Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This I (don't) believe in...

In the last post, I closed with Silas House's essay, "The Knowing," written for the recently released anthology, This I Believe: Kentucky, a collection published by an organization of the same name. As described on the company website linked here, "This I Believe is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives. Over 100,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, are archived here on our website, heard on public radio, chronicled through our books, and featured in weekly podcasts. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow."

I included it in the last post, one dedicated to animal-themed projects, because I love Silas House and I love my dogs.  I appreciate that of all the noble concepts he could have so eloquently explored - some element of faith or friendship or tradition or love - he chose a theme seemingly mundane. While many of us consider our pets "family" and understand the reciprocal devotion nurtured in these relationships, if given the opportunity to tell the literary world about our "core values that guide [our] daily lives," I doubt many of us would go with "dogs make us better people." No, we'd probably try to tug heartstrings with moving soliloquies about things that seem more "literary worldish." We'd use a bunch of adjectives.  We'd employ emotional catharsis to relay passion. We'd likely make the stoics and skeptics among us gag. 

And I offer that last little pleasant prediction because I myself have felt it. Sometimes when I hear people talk about their certainties and beliefs, I secretly scoff. And while aware of my figurative eye rolls, I have never really thought too much about the motivating rationale until the past few days.  So, while I included the House essay because of a very literal and obvious connection to the last post's dog theme, it has (somewhat frustratingly) sparked a much different philosophical conversation in my head. I have been forced to consider, "What do I believe or believe in?"

The answer I've come up with: very little.

And I want to say up front that I don't think what follows puts me on some intellectual or analytical pedestal. While doubt is sometimes a product of open-mindedness, science, or research, it can also be a sign of weakness, selfishness, or lack of resolve. In fact, I associate some of my own skepticism with these obviously less noble motivations. I certainly wish I could, in good conscience, espouse lofty (yet entirely authentic) faith in more than I do.  When it comes down to it, however, I take neither pride in, nor feel guilty about, my conclusions on the four basic categories below (categories that seem to be the "go-to"s when discussing belief/faith). It simply is what it is.

In religion...
I pray, but to whom or what, I don't know. I don't believe that things happen for a reason and I take very little comfort in notions of "divine paths" or "destiny." I would never suggest that I have an understanding of heaven or hell or that I know who might end up in either. I know kind people who are atheists and kind people who are devout Christians; I don't think either kindness trumps the other.  I don't have any real sense of what faith means to me.

In others...
I have complete trust in only two people.  I know what to expect from them. I think they have a strong grasp of their own core values and feel fairly confident that if I were to ask them questions today, I would get the same answers I would get if I ask them those same questions in ten years. I feel like they know, and appreciate, the me that I like.  This isn't to suggest that I don't respect, or even love, other people in my life; I simply don't find a sense of comfort and stability in those relationships.

In myself...
I can come across as confident...and sometimes I actually feel that way.  Speaking my mind about things that matter to me is not a problem.  I consider myself a moral person with good intentions.  Nevertheless, my issues with stability in others are the same issues I have with myself.  I worry I don't have the resolve to stick with/to things for the "long haul;" I'm always dreaming of other possibilities or pondering what I could - or should - be doing.  I have little confidence that the things I want now will be the same things I'll want in 5, 10 or 20 years.  I crave a sense of settledness, and yet fight against it with everything I have. 

In love...
While some people do affect us in profound ways, often both indescribable and unexpected, I don't really believe in soul mates.  I think we can love a variety of people in completely different ways and occasionally at overlapping times.  I don't think "love is enough" or that "love conquers all." I think sometimes those who would be best for each other can't be together because of circumstances beyond their control. I don't think things necessarily "work out in the end." I think we can miss and regret and mourn someone for an infinite amount of time.  Does love exist? Of course. And do some people have what most would classify as "true love"? Sure. Will we all have it? No.

What I do believe in...
*Dogs DO make us better people.  Whatever my understanding of faith is, I have more of it in my animals than I do in anything else in my life.  I know Charley will scratch my nose when I try to put the leash on her in the morning because she's so excited to go out.  I know Lucy and Willie would protect me at all costs. I know Lightning is not going to kick me when I'm cleaning the stall while he eats breakfast.  I know which blanket DC likes to use as a bed and which of my shoulders Wendell prefers to sit on while he loudly gives himself a bath. I know they all make my life better. I know they make me less selfish. I know they know I love them.

*the Avett Brothers. This sounds dumb considering I doubt my faith in a higher power, in others, and myself. I don't care; it's the truth. I see my life in their songs.  I feel more alive when I'm at their concerts than I do at just about any other time.  They inspire me to be more honest because they make me think about how I really feel.

*the influence of books/art/synchronized dance and the power of collective joy.

*the legacy of my father and my desire to lead a life that he would be proud of.

