catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 1 :: 2012.01.06 — 2012.01.19


Ten things I used to believe

I was in a dusty classroom one afternoon in Irbid, Jordan this spring when I first heard Ira Glass’ “This I Used to Believe.” A spin-off from the wildly popular essay project “This I Believe,” the piece addressed the underbelly of belief: doubt, and what happens when our certainties are challenged.

My friend had used it as a discussion guide for her English-language class with Jordanian students. Their sometimes frank, sometimes silly responses prompted me to make my own list this fall. I was eager for the exercise, though not sure I’d have much to write down. I have never really lacked belief, in the most elemental sense. So it was with some surprise, as more and more, “You know, I always thought…” realizations came rolling out, that I recognized just how much had slipped from “I believe” to “I used to believe.”

Here are some of my “Used to Believes” from 2011.  Big or small, each in some way is a daily assumption now tempered by experiences from this year — hopefully with lessons learned!

I used to believe:

  1. That my parents were wiser, and my siblings more impressive, than anyone else ever.  Actually, I’m still learning that this is not true. All evidence notwithstanding, it will probably be my default attitude until I die.
  2. That I wanted to live in the most dangerous places in the world, because I was adventurous and compassionate and worldly enough to not be affected. Then I went to Kabul, and loved it, but also couldn’t breathe easy until my plane landed safely back in Dubai. Swagger: re-evaluated.
  3. That God makes sense in a rational way.  I have spent weeks and months meditating on spiritual cause-and-effects. But even the best theological math has holes, and in the lowest of low times I’ve had to rely on the Spirit I’ve felt at work to get me through with faith intact.
  4. That growing up means becoming tired and boring. As long as we keep finding ways to stay curious, challenged and delighted, growing up is the best. Don’t look back!
  5. That the “Christmas Spirit” can and should be drummed up each year, as enthusiastically as the last. These days I just sit back, enjoy the time at home, and try to avoid shopping malls between October and January.
  6. That grief lasted a few months, and then crossed a rational series of yard lines towards the end-zone of “getting over it.”  There are no yard lines. Grief is a corkscrew; a river; a perennial sparkplug of loose ends. Why do we ever pretend otherwise?
  7. That what being loved feels like and what being loved looks like are the same.  Lesson learned.
  8. That if I really liked something I would just be inherently good at it. Yes, I actually thought this. And yes, I am actually still learning that this is false. (What do you mean “cooking and gardening like a boss” isn’t genetic?)
  9. That I embraced poverty and didn’t care about financial security.  Then I spent my savings, lost my income and hit rock bottom in my bank account. Twice.
  10. That “stepping out in faith” was an epic, life-changing action and not something we do every single day.  After a truly difficult year, I have learned that grace, luck and a light at the end of the tunnel usually show up in tiny ways each day. Grabbing hold of those moments when they come is what prepares us to take hold of life-changing decisions as naturally as we do everything that came before. 

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