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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » August- A Landmark

   
Author Topic: August- A Landmark
August
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Dear Hatrackers,

I have only been a member of the Hatrack community for a few months, yet I feel already a friendly camaraderie with with you all. It has given me great pleasure to read and participate in all sorts of discussions here. It is now that I feel that I must come clean, partly because it may strengthen this community, and partly because I simply need to get it out. I donít know how youíve imagined me until now. I am a teenage girl living in New York City. I have my reasons for being sexually ambiguous on the internet; mainly because Iíve seen its anonymity bring out the worst in men. I love music and poetry, as well as the work of OSC, psychology, art, and religion. I donít know who I am, or how to properly define myself, so Iíll start at what I began to see as the beginning of ďitĒ, a series of events that irrevocably changed the way I thought and felt.


During my freshman year in high school, I experienced something I had not understood yet- the deaths of numerous friends and family members. I lost count after a while...I wasnít really capable of thinking clearly for months. I fought hard against grief, and found solace in the friends that I loved dearly. My family dealt with it queerly, however: with silence. My mother in particular took the loss of her brother hard. Her stoicism taught me the wrong lesson about masking oneís emotions during times of grief. My house became shrouded in a palpable mist of sadness- unspoken, it suffocated all who entered. And I felt everything she did (I have since learned to better control my empathy), and I found life disturbingly confusing.


My motherís secularism made it impossible to talk about death (why discuss something that can be explained so concisely with science?), but I was filled with questions. I had thought about death before, but never had it been accompanied with such a burning feeling of loss, filling my stomach so I stopped eating, filling my throat so I stopped breathing. I was weak, but I continued to push myself with physical endeavors. And my mother revealed nothing to me about the soul- comforted me with no visions of a place beyond the world, even the unseeable unity that I would one day connect between the philotes of the Enderverse and Stewart Edward Whiteís The Unobstructed Universe. I have always been obsessed with death and the universe, but this was far more of an emotional immersion that I could have ever imagined. I began to lose myself.


The rest is a blur. I somehow made it through my school year a bit like a robot, suffering anxiety attacks that came whenever I talked about death- which happened unfortunately frequently in my classes. I was sometimes very sad for very long periods of time. There was a painful lump in my throat for the entire winter, and an ache in my chest. I could not cry. My teachers described me as a pendulum, fluctuating between ďwithdrawnĒ to the infrequent patches of ďoutstandingĒ performance in which I struggled to regain my old self. I remember seeing myself in the mirror, an elfin girl with a mess of curly hair, and wide green eyes that went vacant as I trapped myself with thought. I did not recognize myself. I did not understand what had happened. In middle school, I had tried to find a religion that fit. I went through a Neo-Pagan phase, and I had become a bit of a Buddhist. But I had no willing mother to tell me right from wrong, and I felt like God had abandoned me.

The school year passed and more losses occurred, but I was better equipped to handle them. I had a friend who I was completely (though platonically) in love with, and she inspired me to release my emotions through music, art, and literature. I owe the greatest debt of my life to her, because without her I donít think I would have found the strength to go on. After that, I opened up a little more to my other friends, and they all did their best to help me. But then the summer came, and she graduated, and had very little time for me. I, having dealt with the feeling of abandonment before (even though she didnít really abandon me), focused on making it through the summer.


In general, things improved, though they also worsened. One morning I woke up and I wanted to die. I walked silently to work. My family visited and I watched as my mother pushed my grandparents away. I helped them through that summer, because I knew how to heal their pain despite the gnawing emptiness that consumed me. My grandmother called me by her dead sonís name. She cried when she didnít think anybody could see her, and later with heartbreaking freedom. I was jealous. But she needed the healing more than I did. My sister dreamt I killed myself and crawled into my bed one August night, sobbing. ďI must be strong,Ē I told myself. I adopted my motherís stoicism, and I became a rock for my family. I was needed. And all the while, I wondered where God was. I went to Montana, and in the purifying moments when I was away from my family, found God in the mountains and wide open skies. I fell in love with the West. I have always felt something within me that is strangely transcendental. It is as if I am a candle and I can feel the flame of my spirit pulling me upwards, glowing brighter and brighter. Nature revitalized me, it toughened me and showed me how to find beauty in anything. I searched for an explanation of the human soul, and the meaning of loss.


