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  • Writer's picturecocodensmore

“It’s not the Destination, it’s the journey.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“If it’s meant to be, it will be.”

“When the universe decides it’s time, it will happen — not one minute sooner, not one minute later.”

Those are the words I lived by, the things I held firmly to in order to make sense of the events in my life — both the good and the bad. But I’ve come to realize if those things are true, that means there is such a thing as fate. Not luck, but fate, even destiny. Which implies there is some grand design, and some foreknowing of the future. It’s clear there’s some sort of inter-connectedness to all of us, a universal consciousness. But are events pre-destined?

“The bad things make me better.”

That one I will always hold to, because it’s always been true for me. Always. Without exception.

“Everything works out for the best over time. Sometimes it takes a very long time.”

That is another I will hold fast to. Because I’ve seen it at work in my own life, time and again. But I’ve come to realize that may be a function of hedonic adaptation. And I can live with that. It doesn’t always have to be the magical workings of the universe!

I’ve shared my beliefs with David as we’ve learned of one another over the past six months. As an atheist, he reacts with some skepticism. Not disdain, not frustration, he’s always accepting of our differences. However, he’s caused me to question some of these beliefs.

I no longer believe everything happens for a reason. Things happen, and we struggle to make sense of them. Over time, we come to terms, and develop strategies to manage our situation and continue to live out our lives in meaningful ways. Hedonic adaptation is, at the most fundamental level, a survival mechanism.

David also believes the things that happen to us do not necessarily make us better and stronger. We are not always able to make sense of things, come to terms, and adapt. And that is evident in the fact people are sometimes destroyed by a thing, may fall into addiction, are taken down to the basest of existence. Some choose to end their life. I get that. I was nearly one of those people. I’ve spent a great portion of my life destroyed, desperately trying to dig out of that place so near death. But maybe it’s hedonic adaptation at work again, because I’ve come through that, into the light, and life is once again worth living. So maybe all of it is as simple as the natural evolution which allows us to persevere as a species. The alternative is extinction.

It’s hard for me to believe that’s all there is to it. I think it’s so very complex, and everything is so interwoven, it can’t really be quantified. It’s So So Big.

The most troubling aspect of all of this is, if I attribute my resilience, in part, to Spirit at work in my life, it follows that Spirit has some sort of foreknowing. That means Spirit allows things to happen because She knows it is for my best, to prompt me to grow and become more, better, wiser, and even more resilient. But does Spirit allow anything? Is She in control of what happens?

All of these epiphanies have left me in a quandary. And I also think that’s how it’s supposed to work. Because it’s only in quandary, in questioning, that we are able to mature. Perceiving trials as opportunities for growth does make us more able to weather those things that come against us. Do things “come against us”? Or do challenges present, without any inherent significance, simply due to the changing nature of our world? I’m still divided on that one.

On my quest to reconcile all of this, I’ve been listening to Dan Koch’s podcast, You Have Permission. One episode I found especially helpful was “I Don’t Believe in That God”, with Jim Becker, an atheist. Dan presents scenario after scenario to Jim, and Jim keeps coming back with his truth — that he doesn’t see the need for God in those scenarios, that what is simply is.

Dan talks about transcendence, and how he experiences transcendence in those moments of connection with the Divine. Jim explains he also experiences those moments of transcendence, but he does not feel God present in those moments, nor does he need God in order to explain them. Dan’s experiences are perfectly in line with mine. Jim’s position is utterly baffling to me.

I learned freshman year, Sociology 101, all cultures have religion. All cultures have religion. Are we born with an instinctual need to seek a higher meaning for our struggles, for our existence? I think yes. Then why does not every human experience this need for something bigger to make sense of life? Are they born missing the existential gene? I laugh out loud at that phrasing. I know how my small mind works to make sense of these Big Questions. But my lack of appropriate words to define this quandary doesn’t in any way diminish the vast existential crisis with which the majority of us struggle throughout our entire lives.

I’ve stripped down a lot of these beliefs, deconstructed them, and yet, there are a few that remain. I do see Spirit at work in my life. I do have personal direct experience communing with the Divine. Spirit is as real to me as you are. Even tangible at times. On a very small handful of occasions, I have heard the audible voice of Spirit. Is it delusion? I think not. Even with my bipolar diagnosis, and having experienced auditory hallucinations, I can assert the very very few times I’ve heard Her voice as different — as genuine direct communication with Spirit. No soliloquies, not by any stretch. Simple messages. The first at the age of 17, when She whispered, “Trust me.” I have trusted Her ever since.

My relationship with Spirit more than anything else is what kept me pushing through the suicidal mire within which I lived for so long. That is why I’m here. I owe it to Spirit. But not all. I worked hard, in concert, in partnership with Spirit. I’m here because of Her and I’m here because of ME. I’m here because I am one tenacious woman, and I wouldn’t give up, and won’t ever give up, fighting for my quality of life. That is the motivation to which I hold most firmly.

My belief around foreknowing, fate, destiny — that’s still forming. So much in my life points to some truth in that, but if there’s truth in that, how can I not hold Spirit responsible for the bad things that happen, for evil in the world? If She chose the family I’d be born into, why did she choose to birth me into a family knowing I’d be a victim of sexual abuse, knowing that is the thing that would nearly take me down? Did she choose my particular afflictions? Did She know, in creating me, I’d suffer so profoundly from bipolar? Did She create me with bipolar? If She knew, should I forgive Her? Can I forgive Her? Am I supposed to be thankful? Because I am, at times, when I’m mentally well. And that’s rather troubling as well. How twisted is it to be thankful for having been the victim of childhood sexual abuse?

Yes, the bad things make be better, I say that now. But what would my life be like had I not been sexually abused; had I not been plagued with bipolar illness? I’ll never know, of course. Am I thankful for my experiences, for the very essence of who I am? I am now, to some degree, to some inexplicable degree. But not for those decades I lived with Suicide, when I laid in bed, thoughts racing, desperately searching for a method by which I could end my life. Has it all been worth it? Or would it have been better had I never been born?

Today, right now today, I’m glad I’m here. But for most of my life, that was not the case. I ponder on these things endlessly, and I’ve yet to make sense of it. But the questions no longer prevent me from living fully, as fully as I am able.

I’m searching for answers. I recognize “answers” isn’t the correct word. I’m searching for meaning. And I’m finding it. In bits and pieces, fits and starts. I accept that. I embrace that. I’ll never get to a full knowing. I fully recognize it’s a journey which never ends.

I Persevere. And life goes on.

“It’s not the Destination, it’s the journey.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


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