Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Learning to Quit

The last few weeks have been challenging for me, as I have wrestled with a decision that is difficult for me to make.  As I have written on here before, including posts about some of the discussion topics, I have been participating in a Bible study/class at our local church.  I think that my previous rambling thoughts on said class reveal that I often have some difficulty conversing on the topics with other individuals that have a much different baseline for their faith (both in divine beings and towards the authorship and accuracy of the Bible).  The difficulty has increased significantly over the last month, and with it, a certain amount of internal tension and frustration.

I took a similar class last year, and found the experience interesting, if not somewhat stimulating and rewarding.  The experienced continue to forge relationships with individuals at church, which tends to be my primary focus, and gave me somewhat of an outlet for my overactive thinking on religious matters.  For many reasons, the experience has not been the same this year; and it had become a source of negativity for me.  As I stated, there are many reasons for this, some simple, some complicated; but I imagine the most significant is that I am in a much different place intellectually and spiritually than I was last year, and those changes, to put in bluntly, do not allow me to participate fully in the class.  It's to the point where that differing baseline has, for lack of better wording, become too big of a gap for me to handle (I do think I'm saying I'm less tolerant than I was a year ago; and I am internally debating the positive and negative of such a fact).  As I could no longer handle or stomach that differing baseline, I contributed little to the discussions.  For me, that became unacceptable.

I have, I think, two (at least) obsessive qualities that generally (generally) serve me well.  One, I don't believe in doing something half-way; if I sign up for something, or decide to take something in, I'm all in, and I give it everything I got.  Two, I can't stand not finishing something I started.  Thus, this situation presented a difficult dichotomy for me (hopefully not a false dichotomy), where I felt I could no longer give everything I had to the class (again, for many reasons), and yet did not like the option of stepping back and not attending anymore.  To steal from Hamlet, to stay and not give it my all, or to leave and not finish, that was my question.

As the title to this post would suggest, I chose to back out of the class.  For many, this may be an easy thing to do, but I'm not sure I can convey how much I truly agonized about this; I started thinking about at the beginning of November, thinking about it off an on; I skipped a Monday due to a work conflict and thought about it all that night when I got home (particularly about how much more I enjoyed that Monday), I thought about everyday over the Thanksgiving Holiday, thought about throughout the day on Monday, and thought about pretty much the entire time I was in the class this past Monday night for three hours.  I could feel myself and hear my thoughts getting more and more negative, and even hostile, towards ideas and discussion topics in the class; and could feel it affecting my overall attitude towards church membership (which is always a little touch and go).

After realizing this self-inflicted agonizing I was going through, I made the decision at the end to talk to the class leader and pull out of the class.  While, in the grand scheme of things, its a simple decision; for me, and my personality, it was a difficult one.  Getting involved in a local church has always been a conscious decision; to build community and support for both Jackie and I.  With my non-traditional views on all things religious, this has never been easy, but I feel like we have contributed much to the experience, and have gained much as well.  Thus, any step away from involvement can feel risky, even if its not.

In any event, I have had a day, almost two, to digest that decision, and I can't deny that it was the right one.  I do not feel weighted down by the negative thoughts associated with the class and its discussion.  It seems I reached a point where too much frequent exposure to religious doctrinal discussion allowed my obsessive brain to turn it into a negative experience and fruitless endeavor.  Realizing that, and coming to the understanding that sometimes less really is more, especially when it comes to balancing one's mental equilibrium, has been a positive, if not necessary step.

Thus, while "quitting" the class still has some negative connotations for me, and I still have my incessant concern how it will be viewed by others, I think I finally made peace with the idea that sometimes its necessary, for happiness, for mental health, and particularly in this case, ironically enough, for spiritual health.