Consumerism crept up and reared its ugly head this week (actually a month ago, now). I convinced myself I need a new electric kettle. My old one works fine, but it is made of plastic. Trying now to focus more on my health, the idea of consuming water that has been boiled in a plastic container bothers me. The search for a kettle became my new all-consuming mini desire.
I have made some progress in this area. I almost bought a kettle I didn’t like at Walmart last night, but decided to delay gratification and get one I actually want. I did a little more research, and went ahead and purchased a very nice glass one online. I even ran through the 5 questions on the wallpaper I got from The Minimalists’ website: I can afford it. I plan to donate my old one, so I’m willing to pay the true cost. Spending the money isn’t going to put me in a tough spot. It will add value to my life, as I make coffee with a French-press every day. The alternative is drinking water that might be harmful to me and my wife in our coffee. I could get by without it, but I don’t want to. Seems like a reasonable purchase, right? Still, I don’t like that the want of some material possession has taken up space in my mind, which leaves me wondering:
If minimalism is about living with less to make room for what’s truly important in my life, what am I replacing that materialism with? How am I spending my time and mental resources? What has changed, or is changing? What am I not doing that might be leaving room for consumerism?
I believe lists are in order.
What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing before?
- I spend every morning having coffee (French-pressed coffee made with water from an electric kettle) and breakfast with Theresa. I feel a much stronger connection to her as a result.
- I brush my teeth more regularly. Loathe as I am to admit, dental hygiene has always been a problem for me. Now that I have removed some mental clutter, I can focus on it more.
- I eat, comparatively, super healthy now. I’m never in such a hurry that I have to make bad food decisions. I’m not entertaining or pacifying myself with food.
- I practice drumming more regularly. I play with my band more.
- I am very intentional about picking up after myself and keeping certain spaces in our home tidy. I enjoy being at home now.
- I shave my head every day.
- I often opt to donate things I could probably sell in the hopes I can add value to someone else’s life.
- I exercise nearly every day.
- Typically I don’t go looking for shit to buy. I have grown to almost hate spending money.
- For the first time in my life, my tax return and stimulus went to paying debt instead of buying more shit. I have become tenacious (as I can be) about paying off debt.
- I am putting any extra money I get toward my emergency fund or debt payment.
- I’ve written more articles on my blog in the last couple of months than in its entire existence.
- I look at my phone less.
What could I be doing, or what am I not doing enough of?
- I have stopped my German lessons on Duolingo. This really saddens me because I so very badly want to learn a whole language for once.
- I could do more with my kids.
- I haven’t practiced Taekwondo enough outside class.
- I’m not contributing enough. I used to contribute a lot to church, but I don’t want to now. I need to find something.
I wrote the bulk of this article more than a month ago. I was looking for something else to post on my blog, and decided to revisit it. While I get discouraged at times thinking I’m not “doing it right” (“it” being a simple or intentional or minimal life), it’s refreshing to read this after a month and see that it mostly holds true. Though I could certainly make better use of my time in some regards, my decision to truly be a minimalist really is paying off!
On the other side of that coin, I’ve come to learn recently that being still and becoming comfortable with my own thoughts is as important, if not more important than filling the void with activity. Not only do I need to be intentional with my possessions, but I need to be intentional with my activities as well.
Dear Past Me,
Saturday morning I felt like crap. I mean, I felt truly disgusting. What followed were several days of stomach issues, culminating in me having to take a laxative. What were you thinking?
The week went well. To recover from making less than ideal food choices, necessitated by having to eat out twice a day for two weeks, you went hard on health. You managed to lose the few pounds you gained on your trip. Good job. However, I can’t for the life of me, fathom why you decided to eat such a gratuitous amount of pizza and bread sticks Friday evening. You’re not used to that. It won’t go well.
To top it off, you didn’t sign the roster to get a room on base for the weekend, so rather than bother the lady at your unit to get you one, you decided to drive nearly 2 hours each way for two days. Of course, this is after a 10 hour trip the previous weekend, a two hour trip the next day, and a trip to and from Picayune later that week. You obviously can’t get enough of being in the car, despite your whole body hurting from driving so much. AND… you had to be at work at 0 dark thirty Saturday.
