One of the questions that came up during Forced Entertianment's Quizoola (see here) was "when did you last pray?"
As with the inevitable nature of the performance, I answered in my head. Then I wondered about other people's answers.
It's an interesting one. A lot of people don't pray. A lot of people pretend they don't pray.
A lot of people think they're above it. That they're silly. Talking into the silence, to some big man in the sky - as if he can help. As if he's listening.
Except when things get tough it's not silly. You're not even thinking about how silly it all is. I like that sentiment in Regina Spektor's Laughing With. You can be chuckling over God at a party with airs of superiority and cynicism, but when everything comes crashing down you suddenly find yourself praying.
I used to be a Christian when I was a child, and then I grew up. I grew cynical and it all just seemed too implausible. I still went to church every Christmas Eve - my Mum loved it. It was her favourite part of Christmas but also I liked it. It was calm. It was lovely.
Still I said I was an atheist and I guess I was. I wished I could believe in something - something to give me hope and make things a little easier but I'd lost faith and I couldn't get it back.
I wouldn't judge those who did believe though. It seems like the most ludicrous use of energy to criticise or to pull cruel humour from other's beliefs just because you don't share them. If it gives them hope that's wonderful - why does it affect you?
Then as I got older I read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers and other books like that. A part of me was held back. It sounded so American and cheesy - but the books helped. They gave an immediate sense of calm but also they helped me to deal with life. They helped me learn that life is more about how you respond to things rather than what actually happens. When I got ill that helped but also it made me calmer in general. I wasn't so anxious anymore, just happier and more myself - which sounds odd, and it wasn't immediate, but that's how it was.
Through that I came to believe in something. I don't know what. Me and my friend used to joke about thanking the universe. We weren't thanking God but we counted our blessings and we felt gratitude to something - whatever it was. Maybe just in general.
I don't know if I'd say I was an atheist now, but equally I'm not quite sure about saying I'm agnostic. That I'm sitting on the fence. That I just don't know. I guess none of us really know but I find the phrasing uncomfortable. It's more than that but at the same time not that.
Yet I pray. I prayed last week when I was lying in bed unable to sleep because my legs were in such excruciating pain. I prayed for the pain to stop. Before that I prayed when I went to see Helva. She was my Grandad's wife, not a biological grandmother and I never called her nan, but that's what she was. I saw her in the funeral parlour. I said goodbye and that I loved her over and over again. Through the tears I found myself asking God to look after her and keep her safe. I didn't know that's what I believed. I prayed last summer when I was so physically weak but mentally strong - praying I would be well enough to work again because I'd landed a job I really wanted yet was so unwell it didn't seem plausible.
I find myself praying when I'm desperate and when I need strength. Maybe that feels a bit wrong in retrospect, to pray just when I really need something. Though I do count my blessings and am so thankful - I just never articulate it in that way.
I don't think I could ever pin how I feel about all of this down to one word. To say I am this. That'd be nice in a way. I'm a bit envious of the community it brings people - a sense of belonging, but then there's elements I'm dubious of. It would just seem fraudulent and forced.
I think that's ok though: to not really know and not be able to articulate it, but to take some solace from prayer or from gratitude. It's not all about categorising what something is, sometimes it's about taking it for what it is - whatever that may be.