And that was when, finally, I was graced with the guide I was looking for. I had known her before, of course, but I realized that my tendency to attach myself to older sister figures had led me to her. She was the focus of my life, and was a sincere Mormon. More importantly, she talked to me. A year had passed, and I was so deeply, and platonically, in love with her. We would discuss philosophy, love and faith, and while she confided little in me, I found her to be an endless comfort. I needed to be able to talk about the Ďafterlifeí honestly, even if I found the concept of being conscious for eternity disturbing. It was so relieving to be free to talk about it, and I realized how much I missed those who had died. There was a lot of insecurity on my part of our friendship, but I later learned and understood her point of view, and forgave her. I was used to dependency at that point, and Iím only just now learning how to love healthily.

It was around that time, in my sophomore year, that I read Lost Boys. Cardís description of Mormon ideals was so different from my motherís critical view of organized religion. Between this and her description of the happenings inside the LDS church, I developed a deep admiration for the faith. The lessons seemed to make sense to me; with meetings being less traditional and ritual-based. I come from an agnostic Jewish and Baptist background, and this seemed to have a lot more meaning and spiritual goodness than the other religions I had been exposed to.


She has since graduated as well, but my interest in religion has not ceased. I still am in need of spiritual guidance. My mother still remains critical of all faiths, Mormonism in particular, and I am still confused. There are some points in Mormonism that I find hard to accept; indeed, there are some parts of religion in general that I find hard to accept. It has always been my sincerest wish to help form a more perfect faith. I acknowledge that, as human nature changes, the rules must change as well (or at least, interpretation of the rules). I want to make a difference in the world. I believe that I have good ideas about faith, maybe a faith that can tie everything together. Science and religion both teach us that there is but one truth. They should not take the beauty away from this truth; I do not believe that science and religion are opposites. I want to help find a way to stop conflict between the faiths. I want to help find a way to link the metaphysical to the physical. We must honor the truth. I would give my life to find and protect it.

And now itís the summer again, and Iím working as a camp counselor for six year olds. Iíve found that most children are ďborn selfishĒ, and wonít stop taking what you have to offer. Iím very sensitive to what people need, and I find joy in obliging them of that need. At the end of the day, Iím completely drained. While I may never learn how to stop giving, I hope that as I get older I'll learn a better way to deal with it. Working with children gives me the opportunity to reflect, and think about how to take care of others. At the end of the school year, one of my friends approached me with her problems, and I did (and am still doing) my best to help her. Itís strange being in the position that my two friends were with me, but Iím happy to be helping her with what Iíve learned.

Happy August, everybody! I chose my alias in honor of this month, which to me represents both the fading summer and the prospect of a new school year. My family has traditionally spent a few weeks in the New England woods during August, a time for taking out 75 books at a time from the local library and hours of treading water in a small, quiet lake. Weíve been unable to do this since my uncle died, and the lakeshore was swarmed with upper-crust folks looking for a new town to ďposh-ifyĒ, as my little brother calls it. So weíve been exploring new territories, always finding things to learn about Americaís backcountry and history. This fall, however, I will be taking a four-month long hiatus from my everyday life to join a semester program in Maine. Iíll be away from my family, studying the environment and philosophy along with my regular academic courses in a small town on the coast. I canít express how excited and ready I am for this experience. I leave late August, and return in mid-December. I canít yet imagine the things I will learn, but I know that Iíll come back with something new to offer, and a renewed sense of myself. In some ways I am really going away so that I can find myself. While Iím gone, Iíll to come back to Hatrack occasionally, where I know that I will always find an accepting community of all ages and backgrounds, with differences in opinion, but always a passion for intellectual debate. Thank you, Hatrackers!


August

[ August 02, 2010, 06:18 PM: Message edited by: August ]

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Sala
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Dear August,
I am so in awe and jealous of you. Your writing style as shown here just speaks to my soul. I loved reading about your journey of the past four years. I'm jealous because of all of the wonderful things you still have to experience. Though it's been many years, believe it or not I still have strong memories of my high school and college years and the quest for deep understanding of both my minute self and the grand universe at large. (Mainly because I kept journals and have reread them several times. Without those journals I'm not so sure how good my memory would be. My one piece of unsolicited advice to you -- keep a journal on this trip to Maine.)

My own personal journey of discovery that started in ninth grade was reading "A Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein. (Unfortunately, I was in high school before OSC started publishing. I was just a few years behind him in time.) It wasn't so much the book itself, as the whole idea of being a stranger in a strange land . . . who was I and how did I fit in with everything and everyone around me.

