This week I found myself in that place Tinkerbell is so fond of – the place between asleep and awake. I opened my eyes from an awkward catnap on the I-80 in Nevada, and for a few brief moments I forgot which Honda I was waking in. It wasn’t the big blue Honda Odyssey of my current reality – stuffed to the brim with three kids and all that we needed for our trip to Utah this week. Rather, it was my red Honda CRX from my college days with my new husband at the wheel, and every inch of the hatch-back and the top of the roof rack stuffed sky-high with wedding gifts and the remnants of my childhood. (That poor car never drove quite the same again.)
When talking about personal spiritual evolution and religious education, it’s often noted that you can’t go back to unlearn what you now know. Yet in that moment of perceiving my world through the eyes of 1993, I was able to do just that. For a brief ten seconds, I was an optimistic, newly-married, twenty-one year old believer on her way back to BYU to give this Mormon lifestyle my best try. That version of me was wise and naive at the same time. I was hopeful, faithful and relieved to be on what I perceived as the right track in life. I knew there was an ultimate truth for every question in life, if I could just figure it all out. In short, I had a different mind – a mind that thought different thoughts, that questioned within a different framework, and attached itself to certain comfortable beliefs. And going back to THAT mind, even for ten seconds, was extremely unsettling.
I would do many things differently in my life if I was to live it again, but for the most part, I live regret-free. So surprisingly, as I shifted back into to my 2011 reality, I was overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia and missing the person I once was, the mind that I once lived with. It was simpler then and life was much more innocent. I was just a young kid jumping into the arms of someone I loved, committing to be faithful to so many things. And, at twenty-one years old I knew that out of everything, I was capable of being faithful. What I didn’t realize was the shape that my faithfulness would take. Time has taught me that I am more faithful to honesty and answering big questions than I am to the Mormon tradition. I am more faithful to Dan the human being than I am to the institution of marriage.
If someone told me back then that my parents would soon be divorced, my father would remarry a woman he met on the internet, my mother would leave the church, marry the PE teacher from high school and that he would die from Alzheimers, that stable members of our family would go through periods of dark depression, joblessness, loneliness, anxiety, alcoholism, cancer scares, surgeries, early death, and gender confusion, I’m not sure I would have believed it. Had I known that I would experience depression, that I would stew in moments of loathing motherhood, periods of poverty, and that I would question every spiritual experience of my life up until that point – had I foreseen that in 2011, I would be more Buddhist than Mormon – I may have stopped the car right in the middle of Nevada and refused to keep going.
I suppose ignorance is bliss, because I kept that car pointed straight ahead with great enthusiasm for the unknown, and began the typical life of a faithful Mormon at BYU. I’ve always put my best effort into what I believed to be true, and I’ve always pushed myself to travel to uncomfortable places. It’s been a combination of bumpy and smooth, twisted and straight, stormy and sunny and somehow I’ve managed to keep traveling, stopping to pick up truth and leaving baggage along the way.
As I sit in my sister-in-law’s ward for Sacrament Meeting in Orem, Utah and hear the speaker testify that Satan is real – he is out in the world and we must hold fast to our faith and our testimonies without questioning and doubting, or we will fall into a place of delusion and great unhappiness – I know she’s wrong. As well-intentioned as she is, speaking from her heart – I know that her beliefs come from a life-journey that hasn’t taken her there yet. For whatever reason, she hasn’t needed to go there – to a place of challenging that specific belief, and hasn’t had a life experience to prove otherwise to her (yet).
This leaves me wondering – where will my life journey take me to next? Is there a symbolic zion, a nirvana, a place of seeing things clearly while living within a human framework? Is it accessible to me? Twenty years from now, if I’m fortunate enough to be alive on this earth, what delusions that I presently hold will I be able to see clearly? Will I have a reason to make the drive across Nevada again, and will it be in a Honda that isn’t reliant on fossil fuels, and will I end up in Tinkerbell’s world once more, reliving this very moment through new eyes? And will I ever learn to create sentences that don’t run-on or begin with prepositions? Where will I be in my belief system and will I ever stop asking so many damn questions?