My whole life, I’ve believed in heaven. Infinite. Live forever. This life, meh. I’ve got a better one waiting for me. HEAVEN. My life structured, tweaked and perfected exactly to the way I want it. Clothes, food, an amusement park as a back garden. The moving wardrobe from clueless. FOOD. Any dish that I want, any food craving that I had in mind at any given moment. Every day would be like the first day of the school year at Hogwarts.
Having this belief was the biggest comfort to me. Not just because of the awesomeness I knew awaited me but because everyday life here on substandard planet Earth was made easier because of my faith. Struggling with algebra, entering adolescence, feeling rejected because the cute guy I have English lit with doesn’t even know who I am. I could talk to God about any of these things, unload my problems like an oil spill, talk and talk until there was nothing more to say, until everything that was tangled in my head was straightened out neatly. I always knew that beyond that pain lied a solution, a much grander plan. God always had my back. Having this belief helped me when my grandfather passed away and when my dog suddenly died. He’s in heaven now I’d think to myself. The idea of death never scared me, I always saw it as just a passing from this life to my next, a way to be reunited with my grandfather, to be acquainted with ancestors I didn’t know I had and a chance to give my dog extra cuddles. I knew what’s waiting for me.
But as I got older, I got to know the world better and became very aware of the inexplicable pain that surrounds us all. The children that starve, the girls that are kidnapped, the planes that fly into buildings, the slicing of heads, the terror, the conflicts that are everywhere. And it wasn’t just sad things around the world, it was sad things at home that I knew wouldn’t come to an end. I could feel things shifting within me. Questions would creep into my head and snag at my subconscious, challenging my faith, more and more questions came to me and with these questions my loyalty to God was slowly being lost. Slowly, disappointingly, my faith was lost completely. The ideas of heaven and hell evaporated and so did the comfort of “God knows best”, “God will take care of you”, “God has the answers”.
Suddenly, the light has gone out and I’m left on my own on this planet and there’s this coldness that I’ve been feeling since, reminding me that I’m on this path all by myself. Being quite vocal about my faith, people often say to me that losing my faith must be liberating, that my life isn’t structured by a set of rules anymore, that my Sundays aren’t occupied in prayer. But it isn’t like that for me. I miss it. Every problem that I have, every moment of weakness, each time I feel afraid or isolated or helpless. I’ve gotta sort that shit on my own now. No more late night prayers when sleep just isn’t coming. It ends now. I’ve made my choice. For a while, I desperately tried to make myself believe again. I missed it so much. In the same way I didn’t want to age after turning 15, I didn’t want to enter a world without the comfort and the safety net that religion offered me. I tried to remind myself of those rare, beautiful magical times that help came rushing to me when I was in desperate need of it. Which I could only thank God for because they were so farfetched, so out of the blue, so surreal, those moments stand so clearly and alone like shining bright stars on a dark, clear night and I willed for them to guide me back. It’s like that episode in Simpsons, when Bart needed an extra day to revise for his exams and suddenly the next day the entire village is filled with snow and school is cancelled. Science would argue coincidence but Bart knew it was his destiny altered by God. It’s like that. And I held on to these moments, urging myself to pray, urging myself to believe again. This was a relationship that I couldn’t be free of. I couldn’t do this on my own.
Being on my own meant that I had to come up with the solutions all by myself and I suddenly felt a loss of sense of control. That tag team duo of God and I no longer existed.
One day this life will stop and although I should be grateful that in my head I think I’ll die an old lady, I mean I could die any time at all (arrrgh jinxing this….seriously feel like I should delete this sentence). The living part scares me. Previously I believed in two lives but now I’m left with one. I want to live every moment so amazingly and I got so much I want to do with it. It’s because there is no second chance in heaven to make it right, to replay, to tweak, to smudge out the errors, to smooth out the edges, to perfect and get it right. This is it. So there’s this pressure to make this life so bloody goddamn good. And that hurts like hell. I can’t do it.
The pressure is so huge that I sometimes struggle to know where to begin. How to tackle that list I have in my head, how to follow my dreams and reach for the sky, how to believe that the world is my oyster, how to shine.
But then I remind myself that mistakes are life. People, everyone. We all make them. It’s normal. It’s called living. It’s called learning and making ourselves better people.
I can shelter myself, I can build walls, build them high, paint them any colour I like. Shut the door to the world and avoid the parts that I find scary or I can face the universe and accept any shit that it offers me. And what ever the universe decides to deal, I can help myself through it. I have to. We alone are responsible for our lives, we don’t get a choice. We have to continue to live.
I have to find the strength to build my heaven, not the heaven that I was taught to believe from when I was a kid but my own heaven, here on earth.