Four years ago, I turned forty and moved to Eugene, Oregon. Some say forty is too young for a mid-life crisis, but it wasn't for me.
I was born in Georgia, but had been living in North Carolina before I moved. Life had really become meaningless for me at that time. I was dissatisfied, disillusioned and disappointed. What I had thought was profound and enduring in my spiritual path became nothing but a temporary escape from the real world. I had “flown off” to a world where everything is perfect, you and I are perfect and you and I can become God. If you believe in yourself enough, you can become rich, always happy and always in love.
I used to tell myself over and over that everything was perfect and that my problem in life was that I just didn't have the awareness to see it. I used all sorts of “techniques” to help uncloud the “smoke from the mirror” so I could see my perfection.
Lies, lies and more lies. Just teachers telling you that anything contrary to their “perfect” worldview is a lie, spouting off to no end. I've never been happier to face imperfection than when I removed myself from those influences.
Telling ourselves it's a perfect world and that viewing imperfection is a defect of the mind (by the way, what a contradiction there!) allows us to turn a blind eye to those suffering in our world and society. I was taught that the only way to be happy was to be loving and giving, but I was also told that we only do that for ourselves because we want to be happy. Still meaningless and selfish.
So, where did that get me? How did that work out for me? Once I got used to living that belief system, I did in fact feel happy, self-confident and even in mistaken ecstasy at times. And, so what? Life is just for kicks?
Life is not just a playground. Some things really do matter and that is why we're here.
And yet, four years ago, I did not realize that. For lack of anything better to do, I moved to Eugene, Oregon. I had heard they had good social services in Eugene and I have a disability so that appealed to me. I heard it was fun because “anything goes” and people are creative and do their own thing.
Four years later, I look outside my window here in downtown Eugene. For the most part, I see what I have always seen here- aimless and lost-looking people, some happy, some sad- but all with those lost-looking eyes. I see people walking along playing musical instruments, wearing odd costumes, cross-dressers, homeless teens and adults pushing carts, with plastic tarp on their head to protect them from the rain who are singing to themselves, doing kung fu in the air or screaming obscenities at no one, defending their rights to be homeless as if that is what they really want.
It is so sad to see so many lost lives, lost souls. I cannot judge anyone because I spent most of my life so lost like that. It is a painful, scary life in so many ways. But, how did I come to the place where I questioned the life I was living and realized I needed to change?
I had lived in California for six years, but came home to Georgia when I got pregnant. My boyfriend at the time wanted nothing to do with baby, but I wanted her with all my heart. I knew I needed to go home for help, though. I miscarried on the way there, as I was driving through Louisiana. The loss of a baby was devastating and I had already left my west coast life behind. I didn't have the financial resources to go back. My old new age support system just didn't seem interested in communicating with me anymore. Those I thought were friends rarely wrote back or didn't at all. I guess they knew checks for future workshops would not be forthcoming for me.
That is when reality hit that I was not living in a perfect world. Because of my unstable lifestyle, I would have had great difficulty caring for a child. Because of my unstable lifestyle, I wasn't married either, and my child would have grown up without having a relationship with a father. I remembered that when my mother became pregnant with me, both of my parents cried. They were in their thirties and had been trying to conceive for years. They were ready for me, having built the foundation for a home. I couldn't give the same to my baby.
I've never been pregnant in my life except for that one time, and I am almost too old to have children anymore. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mother. But, that was playing with dolls and wanting to dress them up in cute clothes and pull them around in a wagon. I didn't understand the responsibility and I did not prepare for it, either.
When I realized how far my life had fallen away from what I originally wanted, I realized that I had a problem. I had not just fallen away from what I originally wanted, but I had fallen away from what God originally wanted. God's original plan involved a different view of families. Those families would multiply and bear spiritual fruit. It's when we demanded the “fruit” only for ourselves that we stepped outside of God's kingdom.
When I was studying to become Catholic, our priest (who is now a bishop,) taught a class about morality. The gist of morality, he says, is accepting reality and living life on those terms. All sin, he said, is an effort to escape that reality. I thought about it. Yes. Drug abuse, compulsive drinking, shopping, eating, pornography, the need to steal and kill for what we don't have- all of these sins are based on the desire to flee reality.
I realize now the world is imperfect and that my problem in life was that I didn't have the awareness to see it. Now, I use sacraments and sacramentals to help understand the Reality that Is.
This is a fallen world and that is why a life of selfish pursuit of pleasure, fame, status and money will not “pick us up” and take us where we really want to go. The best these things can do is make our existence in the fallen world more comfortable. I think a lot of us wake up at about forty. At least, those who are lucky do.
My life has purpose now. My life has deep and rich meaning. I wake up with a sense of purpose and I am satisfied at the end of the day. I finally understood that in all the mad and crazy spinning of the universe and in my personal world, there are truths that remain solid and unchanging. This is not a perfect world, but I love and serve a perfect God who is guiding us toward perfection.
Every day that I am Catholic, I thank God with all my heart because he found me when I was lost, had mercy on me in my misery and when I lost all hope, He gave me a life worth living.