Giving up religiosity doesn't happen all at once. At least, not in my case. I wasn't able to go cold turkey, so to speak, and give up my addiction to unfounded faith-based beliefs all at once.
They just have gradually lessened, weakened, become much less powerful.
Yet in subtler forms, my previous attachment to feeling that I'm being watched over by an all-knowing, all-loving transcendental presence still is evident from time to time.
Like, last Thursday.
It was a potentially traumatic day for me. After having my hair cut by the same person for 37 years, Betsy departed for central Oregon. But she gave me the name of a replacement hair cutter.
Who I'd phoned and made an appointment with for Thursday at 1:30. There it was, in my Mac's calendar: September 25, 1:30 pm.
Nervous about how my precious hair would fare in the hands of another woman, I left home early enough to arrive at the salon a few minutes early -- wanting to ease into this brave new world of haircutting after more than a third of a century in Betsy's comforting realm.
Only to be met with a "Um, did you have an appointment? I can fit you in, but I had you down for tomorrow."
Oops. Somebody had screwed up. I didn't think it was me. It was possible, though. After this awkward beginning, I felt OK as we got into the business of trimming.
She and I agreed on how much to take off (half an inch). I appreciated her comment, "You have nice hair." For someone my age, at least.
But then she looked out the window and said, "Just a second. I was going to have lunch with my mother. She just drove up. I need to run outside and tell her we'll do it another day." That made me feel sort of guilty, since I might have been the one who screwed up on the appointment time.
However, when she got back to trimming my hair, I was told "Actually it's no big deal. I see my mother all the time. And I learned that tomorrow my father is coming to town. It's good that I'm cutting your hair today."
Driving away after my haircut, I mulled over what had just transpired.
Was it a good thing or a bad thing that I'd showed up at the salon on a day my haircutter hadn't expected? What did this mean? Could it be a sign that I should stick with getting my hair cut by her? Or maybe I should take my wife's advice and try the woman who takes care of her hair, in part because I wouldn't have to drive as far?
Then another thought popped up.
Subconsciously I'd been assuming that the "universe has a message for me" thing was valid.
Meaning, there was some meaning to these hair-cutting events beyond how I felt about them, some sort of hidden purpose that could be discerned if I was perceptive enough to understand "what the universe was trying to say."
Naturally I didn't think that God or some other divine entity was the source of this hidden purpose. Hey, I'm churchless!
Still, I could tell that a lingering telelogical leaning was still present in my psyche. I was looking for an end, a reason, an overriding explanation for my arriving at the salon on an expected (for my haircutter) day.
Realizing this, my mind then shifted gears.
Stuff just happens, I reminded myself. What happened today doesn't mean anything more than the meaning I ascribe to it. At that moment, I felt a weight depart from my wondering mind.
There's no need to try to figure out what the universe is telling me. The universe isn't saying anything to me. There's no cosmic message here, no meaning-puzzle to be assembled, no secret code to be deciphered.
Like I said back in 2010...
I don't see "stuff happens" as negative. Rather, it is an affirmation of reality and the mystery that looms when we try to understand its depths (notwithstanding how the most famous popularizer of that phrase used it).
I'm not sure why what has already happened to me, did. I'm not sure why what lies in the future for me, will be. I'm not sure why this present moment, is.
The chains of causes and effects -- including what appears to be randomness -- linked to even the simplest event are breathtakingly beyond the complete comprehension of even the smartest people in the world, or the most advanced computers.
Stuff happens. Then other stuff happens. Until we die. That's beautiful!