My 25-year-old self watched with jealousy as family, friends, and strangers prayed around my dad, as he was hours away from death’s door. It was like a colorful salad bowl with diverse vegetables that complimented each other: Christian, Muslim, and Spiritual folks who suddenly sounded the same, because they all had one thing in common: They were all certain he was going somewhere.
All I was certain of, was that I would no longer be seeing my father after September 9, 2016. Prior to his passing, if anyone asked, I was an atheist. And I said it proudly.
If you questioned me, I would back my opinion with enough facts and statistics from Richard Dawkins novels, that you would never want to bring it up again. I might also talk about how I attended a Christian Sunday school growing up, where they very kindly let the children know that their non-Christian friends were going directly to hell. Sheila Abromowitz didn’t have a chance. Raj Sheth was screwed. Huang Kim wasn’t gonna cut it. My sister and I nope-d the fuck out of there.
I’m not writing an essay to tell you I’ve come to an epiphany on life and spirituality. Truth is, I just don’t know anymore. Enough coincidences have happened this year at the perfect time where it almost feels like my long dead dad is still around, opening random doors of opportunity for his daughter. Enough times I have gone to bed sobbing because I missed our philosophical and complex talks or debates, and I woke up remembering that I dreamt of him. I know, emphatically, that I’m at peace when I imagine he’s with me.
And then I wonder if the brain is even wired to comprehend coincidences, and out comes my existential attacks where I cancel all my plans and stay in.
On dating apps, it usually asks your religious affiliation in case guys only want to date someone of their own religion. I struggle to even put agnostic, which Wikipedia defines as that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist.
It makes sense, until you don’t want it to.
A Time Magazine article stated that scientists have found that those with a spiritual or religious practice tend to be happier, less depressed, and less anxious than nonbelievers. Doctors are even beginning to prescribe a morning meditation routine to calm racing thoughts that lead to a downward spiral—something I’ve begun to experience more and more after my dad’s passing.
Here’s the thing about meditation—it used to terrify me. Shutting my mind down meant leaving the thoughts and memories of my dad behind, and letting go of my dreams for my future family and career for a moment. It also meant letting go of the hopes that the one guy from Hinge would be ready to make if official.
I started with successful two-minute sessions. And then the two minutes ended, and I would begin sobbing. I made this a routine for a couple weeks until my cries ceased, and I increased my two minute sessions to five minutes. After each session, a little voice gave me answers:
It’s okay to sometimes not think about your dad.
It’s okay to live in the moment and not too far out in the future.
Take mixed signals as a no, he’s not interested, he just wants sex, you’ve known this all along.
I felt spiritual, but when I googled spirituality, a bunch of positive affirmations about the universe popped up and scared me away. Maybe I’m not that spiritual. I want to say I lean on the atheist end of the spectrum, but I remember what going to atheist community groups were like.Expecting to walk into philosophical conversations about the universe, science discoveries, and the cosmos, it felt more like everyone was trying to prove the non-existence of God. Some atheists would occasionally bash religious folks like they were the lowest intelligible species on the planet, and all I could think about was how our Christian Sunday school teacher said our Jewish friends were going to hell. Different tree, same fruit.
Perhaps certainty about anything is a dead end to continuous self-discovery.
I don’t know may be the most certain answer in my human experience.