It is not an uncommon sight on support forums to see people giving advice that centres on keeping faith with their deity of choice. Or praying for strength, and so on. In an odd way, the world of mental illness – and specifically with this series – caregivers, can lend itself to the “there are no atheists in foxholes” concept. The thing is, the flip side is true, too. There are people who turn to religion in times of difficulty, I’ve also seen many a caregiver give up their religio, in the face of their difficulties. I don’t think one person is better than the other: we’re all caregivers, and we’re all human.
Our family life is, as I’ve mentioned before, a Humanist one. I’m a born and raised Humanist. Mr. Juniper, as is his way, is a little more complex. He considers his view of deities to be agnostic, but lives as a Humanist. Given the way his mind usually works, I consider his views on religion to be somewhere in the region of delightfully uncomplicated. Our views as a family and a partnership can become more complicated when it comes to looking for support. The views we both hold are lifelong and we’re both very happy with them, and that can make it difficult when in another person’s mind, religion is all they can see as the ultimate support. Especially at, say, 3am, when a crisis is in the works.
It is the “give me strength” principle, and the idea of “faith” that come up most. Where others may place their faith in a deity and pray for strength, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what the Humanist may do. It’s hard, I’ll say that. And not because I have an issue with what I believe, but because I compare myself to others. For instance, someone might make a post about the difficulties they’re going through with their partner and say they continue to pray for the strength to cope, and so on. I end up thinking, “But it’s not that simple.” For that person though, maybe it is. Who am I to question how another person seeks strength? Especially when I don’t follow their belief system.
I end up putting more energy than I would like into considering where the plea of “give me strength” will get me, and where to place my faith. Faith is perhaps the easier of the two. I put my faith in humanity and the world. Sure, it lets me down on occasion, but its wonder is there for us time and again. Whether it’s the compassion of a pharmacist, the comfort of Juniper Puss, or sunshine during a crisis, instead of pouring rain. It is worth pointing out that I have also found faith in the bottom of an ice cream tub, before now. When it comes to strength, well, that is a little different. And in one respect, I’m not entirely sure how to articulate it. All right, scratch that. Mr. Juniper and Juniper Junior are in the midst of playing Lego Harry Potter so I asked, “Where do you get your strength?” They both turned to look at me and said, “What?” Just the intellectual answers I’d been hoping for. All right, after a moment to get his bearings, Mr. Juniper said, “Family.”
So, strength. Mr. Juniper just said family. And perhaps it can be that simple, too. That isn’t to say that, oh, we have each other and our lives are just sunshine and daisies. It means that we have each other, and that whatever else is going on, we still have each other. For Mr. Juniper, he has said that it’s the importance of family. In that his illnesses impact parts of his life massively, but he finds strength in not wanting that impact to be detrimental to us as a family. Family is important and the strength of family can be seen in the battle Mr. Juniper wages every day. He doesn’t want the “badness” to win. I don’t want it to, either, for that matter. For what it’s worth, we’ve been having to do a lot of paperwork lately with regards to Mr. Juniper’s illnesses and while one of his therapists was trying to help him figure out some things, she asked him where he thought he’d be without me. I just about bawled when he got home and told me his answer. Family is important, and it is where my strength comes from, too. I don’t say a prayer, but I do say thank you to the universe for a wonderful husband, child, and cat.
This is a slight tangent, but I often say, “Bless you.” It’s a phrase loaded with religious connotations, but I’ve come to find a lot of comfort from it. When I say it, I’m trying to encapsulate the feelings of gratitude, and the hope that good things come to that person, too. My strength comes from the compassion and kindness of the world, too. So in a way, my strength comes from where I place my faith. My faith as a whole is in humanity and the world, and in a very special way, it is in my family, too. My strength comes foremost from my family, but also from humanity and the world. And I try to let the universe know that I’m grateful. I don’t see the universe as a being, but as a home to life, for which, if I may quote Aesop:
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.