I would not characterize myself as religious…at all. However, I often refer to the “Great Outdoors” as my church and have been known to classify my religious views as “What Goes Around Comes Around”. So, clearly, I’ve had some exposure to something in my life that lead me to feel that I should have a definition for each of these entities, church & religion, and that something is my Mum.
My brother and sister were not raised with formal religion, per my father’s influence. However, when I came around it was my Mum’s turn to continue the traditions with which she was raised: weekly religion classes + church on Sunday. I have strong memories of my physical and emotional reaction to attending both of these weekly events. I hated it. I didn’t mind spending time with my mother, getting the occasional nice outfit for church or “doing my hair curly” for such an occasion. But I literally hated the feeling, smell and taste of weekly classes and church. For the longest time I had no understanding of what was being taught or discussed. Quite simply, I was bored and disinterested. When the time came that I began to understand what was being said, it didn’t jive with me. I didn’t agree or believe in what was being presented. I had no faith. I knew it and I was comfortable with that fact, but my mother wasn’t and why wouldn’t she be. A religious upbringing was how she had been raised and she’s a successful, kind, caring, considerate, good and otherwise angelic person.
Finally, at the age of 15, I was given the choice to continue my relationship with the Church or choose my own path. I remember literally running out of class one night sobbing. I told my Mum that I just couldn’t fake it any longer and that I had to make a formal decision to step away. We had been battling my feelings about religion for 15 years, but that night she listened for what seemed like the first time. I remember two things that she said to me:
1). This means you will not be able to get married in a church. My retort: Exactly. That’s the point. I could get married anywhere except a church. At that age I knew that I’d probably prefer outside anyway*
2). How will you know how to be a good person without religion? My retort: Oh Mum. Because you and Dad are good people. You’ve already taught and shown me that “What Goes Around Comes Around”.
I remember trying to explain to her that it wasn’t religion that tells me what’s right and wrong, it was her and my dad and how they raised me. I was turning in to a good person because of what she taught me, which can be summed up by her favorite expression, “What Goes Around Comes Around”.
“What Goes Around Comes Around” has always and will always govern how my Mum acts, thinks, loves, advises and basically exists and it does the same for me. I don’t say that last statement lightly. The expression and it’s implications are ever-present and far reaching in almost every decision that I make or interaction that I have. I work in healthcare and the general public can be challenging, to say the least, but we all need to be kind to one another and we all deserve the benefits we reap from doing so. The expression rings true within my marriage, my family and my friendships.
I know that my journey and separation from formal religion tossed my Mum’s world upside down, but I think she’s okay with where she landed. Let’s put it this way, in this version of “religious education” my mother gets sole credit for teaching me the one thing I ever truly needed to know. That’s an all-powerful claim. Hmmm…
To my Mum: Thank you for believing in me, giving me roots and branches and, ultimately, believing in yourself.
*18 years later Jon and I got married in my parents back yard by the ocean