I'd love to hear how your journey for knowledge and enlightenment continues.
~Sala

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TomDavidson
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If you'd like, August, I'd be happy to speak with you about how secularism is not necessarily opposed to, say, sensitively discussing both death and the meaning of life. [Smile]
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Uprooted
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Thank you for sharing your spritual journey. You are a beautiful writer. I don't know if you are aware of the tradition of landmark posts on Hatrack, but that is what you have written. If you put the word "Landmark" in your subject line, it can be saved with a group of other threads by Hatrackers about important moments in their lives. (Go to the "Hatrack River Forum" page and click on "Landmark Threads" to see others.) I believe this all started with people celebrating achievement of a certain post count, and waxing philosophical on the occasion, but I'm not one of the old timers here so forgive me if I have that wrong.
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Wingracer
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
If you'd like, August, I'd be happy to speak with you about how secularism is not necessarily opposed to, say, sensitively discussing both death and the meaning of life. [Smile]

I don't know about august but that sounds like a fun topic to me.
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Belle
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Nice to get to know you, August! You write beautifully for a teenager. [Smile] I wish some of my teenaged students had written half as well.
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BlackBlade
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That was a wonderful piece August. If you ever want to discuss any of the tenets of Mormonism you find difficult, you can always PM me.

Enjoy your program in Maine, I'm sure there are all sorts of wonderful environments out there, as well as worthwhile people.

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Dr Strangelove
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Thank you for sharing August! I echo the sentiment of others in admiring your clarity in both thought and self-expression.

When I graduated high school I was... troubled, so I decided to go off on my own for a bit and ended up in Maine, hiking. The time I spent there still remains in my mind the high point of my teenage years. It was a time when I found myself, found out how to take care of myself, found God, and really was made into the person I am now.

So best of luck to you in Maine! And if you get a chance, be sure to hike Katahdin in Baxter State Park, and either before or after read about Thoreau's experience with "The Greatest Mountain" in The Maine Woods.

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Aglaea
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Thank you so much for sharing your journey, August. I'm sorry that you had to experience such trauma, but you worked through so much and now found much of your spiritual self. I'm glad that you wish to explore more and contribute that knowledge to other lives!
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August
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Thanks, Uprooted! I sure will. [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
If you'd like, August, I'd be happy to speak with you about how secularism is not necessarily opposed to, say, sensitively discussing both death and the meaning of life. [Smile]

That's a topic that could keep me going indefinitely. One of my campers has Asperger's, and he's forever asking me questions like "Who lives in the sky?" It's challenging trying to answer his questions on the spot, particularly as once I go to "that place" it's very hard to come back. I do my best, though. He's got a knack for asking seemingly innocent questions that spark profound emotional responses in the asked. Which he doesn't notice, of course.

quote:
Originally posted by Dr Strangelove:
And if you get a chance, be sure to hike Katahdin in Baxter State Park, and either before or after read about Thoreau's experience with "The Greatest Mountain" in The Maine Woods.

I'm currently reading The Maine Woods and I will get the opportunity to scale Katahdin, so thank you for your suggestion! I'll be sure to do that, and of course, bring along my journal.
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Jeorge
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quote:
Originally posted by Dr Strangelove:
And if you get a chance, be sure to hike Katahdin in Baxter State Park

Or Saddleback, or any part of the Bigelow Range, or Tumbledown...we have many gorgeous mountains here. [Smile]
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Geraine
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Thank you for sharing. I want you to know that there are people much older than you that do not have the talent at writing you do. (I'm one of them!)

And what a journey you have had over these past few years. I am glad you have been able to find some comfort in friends that genuinely care for you.

Though your LDS friend has graduated, it may be worth it to attend mutual at a local chapel. They are usually held on Wednesday or Thursday nights. Even if you are not a member of the church they are a good way to meet new friends and socialize with people. It will give you a chance to learn a bit more about mormonism without feeling pressured into joining. There are often some fun activities as well.

During a dark time in my life I looked forward to going to mutual every week. The group of young men I was a part of enjoyed each others company. Some of the young men were football jocks, some were musicians, and some were computer nerds. (guess which I was) Even though we had different interests we got along. At school we had our own groups of friends, but we would still stick up for each other if needs be. We forged close relationships that have lasted for years. I still talk to some of them even today.

Even if you do not want to do that, find a place where you can socially interact with others, somewhere you can make new friends.

I encourage you to look at many ways of life and belief systems and choose the one that fits you. If you feel a certain religion fits you and what your personal beliefs are, go for it! Learn all that you can from them. If you feel atheism is right for you, go after that! Go after what you feel is right for you, and be happy.

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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeorge:
Or Saddleback, or any part of the Bigelow Range, or Tumbledown...we have many gorgeous mountains here. [Smile]

Very true. I have especially fond memories of Saddleback. Maine is beautiful.
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lobo
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Your post reminded me of John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" - There is something about the West...

A couple of verses:

"He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake"

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