Twenty Six

Julia’s words dissolved into the mish-mash of thoughts already simmering in my brain. So much had happened over the preceding months in Hawaii, there hadn’t been time to properly absorb it all. And how did it fit with who I was before I left? Or who I wanted to be? I wasn’t even sure where I stood at this point. The time had come for some serious self-reflection.

Winter break, free of distractions, proved to be an ideal opportunity. As the weeks passed I delved further and further into the murky depths of my psyche, exploring and testing my often incongruous emotions and beliefs. I thought about my childhood. I thought about the church. I thought about school. I thought about what I wanted in my life. I thought about what Kesa had said about me. Had I completely lost my moral compass?

I could see clearly now how the stress of living a two-sided life had taken its toll on me. I had thought it was the best path because it hurt no one and gave me the freedom and autonomy I so desperately craved. But in trying to please everyone, I’d split myself. And now the fissures were starting to show.

I had done some external mending but it wasn’t enough. I had treated the symptoms, not the problem. I was still split and I could feel it. I feared that if I didn’t embrace one side or the other soon, I would risk becoming forever fractured and irreparable.

I didn’t want to continue devolving until I was completely morally bankrupt and I was tired of living two lives. I wanted … what? What did I want?

What did I want?

This question consumed me.

I made a point of studying my sister. She seemed happier than I’d ever seen her. There was a peace in her countenance that hadn’t been there before. I’d watched her lifestyle clash with my parents’ for years. The resulting stress and tension had been a major factor in my own decision to conduct business off the radar. That turmoil was gone now. She was radiant.

She had made her choice. What would be mine?

What did I want?

The more I thought, the more I pondered, the more solid that answer became. I wanted peace. I wanted authenticity. But how to accomplish it? From the hazy blur of possibility to the full realization of acceptance, the answer became clear. There was only one way.Becoming fully active in the church would provide the moral line I lacked. It would align me permanently with my family and, by choosing a side, I’d be repairing the rift I’d been harboring within myself.

Becoming fully active in the church would provide the moral line I lacked. It would align me permanently with my family and, by choosing a side, I’d be repairing the rift I’d been harboring within myself.

Looking back, this choice has a certain feeling of inevitability about it. Even as a child and teenager struggling with issues I couldn’t believe, I knew. I knew that my life was too fully entwined with this faith to walk away. I knew that someday, in the end, there would come a choice and that when that day came there would really be only one answer. That time had arrived. Every issue that had seemed so insurmountable faded in the light of this realization. It didn’t matter anymore. The time had come.

I had watched Gabriel work and strive to reconcile himself with the faith and now it was my turn. His mountain was infinitely higher and more treacherous than the small hill I would have to climb back to religious activity. He had re-structured his very identity. All I had to do was stop flailing around and plug in. Was that really so hard? I had felt a certain unease about Gabriel’s choice but I admired him for his dedication and I was inspired by his devotion.

It didn’t happen overnight, but my decision to become active in the church was made very, very quickly. It seems incongruous now that a simple conversation with my sister would change my mind so completely, but it did. Or, more accurately, it shifted my perspective. It was time. That switch had been waiting inside me all along. Now the time was right for the flipping.

On the most basic of levels, I was lost. I was torn and alone and I saw in Julia’s eyes a confidence and a peace that I lacked, a peace that I wanted. Her engagement no longer felt important, it was secondary and irrelevant to me now. It was her countenance that I noticed and her decision to return to church seemed to be the cause.

Julia had decided to return to the church after experiencing the alternative. She had voluntarily elected to build a life within it. She didn’t have to do that. Half of her family wasn’t involved in the church at all. For very personal reasons, she had made that choice and she was happy with it. I knew Julia and I trusted her. She wasn’t some empty headed co-ed. She was smart and capable and she had gone back.

If it worked for her, it could work for me.

The relief I felt at the thought was immense. No more clawing my way bare-handed through impossible terrain. No more navigating by guesses alone. No more struggle. Just peace. Perhaps the solution I’d been seeking had been right in front of me all along. The only thing that remained was to follow through. And, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it all the way. It was time to set my religious issues aside, wipe my slate clean and dive into the deep end.

This is the latest installment in my story. If you haven’t yet read the previous entries, click here to start at the beginning. Then continue to read each post in numerical order.

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