Nothing like being tired and feeling gross. Good job.
Really though, none of this comes as a shock. You’ve traditionally not been very kind to me. You’ve binged candy like it’s going out of style. You’ve drank enough sodas to bathe in. You’ve sat on your ass and watched TV for more hours than it would take to earn another degree (or learn a language…). In short, you’ve consistently set me up for failure. It’s sort of your shtick. Though, you’re not always like that.
You’ve earned me a college degree, you’ve taught me how to be a good drummer, you’ve earned a commission. You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone numerous times in the name of setting me up for success. If we could only work on this other stupid shit…
Of course, who am I to point fingers? You see, you are me, and I am future me (and who knows what that crazy son-of-a-bitch will be up to). I can’t do a single thing about the past. It doesn’t exist anymore. All I can do is make sure not to fuck things up for future me. All I can do is learn from my mistakes, and not do them again.
So, forward this message along to future me, and let him know that when it’s time for our weekly “Eat Like Shit Meal,” let’s maybe not take that quite so literally. Okay?
Love, your favorite person in the whole world,
P.S., Thanks for signing the roster this time.
What follows is a long, meandering narrative that didn’t necessarily end up where I had anticipated. I wanted to talk about the things we use to pacify ourselves, but the act of writing about that led me to a different place. Regardless, I’m only writing any of this stuff as an exercise in transparency. If someone else finds value in this, cool!
Out of habit, I often pick my phone up and look at it. Mind you, there’s nothing to look at. You see, I’ve removed everything from my phone that could possibly need looking at. I deleted my Facebook account (deleted, not de-activated). I removed the Wall Street Journal app. I removed the Apple news widget. I removed iFunny. I turned off email notifications.Now, I pull the phone out, and I say to myself, “what am I doing? There’s nothing to look at!” Indeed, what AM I doing?
This is what the majority of us have been conditioned to do. Perhaps once I get it through my head there’s nothing on my phone (save for maybe a book on Kindle), I’ll leave it in my pocket until I actually need to use it for something.
Noticing this tendency in myself makes me think of a quote I heard once (I had to search to find the quote again to get the right wording, and to remember that it was by Blaise Pascal) which states, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” I heard that quote a long time ago, and I remembering being almost narcissistically proud that I, in fact, could sit comfortably alone with my thoughts. Apparently, I was mistaken. As it turns out, I’m just as given to the use of our modern day pacifiers as anyone.
I have had lots of pacifiers – music when I’m driving, my phone, intellectual endeavors, eating… God. Now, there’s one that’s been interesting to let go of. Even though I came to terms recently with the fact that I don’t really believe (or at least not in the traditional sense), I can’t count the number of times I’ve been alone and in distress, and began firing off a prayer. I catch myself, and say, “who are you talking to?”
Anything can be a pacifier. When we’re alone or bored, we reach for these pacifiers to make ourselves feel better. But why? What’s wrong with being alone? Perhaps it isn’t simply being alone that’s the problem.
At home, when I’m washing the dishes, or shaving with the water on, if someone talks to me from a distance, I have to explain to them that I can’t hear them over the sound of the running water. Likewise, in a noisy bar with loud music and the lights subdued, one tends to lose sight of the fact that they are fucked up (drunk, etc.), hanging out in a shit hole.
That’s us. We’re all fucked up in some way, hanging out in this shit-hole we call life. Thus, being alone with ones own thoughts is akin to turning the water off in my faucet metaphor, or turning all the lights on and silencing the music in the bar room. All that’s left is a glaring, potentially ugly view of reality. The only sound left is the sound of one’s own inner voice. This is what we’re uncomfortable with. We see what is real, and we don’t like it. This is why we feel compelled to seek out our pacifiers.
In my own life, as I’ve removed my pacifiers, a vacuum has been left in their place. What I choose to fill the vacuum with, then, becomes of utmost importance. Rather than occupying my time with meaningless scrolling or any of the other pointless endeavors I often engage in, I must fill that void with something more meaningful. A recent trip away from home helped to illustrate, to me, what that “something” is.
