In a way, it's hard to believe that we arrived home a little over four weeks ago from our trip to Hawaii and Japan.* So much has happened.
That's one reason I haven't written a post in almost five weeks. Another reason is that I simply haven't felt like it. I've gone through yet another one of those periods where I am ambivalent to writing - at least publicly. I've written lots in my journal, but I hesitate how much of that I want to share on my blog. But, on the other hand, there is a lot that has been going on - both internally (i.e., in my head) and in our (Mark and I's) life together, and I think it is time to try to catch up.
Moving On - Literally
First off, we're moving. During our week in Maui after returning from Japan, Mark came to the decision - for several reasons - to sell our current home, a decision which I fully supported. Some of those reasons: The yard is very demanding and requires a lot of work. Mark, who has loved playing in the dirt his whole life, decided, due to his cancer, to leave that behind. As he put it, he'd rather spend his time walking in the woods than weeding, trying to get the waterfall going, constantly worrying about whether everything is getting enough water, etc.
Another reason: we need a place that has more room for the kids when they come over. There were other reasons. The time had come.
It's hard to believe, but in the past four weeks, we found another place, plan to close on it in two weeks, listed our house and have started packing. Just when we expected life to return to some semblance of normalcy after the previous six months ... well, let's just say that life continues to surprise us.
We love our new place (pictured above). It will provide everything we were looking for. I'll be blogging more about it, I suppose, after we close and move in. For now, I'll just say that we love it and are excited about making it ours.
New Parent-Time Schedule
Another big change this past month has been the implementation of my new parent time arrangement with my former wife, whereby I'll have the little kids for the entire weekend every other week. Previously, I had them every Saturday and every other Friday night, which didn't allow us enough time to relax and just hang without keeping an eye on the clock. We are going to enjoy this time even more once we move and the kids have their own bedrooms and lots of space to play in our basement room.
A couple of weeks ago, I took the "Triads," (Aaron, Esther and Levi) to Lagoon (a local amusement park) - their first time - and we had a lot of fun. (Annie had a playdate/sleepover with the daughter of some friends.)
|We've had a *gorgeous* fall here along the Wasatch|
This weekend, we're celebrating all four of the kids' birthdays. (Therein lies a tale. Aaron and Esther were born 12 days apart in the same hospital in Nakhodka, Russia (near Vladivostok) and both went to the same orphanage. Aaron was born on October 19th and Esther October 31st, but when we legally adopted them, we move their birth dates to October 25th (an even split) so that they could effectively be raised as twins. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) Two years later, our biological surprise, Levi, was born on November 1st. Then, when we went back to Russia to adopt another little girl, it turned out that the one we got - Annie - was born on October 23rd. So, four birthdays within 10 days of each other.)
|Levi working on his birthday present - Halo Lego|
|Levi and I could both use some orthodontic work|
|Aaron and Esther on their rip sticks. Annie, who is also really good, had just toppled off hers and was in her "I hate the world" pose.|
Mark's health continues to be very good. His PSA continues to remain very low, for which we're grateful. He had another hormone shot in early October and will be due for another in April. He is strong and active, working out at the gym most days and going to yoga classes almost every day. Meanwhile, he continues his part-time work as a hospice doctor, which he enjoys, and - as ever - his spiritual path. He is a great and wonderful teacher to me, and this is one of the many reasons that I love him.
I dealt with some health issues in the week or so after we returned home - both physical and emotional. I had been having increasingly bad stomach aches and abdominal pain while we were in Japan, and I was frankly becoming a bit concerned, as was Mark. But after running some tests and doing a scan, everything came back "normal." That left "irritable bowel syndrome." I think this had been coming on for some time, and the pain and discomfort forced me to make some changes in my diet: eliminating gluten as much as possible; cutting back on my already-low consumption of dairy products; cutting out junk food altogether; cleansing; avoiding anything made with flour; etc. And I'm feeling better, I'm happy to say.
Emotionally, a series of events collided around the time we got home that led me to some additional realizations about my former marriage, my ex-wife, my mother and about me. Good realizations. Insightful, teaching moments, but not without some pain. But, as my counselor said, I have to feel to heal. And I continue to do that - heal.
All of these developments - the house, the emotional and physical challenges, as well as dealing with some legal matters - led to an increasing sense that I was closing one chapter of my life and was preparing to start a new one.
But another "October surprise" for me came as I pondered my spiritual path. Our trip to Japan had been jarring for me in this regard. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that I became somewhat disenchanted with Buddhism; not the principles of mindfulness, accepting suffering as a fact of life, releasing attachments, etc., but rather the "religion" of Buddhism.
|Interior of the Cathedral of the Madeleine here in Salt Lake City|
Mormonism and my involvement in it for nearly three decades of my adult life was deeply harmful and hurtful to me and left me scarred in many ways. I have been trying for three years to move on and to heal, and I believe I have been successful at that in some very important ways.
One of the things that has helped me tremendously through this process was the fact that I had a life before I embraced Mormonism at age 24. I was raised in the Catholic church, and this was my formative experience for the first 17 years of my life. Thereafter, I was exposed to Methodism and to the Episcopal Church, but I had come back to Catholicism immediately prior to my introduction to the Mormon missionaries.
One constant throughout my life is that I have always been a "spiritual" person (or perhaps "religious" would be a better term). I have learned much during the past two years about western Buddhist teachings which I have found helpful in my life. But my experience in Japan demonstrated to me that I needed something more, or something different (a realization I had been slowly coming to for several months). I missed being part of a spiritual community. I missed the opportunity to (as Mormons would say) render service. Though I could not and cannot approach Christianity the way I used to, I came to feel that I wanted to "approach" Christianity again, in an exploratory manner.
I knew, however, that I could not be comfortable in a Protestant church. Though there are a number of gay-friendly churches here in Salt Lake - including Episcopal ones - I know that I would not feel comfortable there - for reasons which I don't feel it necessary for me to expound.
So, my thoughts have turned to Catholicism. Not to the Catholicism of my youth. Not to the Catholicism of anti-gay members of the church's hierarchy. No, I knew if I were to approach Catholicism at this point in my life, it would be on my own terms, with an "adult faith" which would not be circumscribed by official dogma, doctrine or by bigoted, close-minded members of the hierarchy (and which would also not be bound by a number of traditional Catholic beliefs which I do not share). One of the things that appeals to me about this exploration, and which has enticed me into it, is the breadth and depth of Catholic thought that is not constrained by hierarchy, and I have already sought out and will continue to seek out those strands of thought that will complement what I have been learning in the past two years. And I'm sure I will be doing some writing about that in the coming weeks.
Some concluding words: As I embark on this new trail in my spiritual journey, I am grateful for all that I have learned about Buddhism during the past two years, and I am reminded of some thoughts shared by the Dalai Lama upon meeting Thomas Merton in 1968 in Dharmsala, India. Of this experience, one in Merton's party wrote, “the Dalai Lama (encouraged) each of us to remain faithful to our own tradition. He says, ‘We need to experience more deeply the meanings and spiritual values of our own religious tradition--we need to know these teachings not only on an intellectual level but also through our own deeper experience. We must practice our own religion sincerely; it must become part of our lives.’"
This is what I hope to achieve as I start down this trail. We'll see what happens ...
*The lead picture is of the "guest board" outside the 350-year-old inn where we stayed near the end of our Japan trip.