I’ve been looking for an easy button most of my life. I wasn’t born exuding what you might call a “fighting spirit.” I did, however, seem to come fully equipped, with a tremendous need for black or white, right or wrong. Gray shades of ambiguity need not apply.
Or maybe I did have an innate need to question and to know–but it was at war with both my environs and my need for the security of clear answers.
My 12 year old self had some pretty serious questions about the dictate to fear God. Why, I wondered out loud to my hella religiously conservative parents, would anyone want a God they had to fear?
That’s a real good question. One that warrants examination & a suitable answer.
But–tellingly–I don’t even remember the rest of the conversation. What I do know is that, years later, sitting in churches across Tampa sipping bad AA coffee, I had to reckon with the God I’d created: a vindictive God who might snatch away anything I loved too much, a God that was always looking to inflict suffering–a God to be feared.
And, if my inner need for ease and certainty weren’t enough, I had a bad habit of listening to strong outside voices–especially ones that didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.
In my 20s, I’d started exploring Buddhism. Right away, it sparked something that felt remarkably like life in me. But one of my girlfriends (bless their hearts, for so many reasons) informed me I couldn’t just BE Buddhist. I couldn’t just decide something like that.
Did I ask why the hell not? Nope. Did I ignore her or tell her to mind her own spirit, thankyouverymuch? Nuh-uh. What I did do was tuck my tail & refocus my energy back on Christianity. I walked back into utter soul-desolation (being called an abomination has a chilling effect on people, after all). I willingly took my place in an institution where I’d be battered and bruised for years–because someone else told me to.
But also, truthfully, because the kind of Christianity I was raised with came with easy answers. Living near a destructive force felt easier than drawing nearer to the creative (but crazy ambiguous), life-giving practice of questioning and seeking.
I often look around at other folks and wonder why I’m not as curious as they are. But curiosity is built on the willingness to question tirelessly–to tear down assumptions, destructive psychic patterns, decaying modes of thought. To clear room to for the psyche to be, to do its work of creating, building, discovering.
I had to put my easy button in storage when I started the hard work of getting sober. Sobriety isn’t a process in which you can just let old patterns ride. Everything gets dismantled. Which was the most beautiful gift for me. Because it gave me a toehold for the bigger questions I’m now able to ask. Getting sober gave me the strength to peer into the darkness, to probe it, to admit that there might not be an easy answer–and to stand in the face of uncertainty and ask anyway.
Psychic work has never come easily to me. It’s sweat-inducing, sometimes nightmarish stuff. But what is left over in the light of day is so beautiful, so fresh, it makes the questioning that shifts the ground beneath my feet completely worth the while.