A Fond Childhood Memory That Brings Out the Atheist in Me

I want to share with you one of my favorite memories of back home. 

I grew up in a very rural area – Henry County, Ohio. It’s a rich agricultural region that was once part of the Great Black Swamp. 

My best friend lived a few miles away. Our grandpas were both farmers and our families had lived there for generations. 

One of the coolest things about living in the country (in my opinion) is the night sky. It gets so dark. On a clear night, the stars can be overwhelming and you just feel so small. 

My best friend had a big trampoline in her backyard and we would lay on it at night and look up at the sky. You wouldn’t believe how much is going on up there – there’s a lot of shit in the sky!

Sometimes I thought it was scary. I was certain that we were going to be abducted by aliens but thankfully that never happened. It made me feel like there’s just so much that goes on that is beyond my understanding. The sky is so vast and beautiful but there’s so much I don’t know. 

When we looked off to the Northeast, there was a faint orange haze in the distance. That was the lights of Toledo. I had no idea that one day that would be my home.

Today I prefer living in the city but I definitely miss the dark nights of the country.

You always hear people talking about awe-inspiring experiences bringing them closer to god but for me, thinking about the big night sky and stars back home brings out the atheist. It reminds me that we are so insignificant – barely a blink in space and time. We must make the most of the experiences that we have.

I was not an atheist back then but this is how the memory affects me now.

Have you had any awe-inspiring experiences that bring out the atheist in you?

Pushing Through Pain and Self-Care

I just want to see if there’s anyone out there who can relate.

How do you keep yourself going when you are feeling unwell?

For example, I’ve spent years battling an eating disorder and it can sometimes be really hard to listen to my body. I’ve learned that oftentimes when my stomach is upset or I’m feeling nauseous, I’m actually hungry. It feels so counterintuitive to try to eat when I feel like I’m going to throw up. It can be absolutely grueling but I know that’s what my body needs. At that point, eating becomes a form of self-care. 

Sometimes I just can’t do it and I waste away the day by laying around in pain. 

This isn’t just for physical pain though – mental pain can be just as debilitating.

I also struggle with anxiety and my symptoms can range from lack of concentration to not wanting to leave the house. But I’m still a mom. I still have a job. I still have shit to do.

It is just so hard to push through that pain and keep going.

How do you keep going when you feel like you can’t? How do you push through the pain? 

If you knew an area had conservative religious and political views, would you refrain from traveling there? 

Do an area’s popular religious and political views ever deter you from vacationing there?

A Recent Road Trip

I recently spent a few days in Tennessee visiting family. In true Midwest fashion if you can drive somewhere in under twelve hours there’s just no need to fly, so my husband and I made the eight-hour drive from Northwest Ohio to Eastern Tennessee. Our daughter did surprisingly well on the road trip. In fact, most of the time she was pretty quiet watching videos in her car seat.

My relatives moved to Tennessee just a few months ago; this was the first time I had visited the area. I knew Tennessee was more conservative but I didn’t think it would be as visible — my relatives live in a very busy tourist area in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

I was wrong!

Christianity and conservative viewpoints were definitely on display but I think it just added to our entertainment. My favorite was the huge cross on the mountainside right above the gigantic “Adult World” store. 

There were several year-round Christmas stores along the main drag. Gross.

I shit you not, there were also two Trump Stores. We don’t have that in Toledo! I did not have the guts to go in.

Car Trouble

Just after lunch, on our first full day in Tennessee, our car’s brakes started making some horrible noises. Surprisingly, we found a shop that was able to fix our car in a couple of hours and it didn’t cost as much as it could have. We thought the mechanics might take advantage of us since we were from out of town. 

We have several atheist and humanist stickers on the back of our car and I thought about that as we handed the mechanic our keys. We’re a long way from home and at the mercy of the mechanic – could my stickers be a reason they screw us?

Luckily, the mechanics were great. Our car is fine and we could still afford the rest of our vacation.

Choosing Your Vacation

Obviously, I didn’t choose to vacation in Tennessee; that’s just where my relatives live. Despite the local conservative views, it’s a very beautiful area and I’m glad I got to see it.

If you knew an area had conservative religious and political views, would you think twice about traveling there? 

Thoughts on Perfectionism and Ambition

As most of you know, I recently spent a couple of months in a treatment center for eating disorders. Treatment was grueling and being away from my husband and child was very difficult. It’s true that sometimes even the treatment itself can be considered traumatic. My emotions have been a rollercoaster since discharge. I go back and forth from feeling relieved that I am now physically healthy to feeling absolute disbelief that I went through treatment at all. Treatment didn’t necessarily leave me sad but I’m not exactly happy either. This whole experience has forced me to do a lot of “soul searching”. Sometimes it’s hard to describe what I’m feeling. My thoughts and emotions can be complicated right now. I’m safe and working with an outpatient team, but sometimes I don’t know what to do other than write about it. So if my posts seem a little emotional or disconnected lately, that’s why.