My part time job is mentally challenging, and often anxiety inducing. It also usually occurs away from the comforts of home, away from my family and daily routines. I don’t think those two things are a coincidence. I just spent two weeks away from home on a trip with my part-time job, and as expected, my days were filled with anxiety fueled by the anticipation of the unknown. Were I to need them, some of my pacifiers were still there, but they were only temporarily helpful. What helped the most was the times when I could sit around a table with my friends engaging in a real conversation, and getting to know them better. I filled that void with relationships.
After further introspection, I determined what I have been lacking on these trips is my family. When the day is done, and my friends have all retreated to their rooms, there are no wife and kids to come home to, only the void. I am forced to be alone with my own thoughts.
While filling this void with relationships, passions, and the like, I have to be careful not to turn these worthwhile pursuits into a different sort of pacifier. In other words, I need to ensure I am not objectifying my relationships, passions, profession, and growth as a means to make me feel good. Especially in the case of relationships, there are real living human beings on the other side with feelings of their own. I must not pursue these endeavors selfishly. Instead, I must develop and more finely hone my ability to be okay being alone with my thoughts.
Largely, I have found that as long as nothing is bothering me, I really do enjoy being alone with my thoughts. It gives me an opportunity to play out hypothetical scenarios, ruminate on ideas, or win imaginary arguments with people that I would never engage in for real. When I have something uncomfortable I have been pushing off into the back of my mind is when it becomes problematic.
Though I’m not quite there in terms of a solution to alleviate the anxiety that comes with the anticipation of he unknown, I have found one strategy that has been helpful. If I can stop, put my finger on what the problem is – I mean, really, specifically define it, then tell myself it will be okay, I can sometimes feel better. Though if the issue is too big, it doesn’t always work. While on my trip, while reading, I discovered another strategy.
In his book, “Taekwondo, Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior,” Grand Master Doug Cook, President of the United States Taekwondo Association, mentioned to treat some forthcoming daunting task as though it has already happened. I found this extremely helpful in calming my nerves when anticipating the events I had to participate in.
In either case, the answer is being aware of one’s thoughts. Further, I would suggest a healthy dose of self-awareness is crucial if one is to enjoy any measure of success in removing one’s pacifiers. Though, while I don’t have all the answers, and likely never will, this journey toward a more meaningful and intentional life has illuminated the idea that we can only find peace if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves about ourselves.
I am not a drummer
I am one who happens to play the drums
The drums are a tool for me to express my creativity
I am one who happens to be (relatively) good at expressing creativity through drumming
However, Drumming is not a part of me
Were it to disappear from my life, it would not change who I am
If I stopped playing drums, I would still be me
I could still live a meaningful life
If I make mistakes playing the drums, it is MY fault
But it is also a reflection of my humanity
I am not a drum machine or a sequencer
As much as I’d like to be, I am not a robot
To be insulted over criticism of my execution of my hobby is absurd
When the feedback is relevant, as from one of my band mates, it is an opportunity for growth
When someone shits all over me in an nonconstructive manner, it means nothing
In neither case, though, does it have anything to do with ME
Likewise, to become angry and be belligerent toward people who insult my craft is worthless
To beat myself up over constructive feedback is abuse
To be angry with my band mates when they are trying to help me is unkind
And not at all in line with the life I want to live
On the other side of that coin, the adulation of admirers is also equally worthless
If I am to detach, the good must be thrown out with the bad
But really, there is no good or bad
Only what the music needs
I think of a few lines from Rush’s “The Garden”
The measure of my life is not how well I performed
Not the accolades I received
But rather, how I treat people without expecting anything in return
I must, in all areas of life, realize what I do is not who I am
The two are separate, having little to do with each other
I have inflicted enough self abuse due to my perceived inadequacies
Abuse of any kind is morally reprehensible
In the same way computers and air control are not baked into my identity, neither is music
Though it seems, at times, it runs through my veins, it actually doesn’t
Only blood runs through my veins
And not anything else
Over the past couple of months, I have gotten really good at letting go. In terms of my material possessions, everything is potential fodder for the chopping block. I’ve gotten a real sense of what it truly means to live with only what I need, or what adds value to my life. I have become detached from my material possessions. If my house burned down, I would not lament the loss of anything (as long as my family and pets got out okay). I have built the muscle for letting go of my stuff. However, there are a couple of areas of my life in which that muscle still needs to be built.
