Or: How This Lifelong Atheist Ended Up a Pagan…
It started somewhere in November of 2018. I don’t know the exact date, or what specifically led me to the crossroads. I was going through a series of events that left me wrung out, grieving, and a little lost. This on top of memory issues caused by my cancer treatments and my lack of journaling at the time, has made a mystery of it.
The only thing I wrote about in November was Nanowrimo, and how I had awful writer’s block. Nothing in my journal suggests that I had a, metaphorically speaking, “coming to the gods” moment. Not then, not later.
In truth, I think it began before I knew that it was happening. In October, a dear friend passed away from cancer. His illness brought to the foreground lot of the fears and anxieties I had barely been keeping at bay since the day I had been diagnosed with cancer myself in 2013.
My own circumstances when I heard of his passing didn’t help. We were in the middle of a weekend getaway celebrating a milestone birthday for a family member at a mountain resort. I had to fight back the tears and smile and pretend. Then I had to leave because I couldn’t stay the weekend like everyone else. I went home alone, a two hour drive down steep, dark winding roads, afraid to cry lest it blind me and and I plummet to my death off the side of the mountain. The next day I had to attend a workshop. Again, pushing my emotions down, trying not to fall apart and feeling very alone and isolated in my grief.
Something like that can make you wish for the comfort of belief, and barring belief, at least a spiritual framework.
We traveled to the other side of the country a week later to attend his funeral. I hadn’t been able to cry since the day after his death,I had stoppered it up so completely. We met with friends, we hugged, we reminisced, but I couldn’t cry. I would start to tear up and it would turn to nothing.
In the ritual of his memorial service I finally found release if not relief. There I found my tears in the memories of others, the stories, the pain we all felt and shared. My loss was eclipsed and magnified all at once by the loss of his wife, parents, brother, his best friend, and my husband who had known him longer than I.
Did that open me up to the possibilities? Did my skepticism and atheism do a double-take and let down their guard in the face of real need? Is this the reason, the catalyst?
Maybe a little mystery makes it a bit more magical, a little more pagan.