A Few Questions

Do you wonder if your best will ever be good enough? Not just to your friends, colleagues, and family, but also to yourself? Like most people with an eating disorder, I struggle with perfectionism, but I don’t always think it’s wrong. I like being picky and my anxiety makes me prompt, well-prepared, and organized in almost every aspect of my life. The problem is that it will never be good enough. Perfection is unattainable. Is it a waste of time to try to make things perfect or should you accept people and things just as they are?

Is it best to always want more or to settle with what you have? I’m ambitious and I can never settle for how things are. I always want more. Is that bad? Maybe sometimes it’s good. I think I would be a happier person if I could settle with what I have, but that seems to go against my very being. I’ve always been this way. I think it’s possible to do bigger and better, so shouldn’t I want that?

Leaning On My Better Half

My husband is a very relaxed person. Although I know he feels deeply, he’s also the most stable person I know. He helps me with these questions and I appreciate his feedback. 

I’ve always been uptight, intense, picky, and ambitious, and while I think I would be happier if I wasn’t, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I think I just need to learn to turn it back a couple of notches. 

 

So how do you feel about this? Are you a perfectionist? Are you good enough for your friends, family, and yourself? Do you settle with what you have or do you always want more?

A Poem from My Book, The Housewife Who Ruled a Kingdom

I have been working for a while on my second poetry book, The Housewife Who Ruled a Kingdom, and I would like to share a poem with you. I consider the book erotic although it is more about the housewife than the sex. The housewife is torn between her loving and devoted husband and a sexy stranger she’s obsessed with. 

 

His Name

My sexy stranger
has a name
but I don’t dare
speak it.

He’s a real person
but my fantasy
is far from his reality —
a world created in my mind.

All I have is a picture
and an imagination.
I’ve made him into
a man that doesn’t exist.

My loving husband —
faithful and kind —
he’s all that I need
so why do I want more?

Lustful, sinful,
invading my restless mind —
I strip this stranger bare
but we’ll never meet.

Guilt and shame
come entangled
with my thoughts.
Why is my focus divided?

This stranger is
hundreds of miles away
but in my mind
there’s no such thing as distance.

My faraway lover
consumes me
stealing my time, productivity —
my life is distracted.

I’m guilty
of diverting my attention
from my family, my world —
a world this stranger will never be a part of.

A harmless seduction?
A fantasy of the forbidden —
is that why
I like it so much?

A private encounter
that will never happen —
a secret
I will never spill.

I love my husband —
my partner, protector, provider —
so why
do my thoughts betray him?

It’s a terrible affliction —
a tale of two men —
both give me
warmth and poetry.

I’m torn between fantasy and reality
but my sexy stranger
will never know.
I don’t dare speak his name.

Just a thought – what would it be like if I were religious?

Despite being raised in rural Ohio, I’ve never been very religious, and quite frankly, it’s a little disturbing to imagine what I would be like if I were.

My World in a Nutshell

I have always been a really intense person. My feelings run deep and my passion is fiery. I’m one of those emotional creative types with too much ambition and a mind that takes me to dark places. I also have some serious mental health issues that only fan the flames.

I question my reality a lot – did this really happen the way I think it did? Rational thought meets overwhelming emotions. Oftentimes my world differs from the real world. The atheist in me looks for simple answers – the ones the evidence actually points to – but my mentally ill brain tends to complicate everything. I know my feelings and experiences are valid but sometimes I overthink and under analyze. 

A Disturbing Thought

Knowing all this, could you imagine what I would be like if I were religious? Holy shit! My complicated brain would become a raging dumpster fire. I can’t even imagine how far I would take it. When I find something I’m interested in, I give it my all.

I’m not a very social person but regardless, I know how to use my voice. Art and writing mean everything to me and I’m sure I would use them to spread the word.

But what would that do in my personal life? How would that affect my daughter?

I’m not going to lie – this is a really weird and frightening thing to think about.

I have a schizophrenic disorder and I’ve seen many people with similar diagnoses become religious fanatics. Thankfully I’m stable on medication and haven’t gone down that road.

A Secular Life to the Rescue

I’ve often thought that atheism has contributed to the shreds of sanity I cling to. I couldn’t imagine if that were gone. 

I decided long ago that I would use my relentless drive for good instead of evil. Despite my head being in the clouds most of the time, I really do value common sense. My mental illness tends to muddy up my life but atheism has brought me some longed-for and much-needed clarity.

 

What would you be like if you were religious? Or perhaps you were religious in the past — what were you like? Were you ever a fanatic?

