Dealing with Pain as an Atheist

This is merely a story, a cautionary tale. Not a cry for help, nor a ‘woe is me’ attention grab. I had a real interesting and revealing weekend and decided to add more catharsis to it. Hopefully, some understanding will come out of this and maybe some wisdom for others. I really don’t know where this is going to go, so I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do. 

On a worldly scale, the amount of pain I’ve had to deal with is pretty infinitesimal. But as human nature goes, my problems are huge and unconquerable, especially in the moment. I’ve had no devistating ilnesses nor injuries. For the most part my entire family is intact, and while having their faults, are not awful people. Most of the pain in my life has come from relationships. I’ve never been a social person. I never had many friends in school or out. I don’t make new friends easily. Acquaintances, yes but people I can talk to or hang out with has never been easy for me.  I was bullied in school a lot. While young I made some poor decisions that could have been much worse, but I won’t go into that. 

I became an atheist in high school and while that didn’t affect my first relationship, it did affect the end of it. My morals came from within me. I respected the actions I took because I knew that I made them and nothing else clouded that judgement. I had nothing to lean on except myself. So when my hand was forced to end the relationship with my fiancé, I was comforted in the fact that I knew I did the right thing. But wow, did it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt. Knowing you did the right thing is little solace when your future crumbles before your eyes. But it felt I had nothing else to lean on. Because that’s the awful truth when you’re an atheist. You have nothing to go to, no one looking out for you, nothing to pray to make the pain go away or pray to for something better to come along. The best thing about being an atheist is that you learn from every adventure you take in life. You did it all yourself.  Screw God, I never forget what I’ve done and the decisions I made. I learned from them and good or bad, it’s what I took into my next relationship.

The good, I knew that waiting was fine. I wasn’t going to rush anything and while a Herculean effort, I was going to wait until the right person came along. The bad, my first relationship ended so badly that A) it was about 8 years before I dated someone else, B) because of that I have next to no dating experience and C) I had a strong distrust of anyone who would get close to me. Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re 100% rational all the time, just most of the time. We deal with reality, while many in the world just don’t. That fact was what led me having to end my second relationship. Not in religious sense, but she just saw things that weren’t there. And as we all know from fighting theists, that isn’t a battle that is easily won. A simple question asked, a simple answer asked for, and none received is a perfect recipe for disaster. And again, lessons learned, skills acquired, but at what price? 

Dealing with other people has always been a challenge for me. Trust and respect are such important values and so easily the ones lost. Being an atheist, communication is so vital. I can only base my actions, emotions, and thoughts on what is presented to me. The world would be great if it worked any other way, but it doesn’t. 

Coping with loss is interesting because it is such a universal event, but the way it manifests is wholly unique. Music is what does it for me. I know I can play a specific song or two and I’ll be in tears, but after a few songs, I need a chance and put on something else I like and my mood will change. It’s how I dealt with my two breakups; my iTunes play counts for some songs are insane, seriously. And there is something like that for everyone. But because music is so real and powerful to me, I’m fascinated by people who look to a God for the exact same thing. I can’t imagine how to cope with real pain with, essentially, nothing. There is no god, so what is the actual brain reactions going on and how are they mirroring mine when I listen to Pearl Jam’s “Black” for the 712th time (yeah it’s that high. Yeah it was my go to song for months). 

I know I have a lot more to deal with in my life.  I know I probably won’t have many people around me to help with those things. But the beauty of being an atheist is the knowledge that you alone have the power to overcome anything.

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