Last night, at a show with my band, I was asked by a gentleman, presumably the one in charge of the place, if I could turn down my drums. I was insulted. I looked at him like he was crazy and said, “ummm.. okay,” as I motioned as if I was turning a fake volume knob on my acoustic drum kit. Any of you who are drummers knows that it’s fucking impossible to turn down drums. Nonetheless, I gave it a real effort.
I relaxed my playing, and made a conscious effort to play softer. At first, it crushed my soul to do so, the words of Neil Peart echoing in my mind as he explained to an interviewer in one of his films that he hits the drums as hard as he can – a statement to which I can relate. Everything I do in life is heavy-handed, and in some ways lacking in finesse. Be it drumming, drawing, or computing, I bear down and go hard. Nonetheless, I soldiered on trying to quiet my ego while I attempted to turn the situation into a learning experience. Surprisingly, my playing improved. I wasn’t as worn out after each song, and I didn’t lose dexterity in my wrists and fingers. Lesson learned. Problem solved. Right?
At the end of the show, while I was taking down my drums, a man, presumably drunk, came up and asked what our band’s name was. Almost in unison, we all three replied, “Axiom of Maria!” The guy said, “That’s too damn long,” and before he walked away, he said to me, “turn down the drums.” As he meandered off, I flipped him the bird. Fortunately, no one saw. A few drinks in me, and the reply could possibly have been a hearty, “go fuck yourself.” This is never how I treat people. I was pissed. I was so notably agitated (I was tossing things around and dropping cymbals on purpose) that our bass player, Nick, implored me to not take it personally.
Now, I have earned an art degree, been through Air Force Basic Military Training, and Air Force Officer Training School. I have three professional grade educations in taking shit off of people. Why, then, am I standing here, a 41 year old drummer of 30 years, pitching a fit like a scolded five-year-old?
I’ve come to learn to detach myself from my stuff because it is meaningless – tools to be used and nothing more. Drumming, on the other hand, is something I’ve been doing so long it has become a part of my identity. I am passionate about it. I am, in every conceivable way, attached to it. I’m so attached that regardless of the fact that five other people told me how awesome they thought my drumming was (including the bar proprietor who told me to tone it down the first time), all it takes is one seagull, a euphemism I picked up from The Minimalists, to come by and shit on me to ruin my night. Playing a show is supposed to be a happy time, and I let that stupid motherfucker ruin my night. I need to learn how to detach.
I wrote this, not as a how-to on detaching from ones passions, because I honestly don’t know how. I’m hoping that spilling my guts on the page here will help me reveal some nugget of truth that will guide me in this endeavor. I’m self-aware enough to know I have an issue with this, but perhaps not enough to affect any change in that area just yet. If anyone is reading this, I could really use some practical advice. In the mean time, I think I need to meditate on it.
As part of my journey toward a more intentional life, one of the things I try to be more intentional about is my health. I wrote recently about my approach to healthy eating by way of eating what I consider “real food.” However, maintaining my health and weight is going to take more than just healthy eating. Healthy movement is essential.
In the past, when I enjoyed any measure of success in losing weight or getting fit, it involved an insane amount of exercise. This was because I mistakenly believed crazy workouts are what is required to get in shape. My latest success in weight loss came from a program that discouraged exercise in the beginning, at least until I got to my ideal weight. This really illuminated something I hadn’t really paid attention to in my past attempts – losing weight has always been accompanied in some kind of change i the way I was eating.
Now that I am at what I consider a healthy weight, in order to maintain it and become even more healthy, I know that I must find the right balance between diet and exercise. I also know that realistically, I don’t have time for insane workouts or half-marathon training or anything like that. Since I reached my ideal weight a couple of months ago, I have been working out regularly. The only reason I’ve been able to keep it up is because I’m approaching it in the same way I’m trying to approach my life right now – simply. I’m doing just enough and no more. I’m doing the appropriate amount of exercise for me to find it invigorating and enjoyable, while burning some of the fuel I’m putting in my body.