*the possibility that one day I'll have faith in more.
I also believe that sometimes we have to fake it...for our own sanity, so as to not put others in weird positions, to keep or regain perspective, and/or because wallowing never fixed anything.  I saw this on a friend's Facebook or Pinterest page a couple of weeks ago and although neither an uncommon nor particularly witty clich√©, it was a affecting slap in the face when I needed it most.
I had been sad and sad for a while. I had not worn much makeup because I figured I would just cry and mess it up at some point in the day. I just didn't care what others thought or saw. I was stuck in my own frustrations.

The best thing I did for myself: I got up one morning and put on mascara. 

Not allowing yourself to fall apart...this I believe in


  1. You seem to be a much more creative, talented, brilliant, (and can I say older to at least make myself feel a little better?) version of me....or at least the me that has thoughts on those four basic categories. I am so happy to know you.


    1. Well, I AM older. That's about all that's true in that first part. I'm so glad I know you, BB, and am honored if you see us as kindred spirits in some ways:)

  2. For what it's worth, Maybelline is the best mascara. Forget the fancy stuff.

    You've got to read Broken Open. I think it would resonate with you; it certainly has with me.

    I sincerely hope you will always believe in the tenets of LEG. It is a mighty beacon of the glories of youth, the growing that happens, the grief endured and joys exalted, and wonder of distant lands, and the power of sisterhood. Loveyaseeya!

    1. 1. I love that you kept both the D and the K;) CDKP has a nice ring to it.
      2. I'm glad you mentioned Broken Open again. I checked out the website (and yes, we should go), but I had forgotten to look for the book.
      3. Forget "believe"; I KNOW Centre and you were two of the best things that have ever happened to me.

  3. I couldn't bring myself to comment on your last post. It was a year this month since we lost Buster and I still burst into tears every time I look at a picture of him. Dogs do make us better people, I do believe that.
    Thank you for writing this.


    1. Thank you for reading it...and being my friend...and for making sure Buster felt loved everyday. Knowing people who so genuinely love their dogs makes us better, too.

  4. I don't know how many times I have said, "You are your Daddy's girl" , but it is so true. He was not one to sit and write down his thoughts, but you sure knew how he felt about many subjects, religion being one of the most discussed. His beliefs were much like yours. I feel sure he and Raymond Costello had several discussions on that very topic. I have to say I am one who has a tendency to believe things happen for a reason. This is not to say I believe this holds true in every situation. I guess it is my way of coping and trying to understand events that are beyond my control. On the point you made about speaking your mind, I have always admired that quality in you. You are a moral person who genuinely seeks to do what is right. You look for the good in others and try to treat everyone with respect even if they see things differently than you. You do not judge others simply because they so not share your same beliefs or ideas. Your dad was the same way. He was very vocal about his thoughts and opinions, but I also felt he believed everyone was entitled to their own opinion. On the issue of steadfastness or stability, there is nothing wrong with dreaming of other possibilities that may appear 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. People's lives change as they live and grow older. Many times their beliefs also change as they face the challenges that come with life and becoming being mature adults. Keeping your mind open to the possibilities of change is a good thing. No one wants to live a life where there is no stimulation or one that makes you feel like you are "stuck" and can't see a way out. Once again this brings up another trait of Curtis. He was always striving to come up with new ways to make life for us better. He was a "dreamer" that way. I do agree with you on love. We can love many people in our lives in different and varying degrees. As people we all have emotions and act upon them differently. Love does not make the world go around so to speak, but it can make us happy and give us a feeling of security. Love is a very powerful thing. Without love of our family and friends life would be rather harsh. Love can pull us through very difficult times in our lives. Circumstances in our lives may cause us to fall to our knees, but with the love of others we can rise up and face those challenges. We gain strength through love.
    Finally when I think about your love for your dogs and all your other critters, I naturally thing of your dad. He loved his dogs. They went everywhere he went and ate just about as many ham sandwiches as he did. As for the horses we have had on Turner Farm they got the best of care. Expensive thoroughbreds had nothing our very average horses. Curtis treated them like they were all potential stakes race winners. When I see you at the barn I see him. You do all that you can to make sure the horses are fed and well cared for. Dad would be so proud to know that his work is continuing through you. I am very proud of the young woman you are today, and the one you will be years from now. I love you very much! You and your sisters are my life. I am also happy to have Isabella and Averey to share my love with. That's the thing about constantly changes.

  5. Man, you did write a book;)...and how cute of you to think I might actually be up at 11:25 pm to receive a text saying so. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. I have to admit, my favorite part was the "they ate just about as many ham sandwiches as he did." I used to love to pull up to the Marrowbone marathon and see Waffle or Ruby or Rowdy in the front seat of whatever dirty vehicle he had driven up there. I always thought, "bet they get a biscuit or bologna sandwich." If anyone sees even a small part of Dad in me, that will make me happy. Lots of love.