. . . for the moment at least! I had originally planned on splitting this into two more pieces, but I couldn’t find a comfortable place to stop. Thank you to those who have read this, and thank you for sharing your thoughts as well.
I was married in August just a couple of days after my 24th birthday. We were married at a chapel in Las Vegas while on vacation (it was planned) and came home to a reception with family and friends. Marriage was never a big deal to me. In fact, I never really saw myself getting married. As far as I was concerned, a piece of paper and a ring meant very, very little, and you didn’t need either of those things to be committed to someone. This outlook could have been at least a little bit influenced by my mother’s three marriages.
I knew that I wanted children. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the man I loved. And I knew that marriage was important to him. And so, we got married. Six months later, I was pregnant with my daughter.
Pregnancy brought on a whole new slew of emotions and ideas and beliefs. I helped to make a person, this little person who was growing inside of me. She made me nauseous, gave me indigestion, kicked me in some very uncomfortable places, gave me carpel tunnel syndrome, and made me start eating red meat for the first time in 5 years. And I still loved every second of it.
The day she was born, I had a picture of my mom as my “focus object”. I have no doubt that my mom was in the room with me that day. Later on, I talked to my uncle on the phone. He said, “So pretty crazy about that 1-1-8 thing, huh?” I had no idea what he was talking about. And then it hit me . . . my mom’s birthday was January 18th, 1-1-8. My daughter was born on November 8th, 1-1-8. The universe can do some crazy things!
I started celebrating the Pagan sabbats, or at least some of them. Halloween was always my favorite holiday. Now I say that it’s both of my favorite holidays rolled up into one day. With all the death that I’ve seen, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Samhain became a very special day to me. I started by lighting a candle for each loved one that I’ve lost. That became a bit expensive, so now I buy one large white candle and engrave their names on it. We light the candle and reflect on the happy times. We say a few words and let the candles burn while we eat dinner, leaving a spare plate to share with those on the other side. It’s very peaceful, very loving. I look forward to it each year.
I celebrate Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon, commonly known as the Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumn Equinox, every year. I love the celebration of nature and her ever-changing state. It reminds me of the constant flow of the universe, how one thing needs another . . . the rain helps the flowers to grow and so forth. I celebrate Beltane every year . . . probably the most exuberant of the Pagan holidays . . . a celebration of life and love, and joy and gratitude for both. For whatever reason though, I seem to forget Imbolg and Lughnassadh every year until after they’ve passed.
First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia
My daughter was about a year and a half old when I discovered the Unitarian Universalist church. We went to a service and I remember walking out of there thinking, ‘wow, they’ve got me covered with one simple title!” I didn’t go back to another service for a few more years. Honestly, I just like to sleep in too much! It’s one of those “to do list” things on my personal growth goals.
Regardless of my lack of attendance at the UU church, I was impacted a great deal by that first service, or rather the conversations I had afterwards. I talked to several people before heading home that day. I talked to Humanists, Christians, Pagans, and more . . . and they all got along! It was pretty damn incredible. I really did find my home there. I really do need to get my behind back there!
Through all of this, my husband continued his involvement in his church, and I encouraged it. I knew him when he went and I knew him when he didn’t. I knew he was a better person when he was regularly attending. It worked for him, so I pushed him to do whatever he could. I still challenged him, because, well, that’s just my way. I always accepted him for who he was. I believed that he accepted me for who I was. We had our issues, as all couples do. We even had a short separation at one point (which we kept very well hidden from friends and family). But I wanted us to work. I didn’t want to follow in my mom’s footsteps with this.
One day we were driving somewhere and we were talking about religion, as we often did. We talked about how we felt about the judgmental types. I expressed how I didn’t feel it was any of our places to judge another person. He agreed and took it further to say that he didn’t understand why churches would act so strongly against those people they considered sinners. He explained that at his church they believed in accepting them into the church because if you don’t accept them, then they will never come to the church. If they never come to the church, they could never be converted. I listened carefully to what he was saying. And then he gave an example of a couple of people very close in our lives. I turned to look at him and said, “Is that what you’ve been doing with me?” Silence followed. I think my heart broke in half in that instant. He admitted to me that day that no, he did not fully accept the path I was on and that he was still holding out for my eventual conversion.
We had a lot of other issues, some of them quite serious, but this was the one that made me realize that we couldn’t be fixed. I could not be with someone for the rest of my life that did not accept and love me for who I was. I could not be with someone for the rest of my life that was always holding out for me to change. It wasn’t long after this that he moved out.
It was an extremely painful time for me. I felt stupid. I felt like a failure. I felt like a horrible mother. My anxiety sky rocketed. I went back to therapy, went back on medication, and most importantly, relearned deep breathing techniques. This segued into meditation, something I had let slip away a long time ago. It took some time, but I began to feel really, really good about myself.
It’s been over 3 years now, and aside from still wanting to get myself up early enough on Sundays to go back to the UU church, I am extremely comfortable with myself spiritually. I’ve lost all need for any kind of title. I celebrate what I celebrate. I believe what I believe. I live how I live. You can call it whatever you want, it still is what it is.
My biggest challenge right now is to raise my daughter in a way that she sees everything around her and becomes independent and strong enough to decide what is right for her when the time comes. I think I’m doing a really good job with that. She goes to Sunday school with her dad on the weekends that she’s there. When she’s with me, we talk about nature and heaven (she’s very interested in learning about her Mom-mom Janice). I put a heavy focus on what I believe, not what I don’t believe. It’s a delicate balance of exposing her to all sides while making sure not to confuse her. She goes to school with kids of many different religious and cultural backgrounds and so is learning there as well. I am confident that when the time comes, she’ll choose the path that is right for her . . . and I will love and accept her no matter what it is.