual and intellectual renaissance with my best friend, the person I love the most in this universe. I only hope I get to spend the rest of my time in this universe – and hopefully other universes – with this person. The one with the best heart, best words, best love. Best.

I’m sad to say goodbye to this year. We will always remember 2016 as the year of transformation. Of something immense. No words I could write here would suffice. But I had to try to put it down anyway.

So much love.

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Something Beautiful

Why are we so quick to see the ugly when we stand before the beautiful? Why have we declared that those who are different from us are separate from us? Why do we stand before the light only to turn and face the darkness?

Far back to the earliest moments of human memory, we’ve broken ourselves into small tribes of inclusion, only so that we can treat others with exclusion. We told ourselves that we were right. That we were superior. And that god was on our side.

So many sacred scriptures, rites, edicts, and doctrines are bathed in the blood of tribes, each one warring against the other, each one declaring divine right, each prepared to take their divisions, their bigotry, their fear, and their hatred to the grave. And, tragically, many do so.

Thousands and thousands of groups, religions, cultures, races and nations, each declaring that it’s us versus them, each building their temples, monuments, and messages upon the human tragedy of ignorance, division, and hate.

It’s such a waste, to look at all others, and hope to only see ourselves. To stand upon the claims of primitive times and primitive minds, declaring that times and minds should never change. And holding in contempt the very people we should be holding in our arms.Ignorance. Fear. Hatred. We teach it to our children. They teach it to their children, who teach it to their children. We cloak it in the shroud of righteousness. We speak it in the name of justice. And we claim it in the name of god.

And we could be so. much. better.

I have witnessed the power of hatred, but I discovered a much grander and better world beyond. I see your face… and it is beautiful. I hear your voice… and it is beautiful. I know that you are different than me… and it is beautiful. And I am proud to stand beside you like a brother. I AM your brother. We are links in the human chain – alive at this moment for a brief, priceless chance to breathe the air, to feel the sun upon our faces. To speak the very best words for the very best reasons. To pursue the best ideas and achieve the greatest dreams. To unite instead of divide. To heal instead of harm. And to share together the preciousness of life.

Wouldn’t it be something if those were the things we taught to our children? To look at someone who’s different – wonderfully different – and see something beautiful?

Credit and thanks to The Thinking Atheist.

Six Years

Six years sober today!

Not much to say today. I have thought a lot about drinking in the last few months – not for any negative reasons, but for positive ones, i.e., I was hanging out with friends in California and it seemed like drinking with everyone would be fun or I was planning to maybe possibly have champagne in Big Sur for my 20th wedding anniversary coming up or just, in general, life is great these days and it feels like sometimes I could drink moderately and be fine. I think. But I have no way of knowing how that risk would turn out.

And then the closer I got to today’s 6-year mark, the prouder I felt that I hadn’t done it after all and the more I knew I didn’t want to plan to do it, either – BECAUSE I don’t know how it would turn out. And the “reward,” such as it is, is still not worth that risk.

So I made it to six years. Happy and healthy. Life is good.

Not for Nothing

It came out of nowhere, on my drive to work. I’m not sure what I was thinking about that brought it on. But suddenly, I had this extremely clear understanding of the finality of death. That I will cease to exist. That I will no longer be able to think or learn or be. That I will end and there will be no more consciousness. There will be nothing else. And I won’t even know it. There will be no “I” to know anything.

Here, a few hours later, I feel like I can’t put it into the right words. But my understanding of it was so vivid in that moment, so concrete, it felt like a solid weight in the middle of my chest.

A mixture of dread, panic, and sadness washed over me, a heightened blend of emotions so intense, that once it had flowed through my body, it left me tingling and cold, and I found myself taking large breaths and telling myself to calm down.

I immediately thought about people of belief, those who think that we have an afterlife to look forward to, and I know that is one of the fundamental reasons that religion was invented (along with needing purpose, along with explanation of scientific phenomena that couldn’t be explained at the time). Fear of death is so immense that people need faith as armor against it.

I thought about my atheism, how that doesn’t logically include an afterlife and yet, to alleviate the terror of nothingness, I have always held a belief in “something beyond death” because I refuse to accept that it all just ends. That I will think no more. That I will never see Steve again. That I will be alone and gone and unknowing. I cannot accept it.

I thought about how I am not even remotely the first person to have that kind of moment of realization. I know it must be very human and very common. I pondered how those moments shape people’s philosophies, even subconsciously. Most people turn to faith. For those who don’t, there is a choice: let the unknown turn you apathetic or turn you kind; become a nihilist or a humanist.

