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Contemplating mortality and religion through water
Revisiting my panic attacks from early quarantine days, three years later
Hello, dear readers! I am back after a hectic March, which included the start of my Saturn return. Buckle up for a revised essay from 2021 about grappling with mortality and religious trauma through water. I’d love to know your thoughts!
My panic attacks returned when the pandemic hit now over three years ago. I hadn’t felt such dread and terror inside my body since my teenage years. Back when the general public was advised to quarantine inside our households for two weeks, I found myself hyperventilating in the bathroom, thinking I was just a cough away from my deathbed.
Growing up Catholic, I attended catechism and followed the three steps of penance: baptism, holy communion, and confirmation. While I was invested in the doctrine, I also understood it to be the one of two options: believe in Jesus or go to hell. Preoccupied with the afterlife, I committed to serving Jesus and doing whatever it took to get to heaven, even as early as seven years old. Here, I linked my mortality to loyalty to the church.
The church taught me all beauty on Earth is found in the Book of Genesis. Whenever I witnessed a body of water in nature, I told myself, “God put this water here.” I felt relieved in having something so uncertain pre-determined, already thought out, taught to me as fact. I also felt threatened if I questioned otherwise. Listening to the ocean waves crash over each other, I surrendered to the promise of eternal life, a place where I could be beside water forever. I wanted to be there forever.
I once expressed this sentiment—about nature and how it got there—to my childhood best friend. We sat in band class before the bell rang. Our values and belief systems often clashed exactly in the way you’d expect an atheist teenager to challenge a Catholic one. She’d elaborate about how science contradicted religion.
“But who put science there?” I rebutted.
She didn’t have an answer. Even if she did, nothing she said could convince me otherwise. I held panic inside me that I thought Catholicism soothed, but it only exacerbated.
Besides, I’d already asked the “science versus religion” question to the many (religious) adults in my life. These adults never denied evolution, but most assured me God was the ultimate scientist, the creator of all life on Earth. This was an answer I could handle; if God was real, I’d live eternally and never die. I’d always exist in this world alongside water.
It was my best friend who not only challenged what I was being taught, but the safety and security I once felt in the idea God created beauty, and therefore, that the afterlife was real.
20 years later, I live in uncertainty. In my recovery from religious trauma, I approach the afterlife and nature alike with less judgement. I tell myself, “This water is here.” Regardless of how nature “got” here on Earth, I find joy and gratitude in being a part of nature, being mortal and alive, here and now.
As promised, below includes reflection questions to consult your journal, tarot cards, spirit guides, Voice Note app, etc. If you feel comfortable, reply to this email or comment on this post with your answers. I’d love to hear from you!
Do you feel spiritually and/or religiously connected to nature? To water? Why or why not?
Does being present with nature make you feel alive? Why or why not?
Are you interested in fostering a less judgemental relationship with nature? If yes, how can you approach doing so?
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