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Embracing Ambiguity

Embracing Ambiguity

I, like a lot of people, struggle with ambiguity.  I want concise answers, clear pathways, defined execution.  Timelines are important to me and while I am comfortable with allowing leeway, I have a need to know what someone means when they tell me “soon”. 

I’m not inflexible, but I remain uncomfortable with shadows.  Let’s get in there and shed some light on the situation.  Grey areas worry me.  Grey areas are cause for concern.

Grey areas really bother the fuck out of me.

Take my latest woe:

Millie, my six-year old, blind, tea cup Chihuahua began losing her balance a month ago; walking sideways and in circles, with her head tilted to one side.  She had some dark matter in the base of one of her ears, so she was taken to the vet immediately.   

The first vet we saw put her on antibiotics, saying we should see improvement in a week.  A week passed: no improvement.  Back to the vets we went.  The second vet who saw her (we go to a clinic with two vets, both of whom treat my dogs) thought it was neurological in nature, possibly a brain tumor – one that, in Millie’s case, would be inoperable.  The vet put her on a stronger antibiotic and told us to prepare for things to get worse. 

Three weeks later, Millie is still the same.  Her balance is very bad – to the point where she doesn’t walk much – but she still has a terrific appetite, is able to do her business in the backyard, and is excited and happy when I get home.  On bad days, she falls down. 

We keep her as comfortable as possible and provide the best care we are able to.

She’s been back to the vet since and the two vets remain divided as to what is going on.  The one who thinks it is an ear infection tells us that she has vestibular syndrome, which takes dogs that are blind a long time to get over.  The other still sees signs of a neurological disorder.

And so we wait.  Not knowing.  Watching for signs. 

My ex over-reacts constantly, while I remain the voice of calm – not reason – but calm.  Because the truth is:  I don’t know anything either.  I’m merely trying to see the best.  I figure, why not hope?  Hope feels better than despair. 

Needless to say, the part of me that wants clear answers has been very upset lately.

This is where God used to come in real handy.  He was great for helping to deal with ambiguity.  Scared?  Pray.  Sure, your prayers might not get answered the way you hope, but in the meantime… at least you feel as if you’re doing something about the thing over which you have no control. 

Which is the nature of religion – it helps deal with the ambiguities of life by providing those simple, black and white answers we crave, in a group setting, no less. 

But God doesn’t work for me anymore, not even in theory or as a crutch. 

This week, I was at mass and suddenly I couldn’t bring myself to say the words.

Because: I do not believe.

I don’t believe in the church or anything it teaches.  All I see are coping mechanisms and measures of manipulation and control. In light of that, I’ve stopped reciting the words.  Now, I simply go to mass in order to get communion for my mother and bed-ridden father.  I do this because my mother still believes and it is important to her.  It’s one of the things I can do to ease the burden of caring for my father.

But I don’t do it for me.

Suddenly coming to the realization that I needn’t recite any of the prayers or responses reminded me of a time three years earlier when I came to the realization that my faith was collapsing and that I needed to step down from cantoring.  Singing is a very magical, spiritual thing for me and… my heart was no longer in it. 

Which brings me to where I stand now: out here, on my own.

Dealing with the ambiguities of life can be disheartening, or… it can be character defining.  It’s a scary place to be, for sure, and so new to me I still don’t have my feet firmly beneath me.

Yet, I have hope.  Because the alternative is to despair and I refuse to give into that. I’ve witnessed its pitfalls first hand.  That road is not for me.

The uncertainties that come with independent thinking are difficult to navigate.  It’s hard to accept that life is rather random and there are limits to our influence and control.  We read things in the paper or hear things on the news illustrating the inhumanity that plays out on this planet on a daily basis and must balance our anguish with the knowledge that many simply don’t have the tools to make good decisions or behave in an appropriate manner.

It is never appropriate to beat your girlfriend with a puppy until the puppy defecates and dies.

It is never appropriate to drown a two-week old puppy in a restroom toilet because you can’t take the animal on the plane and don’t wish to miss your flight.

It is never appropriate to repeatedly videotape yourself torturing your girlfriend’s dog and then continue filming as you shoot the dog in the head.

Yet these things (And they all happened in the past three weeks Look them up!) happen on a daily basis and our minds must cope with the horror.

And that’s why I have lost faith. 

That’s why I can’t entertain the idea of a God – any God.

I would love to say that I will put my trust in science instead, but… as in Millie’s case, science does not have all the answers either.

No one does.

And that’s why, if we wish to live life to the fullest, we must embrace the prickly reality of ambiguity.  Even when living through it breaks your heart.

Still, for Millie, I hope for the best.

It's all I can do.


Manfred said...

What an incredibly honest, candid, and eye-opening piece. I too was "ritually trained" in the RC Faith. I too observed the meaninglessness of its institution, practices and doctrines. I feel that the turning point in my life was reading one book - no not the so-called Bible, word of God, but Carl Sagan's VARIETIES OF SCIENTIFIC EXPERIENCES. I have since read it numerous times, and recommend it highly for those open to challenging their belief systems - and seeking truth. To paraphrase this great man, only exceptional evidence can justify exceptional claims. Religious claims have failed this criterion hands down. Even more accurate was Ms. Barbara Ehrlich's (SP?) observation: "Faith is intellectual surrender."
I prefer to surrender to no one's "inspiration", "vision", or "revelations". Too many have proven false.
My 2C.

anne marie in philly said...

:( for millie. it's hard to watch your furkids have health problems and they cannot tell you what's wrong and you hope you are doing the best for them.

I gave up on the godshit 40 years ago. don't miss it. don't need it. I believe in myself.

Jack said...

So sorry about your dear little dog. These situations are always impossible and my heart goes out to you.

When my mom was bedridden, a nun or priest would visit, often more than weekly. Perhaps you could arrange this, too?

Surround yourself with supportive friends. Hug your dog.

Breenlantern said...

Beautifully said. Painful to read. You put into words how I have felt for a long time. I am so sorry Millie is having such difficulty and that you are helpless to do anything. Show her all the love and affection you can. Even in discomfort, disco ordination and/or pain, she will know that you are there and be happy for it. And I will remain hopeful for you all, as well.


whkattk said...

So very, very sorry to hear about Millie. That is sad beyond words - our four-legged critters are family and we worry and grieve in the same way. Well, most of us do.

I too was raised in the RC church and lost the belief at age 16 when the priest who headed up the CYO couldn't answer questions except to say, "That's just the way it is. You must have faith." Much too ambiguous for me, even at that tender age. I stopped attending Mass and haven't returned except in cases of weddings and funerals.

Yet, Upton my friend, I hope right along with you. And I send you the warmest, most sincere hugs possible.