I was in my early teens – a rebel with a quest to break free from the madness that was my family life. My parents were a perfect pair. My mother, a petite, Italian woman, spoke little English and understood even less about American culture. She kept her distance from the unfamiliarity of this new world by distracting herself with perpetual housework. Despite her constant feelings of hopelessness, she managed to channel her nervous energy into keeping a spotless home, making the meals on time, and getting the kids to school or practice. Her inner turmoil created an outer world of disconnection, and she lacked the capacity to relate, to trust and to love. At the time it appeared that she just resented everyone and everything, but now I recognize her struggle as a disconnect within herself. She portrayed the life of a victim, as if everyone had the sole purpose to cause her discomfort and pain. My brother and I eventually gave up trying to convince her of anything to the contrary. Instead, we simply turned a blind eye to her despair.
My father and I very rarely had conversations. We mainly spoke in sound bites, which consisted of him saying “no” to mostly everything I asked, and of me responding with some version or degree of profanity. I suspect this may be one of the reasons I was so impacted by that conversation. He was laying on the brown, worn sofa, which had a permanent imprint of his body on it – it was his typical spot whenever he was home. The background hummed with church bells as mass was about to begin on The Catholic Channel. I remember lying on the floor, whining about life being unfair when he said, “We aren’t supposed to be happy until we reach the Kingdom of God. We are meant to suffer until we go to heaven. When we go to heaven, that is when we’ll live in eternal happiness, but until then, life is supposed to seem unfair.”
Well then, I thought, “Why don't we all just commit mass suicide and get to heaven on the express train? Why waste any more time?” But I knew enough about Catholicism at the time to know that taking your own life meant an express train ticket straight to hell! But hey, maybe we're already in hell? If he can believe something that is so fundamentally unintuitive and alien to the human consciousness – that we're actually made to suffer – then really, isn't anything possible?
I had a hard time believing much of what my dad told me as a child, and especially as a teen. When he told me that we are meant to suffer, I was almost convinced. This concept almost made sense because, at that time, most of my world consisted of some form of conflict, discontent or suffering. “I’m suffering, and I’m supposed to be.” But no matter how much I wanted this notion to ring true, it didn’t resonate – it couldn’t. Why would an all-loving God create us just so we could suffer? The concept just didn’t make sense, yet I witnessed suffering all around me. I barely saw anything else. My conflict continued throughout my teens and I relentlessly searched for answers until I finally concluded that there is no God! I proclaimed atheism.
I lived life as an atheist well into adulthood, but with this identity came emptiness, isolation, and a deep sense of disconnection. But deep within this hollow feeling there was a whisper that persistently nudged my inner core and poked me with its presence. It was as if i heard it say, "Pssst, hey Valerie, this isn't it! There is more to this life than what your mind can see." There was a truth within me that was aching for acknowledgement but my mind wasn’t prepared to sit still long enough to listen. In some ways, it was easy to live like that. I was attached to very little. I lived life recklessly, without considering the outcome. I constantly kept myself distracted, never stopping long enough to be present. I wanted to numb myself from feeling, so I kept running. Stopping posed a risk because then, I would actually have to pay attention and confront myself. It’s much easier to ignore ourselves while numbing ourselves of feeling any kind of pain or discomfort.
But I recognize now that we cannot selectively numb ourselves – we end up numbing all of life, which includes joy, love, peace, and wonder – all the sensations that define living as a whole person.
I may have continued to live in this lonely shell of existence the rest of my days but instead life brought me a gift that cracked that shell wide open. I became a mother, and in an instant my life held more meaning than I ever thought possible. For the first time, I experienced a profound sense of connectedness to another life. This kind of love is so raw that it forces you to feel with your entire body and being. I finally recognized the power of real love and the essence of life, and it felt nothing like pain or suffering. It was a bright glow of comforting light that filled me with warmth and ease.
With this intense feeling came profound vulnerability. My fear of losing what I had discovered eventually consumed me. With motherhood, I experienced my moment of bliss, but I didn’t know how to hold onto it. We are all able to catch those moments of clarity, of inner peace and solace. We know what it feels like and we spend our life continually chasing it, oftentimes looking in all the wrong places.
I was there in that moment long enough to finally listen. I must have been ready and open enough to hear the whisper. Sometimes you have to go to a place of great darkness before you can turn around to notice the light. And for some reason, at that moment, I saw the light and heard my inner truth speaking to me. This is what it said: You can imagine a life of suffering, a life of pain, but can you imagine living the opposite reality? What does the polar opposite – a life filled with joy, comfort, ease and happiness – look like? This life has to exist as a possibility, doesn’t it? It’s a law! Newton’s third law of motion says - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thing exist in pairs, in contrasts, and I’m convinced that this applies to everything.
And so, at that moment, I made it my mission to discover that life. And with that decision came this incredible sense of freedom and liberation – I felt as though I was five years old again just taking off on my bike for the first time - without the training wheels. I looked out in the horizon, lay down on the warm, dry grass, stared at the sun and smiled with my entire body.
Through this blog I’d like to share with you my journey, my insight and my discoveries. Using this platform to discuss topics like - the purpose of each our lives, oneness, the law of attraction, the law of opposites, forgiveness, faith, religion vs. spirituality, the meaning of vulnerability, the inner truth within each one of us that connects us all, the distinction between fear and love, and why we suffer. I’d like to start a forum where we can all meet and raise awareness - about ourselves as individuals and as a society - by generating discussions we will bring light to our world and create a safe place for each of us to connect. I look forward to reading your comments and am hopeful that we can continue an ongoing discussion that will captivate our interests and raise our awareness to sever the better good.
"Your internal world -- the reality that you encounter within your mind and emotions -- is a world that you and only you control and create." - Neale Donald Walsch