“Girl Mom” – Sharing a Poem from My Book, Free to Roam

I haven’t done this in a while…here’s a poem from my book, Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy, published last year by Freethought House.

Girl Mom 

How do I protect my daughter
from having the stories all women have,
from fearing the night
and walking alone? 

How do I protect my daughter
when rapists run for president,
when boys will be boys,
when an accusation is too frequently overlooked? 

How do I protect my daughter
when she doesn’t have a say
when her body is property
and legislation dictates her future? 

How do I protect my daughter
from seventy-eight cents to the dollar
from taxes that come in pink
from old and rotten expectations? 

How do I protect my daughter
from the shards of glass
when she destroys the glass ceiling
and leads the way in a man’s world? 

How do I support my daughter
when she no longer needs my protection?

 

My poetry book gives an atheist perspective on being a Midwest Mom. It is for sale on my publisher’s site freethoughthouse.com, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. (Signed copies are available at freethoughthouse.com.)

Writing from pain – is it worth it?

I wrote a lot while I was in treatment for my eating disorder. I mean A LOT. I continue to write about my recovery and life after discharge.

I have a series of journals from this experience. Eight of them to be exact. Journal #1 is the month leading up to my admission. Journals #2-#6 were written while I was at the treatment center, and #7 and #8 were written after discharge while working with my outpatient team. 

Writing is an outlet for me. If I have to go through it, I’m probably going to write about it. Nobody likes to be in pain but that’s when I seem to be the most inspired. You would think it would be the opposite. As much as it sucks, a little drama seems to make my story more interesting. I’m proud of the things I write, I just wish my best work didn’t come from suffering.

Pain may be inspiring but is it unnecessarily prolonged when I decide to write about it? 

I intend to make a project out of my journals – possibly another memoir. My journals are honest and raw and when I finally decide to show them to the world, I think people might find them interesting. 

I just hope I don’t relapse in the process. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.

I’ve always written from real life but maybe after this, it’s time to try a little fiction.

How do you deal with judgmental people?

I hate being judged even though I notice myself judging others sometimes. I’m trying to work on that.

In treatment, I worked on judgments about food and weight but I know it goes deeper than that. My family is made up of traditional Midwest WASPs although we used to be sprinkled with a few Catholics. Passive-aggressive judgments seem to be the name of the game where I’m from. I don’t think it’s just my family – it’s probably most families around here. 

I think moms are especially guilty of this. My daughter is a little night owl and sometimes it’s very difficult to get her to go to bed at a decent time. Another mom in my family has told me that her kids used to be in bed at 7:30 every night. EVERY night. She’s told me this about ten times.

Thanks for that. 

Which is more difficult to deal with – a judgment from a stranger or a judgment from a family member? I seem to forget about comments from strangers faster. When a family member says something to me, I tend to ruminate. Although I sometimes wonder if comments from strangers are more honest even though most of the time they’re meaningless. If a loved one judges you, is there an underlying motive? Is there a reason they want to hurt you?

One of my grandmas was particularly judgemental – racist and sexist even. As I got older, I learned more about her life. She got married pretty young because she was pregnant. While it doesn’t forgive her behavior, it seems to make a little more sense now. Her judgments only revealed how unhappy she was herself.

So now I question myself when I start noticing judgments stewing in my head. Is there something I’m unhappy about? Does this judgment really matter? What does this say about me?

While I work on myself, that doesn’t stop others from making judgments about me.

 

How do you deal with judgmental people?

Are you afraid of death?

Are you afraid of death?

I’m not going to lie – I am a little bit.

It has absolutely nothing to do with an afterlife. The idea of heaven and hell is pretty ridiculous. I mean, where are these mythical places supposed to be? Wouldn’t we have found them by now? 

One thing that really bothers me when I think of death is that you usually don’t know when you’re going to die. I don’t do well with uncertainty. 

What scares me the most is that maybe I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do. I want to spend time with my family. I want to see my daughter grow up. I want to pursue the things I’m passionate about such as art and writing. I’m an ambitious person and I want to do all of these things but there’s just no guarantee. 

Common sense tells me that nothing happens after you die but sometimes I wonder what it must feel like to die. It’s not like someone is going to come back from the dead and explain it to me. It’s just another unknown. 

I know this all means that I need to make the most of my time. Express love. Pursue passions. Explore. Learn everything I can. 

My daughter really hasn’t asked many questions about death, but when she does I plan on telling her that we return to the earth – something we’ve always been a part of anyway. 

Who else thinks about death? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Now that I’ve discussed a morbid and depressing topic, I’m going to end with something happy. My sweet little Sasha had five kittens on Cinco de Mayo. Here is one of their adorable little faces.

Sasha's little kitten