Over the past couple of months, I have been exchanging letters with an old friend of mine. She and I have known each other for almost thirty years. Especially in our adult lives, we have connected through sharing the things we are reading and learning about. We both get very excited about our learning and all the ideas that are churning in our heads. This particular exchange started with her reaching out to me to share her experience of converting to Catholicism. Joy does not really begin to touch on the feelings she is experiencing around this transformation, but I was hearing a lot of joy and enthusiasm. She wanted to send me some materials to read so that I could learn more as well.
There were times during the exchange when I felt that my friend had reached a point where she believes there is only one right spiritual path. This brought up some old feelings for me around conversations I have had with loved ones about education, child rearing, nutrition……anything that I find important and hold strong opinions about. The moment of distress for me is always the point at which I am offered the point of view that there is only one right way. Sometimes I even accept this view for a time. For a moment, or sometimes for weeks or months, I can hang out in this place, wondering if the way I have chosen is the one right way. I may reexamine all the possibilities, I may revisit the research, I may observe carefully for a time.
When I believe that there is only one right way, I am in misery. I feel tense and scared. Sometimes I feel righteous and sure, also judgmental. Sometimes I feel despair, sure that I have completely blown it and there is no hope. When I continue to read, observe and process, I always, always come back to believing that there is more than one way.
As I read about my friend’s spiritual path, even though it differs from mine, I can relate to her search for answers, and to the benefits she enjoys through her spiritual growth (the peace, joy, and connection). As I talk to my friends whose kids go to school and those who homeschool, I see that it is possible to raise well-educated, healthy, kind, happy children through either path. As I talk to homeschoolers and see the enormous variety in homeschooling philosophy and methodology, again, I see that there are many successful paths. Whether mothers are breastfeeding, child-wearing and co-sleeping or bottle feeding and sleep training, I hear love and a desire to do what is best for their babies. As I hear people talk about their love of vegetarianism or the Paleo diet, again, I see that there is more than one way to eat and enjoy good health.
And I tell you what, I just relax a whole lot once I can see that again. I still have the constant day-to-day struggle to sort out what is best for me and my family in this life, but that is a lot less stressful without the pressure of believing there is only one right way.