How many times have we slammed into walls in life, only to either slide back down them bruised but alive, or peeled off like some bad wallpaper with a cheap replacement slapped back over it in haste, while we continue more or less as before?
There have been pivotal times I’ve run into walls, though thankfully in looking back, I can recognize the wisdom that was garnered from the pain of separation, whether from another human being or from society in some form. I’m not overtly rebellious, but something inside of me balks at accepting the status quo simply for its own sake. What follows is an example of one of the wall hits with the greatest lifelong impact. I’d love to hear about your own, if you’d care to share them.
One of the first startling memories was when, at fourteen and as a devoutly raised fundamentalist, I decided to no longer attend church. My Sunday school teacher on whom I had a bit of a silly adolescent crush kicked me out of class for being a wiseass, though that’s certainly not what he would have termed it. As an all-around model student and perfectionist, I took this as a major blow, and vowed never to set foot in his classroom again, which meant I would lose major face by returning to church in general. So I stayed away with one future exception, despite fears of being ostracized and the deeply rooted terror at making a choice that would land me somewhere less than desirable in the afterlife.
A sort of inner quaking persisted for over a decade, but I never backed down on my decision. Meanwhile I began to read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on, from the beautifully illustrated Hare Krishna books sold at airports everywhere to the I Ching. Once I had children, I questioned the wisdom in losing that first spiritual bridge, and even brought my small daughter to Sunday school and placed her amongst other children to begin her indoctrination. But after the adult morning service was out, something twisted inside of me and, despite misgivings that I could provide her with adequate nonsecular guidance, I once again vowed never to return. There was simply something diminishing and lacking in that particular brand of patriarchal structure for me, and I didn’t want my daughters tainted by the experience. It was hard enough being a woman of the ‘fifties who rooted through cultural hype in order to establish some foundation of self-esteem. I wanted more for my girls. I just didn’t know how I was going to provide it for them.
In time, I managed to discover much of what was missing in the dogma of youth, a shining core of faith and divinity that had settled deep within me despite the means by which it was inculcated. More a product of my own personal communication with the great unseen, this eternal flame burned in me as it must, I think, in any soul, by whatever means, if it is to blossom into self-realization.
P.S. My daughters turned out with similar inclinations, unsurprisingly.