The Path from the Beginning…
It all started the day I was born. Ha! Actually, that’s not entirely true, as I’ve learned over the last year or so. I’m not exactly sure when it all started but this particular human experience began in the fall of 1975. I was born into a family that would experience some significant upheaval in my first few years of life. Married in the LDS temple, both of my parents, shortly after my birth, began to experience turmoil in their relationships with the church and the entire foundation of the beliefs the church worked so hard to instill in them. Following hours, days, months, and years of research, both of my parents made the heartbreaking decision to leave the faith that defined their lives and more profoundly, the identities of their families. With much anticipation, heartache, anxiety, BUT a strong determination, they notified their parents via letters, that they would no longer be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints. The fallout was devastating for them, as their parents responded with intense disappointment and sadness. The church, for their parents, was the underpinning of their entire being, which then led to an erroneous assumption that they had failed as parents. My mom and dad held strong and were led by their inner voice, which continued to say that they couldn’t uphold the teachings of the church.
This was my first lesson, unbeknownst to me, about following your heart, your gut, and your instincts. My mom and dad took a brave, and very scary step, in the direction of their own purposes, of finding their own way, despite the anger and sheer disappointment that their families surely experienced. I couldn’t know it at age 2, but this was critical to my own development 35 years later. Not only did I witness two brave souls go against the grain despite the loneliness that ensued, but I also got to watch a single mom of two, work her ass off to make ends meet, while also fulfilling her professional dreams. “Don’t rely on anyone to take care of you,” was the message I got, loud and clear. Yet another lesson, not spoken, was in setting goals and making them happen.
With all of that, I grew up in a home that clearly had ‘issues’ with organized religion. I remember feeling like I was one of the only kids who actually frowned upon church, praying, and religion. I was steadfast in my beliefs that churches were only good at brainwashing their members, collecting money like big business, all the while showing a face (the second face) of service and caring. I felt sorry for people who actually believed in the crap that was spewed each Sunday, the ones who felt obligated to attend church each week, and the people who used it as a crutch to feel satisfied in their lives. At this time, I was also toying with the ideas that spirits and energies were all around us, there was some underlying and larger than life reason for my existence, and some structure to the random chaos that I saw in this world. Call it a confused, spiritual Athiest, I don’t know, but what I do know is that I didn’t believe in God, not ‘the’ God that was shaking his judging finger in the faces of humans who made choices that went against the rules of the church, not the God that determined my path or my destiny. My destiny had everything to do with my effort and determination, that much I knew.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. -Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta
In the years that followed my parents departure from the LDS church, I watched my mom, a single mother when I reached the age of 6, work incredibly hard to raise two kids while also following her own dreams. She spent every year of my life, until the age of 18, chasing her dream of becoming a doctor. She earned her PhD in Psychology the year that I started college. I remember her long nights of studying… a huge yellow bowl of popcorn, a small space heater, and a cozy brown chair. She worked her day job, fulfilled her role as single mom to my brother and I at night, and then studied after our bedtime. Night. After. Night. For. Years.
We moved a lot during this time. Starting in first grade, I moved each December, back and forth from Salt Lake to Minneapolis, until I was in 7th grade. She had to work enough in Salt Lake to be able to go back to graduate school in Minneapolis for the following year. Reflecting on this time in my life is difficult, as I have so few memories of my life then, the frequent change, upheaval, insecurity… the constant change. I don’t remember teacher’s names, a lot of experiences with my friends, trips with my family, or other milestones that people usually reflect on fondly as adults. I do have snippets, here and there, of moments in time. I remember our first rental house in Minneapolis, where my parents told us of their divorce, and the room where we heard the news. I have memories of throwing up in Kindergarten, peeing my snow pants on the way home from the bus stop in first grade (which, now, I remember and smile as I see myself, defeated by the first drop, just sit down in the snow and let it all out), eating strawberry fruit roll ups in our second rental home, making butter noodles at Alli’s house, birthday parties at Liv’s house, Christmas’ at each of my many homes and airplane rides sitting in the window seat watching the world go by as tears streamed down my face leaving one life for the other. My dad lived in Salt Lake and was sure to see us as often as he could, despite the distance, cost, and conflict with my mom, which I didn’t know of until much later. I remember, also, the security I felt when I’d come back to a familiar school with familiar faces and the open arms that they offered, the counselors in high school who seemed to understand me, and the friends who would offer their support selflessly through all of it.
In the end, as it turns out, both of my parents followed their hearts, their dreams, and the paths that they had chosen. Even though I didn’t understand it at the time and had some resentment and anger towards my dad as the years passed, I can reflect on it in much more accepting ways now. The years of change, the 16 moves we made up to my 16th year of age, all of it, happened for reasons I didn’t understand. Partly because of my negativity towards church and my disbelief in God, I was sure that these things happened as a result of the choices that my family made and I had to take the reins in my own life because I had the power to make my own path. It turns out that I was partially right and partially wrong. I was right about the power I have to make choices that will lead me to my goals and my aspirations, the choices that will allow me to be independent and fulfilled. I was wrong about all of the ideas behind my own spiritual path. I gave no regard to anything that was working behind the scenes to nudge me along on my path. I ignored the ‘purpose’ of my life… the ‘why’… the real stuff about how I landed here, right here, right now. This wouldn’t come until much later, though. I had more life to experience before the why of my life would come and smack me between the eyes. I digress, it wasn’t the why of my life that smacked me in the face, it was the fact that there WAS a ‘why’ of my life. That’s what it was… the idea that I wasn’t haphazardly born, thrown into a random body and life, and left to carve out a path for myself and hope that bad things didn’t randomly happen to me along the way. The road to my discovery about purpose wouldn’t come until I was 36 years old. In the meantime, I had to experience more of life before I could see that ‘purpose’ actually existed.