Additionally, some of my exercise includes things I’m passionate about – Drumming, Cycling, and Taekwondo, as well as things I need to stay fit for my PT test. Here is a typical week for me:
Monday – 1 mile run, then 1 mile walk, then Pull-ups
Tuesday – Taekwondo: Warm-ups include 4 rounds of Jumping jacks, pushups, sit ups, squats, and varied fighting techniques. The rest of class is learning techniques and forms, and practice.
Wednesday – 1 mile Run, then 1 mile walk. Maybe two mile run if I’m feeling it. Pull-ups
Thursday – Taekwondo: same sort of warm-up, but sparring afterwards.
Friday – Same as Monday and Wednesday, or just a two mile walk
Saturday – Either a walk with my wife, cycling, or drumming if my band has a gig.
Sunday – Cycling and/or 2-3 hours of drumming at band practice.
As you can see, I do some form of physical activity for my health every day. The activities are varied and enjoyable, and the best part is, I don’t hate doing them. Coupled with eating real food, I have, so far, stayed at my ideal weight.
My home and the contents therein are a shit sandwich.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that my family’s belongings are burdensome.
The process of minimizing those belongings is arduous.
I have gotten rid of most of my own personal things,
however I can’t force my family to do it.
Still, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to tidy up our living spaces.
The process of doing so has been overwhelming.
I have rid us of superfluous items where I have had permission,
or where it made sense.
Yet the task of tidying our spaces is overwhelming in some cases.
I’ve done it to the kitchen and dining room.
I’ve done it to the living room.
My next target is our bedroom.
It makes me ill every time I walk through our bedroom.
It is unbelievably messy.
I cannot describe it with words.
I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,
though I have made a little headway.
I think back to the bookcase in the dining room.
Why am I writing this like a poem? I digress.
That bookcase (which contains no books now) took several days to de-clutter.
Every time I’d walk through, I’d remove a few items.
I’d re-locate the items to their new homes,
or the donation bin,
or the trash.
The point is, I didn’t de-clutter that bookcase all at once.
I did it a few items at a time.
So as I work toward getting our bedroom straight,
I must remember one thing:
The bedroom, as with anything in my minimalism journey, is a shit sandwich,
and there’s only one way to eat a shit sandwich:
One bite at a time.
For a couple of years now, I have worn an Apple Watch. Through my current journey of letting go, I have started to wonder if I need it. I have heard it asked by others, “why do I need a watch when I carry a phone around with a clock on it?” I believe this question is especially true for a minimalist.
I can rationalize anything. In the case of the Apple Watch, I can list the all the things I use it for on a daily basis as a means to avoid having to think about letting go of it (which I will do in a moment while attempting to refute them). As a person who came from an unhealthy obsession with men’s style, my tendency is to view a watch as a necessary accessory. As a person with an art degree, I view a watch as a visual pushing agent. For someone who dresses very plainly, the watch, in its shape, size and texture unifies the rest of the outfit by way of contrast, and offers an interesting hit on an otherwise unremarkable outfit.
Plus, digging my phone out to check the time can sometimes be a pain in the ass.
For now, I’ll list what I use my Apple watch for, and why those might not be compelling reasons to hold on to it. Then, I’ll explore my alternatives.
In no other area of my life am I a “numbers guy.” I could care less about metrics and statistics. Why, then, do I give a shit how many calories I burned, steps I’ve taken, or distance I’ve run all week? I’ve journeyed toward health enough to know what an appropriate amount of exercise looks like for me.
Listening to music on my runs
There have been times in my life where I have been almost prideful about not listening to music when I run. Why, all of a sudden have I manufactured the need to have some sort of noise in the background? I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable being alone and quiet. What better time than during a run to get lost in my own thoughts!
Telling the time
What an expensive way to do such a utilitarian thing. Really, as a minimalist, if I was going to wear a watch, I feel like the watch should just be a watch. Plus, as stated before, my phone can do that. Hell, at home I have smart speakers that I can ask if I really need to know what time it is.
As I simplify my life, I have taken deliberate steps to remove distractions. I deleted my Facebook account, I removed the ability to easily read news on my phone. I removed iFunny. I’ve even turned off email notifications. Besides texts, which I can still look at on my phone, what on earth is so important that I need to read it on my wrist? Are texts really even that important? Plus, constantly twitching to look at my watch makes people think I’m being overly time-conscious, like I’m looking for a reason to end our conversation.