It’s easy to understand the temptation of the former. After I watched Cosmos last year, I felt like I could see the big picture of human evolution, anthropology, sociology, science, and theism. My eyes were opened. As a result, nothing else seemed particularly important anymore. The current state of the world, politics, the division of countries and peoples and belief systems – all of that becomes insignificant when viewed through the lens of science and realism. What are countries and peoples anyway? We are all one humanity, floating on a tiny speck in a vast sea.

Indeed, after having all these thoughts on my drive in today, I took one look at the negative news of the world this morning online and thought “it doesn’t matter, it’s not even worth getting riled up.” And it’s not. So, on one hand, this is a positive perspective. It makes me understand that life is far too short, that all the things I stress over, seemingly big and small, out in the world or in my own life, don’t really matter. This is good for my well-being.

On the other hand, it would be easy to take that feeling and run with it in a very negative direction. It would be easy to focus on the idea that, if I can see the big picture, and see how silly all these petty differences are, that everything is meaningless – that life, that people, are meaningless. Anarchy and chaos and living only for oneself is fine because what does it matter.

What does it matter? I don’t know. I don’t believe I will be judged upon my death. I don’t believe that what I do in this lifetime will change what happens to me after, which could be absolutely nothing. But I choose the other path anyway. Because kindness and love and compassion move me. They are the instincts that bring me to tears. They make my heart swell. And somewhere in my gut, in my deepest heart, I know there is a reason for that. Maybe that is my version of faith.

Far too many deep thoughts for so early in the day. After I got to work, all I wanted to do was turn right back around and go home, wrap my arms around Steve, and cherish every single second of every single day we have to spend together in this existence – especially because I have no idea if this is all we have. I hope it isn’t. Either way, I am going to do my very best to stay awake, live the life I want, be fully me and fully present, and love as hard as I can. Because the alternative is not an alternative. All that love can’t be for nothing.

Monthly Mileage for April 2016: 95.50

  • 0.00 hiking
  • 92.00 running
  • 3.50 walking

I thought March was an anomaly but April felt worse. I ran a similar percentage of days both months (19/31 and 18/30), but god what a slog it was in April. I have fallen in a rut and fallen out of love with running. I know from my streaking days that this will eventually pass, that if I simply force myself to continue on, the joy will return. But man it’s been tough. I’ve never had a low period last this long. I considered taking a hiatus and doing something else but I honestly cannot imagine what. So I will carry on. For now.

And yes, zero hiking again, but my perspective on that has changed. Steve and I are, rather unexpectedly, focusing on other parts of our life this year, other interests and passions and areas where we are spending our time, money, and energy. And we are loving it. So perhaps no hiking until September in Big Sur – and that’s just fine. 

Things Happen for a Reason

It’s so tempting, Melissa, to look at your present life situation, at whom you’re with, at where you work, at what you have and have not, and think to yourself, “This was obviously meant to be… I’m here for a reason.” And to a degree, you’d be right. But you are where you are because of the thoughts you used to (and may still) think, and so you are where you are to learn that this is how life works — NOT because it was meant to be.

Don’t give away your power to vague or mysterious logic. Tomorrow is a blank slate in terms of people, work, and play, because it, too, will be of your making. You will again have that sense that it was meant to be, no matter who or what you’ve drawn into your life. Nothing is meant to be, Melissa, except for your freedom to choose and your power to create.

Ungawa,
The Universe

I’ve never liked when people say “things happen for a reason” or “it was meant to be” because 95 percent of the time, the speaker is implying faith in the divine or fate or both, and I believe in neither.

However, I DO believe “things happen for a reason,” for all kinds of reasons, and have never been able to articulate what I meant by that. Until today. Thanks, Notes from the Universe. You nailed it.

Monthly Mileage for March 2016: 107.75

  • 0.00 hiking
  • 106.00 running
  • 1.75 walking

Zero hiking. Sigh. Since we gave up our hunting lease, hiking isn’t naturally integrated into our routine. But I mentioned to Steve that we really need to make the effort in April. Even if we opt out of a big camping/hiking trip this year, we have Cedar Hill State Park locally or we could still enjoy East Texas by going to Tyler State Park. I just love seeing the outdoors come back to full, vibrant, colorful life in the spring. I don’t want to completely miss it.

As for the running. Hm. I’m not sure why I took so many days off in March. I only ran 19/31 days. I think it’s a combination of burnout/boredom, shifted priorities, and just plain tiredness. It’s funny, too, that when I look back to last year, I seem to remember March feeling the same to me – and indeed, when I checked my mileage log just now, I saw that I ran 20/31 days last March. Something about coming out of the really high mileage cold weather running months, I think maybe I need the break? Who knows.

Regardless, overall, I think I am doing really well for 2016, even if I am not quite hitting my stated goal for this year – which I already knew was aiming really high when I stated it. I’m doing the best I can. And that is so absolutely good enough. I am enough. I feel that deep down today. ❤