In my last blog post, I talked about “faith ruts”, how people fall into them, and laid the foundation of a pathway out of them, kicking off this seven part blog series on Struggling Faith. My own struggle with faith began in December 2015, with the death of the family dog. As I said in the last post, that may seem like a small thing to cause someone to completely lose their faith, but when you are already hopeless, even the smallest of things can be enough to send you reeling into a faith chasm, because faith is the simple, pervading presence of hope.
Let’s take a deeper look at the modern definition of that word, hopeless, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:
Hopeless: having no expectation of good or success; not susceptible to remedy or cure; incapable of redemption or improvement; desperate; despairing; incapable of solution, management, or accomplishment; impossible.
Now, you would think, if I had reached a point where my outlook was that level of bleak, I would have realized it, right? You would think that as that downward spiral began, I would have noticed the signs, and begun to take steps to turn things around. Given all the blog posts I have written here about looking on the bright side and positive living, you would think that I, of all people, would never have allowed myself to reach such a state. Yes, you would think so, yet, there I was. I was hopeless, and I didn’t even realize it, until the bottom dropped out from under me.
At that point in time, I was operating this business in more of a “behind the scenes” capacity: Michelle was decidedly the “face” of the business, while I sat behind the screen every day, designing graphics, handling the web design, and making sure our marketing schedule was on par with the rest of the industry. Our primary focus at that point in time was her then-newly-published book, Dragonfly Theology, and attempting to establish her Tarot-reading business. The art was more or less a sideline: I was constantly churning things out, but with a focus on listing the art at RedBubble and CafePress, and under her name, not my own. We had not begun the digi-scrap business yet and I was, for the most part, still “in the coffin” to the outside world. I was the dude there, in Michelle’s shadow. At that point, we were operating from a primarily Christian-influenced Pagan base; I considered myself a practicing Druid.
And I honestly thought I was happy and, more importantly, hopeful. Turns out, I was wrong.
Looking back now, of course, I can see it. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20.
Through the fault of no one, our business was tanking. No one was buying Michelle’s book, which kept her perpetually depressed. I felt really bad for her. Her Tarot business wasn’t exactly sky-rocketing, either, and I felt bad about that, too, because it had been a lifelong dream for her. I was doing fairly well in the art-sales department, but everything was listed with her signature, so it wasn’t exactly like I was experiencing a “moment in the sun”. I woke up every morning and worked my ass off, yet never received any credit, because we had been taught for twenty years that our “situation” is one you “just don’t talk about”.
I was a “weekend Druid”, in the same sense that some people are “weekend Christians”: I “showed up” when there was a holiday, but beyond that, it wasn’t exactly a part of my daily life. Prayer was a thing reserved for when things got desperate. Candleburning was what one did when the dog farted. I’m not exaggerating, I swear. I dove a bit more deeply into my Buddhist/Taoist upbringing around that point in time, and I was publishing a Daily Kuan Yin meditation on our Facebook Page, but, once again, posing as Michelle, rather than taking any credit myself.
I could “be me” with a handful of people, including my Beloved, and with the dogs and the cat. I had already lost Elvis the previous Spring, and then I lost Boo. The number of “living entities” who actually knew me for me was slowly dwindling….
No wonder I was hopeless.
Let’s take some time now to talk about what hopelessness looks like:
- An inability to see that tomorrow might actually be a better day.
Hopeful expectancy becomes a pie-in-the-sky notion, when compared with empirical data. In other words, yesterday sucked, and the day before that, and the day before that, so why in the heck should tomorrow be any different?
- An unwillingness to believe anything or anyone can fix how sucktastic your life has become.
“Higher Powers” are viewed as “well and good”, but not profoundly helpful. In fact, They may be on the receiving end of the blame-game by this point. I mean, They let shit get this level of bad, right?
- An intrinsic belief that clearly you are the problem.
The Gods aren’t the only ones on the receiving end of the blame-game: clearly, there’s also something deeply wrong with your self. You’ve come to believe that you are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy.
- A constant, underlying need to simply sit somewhere and cry.
Even when everything seems rosey, you just can’t seem to shake it. It’s not exactly clinical depression, but a part of you wishes that it were, because at least there are medications for that….
- A conviction that there is nowhere to go from here but down.
No matter how much you try to see a way to change course or otherwise somehow reorganize your plans, you see no way that this situation could be better managed. Accomplishments become hurdles you must cross, instead of accolades you can celebrate. Solutions become dragons you must slay, instead of actual repairs of the problem.
So how did I climb back up, after going through all of this? Is there hope for you as well, if you’re going through this right now?
Trust me, it didn’t happen overnight, and chances are, it won’t for you, either. As the kids say nowadays, the struggle is real, but it is a struggle that it is definitely worth enduring.
For three long months, that mantra with which I ended the last post kept running through my head, particularly in my darker moments:
May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your spiritual life, filled with the life-giving energy of inspiration, will brim over with hope!
So I began to try to unlock it, as if it were some riddle that somehow held the key to my very existence, because, clearly, it did!
Who was the God of green hope? Where might I find Him/Her/It? And would They really fill me up with joy and peace when I found Them?