So maybe I don’t need my Apple Watch. What should I do instead?
I still want to have a watch. Even with a drastically simpler wardrobe, I still like clothes. I still want that visual push a watch provides. Also, my part time job is VERY time-centric, and I’m not allowed to bring any sort of smart device into where we do business. Having a watch is important to me, and definitely adds value. The question now is, what watch should I wear?
Three years ago, as a gift from my company for 10 years of service, I received a stainless steel Seiko watch emblazoned with our company’s logo. Two days after I got it, it stopped working – turns out, the battery died. Yesterday, I got the battery replaced, and had a couple of links removed from the bracelet since I weigh 70 pounds less than I did when I got it. It seems to be an accurate timepiece. I don’t think it is a very expensive watch, and it doesn’t have any bells and whistles. It is simple and elegant. The perfect minimalist watch (what an oxymoron).
If I am holding on to any sentimental items at all these days, it’s ones that really mean something. This timepiece commemorates my time spent at a place I where love working. My employers are kind and generous, my work is enjoyable, and I’ve never once have dreaded coming to work. Our company is responsible for the critical infrastructure for seven counties in our state, and I get play a big part in that by ensuring we have the technology that best enables us to fulfill that role. That’s a hell of a lot more meaning than my smart watch which will eventually fade into obsolescence as the next new-fangled gadget eclipses it.
For the next 30 days, I will live without my Apple watch, and instead wear my 10 year watch from work. I bet I won’t miss it, and if I don’t, does anyone want to buy an Apple Watch?
Nearly a year ago, we left our small home in the woods in Kokomo, MS for a much larger house a few miles away at the edge of the city limits of Columbia. To me, this place has it all – 5 acres of land, water, sewer (we had a well and sceptic tank before), way better internet, and very close proximity to stores and restaurants. I can even ride my bike to the grocery store since it is less than 1.5 miles away. It may seem ironic that a striving minimalist would buy such a place, but I am not the only one who lives in my home. However, I am the only one striving for minimalism. My new home makes me feel more civilized and at-home than my old place did. No longer do I feel out of place. To me, this place really does have it all.
One of the initial things that attracted me to my new home was the presence of a well built, decent-sized shop, complete with electric and lights positioned just to the left of the house near the driveway. This was to be my space. My plan was to finish it out on the inside to create a proper interior space. This was going to be where I put my drums, all my Star Trek knick-kncaks, books, games, computers, and other things. A year later, and I still haven’t done anything to the space. It is full of junk.
The overwhelming majority of the space is currently occupied by boxes no one has opened in a year. While I was playing the 30 day minimalism game, I frequently visited the boxes containing my stuff looking for things to let go of. I’d venture to say if everything in that shop evaporated, no once would notice. As I have journeyed down the perpetual road toward minimalism, I have been simultaneously annoyed by the fact we have all this junk that’s just taking up space, the fact that I haven’t been able to create my own space there as I had planned. However, something has changed recently. I have learned to let go.
I don’t personally own a lot of items anymore. I am trying to give away my old drums, my new, nice drums reside at my band mate’s house, and my electric drums fit neatly in the corner of our massive bedroom. I’m selling my antique Macintosh computers, and have tossed most of my old computer parts. I’m letting go of anything that could be considered a tchotchke. As it happens, I don’t need my own space anymore. Plus, if I’m being honest, it would end up being a place to escape from my family, which is the opposite of what I hope to accomplish through minimalism.
Our new home also came with a greenhouse in which my wife was planning to convert half of the space into a workshop for her home projects. Just this past weekend, she was about to have me measure again to see what materials she would need for the conversion. Before I began measuring, I told Theresa that I really didn’t need the shop anymore, and that if we can minimize the items in there, she can have it for a workshop, a use for which it is already perfectly suited. She then told me there was now no need to measure the greenhouse.
Because I have decided to live more intentionally with less, we both win. We both get what we want or need. I wonder what things would be like in our home if we all owned less. Even better, what would our lives be like if we wanted less?
I don’t know where to begin.
This has been a few years coming. Back in 2014, or whenever it was, I was selected to be a deacon in my church. At that time, I walked the walk. I believed. The people of my church placed a great deal of trust in me, and rightly so, I guess. I was following God in all that I did. However, some time shortly thereafter, something changed.
As I prayed, a thought that was perhaps always present, but pushed to the side began asserting itself. “You don’t really believe all this do you?” That thought persisted, and only grew more amplified, especially the last few years as I witnessed how truly ugly and inconsiderate others in my faith could be. But I was no different. My life as it relates to faith started to become disingenuous, incongruent.
I even told our previous pastor during an altar call that I sometimes had to force myself to believe. I would push these thoughts to the back of my mind as I soldiered on, serving in whatever capacity I felt “called” to. I can’t keep it up anymore. Having to live a double life is killing me.
I am a hypocrite.
There exists a pattern in my life. Any time I’m about to leave or make a big change in my life, without realizing it, I detach. I did this to my friends before I joined the guard. I did this to my family before OTS and deployment. It’s only when someone points it out that I even notice it. As I look back at the last couple of years, I have been doing that at church. I quit being the brotherhood director. I quit teaching in any capacity. During the pandemic, we stopped having Sunday evening and Wednesday night church. I haven’t returned to either of those since they started back up. I only show up Sunday morning to play drums. Sometimes I do IT work for the pastor. When church is over, I leave as quickly as I can, hoping not to have to talk to anyone. I have been detaching because I subconsciously saw this coming.
I even started thinking of how I could make a clean break. Was there anything of mine at church I would lament losing? Hahaha, I’m a minimalist now, of course there isn’t! I kid. I really did grab my electric bass drum and bring it home, just in case I decided not to return.
Last night, after D&D, I had a conversation with a very dear, atheist friend of mine. I told him my feelings of being trapped in a religion I don’t really feel like I belong to. I spoke of how I’d been repressing my disbelief for a while now. I lamented having disappoint people who trust me. He came to the conclusion that I am an agnostic atheist. My initial, internal reaction to this was visceral. What an ugly thing to call me! Then I wondered, why is it ugly? By definition, I suppose that’s what I am. After all, if I’m being honest with myself, I must admit – I don’t believe in God. I have felt silly for such a long time trying to make myself believe. I’d never said it out loud before, nor heard myself referred to as such. What a relief.
I woke this morning with a fair amount of anxiety. I have a show with AoM tonight, an oh yeah, I just kind of half-ass admitted to having a completely different identity than I though I had.
I decided to meditate. I put in my air pods on noise cancellation and listened to water sounds in hopes of drowning out John’s cartoon watching. Some lyrics from Rush’s song “Mission” floated through my mind: “In the grip of a nameless possession, slave to the drive of obsession…. if their lives were exotic and strange, they would likely have gladly exchanged them for something a little more plain, maybe something a little more sane…” Though those words had little to do with my current crisis of faith, they resonated well with my journey toward a more simple life, a life from which I am removing everything that isn’t necessary. The meditative process temporarily alleviated the anxiety, and made me face, head-on, this decision I’d come to. If I don’t believe, then my faith is also not necessary.
But the anxiety came rushing back.
How am I to abandon the only community I’ve known since I came to this place? How do I break this to people who will be severely disappointed with me? How do I make people who trusted me not feel like they’d been had? There’s no easy way, so I’ll do what any 21st century middle aged man does. I’ll blog about it! Nobody I know is going to read it anyway, and if they do, then good.
If you know me from my life of faith, know this: I don’t want to talk about it. You’re likely not helping, just as these folks weren’t helping:
The deacon who told me a racist joke while we were cooking breakfast: You’re not helping
The deacon who jumped all over me for trying to take up for President Obama: You’re not helping
The church member (a deacon I think) who told our pastor we should vet people to make sure they’re not Democrats: You’re not helping.
The lady who I looked up to, who had a poster on her car for trunk or treat describing the presidential choices during the 2012 election as a choice between a “Mormon” and a “Moron”: You’re not helping.
The member of my Gideon camp who brags about telling pastors off who won’t give us a church service: You’re not helping.
I could go on for a while like this. I was already forcing myself to believe, and this shit wasn’t helping. I’m done. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably go to church tomorrow.